Sunday, September 28, 2008

2007's List of the 10 Most Challenged Books

According to the ALA, “the “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons:  Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons:  Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

7) “TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons:  Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons:  Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons:  Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Off the list this year, are two books by author Toni Morrison. “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved,” both challenged for sexual content and offensive language.”

I will be honest in saying I have not read all of these.  I have read and adore some.

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is one of my absolute favorite books.  Yes, it addresses racism, but what is wrong with addressing a real issue?  Mark Twain was one of the world’s most prolific writers.  He wrote a beautiful story looking at racism and an adventure between a grown man and a young boy.  You can separate the two issues, if you read closely.  As much as the relationship is about race, it is about the one-sided views of a child and it is about people needing each other.

“The Color Purple.”  The reasons being homosexuality, explicit sex and language.  Firstly, we don’t ban films that use offensive images if it is an intrinsic part of the story. Secondly, if homosexuality, explicit sex and language are so offense, should we then ban all the Harlequin romances?  They are full of such things.

“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”  Seriously?  This is Maya Angelou’s life.  We should ban the telling of someone’s life because it was violent and tragic?  I know that looking at things that are in this book are difficult.  Yet they happen.  They are real events and this is a true story.  I think that banning a true story of a woman’s life is an insult to her and a slap in the face over all the things she dealt with.

“The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved” had been on the list and then came off.  I have read both.

“The Bluest Eye” is incredible and yes, there is racism, but again, should it be ignored?  Should stories about the way some are made to feel be removed from the shelves because it makes you uncomfortable?

“Beloved”, yes sexually explicit, but one of the most interesting stories about life after slavery.  I read this in college.  I found this to be one of the best books to analyze.  So much can be gotten out of this book.  I know a lot of people did not like it or get it.  I know some just saw the film and I can tell you as much as Oprah thought she was honoring this book, she strayed from it immensely.  If you had not read the book, the movie made no sense.  But I digress.

My point being that you can find something offensive in anything you read if you look for it.  From the greatest of classics to current favorites to off the wall tales.

A friend had her book banned in some southern states because she wrote about ghosts.  A children’s book about a young girl and ghosts titled “Lily’s Ghosts” by Laura Ruby.  I read it and enjoyed it.  I did not see what was so controversial, but it was banned from some libraries.

If we take away books, we take away creativity and imagination.  Hitler tried to control what information Germans received.  Keep that in mind if the urge to have a book banned ever takes you over.  There is a great book called “The Book Thief” about a girl in Nazi Germany.  Read it.

Celebrate Banned Book Week by reading books that have banned, support such books by writing to those trying to ban them and keep an open mind.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Held Together With Tape & Dirt

My car is being held together with tape and dirt.

Well, not all of it.  I do have tape holding some things on.  It seems to break down a little more all the time.

My car was bought new in 2001.  My first new car.  All my other cars were only a few years younger than I was.

I was very excited to have a brand new car.

Not long after I bought it, I started having issues with the tires.  Every single car I have ever had has had issues with the tires.  I think I need to pray to the tire gods and make some kind of offering because it is really quite ridiculous.

To this day, I have issues with the tires.  They leak.  I have had them sealed, but that does not please the tire gods.  The rotors have rusted and I have had to have them repaired.

I have had to have the brakes replaced.  Did I mention I only have 31,000 miles on the car?

Two years ago, my front passenger window decided not to work anymore.  I couldn’t roll it up or down.  Yet, it would just fall down.  Especially if I hit a bumpy patch of road.  I would have to manually pull the window up.  Not fun in the cold and snow or in the rain.

I had that repaired after about a year of driving like that (it’s not cheap to fix).

A year ago, the back passenger window decided to boycott me too.  I think the tire gods and the window gods got together and decided they don’t like me, because shortly after that, the front driver’s side window decided not to work.

It wasn’t so bad because the front driver’s window did not just fall down like the other window does.  I went through all of last winter and much of the summer with the windows like this.  Then, suddenly, the front driver’s window decided to fall down too.  So, every time I get out of the car, I have to pull up the front driver’s window and the back passenger window.

Very annoying.

When I get an extra grand, I will have them fixed.

Wednesday, my turn signals started to freak out.  The turn signal gods must have decided to hate me too.  Either them or the wiring gods.  Not sure.  I think I will make an offering to both just to be sure.

