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Station Eleven: A Book Review

Title: Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday

Copyright Date: 2014

photo credit: Amazon

An actor dead on the stage. A life of broken promises and fleeting love. A world on the brink of collapse. This is how prolific author, Emily St. John Mandel opens this post-apocalyptic tale. The Georgia Flu has spread to every continent and killed many in its wake. As the pandemic strikes, it silently destroys lives and society.

Twenty years after Arthur Leander dies on stage during a production of King Lear, a child actress, Kirsten, is now grown and touring what is left of the eastern US with a traveling orchestra and Shakespeare company. In a world made destitute by a violent illness it is the arts that bring the people joy and reminders of what life used to be. Kirsten believes the violence of the earlier years are behind them as society tries to rebuild a semblance of civilization. But returning to a town where her best friend was left to deliver a child, Kirsten learns that the violence of the past has taken on a new look– he calls himself The Prophet.

Events of this eerie tale move along a non-linear structure. The author leaves clues and connections throughout the text to point readers toward the way in which all the characters and subplots coincide. Written long before our current pandemic, this tale brings to light the ways in which we are all connected and how we must learn to trust one another and rebuild the world we live in.

I read this novel as part of my masters program, but I recommend it for anyone who enjoys the post-apocalyptic genre. There are parts in the opening chapters that may be triggering to people affected by Covid-19. At first, I wasn’t sure I would be able to read the whole book, but the story moved quickly from the onset of the pandemic to its future impact on society.

Check out my Goodreads account if you want to see what’s up next in my reading. 

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Get Them Outside!–Teacher Tuesday

Honors World History students outside reading The Diary of Anne Frank

One of my favorite teaching tricks in the springtime is getting my kids outside for a few minutes to read, write, or work in groups. During this year of pandemic teaching it is even more important to get the kids outside when the weather is nice. Not only does it help us to breathe cleaner, unfiltered air, but it also lifts the spirits and helps students to build an appreciation for the great outdoors.

Reading on a back porch, poolside, or while getting my feet sandy at a beach is one of my favorite ways to destress. So giving students an opportunity to get some reading done while soaking up the sun helps many of them to destress and build healthy habits as well.

I do have to post a disclaimer here: I teach high school honors students.

I know that for many teachers it would be a great challange to take your classes outdoors and maintain some level of productivity. The change of scenery is helpful for all learners whether that be outside, in the school library, or allowing students to choose their own spot in the classroom. For me, outdoor reading works because I have students who can handle that environment, but always use your best judgement when making a call like that for your own students. You know your students best and what types of activities will serve their learning well.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Spring Break Recap

I cannot think of a time in my ten year career where I NEEDED a break like I did two weeks ago. It’s been a long year of trying to teach in the midst of a pandemic, and those days leading up to Spring Break were rough. Two days before school let out for break my husband and I made the decision to escape to the beach. We secretly packed leading up to the trip, but we did not tell the girls until just before we left.

We stayed in a condo in North Myrtle Beach (Cherry Grove) in South Carolina.

The weather was great for the first few days and we spent as much time as possible soaking up the sun and enjoying the waves. The second half of the trip was a little colder. Those days were too cold to swim, but we still enjoyed moments in the sand.

Overall, this trip was the recharge we needed as a family to power through these last seven weeks of the longest school year EVER! We had plenty of time to rest, bond, and reconnect with our goals and purposes as a family without the distraction of work, gym, and all the other added components to our busy lifestyle.

Summer is approaching and we are beyond ready!

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Savor: Five Minute Friday

It’s a windy Friday morning here in Ohio and I’m jumping in with my Five Minute Friday post so long as the wifi sticks with me. Five Minute Friday is a weekly link up where writers from all over write for five minutes about a common prompt. Each writer then places a link to their writing on the homepage and we navigate the community dropping positivity on one another’s pages. This week our prompt is Savor.

I can’t think of the last time I stopped to savor a meal. For years it seems that life has been so busy that I hardly have time to eat and I have gotten to a point where what I am eating is not very important to me. I eat for survival and fuel without much regard for savoring the tastes and the moment.

I’m not quite sure when this happened–I used to be all about trying new things and surprising my taste buds with new flavors. Preparing new dishes was so much fun and the act of making recipes my own was a blast. But somewhere along the way it became such a pain to plan out three meals a day. I sacrificed flavor for convenience and I replaced a relatively balanced diet with one of sporadic eating. Sure, I’m busy. But shouldn’t I be able to still find moments to eat healthy and to savor the times I have with the food and family I have been blessed with?

This week is Spring Break. My husband planned a secret trip to the beach (and by secret I mean we are totally surprising the girls. They don’t know yet!) and one thing I hope to find on this trip is a few moments to stop and savor. I have been going nonstop since school resumed this fall and to be able to stand on a balcony breathing in the air of the coastline will be such a healing experience. I hope to also repair my relationship with food and although we will be in a condo and I will be cooking just about every meal, I plan to adventure in the kitchen and find reasons to sit and savor the food that I am putting into my body.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Amazon Wish List: Teacher Tuesday

This week I wanted to share with you about an idea I found on The Caffeinated Classroom: Amazon Wish List for the classroom. As a secondary teacher, I am provided very little financially to build an ideal classroom. Elementary teachers are often gifted money from PTA/PTOs, but us lowly high school teachers are expected to spend our own money to purchase anything beyond the basics.

After watching Marie’s video on creating a classroom wish list I decided to give it a try and have already received some wonderful gifts from families in the community.

