Three Great Quotes About Education

Today is the last day of school.

I used to dread summer vacation.  One year, the thought of all four of my school-aged children home for three months sent me to the basement to weep.

But something has changed me.  Perhaps it’s the repeated, gentle reminders of a friend who sends her last child off to college this August.  Or my oldest son’s 15th birthday and the realization that in three years I will send him away.  I’m over tired and prone to tears.  Big on sentiment.  I’ve embraced end of year activities with unusual enthusiasm this May because I finally realize these days will end, and I will miss them.

In my spirit of reflection, I dug up quotes on education for teacher cards and gifts.  I think you might like them too.

Happy summer.

Education fire



Education Sculpt



Education Nelson Mandela

Why Stories Are Important

harry potterI’ve always believed that stories do more than just entertain us. They teach, encourage, and help us sort out the sometimes confusing experiences of our lives. And now, new research shows that stories can change negative attitudes and combat discrimination.

On Friday, May 1 2015, NPR featured a story about a research study from Italy called “The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter”. Researchers, led by Loris Vezzali, analyzed the attitudes of elementary, high school, and college students before and after they read Harry Potter books or watched Harry Potter movies. The evidence shows that students were more tolerant of people from disadvantaged backgrounds (e.g. refugees, immigrants, and gay people) after exposure to the Harry Potter stories.

The theory is that when people read about underprivileged characters like Harry, who has no aristocratic status in the wizarding world, they learn how to empathize with people who are different. Stories help readers get into the minds of people who don’t think or act like they do, which improves understanding and compassion.

Perhaps instead of using logic and instruction to fight prejudice, we should use books! Most people would rather read a compelling narrative than listen to a lecture.  And they’ll probably learn more.

To read the story about the research or listen to it, visit NPR.

I also recently listened to a great podcast on story telling at The TED Radio Hour called Framing the Story. In one segment of the show, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie explains why it’s dangerous for people to form opinions about an entire race or country based on one story. Give it a listen.

MalalaWhy do you think stories are important?  What story has had the greatest impact on you?

The novel The Kite Runner had a huge impact on me.  Through it, I got a glimpse into the complicated world of Afghan culture and history.  Although I realize I can’t base my understanding of Afghanistan solely on this book, it helped me appreciate the beauty and difficulty of life in the Middle East.  I’d like to read I Am Malala this summer.

Thanks for sharing!


Why Is a Soccer Field Called a Pitch?

wondrous memeI recently said to the parent of one of my soccer players, “See you on the pitch.”  She looked at me like I’d suggested we’d play our game on the moon.

Soccer geeks often refer to the playing field as “the pitch,” and I, a lover of all things soccer, would like to explain the term. Soccer season is wrapping up, so I promise this will be the last soccerly word nerd word for a while.

To learn more interesting words, visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for her Wondrous Words Wednesday meme. Click through the links and add your own post!

After I explored the etymology of hat trick and nutmeg, my friend Jean wanted to learn more about the origin of “pitch”. She consulted Shane, a soccer enthusiast from England, and I consulted “On the Pitch”, a website dedicated to all things youth soccer. Here’s what we found.

For centuries, the verb “pitch” meant “to fit firmly in place”, like pitching stakes into the ground for a tent. (e.g. “pitching a tent”). It comes from the Middle English pichen, meaning to drive or fix firmly.  Since the end of the 17th century, the process of pitching stumps into the ground to set up a game of cricket has been called “pitching the stumps”.  By the late 1800s, people started using “pitch” as a noun to describe a playing area. By 1900, pitch was used specifically for a football (or soccer) playing area.

Pitch = playing area

Pitch = playing area

In England, the term “field” usually refers to an open space, as in a pasture or grassy area, not a playing area.

Thanks Jean and Shane for your help!

Word Nerd Workout

Pitch has a ton of meanings. Can you share some others?

Thanks for getting nerdy with me today!


Seniors Sleuth: A Cozy Mystery for Fun Reading

seniors sleuth 2The crazy end-of-the-school-year schedule is wearing me out.  I love all the field trips and awards assemblies, but holy cow, I’m never home!

Right now, I don’t want to read deep, sad, or insightful.  My brain barely has enough blood flow to remember what day it is! So I’m thinking about fun “beachy” reads, and today I have a great suggestion for you.

