Updated World Travel Map

visited 22 states (9.77%)

This world travel map is a great tool for putting into perspective how large the world is.  I consider myself fairly well-traveled, but as of April 2014, I’ve still only seen less than 10% of the countries across the globe.  I’m slowing making progress though.  When I first posted this map in 2008, I had seen 6.66% of the world, and in 2012 that percentage grew to 8.88%.  Now I’m up to 9.77%, and I hope to keep expanding my horizons every chance I get.

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Regal Book Giveaway 2014

Regal LiteraryRegal Literary not only represents some of the best titles of literary fiction, but they also offer some of the most generous book giveaways in the industry.  They’re currently hosting another big book giveaway.  This one features eight of their upcoming 2014 titles:

  • Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman
  • The Ascendant by Drew Chapman
  • Beauty by Frederick Dillen
  • The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
  • The Art of Lying Down by Bernd Brunner
  • Sorry You’re Lost by Matt Blackstone
  • The Question Book by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler
  • All Russians Love Birch Trees by Olga Grjasnowa

Be sure to check it out and enter for your chance to win.  The contest ends Feb. 21, 2014.

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Book Review: Rustication by Charles Palliser

RusticationAs the historically British term of the title itself implies, Rustication by Charles Palliser is a novel set in Victorian England and is narrated by the main character of 17-year-old Richard Shenstone who was recently asked to leave, or rusticated from, Cambridge for mysterious reasons.  Upon moving in with his mother and sister in the run-down home where his mother lived as a child, he finds himself thrust amongst the gossip of their new neighbors in the small village of Thurchester.   His opium-hazed perception of events, lusty imagination, awkward social skills, occasional naiveté, and bouts of paranoia add to the shadowy plot twists and turns of this gothic novel.

While trying to uncover the secretive details about his father’s recent death, Richard also attempts to uncover the source of the threatening letters and escalating violence taking place in the otherwise quiet village.  People all over the town begin receiving letters from an anonymous source.  While all of the letters spew lurid insults to the recipients, some threaten violence and death.

Here’s an excerpt from one such letter, provided on page one of the book:

“I am going to make you pay with your blood.  You think you have got away with it.  But you are wrong.  You won’t be able to hide behind your friends the next time we meet.  I am going to kill you but before I do that I am going to hurt you so badly  you will scream for mercy.”

The intricately woven web of mysterious events unravel as Richard attempts, through his journal entries, to speculate as to the often duplicitous meaning of the townspeoples’ behavior.  Even though he scoffs at the rampant gossip, he hangs on every word, hoping he might be able to grasp and dissipate the cloud of darkness looming over this town and his own circumstances.

While portions of this story dragged a bit for me, I did enjoy the gothic novel genre of Rustication.  I could have done with less of the sexual fantasy entries in Richard’s journal, but overall the characters were well written with a bit of room for mystery left to unravel about each one.  The larger murder mystery played out well, with plot twists that continued to loop and knot straight through to the end.


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2013 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,500 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Daughter’s Surgery

CastOver Thanksgiving break, my 10-year-old daughter had foot surgery.  She has a condition called Accessory Navicular Syndrome, which basically means she has an extra bone in each foot.  We always knew she was special!  The condition itself isn’t super rare, but the size of her extra bones are unusually large.  After the surgery, the doctor told us it was probably the biggest accessory bone he’s ever seen, including all of his adult patients.  The condition results in the tendon being connected in the wrong place, which has caused her a fair amount of pain and repeated injuries.  She had to quit gymnastics, but it’s not in her nature to curb her naturally athletic tendencies.  She decided to opt for the surgery to get it taken care of, so that she’ll be able to play sports in junior high next year.

She’s been super tough through the entire experience thus far.  She rarely complains, and her naturally high pain tolerance certainly helped this whole process.  She was very matter-of-fact about it all, even watching the anesthesiologist insert her IV before being wheeled into the operating room.  The doctors and nurses were fantastic.  They even let her bring her pillow pet into the OR with her.  She said the surgery wasn’t as bad as she expected, and she’s in very little pain, rarely asking for the occasional Advil.  I think the hardest part of it is being on crutches for a month.

She was in a splint and bandages for the first week, until the swelling went down enough for a hard cast.  She asked the doctor to make her hard cast purple and lime green, and he was happy to comply.  Friends have signed her cast in silver Sharpie marker, and she’s decorated her crutches to make them quite the sparkly accessory.  After she gets her hard cast off in a couple of weeks, she’ll wear a boot cast for another month or so after that.  She may also need to do physical therapy.  I’m learning that navigating in the rain and snow on crutches can be very nerve-wracking.  She’s already fallen twice, which was pretty traumatic for both of us.

She’s doing great, but unfortunately we’ll have to do it all again.  The plan is that we’ll likely follow up with her other foot in about three to six months, after she’s had a chance to fully recover from this first surgery.


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Giving Thanks

In this spirit of Thanksgiving, my seven-year-old daughter was given an assignment by her second grade teacher.  Each student gave a presentation in front of the class, describing three things for which they are thankful.  My daughter chose three topics close to her heart:

  1. “I am thankful for art because we would not have that much color without it.”
  2. “I am thankful for school because without it, we wouldn’t learn much.”
  3. “I am thankful for my pets because my cat, Willow, snuggles and is very patient.  I am thankful for my dog, Paris, because when I am sitting down and stop petting her, she lays her head in my lap.  I am thankful for my fishes, snails, and seahorses because they are interesting to watch.  I am thankful for my sister’s snake because it’s interesting, and it’s very colorful.”


Filed under Art, Creativity, Education, Kids, Lists, Things My Kids Say

Rainy Day Reading

Harry Potter 6Last weekend, we had some pretty wicked weather here in Illinois.  Playing outside was not an option, so my two daughters stayed in the house and built a fort out of a large box, blankets, and pillows.  My ten-year-old daughter spent half the day in her fort, reading the sixth Harry Potter book with the aid of a flashlight.  It was a fairly peaceful day, despite the weather, until at one point, my daughter broke the silence by popping out of her fort and shrieking in outrage, “Dumbledore dies?!?”

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