Thursday, June 28, 2012

Even Princesses Recycle!

Celebrity Spotlight: Even Princesses recycle! 

Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, recycling outfits in a modern world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Writing a Book: Why you should start now!

National Novel Writing Month

I have lately been rewriting a manuscript of mine for many hours, which was professionally edited this past spring. Basically, I have learned that there's a lot more to writing a book than just having a good story. At the direction of my editor, I have been researching things called "point of view" and "character arcs," "scene conflict, climax, struggle and resolution," basically: all of the nitty gritty not-so-very-fun-stuff. However, four scenes into this new process of mini t.v. "episode"-like scenes and for the first time in years, I'm actually becoming proud of my work. I can see the craft finally reflecting the story. Which leads me into today's topic: novel writing: why you should start now!

Novel writing seems so exciting: the romance of a new idea, the pull of a scintillating character, the shocking climax, the heartfelt resolution, the immortality of printed pages, the hint of success to come, the dream of a monetary advance, the Pulitzer Prize in writing. [Insert guttural laughing here.]

I am laughing now, because I began this process almost two decades ago, with my first "novel" idea in the fifth or sixth grade (pun intended.) That idea has ballooned into a trilogy of fantastical (literally-it's a fantasy) proportions. However the entire project was halted, when at sometime during my advanced high school or early college years, my laptop died and I lost eighty written pages of that manuscript. I had to completely begin afresh with only an old printed version of forty pages or so. A rookie mistake, but heart wrenching, nonetheless. Bridging the gap from teenage to adult writing can be challenging. Teenagers have the ideas but not the craft. Adults tend to have honed the craft, but now have fewer ideas, or time to realize them. This author, "10 Things Teenagers Should Know About Writing" (while trying not be condescending) makes some really good points about the general weaknesses in teenage and amateur writing while giving many tips on where and how to begin the process.

SCROLL DOWN TO his point #2: the more you read and write, the better you'll get at it. 

Point #3: You need to write everyday. 

And the author continues to give seven more pointers about getting into this industry. He also has quite the hilarious follow up article "On teens and the fact their writing sucks" where he apologizes for his initial statement from article one, and clarifies his meaning: that you can only get better, and by limiting yourself to where you are right now (in your teens) you will never improve. 

My advice to teenage and adult writers alike:

CONSUME the information around you and on the internet. 

DIGEST the information.

SPIT IT BACK OUT in a way that floors people. 

Here's my favorite example by J. D. Salinger: 

So while your style might not have that finesse of your future years, it's important to get started. It's important to get those youthful ideas onto paper, because these are the kinds of ideas everyone identifies with. The nostalgia of "going back in time to your youth" that people, adults try to escape to. The ideas that younger children look up to, try and emulate.

Commit to your writing future: get started today. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

June Movie Survey!

It's that time of year again: when I got see almost every movie in the theaters just because it's summer. Mainly this means that I'll write up quick reviews for anyone that may be interested in knowing what's a dud or a gem. In a nutshell?

The Big Screen Winners: Battleship, Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Avengers.
The Small Screen Renters: MIB-3, Rock of Ages, The Hunger Games, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

#1. The Surprising Favorite (that critics hated): BATTLESHIP. I was as surprised as the next person at how much fun Battleship was. Viewers can quickly suspend belief at the ridiculous plot of alien invaders setting up a base in the ocean because the effects are SO GOOD. The aliens have a very STAR TREK (2009) feel and the acting is funny and reminiscent of INDEPENDENCE DAY. I was proud to be an American after this film. It was also a great view of the capabilities of the U.S. Navy, the veterans who have served previously, and had a feel-good ending. It's on its last week in theaters, go catch it! It's better than A.Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

 #2. The Surprising Dud (that critics loved): M.I.B. III. I had very high expectations for M.I.B-3. Especially since it's been TEN YEARS since the last installment, and has been promoted since early 2011. Honestly? It was depressing. While the "Time-warp" gimmick from Tommy Lee to Josh Brolin in the 1960's was UNCANNY and spot on- the film just maintained a level of seriousness that didn't deliver. Yes, there is one "feel good" moment towards the end that explains Will's past, but all-in-all, not what I was looking for from the franchise that used to be slimy, spunk and fresh.

