Book #121: Theories of Relativity

 The boy on the cover of this sparse short book is Dylan, an Einstein-loving teen whose erratic and irrational mom kicked him out of the house on his 16th birthday. 

Usually a good story shows how a character changes over time, but this story is shines by doing the opposite, chronicling Dylan's fight to stay whole and keep his dignity.

If you want to learn about (or better yet, teach someone about) the issues of homelessness, this realistic and heavily detailed novel is a good gateway to the topic.

Before you go out and buy the book, be advised it most definitely is from the Young Adult section, and it was almost too easy and simple a read.

Theories of Relativity by Barbara Hawarth-Attard

More Q&A on the 100 Point Project

Q: When are we getting our lucky rocks?
A: Not yet.

Q: Can I interview a Veteran for this project? 
A: Yes.

Q: What if the Veteran tells me things I can't write about?
A:  Ask them nicely to tell you a story you can write about because you need this for history class.

Q: What if the things I want to write about are classified?
A: Double intriguing! I bet you can change a few names and make it work. Talk to me about this!

Q:  I want to write a cookbook.
A: That's an interesting angle! Here's an idea - perhaps you could use family recipes passed down over generations and tie them to history. Let's talk.

Q: Can I research my family tree for this project?
A: Yes! Yes! But don't get lost. The assignment is not to tell me your family history, that would be pretty tedious to recount. Look for a single good story and place it in the context of your family tree.

Q: What inspires you to write?
A: Love.

Q: What if we skip the project?
A: You would have a 0 for 100 points of the class, and you missed an opportunity to do something you'll be proud of for a very long time. 

Q: Where can I get help with my writing?
A: The Learning Commons. Please go, they are awesome.

Q: When is the Spring Dinner again?
A: Again? I haven't announced it. I'm glad you're excited. We will discuss it this week. Meanwhile, keep in mind that students who completed Treasure Hunt Part 4 and/or complete their 100 point project will have the first shot at signing up for the Service Project.

Book #120: Fearless

Most of the books for this 100-ish book project have come from my college students. 

This book arrived in the mail, assigned to me by a sorority sister from Loyola University who was following my 100-ish book marathon online.
A purple sticky note attached to the front page in very very familiar handwriting requested that I didn't peek at the book or google it until March 17.

 I generally do as I'm told, unless you ask me via email in which case I might say yes and forget and you have to forgive me because because that's why.

So I didn't read the book.

Instead I read 5 other books, put in long days at work and waited until March 17 to open this book. 

Oh. Oh no. This book begins with the ending. It's a circle. Adam Brown is going to die on March 17, but before that, Adam LIVES. He is bold, and fearless and a leader among his peers for his compassion and bravery.

After several military-related books I had to admit I was a little burned out when I opened this book, but right away it was different. 

It was tender. It was intimate and honest. 

Adam faced challenges. Adam faced addiction and homelessness. 

Adam found God.  Adam found Love.

I refuse to summarize this book for you -- but I did take copious notes in case you want to discuss it. 

Be forewarned.  At the end of the book (the chronicle of a death foretold) I was crying so hard I couldn't breathe. 

I put the book down and got ready to write.

Then I read the next pages and my heart was shattered into a million pieces.

 The author's journey on this book to capture Adam Brown's story ultimately becomes the story also of Adam's teammates who would perish in the worst loss of life in Navel Special Warfare History. 

I am thankful for this book, and equally exhausted from grief. I will definitely recommend this book to my friends and students. 

  And for the record, here are the notes I made while reading this book.

Book #119: Inside Seal Team Six

This was an interesting book about Seal Team Six by a member who went on many missions, some of which can only be expressed on pages that are blacked out by military censors.  I didn't love this book, maybe because so much of it is about athletic competitions. You might like it more than I did, especially if you enjoy training details. 

Book #118: Service

This book is so good, so important, that three students in three different classes assigned it to me.
Read it.

Book #117: Pacific Glory

The student who assigned me this book found me in the hallway and asked for it back. I said NO, I haven't read it yet! I have to read these books in order!

He understood. Kinda. And I read this book exactly in the right order, after Unbroken, on my streak of military history books.

First things first. I didn't know a man could write such a heart wrenching novel.

Second things second. This book is great history.

