The Life of Bon

Thursday, May 21, 2015

AP Lit reading list- what books should I teach next year?



 This time of year my brain is filled mostly with school's almost out, lesson plans, school's almost out, grading papers, school's almost out, do we have any food in the house, school's almost out, and did someone take out the garbage?  Trust me, it's very fun to be inside my brain in May.  A very small percentage of my brain (the responsible and sometimes very annoying part of my brain) starts worrying about what I'm going to be teaching next year.  I like to make sure I read over the summer any new books I'll be teaching come fall.  I let my brain do this relaxed, summer thing where it has the book in the back of everything and slowly starts to come up with fun activities and lesson plans to go along with it.  My brain is kind of stubborn.  It doesn't like to be rushed.  If I try to read a book and think of fun lesson plans in September by brain will absolutely refuse, screaming "I can't work under this kind of pressure!"

I have my junior curriculum pretty much down at this point.  Next year will be my sixth (SIXTH!) year teaching juniors.  With all the district, state, and national testing that juniors are required to do (SAGE, ACT, SRI, CFA.  The testing madness never ends when you're 17) I barely have the time to fit my favorite books in there, so I don't plan on having time to adding anything new for next year.  (Junior books I read: Excerpts of Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, The Things They Carried, and Tuesdays with Morrie.  If I change anything next year it will be not teaching The Crucible.  I enjoy teaching it less and less each year.)

With my junior classes pretty set and stone, my brain is focusing on the AP Literature curriculum.  Teaching AP Lit is a dream come true for someone like me because I get to just let the kids read book after book after book.  In my normal class I worry that we spend too much time on books and not rhetoric, vocabulary, argumentative writing, etc, etc, etc.  Basically there is so much you have to cover in a regular class but AP Lit is like this little gift from God saying, "You want to teach books and poetry?  TEACH NOTHING BUT BOOKS AND POETRY.  WRITE ABOUT NOTHING BUT BOOKS AND POETRY."  And to top it off, I get to pick the books I teach!  As long as they are of significant "literary merit" I can teach whatever my little heart desires.  It is seriously my wildest dream.

So, here's what's on the docket for next year.  In AP Lit I try to cover two books a quarter- eight in all.  Choosing books to teach is very different than choosing books to read.  The books have to be interesting to seventeen year olds, move at a decent pace, have lots of topics for discussion and writing, be of "literary merit", and due to time constraints, be relatively short.  (I usually don't teach a book if it's over 300 pages.)  With all of that to consider, here are the books I am for sure teaching in AP Literature next year and why:

LORD OF THE FLIES BY WILLIAM GOLDING:
Lots of symbolism- the conch, the fire, the glasses, the "Lord of the Flies"
Very interesting study of human nature, social systems, how people work (or don't work) together.
Due to ^^^ there is LOTS to write about in a potential AP prompt
Students dig it- 12 year old British boys killing each other on a deserted island?  What's not to love?
Short book
(Cons to teaching this book- starts a little slow, lots of description can weigh students down.)

CATCHER IN THE RYE BY J.D. SALINGER:
Very easy to read, feels like you're talking to a friend
A great study of "coming of age" and the complexity of people- what you see on the surface isn't always the real deal.
Holden Caulfield is my literary boyfriend
Funny and interesting book to read- Holden's voice is entertaining to most readers.
Allows for great discussion on the use of slang, profanity, the purpose of language, how we use language for our own needs, etc.
Students get to read a classic without feeling like they're reading "a classic."

(Cons- you either love Holden or you hate him.  Some students definitely hate him.  And in conservative Utah, the profanity and over all "bad attitude" closes some students off to the book.)

OTHELLO BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE:
I feel like in a literature class I absolutely need to teach at least one or two Shakespeare plays
Iago may possibly be the best villain of all time
Race issues, power issues, etc.
Emilia is one of the my favorite minor female characters- strong and brash- the only person who can give Iago a run for his money.
Makes for terrific writing prompts.
It's not as often taught as Hamlet or Macbeth which can make it a little more interesting to graders if students choose to write about it for an AP prompt.

(Cons-  It's Shakespeare, which means it's more difficult.  Anytime we do Shakespeare in class we read the whole thing in class and that eats up a lot of time.)

HAMLET BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE:
All the same Shakespeare reasons as listed above.
Hamlet is a fascinating character to study- is he really mad? Does he love Opehlia?  Why the hesitancy to get his revenge? MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND!
Like most of Shakespeare's plays, the true strength is in the characters- so many people with so many issues to write about... Gertrude, Polonius, Opehlia, Laertes, etc.
To be or not to be speech... I feel like I am robbing students if they take a literature class with me and don't study maybe the famous literary speech of all time.

(Cons- It is the longest Shakespeare tragedy and it certainly feels that way.  I get really tired of Hamlet sitting around and whining about what he should do.  When you have to read the whole thing in class, it can really drag.)

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD BY ZORA NEALE HURSTON:
One of the few books we read that is about a woman!
One of the few books we read that is written by a woman or a person of color!
The dialect is hard for students to get, which provides an extra challenge, and I like that.  They really have to focus to read it. Kids are really proud of themselves after having read and conquered this bad boy.
Great topics for discussion- The institution of marriage, the treatment of women during this time, the treatment of black women during this time, etc.
Short chapters- students always are in to that.

Cons- Some students want to give up on the dialect right away.  If they can stick with it, most students really enjoy this book but it's hard talking them through those first few chapters.


Books I taught my first year of teaching AP Lit that I won't teach again:

JANE EYRE BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE- too long, not interesting enough to students, Jane is kind of a boring protagonist, not enough to write about for possible AP prompts.  It makes me sad because this was one of my favorite books in high school, but when I tried to teach it it just didn't have the same magic.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN BY ARTHUR MILLER- This one I'm on the fence about.  I don't particularly enjoy teaching it, but it could be I just didn't do the right activities with it.  It is one that has the potential to be very interesting, as well as lots of possible discussion and writing topics.  But then again, maybe it's just a weird play?


Books I am considering teaching next year:

THE AWAKENING BY KATE CHOPIN- it's pretty much on every suggested AP reading list.  I read it in college but literally don't remember a single thing about it, which is a bad sign for me.

IN COLD BLOOD BY TRUMAN CAPOTE- One of my favorite books, fascinating for students, and is nonfiction which is a bonus as all of our other reading is fiction so far.  I worry that it might not have enough "literary merit" to justify teaching.  Will it yield enough discussion/ possible writing topics?

HARD TIMES BY CHARLES DICKENS- I feel like I should read some Charles Dickens with students, but most of his books are so long!  Hard Times is one of the shorter ones.  I read it in my AP class in high school and enjoyed it- I also know it's on all the AP suggested reading lists.  I just don't know if I like Dickens enough to teach him.  Also I get tired of teaching all the books that are written by white British dudes.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY JANE AUSTEN- I have no love for Jane Austen, but I wonder if it's because I read this in high school and the satire and wit was lost on me.  I've heard Austen is very witty and very funny.  It is possible I was always reading her at face value.  I would consider teaching this, but then I also worry that the boys in the class would just hate it.  The other part of me thinks, screw you boys, sometimes you have to read books about women too, you know.

