Author Tristi Pinkston is excited to announce the release of the third novel in her Secret Sisters Mysteries series.
Titled Hang ‘em High, this novel takes place on a dude ranch in Montana. When Ida Mae’s son invites her to come for a visit, of course she brings Arlette and Tansy along with her. They are expecting to spend the week looking at horses, avoiding the cows, and making amends in Ida Mae’s relationship with her son. What they don’t expect is to be stuck on the ranch in the middle of a blizzard and to be thrust headlong into the middle of a mystery.
Help Tristi celebrate her new novel in two ways. First, come participate in the two-week-long blog contest, where you can win a book nearly every single day! All the details are up on Tristi’s blog.
You are invited to an
Saturday, August 13th
Pioneer Book, 858 S. State, Orem
12 – 4 pm
Games, prizes, balloons, face painting,
and Dutch oven cobbler
prepared by world champion cook
will all be there to sign books.
This is one book launch event
you will not want to miss!
Can I ask you a question? Yes--YOU, not anyone else. You. I am serious--this is not rhetorical. Who are you lovely people who come visit my blog? I look at my statistics and can see how many people come to my blog each day. I can even see general locations (don't worry, I can't see anything like your address or anything!).
I can see that someone stopped by from Colorado or Nashville or Virginia. I'm especially intrigued by some of the overseas locations.
I am really touched that you drop by. It's gratifying that you come and I'm a little surprised by how many of you there seem to be.
I would love to know who you are. I know who some of you are because you email me or you comment on Facebook or something, but I don't know who most of you are--or, if I do know you, I don't know that it's you.
I know people are often reluctant to leave comments and I totally understand that. But if you are especially brave, would you mind just dropping me a line here? Just tell me who you are and how you came to read my blog. Where are you from? What do you do in life? I'd love to hear from you. I do so much of the talking around here and that makes for a pretty boring conversation.
If you contact me at the link above, it will be confidential and go directly to my email. It won't appear anywhere on this site.
I'd love to hear from you.
...this was my lunch today. Fresh mostly-organic corn from my garden. In a few minutes, I'm going to sit on my porch and write and eat fresh-right-off-the-vine, chilled cucumbers. Okay, maybe I'm bragging just a bit.
I've been working on a special feature here on Bradenbell.com. It took me a while to get it coordinated between the creative and legal departments. But now I'm happy to announce a new feature: Everything I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned From Showtunes. I remain convinced that the accumulated total of collective wisdom from Western Civilization is contained in the glorious songs of Musical Theatre. You can find everything you need to know in a song from a musical about life, love, even how many states there were in the Great Depression. Seriously--the answer is 48 and I learned that from "Annie." I also learned that Fiorello LaGuardia was 5 feet and two inches tall. And that's just for starters.
I maintain that there is a song from a musical for just about every possible circumstance and singing them (at least mentally) will enrich your life. And also make your neighbors wonder a little about you.
So, since musical theatre is pretty much what I've done all my life, I thought I would pass along some of the nuggets and gems to you, my beloved friends.
First up, Ella Fitzgerald singing a seasonal song from "Kiss Me Kate" by Cole Porter. I couldn't find a clip from a show I liked, so I went with the incomparable Ella isntead, even though there's nothing to watch. It's still worth it.
I've been doing theatre camps all summer. This week, I'm running one for younger students--grades 2-5. I find they work better if we jump in and hit it hard and then, about half-way through, if I give them a long break. I followed that pattern today and during the break one of the students came up to me, extending her hand.
"Dr. Bell," she said, "I have a splinter." I looked and she did, indeed, have a splinter. It was not large, but it was fairly deep.
"I'm sorry," I said. "It's in pretty deep. Maybe we should wait for you to go home and let your mom try to get it out." I was worried it would require a needle which a) I didn't have and b) didn't want to use on a sweet little third grader who was not my own child.
"No, I want you to get it out, please."
So, I took all my campers and we went to go find tweezers. We checked two locations unsuccessfully, but finally located a pair with the lower school secretary.
"Do you want me to take it out," the secretary said.
"No, I want Dr. Bell to do it." I'm not sure why she chose me, but her simple declaration gave me chills and I felt like I'd been given a great honor.
So, we sat down and I took her hand and tried to squinch up my aging eyes enough to see the splinter. I had to do some digging with the tweezers and she flinched a bit, but was very brave and didn't make a sound. Soon, we were rewarded with success.
This incident touched me deeply. Every so often, something happens that reminds me of the incredible trust I have as a teacher--the implicit faith that my students and parents have in me. It is simultaneously a sacred privilege and a terrifying responsibility.
As I took that tiny hand in my own, I had such a moment. I felt the weight of her trust that I would help her and fix the situation. I felt the burden and blessing of her confidence and trust. It made me smile and cringe at the same time as I felt both joy and terror. Joy at the beauty and sweetness of her trust and terror at the weight of the attending responsibility--of course, this is something much larger than a single sliver.
Dear Lord, please help me to always be worthy of that child's trust! Help me be a constant, if imperfect, point in her life's journey and help me, when I see my students's bright eyes reflect love and light back to them, illuminating further and never dimming.
