Thursday, November 22, 2012

30 Days In November, 30 Things To Be Thankful For!

1. A nice, warm bed that is easy to fall asleep in at night.  And during naptimes during the day, for that matter!

2. My job.  While I do not want to work at Barnes & Noble for the rest of my life, I think this is a good job to have to supplement the things that I want to do in the relatively near future.

3. My family.  I honestly didn't realize how much I relied and continue to rely on them and how much I'd miss them until after leaving for college.

4. Mail.  I love communication in all of it's forms.  I especially appreciate the hand-written letters I receive.  It's gives me even more pleasure to be able to sit down and write them!

5. Days off.  From work, from homework, from any kind of obligation.

6. Netflix.  I love you.  You entertain me.

7. Beautiful days in the middle of what should be winter right now.  It's nice when you're in denial about the coming of winter and the weather supports that.

8. Listening ears.  Seriously, my sanity has been saved many a time because of you.

9. Plenty of food.  I never have to worry about going hungry and I'm so grateful.

10. An empty room outside of my dorm room that is good for video chatting with friends late into the night.

11. My friends.  The ones who are close to home and thousands of miles away.

12. The French language.  Thank you for being beautiful and for constantly being something I can refer to and get excited over!

13. Disney songs.  Believe me, there have been many an opera session featuring these songs.

14. The patience of the people in the dorms surrounding me.  I don't know if you can hear my opera sessions, but if you can, thank you for not charging over and telling me to shut up.

15. A roommate that doesn't cause problems of any kind.  Not for me and not for everyone else.  This is a drama-free dorm room and it's a very beautiful thing!

16. Metro Transit.  I have taken advantage of you so many times in the past few months alone.  You're just so handy!

17. Eric Whittacre.  You make wonderful music.

18. A relatively quiet dorm floor.  Sure, there's the occasional giggly girl and herd of ladies running up and down the hall, but compared to what I've heard about some of the other floors in this building, we lead pretty drama-free lives.

19. Sparknotes.  I'm only half ashamed to admit this.  Thank you for being there to support my behavior when I just don't want to read the book/haven't read the latest chapter but still want to appear knowledgeable in class.

20. The Study Abroad office.  Thank you for being there so that I can start to prepare for my departure in two years.  It helps to at least get thinking about my extremely pre-meditated adventures.

21. My boyfriend.  Four years and still going strong!  I love you :)

22. Discussions.  You're good for clarifying and tossing out ideas.  You've been ubiquitous in my life lately, but I can't help but love you so.  You make me think.

23. The three hour gap between my first and second classes this first semester.  I get so much work done.  Not even joking.  Well, maybe a little :)

24. Guitar music.  I miss my own... listening to someone else play as opposed to me just messing around and sounding like crap is the next most fun thing.

25. Excitement.  You're such a wonderful motivator!

26. Opportunities.  I may not take advantage of all of them, but I'm happy that you at least have a presence in my life.

27. Peaceful places.  'Nough said.

28. Good books to read.  You know, the ones I want to read.  Not necessarily the ones I'm "supposed" to be reading.  It's my form of escapism.

29. Pleasant people.  The people I know are also pleasant, but in this case, I'm talking about the people I don't know personally.  It's really easy to treat someone you don't know like crap because statistically, you'll never see them again.  So thank you for choosing to be a decent human being.

30. Imagination.  Without this, I'm not sure where I would be right now.  I kind of rely on imagination a lot.

I'm sure this is going to be a very common thing across the blogosphere, but what is something that you're thankful for?  Tell me in the comment section below or leave a link to your own list!

Thanks for Reading!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Review of 'Open Adoption, Open Heart: An Adoptive Father's Inspiring Journey' by Russell Elkins (Blog Tour)

I am participating in the Open Adoption, Open Heart Blog Tour today!  This tour is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and it is going on through 20 December.  You can CLICK HERE to go to the main Blog Tour page and get links to the websites of everyone participating!

Any way, here's my review and I hope you enjoy!

"The world of adoption has changed dramatically over the past twenty years.  No longer do biological parents have to say goodbye to their child forever.  they now have more options when deciding the type of adoption to pursue, such as open adoption.  Open adoption creates the opportunity for a special relationship between biological parents, the adoptive parents, and the child.

'Open Adoption, Open Heart' is an inspiring and true story, which takes the reader deeper into the feelings and emotions experienced by adoptive parents.  As you read this incredible story, you will experience the joys, difficulties, and amazing victories facing adoptive couples.  Russell and his wife, Jammie, invite you to share in their inspiring and heartwarming journey."


I was excited when I was asked to read this!  This is the first time I've been asked to read a book before it was released (is this considered an ARC even if I read it in eBook format?).

'Open Adoption, Open Heart' is a great read if you or someone you know is considering adoption.  I think most readers will be familiar with a closed adoption, but there are a number of misconceptions about Open Adoption.  This is a topic I had very little knowledge about, so reading this was a learning experience.  Open Adoption is such a unique experience.  It was really cool to read about how open this particular couple was with the birth mother of their child.  I kind of expected it to be really awkward between this couple and this fifteen-year-old girl, but that didn't seem to be the case at all.  Open adoption is all about communication and I found that to be such a cool relationship to have.