The turn signals sometimes work, sometimes don’t.  It is random.  They will work perfectly fine, then maybe slowly, then not at all, then only if I jiggle the handle.

Between the time and cost of the praying and offerings and the ultimate cash to fix all these things, I am going to need my own government bailout.

Any tips for fixing such issues?  Any advised offering to car gods?  Motor oil is the obvious, but there might be some other more prized offerings….any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I LOVE My Butcher!

I love going to the butcher.

I know it is a dying business.  Not many butcher shops exist.  Not the way they used to.

So many people just get their meat at the grocery store, but there is a big difference in the meat.

Butcher meat is fresher.  But forget that.

Why do I love going to the butcher?

It smells SOOOO good!

The butcher I go to is an Italian family-owned place on the Northwest side of Chicago called Joseph’s that has been in business for a few generations.  They make their own focaccia.  They make sandwiches and breaded vegetables.  They marinate a lot of cuts of their meat. 

It smells so delicious when you walk in.  All those spices mingling with the baked breads and cookies. 

I grew up going there for meat.

The butcher knows us.  He knows whose birthday it is based on what we order.  They always have the best cuts of meat.  I have never had a steak from them that wasn’t the most tender.  Even if the cook (usually my step-dad) over cooks it, it is delicious.   Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Can you tell I went there today?  

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Christmas is NOT Just Around the Corner!

I have been seeing a lot of blogs talking about Christmas, Christmas gifts, Christmas cards, Christmas parties.

I looked at them and thought, “already?” 

I will admit that I have already started some Christmas shopping.  I have 4 godchildren, plus 2 other children to buy for in addition to my family and close friends.  I have picked up a few things for the kids that I have seen at really good prices and put them away.

That’s it though.  I don’t like to think about Christmas until November.  Just like I don’t like to think about Thanksgiving until after Halloween and Halloween until after September 22.

I have seen Halloween decorations in the stores for about a month and some people have their houses already decorated. 

Yesterday, I went to a hardware store to pick up a gallon of paint for the bathroom.  What was the first thing I passed after entering the store?

Christmas trees!  Christmas trees, wreaths, skirts, lights, ornaments, you name it.
Can’t we at least get to fall before you bombard us with Christmas!?!?!

I love Christmas, it’s always been my favorite holiday, but you really kill the spirit and the joy when you shove it in our faces while it is still 80 degrees outside!  Let the leaves turn first!  Let us have our first frost before you do this!  Please!

It has begun increasingly sooner over the last 12 years.  And I have become increasingly grumpier about it over the last 12 years.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wicked - At Last!

I saw Wicked last night.  (Yes, the tickets finally came yesterday.)  My mom and I had been planning on going for over a year.  The tickets were a gift from my grandma for my mom’s 59th and my 31st birthdays.  A year later, we finally made it.

This is one of the best shows I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot).  The show was outstanding.

Prior to going to the show, I did not really know what to expect.  I had not read the book.  I had seen the commercials and heard the buzz, so I knew it was about Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.

While The Wizard of Oz focuses on Dorothy, we only see the end of the road for the Wicked Witch.  I knew Wicked had to do with how the two witches got to where we meet them in The Wizard of Oz.

Wicked tells us the story of the two, Galinda and Elphaba, from when they meet in school following their relationship up until where The Wizard of Oz ends.

This show is fantastic.  Wicked is wickedly funny and touching.  The set design and costumes are incredible and executed perfectly.  I am awestruck at the way they brought the flying monkeys to life.

The dialogue is smart and witty.  The music is amazing and the singing is outstanding.  The songs are powerful.  The story is just as powerful.

Like The Wizard of Oz, Wicked delves into political topics.  I can go into that utilizing the analytical skills I developed attaining that English Lit. degree of mine, but I won’t.  I will discuss the other topics, however.

Wicked is about friendship.  It is about truth and perception.  It is about standing up for that in which you believe.  It is about the way truth and perception can be manipulated and, therefore, manipulate us.

If you have not yet seen this show, I highly recommend it and I recommend it for everyone.  It is appropriate for most any age bracket.  You will laugh like you hadn’t expected to at a Broadway musical.  The music will move and inspire you.  The lyrics will have you singing the songs the next day.  They will make you laugh and cry.  The power of the songs and the voices will make your hair stand on end and will bring tears to your eyes.

I almost always tear up during the finale of any musical.  If I sat and thought about it, I am sure I could give you a wordy and lengthy explanation, but I won’t.  I rarely cry or tear up during a show, though.  I welled up last night and had to fight back the tears during the final song, “For Good.”