1984 BY GEORGE ORWELL- Again, it's on every single AP reading list.  I liked it in high school, but when I cracked it last summer I only got about 30 pages in before I was bored to tears.  I never make my students read book I myself am not interested in.  Maybe I didn't give it a fair chance?  Big brother and the dystopian society- pretty crucial to literature study.

MACBETH BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE-  Lady Macbeth is one of my favorite female characters ever.  And the witches are so fun.  And there's ghosts!  Who doesn't love ghosts?!  But if I teach this then I will have to take out either Hamlet or Othello because I am certainly not teaching three Shakespeares.  Teaching Macbeth in lieu of Hamlet is tempting because it is significantly shorter, but then am I robbing my students of the Hamlet/ To-be-or-not-to-be experience?  Also I have great lesson plans for Hamlet and zero lesson plans for Macbeth, so it would be more work for me.

FRANKENSTEIN BY MARY SHELLY- I haven't ever taught this, but my student teacher did last year.  The regular classes hated this book because they said it was too boring and descriptive, but I wonder if AP kids would take better to it.  The themes of nature v. nurture are fascinating but I don't know if it makes up for how hard the book can be to get through.

MORE BOOKS BY WOMEN- any great suggestions?

(I would consider teaching Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird and Scarlet Letter in this class, but most students will have just read those the years earlier.)

I am always interested to hear what you all say.  Any books you read in your AP classes that you loved?  A book you think would be great to study in a classroom study?  Books that you absolutely hate and should never be taught in a classroom?  Give me all the suggestions!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

In this post we're going to talk about our periods. Boys, go away.

This post is sponsored by U by Kotex, but all opinions are my own.


Are we really talking about periods on a very public blog?  Yes, yes we are and trust me- no one is more embarrassed than I am about it.

After 18 months of not having a period, (praises be to pregnancy and breastfeeding!) I am trying to prepare myself once again for a world of unwanted monthly visits.  I don't think there's a woman in the world who likes her period, but there are a few ways to make what is miserable a little less miserable.

Introducing the 3D capture core feature from U by Kotex.  Basically it's a pad different from any other out there because it has a center that locks away the wetness and helps to stop leaks.  No more worrying about stains when you are wearing your favorite white pants, a short skirt, or worst of all, your bathing suit!  I think we've all been there and if you haven't you either A) haven't lived long enough or B) are way better at being a woman than I am.  If your answer is B, congratulations!  That must be awesome to be you.


^^^I put lipstick and gum in this picture so that maybe you would forget about how much you hate your period. Look how sneaky I am.  (Did it work?)

The whole idea behind the new 3D Capture Core is that we are going to "save the undies."  Kind of like when you save a damsel in distress but less kissing.  Basically we're tired of having to get rid of cute and expensive underwear because of leaks.  Don't fear, you stressed out, poor females!  U by Kotex is here to save your underwear stressing day and turn you all into UnderWarriors!  (See what we did there with that little play on words...?!?  Really.  This is too fun.)

^^ Disclaimer.  That is not my underwear.
(OR IS IT?!?)



The best thing about this entire post is that everyone who has stuck it out to the end is getting something for free.  Ellen Degeneres style.  (Really I wish I could give you all a car for reading this slightly painful and very awkward post, but I can't because I can barely afford my own car, let alone all of your cars. BUT I WOULD IF I COULD)  You are all going to get a free sample of this product.   Just click the "order sample" button and fill in your mailing address. Then you can try it out for yourself and confirm that the 3D Capture Core really is incredible at stopping leaks.

Go here to get your free sample.  I know it ain't no car, but it comes from the heart so that means something.  And it fits easily in your purse... bonus!

Bachelorette Premiere Recap: Let's get this debacle started!



Ladies, grab your popcorn , take your seats because it's Bachelor season!  Can you believe it's time already for us to once again indulge in rose giving, hysterical crying, and over the top dates that mirror real life exactly?  Me neither!  My, how the time flies!

This Bachelorette season, of course, is different from most.  Instead of one Bachelorette that gets to choose her man, ABC decided it was a little too dangerous to give that much power to a woman.  You don't know what she'll do with it, after all!  So they switched it back, giving the power again to the men- the woman doesn't get to choose her 20 men, the men get to choose their one bachelorette from Kaitlyn and Britt.  The first night then, is completely turned around.  Instead of 25 men fighting for the one bachelorette, now two women are fighting desperately for the 25 men.  It's so fun to have that power dynamic switched!  We don't want women to ever feel too comfortable, after all!

The episode starts with both women explaining why they think they should be the Bachelorette over the other girl.  Britt highlights her own strengths in a beautiful, princessy type way.  Kaitlyn, however, accidentally let's it slip what she really thinks of Britt.

I am a sincere person... and we're really different.

Kaitlyn and Britt both look like 100 bucks standing waiting for their men, but I do think Kaitlyn wins the dress contest with her dark sequins.  Britt is wearing a a white, high slit number.  I can't help but think that this was deliberate by ABC.  Angel and devil?  Kaitlyn as the dark horse, Britt as the sweetheart you'd bring home to mom?  


In perhaps the most awkward placement of all time, ABC has the two women stand about twenty feet from each other.  That way the men getting out of the limo must deliberately choose who they want to say hi to first, obviously showing their preference. The other must lamely look on, either trying to not listen to the conversation, or trying to somehow be a part of the conversation from 20 feet away.  It's uncomfortable for us all.

The men exit out of their limos.  It may be the worst looking bachelor crew of all time.  One man is "studying for the bar" (translation: failed the bar and now has to retake it) and to help pay off those expensive law school loans has resorted to exotic dancing.  I don't know about you, but I sure like to see my lawyers stripping at night!  Kaitlyn is on to him right away. 

When I see a guy whose hips move like that, there's no doubt that he's a stripper.



There is a handsome red head from Idaho (I may be partial to gingers), a "healer" who claims he gets a very good vibe from Britt, a bunch of guys from Tennessee and Kentucky, and an "amateur sex coach" who literally drives up in a hot tub.  And he's driving the hot tub.  I have a lot of questions.  Why amateur?  Why the hot tub?  WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?

Meanwhile, in the mansion, the men are getting anxious to spend more time with their ladies.  Except for Ryan, who is absolutely off his rocker drunk.  I know these are grown adult men, but shouldn't ABC kind of limit how much they drink?  When I was a server there were very strict rules as to how frequently we could serve alcohol to someone.  Maybe Utah is just very severe with their alcohol rules but at one point doesn't the guy at the bar say "Yah, you should hold off a minute..."

Anyway, no one has limited Ryan on his alcohol consumption even a little bit, including himself.  He is out of this world drunk, pretty standard for Bachelor first night antics.  He starts spurting wisdom.

I'm all horned up everyone!

I apologize for nothing!

I'd love to take that girl out for a nice steak dinner and never call her again!

Back on the driveway we continue with the arduous process of men meeting both the women and the women feeling of less value based on who the men greet first.  Britt, during this whole process has had an epiphany

I think some guys are here for me, some are here for Kaitlyn.

