Apr 152015

For real. So the bff and I rarely get to spend any time together. She’s got three kids; they’re all uber involved in extra activities…yada yada yada. When I realized I’d have a Friday evening to myself, I figured I’d see if I could hang out with her and the kids, but she called and practically yelled in the phone, “It’s meant to be! I don’t have the kids tomorrow! Let’s go see The Longest Ride!”

She hung up about as quickly, leaving me to Google The Longest Ride and then groan. Because The Longest Ride is a Nicholas Sparks movie, based on his book. And I hate Nicholas Sparks films – though that isn’t quite fair, I’ve only watched one – The Notebook - under duress (same bff gave it to me and bugged me for six months until I watched).

Friday afternoon I girded my loins to go the theater to see a film about a cowboy and love. Yech.

At least, I thought I was going to see a mushy film about a cowboy and love. What I actually saw…was a mushy film about a cowboy, and a girl, and an old man thinking back on the love of his life. Cheesy as hell, but I actually liked it.

There was still the obligatory rain scene (I swear, someone could do an academic paper about Sparks’ use of rainy scenes. He must think there’s some real symbolism there or something. Yes! The rain washes away who I used to be and now I am clean and free to love you!). Anyway, there’s also not much in the way of character development: I know two things about Sophia, one of the main characters. She was raised by Polish immigrants. And she likes art.

Similarly, her paramour, Luke, rides bulls to keep his momma on the ranch because Daddy died of a heart attack. But momma doesn’t care about the ranch and wants Luke to stop bull riding because a bull nearly killed him. Motivation enough? I guess.

BUT. The real gem of the film is the relationship between Ruth and Ira, a Jewish couple who meet at the start of World War II, when Ruth’s family immigrates to the US from Vienna. Luke and Sophia save elderly Ira from a car crash, and he asks Sophia to go back for a box of letters that chronicle his relationship with his love. She develops a relationship with the old man, reading him the love letters he wrote and can no longer read and gaining insight into love, life, and relationships.

And I loved it.

Had the majority of the film focused on the contemporary couple, it would have been a snoozefest, but watching Ruth and Ira fall in love in flashbacks and navigate the problems couples encounter was really lovely. Their lifelong love affair was beautiful.

Even though I never thought I’d find myself saying this, I’d actually recommend The Longest Ride. It may be rental material, but if you want a love story that won’t make your eyes roll back in your head (I’m looking at you, every rom-com ever), try this one.

Apr 092015


If you’ve been part of the book blogging community for any length of time, you have no doubt had a visit from Sheila of Book Journey. Sheila is such an active blogger and is one of the few who actively comments on posts as well. She is, and I will repeat myself across Facebook, Twitter, and this post, just incredibly supportive and enthusiastic within this community.

This weekend, Sheila’s son was killed in a car accident. Her blog was full of her adventures with her son Justin, and he had just graduated from college a year ago. The love, respect, and sense of joy these two shared is phenomenal.

Several other bloggers and I wanted to do something for the woman we count as friend, even though we’ve never met. Sheila is intimately involved in her library, and Jenn from Literate Housewife got in touch with Brainerd Public Library to see how we could donate. We determined we could raise money to fund a bench on the library property in Justin’s name, in the hopes that it will come to be a place of comfort and contemplation for Sheila in the days ahead.

If you’d like to join us, please check out our gofundme: gofundme.com/supportforsheila. Any funds we raise above our limit will go to Brainerd Public Library as a general donation in Justin DeChantal’s name.

Thank you.

Mar 272015


I just love Trish. Her blogging is always so honest and refreshing, and I truly feel like I know her and definitely count her a friend. So when she announced that she wanted to host a blog event, I thought I should try and get my act together. Alas, this week has been…a bit crazy, so I’m just now sitting down to do this Friday morning. But I still want to jump in! My days vary a good bit, depending on the semester, the point in the semester, etc., but it means my work is never boring. So here is the day in the life of…a writing center director.

6:20 a.m.: Wake up because the pup is moving around. I know I need to take her out, but if I pet her in her cozy little bed, I can usually get her back to sleep for a bit.


7 a.m.: I get up and take Maddie out for her morning constitutional. This week is very humid with just a little (final) chill in the air, so I break out my fuzzy pink robe for this. If my neighbors catch me, I’ll just pretend I don’t see them.