 #3. Just along for the Ride: ROCK of AGES is a going to be a great house-party movie. Eventually, when it comes out on DVD. Worth the $10 ticket price? Eh. The 80's band songs/mashups are the best part of the movie (along with Tom Cruise as the hilarious "Stacee Jaxx") but you can get those on iTunes already. Check out the songs, and rent the DVD. 

#4. AS GOOD AS IT GETS: I fully expect Charlize Theron to be nominated for an Oscar for her role as the Evil Queen in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. She was absolutely thrilling and terrifying (in a good way). It almost made me believe Kristen Stewart's hysteria...almost. Even though Kristen may have only used a half dozen facial expressions, the movie was still worth seeing in theaters due to the beautiful costumes (expect another oscar nod), the other general well acted characters and theatrically epic plot (think The Two Towers even with dwarves! running across mountain range panoramic shots) and scary-good special effects. I fully expect to buy this one when it comes out on DVD. 

 #5. Now everyone knows how much I love the author (Seth Grahame-Smith of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) but I actually hadn't read this one before seeing it. However, the lead Benjamin Walker, played such a believable Abraham Walker, that I enjoyed much of this mind-warping revamp satire. Unlike Battleship and Snow White, though, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had campy special effects that were ridiculously unbelievable at times. (Reminiscent of the original Hell Boy or Sin City.) Advice: Rent it for your plasma at home.

 #6. I have always loved Joss Whedon. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly) but honestly: this film would have been a hit no matter WHO directed it. Waiting out the set up of THE AVENGERS literally for five or six years as: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor and The Incredible Hulk all came out first was painful. However, the wait was worth it, as we all knew it would be. The team was hilarious together in their dysfunctional relationship and I can't wait for the next installment. SEE IT IN THEATERS.

 #7. Another surprising dud for me was The Hunger Games. While it did have decent semblance to the book, it was shot and pieced together too quickly to do the character development or relationship arcs any justice. I felt disconnected from all of the characters, except for Gale, who I identified with "watching this all go down badly." I admit I will still see the sequels in theaters, and probably think the same of them, just like I have for all of those irritating Twilight films, but honestly, if you liked The Hunger Games, read the books: they're better.

#8. PROMETHEUS: I loved it. I think a lot of adults (my husband and best friends) were turned off of this "Aliens Origin" film because the trailers made it look like a horror film, but honestly there was only one or two moments of surprising terror and many more thrilling moments of Sci-Fi fun. Unlike the other Aliens movies, where you expect the characters to be stalked by dinosaur like devils, the movie was more like an Indiana Jones film with that 'What's down there?' sort of explorative feel with some of the best special effects space and technology sequences ever seen. Go see it in theaters!

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Upcycling is the new Recycling."

 "Upcycling is the new Recycling!"

Welcome back to my blog! Today's topic is Upcycling: "...the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value."

Entertainment Seating: layered pallets.
I would love to be an entirely "original" creative person; but in reality, I'm a teacher; and like millions of other educators worldwide my motto is "borrow from the best" of educators and lesson plans to create the best curriculum and lessons for my students. As a result, I've borrowed some of these creative upcycling ideas from Pinterest and Google Images to share with you today. Here are some of the interesting project ideas that I have found for "upcycling" that you can do at home. 

Old dresser planter.
There is a larger project database of ideas that I've collected at this link: which takes you to my "Upcycling" pinboard on Pinterest. (You do not have to be a Pinterest member to view it.) 

So now, my challenge is to wander the halls of my house looking for waste, junk, or useless materials to create some of my own "upcycling" projects of my own. I plan to share them with you here on this blog all summer. 

From clothing hanger to Chip Clip! 
I hope these ideas inspire you to begin some projects of your own! 

If you have pictures, or links to projects that inspire you to "Upcycle" please share them in the comments section below!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My 100th Post: "American Clothing Consumption."

I originally started this blog last year to bring awareness to environmental, social and worldly issues. Today for my 100th post, I return to that mission to discuss American clothing consumption.

"American Clothing Consumption."