FINALLY, the women have greeted all the men and it's hard to tell at this point who the favorite is.  Britt appeared the front runner at first, but you know how ABC loves to throw a good twist at you.  The women enter the mansion to greet the men and Kaitlyn, true to form, starts off with a joke:

Knock knock?
Who's there?
Two bachelorettes.
Two bachelorettes who?

THAT'S THE JOKE!



The men laugh while Britt looks on disapprovingly.  This is no time for jokes, Kaitlyn!  Her future husband could be in this room!  She tries to change the mood with a speech about how she is looking for her best friend. Half the men look on adoringly.  Both women seem to have accrued their own little fan clubs.

There are a lot of uninteresting conversations that follow.  Britt calls a guy a dick who gave her tissues when he met her because of how much she cried last season.  Normally, as the bachelorette and person in control, Britt would have this prerogative, but remember, oh Britty Boo, that you are now vying for these men's approval not vice versa!  You can't do anything that might show your true personality.  Keep that thing under wraps if you know what's good for you!

At this point I'm mostly just mad at ABC because I really like Kaitlyn and I'm afraid she's going to get her heart broken.  Again.  Couldn't you have just chosen one bachelorette?  I want Kaitlyn to be the next Bachelorette so badly that I am afraid my enthusiasm and intensity will turn it for Britt and I'll be left with a boring season of an insincere Bachelorette.

As I am thinking all this, the men are voting for their preferred bachelorette by dropping roses in big cedar boxes.  Some have their minds clearly made up.  Drunk Ryan, who by this point has taken a swim in the pool in nothing but his underwear, grabbed Kaitlyn's butt, and again emphatically declared that he's "all horned up", crashes into things in the decision room and attempts to throw a dart to decide who he's going to vote for .  The body guard comes in, takes Ryan to Chris Harrison, where Chris tells Ryan he's outta here.  Because you can shout obscenities, drink yourself sick, and grab women's butts all you want, but when you threaten to ruin expensive stuff, that's where ABC really draws the line.

At this point there is a small little notice that comes on the bottom left side of the TV.  BACHELORETTE 2 NIGHT PREMIERE RESUMES TOMORROW.  

Tomorrow?!  TOMORROW?!?!  Is this some kind of horrible trick, ABC?  You've already taken two hours of my life, now you want two more?  Why didn't you tell me it was a two night even before?  Oh, because then you knew I wouldn't have watched the first part?  You sly little devil, you.

The votes are all counted up, Chris Harrison (who drunk Ryan has been referring to as Chris Hansen) comes out and declares there is a winner.

And then the show ends.  TO BE CONTINUED.

Oh, ABC.  I think I hate you.

So, what are your thoughts?  Who's the next bachelorette?  And do we even care about any of the men?  Please no spoilers!  You spoil this for me I will haunt your blog until the day you die.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lime Ricki Swimsuit Giveaway (Also known as: for the life of me I can't think of an interesting title for this post and you can't make me)

Greg and I are back from a little getaway to St. George for the weekend.  St. George is four hours from where we live and it is a land of sunshine and red rock and everything that is perfect in this world.  Except for in July.  Then it's 110 degrees and basically Satan's bedroom.  But October through May it is a little pocket of heaven.  This weekend it was rainy and windy where we live- in St. George it was perfect 74 degrees all weekend long.

June got to stay and play with her grandparents for the weekend while Greg and I felt like a couple of young college kids living the crazy life. We slept in until 11:00!  We saw a movie in the daytime!  We stayed up until 3 am playing cards!  Is this what 23 felt like?!?

The weekend was good for Greg and I.  Sometimes I think we need to kind of just hit the pause button and go live a different life for a few days.  We are in the last few weeks of school here and our days have taken on a somewhat manic feel to them.  School, shopping, plays, auditions, blogging, cleaning, baby, etc.   It's a life I love but it's a life of responsibilities and deadlines and work.  And sometimes I like to not have any of those things.  So I take a vacation.  Maybe one day I won't need vacations?  When I was visiting my friend in California last month I mentioned something about how much I was looking forward to a few vacations this summer.  She said something like, "I honestly don't feel like I need vacations because I feel like we live on a vacation."  She lives in beautiful southern California and literally five minutes from the beach and that's when I said, "Thank you for that, I will now shoot you in the head."  (But not really.)  (But really)  One day I hope to be a in a place in life where I don't need a vacation because my daily life is a vacation, but I promise you, that day has not yet come.  Goals, people.

And now, PICTURES.

^^ One of my greatest loves in this life is tennis.  Like most things in my world, my enthusiasm for it far surpasses my ability.  Oh boo.  Sean and I were on the same team.  He was the net monkey and I tried to clean up anything that made its way past him.   Emphasis on tried.

^^ Greg and Zac were our challengers.  They lost.

And then Greg and I proceeded to take these very elegant pictures...





These two lovebirds got married nine days ago.  NINE DAYS.  You can read it all over their faces, can't you?


The tennis courts were within walking distance of where we were staying, but why walk when you can ride scooters?  Scooters are a sure sign that summer is on its way and that everything is right in the world.

I was really hoping that we would catch some pool/ tanning/ laying-in-warm-sun-and-reading-while drinking-diet-coke time.  But a few things deterred us:

1)  The weather wasn't quite warm enough to call for swimming.  At seventy four degrees with a slight breeze it was perfect for just about every outdoor activity imaginable except swimming in non heated pools.

2)  The weekend was spent with four gentleman and two ladies.  Usually adult men don't really have a strong desire to go swim in a pool together.  If there are kids, sure.  Diving boards, absolutely.  Hot tub?  No doubt about it.  But just 30 year old men hanging out in a four feet deep pool didn't sound that fun to all the guys on our trip.  I tried to convince them by reminding them of the awesome game MARCO POLO but surprisingly they didn't take my bait.  Then I attempted to lure them by telling them that it would feel amazing to just bask in the sun and read trashy magazines while drinking soda but they were like "Uh it's not warm enough to bask in suns and those magazines are the worst."

3)  Even though the weather wasn't quite warm enough and my gang not quite excited enough I think we still would have managed it, but the pool that belongs to the neighborhood didn't have a hot tub, and it was out of the way, and we weren't 100% sure where the key was.  So at that point I gave up my dreams of poolside action.

BUT.  There was a random reservoir down the street.  The water looked disgusting at best, toxic at worst, but there were a few people sitting around the water, staring, fishing, planning to throw bodies in there, who knows.  Greg said he'd go with me to lie in the red dirt and enjoy some sun for a few minutes.  I told him I really did want to swim and would get in the water and everything but then I saw the water and was like yah no that's not gonna happen.

But here's the reservoir anyway.


Seeing these pictures I kind of understand why all the models and celebrities do photo shopping.  If my thighs were just a little skinnier.  My legs just a little tanner. But then I have to turn that part of my brain off because my body made a baby and continues to feed that baby and so I can't be the least bit ashamed of something as stupid as my milky white legs.  My body doesn't deserve that kind of criticism from me.


^^ Do you believe me now about the water?!?