7:20 a.m.: I know I shouldn’t, but I hop back under the covers – just to warm up! Then I quickly make the bed. This is a MUST.

7:30 a.m.: Pick out clothes; toss them on. Wash face, brush teeth, put in contacts, pull hair back. Do makeup. Breakfast! This week has been scrambled eggs, black beans, and pepperoncini rings. Yum. Clean up. Fill water bottles.

8:10 a.m.: My “get your ass in gear” alarm goes off. Prep work bag. Put on shoes. Give the pup kisses and a treat.

8:15 a.m.-8:21 a.m.: I never know where this time goes. It just flies by.

8:21 a.m. to 8:29 a.m.: Drive to work (and yes, be jealous. I live super close to work. If it wasn’t a horrible biking town, I’d bike there).

8:30 a.m.: Roll into the office in the university library.

8:35 a.m.: Check Facebook to make sure all friends have survived the evening and no new pregnancies/engagements. Check email. Respond to email. Tap my toes waiting for college student employees to show up (the Center opens at 9).

9:05 a.m.-9:10 a.m.: Greet student employees. Talk about anything that has to be done that day.

9:10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Respond to any lingering emails from the day before/morning. Clean up inbox a bit. Organize to-do list. Check Filofax for tasks. Add anything new from incoming emails. A professor checked yesterday to see if he could bring in his class for a special assignment. Facilitate group tutoring sessions. Talk to professor about a National Poetry Month event for April.


10:30 a.m.: Check my favorite blogs.

10:45 a.m.: Get back to working on a Prezi for an APA presentation I’m giving for the nursing department on Monday. Decide template.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 10.45.16 AM

11 a.m.: Professor comes back in for update on NaPoMo event.

11:10 a.m.: Continue going through flagged APA manual to determine organization for Prezi. Reorganize layout of Prezi.


11:30 a.m.: Prof comes in again to ask a question about NaPoMo event. Agree to check on availability of space and get back to him. (Get a little frustrated by the interruption.)

11:45 a.m.: Keep working on presentation.

12:30 p.m. Grab sharp cheddar and almonds and check Facebook while I eat.

12:40 p.m.: Back to work.

1:20 p.m.: Check with 6th floor about space for NaPoMo event. Figure out availability. Call professor to confirm.

1:40 p.m.: Back to my office. A former student comes in to catch up and ask for help on a research assignment.

1:45 p.m.: Continue work on presentation.

2 p.m.: A new ESL student comes in to ask questions about the WC. I had visited her class the day before, and she wants to know if the tutors can help her with her daily journal assignment. I tell her yes and set her an appointment.

2:15 p.m.: One of the tutors comes in to ask if she can have some time off because she has a relative in the hospital.

2:30 p.m.: View slide show thus far to see flow for presentation on Monday. Looking good, but I need to create sample documents. Create sample documents with pull outs to explain different elements.

3 p.m.: Check online class for emails and discussion board posts. I need to grade, but that will have to wait for this weekend.

3:30 p.m.: The boyfriend texts to see if I’m leaving anytime soon. Find a stopping place. Leave desk entirely too messy. Pack up.

4 p.m.: Home.

4:15 p.m.: Change clothes. Let Maddie out. Plop myself on the sofa in my bedroom and read. The book I’m reading doesn’t hold my attention, so I switch to a new one. Check email (always a mistake). Presentation for Monday is cancelled. Kind of feel like crying. Headache worse. Correspond with the author I’m working on an editing project with.

5:15 p.m.: Boyfriend is hungry. I am too, so we run to the store. We made spaghetti for the week, but he wants wine, and even though my head aches, it still sounds good. As does French bread. And chocolate.

5:45 p.m.: Food! Wine! Things are looking up. Clean up after dinner while talking to the bff on the phone. Feed the dog. Let her out.

6:45 p.m.: Hot bath. Take the wine with me. Pick up a nonfic book I keep beside the tub for bathtime.

7:45 p.m.: Last episode of Empire (addictive). Season finale of The Mindy Project (felt a bit scattered). New episode of The Flash (so damn good). We only watch TV once a week and usually on Friday, but I have to judge a UIL competition Friday, so tonight it is.


10:40 p.m.: Think about reading. Too tired. Lights out.