Book #116: Unbroken

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

The student who assigned this book to me this semester kinda disappeared.
Then he reappeared in the hallway, asking if he should drop my class (what?) and could he have his book back (what?? not yet!).

I told him to come to class and let me finish the book.

He came back to class (to an ovation, for the record) and I finished this book.

You need to read it too.

Really, you do.

 If you don't  yet know that you care about WW2, read this book.

 If you think WW2 was only in Europe, read this.

If you want to fall into a book and be carried down a strong stream, battered against rocks, read this book.

Book #115: Politically Correct Bedtime Stories

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner (1994)

I loved this tiny brilliant little book. I loved every word, every sentence, every bit of it.  I savored every word, and took screenshots for you. Please please get this book, and please, please forgive me when you laugh out loud and your kids/friends/etc get mad at you. It's that good.

100 Point Project: Real Questions from Real Students.

Q: Can I buy out of this project?
A: Yes.

Q: Can I buy out of this project with $50?
A: Yes. You’d buy an F, though.

Q: I want to do the service project.
A: Awesomesauce.

Q: Can we make real actual money selling our books?
A: Yes. Yes you can. And once you know how to publish a book, you can publish books for other people. Think about it. You’re welcome.

Q: How many people do we need to interview for the Pretest option?
A: Ask 10 people the same 20 questions, or ask 20 people the same 10 questions.
Q: Is there a link on your blog?
A: There are a lot of links on my blog!

Q: Do we need to be in a group for the project?
A: Only if you choose the group project option.

Q: Where can I find sources for my project if I don’t know where to look?
A: TCC Library is awesome. No joke.

Q: How much can this project boost my grade?
A: Depends on which version you do, and what your grade is. If you are below the 50% mark now, I don’t see $100 bringing your grade up to a C in a course that has 1000 points. However taking the CUMULATIVE FINAL and doing very well on it can bring your grade up. No money can be used towards the cumulative final.

Q: What is a primary document? Where can I find primary documents?

Q: What if I have no history?
A: Eek! See me.

Q: I honestly don’t know what to do. I need help.
A: I hear you. Come see me.

Q: What if there are no documents?
A: Oh, there are documents. There are ALWAYS documents, you just have to broaden the scope. I’ll show you. Come see me.

Q: How many pages?
A: That’s an awkward question.  Research should be driven by content not by length. I hope you are writing on something that is interesting and important to you. The shorter your project, the less learning you are demonstrating.

Q: Can I earn $200?
A: It's all about that cash, hmmm? The most you can earn for the $100 project is $100. The service project will be a separate discussion. 

Q: I need $100. Help.
A: The best advice I can give you is spend your time this week researching and writing. If you want to publish the book for $100 I’d like to review a draft of your work by April 13.

Q: Do the people we ask the questions to need to be in our same class?
A: No. Please no. Don’t ask any current students the questions. Go out into the world and ask questions about history. Have fun.

Q: Have you read Blue Like Jazz yet?
A: No, I promise I will before the end of the semester. I’m still traumatized from the last book I read. I though the book was over then there was a whole separate horrible tragic ending and I need a hug. A lot of hugs, actually.

Q: Why does it say 50 if it’s 100?
A: OK what what? I think you’re referring to the 50 point options. If you choose a 50 point option, then do TWO of them to earn 100 points. Cool?

Q: I have not started. I’m going to come see you.
A: Yes.

Q: Should I keep writing my story? I want to add a second story to it?
A: Delicious. Bring it to me ASAP and let’s talk.

Q: Is there a free site to get documents?
A: Start with the library.

 Q: How much money does it cost to publish a book?

Q: Can I use your pretest questions?
A: Yes. And if you write your OWN questions, please pass them by me. Make sure to ask things you can answer. Avoid multiple choice questions*

Book #114: Life has to end. Love doesn't.

I have a VERY good reason for not having already read the five people you meet in heaven by Mitch Albom (2003) before embarking on this 100ish book project.

 I love Mitch Albom's writing, I love his heart and I've read his other books, but something about this book flashed NO NO NO NO NO! DO NOT READ! to me.

Silently of course.

I respect books, so I listened and stayed away.

When my student (Eduardo) handed me his copy of the book earlier this semester, it didn't flash NO NO NO.