This swimsuit is from Lime Ricki and it is pretty much the best swimsuit ever.  It offers lots of coverage for my baby feeders and has got a bottom that doesn't show half off my butt cheeks while still looking cute and stylish in the process.  And it's totally affordable.  Win win win!   You can find the one I am wearing here- use LIFEOFBON for 15% off your order through June 1.  And if you want a chance to get your swimsuit for free99 check out my instagram Monday afternoon- Lime Ricki will be giving away one free suit to a lucky reader.  We're really getting wild around these parts, aren't we?



My favorite part of the suit- double straps in the back. WHAT NOW?!


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Let's Plant a Garden

This is her "get this dog away from me" look. 

Hello blog readers.

It's been sponsor city around here the past week so I figured it was time to check in and let you all know that there is a real life Bonnie here behind all these posts.  Sponsored content for blogs is so weird.  It comes all at once.  This winter I couldn't pay to do a campaign  and then all of a sudden I have a flood of opportunities.  I hate having multiple sponsored posts in a row, but I also don't feel like I am in a position to say no to great opportunities and extra income for my family after we have had such a drought.  I guess when it rains it pours?

I should let you know that there will be a few more sponsored posts coming up in the next week.(Including a post for this product.  Yes, I have sold my soul to blogging is the only way I can explain it).  I have long given up in the idea of balance for this blog, but maybe if you read long enough all the posts will kinda sorta balance each other out?  I make no promises.  Either way, I feel very grateful to have these opportunities and to do sponsored campaigns.  It helps me to be able to stay home part time and so I thank you for reading my blog and supporting me when I have three sponsored posts in a row.  Getting paid to write from home is a dream for me.  THANK YOU.

In other news, I went a little wild today trying to find some garden plants for my backyard.  It started this morning when I made some phone calls about purchasing sod.  The plan was to lay the sod this afternoon when Greg got home from work.  I reminded him six bajillion times because I had a feeling that putting grass in our backyard wasn't going to be of the same obsessive importance to him as it was to me. (And I was right, just for the record.)  I figured I'd call a few places this morning to figure out pricing, how we get the grass, etc.  Turns out you have to schedule your sod pick up in advance.  WHAT IS THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN WHERE YOU HAVE TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO BUY GRASS?  I am a sod virgin so I had no idea that this sort of thing requires planning and forethought was overall just super bummed when the guy said the earliest time we could get the sod would be in a week.  My afternoon working in the yard plans were totally ruined.

Sometimes when I have something on my mind I just won't quit.  My mom is the same way.  My dad used to say when she got this way that she had a "burr under her saddle" or some other idiom that no one uses anymore today.  Basically we just can't quit until what we want is done and finished.  I settled on waiting a week for the grass, but decided to get a hard start on my little patio garden.  I called my mom to ask her how she did her grow boxes and she said silly Bonnie you can't do grow boxes on cement, you'll have to plant your vegetables in pots.  Obviously I know nothing about planting things.  I'm a first timer over here!

I headed down to my mom's so she could help me and give me a few gardening tips.  She was generous enough to offer me two of her old pots (one pot even already had a tomato plant in it!) and she even had a bag of soil in her garage that she gave me.  (My mom has a huge garage in which she seriously stores ALL OF THE THINGS.  50 pack of toilet paper?  Check.  Easter baskets, Christmas tree, and fireworks?  Check check check.  Twelve thousand dollars worth of gold bars?  CHECK!)  (That last one was a joke.)
(Or was it?)
(Mom?)
(MOM?!?)

 At that point June was spent and ready for her nap so I figured I had achieved enough for the day.  I came home to put her down and Greg had just gotten home from work.  Lucky me!  June went to sleep and with Greg home to watch her, I was off on more gardening adventures.  I checked the little nursery close to my home, but when the price for a plastic pot was $69.99 I was out of there real quick.  I wanted to buy all my pots, all my plants, and all my soil in one quick trip.  To Wal-mart it was.

I love nothing about Wal-mart, for the record, except for their low prices.  Unless I go first thing Monday morning I avoid Wal-mart at all costs.  But when plants and soil and pots are two or three times as much at the local nursery, you just kind of have to buck up and go in to Wal-mart.  Or buck up and pay two or three times more.  You can't have it both ways, people!  The service at Wal-mart was about what I expected- the cashier in the gardening section played on her phone and knew not one answer to my questions.  As I was wrestling with clay pots trying to find the price tag, a lady came up to me and asked me to help her find hydrangeas.  I was like, lady we've got the blind leading the blind here.

By the time I was done at Wally's I spent $100 on dirt and pots so that I can have give of my own little vegetable plants.  Whoever said planting a garden is a good way to save money is a straight up liar, but I am hoping that my little plants at least yield something so it's not a true and total waste.  If it is, I might have to come raid your garden... You won't mind will you?

My hands are antsy to get those plants planted outside, so I am going to sign off here.  If any of you have had success with vegetable gardening in plants, I welcome your suggestions.  I have five pots- two tomato plants, two pepper plants, and a squash.  I wanted to plant some onion but that plant looked way too confusing to me.  I'm a first time gardener, I gotta ease in slowly, you know?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sweet Potato Fry Nachos

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. 
All opinions are mine alone. #SpringIntoFlavor #CollectiveBias

It's usually about this time of year that I just want to quit completely when it comes to providing meals for my family.  I feel burnt out from school and the last thing I want is to order a greasy burger or pizza.  I feel like I have no idea what to feed my family.  I want something quick and easy, but not something that is going to a) taste disgusting b) be totally unhealthy and c) cost a bunch of money.  This week I found Alexia's fries while doing my grocery shopping at Wal-mart and it has been a perfect solution to my problem! The fries are high quality and there are so many different varieties.  And they're made with all natural ingredients- winning! 




I tried the Rosemary fries, onion rings, and sweet potato fries.  I have a very real and enduring love for sweet potato fries so I decided to just really go wild and see if I could make those fries in to an entire meal.  And I did!  And now, I share it with you!  You're welcome!

Sweet Potato Fry Nachos  



Ingredients:

All natural Alexia Sweet Potato Fries with Sea Salt
Shredded Cheese (I use a Monterey Jack/Cheddar mix)
Black Beans
Cilantro
Avocado
Sour Cream



Instructions
1.  Cook sweet potato fries according to directions on the package.  (Package calls for 425 degrees, 25 minutes if you are cooking the full bag and half that amount of time for half the bag...  I found that for half the bag a great mount of time was about 18 minutes.  12-13 minutes didn't quite do it for my fries.) 

2.  For even cooking, put one oven rack at the very top of your oven and one oven rack at the very bottom.  Start your fries on the top oven rack and halfway through cooking, move the fries to the bottom rack.  This will ensure that the tops and bottoms of the fries are cooked evenly and will give a nice crispy feel

3.  Remove french fries from oven and change oven to high broil.  Add black beans on top of the nachos and cover with shredded cheese.  Put nachos back in oven for 2-3 minutes.  (WATCH NACHOS CAREFULLY ONCE THE CHEESE HAS BEEN ADDED!  They only need a couple of minutes- long enough to melt the cheese.  I left mine in for three minutes and it was too long- the cheese was totally hardened.  BOO.)