My absolute favorite musical is Les Miserables.  I have seen it multiple times.  I believe I have to place Wicked second on that list.  I am not sure how long it is on Broadway.  It is only in Chicago through January 25, 2009.  Go see it before it is gone.  You will not regret it, rather you will regret it if you miss this show.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering With Reverence

Can it possibly be 7 years since September 11?

Like any day that marks its place in history, we all remember where we were and what we were doing when the planes hit the World Trade Center that morning.

I had been at my new job for 3 months to the day.  I was getting ready for work that morning and sat on the couch to watch the Today show with a few minutes to spare before leaving.

As I sat, they were showing the first plane hitting the tower.  I didn’t understand what I was seeing.  I thought it was a clip from a movie; some kind of Hollywood magic.  I watched for a few minutes longer still not understanding and then the second plane hit.

I froze.  One plane I thought maybe was an accident.  Two planes,I realized, was intentional.  I drove to work in shock, listening to the radio for any news.  I tried making sense of it in my head.

Work was strange that morning.  Everyone was in shock.  A television was on in one of the offices and we all gathered around when we could.  We learned of the plane hitting the Pentagon and another missing.  We were all frightened into silence understanding that this was terrorism.  Understanding that at that moment, none of us was safe.

It hit me that my sister was at work.  She worked in a daycare center in an FAA building.  I called my mom to see what was happening.  She told me that my sister had evacuated.  All the teachers evacuated with all the children onto buses and moved to a safer location.  I was emotional.  I’m normally emotional, but I can keep it in check at work.

We were sent home.  There was a strange feeling in the air.  A feeling I had never experienced, one that was dense, filled with many emotions.  Fear.  Patriotism.  Anger.  Confusion.  It was all mulling about, all very palpable.

When I got home, I was glued to the television seeking more information.  Seeking some kind of understanding.

I watched the images that played across the screen.  Images for which there are no words.  Images that had me torn up and bawling.  I thought about the people in New York.  The people around the buildings who watched it in terror.  The people that were in the buildings and fought to escape.  The people that made it out and the grief they must have felt for those that did not.

I thought about the people that were unable to escape.  The people that jumped from the top floor, knowing there was know way to survive that fall.  The disabled who could not get out.  The disabled who sat in wheelchairs at the tops of stairwells praying for someone to save them.

I thought about the brave men and women who sacrificed themselves to try to save those inside.  I thought about the families of the individuals in the buildings and their fear, not knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones.  I thought about the children who witnessed this atrocity.  What were their little minds thinking?  How were they coping?

I thought about the men and women on the planes.  Did they know what was happening?  Did they know they were going to die?  Did they know they were involved in a terrorist attack?  I thought about their loved ones.  I thought about the families of every person who was flying that morning.  The frantic search to find out if their loved one was safe or on one of those planes.

I thought about the incredibly brave and heroic men and women who knew what was about to take place and fought like hell to stop it.  The men and women that took down a plane, aware they were to die, to save countless others.
To this day, I am brought to my knees from the sadness thinking about this.  I cannot fight back the tears as I type.  I will not present pictures from that day.  It is unnecessary and too painful for so many still.  You all remember the images.  I imagine that they are engraved in your minds as they are in mine.

I considered not writing about this today, but truthfully, nothing else seemed appropriate.  Nothing else I could post today would feel right with consideration of the seriousness and respect due to the anniversary of this date.  Take a moment to say a prayer for those lost that day and for those who survived that day.  My prayer for you is peace, piece of mind, peace in your heart, sleep free from nightmares and strength to carry on.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Interesting Phenomenon

The other day I mentioned that I am more introverted than extroverted.  I thought I would expand on this a little further.

The introverted side comes out in full force when I am in large crowds.  To me, anything more than 5 people and I become quiet.  More than 10 and you might think I was mute. 

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs, though, every now and then at parties.  I will give you two examples.

The first took place just over 5 years ago.  It was my best friend’s bridal shower.  She had four bridesmaids; two women she became friends with when she moved to Georgia, myself and another girl from Chicago with whom we attended High School.  Both of us from Chicago flew down for the occasion. 

The night before the shower, the other Chicagoan and I stayed up all night.  We were sharing a room and ended up talking about anything and everything until morning.  Needless to say, we were exhausted the day of the shower.  My friend was upset.  I promised her that nobody would be able to tell that I had zero sleep.  We stopped at Starbucks on the way and caffeinated ourselves. 

