Saturday, June 22, 2013

A nice diversion . . .

I just finished reading Trouble in Store by Carol Cox. This is one of those fun books – the kind of book you read when you have a few hours to sit back and enjoy a good story.

Trouble in Store is a historical romance with a dash of mystery. The main characters Caleb Nelson and Melanie Ross are joint owners, by inheritance, of a mercantile in Arizona. Caleb wants Melanie out of his store, and Melanie wants to show Caleb how a mercantile should be run.  Meanwhile, while they’re fighting it out, they are also falling in love. To make the story more interesting, there’s a murderer in their midst AND someone is trying to put their store out of business.  Could it be the same person? You’ll have to read it to find out.

The plot is not deep or thought provoking, the mystery is not too difficult to figure out, and the ending is a bit predictable, but it is a fun story. It’s just a nice way to pass a few hours and come away feeling good.  

Note: I was given a copy of this book for free for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Field Day - My Other Life!

Want to know about my other life as an ham radio operator? Come by and visit me at Field Day.

This weekend, June 22 and 23, bring your kids to Field Day where they can talk to ham radio operators and even talk on the radio themselves! This is a chance for both you and your kids to learn a bit about electricity and communication, talk to some storm spotters, and find out about a fun hobby, ham radio. It's crazy fun!  

Field Day is held all over the country. You can log on to the ARRL site ( and find one near you. 

For those of you in the Tulsa area, my club (Broken Arrow Amateur Radio Club) will be setting up mobile units and antennas at Asbury Methodist Church (in the field by the garden center) on Mingo and 71st Street. There will be tents, motor homes, and trucks with equipment set up and ham operators talking. Just walk around, come on in and take  a tour. Very informal. We will start operating from 1pm Saturday through 1pm on Sunday (24 hours of continuous operations). Come by and say hi and talk on the radio! You might even get to talk to someone in China or Australia! 

I'll be there for sure from 4pm to 7pm on Saturday. Not sure about other times. But you can go anytime. All these folks are very friendly and love to show off their "toys!"  

Review: Wisdom, The Midway Albatross

I like books for kids that not only entertain, but also educate. Wisdom, the Midway Albatross by Darcy Pattison does just that. This 32-page picture book tells the story of an albatross that was banded in 1956 and was last seen in December 2011, 60 years later. 

The rhythmic text will keep children interested as they listen to the story of how Wisdom survived through natural predators, earthquakes, thunderstorms, ecological disasters, fisherman’s lines, and the tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. The illustrations, I believe, are watercolors and beautiful. However, it’s hard to illustrate a book that takes place mostly on water and not get a bit repetitive.  The illustrator, Kitty Harvill does a good job by adding a shark here and an egg there, but there is still a lot of blue. I’m not sure how anyone could have done any better, but it might get a bit boring for preschool children. I recommend this book for elementary age and above, which is the age recommended by the publisher. I honestly think even older kids and adults would like the book because of the topic. I really enjoyed it! 

For my friends who teach school or homeschool, Wisdom, the Midway Albatross is perfect for a unit study on birds, ecology, weather, and Japan, or for a student who just wants to know more about the albatross. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Article Published - God's Big Blue Supermarket

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine just published my article, God's Big Blue Supermarket (June 2013). This was a fun article to write as I directed it more to students. My goal was to help them see the value of our ocean and its inhabitants.

You can read the article in its entirety on The Old Schoolhouse Magazine website, along with other excellent articles written especially for home educators.

I hope yo enjoy it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

TV Interview

Today, I was interviewed on Channel 17 here in Broken Arrow, OK. They are doing a series on education, so they asked me to answer questions about homeschooling. I followed the Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. I'm not sure how they will show these segments, but my segment will be shown on June 21 at noon.

I am definitely NOT Ophrah Winfrey, but I did make it through. Interviews are NOT my favorite thing to do. In fact, I usually turn them down. Some people speak; others write. I prefer to write! However, I agreed to do this one as I wanted to share the benefits of homeschooling as well as get the word out about my website and my tutoring at Cornerstone Tutorial Center.

I was interviewed by OETA (local PBS station) several years ago; however, I was not the main subject. They interviewed me for over an hour, but only used one or two minutes of what I said!

The only other time I was interviewed, I thought was the most fun. That time it was by Good Morning America and it was a story about going back to college at an older age. They followed me around campus all day and ended up a five minutes segment. I still have photos of that one on my Empty Nest Mom Goes to College Blog. I notice that Wordpress is now putting ads on my ENMGTC blog, so I should probably take it down. I just hate to lose those memories. :(

So that's my three claims to fame. I don't think I will quit my day job for TV!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My Dog, Oreo

I don't write much about my pets on this blog. I mostly do that on Facebook, but I thought it was time to share a little bit about Oreo with my readers on here as well.

I have always had cats, outdoor farm dogs, or dogs that were someone else's pets, so I never really thought much about dogs until I got Oreo. In truth, I was looking for a cat. My husband and I had recently lost our cats and had decided we would not have any more pets so that we would be free to travel. Well, that didn't work out. My dear daughter, Shelly, brought over a beautiful black and white kitten and it began all over again. Bill fell in love with the kitten and named him Bullet, thus ending our freedom from pet sitting problems. But Bill was happy, so I got over it.

