Monday, August 23, 2010

Mockingjay Predictions 

Guess what's happening tomorrow??


Mockingjay comes out!! Hooray!

In case you're one of the few sad folks who doesn't know about the wonderful Hunger Games series (a group which does NOT include either of the last two 10th grade classes I've taught), Mockingjay is the finale to the most exciting, action-packed, romantic YA trilogy to grace the shelves of Barnes and Noble pretty much EVER. (And yes, if you're wondering, I'm rating it over both Twilight {which should have remained a trilogy} and the Mortal Instruments series.)

So, in the same tradition that brought you the Harry Potter predictions of '07, I offer my theories on what Mockingjay will contain.

#1 Peeta will die.
Yup, I'm not alone in this view, according to some of the fansites. It's a pretty fair bet that when someone is too good for this world, he or she won't last long in it. Peeta is just too saintly to survive the cut-throat Panem of the Hunger Games. And his death would maybe give Katniss the kick in the pants that she needs to fully commit to the revolution.

#2 Katniss will end up with no one.
Sorry Team Peeta and Team Gale. As wonderful as both those guys are, Katniss has stated repeatedly that she doesn't want a husband or children. And I can't imagine the aftermath of the revolution to be such a happy fuzzy place that she changes her mind about that. Whether Gale will also die, or whether Katniss will simply choose not to be with him, I don't know. I suspect she'll spend at least the first half of the book agonizing over her guilt about being with Gale while Peeta is missing; but in the end, I think she'll decide to be alone.

#3 Prim will have a crucial role in the resistance.
Primrose has been pushed to the sidelines one too many times, relegated to the role of scared little sister watching as Katniss kicks butt in the Games again and again. I think it's time she found her groove--whether that means she uses her healing skills in a more central role or discovers some other awesome skill. Katniss is going to have to recognize that her sis is no longer a helpless child.

#4 Katniss will reconcile with her mom.
Although they became more friendly during Catching Fire, Katniss and her mother still have some baggage to work through. I'm looking forward to a nice mother-daughter heart-to-heart in Book 3.

#5 It's time for the Capitol to wake up.
As we've seen through the conversations with Katniss's prep team, the Capitol people aren't exactly evil--not the way President Snow and the Gamemakers are. They're just overfed, indolent, and ignorant of how the rest of the world lives. (Hold on, who does that remind me of? Oh well, guess it's not important.) Also, addicted to voyeuristic violence. Okay, so they're a little bit evil. But I think if the resistance can somehow shock them into acknowledging the conditions outside the Capitol and the suffering of the rest of the people in Panem, they might find a few allies among the Capitol residents--like Cinna, for example (assuming he's still alive--which I think he is, by the way).

Okay, so those are my predictions--nothing shocking, I know, but I haven't been quite as active in this fandom as I was in Harry Potter's; plus, two books doesn't give you quite as much of a running start as six. :)

Anyone else want to chime in with some HG predictions? You have about nineteen hours left!



Friday, August 13, 2010

I've been thinking a lot about my garden lately. Partly because I've been spending so much time in it, and partly because I've been reading a book about a poet who spent his life gardening. The book is full of photographs, poems, and musings about what is the essence of a garden and what it has to teach you.

I love how much there is to learn about gardening. There are a several plants that I've tried to grow now for two or three years and failed dismally each year. Somehow that excites me--how much more awesome will it be when I finally figure out what they need to grow well! Someday I'll learn how to harvest seeds from all my plants, so I don't have to buy as many annuals and vegetable starts. I'll learn how to recognize diseases and pests and the best ways to deal with them. I'll know the perfect day to plant beans and how to get the jasmine to bloom.

I love how even though I'm still sort of flailing around in my little garden--like a child beginning piano lessons who just pounds away on the keys--even though I'm planting the wrong plants next to each other and over-watering or under-watering and not controlling the weeds well and putting stuff in too early or too late, my garden still manages to be beautiful. Imperfectly, unevenly beautiful, but still. It still produces delicious food for me to eat and flowers to go in my vases.