 Instead, I swear to you, it twinkled a little, like it had been waiting for me.

I brought it home with me for Spring Break and put it on a counter so it could watch me empty out closets and do all sorts of fun things that professors do during their 28th consecutive Spring Break.

The first sentence hooked me. "This is a story about a man named Eddie and it begins at the end..." Yayy! I LOVE stories that do that!

So Eddie dies but not so much because everyone knows death isn't real, right (right?).

And so Eddie dies-ish, and goes to heaven and meets 5 people who help him understand his life bette and teach him a lesson he needs to heal and move on to the next part of what comes left in this unbroken continuum of life.  It killed me (killed me) to not mark up the best quotes in this oh-so-quotable book,  so I jotted only my most favorite twinkly bits of wisdom from this book:

  • “There are no random acts...We are all connected...You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind...” 
  • “Each affects the other, and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”  
  •  “No story sits by itself, Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river.”
  • “Life has to end. Love doesn't.”

Mitch Albom understands sports and paced this book like a great ballgame.

 The first three people (innings?) Eddie meets (plays?) in heaven touched me and made me think, but they didn't make me cry.

Then comes person number four and I can't hold back the tears. The bases are loaded and then person number five visits Eddie.

It can't be. It is. Oh. OH. YESSSSS!!!!! GRAND SLAM HOME RUN!!!!!

I can't stop crying and if you read the book you know why.

I won't ruin it for you.

I might ruin Grey's Anatomy (he dies!) or House of Cards (she dies!) or The Fault in Our Stars (death!)  but not this book, my new favorite book. 

See you in heaven*

Book #113: Stop Keeping Secrets!!!

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

This is NOT the book I was expecting. 

 I had it in my head that this book would be set in Sweden and there would be strange names and barren landscapes and perhaps some observant owls foreshadowing something elusive and sparse. 

I literally braced myself on the sofa, crossed my ankles and set an alarm to go off in two hours, as if I could go TWO HOURS without checking the time, the weather, and what my college friends are eating for lunch today.

This is NOT the book I was expecting, and ten pages into the story I want to toss the book down and post "WHY didn't anyone assign this to me sooooner?" but it's SO good I turn my phone on airplane mode and keep reading, turning pages faster and faster.

Then I turn airplane mode off (because what if my MOM needs me? hmmmm?) and google the title.

This book was published in 1994. 

1994 people. That's 20 years that NO ONE has told me about this book.

And then I kept clicking around and guess what? There's a MOVIE.

No one told me about that either.

 Stop keeping secrets!

 If I'd known about this book, I would have included pieces in lecture and recommended it to students. If I'd known about this book, I would have sent it to my mother.

 If I'd known about this book, I would have talked about it because it's THAT good.
That important. 

Snow Falling on Cedars history, mystery, context  and pace put it in the same league as To Kill a Mockingbird.

Book #112: I Never Saw Her Again But I Know What She Looks Like Now

All the King's Men (1946), a Pulitzer prize winning novel vaguely about Huey P. Long (ish), just took up three full days of my life that I will never ever get back.

This book is lush and long. Instead of racing straight to a plot point or sticking to a single story (sigh) the author walks the readers through this then that then turns them to the side and keeps them busy for awhile.

 I imagine that because this book was published in 1946 America -- before MTV, before CNN, before ummmmmm everything -- people reading the book WANTED the story to roam this way and that way, keep their minds and hearts busy and off the fact pretty much every single thing the whole world was changing.

Of course I loved this book, so let me start off with what I didn't love. 

 I expected some sort of straighter history of Huey P. Long and Share the Wealth and instead found myself reading  about houses and streets and cars going by. 

Beautiful writing but I have a secret.  I liked it better when Gabriel Garcia Marquez practiced this same torture of literary detention on me, filling pages with acute observations about minute details that moved the plot nowhere for a few minutes. 

This book isn't as sexy because the tone is intentionally gritty and sweaty and edgy. At one point the narrator almost has sex. Almost.

I'm not sure the narrator liked women, especially ones past the age of 20. 

Read this below about a women he hasn't seen but still "knows" what she looks like:

I loved the quote below by the Boss, describing the law as a teeny tiny blanket:

Of course, I knew the whole time the Boss character was going to be killed and I found myself turning pages looking for the assassination and trying to sniff out a plot before the author revealed it to me.  