Now, the problem was that the kitten was lonely; so, I went out and got the kitten a friend, Felix. Now, we have two cats. All was well until I realized that the 2nd kitten didn't like me, or anyone else it seemed. It was Bullet's cat. So, I decided to get a third kitten that would be MY cat. I went to every rescue place and pet shop in town looking for just the right cat. Then, I walked into the Humane Society and saw a crate of Shitzhu-Jack Russell puppies. Yes, I walked out with a puppy instead of a cat and fell in love!

Oreo has become my 3rd child. I've never had a relationship with a pet like this one. She practically worships me and follows me everywhere. I take her with me everywhere I can. We go to Bass Pro Shop, Southern Agriculture, Pets Mart, walks in the park, day trips around Oklahoma. Bill and I have found restaurants that allow her on the patio, like Leon's on Brookside or Uncle Bucks here in Broken Arrow. We found that La Quinta will allow her to stay at no charge and even has a special courtyard in OKC with walking paths and "cleaning stations."

I have even taken her on assignments with the idea that she would stay in the car with Bill while I did the interview, but it always worked out that the person I'm interviewing allowed Oreo to tag along. She's been on a Pontoon Boat at Lake Tenkiller, a guest at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK, and even got to stay in a lake cabin with me! My son, who babysits her when we can't take her with us, took her to a painting festival where she got to paint with her paws! This dog has more adventures than some kids!

So the bottom line is that I'm now a dog person. I still love cats, but this dog has stolen my heart.  Now I know why old people love their pets so!

Update on Tutoring

I have 34 students signed up for classes this fall so far. We have another registration in August, so I will probably get a few more.

Now, it's time for me to get to work. I am teaching a few fun classes for elementary students this year: a class about electronics and another one on Crime Scene Investigations. In addition to those, I will be tutoring elementary writing and Oklahoma history, as well as my usual middle and high school composition and Biology.

My daughter, Shelly, will be tutoring with me this year at Cornerstone. That will be fun! She is just about finished her Master's Degree in English and has been an Adjunct professor at Tulsa Community College for the last year as well. She will continue that, tutor a few classes with me at Cornerstone, and also tutor for another local co-op. This is such a joy for me to get to work with my own daughter at the same school!

So this summer, I will be working on lesson plans and tutoring students in math and English. I also have several magazine articles to finish up before school starts. It will be a busy Summer!

Review of Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock

Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock is not only a wonderful book, but it will give you a lot to think about. At first, I had trouble identifying with the main character, Eve Marryat. The story takes place in 1931 during Prohibition and the Great Depression. Because I live in post-prohibition, I just could not identify with this character’s strong aversion to alcohol being bought and sold in stores. However, Tatlock did such a fabulous job of writing that it wasn’t long before I could see and feel the events through Eve’s eyes. I understood what she and the other characters were going through and sympathized with her pain.

I also learned a lot about this historical period; things I never learned in history class. Never before had I grasped what the average citizen went through during this period of time when gangsters, bootleggers, bank robbers, money launderers, and corrupt lawmen ran the businesses, the banks and the local government. When the average citizen watched people get gunned down in the streets right in front of them and car bombs were frequent events.  When advertisements in the paper read, “Bullet holes rewoven perfectly in damaged clothes.” I just never knew how corrupt it was. 

It made me begin to wonder what will happen to our country if gun laws get passed. Will we go through a Gun Prohibition that will be similar to the Prohibition in the 30s? Perhaps we need to reread our history a bit more closely and think about the long-term effects of passing laws like this.

Although the book is an eye-opener about the Prohibition era, it is in no way a boring read, nor is it depressing. It is a coming-of-age story, a love story, and a story of mercy. It has a surprise ending that made me both laugh and cry. After I was done, I went back and read parts of it again. That's how much it affected me.

Sweet Mercy is the perfect title for this book, too. You'll see what I mean when you read it. Trust me, you don't want to miss this one! 

NOTE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing the review; however, this in no way reflects my review of the book. My opinions are my own, good or bad! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Open House Today

Today was Open House for parents interested in sending their kids to Cornerstone Tutorial Center next school year. I don't know how many came as we were all in different rooms, but I was pretty busy all morning meeting new parents and students. 

I'm pretty excited about this coming year as I'm adding some new classes for grades 3-6: Crime Scene Investigation, Electronics, Kids Can Write and Oklahoma History. These will be fun classes that will also sneak in a little math, science, government, composition, history, etc. 

The other wonderful thing that happened today is that my daughter, Shelly Downes, joined us at CTC. She is currently working on her Master's thesis and finishing up her Master's Degree in English from Northeastern State University, and she is also an adjunct professor at Tulsa Community College teaching Freshman Composition. In her spare time (ha!), she is going to teach a college prep composition class at CTC, as well as a creative writing class. It was really fun, today, introducing her to my students from last year. Shelly was homeschooled from K-12th grade, and I'm very proud of her. I know the kids will love her.