I had a recent experience I think is illuminating and I want to discuss it. At a micro level, it's about teachers. But I think it can be enlarged to a macro-level discussion about all of us.
Here is the situation: one week I was running a theatre camp. I got a call on the second day from a parent who was upset because their child had come home sad. No one had been actively unkind to the child, but the child does not know the other campers well and was feeling left out.
The camp had started on Monday and this was Tuesday, so there hadn't been a great deal of time.
I didn't fault the parent for being concerned. It's very difficult to watch your child hurting. The phone call, as far as I can tell, was simply to make me aware of the situation. I don't think the parent was suggesting that it was my fault. So, although I felt it was a bit premature, I didn't mind the call. Still, I did perceive a subtext that somehow it was someone's fault--either mine or the other children.
The next day, I structured the entire camp around activities I specifically designed to help the child in question find a friend. I did that even though there was other work I wanted to accomplish in our time together.
The child in question was nice, but not very outgoing and tended to wait for others to initiate conversations and so forth, so that made it more challenging. So during a break, I asked three separate children to be this child's buddy.
At the end of the break, a game that they were playing really clicked and this child was laughing and squealing with other children--completely immersed and included. I decided to let the break go on--again, even though we had a performance on Friday for which we needed to prepare.
So, essentially, I re-ordered the entire day of camp and threw my plans out the window for the specific cause of helping one child. I was happy to do that. I'd do it again--but that parent will never know.
To be fair, I did get an appreciative email later that mentioned the daughter had a better day. But, the parent did not feel the positive in the same urgent, visceral way as the negative. This is ironic because far more effort was exerted to cause the positive than the negative.
I'm NOT critical of the parent. This is fundamental human nature. We tend to feel much more strongly about the negative than the positive. We are far quicker to complain than praise. Morever, the parent really had no way of knowing how much trouble I went to for their child, so there's no way to be properly appreciative. What I did was invisible. And that's fine.
But, I think this is a pretty common thing. When things go badly we complain and act as if it is because someone has done something wrong. When they go well on the other hand, we tend to assume that it's just the natural order of things and don't usually express appreciation.
The reality, however, is probably exactly opposite. In a wold ruled by entropy, it is far more likely that things going wrong can truly just happen. Things going right, on the other hand, are far more likely to be consequences of someone's careful work.
That's certainly true in a school and I suspect in other arenas as well.
Just a thought.
I haven't done much blogging lately. Part of that is because I've been really busy in the yard and garden since March. Since that's the bulk of what I'm doing these days--and since it is one of my favorite places to be, I thought I'd post some random photos.
Here is our house. I named it Mockingbird Cottage because of all the mockingbirds that roost in our trees. It's small, but we like it. You can see wisteria climbing up the porch and some day lilies in the front bed. The other plants there are irises that I need to cut down.
I am a real fan of day lilies. They bloom and multiply every year, providing weeks and weeks of color for very little work and money. I have them all over the place.
This isn't a great picture, but it shows the long sloping backyard. Gosh, I love it. Sitting on the back deck as the sun goes down over the trees, or at night when the fireflies are out makes me think I'm in heaven. The grass rolls into the woods, which continue for quite a while on our property. It makes me feel like an English country squire.
Here's the corn--which is almost ready and I'm thrilled. It looks like a good crop this year. I've been experimenting this year mulching with newspaper and straw. I have a reason for this but won't bore you with the details.
Here is the view you see of the garden when you drive up. I have big plans for making this quite lovely but ran out of time and money this year. For now, you see the trellises--cantaloupe and cucumbers growing in the boxes which I built myself.
Just in case you wanted to see it, a close up of the cucumbers.
Today I harvested the first of our summer crops--a lovely cucumber. It was really good!
Here's a close-up of the cantaloupe plants climbing. Our soil is really high in a nutrient they love, so I'm hopeful for a good harvest. Sadly, the humid climate brings lots of molds and fungi, though, and sometimes they die before bearing fruit. Keeping my fingers crossed!
Here's a watermelon vine growing out of the cantaloupe box into the rocks. "Hey," you ask, "did you put that drainage ditch and retaining wall in yourself?"
"Funny you mention it," I reply. "Let me tell you about it."
Once upon a time, the ditch looked like this. Except weedier. Water had eroded it into a very irregular shape.
So, I spent weeks--WEEKS--wrestling the earth. You see all those rocks? Well, they came from my digging. Our dirt is almost entirely rocks with a bit of clay.
I dug the ditch out and line it with big rocks. Then, I built a retaining wall for the garden. I dug a three foot trench, lined it and then backfilled it with rocks (I'm still working on getting enough rocks). You can see the long grass at the foot of the ditch--that's where my son needs to weed eat and it's what the whole thing used to look like.
Okay, that's the grand tour. Thanks for stopping by!
Ok, I'm really excited. I just heard about a former student who is now pursuing her dream to be a singer and a songwriter. This is something she's done on her own. She's always had a lovely voice--she was a wonderful Cinderella and a radiant Marian in The Music Man. Now she's writing, recording, and releasing her own songs.
