Slice of Life #3- Doing a Happy Dance

Sometimes you just need to do a happy dance, or at least smile as you watch someone else do a happy dance.

I dare you to watch the video linked above and not smile.  Today was just a little stressful but when the video was shared on my Twitter timeline I somehow ended up clicking on it.  I enjoy the song so that probably explains why I took a chance on it.  Now?  I think I’ve watched it ten times in a row and I’m still smiling!

The video’s creator pulled together this mash-up of movie characters dancing, set it to the music, and it just works perfectly!

So excuse me while I continue to blast the song and smile while trying to identify all of the movies included.  I know I saw Center Stage, one of my guilty pleasure movies (we used to watch it on repeat in college for some strange reason)!  I also saw Hairspray, Risky Business, Mamma Mia (another guilty pleasure.  I can not turn that movie off if I stumble upon it on HBO), Footloose, West Side Story, Hitch, The Breakfast Club, Madagascar, and Coyote Ugly.  

No matter how stressed you might be, how annoyed you might be, how cold you might be- shut up and smile, ok?

Slice of Life #2- Here Comes the Sun

This has been a winter full of strange weather.  Yesterday around 11am it started snowing.  I was teaching my SAT prep class and assumed that the snow was starting later in the day.  Apparently the snow had different ideas.

Then, before class ended, the snow turned to slush.  By mid-afternoon my weather app told me there were ice pellets falling from the clouds.  I confirmed this when I took the dogs out to play in the backyard. Ice pellets are not fun, y’all.

By yesterday evening the district had determined that a delayed opening would be necessary due to the icy roads.  So we went to bed with plans to get up and shovel in the morning, in the hopes that this would lessen the amount of black ice we would end up dealing with.

At 6:30am this morning, when we ventured outside,  it was cold.  The ground was icy and the snow was heavy.  I’ll spare you the details, but shoveling was not fun.  I wasn’t looking forward to another icy, slushy, snowy day so I found my warmest sweater, threw on a scarf, and headed off o work.

At work my classroom is in the basement, so I only get glimpses of the outside world.  Imagine my surprise when I left the building at 3:30pm and discovered the sun was out!  And it was warm!  In fact, I didn’t even need my coat!  Ok, maybe that’s because I was wearing a heavy wool sweater, but still!

Thanks to the sun’s warm rays I was able to walk the dogs at the park today, which we haven’t been able to do in a few days.  The dogs followed some deer trails, I listened to the birds singing in the sun-dappled trees, and we all enjoyed the fresh air.  What a difference the sun makes!  Plus, the sun sticks around longer now that we have entered March.  It’s almost spring!

A little while ago I checked the weather app and was dismayed to see it’s going to be slushy and icy tomorrow.  And Thursday we may get the biggest snowstorm of the year.

But you know what?  The sun was out today.  And it was almost warm.  We are getting there!  Soon enough we’ll all be complaining about the heat and humidity; for now, we can enjoy the weather as it comes.

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Slice of Life #1- It’s Raining Birds!

I’ve been feeding the neighborhood birds since the New Year started and it’s been fabulous. My e-bird tells me I’ve identified 25 different species at my feeders! (I love citizen science!)

But today I had my coolest sighting.

I was watching my feeders for a few minutes when something suddenly dropped from the sky into the snow, landing with a thump. At first I thought it was one of resident hawks landing with an early dinner. Then I saw what looked like a mohawk on its head.

I was on the phone at the time and I threw the phone down, yelling to my mother “I have to call you back! A weird bird just fell out of the sky!”

The bird was clearly a duck, but not a duck that belonged in my yard. I belong to a few birding groups on Facebook and knew that there had been a spate of sea birds getting lost inland recently. The snow and frozen waterways make it hard to find food. I also knew some of those ducks and birds can’t take off unless they are in water. So I went outside to check on the duck ( after snapping a few photos from the window).

Thankfully, the duck flew off when I got within about 25 feet. I ran back in and uploaded my photos to Facebook. As I waited I used my Merlin bird app to try and identify the species but seeing as the duck was very out of place in my yard it didn’t work. Thank goodness for birding groups on Facebook!

 

Meet the common merganser duck. She’s female and was definitely lost. Even though she flew off I did walk the block to make sure she was safe. No sign of her so I’m hoping she made it to the creek down the street; it eventually feeds into the lake in the county park across the street.