Gardeners often talk about the endless work of a garden, but I sort of love that there's always something to do. A garden is never finished. It's endless work because it's endlessly producing, endlessly living. And whatever you start in a garden has the potential to go on indefinitely. Unlike a cake which gets eaten or a blouse that gets worn or goes out of style, a garden can make lifelong changes on a landscape--like in my neighbor June's yard, where she has lived and worked since she was a child.

"I think of gardening as an extension of one's own being, something as deeply personal and intimate as writing a poem. The difference is that the garden is alive and it is created to endure just the way a human being comes into the world and lives, suffers, enjoys, and is mortal."
--Stanley Kunitz

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer has arrived, my friends. I can tell because all the windows in my house are open, my garden is growing, and I've spent the last, oh, four hours on the internet without feeling at all guilty. Don't worry--I wasn't playing Facebook games or anything. (Not that I couldn't, if I wanted.) No, I was doing serious research.


Did you know that Portland has the second-highest rate of human trafficking of all cities in the US? And that half of the victims are children? We all know that the I-5 corridor is a huge pipeline for drugs, but it also enables the sale of women and children from Seattle to LA. And that makes me feel just a little less warm and fuzzy about this beautiful valley I live in.

Apparently people are trying to build a shelter for victims in Portland, and there was a campaign earlier this year to educate people at gas stations and rest stops on how to identify and report trafficking victims. It's weird, though. This is happening so close to where I live, and yet it seems so far out of my range of influence--we might as well be in different worlds.

And I can't help wondering how to respond Christianly to this new knowledge. It doesn't seem like enough to just stop using Craigslist or donate to one of the (admittedly great) abolitionist organizations. This isn't Thailand or Somalia, it's the Willamette Valley. I live here. I should be able to do something.


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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Want to hear the most embarrassing thing I did this week?

I was teaching my 7am college class, drinking coffee, expounding on some issue like immigration or racial profiling. (I'm sure my students were riveted.) As I took another sip of coffee, I suddenly felt a tickle at the back of my throat. I tried to cough, swallow, or clear my throat, but to no avail. Instead I spewed a mouthful of coffee across the whole table, the opposite chair (thankfully empty), and my students' stack of response essays (sorry, kids).

There was a moment of stunned silence, where we all looked at each other. "Good thing Seth skipped today," said one student, looking at the empty, dripping chair. And we all busted up. I'm guessing that was pretty much the end of meaningful instructional time that day.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Slamming the Poetry 

"Poetry is like a sport to you!"

This was the observation of one of my seventh-graders yesterday afternoon. He continued, "Everyone else says, 'Aw, man, I missed that basket at the game,' but you're like, 'Aw, man, I missed that line of poetry that I was reciting.'"

So the annual Poetry Slam at East Linn was this week. We (the English department) were more frazzled and put less planning and preparation into it this year than in previous years, but it somehow turned out just as well--maybe even better than in the past. For one thing, we had a number of guest presenters (Thank you guys!) who read or recited original poems. The kids seemed to be more prepared this year too, for some reason.

I particularly enjoyed listening to my drama students reciting story poems--like "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and "The Raven" and "Casey at Bat." I myself memorized "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight"--a Victorian Gothic number, the sort of thing Anne of Green Gables would recite at the a concert, with lots of lines like "her cold, pale brow" and "the darkened, gloomy tower." But, alas, I didn't get to perform it because we ran out of time. I did squeeze in the famous Spiderman poem (like I do every year), but that was all.

Next year, we're going to try to do the Poetry Slam in the fall, when things will hopefully be less hectic. And, who knows, maybe some of my students can still be a part of one of the poetry slams held in the community, like the one I went to a couple weeks ago.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sitting here at Borders with a baby on my knees. He's sleeping pretty good, although he's not quite sure that he wants to be asleep.