My friend Jennifer Chow just released her “cozy mystery” Seniors Sleuth.  It was a runner-up at the 2015 Beach Book Festival, and it has plenty of fun characters and a not-too-taxing mystery to enjoy.

What is a “Cozy Mystery”?

I asked Jennifer to explain the genre to me.  She said:

A “cozy” mystery has less sex and violence than its crime fiction counterparts. It usually takes place in a community setting and often features amateur sleuths.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you know I prefer PG-13 content and under.  So, cozy mysteries fit nicely into my reading wish list.

Seniors Sleuth features the lovable, somewhat bumbling, Winston Wong, eager to start his new career as a detective.  His first case has him investigating a curious cast of characters who live together in a senior home.

Here’s how Jennifer summarizes her mystery:

Winston Wong used to test video games but has left his downward spiraling career to follow in the footsteps of Encyclopedia Brown, his favorite childhood detective. When the Pennysaver misprints his new job title, adding an extra “s” to his listing, Winston becomes a “Seniors Sleuth.” He gets an easy first case, confirming the natural death of a ninety-year-old man. However, under the surface of the bingo-loving senior home is a seedier world where a genuine homicide actually occurred. Winston finds himself surrounded by suspects on all sides: a slacker administrator, a kind-hearted nurse, and a motley crew of eccentric residents. To validate his new career choice (and maybe win the girl), he must unravel the truth from a tangle of lies.

What I liked

Winston is smart, slightly pudgy, and fun to spend time with.  As he picks up clues, he lets the reader in on his deductions, which I enjoyed better than the last mystery I read, The Cuckoo’s Calling.  In that book, the protagonist detective withheld most information until the end of the book, where he spelled it all out in ten pages of dialogue.  I liked Jennifer’s style of giving hints to the puzzle throughout the story.

But just because Winston keeps the reader in the loop, don’t think that you’ll guess the ending.  The guilty character completely surprised me.

There’s plenty of diversity in the novel, including characters with Asian and African-American ethnicity.

What I didn’t like

Some of the eccentric characters felt one-dimensional or predictable- there’s a belligerent Vietnam Vet and also an African-American who plays the piano and calls himself Jazz Man. I would have liked to learn more about their personalities “under the surface”.  Also, at times, the dialogue felt stiff or formal and not how real people talk to each other.


I’m brand new to “cozies”, and perhaps the characters in the genre are typically simple sketches.  Wikipedia says this about characters in cozies:

The supporting characters in cozy mysteries are often very broadly drawn and used as comic relief. The accumulation of such characters in long-running cozy mystery series, such as those of Charlotte MacLeod, frequently creates a stock company of eccentrics, among whom the detective stands out as the most (perhaps only) truly sane person.

A-ha! That fits Seniors Sleuth.

Jennifer Chow

Jennifer J. Chow, author of Seniors Sleuth

To learn more about Seniors Sleuth, visit Amazon and Goodreads.  To learn more about its author, Jennifer Chow, visit her website at

Have you read any cozy mysteries that you can recommend?

Thanks for stopping by!


The Origin of “Soccer”

Look at that U8 energy!  Photo Credit: Nancy Anderson 2014

Look at that U8 energy! Photo Credit: Nancy Anderson 2014

The Word Nerd Word of the week comes from my energetic U8 soccer players.  At practice Monday someone asked, “Where does the word ‘soccer’ come from?”

I couldn’t let that one go unanswered.

wondrous memeTo read about more interesting words, visit Kathy and her friends at Bermuda Onion.  You’ll find links to Wondrous Words Wednesday posts, and you can also contribute one of your own.

The term soccer has interesting history.  According to an article in The Atlantic, historians can trace the basic game of soccer back to the middle ages.  But official rules weren’t set until the late 1800s, when the sport gained popularity with aristocratic boys in England.  In 1863, club leaders met in a pub to agree on official rules and form the “Football Association”.

soccer ball in a netLater, the term “Association Football” got shortened to “soccer”. The theory is folks at Oxford and Cambridge liked to put “-er” on the ends of words, but Associationer didn’t sound good, so they used “soccer” instead.