I kept my word.  No one could tell I had not slept.  I became the social chatterbox I’ve always wanted to be in these situations.  It was a home-shower thrown by a friend with about 12-15 people.  I was on the entire time chatting everyone up, throwing out witty comments and doing the duty of a sleep-deprived bridesmaid to keep the bride happy.  Afterwards, I wondered where that person came from because it was not like me.

The second example was just this summer at my mom’s surprise party.  Now, this time was not nearly as strange because I had met everyone at the party before, but it was still an interesting feeling.  My sister is even more shy and reserved than I am.  I really and truly look like the outgoing person people think I am in comparison.  While she quietly tended to her kids and greeted people, I was turning on the charm and working the room. 

Here is my analysis.  I want people to be happy and to have a good time.  In the first situation, I was doing my damnedest to please my friend.  Not that I was forcing anything, it was just who I was that day, but my motivator and inspiration was keeping her satisfied and making sure she enjoyed her shower.  The second instance, I wanted all of the guests to be happy and feel welcomed.  Being that they were all my mom’s friends and she was not going to be there for a while, I had to be the hostess and chat them up. 

I know it’s the people pleaser in me that creates this phenomenon.  I am curious as to why certain situations (and maybe certain people) warrant this reaction and others do not.  

Sunday, September 7, 2008


In yesterday’s post, I told you that my sister’s family came over to celebrate my birthday.  After we ate last night, my grandma was still watching the program she had been waiting to see.  It was about Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife.  She had it on for a while before realizing it wasn’t what she expected, so she switched over to the Cubs game.

Before she changed the channel, I happened to walk by and saw this at the bottom of the screen:

For a relationship with Jesus Christ call: 1-800-***-****.

I cracked up.  Then this dialogue ran through my head.

(Disclaimer: before divulging the content of the dialogue I imagined, let me make this statement.  I am in no way attacking any religion or anyone’s beliefs.  I am neither condemning nor condoning religion.  I am simply telling you what went through my slightly alcohol altered brain.)

Call Center:  Thank you for calling for a relationship with Christ, this is Moses, how can I help you?

Caller:  Hi Moses.  Wait, are you THE Moses?

Call Center:  Why yes, how can I help you today?

Caller:  Well, Moses, I saw the advertisement for a relationship with Jesus, so I thought I’d give you a call.  How can I talk to Jesus?

Call Center:  You can tell me what it is that you would like to tell Jesus, and I will pass it on.

Caller:  Wait, Moses, why can’t I talk to Him myself?

Call Center:  Well, that’s just not how it works.

Caller:  Why the hell not?

Call Center:  Language!

Caller:  Sorry, I just don’t understand why I can’t talk to Jesus.

Call Center:  It is against our policy to let callers speak directly to Him.

Caller:  Then how do I have a relationship with Him.  That is what you advertised, isn’t it?

Call Center:  Yes, but you cannot speak to Him directly.  We pass on your message and then Jesus will respond through one of us.

Caller:  So, you are the go between?  How do I know you are really talking to Jesus?

Call Center:  You just have to have faith.

Caller:  Hmmm.  Ok, but what if I don’t get a response when I need it.

Call Center:  If you need it by a certain date, put that in the message that we will pass along.

Caller:  I’m not sure I am comfortable with this.

Call Center:  It is somewhat like a fan club.  You do not generally speak to the person you are a fan of, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are part of a special group.

Caller:  What if I am not feeling satisfied?  If I pay to be a member of a fan club, at least I get some kind of letter from the band saying I am a valued member and I get a sticker or a t-shirt.  Will I get something showing I have a relationship with Jesus?

Call Center:  You should get some kind of sign.

Caller:  Oh.  Do you guarantee a relationship or is this just some kind of gimmick to get money from me?

Call Center:  No one can guarantee a relationship with Jesus.  It takes effort on your part.  You are not buying a television.  You are opening up the lines of communication.  The rest is on you.

Caller:  So you’re telling me I am just paying to get like a DSL to Jesus?  Should I upgrade to a cable modem?

Call Center:  That is entirely up to you.

Caller:  Hmm. Alright.  Sign me up.  I can always cancel if I’m not satisfied, right?

Call Center:  We don’t recommend it, but yes, that is your decision.

Caller:  Ok.  Sounds good.