I wasn't left unsatisfied, and I'm sure I will pick this book up again in the future and enjoy it immensely, realizing what a horrible decision it was to try to get myself to push through this 661 page book before mentally starting my  Spring Break.  

How I Became a Home Schooling PE Coach History Professor

This week Zack officially entered virtual school. Yes, I'm homeschooling him, but honestly my idea of a lesson plan is "Lets Watch Star Wars and You Make the Popcorn and Take the Dog Out" so probably I should rely on experts.

Enter virtual school.

I had no problem finding Florida's virtual school system and enrolling it, unless you count the crucial step where parents hit "enter" and "verify" because I messed that up and ended up not enrolling Zack. So I called the Very Nice People there and they helped me quickly. I swear to you the people at virtual school HQ (wherever they may be) seem trained by Disney, asking questions that stop a centimeter short of "how can we make your schoolday magical?"

OK, fine. Zack is ready to start doing his work but then the system holds us up and makes us both go through experiential orientations. I loved it. As a parent I might skim paperwork, but these online classes interrupted my reading and measured my comprehension before letting me move on.

Delicious.  I now KNOW that I KNOW how to submit attendance, how to navigate the connexus system, and what to expect from Zack's homeroom teacher. I've been schooled on how to school and I love it.

Zack finishes his orientation first, of course, because he has Very Important things to do online, like stealing jets and mayhem.

So this morning I log in to check Zack's work, ready to get him rolling.

I have two hours before going to campus for meetings all day, and I'm ready to give him my undivided attention.

I'm ready to teach writing, reading, history, math, whatever I'm called to do. 

 I found this:
Yes, that's right.

One of his subjects is PE. 

Let the downward dog real fun begin.

Book #111: Charm, Manners, Leadership, Winning

Book #111: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, originally published in 1936.

Imagine it's the 1930s. Your parents have NO money, your education ended at 8th grade, and your only hope in getting ahead in this modern world is your own charm and cunning.

Also, imagine the economy is kind of in the tanks and depending on where you live, your farm might just blow away to Oz.

Now imagine someone hands you this book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Snap. This is a great book  because it teaches charm and manners very simply and directly, and connects these intentional influential behaviors with life-changing,  winning outcomes.

Don't blurt things out. Ask people about themselves. Don't start arguments. Admit when you're wrong. Begin criticism with praise.

 Need I continue? Yes? No? Here are some screenshots.

If you haven't read this book, you should, otherwise you won't know if someone else is practicing their Dale Carnegie principles on YOU.

Book #110: The Other Fork is for Fork

My kids love to tell a story about something that went down at Outback Steakhouse  2 summers ago.

The three of us were seated and looking around and Zack unrolls his napkin and pulls out a knife and two forks.

Zoe does the same, then they chatter at each other while I completely tune them out and notice something new on the menu.

One of them asks me, "Mom, why are there two forks?"

I continue to stare at the menu, trying to decide if I would really order this new thing or my old thing and I half answered, "One fork is for eating, and the other fork is for fork."

The kids met my answer with silence then burst out laughing and chattering with each other.

The fork is for fork? What the fork? Fork this. Fork you. Forkety fork fork.

 I put the menu and shook off my distraction, giggling with the kids so happily that it  probably annoyed a few people who were having serious conversations over big chunks of meat.

Of course I didn't mean what I said, and in fact I was so distant I didn't even hear what I said, and from that I take the reminder to practice  (and practice and practice) staying present. And using the correct fork for forking. But that's another issue. Back to book #110

The book Still Alice by Lisa Genova walks the reader through the experience having early onset Alzheimer's Disease.

Alice, a Harvard professor (how. posh.) finds herself lost and bewildered and stuck for words often enough that she turns herself in to her doctor who diagnoses her and sends her for genetic testing.

Oh no! Her disease is genetic. Should her kids get tested? What if her daughter is already pregnant?

This book is really stressful and I have to admit I put it down and watched the entire third season of House of Cards (amazing) plus the movie The Duff (loved it!) before picking the book up and finishing it.  I would definitely recommend this book to begin and honest conversation on the issues many of us will have to face as we age.  But please, watch House of Cards first. All three seasons.