I am very interested in knowing more about Brianna, the birth mother.  What was going through her head?  What was her process?  We know what she ended up doing, but what made her make those decisions?  One thing that I've found that makes a good companion to this book is the author and his wife's YOUTUBE CHANNEL because you get that extra perspective.  I don't think either of the birth moms have made an appearance on this channel, but you can at least hear Jammie's point of view.  The family also has a BLOG that includes many of these videos and some extras.

There was one 'plot-line' that just wasn't tied up for me by the end of the book.  What happened to the first birth mom?  I mean, the first birth mom that approached them before Brianna?  I read that Russel and Jammie were planning to adopt both children, but did that actually happen?  I see two adopted babies (they say they are both adopted) in their videos, but I don't know if the youngest is the other baby mentioned in the book or if she came a bit later.  I'm left wondering what happened.

Overall, this was a very informative and amazing story, but it was lacking in a few key areas.

I give 'Open Adoption, Open Heart':
Thanks for Reading and enjoy the rest of the tour!


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Monday, November 19, 2012

A Review of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky

 "The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it's like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school.  The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends.  Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up."

I swear, the description doesn't do this book any justice.  It sounds just like any other YA novel, and to a certain degree, it is, but it's been a while since I've read a story so relate-able as Charlie's story.  A story that is told so eloquently.

Charlie begins to write letters to an unknown recipient starting from the time a few weeks before the first day of his freshman year of high school and ending when his senior friends graduate and move away from home.  I don't know who the recipient is and I'm not sure if it's important if we know in the first place.  I've been wracking my brains since I finished the book, and I can't think of who it might be.  I don't think it would be Bill, because Charlie talks to Bill anyway.  For a while, I thought it might be Bill's girlfriend whom Charlie was writing to, but since she lives with Bill, she might hear about what Bill and Charlie talk about, so I kind of dis-included her in my list of options.  Any way, I don't think that it's that important who Charlie is writing to, it's just important that he is writing to someone.  Even if that someone doesn't really know who he is.

The characters in this story were so great.  They felt human to me, even in a surreal way at times.  When Sam climbs into the back of the truck and stands up in the tunnel.  When Charlie is watching Sam play Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show each month.  I think that's just the way Charlie writes.  His style is kind of dreamy in that the things he says don't always seem real and when they are undoubtedly real (you know, for fiction), the style is wispy and at times a bit off-handed.  It's a little hard to describe.  If you've read this book, perhaps you know what I'm talking about and can help me be a little more articulate about it.

When Charlie talks about Sam, time seems to slow down and I think that's why his writing style is so dreamy at times and like a typical teenager other times.  It just further shows how much he loves her.  And he doesn't even have to say it out loud for us to know.  That's my second and final attempt at being articulate about this.

I thought it was really cool that Charlie had such a cool English teacher who would challenge him by giving him piles of other books and having him write papers on them.  What I find to be even more cool is that fact that his teacher, whom he is told to call 'Bill,' was only planning to be a teacher for a year or two before embarking on the difficult path to becoming a recognized writer or moving onto another profession.  But after the year with Charlie as his student, he decided to remain.  This is slightly aggravating and mostly awe-inspiring.  It is aggravating because why would you become a teacher if you only mean for it to be a short-term plan?  I mean, what's the point?  I feel like it would be harder to enjoy your time because you'd have a sort of count down in your head when things are going wrong.  Likewise, you'd be counting down when things are going well and then you'd be sad that your time is so limited.  Teaching is such a wonderful (and challenging) profession and to know that mere students (kind of the lifeblood of the profession... just kind of) can change the mind of someone who would initially rather do something else.  That's probably not what I was "supposed" to get out of this book, but that's one of the things I've taken with me.

I equally liked and hated some of the underlying issues in this book.  When I say 'liked,' I don't mean enjoyed.  I mean that I'm glad that they're in the book because it sheds light on such serious subjects like rape, depression, supreme grief, etc.  Chbosky doesn't down-play the things that are happening, but he doesn't turn the book into a public service announcement and have the book center around those things, which would be very easy to do.

Overall, I really, really liked this book.  This is something that is going to be on my shelf for a long, long time. It is not trivial and it takes life with all of its imperfections and highs and embraces each and every aspect of it.

I can't wait to see the movie now.  I've heard that Chbosky also wrote the screenplay.

I give 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower':
Thanks for Reading!


P.S. I have several reviews brewing at the moment.  I haven't really had a lot of time to sit down and write these, so I'm glad I at least have this one to give you today.  Hopefully I'll get a lot of reading done over Thanksgiving Break!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

College Adventures: Stuck

I'm in college, but a number of my friends are still in my general vicinity.  One night I was talking to my boyfriend, Jack, and I told him that The Avengers was playing on the big screen on campus and that he was totally welcome to come.  My friend Avery was already coming over to see the movie as well.  She came over right after her school ended, I fed her, we got to hang out for a while, and then we went to pick up Jack at the front gate (it's a little intimidating be the "only" dude on an all-girls campus) so that we could go to the movie.

