Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Eight Songs I Think Skaters Should Perform to in the Next Olympics


This year marks the first Olympics in which figure skaters have been allowed to use songs that contain lyrics in their programs.  Having only watched skaters perform to instrumentals previously, and being bored to death in the process, I think this popular decision by the International Skating Union is a good move. For me, it has at least made it more interesting.  I'm not sure I could've endured watching one more program skated to Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake."

Quite possibly my favorite performance was that of the French pair, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who skated to a remake of the Simon and Garfunkel classic, "Sounds of Silence."  But, the remake, as performed by the American rock band, Disturbed, was not the folksy version that many people are acquainted with.  Disturbed's version is raw, gritty, and...  haunting.  On the evening their performance was televised, I was only halfway watching when James and Cipres began their program, but within a few moments, that song had drawn me in and I watched the remainder of the program in its entirety.  At one point, the hairs on my arms stood up.  It is that kind of a song.

I also enjoyed hearing "Fix You" by Coldplay, a medley of songs from the motion picture Moulin Rouge, and Ed Sheeran's remake of Foy Vance's gritty, soulful "Make it Rain," a song that most of the general public is unfamiliar with, but fans/watchers of Sons of Anarchy will probably remember (as it was used in one of the last episodes of the series back in 2014).

Given the range of songs that were used in this year's Olympics, it really seems that the sky's the limit on song choices.  Here are eight songs that I personally would love to see ice skaters and/or ice dancers perform to in Beijing in 2022 (in no particular order):


"Thunderstruck" by AC/DC


Granted, this is not a song for the faint of heart.  Whoever would use this song would need to be a "balls to the wall" skater and be ready to hit it right from the start and not slow down until the end.


"Remember When It Rained" by Josh Groban


This song would be great for more traditional skaters who are embracing songs with lyrics, but who aren't ready to step very far out of their comfort zones yet.


"Uptown Funk" (featuring Bruno Mars) by Mark Ronson


This would be a great song for a pair who genuinely likes to skate with each other and doesn't take themselves too seriously.

"Come Over" by Kenny Chesney



This country song would be a great choice for a figure skating pair who prefer a slower tempo and who like to tell a story with their skating.


"Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon


"Shut Up and Dance" would be a great song for an enthusiastic ice dance pair who like to be somewhat tongue-n-cheek and who have some awesome stamina.


"You Belong to Me" by Beth Hart


This relatively unknown song by blues songstress, Beth Hart, would be great for a pair who prefer a slower tempo and who like to tell a story with their program.


"Celebration" by Kool and the Gang


A perpetual, feel good classic and wedding reception staple, this song would no doubt pull in the crowd and get everyone excited.  Seriously, who doesn't love "Celebration"?


"Purple Rain" by Prince


I have always considered this song to be one of the prettiest I've ever heard.  It might make for a very pretty skate program, too.


Looking at my choices, I feel sorry for any skater who would leave the song selection up to me!  LOL!  What do you think?  What is a song that you would like to see skaters perform to in Beijing?


As always, thanks for stopping by!  Happy Wednesday to you!

Monday, February 19, 2018

When Will Enough Be Enough?


Columbine High School.  Virginia Tech.  Sandy Hook Elementary.  Pulse Nightclub (Orlando).  Rt. 91 Harvest Music Festival (Las Vegas).  Sutherland Springs Church (Texas).  Stoneman Douglas High School.

As I learned about the horrific events that unfolded on February 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, when a former student pulled a fire alarm and then picked off his victims with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle as they exited their classrooms, I turned to my husband and asked, "When will enough be enough?"

You see, just a mere 22 days earlier on January 23, a fifteen-year-old walked into a commons area in Marshall County High School in Benton, KY and opened fired on his fellow students before classes began that day.  The gunman killed two and injured fifteen others.  Marshall County H.S. is about three hours from where I live.

That Tuesday morning, I learned of the Marshall County shooting about an hour and a half after it occurred while I was at work.  

I work in an elementary school.  

Not even ten minutes before, before I knew what had happened two hundred miles away, I was bestowing stickers to three squirrelly boys for working hard in speech therapy and sending them back to their classrooms.  After I read the news online, I immediately surveyed my room and mentally went over the lockdown procedures that have been in place in my district for at least fifteen years: hide kids, make sure door is locked,  pull down shades, turn off lights, be quiet, and shelter in place until the authorities arrive and unlock the door. Most importantly, do not open the door for anybody, no matter what they say.  