Today I learned a frightening statistic: that the average American buys 64 items of clothing per year. In 2009, that averaged almost $1900 per person. Considering overall income: clothing and apparel services was only about 4% of an American's total income: see graph below for the visual economics of expenditures.
(Click on Photo to enlarge.)
However, this number (64 items on average per person) was shocking. Then I thought about how many of these clothing items are NOT recycled, reused, or redistributed and I decided that it's time for a Sustainability Reinvigoration! Please donate your used clothing and items to one of the following charities: (click on linked name for locations) the Salvation Army, Goodwill, the American Red CrossVietnam Veterans "Pick Up Donation" service, and more instead of throwing them out. (If your favorite donation charity is not listed, please add the link to it under the "Comments" section of this post!)

Another fashion issue to consider for increased sustainability is the quality of clothes purchased. The cheaper or more badly made the clothing item, the less "wear and tear" it has and the more likely it is to be thrown out. The "trendier" the item, the more likely it will be thrown out within a few seasons! There was an interesting interview with Elizabeth L.Cline (the author of the new book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashionon the other issues with "cheap fashion" on, about the environmental and human costs as well. Her wisdom? Buy clothing guaranteed to last, that is "classic," and comfortable. 

How do you determine the value of a brand in regards to Sustainability? For this information, I turn to my trusted Better World Shopping Guide. (As a young teacher, my means are limited, but there can be power in every dollar I spend if I spend it the right way.) Check out your favorite brands from the Better World Shopping Guide's Clothing Brand Analysis. To find out how they created these rankings (based on Human Rights, the Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement, and Social Justice) please visit their website here.  

"In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine." - “The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations: The Great Binding Law.

By educating yourself about the sustainability of the brands you buy, by buying better and buying less, and by recycling all of the clothes that we need to get rid of, we can change the world.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you like it: Please Follow Me! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Making Grace a Habit."

I saw this pin on Pinterest, and it made me pause and reevaluate the way I treat strangers on a given day: when driving, standing in line, grocery shopping, getting gas, seeing people that I don't know at work (but I know they are connected to our school in some way), seeing people on the news. I realize that not all of these people radiate warmth and caring themselves (especially drivers in Florida) but I think it's really important to me, now, to leave the best impression and footprint on the world behind.

It's important to remember, in the rush of the day, that everyone is going through something: challenges, pain, grief, frustration, fatigue. That gentleman that zoomed around you to cut you off may be driving his pregnant wife or girlfriend to the hospital. That guy doing 25 in a 45 might be coming home from the hospital with his newborn for the first time. That older lady might have no one else she can depend on to get groceries and needs the extra help loading her car. The impatient person behind you in line might have three hungry kids waiting at home for dinner. I use my imagination often to create a reason to show people grace, because the truth is probably that they have even more to deal with than I can even imagine. Not always, for sure, but even I remember the day when I flew home from my Grandparent's double-funeral and found my car completely covered inside with mold in the airport parking lot and just needed my husband and Toyota to "take care of it"...and they did. (At no cost to me even though my car was over warranty.) That was they day I needed someone else's grace and it was there for me. That is why I have faith in people. Together, we make waves: waves of anger, waves of thoughtfulness (like "paying it forward" at Starbucks) ...what I researched today was Physics related: waves that travel deepest last longest.  So today physics and the dictionary taught me that an idea, like "a surge or rush, as of sensation" can also be "a rising trend that involves a large number of individuals." I love this analogy: if we do this as individuals, in "shallow" or superficial water, the effects are limited, the "wavelength" limited. However, if we do this as a people, and "deepen" by making grace a habit: the wavelength is longer...the impact is longer and greater.

If we as humans can resolve ourselves with the reality of being erased with the ebb and flow of the tide, or a gust of wind, as we will be one day, then we can start to think about the kind of emotional legacy we leave behind...because our materialistic possessions will be scattered to the wind, and our name only memorialized on a Facebook page, and a headstone. Perhaps if I can let go of the earnest human desire to consume and I can redirect my efforts to expend kindness and generosity on others, I can change myself to be someone I like better. Do you like yourself? What habits can you change to be happier?