The term gained favor in the U.S. in the early 1900s to distinguish it from American football. British fans embraced the name “soccer” after WWII, when the influence of American culture was high. However, in the 1980s, the Brits started to reject the American term and use “football” instead.

The Atlantic story has more details and a cool map that shows what countries around the world call the sport we know as soccer.

Word Nerd Workout

Do you know the origin of the name of your favorite sport?  Look it up and share!

Thanks for getting sporty with me. 😉


My First Author Event: The Heir by Kiera Cass

selectionSomeday, when my persistence and hours of editing have paid off, I hope to tell you about the author event where I got to answer questions and sign books.

Today’s star, however, is Kiera Cass, author of the The Selection series .

I’m a total book nerd, but I’ve never been to a book signing. Not many entertainment celebrities visit Southwest Virginia. Kiera Cass is a graduate of Radford University and lives in the Christiansburg, VA area, so that’s how a best-selling author ended up at our local Barnes and Noble. And I got to see her!

Confession: I’ve never read The Selection books. But I wanted a signed copy of The Heir to give as a birthday gift. (Here’s what Goodreads says about The Selection series)

The night of Kiera’s appearance, I picked up my daughter and a few friends from swim practice and rushed to B & N fifteen minutes before the event started. “It shouldn’t be too crowded,” I told the girls. We weren’t in New York City, after all.

When several young ladies wearing formal dresses passed us in the parking lot, I knew I’d underestimated the significance of the affair.

Selection fans dressed for the part

Selection fans dressed for the part

The staff inside Barnes and Noble seemed as befuddled as I felt. I bought The Heir, Cass’s newest release, and received a raffle ticket to hold my place in line for the book signing. Then I crammed into the children’s section with the rest of the fans. Tulle and sparkle collected in the main aisle, along with a few brave males. The guy in line in front of me carried a pink sequined bag, I’m assuming for one of his female companions. That’s a dedicated boyfriend.

My daughter and her swim buddies, sporting wet hair and t-shirts, abandoned me for the cafe. Daughter has read the series and finds it “girly and ridiculous”. She spent her time searching for Jane Austen novels. My sons, aged 11 and 8, avoided the glittery anticipation by playing with Nooks on display.

Promptly at six, a publicist introduced Kiera Cass. Those of us in the back stood on toes and strained to hear. Kiera is no taller than me and had to stand up on a chair to interact with her audience. Eventually, her husband/boyfriend jumped in to help with the Q & A. (Ha! My husband, King of the Introverts, would NEVER volunteer to take questions and make jokes for the crowd.)

Kiera Cass at BN

Can you see her up there?

Kiera was friendly and fun, and it’s too bad the space wasn’t set up better for her to chat with her fans. Her favorite books are The Little PrinceThe Book Thief and just about “any YA.” For Selection fans, she shared these tidbits:

  • There will be a fifth book
  • A studio has purchased the rights to make the books into movies, but nothing is definite
  • She has a project in mind to work on after she finishes the Selection series, but she wouldn’t give details. It will probably be a stand alone book.

Kiera CassMore important to me, she gave the following advice to aspiring writers:

  • Read, read, read, even stuff you don’t like
  • Master grammar – your editor will love you
  • Make time to day dream – she said “Seriously, mark it on your calendar and allow for time to let your mind wander.”

When the Q & A ended, we organized ourselves into a winding line among the shelves.  B&N staff gave away raffle prizes and handed out post-it notes for us to write our inscription requests on.  It took over two hours for Kiera to sign all the books. Hello, hand cramps.  Sadly, I had to leave at 7 and never met Kiera. (You know, four kids, hectic schedule, etc.) Fate placed me in line behind a woman I knew, and she graciously got the book signed for me. Yay for bookish mamas.

Here’s what the Word Nerd learned at her first live author event:

  • Get there early, even if you live in a small town
  • Plan to spend several hours
  • If you’re an author doing an event, bring a vivacious friend to work the crowd (Paula Hearne, this means you.)
  • Bring a portable speaker system and a safe platform on which to stand.
  • If you write kid lit, tip-off the librarians at the local schools about your appearance.

Have you ever attended an author event, either as a fan or an author? What did you learn? What was the funniest thing you’ve seen? What helps these things run smoothly?