Then I went over the procedures that I've been mentally preparing myself to do in the event that I hear gunshots: make sure door is locked, stuff kids in storage closets, turn off lights, pull shades, shove furniture in front of door as a barricade, and arm myself with anything that I can throw at the intruder, which sadly consists of staplers, a hole puncher, and metal tins full of therapy cards.

Although the majority of school shootings happen in middle and high schools, Sandy Hook taught us that elementary schools, places where children between the ages of five and eleven spend their days learning to identify shapes, tie shoes, read, write, multiply, and become thinkers, are not immune.  If it could happen in Sandy Hook, it can happen in any school.  The event in Marshall County hit incredibly close to home and reinforced this fact - if it can happen in Marshall County,  KY, then it can happen in Shelby County, KY as well. 

So, I'm back to the question that I asked my husband on the day of my 44th birthday, a milestone that only one of the seventeen people whose lives were tragically cut short would reach - When will enough be enough?

It's a shame that we have to wonder if we'll be gunned down in our places of worship.  It's a shame that we have to accept that there is a possibility we could be shot if we go to a concert, festival, or nightclub.  It's a shame that 5-year-olds have to learn what to do in the event of an intruder in their schools.  It's a shame that I will now forever be hesitant anytime the fire alarm goes off and the faculty wasn't given prior notice, wondering if it's truly a fire, an unannounced drill, or, heaven forbid, a tactic used by a gunman in order to lure us out. 

There are no sanctuaries.  There are no places of safety. There are no places of refuge.  Concerts aren't safe.  Nightclubs aren't safe.  Churches aren't safe.  Schools aren't safe.

I've listened to all the arguments.  I've listened to gun owners who are scared they are going to lose their guns.  I've listened to politicians, politicians who receive contributions from the National Rifle Association, say that guns don't kill people, but shooters do.  I've listened to people say that we need better access to mental health counseling.  I've listened to parents who are scared to send their children to school.  I've listened to educators who, like myself, acknowledge the fact that one day we might be killed protecting the students we teach.

Gun control.  Mental health.  Lack of empathy.  Self-interest groups.  The media.  Violent video games. Politicians.  Lack of parenting.  Who or what is the culprit?  

All of it.

I'm not professing to have the answer, but here's one thing I do know - enough is enough.  I, personally, am sick and tired of the "Pray for <insert school/town name here>" broken record routine that has become our national mantra as of late.  All it is, is the equivalent of spinning one's tires in the mud.  We cannot continue doing the same things we've been doing year after year, things that obviously aren't working, and expecting a different outcome than the one we keep getting year after year after year.  

Until real change occurs in this country, real change on numerous levels, we will forever be caught in this vicious cycle.


   

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Five Things I Am Doing on Valentine's Day


On Monday, I published a piece titled, "Three Things I'm Not Doing on Valentine's Day."  Because I believe in balance, I decided to share some of the things I will be doing today.  Here we go, in no particular order:


SENDING VALENTINES TO MY GRANDMOTHER, MOTHER, AUNT, AND BEST FRIEND

Although I've disliked sharing my birthday with the second most commercialize holiday for the majority of my life, there was a time in fact that I actually enjoyed it - in elementary school.  I have very fond memories of the valentine exchange, from selecting and filling out my valentines to crafting my "mailbox" out of a shoebox and construction paper to opening the valentines I received from classmates.  So, in the spirit of those early valentine exchanges, I'm sending cards to four of the most influential women in my life, women who have loved me unconditionally and been my biggest cheerleaders throughout my life, women whom I love dearly.  Once you strip away all the fluff of this commercialized holiday, isn't love supposed to be what today is about?   I never take for granted the opportunity to tell these women that I love them, but it never hurts to say it extra.

TAKING THE DAY OFF

This really has nothing to do with Valentine's Day, but since I share my birthday with it, it's hard to separate the two.  

A few years ago, I took my birthday off, making the already long Presidents Day weekend a little longer so that my husband and I could head south for a much needed winter escape.  Before that, I had always worked on my birthday.  I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to take the day off for my birthday every year, even if I had no travel plans for that day. This year, I'm getting a massage.

ENJOYING LUNCH WITH MY HUSBAND

I may not be able to eat dinner out this evening without enduring the crowds and long wait times, but I can go out to  lunch.  Given that I work in a public school system, where lunch is a rushed 20-25 minutes and usually consists of a salad or a microwaved Lean Cuisine, going out for lunch is a rare treat.   

INDULGING IN A DECADENT RED VELVET CUPCAKE

As I mentioned Monday, I don't partake in any Valentine candy because the calories simply aren't worth it. If I'm going to consume something sugary, I want to make sure its worth my while.  The red velvet cupcakes from Gigi's are definitely worth it!