This is Pierce, my friend Tammy's baby. He and I have bonded in the last 24 hours. I'm also pretty fond of the other one--Anna--but I feel that Pierce and I have a real connection. We've built the trust. Maybe it had something to do with the time he spit up all over me, or the time I found him his binky when he really needed it. Whatever it is, we're homies now.

As you can see, Anna and I have a much more complex relationship. You might say we just don't communicate as well. For example, I'm not sure if this expression means, "They have cranberry scones here? I never knew that" or "Insert pacifier here, please." What do you think?

Anyway, I have not changed a diaper yet, but I have administered several bottles and elicited a number of very satisfying burps. However, I'm strictly off-duty between the hours of 10 pm and 7 am. so I guess I'm just dabbling in babies at this point.

Still, I clearly have some mad skills.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Can I just say how much I love the movie While You Were Sleeping? It's such a classic. I rewatched it recently, and I was struck with how much better it is than any romcom I've seen in the last few years. Take, for example, Sandra Bullock's most recent romantic role in The Proposal. There was, like, no chemistry between her character and Ryan Reynolds' character. The only reason apparently given for why they end up liking each other is that they're forced into all these intimate situations, and she's repeatedly humiliated. (...which, apparently makes her likeable? *deep breath, stops self from going into feminist tirade*) Compare that to Sleeping, where Jack and Lucy have all these long conversations and are constantly bantering and laughing together.

One neat thing I noticed this time that I don't think I've ever noticed before is that part when Jack gives her the snow globe of Florence the night before she's supposed to marry Peter; as he stands in her apartment, you can see the globe lamp of her father's shining behind him in the background, which is a kind of cool visual symbol there.

I also love how it's not just about a lonely girl landing herself a ring, but about how she learns to speak for herself and articulate her feelings. There's all these great character-building moments at the beginning where she lets herself get pushed around and doesn't complain--the hotdog guy gets her order wrong, her boss pressures her into working Christmas, Joe Jr. takes her passive response to his come-on as a "yes." And of course the big one--when the nurse tells everyone she's Peter's fiancee, and she can't manage to tell them the truth. But by the end of the movie, she's clearly speaking her feelings--she interrupts the chaplain at her wedding to say, "I object"; she gives the speech explaining all the past mix-ups; and she's the first one to say "I love you" when Jack proposes.

Plus, I have to say, I love Sandra Bullock so much more in those big baggy sweaters she wore in this movie, where her face just shines out in the midst of all that gray wool, than in all the tight-fitting, fashionable, high-heeled outfits of The Proposal. You know?

I'm excited because I picked up my copy of While You Were Sleeping at the almost-defunct Hollywood Video for pretty cheap--so now I can watch it as many times as I want. I highly recommend a little trip down memory lane with this movie if you haven't seen lately--it's a keeper.



Thursday, February 25, 2010

I almost didn't go to the "Middle School Poetry Slam" that I saw advertised at the Lebanon Coffee Shop. I was tired, and there was grading to do, and my throat still hurts. But I did. I pulled on some shoes and went downtown, and I found a bunch of kids huddled around the entrance of the coffee shop, the way teenagers do when they go anywhere new, looking over their shoulders and giggling and waving to each other.

I went inside, and discovered there's this whole huge awesome back room at the coffee shop, with old fashioned booths and big wooden tables--kind of an English pub vibe for the whole place--and it was completely packed with middle schoolers and their parents. Everybody had coffee, and there was this young teacher in a suit who was running the thing. His students came up and recited their poems--all original, it sounded like--and they had other kids judging and a local adult poet reading his poems here and there.

How cool is that! And better yet, I talked to the teacher and the local poet about coming to our poetry slam in a few weeks and reading poems. And while we're on the subject, consider this an open invitation, O faithful blog readers, to come to the ELCA Poetry Slam on March 10 and read us a poem. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Jennifer Rouse.)