Definitely an awesome yard bird but a bit sad, too. It turns out lots of sea birds and ducks are literally falling out of the sky in the midAtlantic. Their rivers and lakes are frozen and they are looking for food. So keep your eyes open and look a little closer at the world around you. The birds that surround us might need help this winter.

 

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Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Happy Valentine’s Day! “How Not to Kill Your Co-Author” by the Voelkels

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.03.18 PMIn February of 2009 I visited the monarch overwintering grounds in Central Mexico and had the opportunity to work with many Mesoamericans.  When I stumbled on Jon and Pamela Voelkel’s Jaguar Stones series after that trip, I was immediately hooked.  A rip-roaring adventure set in Central America, the series is perfect for middle grade and YA readers who also love Rick Riordan’s books.  The fourth book in the series, The Jaguar Stones: The Lost Cityis available now!

I met Jon and Pam at NCTE this year, after many years of chatting about monarchs on Twitter and just missing each other at various conferences.  They are just as wonderful as you would imagine! Jon and Pamela were kind enough to stop by the blog today and in honor of Valentine’s Day they are writing about their relationship as co-authors.


 

HOW NOT TO KILL YOUR CO-AUTHOR

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Pamela Voelkel, co-author (with her husband, Jon) of the Jaguar Stones series, reveals her hard-won secrets of working in relative harmony

One night, just when we’d started thinking about writing a book together, Jon and I went to a book launch at our local bookstore. The authors were Melinda and Robert Blanchard, owners of a restaurant in Anguilla and a salad dressing business in our little town. Their talk mesmerized me. They said they’d always been prepared to work longer and harder than everyone else, but their big advantage was that, being a couple, they could pursue their dream twenty-four hours a day. As Jon and I walked home through the rain, I figured that formula could work for us too.

We’d worked together before in advertising, but never in the same department or even on the same floor. I was the Creative Director, he was the Planning Director. The idea of writing a book was all his. It was based on a series of bedtime stories he used to tell our three children, which in turn had grown out of stories from his own childhood in Latin America. Jon wrote the first draft, which was like a junior James Bond, full of explosions, very little conversation and no female characters. But I loved the story about a city boy lost in the Maya rainforest – and it seemed to me that middle-schoolers would love it too.

We passed the manuscript back and forth for months, Jon writing the action scenes, me concentrating on dialogue and characters. We must have written that first draft twenty or thirty times. Along the way, we read books about the Maya and travelled in the rainforest. Then we discovered that Maya archaeology had moved on and the books were out of date, so we had to start again. It really helped to have two of us to share the required reading.

J&P wedding pic

This is one of our wonderfully wacky wedding photos. We got married in Bogota, Colombia, and the photographer neglected to mention that he’d be dropping in random backgrounds. Other shots show us standing in fields of flowers and on mountaintops at sunset, but this one is the tackiest. You can see the photographer in the mirror. And by the way, please admire my rock-hard helmet of hair, courtesy of a local beauty salon. It’s the most uncomfortable wedding photo ever!

Do we ever want to kill each other? Only every single time we debate plot points. But more often than not, we settle on a third way that comes out of the logic of the story. We’re both bossy, opinionated people and, if I’m honest, we can lock horns about anything. We’re like that couple in Woody Allen’s Radio Days. “You’re wrong, I tell you. The Atlantic is greater than the Pacific.” So maybe it’s good that we can channel our differing points of view into one narrative. I hope that the force of our feelings strengthens the story. Where solo authors have to listen to voices in their head, we can talk out loud in the kitchen. Our children sometimes complain that we refer to our characters as if they were members of the family. Which, of course, to us, they are.

For all my argumentative ways, I’m not a confident person. I don’t think I would have survived the rocky road to publication on my own. Even back in my advertising days, what I loved most was working in teams and trading ideas and brainstorming. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t enjoy book tours on my own, or presenting in schools. It’s so great to have someone who can cover for you when you forget what to say, or who can keep talking while you hunt for the dongle. Plus it’s much more fun to have a co-author to eat dinner with in the hotel at the end of the day.

These days, our roles have diverged slightly, which gives us a little more breathing room. Now Jon does most of the illustrating and I do most of the writing. He has a passion for ancient Maya glyphs, I have a passion for modern Maya culture. But we will always have one thing in common. Neither of us ever, ever, says: ”No. It can’t be done.”

We totally believe that between us, if we put our minds to it, we can do anything, ANYTHING. We have never forgotten that rainy night when we listened to the Blanchards at our local bookstore and vowed to dream big and work hard and stick to our guns and find a way to tell the story that was in our heads. Now our books are in that very same bookstore window.

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