Thoughts: Man, some days I have no interruptions. Others… It’s all part of the job, and I love working with students, but days like today feel a little futile because I know I could be finished with a project much faster with my door closed. But I never liked when my boss closed the door, so I try to always keep it open. Maybe I should institute “door closed” time.

Also, evenings are hardly ever so lazy. Usually, it’s P90X or a bike ride for a few hours followed by a beer on the porch until the sun goes down. Not today. I needed to decompress.

Thanks, Trish! It kind of feels good to see what I’ve actually accomplished in a day – even if it doesn’t feel like much.



Feb 192015

I’ve never much been a fan of the cozy mystery, though I’ve loved mysteries since I was small. I do, however, enjoy mystery series, watching the lead character evolve across installments. A cozy mystery, though, was always a bit too…cozy for my taste, the towns quaint, the characters a little too one dimensional, the tropes a bit forced.

Last year was a dark and stormy year – maybe not literally, but in 2014, I read 68 books; roughly 27 of those were cozy mysteries.

Literary fiction felt too hard last year, and that’s every bit the pathetic statement it sounds. Cozy mysteries, for all their fun, are easy reads. The characters don’t change much. There’s no real darkness to most of them, as often there isn’t even a murder with which to contend. They are, in essence, an excellent way to shield readers from anything too tawdry – no sex, no murder, no dark secrets.

I think last year’s hiatus from blogging (a couple posts here and there don’t count) was largely due to the constant stream of cozies coming in and out of my house, as I would return them to a secondhand bookstore and pick up a handful more. As a “serious book blogger,” reading cozies felt like cheating, and I guess in a way it was. So why on earth would I blog about cheating? And while I’m every bit a proponent of reading what you want when you want, something felt off – for me, personally. [I say this because one of my very favorite blogs Kittling: Books only really discusses cozy mysteries, and she is my go-to source for new authors of the genre.]

I started reading these as an experiment for writing one of my own. I loved Josie Belle’s books; I hated Joanne Fluke’s books with Hannah the baker as the protagonist. Yet if you look at the list of what I read, Joanne Fluke appeared most often. That infuriated/s me as each book begins the same way: the reader is introduced to a character that may have popped up in a previous book but whom the reader doesn’t know well. That person is killed, often with Hannah’s baked goods partially eaten or lying around the victim. Recipes abound. Hannah’s sister (wife of the police chief) and mother help out. Sometimes her younger sister appears. Two men, one the town’s dentist and the other a detective, vie for her affection, playfully, without so much as a hint of actual jealousy. And after each book I went back, not fully comprehending how Hannah (in the 21st century!) existed without a cell phone or laptop and what on earth made her so interesting two men would love (and be ok with loving) a woman who kissed both of them at random, always wondering which she should pick.

See? Doesn’t just the description make you a bit insane? The boyfriend, politely I must say, consistently wondered why I would show up with yet another baked goods mystery each time. “Don’t you hate those?” he’d ask (because yes, I do subject him to these conversations). “Yes,” I’d answer, and shove my nose back into the book.

Perhaps I’d forgive myself if 2014 were a rough year. If, say, I’d lost a job or been ill, or had a loss in the family, or, or, or. But I can’t use any of those excuses. 2014 was a wonderful year. My brother got married in New York. The guy and I celebrated a one-year anniversary. I loved my job and expanded the work we do. My only excuse was that I edited several manuscripts last year – one a serious memoir, another a piece of nonfiction, and yet another, a translated short story collection.

If I even tried to pick up something more serious, I’d end up a few pages in, bored or, worse, passive.

I’ve read some wonderful posts in recent months about the need for diversity in reading (Estella’s Revenge is only one), and while, yes, actual diversity in terms of race and experience and gender are all very necessary for our whitewashed Western world, these posts have only reinforced also my own personal need for diversity among genre and topic.

Cozy mysteries sucked me in. It was like a diet of all cookies, all the time. And I loooove cookies. Iced sugar ones, especially. But a diet of iced sugar cookies can only sustain one for so long. I binged last year, it’s true. And while I won’t say I’m quitting cold turkey, I’m modifying my reading diet.

2015 has already introduced me to wonderful nonfiction and fiction (one coming out in April that I cannot wait to tell you all about), and I’m determined to make 2015 a more well-balanced year.

Every now and again, when I feel the little gray cloud appear above my head, I’ll indulge in the “dark and stormy” variety of fiction. Until then, I think I’ll set my sights on more gourmet fare.

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