4.  Add sour cream, cilantro, and avocados to the nachos.  This recipe is flexible- anything you love on original nachos can be added- tomatoes, green onions, etc.  The sky's the limit!   



For more yummy fry recipe ideas check out:

Alexia Foods website
Alexia Foods on facebook
Alexia Foods on pinterest

Monday, May 11, 2015

How to Grill a Perfect Steak

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Char-Broil for IZEA
All opinions are 100% mine.

Greg and I are both steak fanatics so as soon as the weather starts to warm up all we want to do is grill steak, grill steak, and grill some more steak!  This year Greg is convinced he has perfected the art of grilling the perfect steak.  And you know what?  I think he may have!  These steaks are juicier and more delicious than any steak I've ordered- even at a restaurant!

HOW TO GRILL THE PERFECT STEAK

1.  Type of steak obviously matters.  When Greg and I are feeling filthy rich we splurge on filets.  We can only get these about once a month because that meat is expensive!  At Costco you can find filets for $16/lb- anywhere else they are over $20/lb.  If we can't afford filets we go with sirloins or New York cuts.

2.  Grill the steak the same day you buy it, or close to.  Don't freeze it!

3.  Prepare your steak with steak rub and butter.  Brush a bit of melted butter on both sides of the steak and then rub on that rub!  Greg and I just picked up a generic rub at the grocery store (McCormick Grill Mates Steak Rub) but our friend swears by Bad Byron's Butt Rub.  You have to order the butt rub online (Amazon) which is why Greg and I are still using the generic grocery kind.  We love the flavoring, but this weekend we are grilling with friends and going to try out that Bad Byron's Butt Rub.  We'll see if it's as good as its name!


4.  Sear the steaks!  There are a couple of ways to sear.  If you have a searer on your grill, use that- it's the best way.  Crank up the heat all the way and put your steaks on for ninety seconds on each side.  (Set your timer!  The timing is crucial!)  If you are using a pan, crank up the heat all the way and cook each steak for sixty seconds on each side.  Searing your steaks helps to keep all the juices inside the steak---  no precious juice is wasted dripping down the grill.
 

5.  Put those steaks on the grill.  Greg and I both like our steaks medium.  For perfect medium steaks, we cook them six minutes on each side.  Don't cut into them to see if they are done- use a thermometer!  (Rare steaks=135 degrees, medium rare steaks= 145, medium steaks= 160 degrees and well steaks= 170 degrees)

6.  Pull steaks off the grill and wrap them in tinfoil for five minutes.  This step is crucial!  It allows all the juices to stay in the steak so that when you cut into it all the juice doesn't run out on to your plate.  This is the first year we have tried the tinfoil after grilling trick and we are hooked for life.  It really does make a huge difference!
 
 
 

Of course, to grill these perfect steaks you will need a perfect grill.  May I suggest the Char-Broil Kettleman Grill?

 


Stuff you should know about this grill:
 
  • Char-Broil Kettleman Grill is a NEW charcoal grill from Char-Broil.
  • You can buy it at Lowe's or online at www.charbroil.com
  • This grill gives you more control over temperature, flare-ups and clean-up.
  • The grill has a removable ash pan, wheels, a no-fall-through grate, a removable ash bowl and a hinged lid.
  • Oh, and don't forget about the super- sized damper and lid-mounted temperature gauge.
  • Very affordable- $139.
  • Makes charcoal grilling easy!
If you are looking for an inexpensive but effective grill that will get your steak job done, this is it folks.  You can learn more about the Kettleman grill here.

Visit Sponsors Site

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Everything you need to know about eyelash extensions

I will admit, there are some really unimportant and maybe kind of silly things that I am really into:

Baby headbands
Reality TV
Vacuum lines on the carpet
Sandal wedges
My house smelling yummy all the time
Long eyelashes

These are things that are important to me even though I know they probably shouldn't be too important to me.  I can't help it.  A girl wants what a girl wants.

Today I want to talk to you about eyelashes because eyelashes are something that I am passionate about in a way that I am very proud of and also slightly ashamed of.  I don't think there is anything in the world that can make a girl look better than long, beautiful eyelashes.

I've always been obsessed with long lashes and for my wedding I finally caved and got eyelash extensions.  I justified it saying I really needed the long eyelashes to feel beautiful on my wedding day and my honeymoon.  And guess what?  I did!  I felt very beautiful!


Please ignore Greg's weird Edward Cullen pose and just focus on the eyelashes.  FOCUS ON EYELASHES. LOOK AWAY FROM THE VAMPIRE.




I even had eyelash extensions when I had June.  Feeling like a million bucks when the doctors sliced open my stomach was really important to me.  I don't know why!  But it was!


Now that we have established how awesome eyelash extensions can be, I will tell you a few sad but important eyelash extension truths:

TRUTH #1:  Extensions can be a hassle to maintain- you have to go every 3-4 weeks to fill them.  It takes anywhere from 1-2 hours to get them filled depending on how fast your lash gal or guy is.  When you have kids and jobs and a busy life it can get real hard real quick to always maintain those bad boys.

TRUTH #2:  Extensions can be annoying.  Like when you sleep and the eyelash is poking in your eyeball.  Or during allergy season when your eyes itch like crazy but you're not supposed to touch your lashes.  (They are amazing in the summer, though, when you are getting in and out of pools and beaches all the time and your eyes look great and no mascara smudged anywhere!)

TRUTH #3:  Eyelash extensions can do a number on your real eyelashes.  The glue is damaging to those real baby lashes trying to grow underneath.  Which means you are doomed to either wear fake lashes forever or have some truly terrible lashes for a few months while you transition out of the extensions.

TRUTH #4:  Extensions can be pricey.  Usually you're looking in the $75-120 range the first time and around $40-50 for a fill.  And that's a very modest price.  I afforded mine because I taught piano to my eyelash girl's daughter in exchange for her eyelash services.

After having eyelash extensions for over three years, I finally quit in October.  What actually did me in was not the price or the time, it was fall allergy season.  I rubbed my eyes so much that the extensions only lasted a week or so and I had to give my lashes a break. I experienced a very vain and ridiculous sorrow when I could no longer fill my lashes, but knew I had to do it.

Thankfully, my real eyelashes are still very healthy.  This is because the whole time I had extensions I used a product called Strong Lash.  I also used this once I was done with the fake lash thing and I still use Strong Lash today.  (One bottle lasts me several months.)  Basically it's a safe and effective way to grow your eyelashes- with or without eyelash extensions.  I am a huge fan because it has allowed me to have the long luscious look of fake eyelashes even when I don't have the extensions.  I love that I can have extensions or not have extensions and my real eyelashes are still in tip top shape.




I recommend this product to pretty much everyone.  There isn't a woman I know who doesn't want thick, beautiful lashes.  This helps you get there without the hassle and price of extensions.  Or if you just can't quit the extensions, this protects your real lashes. Your eyelashes are strong and resilient with this product.  Whether you love extensions like I do, or you want to go for a more natural look, or you just want your eyelashes to be a little longer, Strong Lash should be a staple in everyone's makeup bag. No joke!