Call Center:  Anything else I can help you with today?

Caller:  Um, no.  I don’t think so.  Hey, is it true that you were put in a basket and sent floating down river as a baby?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Don't WANT To Be the Crazy, Drunk Aunt!

My sister’s family came over today to celebrate my birthday.

I felt horrible today.  I had a lot of pain from where I pulled a muscle the other day, so I was limited in what I could do without causing more pain.  I was also quite tired because I could not sleep well last night.  I was unable to get comfortable.

When my sister arrived, I was a bit crabby.  I decided that since everyone else was drinking beer I would have a cocktail.  I got the bottle of Effen Blackcherry Vodka, poured a shot and added some Sprite.  Over the course of about an hour and a half, I had 3 cocktails from one can of Sprite.

My grandma decided she would come inside because a show she wanted to watch was coming on and we would be ready to eat in about 20 minutes, so I came in with her and my sister’s kids.  I reclined on the couch (dual reclining sofas are great) and sipped my third cocktail.

I had the sudden image of myself as the crazy, drunk aunt at all the parties.  This is not who I am, but that is the image I got.  I was practically laying down sipping my third drink.  Also, like the image of the crazy, drunk aunt, I was fluctuating between smiling and snarling all day.

Thoughts like, “you beautiful little brats, give me a hug,” came to mind.  I began to see myself as the crazy, drunk aunt with a touch of Mommy Dearest in the future.  Orange lipstick on the outside of my lips and on my teeth, ratted out hair and polyester clothes.  Let’s not forget the half a bottle of horrid cologne.

I need to get better soon!  That was a scary, scary image!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Introvert or Extrovert?

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

I don’t think most people are strictly one or the other.  I am sure there are some cases that are, like the unabomber or someone like him who lives the life of a hermit.

I am 70% introvert and 30% extrovert.  These are not scientific numbers, simple my own perception of myself.

I have always been shy.  If I know you or feel very comfortable with someone I don’t really know, I am very much an extrovert and you can’t shut me up generally.

People that know me, however, tend to disagree with my self-assessment as shy.  They only view me as they see me: loud, chatty, friendly, silly, fearless, etc.

It is interesting to me that others see me in ways that I don’t see myself.  Of course, some of the things they see I see as well, but things like being fearless or extroverted are not how I see myself.

I am definitely not fearless.  I have more fears than I care to share, but that is precisely why they see me that way.  My feeling is like someone in war: do not show your weaknesses or they will be used against you.

Therefore, very few people know my fears.  I keep them to myself.  Aside from my fear of spiders and heights, most people do not know any of my other fears.  Those two are hard to hide as I cannot even walk near the railing of a second floor staircase, balcony or in the mall.  Spiders I am better at hiding a little, but if it’s a big one or particularly gnarly, I will screech like a little girl while flailing around.

I definitely do not see myself as extroverted.  I live inside my head.  I process everything in my mind and do not usually discuss my thoughts.  This is a huge part of why I communicate best in writing.  My thoughts simply flow “on paper” more than they do from my mouth.

I am perfectly content to sit back and watch or listen in a social setting.  For starters, as I said earlier, I am shy if I don’t know people well.  I also do not like to shout in order to be heard.  If I have to compete to be heard, I just won’t speak.

My extroverted side comes out randomly.  I will have moments or days in which I am withdrawn and completely introverted and others where I am a sudden social butterfly.  There are days that I am silent.  It isn’t that I have nothing to say, I just do not feel like sharing.  There are days I won’t be quiet.

One setting in which I am always an extrovert, which explains why some of my friends see me this way, is work.  When I started working way back when I was 16, I started working in a service industry.  I spent several years working retail, which requires interaction with customers.  Then I worked as a receptionist, which requires interaction with clients.  Then I worked as an assistant teacher in a day care, which requires interaction with both children and their parents.  Then I worked as an independent consultant for one of those companies that you have demonstrations in your home and you get free or discounted products (I won’t name which one here), which requires a lot of interaction with people.  Then I worked as a receptionist and in customer service, etc….

You get the idea.  All of my work experience has consisted of some kind of customer service.  I have been trained to be social and friendly and people pleasing in these settings.  Even if I am just shopping, I have the instant flashback to retail work and smile at everyone, pick things up that have fallen, help people reach or find something they cannot reach or find.  It is weird, I know.

I wonder how many people are more introverted than extroverted or if I am in the minority.

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