So we went to the movie and had the loveliest of times-- The Avengers was really good and even funny at times!  Sadly, Avery had to go home, so we all went down to the bus stop and waited with her until her bus came so that she wouldn't be kidnapped by creepers (not that that's too big of a problem in my area, but still, safety first!).  We got her on the bus with no problems and she let me know when she was back home.

But Jack was still there.  I told him that he was welcome to stay longer if he'd like.  And he did!  So I brought him back to my dorm and we watched cartoons and talked.  Finally, it was around 11 or midnight, so Jack decided that it would probably be best to start heading back to his own campus.  So I walked down to the bus stop again and we waited.

And waited.

And, you know, did a little more waiting.

We waited at the bus stop for ten minutes before we decided that maybe it would be a good idea to check the schedule.  Okay, it said 11:30, so no problem.  There was still a little bit of time.

11:30 rolls by and the bus is still not here.  That's okay, the buses tend to run a few minutes late.

We wait until 11:45.  Okay, something is wrong...

We check the schedule again and we realize the error of our ways: it said 11:30 AM.  Not PM.  The bus Jack was waiting for had stopped running around 6:30PM, which was when Jack arrived on my campus in the first place.  It wouldn't start running again until 5AM.  So, what were we going to do?

On any other campus this wouldn't be a problem.  Jack would have stayed in my dorm for the night, gotten up at 5AM or later in order to catch the bus (except that wasn't possible either-- the bus in question doesn't run on weekends... but I didn't know that at the time) and get back to campus, and everything would have been dandy.  But the rules on my campus are slightly different just because it's an all-girls school.  We have male visiting hours.  They last from 9AM to 2AM, after that, if you're caught with a boy in your room (not that our rooms are searched like in prison), you both get in trouble.  So Jack needed to get back, but we were running out of ideas.  He didn't know anyone on campus that had a car that could come pick him up, we didn't know of any other buses he could take (we know what they are now), and his family wasn't picking up (because they're normal human beings who are asleep at midnight).  We got the number for a taxi as a last resort, but Jack decided to call his family one more time.  And he finally got hold of his dad.  His dad came and picked him up from my campus and brought him back to his own campus-- it turned into a bit of a laughing matter and it wasn't really a big deal.

Fast forward to the very next week.  We decide that it's my turn to come and visit Jack at his campus.  I take the bus that drops me off right in front of Jack's dorm and everything is dandy.  We go across the river and explore that area, having dinner, and then coming back to Jack's dorm to watch some My Little Pony.  It starts to get late.  I look up buses that I can take and I find a route, so around 10PM, we're down at the bus stop waiting.  I get on the bus knowing that I'm looking for Snelling Avenue.  It's supposed to take maybe two minutes to get there on the bus.  But ten minutes pass and I haven't seen Snelling nor have I heard the bus driver call it out.  I decide to ask him.  Apparently Snelling passed a long time ago.  I must be tired, I didn't even hear it!  It turns out I was headed to Downtown Minneapolis in a bus filled with ready-to-party college students.  I was headed in the wrong direction.  So the very helpful bus driver tells me how to get myself turned around, letting me off in a very brightly lit area with a lot of police roaming around.  Nothing had happened, it's just that a lot of college students go out drinking on the weekends.  It's the thing to do, I guess.

So I get on the bus with the same number, but heading in the right direction this time.  I reach Snelling, I get off, and I head to the first bus shelter that I see.  There's no schedule for the next bus that I need.  I figure that I must be in the wrong place again.  By now, I'm fighting back tears because I'm scared and tired... so I call Jack and ask him if I could possibly come back to his dorm to figure things out.  Of course that's okay, so I head back and we go to the lounge where he and another friend are playing Magic: The Gathering.  It's a confusing game and I'm still panicking about what I'm supposed to do, so I hardly pay attention.

You're probably thinking, Jude, just spend the night and figure things out in the morning.  Yeah, ordinarily, I probably would have done that, but for the first month of school, I had class on Saturdays.  Bad luck.  So I needed to be back.  I decided to call my family and see if anyone was awake.  By sheer luck, my mom was up and just heading to bed.  She didn't sound very happy with me on the phone when I called telling her that I was stuck and that I needed help getting back to campus.

"Didn't you just go through this last week?" she asked.

"Yeah..."  Super embarrassing, even if I wasn't the one who was stuck on a foreign campus.

My wonderful mother pulled on a jacket, got in the car, and drove all the way to Jack's campus to pick me up and bring me back to my own campus.  She told me that she was having trouble getting mad at me, especially when I told her what had happened.  She was glad that I felt comfortable enough calling home and asking for help.

So, moral of the story, be really nice to your parents because they're awesome at fixing problems and being solutions.