REMEMBERING AND THANKING MY LUCKY STARS

This, like taking the day off, is something I do more for my birthday than for Valentine's Day.  

I just finished my 44th trip around the sun.  I have several school and classmates who will never make it to this milestone.   About six or seven years ago, I started this simple tradition - to remember those who have gone before me on my birthday.  I remember friends from school whose lives were cut short as well as family members who have already passed and I do so with a grateful heart, grateful that I've been blessed with as many years as I have.  Tomorrow is never a guarantee nor is making it to the next birthday.


-|-

I hope this finds you doing well and enjoying today regardless if you celebrate Valentine's Day or not. Happy Wednesday to you!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Recently Read - Vol. 25 (Jan. '18)


It's the second Tuesday of the month, so you know what that means!  It's the Show Us Your Books link up day with Jana and Steph!  Here are the books that I listened to and read in January:

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Read Jan. 1 - 20 | Format: Audiobook | My rating: 4.5/5

Think:  A cute story of boy meets girl, but boy just happens to be a prince.

When Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement back in 2010, I wondered what dating the future king of England would be like.  I mean, it couldn't be a conventional courtship.  In the months leading up to their fairy-tale wedding, I often wondered what hoops Kate had to jump through as she prepared to become a royal.  Well, although this book is a work of fiction, I have a feeling that some of the events depicted in the book might have a lot of truth to them.

It was a cute and entertaining read.  My only compliant is that it was a bit too long.  I felt as if some parts could've been condensed and nothing from the storyline would have been lost.

FINAL VERDICT: Recommend

Read Jan. 21 - February 2 | Format: Audiobook | My rating: 4.5/5

Think: Story of a community where everyone plays by the rules and how they react when two newcomers do not.

I thoroughly enjoy Ng's writing style and how she can weave characters and story lines together so intricately. I also like the way she reveals her characters and their personalities. At the end of this book, just like with Everything I Never Told You, I felt as if I had spent some time with these people. That is a rare thing for me to experience.  This book would have received a rating of 5 from me, but I had some issues with the ending.  

FINAL VERDICT: Highly recommend


Master of the Mountain by Cherise Sinclair
Read Jan. 22 - 25 | Format: Kindle | My rating: 3 | Re-read*

Think:  Smut.

As I've mentioned before, I occasionally get a hankering for a hardcore romance that includes bad boys who ride Harleys or men who wear kilts. Every now and then, I venture out of my comfort zone and indulge in a hardcore romance that involves a D/s relationship (dominant and submissive). Regardless of the specific subgenre of the book, I like Alpha males and the gentleman in Master of the Mountain does not disappoint.  Sinclair's writing is basic, the plot is descent, but her sex scenes are steamy.

FINAL VERDICT:  Coin toss. If you're into this genre of romance novels, then give it a try.  Just remember that this book deals with BDSM and contains many graphic, sexual descriptions which may not appeal to you.


Simon Says: Mine by Cherise Sinclair
Read January 25 - 27 | Format: Kindle | My rating: 3/5

Think: More smut.

This is a novella that features one of the minor characters introduced in the preceding book, Master of the Mountain.  It's short, to the point, and doesn't take very long to get to the "action," if you catch my drift.  Something I like about the author is her inclusion of non-perfect women.  In this book, the leading lady is a recently divorced, older woman who grown kids.  Having gone through pregnancies and being in her 40s, her body is imperfect.  The leading man, Simon, is an older gentleman as well who is graying at the temples.  I liked their imperfections and found that it made them more interesting. 

FINAL VERDICT: Coin toss. If you're into this genre of romance novels, then give it a try.  Just remember that this book deals with BDSM and contains many graphic, sexual descriptions which may not appeal to you.

-|-

CURRENTLY: I'm listening to The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware and reading Master of the Abyss by Cherise Sinclair.

What have you read lately?  Anything that you'd recommend?  

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Three Things I'm Not Doing on Valentine's Day


On the off chance that you don't know, Wednesday is Valentine's Day. I personally have no idea how this could escape anyone's attention, because we Americans have been inundated with consistent blatant and subliminal Valentine's Day advertising since the Christmas items were relegated to the clearance aisle.  For the past month and a half, stores have been decked out in red and pink and have been full of humongous teddy bears, boxes of chocolate, cards, and other miscellaneous trinkets that proclaim love and devotion. Television and radio have flooded the airwaves with ads about jewelry. Everywhere we look, cupid is in our faces.