So, I'm glad I didn't stay on my couch all night, especially since this teacher (Mr. Brandt, or something) claims he's going to try to have another poetry slam in a month or two, so I can see about getting my students involved--or at least present, as spectators. Because poetry is cool.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lebanon has a new bakery. (Yay! Go Lebanon!) It's right by Dutch Bros., which is a great location, if you ask me. And best of all, it's open at 6 a.m. For those of us who are, you know, up and about at that hour.

I went there this morning and got an amazing caramel roll and some coffee, and then just sat and enjoyed it for awhile. (See, before this, anyone who wanted to go for coffee and pastry before school had to go to... wait for it... the so-called "coffee shop" at Safeway, which consists of a Starbuck's kiosk and a few tables in a nook behind the registers. Lame!) Now, there's an actual place with real, freshly-baked pastries (though no espresso, but like I said--Dutch Bros.--not far).

And lest this sound like some kind of paid advertisement, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that the owner gave me a whole bunch of scones and rolls and such to pass around at our staff meeting in exchange for a few well-placed recommendations around the school. And they were good. So this is me going a step further: you should go there*. It's yummy.

*Umm, not exactly sure what the name of said fabulous bakery is... Three Sisters' Bakery, maybe? Like I said, it's by Dutch Bros. You can find it. 2 comments

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bleh. I've been dealing with this nasty sore throat for about a week now. It teases my by giving me brief periods of feeling well, where I can work in the garden or play games with my friends, and then it turns around and sucker-punches me. I've been taking lots of naps and drinking lots of water, so hopefully it will start dwindling away here soon. *sigh*

*heads back to bed* 0 comments

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spent most of the day outside, pulling weeds, planting an early crop of onions and peas, cleaning up last year's dead stuff, and scattering flower seeds. Spring is coming! 0 comments

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Welcome to the Lenten season. This is one of my favorite times of year, as I'm sure I've mentioned before. (In fact, if you'd like to read what I've written about Lent in past years, you can click on the tag "Lent" way down on the sidebar.) I find the experience of observing this tradition--with its rich history and deep beauty--so incredibly moving every year. Or perhaps moving isn't quite the right adjective--stilling is more like it. It is almost as though the world jolts to a stop on Ash Wednesday, and we are given time to reflect, repent, and renew our devotion. I for one need that built into the calendar because I rarely can create that kind of space in my own life. And of course the community aspect of a religious holiday ("holy-day," remember?) matters too. We're all creating this space together, as a body, as a family.

My home church doesn't hold an Ash Wednesday service, so I went in search of one (which in this case means, "drove past a number of churches until I found one with a reader board advertising a service"). This year it ended up being the Mennonite church in town. One of the things I love about being a Christian is the sense of family that I feel in pretty much any Christian community. I can walk into any church and, social awkwardness aside, feel that these are my people, that I belong with them*. We are unified in purpose and hold our faith in common. I don't have to prove my worthiness to be there or compete with anyone for membership. I walk in, sit down, and immediately join in communal worship, repentance, and dedication with eighty people I have never met before. How utterly beautiful is that?

*I recognize that not everyone feels this, and I am sad for those whose experience with certain Christian communities has caused them to lose this feeling; however, it is truth, whether or not the behavior of others reflects it or we perceive it at a given moment.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Jonah Day 

I've had a more or less wretched day--or, as Anne would call it, a Jonah Day. However, rather than a string of unlucky experiences, there were just two: first, that I'm coming down with something that includes a painful sore throat, and second, that I accidentally booked the plane tickets for my spring break trip in February instead of March. (Yeah, remember that whole thing about February having exactly 28 days, which means that March's dates correspond to the exact same days of the week as February's? Makes little mix-ups like this common.) I only discovered it because Expedia sends you like fifty email confirmations of your flight, and I happened to notice on one subject line that it said "2/20." *sigh* And of course, it had to be non-refundable, which means it cost me a bunch of money to rebook PLUS flights are more expensive now so my new flight cost more and is less convenient. And all this on a day when I already wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed with a lozenge. Boo.