A bottle of Strong Lash is usually $75.  Today they are on sale for $67 a bottle.  BUT WAIT.  The best part is I have a code for you for 40% off, bring the price down to $38 a bottle.  Compare that to $120 for Latisse and you have yourself a smoking deal.  I really really hope you all try and love this product as much as I do.

Buy here.  Use code bonbon40.

May your Monday be full of long, beautiful eyelashes.


This post has been sponsored by StrongLash.  All opinions are my own.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

On Being a Mom: A Mother's Day Post



This is my first year celebrating Mother's Day as a mom.

I have said it before on this blog and I'll say it again.  Becoming a mom is the coolest, most fun, and happiest thing I have ever done with my life.  This surprises me.  I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would like being a mom on the level that I do.  I give June baths and I dress her and I feed her and I hold her in my arms and over and over the thought comes to my mind, Being your mom is such a privilege.

It's a privilege to be the one who she lights up to see.  It's a privilege to know exactly when she needs to eat and what she should eat.  It's a privilege to be able to pick her up when she's crying and frantic and to feel her immediately relax in my arms.  It's a privilege to know that she trusts me, that she needs me, that she is comforted when she sees me.  It's a privilege to protect her, to make her feel safe, to teach her.



I can think back to a hundred times in my life when all I have wanted was my mom.  When I was little and my stomach hurt I remember how my mom would sit on the couch and rub my bare tummy to make it feel better.  Only she could do it in the exact right way; only she knew how.  When I moved to college, I sobbed uncontrollably after my mom dropped me off at my dorm.  On my mission, my mom was my comfort, the ultimate symbol of home and love. Even as an adult, I constantly want my mom. When things don't go right, when I'm scared, when I'm overwhelmed the first person I call is mom.  She can fix any situation.

My mom and my June bug, my two favorite ladies on this earth.

It's crazy now, to be on the other side of it.  To be June's mom.  To be that person whom she wants when she's scared, when she's fussy, when she's sad.  It is overwhelming and kind of awe inspiring actually, that I have within me the power to be the protector and comforter to June that my mom has always been to me.  It blows my mind that she trusts me to make it all better, that just seeing me can make her stop crying, that she feels safe from the storm when she is in my arms listening to me sing off tune lullabies.


I've thought a lot about why I like being a mom so much and why it surprised me.  How did something that I was not looking forward to in the least become my favorite thing in the whole world?  What was I not expecting?



And I think I figured it out.  I think it's the reason why all moms like their kids so darn much, and why being a mother is so awesome in the first place.  Simply put, I like who I am when I'm with June.  And I don't always like who I am.  I don't like when I'm short tempered, when I'm stressed, when I'm sassy, when I'm unkind, when I'm frantic, when I'm lazy, when I'm unmotivated. I don't like it when I'm impatient with students, I don't like it when I snap at Greg, I don't like it when I say something unkind behind someone's back.  I hate those versions of myself.

But mom Bonnie is the best Bonnie there is.  With her, I'm my best self.  I'm patient.  I'm unhurried.  I can't stop smiling at her.  I don't care about trivial little things- I'm no longer bothered by the person who cut me off on traffic or stressed about the money we're spending on our credit card .  I am so much more calm and happy when I'm with June.  All of my good traits come out and the things about myself that drive me crazy go and hide for awhile.

I am the best version of myself when I am being June's mom.

Lucky me, I get to be June's mom forever.



Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Feeling Grateful

Who's reading to who here?!

Today I am feeling very grateful.

I think it's because it's May.  And May is such a great month.  It's almost summer but not blistering hot yet.  School's going to get out in a few weeks here and all around the school you can feel a little bit of relaxing.  A little bit of "We're almost there!".  The mornings are full of light and the evenings are full of light and everybody is planting their gardens and I'm just so grateful for spring.  My dad used to always tell me about how much he loved the changing seasons.  I do too.  No matter how many years I experience spring, I am always surprised all over again by the beauty of it.

May is such a fun time to be in the classroom.  You jive with your classes, they like you, you like them, everyone knows the system and what is expected of them.  Plus, I always save my favorite books to teach at the end of the year.  On Friday we start The Things they Carried, a student favorite every year.  I wish every month could be May.

I'm so stinking proud of my first period.  They did so well on their SAGE. (Utah standardized testing).  My feelings about standardized testing are long and complicated and confusing even to myself, but here's the short of it- I think we probably test too much.  And I'm not sure the tests really help anything.  I'm not sure they don't help anything.  I just don't know that they do. This spring English classes did five days of standardized testing.  Five days of 85 minute class periods taken on standardized testing that is not allowed to go on their grade.  I mean, what's the point of all that, you know?

Anyway, my first period class, those little rascals, they don't really act like they're too in to class or learning or anything.  They give the most insanely intelligent comments and have me laughing my head off every morning, but then they don't turn their homework in.  I mean, they'll do it if it's convenient for them, but it certainly isn't their first priority.  Or their second.  Or even probably their third. This means first period's grades are never that high, but then last week they went and just manhandled the SAGE.  Totally kicked trash.  My other classes didn't come close to doing as well as they did, even though my other classes average much higher grades.  I kind of just stared at my first period today and was like, "So that's what you've been hiding this whole time?"  And they gave me these sheepish grins like, "Yah, we're freaking smart, but just don't tell anyone ok...?"

Greg's last school play of the year opened tonight.  He is directing You Can't Take it with You.  I went to help sell tickets.  I am so proud of that guy.  He has worked his butt off this year, and it shows.  I love being his teammate and confidante and partner.  It's an absolute privilege to navigate life with him by my side.

Little Miss June Bug had her nine month well check up yesterday.  I was bummed to hear that she is still only 13 pounds and 15.5 ounces.  ALMOST fourteen pounds.  I thought she'd be in the fourteen or close to fifteen pound range.  Kind of disheartening to hear that she is just not putting on weight.  They also pricked her toe and she is low on iron so now I will take her to the children's hospital where they will draw blood out of her arm and do further analysis and from there see if she is anemic.  I'm trying to get my tough mom act on, but blood from her arm? Anemic?  It's all kind of terrifying, but I'm grateful for modern medicine and doctors who know their stuff.  Now... to make all the foods with iron in them.

In other news, I started reading The Rosie Project over the weekend.  My sister in law suggested it to me.  I love it.  But I misplaced my copy two days ago and am going crazy not being able to finish it.  First world problems?

Speaking of first world problems... for Christmas I got a 50 mm lens for my Nikon D3200.  Does anybody in this great big internet world know if there is a way to do an auto focus on that lens?  My other lens had an auto focus button right on the lens but this bad boy's got nothing.  I have searched the world wide web high and low for answers and the internet is inconclusive.  You are my second choice for knowing everything.  Help a sister out?





Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Around the Web

It's Tuesday!  We're reading Tuesdays with Morrie in my English class and all of a sudden I kind of have this special place in my heart for Tuesdays.  They're so regular.  So routine.  And there is something beautiful about that. I've read Tuesdays with Morrie for four years in my classroom now.  This year it is getting to me in a way that it never has before.  I don't know if it's because I've had a baby or because I just generally feel more vulnerable than I ever had before, but I have really relished the time I have had to reread it.  If you haven't read that bad boy yet, you need to.  (And you can see Morrie's real life interview with Ted Koppel here.)

And now, for this week's edition of Around the Web.  Everything that I have found on the world wide web this week that I have really loved...

The people behind this etsy shop are based in Kampala, Uganda.  They work with teenage boys who used to live on the streets. These folks have a home where the boys are able to find a space off the streets where they can heal and prepare for their futures. They also work with a group of ladies that live in one of the slums in downtown Kampala where they make beautiful handmade jewelry from paper beads.  The women are paid per piece that they make, ensuring that they earn a fair wage for their works and are able to provide for their families.  The profits from the jewelry are then used to help provide for the boys in the home.  Pretty cool, huh?  People's generosity never ceases to amaze me.  (These earrings are $5 a set.  Hop on over and snatch one up.)



I've seen this article floating around a few places on the internet and finally clicked over.  I found it very insightful. Lasting relationships come down to these two traits. Can you guess what they are?

An interesting blog post this week from Nat the Fat Rat on blog criticism.  I don't agree with everything she says, but I do love this line, "My failure does not make your cruelty okay."

I kind of want these pictures all over my home.  Korean artist, Puung, is setting out to show what "real love" looks like.  Not grandiose, not running throw airports, just the every day real love.  According to her, “Love is something that everybody can relate to. And Love comes in ways that we can easily overlook in our daily lives. So, I try to find the meaning of love in our daily lives and make it into artwork."  Hard to choose a favorite, but the one below gets me.  


What is your favorite thing you found on the internet this week?  Share with me!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Should Students Be Allowed to Hand in Late Work?


Lately in our school district there has been some talk of switching to a standards based grading system.  Basically, a student gets good grades when she proves that she can reach the standards, not when she turns in a bunch of assignments.  This means less worksheets, less busy work, and much more emphasis on effective assessments.  If a student fails to meet the standard then she fails to pass the class.  It sounds pretty great, right?  I am all about it because it cuts out tons of little grading assignments for teachers and puts the focus back on teaching and focusing on the core standards.

Of course the idea of something and the practice of something are often two very different things.  Once we started really thinking about what it would mean to do standards based grading a few potentially sucky situations presented themselves.  They always do, those little rascals!

Potentially sucky situation #1:
Standards based grading would mean no more extra credit.  Either students can meet the standard or they can't.  Extra credit isn't going to help them either way.  While I personally wouldn't mind a bit if we axed extra credit completely, plenty of parents and students would be upset.  They rely on extra credit to get them to the grades they want and I don't know if teachers and administrators would ever hear the end of it.

Potentially sucky situation #2:
Standards based grading would mean a student can do an assignment over.  And over.  And over.  I have no problem with a student doing work until she gets it right.  I do have a problem, however, grading that student's work until she gets it right.  I have 100 students now. (And I am part time!  The full time faculty has closer to 200 students).  That's 100 essays I read.  100 research papers.  Let's say the students, on average, redo the research paper twice.  That now means that instead of reading 100 research papers (takes me about 10 hours of grading), I am now reading 300 research papers- 30 hours of grading.  Also, if students are allowed to redo an assignment over and over until they reach the standard, where does the motivation to do it well the first time come in?  Wouldn't they just hand in pure crap so that I can correct everything for them?

Potentially sucky situation #3- the suckiest of them all:
Standards based grading would mean a student is not penalized for late work.  A student could hand work in anytime during the quarter and receive full credit.  Meeting the standard and proving that she has that knowledge and ability is our priority- not when she turned something in.  We say high school is to prepare students for the "real world"; the argument has been brought forth that not allowing students to turn late work in is not like the real world at all.  In the real world I can pay my bill late, I can come to a meeting late, I can pay the mortgage late.  Therefore, not allowing students to turn work in late is actually much more severe than the real world.  Or so the argument goes.

This is the part of standards based grading that terrifies me.  If I am allowing students to redo assignments and to hand assignments in whenever they want without penalty, my workload has just intensified dramatically.  Almost of my writing assignments have rubrics- I can't imagine the end of the quarter, with countless assignments coming in from different times of the quarter and me trying to remember the criteria for all assignments and grade them accordingly.  Not to mention trying to regrade work and remember why it was docked points in the first place and how much they have improved since their last go around.

Right now my late policy is this- every day an assignment is late it is docked 10%.  The latest they can hand an assignment in is one week.  After a week they lose the opportunity to do the work.  At the end of each quarter I do give students a three day "grace period".  Students can choose any one assignment from the quarter and redo it or do it for the first time for 75% credit.  For many students, my late policy is challenging- so so many struggle to get work in on time.

My solution is to allow students to hand work in late, but to charge them $1 for every day it's late or for every paper that has to be regraded. Just like I get charged when my mortgage is late! The money from the late work is a bonus for the teachers. That way students have a non-grade based incentive to get work in on time and teachers are not upset about the extra work they have to do to grade and regrade all the assignments.  I know this would never happen in a million years in public education but gosh, I wish it would.  In college, my tests were offered for four days.  If I chose to take the test on the last day I had to pay $5.  It'd be similar to that, except that the teachers would get to keep the money to reward them for all their never ending patience, sweetness and hard work.  Or something like that.

I am interested to hear from those of you with kids in school.  Are you kids allowed to hand work in late?  And do you think they should be?  Would you prefer that there were no late policy- that students were graded simply for meeting a standard and were not penalized for when they met that standard?  What are teachers' policies that are hard for you to follow or that you don't agree with?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bon's Book Club: Unbroken


HOW IT WORKS

Every month we read a book.  On the selected day, we talk about it. (Generally the last Thursday of the month).

Join in for whatever books you can.  Read what you want and comment on what you want.  Some readers write their own review on their blog and then link up to it, others just write their thoughts in the comments- it's up to you!  If you write your own post and link up, please slap the image above on your post! Grazi!



APRIL BOOK:
UNBROKEN BY LAURA HILLENBRAND



Questions:
- What did you like about the biography?
- What didn't you like?
- Which parts of Louis' story stood out to you the most?
- What is the main message you got from Unbroken?
How do you view war in light of this book? Did you opinions about war change at all?
- If you saw the movie, how did the movie compare to the book?

My co-host this month is Emmy from Love Woke Me Up This Morning.  She is one of my favorites for talking books, and I was so excited when she said she wanted to host book club with me.  This girl knows her books!  Emmy will give you her thoughts first, and then I'll chime in with my two cents at the bottom!

Emmy:  I am ecstatic to be joining The Life of Bon for her monthly book club!  This month we read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, the biography of Louis Zamerini who became an Olympic runner then turned soldier in WWII. While on a mission in the Pacific Ocean, his plane went down and he was stranded with two other men on a raft for over 40 days... only to be captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp for the remainder of the war. 

Pretty intense stuff.