As you've probably guessed, I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day.  My best friend, who has known me since we were kids, says that I was anti-Valentine's Day before being anti-Valentine's Day was trendy. Now, that's not to say that I'm anti-love, because I'm not.  I believe in love and I believe in the power of love.  I honestly think we need more love in the world.  But, there's something about the saccharine, artificiality of Valentine's Day that just rubs me the wrong way. Not to mention that I share my birthday with this loathsome holiday.  Yes, I am a Valentine's baby.  GAG!  Let me go on record and say that sharing your birthday with the second most commercialized holiday sucks.  Oh, trust me, I could write an entirely different post on that topic, but I digress.  

If you're curious as to why I dislike Valentine's Day, my reasoning is very simple. For a holiday that's supposedly all about love and happiness, it sure seems to raise people's anxiety levels.  

Example #1:  Many women worry about what they'll receive from their significant others, because for many there is an unspoken competition with other women as to who will receive the best gift.  Unfortunately, Valentine gifts have become very much a status symbol with many.  I've known a few women who have actually gone so far as to send themselves flowers on Valentine's Day because, unsure as to whether their boyfriends and husbands would send anything, they didn't want to be in a position where they didn't receive something on Valentine's Day.

And this anxiety doesn't just affect women, men often feel it as well.  Example #2: I know several men who have expressed how stressful Valentine's Day can be and how hard it is to plan the perfect/original/creative Valentine's Day experience for their loved one.  Sadly, a few have also expressed how disheartening it is to plan something, something that they really put a lot of thought, effort, and often money into only to receive a lackluster response.  

Lastly, Example #3: Those who do not have a significant others often feel left out on Valentine's Day.  Our Valentine's Day traditions do tend to overlook them (I know because I experienced this for many years).  It also has a strange way of emphasizing one's relationship status more than any other day of the year, which can be very upsetting for some.

Anyway, that's why I'm not much of a fan of Valentine's Day.  I really think it brings out the worst in many of us.  So, without further ado, here are three things that you will not find me doing come Wednesday:

GOING OUT TO EAT

This is probably my number one complaint of my birthday falling on Valentine's Day.  I learned a LONG time ago, that going out to eat on my birthday required one of the following:  1) patience, because 2-3 hour wait typically requires a lot of patience; 2) reservations; or 3) settling for fast food because of the previous two items listed.

EXPECTING ROSES

One of the first things I told my husband when we first got together was to not send me roses for Valentine's Day and this simple statement elicited a comical and very shocked look on his face that I still remember to this day!  LOL!  My reasoning is this, roses are crazy expensive on this holiday.  I mean, I get the whole supply and demand thing, but still.  I don't want him spending a bunch of money on something that I'll be throwing into the trash next week.  I'd much rather him take me to do something, something that we both could experience together, like a concert or a show or an exhibit.  If he wants to pick me up a bouquet of Crazy Daisies, which are much more reasonably priced, that's fine.

EATING CHALKY CANDY CONVERSATION HEARTS OR CHOCOLATES THAT CAME IN A HEART SHAPED BOX

Bottom line, if I'm going to indulge in something sweet that is higher in calories than I typically eat on Valentine's Day, I'm going to eat something definitely worth my while like creme brûlée, red velvet cake, or ice cream from a local creamery. I'm not going to waste my calories on funky tasting candy and waxy chocolate.


If you're curious as what I WILL be doing on Valentine's Day, check back Wednesday.  

In the meantime, however, what are some things you will not be doing on Valentine's Day?

Happy Monday to you!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Dear...


Dear Facebook Pot Stirrer,

I love how you proudly professed your ability to "scroll on by" something you saw on Facebook that you didn't like or didn't necessarily agree with.

Honey,  I hate to tell you this, but by commenting on the post that you're supposedly "scrolling on by," you're not scrolling on by; "scrolling on by" involves no typing on your part.


Dear Narcissist,

You are not cursed.  If the people whom you surround yourself with do harmful things to themselves, it's not because of you - it's because they have their own issues.  By claiming to be cursed, you are basically saying that you're the reason these people hurt themselves, which, if true, is somewhat disturbing when you really think about it.  More realistically, you just have an over-inflated sense of self and think anything and everything is ALL about you.  Buddy, let me tell you, it's not.  Get over yourself.


Dear Pay at the Pump,


I love you and I hate you.  I love you because you make getting gas so much simpler; you keep me from having to walk into the gas station and interact with folks inside.  This makes me happy.  I hate you, however, when you refuse to work as you are designed to.  Get with the program, will ya?