But, I did get it rebooked. And then I went home and crawled into my papasan chair with a blanket and watched episodes of Psych, which if you're unfamiliar is a detective show featuring a guy--Shawn Spencer--who pretends to be psychic, but is actually just really observant and deductive. Anyway, there was this scene where Shawn is following the path of the killer's gunshot trying to find the bullet, and he thinks it has gotten lodged in a nearby tree. And his partner, Gus, says, "You're looking in the wrong place, Shawn. The murder was ten years ago. Trees grow. You need to look UP." And sure enough, they climb about ten feet up the tree and there's the bullet, and then the bad guys come and start shooting at them, etc, etc.

But my little fact siren started going off about this time because... I read Encyclopedia Brown as a kid. A lot of Encyclopedia Brown, as a matter of fact. Once, I even dressed up as his sidekick, Sally Kimball, for Dress Like a Book Character Day at school. (If only I had read Nancy Drew back then, my outfit would have been a lot cooler.) And there's this one great EB story where Bugs Meany (Encyclopedia's nemesis) tries to perpetrate one of his many neighborhood frauds by carving something high, high up in a tree and claiming it happened fifty years ago. (Remember that one?) And Encyclopedia, being the brilliant youth that he is, solves the case by pointing out that trees grow from the top, not the bottom, so anything done to the trunk will pretty much stay at the same height throughout the tree's lifetime. Including, presumably, bullet holes.

How can this be, Psych writers? Are there no trees in Los Angeles or New York or wherever you are writing? The Internet (including OSU Forestry Dept) plus my own common sense as a nursery owner's daughter stand firmly behind Encyclopedia on this one. And what's more, how can you be a detective story screenwriter without being thoroughly well read in classics such as Encyclopedia Brown? It's just not right. Listen, if you ever need help figuring out which direction stuff in a car goes when you slam on the breaks, or whether you can lift a gold brick with one hand, or how people refered to World War I before there was a World War II, come talk to me. I'll direct you to my friend, Encyclopedia.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

If at first I don't succeed... 

In the spirit of No-Fail February, there is another failing I must confess and put right. Months ago (let's not calculate exactly how many months, ok?), a certain poet contacted me about reviewing her book on my blog. This was the first (and I suspect, last) product review I have ever been offered, and I was super excited. (It's like I'm a real blog! Like, an important one!)

She sent me her book, and I started reading it, and kept reading it, and never... actually... got around to reviewing it. Not because it was bad--on the contrary, her poems are quite interesting and definitely evocative of teenage-girlhood. I think just about anyone who's ever gone through adolescence would find something to connect with.

Anyway, I was mostly just nervous about reviewing poetry, which--you have to grant--is the most intimidating kind of writing to evaluate, and I was (am) also super busy (as always), so without an actual deadline, I just kept saying to myself, "I'll do it next weekend." And here we are.

So with that preamble, I'll introduce you to the book, School Girl: Poetry of a Pre and Post Adolescent, by Anarda Nashai. (You can read my Amazon review at that link, btw.) Nashai wrote the poems in this book between the ages of 13 and 17, and then published them later, in her twenties. As a frequent reader of teenage poetry, I smiled a lot as I read, recognizing an unmistakable teenage voice that almost made me nostalgic for those years. I plan to share a lot of them with my students--hopefully they'll be inspired to write more consistently on their own.

Here's a few lines that I particularly liked, by way of example:

From "Another Innovation"

If I were cursed
With the potential to be perfect
I would reject, with one look
Today's existing pigments
That make me the architect
Of thick stone men

--Anarda Nashai

So, do me a favor. Head on over to Amazon and take a look at this collection. If you have teenaged poetry-lovers in your life, you might think about recommending it to them. In fact, I've collected a whole list of poetry collections for teens on Amazon's Listmania, now that you mention it. Go check it out.

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