What I Liked:
I found the entire story fascinating. I loved learning about Louis and his family when he was a kid. It gave me comfort for some of the preschool and teenagers who have given me headaches over the years to know they can go on to do amazing things! 

I also oddly loved the chapters about his time on the raft. As terrifying as it was, I enjoyed reading about the creative ways Louis and the men found ways to survive, have entertainment, eat, keep their minds sharp, etc. I especially loved when they talked about their mom's recipes and how much he learned to appreciate the quiet and the nature around him. I actually laughed a little when he got angry at the sharks for not staying in their own territory. 

The chapters about being a POW were rough, but good. Rough simply because it was so awful the things he went through. But I appreciated learning about it and how he was able to persevere. Also though, how as time went on Louis almost seemed to becoming more human. Before, it was almost as though he was this impossible person who never had doubts or anger and was eternally optimistic. As his time in the camp went on, and when he returned home, you saw more of his imperfect humanity. I found comfort in that because you don't have to be a perfect person to be strong and to inspire others. 

What I Didn't Like:
I felt some of the writing style was a bit dry. That could simply be because this was a biography and I'm so used to reading either novels or comedic memoirs. There were times it took a lot for me to get through it. 

The POW camp chapters were also very difficult for me. This was more of my own personal taste though, and not the writer. The things which happened were so awful I had to put the book down several times and distract myself because it was just so terrible. Again, that's more of my own issue than the books.

I also saw a little bit of my pessimistic side come through at the end. The end was WONDERFUL and inspiring. However, every once in a while I had little doubtful thoughts of "and he never relapsed... EVER?" 

Other Thoughts:
- I loved how this book seemed to focus more on the perseverance of humanity vs. getting on a "I LOVE AMERICA" high horse. I love my country - don't get me wrong. But I was worried this book was going to be obnoxious with shoving the American flag into people's faces, and it wasn't this way at all. The focus truly was on the life of Louis, his family and friends, and the human spirit no matter what country you are from.

- The ending was wonderful. I love the message of forgiveness and being able to move on from your anger and hurt. If Louis can forgive, so can we. 

- I've always loved learning about WWII. (I blame having the Molly American Girl doll as a kid.) It was interesting to read a book which focused on the Pacific vs. Europe for once though. So much of WWII history is focused on Europe, I was glad to see the other side. The book also gave some focus to those at home, and I've always had a heart for learning more about the families on the homefront waiting for their loved ones to come home.

- Reading about the atomic bombs make me feel uneasy. I never know truly my thoughts on war and atomic bombs and such. I hate how many people have to die - innocent people. Or even people who aren't innocent and need forgiveness and redemption. I never feel comfortable with war because the point is the kill people. On the other hand, how many lives were saved? What would the world look like now if these things hadn't happened? I'm not sure. 

Those are my thoughts on Unbroken and I can't wait to hear what you all have to say as well!

Bonnie:   
First off, to touch on a couple of things that Emmy said.  I also loved that the book was focused on World War II in the Pacific.  I agree that it is a viewpoint we don't read as much about.  In an interview I read of Hillenbrand's she makes a point of saying that we aren't informed enough about what was going on in the Pacific.  All of the books, movies, etc, about WWII now is centered around the war in Europe.

I understand Emmy's complaint about the "dry" writing style, but it didn't bother me at all.  I think maybe I have a different mindset when I'm reading a book like this- more of a "I'm reading a history textbook" instead of "I'm reading an entertaining book" and, well, compared to a history text book it's not dry at all.  I LOVE Laura Hillenbrand.  I devoured Seabiscuit last summer- the way she finds stories and writes about people- their passions, their mistakes, their friends- it is simply fascinating to me.  I love how she shows compassion for the bad guys and shows the weaknesses of her heroes.  There is no black and white in Hillenbrand's writing- she tries to uncover all sides of the characters.

Favorite Parts:
My favorite chapters are the raft chapters.  I know not a lot is happening, but the way that they survived and kept their minds alive was fascinating to me.  I also loved reading about the third raft mate who eventually died, Mac.  By far the most interesting part for me.

I also really enjoyed the chapters that focused on Louie's family at home.  Pretty amazing how they never gave up hope even after he was declared officially dead.  It kind of got me all choked up thinking about the power of family.

On Hillenbrand and her illness:
One of the things that was most interesting for me was an interview by Hillenbrand that was in the back of my copy of the book.  She talks about her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome and vertigo.  She suffered greatly while she was trying to write Unbroken- it was published more than two years after its originally set publication date and took altogether more than six years to write.  This is what she says about the process:

Writing books is never easy; doing it with this illness has been a tremendous challenge.  When I was working on Seabiscuit or Unbroken on my good days I'd write for hours and hours, make trips to libraries and archives to hunt down research material, and conduct matieral.  On bad days I'd sit on my porch or balcony or the side of my bathtub, my eyes closed, so as not to exacerbate the vertigo.  A fair amount of Seabiscuit was written on a pad in this manner, and because my eyes were closed, I'd scribble all over the place, writing one line on top of another, and have some difficulty sorting it all out later... Over the years I've found odd solutions to problems related to writing with my health issues.  Because tipping my head down triggered vertigo, while working on Seabiscuit I pinned my research material to a clipboard propped high on a stack of books, so my head could remain level while I read.  To avoid having to get up to fetch my hundreds of items of soucre material when checking citations, I put all my books , interviews, and other documents on the floor, arranged them in a huge circle around me, and worked there for three weeks.

(For those of you interested, this article in the NY Times entitled The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand was gives more insight into Hillenbrand's writing, life and illness.)

The movie vs. the book
I first read this book three years ago, and it has since been a book I recommend to nearly everybody.  I was so excited when I heard they were making a movie, but then the movie didn't get that good of reviews and several people told me that they didn't like it- that it was too intense and didn't have the underlying feeling of hope and survival that the book has.  So I have held off on seeing it.  Those of you who have read the book and seen the movie, should I see the movie?  Or will it spoil the book for me?  Reading about all that hardship and suffering is one thing, but seeing it is often harder for me.  I don't know if I have the stomach for it.

LASTLY...
My dad passed away in November of 2009.  Unbroken was published in November of 2010.  My dad loved war books and he loved nonfiction.  He also always had a soft spot in his heart for the underdog, and Seabiscuit was a favorite book of his. As I read Unbroken this past month, I thought countless times about how much my dad would've enjoyed the book and how much I would've enjoyed discussing it with him.  I always feel close to my dad when I am doing things that he enjoyed doing- waking up early to make breakfast, working in the yard, looking at stars.  I felt that closeness so strongly this past month as I read this book, as if he were right there reading it with me.  Unbroken will always have a special place in my heart because of that. I don't know a lot about what heaven must be like, but I have to think that God lets my dad sit down and read a great war story.

Alright, I've said enough. I can't wait to hear your thoughts.  You can leave a comment or link up your post below.  Emmy and I will be doing our best today to respond to all comments and get a lively discussion going.

FYI:  May's book is Interpreter of Maladies, a beautiful collection of Indian short stories.  I promise you will love them.  Discussion is the last Thursday of the month-  May 29.  Be there.