I really think she's worth a few minutes of your time. Drop by her Facebook fan page and listen here. If for some reason you can't get there, look up "Kynlie Freeman Music."
Okay, one of the most interesting aspects of having a blog is seeing what Google searches bring people to your blog. Usually the key words of the search will be something like, "Wizard of Oz pictures" or "Braden Bell blog" or something like that.
I suspect that some of these are from my younger students who feel a transgressive thrill in typing a teacher's first name into a search engine and have heard rumors from the all-knowing 8th graders that Dr. Bell has a website. (Is this analogous to how my friends and I would figure out where teachers lived and what their phone numbers were. And then we'd make really funny prank calls: Teacher: Hello? Us: (Guffaw) Hi is (Guffaw) is (Guffaw) is your refrigerator (extended snorts and snickers) is your refrigerator running? Teacher: Yes Us: (Usually disolved in laughter before we could say, "Then you better go catch it!!!!" Bwaa-hah-hah-ha.)
However, last month there was a search I'd not seen before. The search terms were, "How ugly Braden is?' (Yes, that's how it was written). That sort of made me feel bad. I mean, no one's beating my door down to get me to be in the next Twilight movie and yeah, my midsection is growing fast enough that I worry their might be an alien or something inside (probably one that really likes Mexican food) but I'm not quite ugly. I mean, no one's ever screamed and run away or anything. Anyway, I consoled myself with the fact that I may be ugly but their syntax was bad! Hah! SO THERE!
Anyway, today I was looking at the latest searches and found this one: "
Thanks, whoever you are! That made me laugh. Truth be told, I wasn't terribly cute at 12. I was rather awkward, although I had an awesome purple Izod shirt with some checkered vans (pretty excited when my mom let me trade in my Keds and Garanimals for the more sophisticated stuff).
But anyway, thanks--whoever you are. You made my day.
Another bunch of 8th graders graduated at the end of May. Another group of kids I met three years ago when they reported to their first day of middle school choir. They were small, mostly nervous little things--wondering what to make of the large man in the sweater vest. Above, you see them singing at graduation--they're young men and women now (not sure who the portly guy is at the music stand. It should be me, but it clearly isn't. He must have run in when I wasn't looking)
I watched them grow through the awkwardest of awkward ages. I coached them, coaxed them, and gave them demerits. I held them after class and processed their behavior. I pushed and prodded, pulled and everything else I could do to get them to sing and to keep their talking and distracting behaviors down to a mildly insane level.
I tried to be a role model, I tried to make them laugh while still trying to push them to try and excel. I tried to balance joy and rigor.
Some days they drove me to my wit's end and I wanted to curl up in a fetal position. Or go teach 1st grade. But every time this happened, someone would suddenly catch on. They'd sing a harmony line beautifully or spontaneously demonstrate self-regulating behavior. Or, I'd overhear them saying something incredibly nice. Or they'd do something amazingly thoughtful. I have the birthday crown they made for me still hung on my office door and the string of hearts they did for my birthday last year hangs above my desk.
They did good work in our choral concerts and fantastic work in the theatre program. Hearing them sing "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog" and "Crocodile Rock" are some of the highlights of my teaching career. And "Fiddler on the Roof" and "The Wizard of Oz" were superb.
These wonderful students lived through the ups and downs of early adolescence in my classroom and theatre and I had front row seats as they grew from awkward, goofy cartoon characters to poised, accomplished, beautiful/handsome young women and men.
And now they're gone.
Through my time with them, my heart was slowly split into 56 pieces. I didn't realize it at the time because they were here with me. But now they're gone. And I feel their loss keenly.
Since the last Harry Potter movie is coming out this week, I'll draw on a HP metaphor/analogy. If you haven't read the books, you won't know about Horcruxes. A horcrux is a diabolical form of magic where an evil witch or wizard splits their soul into fragments, which allows them a form of immortality.
I've been thinking about soul-splitting lately and have decided that teaching is sort of a positive form of making a horcrux--you work and toil and labor and end up putting a little piece of yourself into your students. Or at least you hope you do.
I am glad they have grown and matured. I'm proud of them for all they've accomplished and am excited to see them spread their wings and soar out of our comfy little nest.
But, oh! Oh! It hurts to see them go. To realize I won't interact with them each day anymore. I'll miss their goofiness, giddiness, but also their kindness, their intelligence and their goodness. I'll miss their energy and laughter. Truth be told, I feel this every year. My pride in them and my affection for them is matched by the pain I feel as they leave. It's hard and every year I wonder if it's worth it.
But to give it up would be to give up the excitement of a flawless performance, the joy of reformed behavior. It would mean that my heart was whole--but much emptier.
And so I bid them farewell. I hope for them and pray for them and think about them. I follow them as best I can, cheering their successes and weeping for their trials.
And, I turn to look at the rising class--the students I've known for two years now. The students who are now the leaders of the school. Now, my focus needs to be on helping them have the best 8th grade year they can have. My task is to work with them and push them and teach them and motivate them and love them until my heart is split again into 50-something fragments.
And when they leave me next May, if it hurts, I'll know I've succeeded.
Best wishes, class of 2011! I love you.
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