Dear Singleton on Valentine's Day,


I've been in your shoes, in fact I was in your shoes for many years, so I know what this pink, artificially sweet, over-commercialized, couples holiday can do to your spirit when you're not in a relationship.  Trust me, I remember that feeling all-to-well and I know how much it sucks.  It can actually blow chunks.  But, your perpetual wallowing in self pity on social media is not helping your cause and I suspect it may be making you feel worse.

May I make a suggestion?  Instead of bemoaning about your single status the entire week leading up to V-Day with multiple, daily Facebook or Instagram posts, why don't you use that time to do sometime for you? Invest in yourself.  Are you interested in learning sign language?  Sign up for a class.  Are you interested in oil painting?  Go for it!  Exercise, read, watch classic black and white movies, watch Oscar nominated movies for this year, take a women's self defense class, volunteer.  Bottom line - do something.  Do something productive.  Don't waste this time, for time is something we can never get back.   

Sincerely, 

Ericka

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been on My TBR the Longest and That I Still Haven't Read


Oh, man...  My "to be read" list is an absolute, ever-growing beast!  Seriously, every month I am adding books to it on Goodreads so I honestly have no definitive way of knowing how long some of the books have been on my TBR.  

So, given that most of my book consumption is via audiobook, I turned to my Audible library, which clearly shows the date in which the audiobooks were purchased.  Here are the ten books that I've had the longest, but have yet to read:

*Please note that all of these are audiobooks and I sometimes say "read" even though it's technically "listened to."

Crash and Burn by Lisa Gardner
Purchased March 2015

Between January 2013 and May 2014, I listened to seven Lisa Gardner books, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  But, I think it's safe to say that I burned myself out on her murder mysteries because I haven't read one in three and a half years.  I'm not ruling out the possibility that I will one day pick this book back up, though.  I think I will just have to be in the right mood. 

Purchased March 2015

I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, the book that preceded this one and in which Queenie Hennessy plays a role.  I really thought that I would find this one as interesting and engaging as The Unlikely Pilgrimage...,  but I didn't.  I've started and stopped it several times, but...

Purchased February 2015

I made the mistake of watching the movie before reading the book.  All interest - and I mean ALL interest - gone.


Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Purchased November 2014

I listened to the first two books in this series (Divergent and Insurgent) and then my interest came to a screeching halt.  (Unfortunately this happened after I bought the third book.) I might've eventually started it if I hadn't heard how disappointed many people were in the way the series ended.  I seriously doubt I'll ever listen to it at this point.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gaboldon
Purchased September 2014

I bought this one right after I finished Outlander and had the best of intentions to listen to it then, but a 40-hour audiobook is intimidating.  To me, that's the equivalent of 3-4 regular length books.  I've stopped and started it on numerous occasions, but then I watched season two of Outlander on STARZ, and now I have zero interest in listening to it what-so-ever.

The Mighty Storm by Samantha Towle
Purchased September 2014

I'm not sure why I bought this, but I have a feeling I might have been influenced by the man on the cover.  When it comes to smut and romance novels, I typically gravitate towards books that feature men who ride Harley's or men who wear kilts.  The guy in this book does neither, but he is a rock star and rock stars have their own unique appeal that I sometimes like.  There is hope for this one yet.  

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly 
Purchased August 2014

I'm pretty sure I snagged this audiobook as a Daily Deal on Audible ($4.99 or less) because I thoroughly enjoyed the one book of Connelly's that I had listened to previously (The Poet).  Sadly, just like the next book, it kept getting pushed further and further down in my library.

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
Purchased June 2014

After finishing this book's prequel, The Poet, I quickly obtained this one.  I'm not sure what happened, but I never got around to it and it slowly kept getting moved further and further down in my library.  I might pick this book back up one day.

Purchased November 2013

After reading another of the author's books, Night Film, I was intrigued enough to buy this one.  Somewhere along the way, however, my interest wained and here we are, four years later and it's gathering virtual dust in my audiobook library.  There is still hope for this book; I'm still interested. 

11/23/63 by Stephen King
Purchased November 2013 - OFFICIALLY THE BOOK THAT HAS BEEN ON MY TBR THE LONGEST

I love the premise of the book, I really do.  I also have this weird, little fascination with the JFK assassination, so, in theory, this is a book that I should've jumped on immediately and listened to years ago.  But, I haven't.  I believe I am intimidated and scared away by the length of the audiobook - 30 hours!  That's a huge time commitment.  I'm not ruling out the possibility of me reading this book one day, but with each passing year and as I continually add to my TBR, the odds are not in its favor.


What are some books that have been on your TBR the longest?  What do you think the chances are that you will ever read them?

Have a good one and happy reading!


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