First of all, there are so many parents out there who want to help out, but don’t know how. By curating a list you can be sure that you are receiving EXACTLY what you want to build the environment of your dreams.

Secondly, there are so many students who long for the engaging learning classrooms of their earlier days. I’m not advocating for posters plastering the wall and an explosion of color, but I am in favor of building a classroom of supplies, manipulatives, and decor that help to make your classroom more inviting. Blank, white walls don’t provide that aesthetic.

Thirdly, teachers cannot do this alone. It just is not possible. We need to channel our creative energy into educating students and creating plans that foster learning. Oftentimes, the environment of our classrooms become secondary (as they should) and we find ourselves working every day in a boring, sterile environment.

I decided to give it a shot. If you check out Marie’s video she explains how to setup an Amazon Wish List to share with families on your newsletter, LMS, or email signature. I reached out on my school LMS and asked for donors and many parents already browsed my list. We are working together to create an English/History classroom that feels like home for my students.

If you are interested in donating to this project please consider making a purchase on my classroom Wish List. All donors will receive a shout out on social media and a heartfelt thank you from the students. We are also working on creating a wall of donors where we post names of donors and their contributions in the classroom. This is providing opportunities to also teach my students about gratefulness.

Check out our classroom Wish List!

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Rebecca–Film Analysis

photo from thefilmexperience.net

I am currently enrolled in a Masters of English program through Bowling Green State University and this week we did a film analysis in one of my classes that I wanted to share with you. To begin, we viewed the Alfred Hitchcock version (1940) and later compared to the new Netflix remake of Rebecca (2020).

Synopsis

A young, female is employed to accompany an older woman on a tour of Europe during the postwar era. While vacationing in Monte Carlo, the younger companion is introduced to the lavish lifestyle and a wealthy widower, Maxim deWinter, heir to the Manderly mansion along the English coast. Capturing his affections on walks along the shore and rides through the country in his car, the younger companion finds herself entangled in the world of the wealthy and soon engaged to Mr. deWinter.

After their honeymoon, the newlyweds move to Manderly, and the new Mrs. deWinter must quickly learn how to run a home and staff of giant proportion. This new world she has entered comes with a house manager, the mysterious Mrs. Danvers. Before long, Mrs. deWinter learns that the presence of Rebecca, the first Mrs. deWinter, lurks in every room and every memory of the estate. She tries to adjust to this life, but it seems that Rebecca’s shoes are nearly impossible to fill.

Mrs. deWinter works to uncover the truth of Rebecca’s death and the secrets sewn into the fabric of life at Manderly. In this quest, Mrs. deWinter unleashes a storm of lies, inquisition, and death. A tale of naive love, fear, mystery, and the macabre, Rebecca will always be a haunting tale that challenges the patriarchy of mid century society and the limits of love in the face of scandal.

Movie Analysis

When I set out to view the 1940, black and white Hitchcock film I was not overly excited. Films from the forties are not the types I sit down and watch. So I came to this viewing with a prejudice and a strong suspicion that I would be bored out of my mind for two hours. However, I quickly became entranced by the intricate details in scenery and wardrobe. I fell in love with the characters and the second Mrs. deWinter was beyond beautiful. Hitchcock’s use of light and Manderly as a character in itself was also brilliantly executed. For its time, this film was a strong production.

The 2020 film was a replica of the earlier edition, but with the challenge of using color there was a pressure to measure up to the extravagance of the 1940 film. Lily James played the second Mrs. deWinter and did so brilliantly. (side note: I also loved her in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society film. She’s definitely typecasted herself for roles of that era.) In so many ways the second film matched the first, but there were additional scenes and a little more sexual innuendo to match the times.

The Problem

The story of Rebecca is a brilliant tale, but cannot be viewed without noticing that the second Mrs. deWinter never receives an identity. A name is never provided for her and she moves from a nameless companion to a Mrs. fairly quickly. This decision was likely made to show that middle class women had no value in mid century society without a man. And once the second Mrs. deWinter begins to uncover her husband’s secrets the option of divorce is not ever explored. Because it was not acceptable.

In my analysis for school I unpacked these issues and a few others, but I don’t want to bore you with literary analysis. I do encourage you to see for yourself how Rebecca challenges feminist views. There are some articles out there challenging the film and its second production as outdated and harmful to the progressive movement of women, but I am of the belief that the author of Rebecca (Daphne de Maurier ) did not create this tale to glorify the ways of society, but to challenge it, and in doing so she communicated a timeless message about female empowerment.

Check it out for yourself!!

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Redeem: Five Minute Friday

It feels so good to wake up on a Friday morning and make time to join in on the weekly link-up with other writers for Five Minute Friday. This is a group of writers who write using the same prompt for five minutes flat. No planning. No editing. Just raw thoughts and words inspired by the common theme. This week the prompt is Redeem:

This week marks the anniversary of shutdown here in Ohio. While so much has changed since a year ago, and our current status as a nation seems to be on the upswing, it is difficult to entertain memories of what life looked like before all of this without a bit of grief. I’ve mourned this week (and also this year) when I think about all that we missed out on. Cancelled trips, broken traditions, and missed loved ones have piled on top of one another and created a nearly insurmountable obstacle. These things have stolen joy and threatened faith. But with this year behind us there are so many signs of God’s redemption on our lives.

Where mourning once stood there is now healing.

Where longing once lived there is promise.

Where sorrow once sat there is joy.

With each passing day we are closer to the end of this pandemic. We are seeing orders lifted as the number of those infected decreases. This is what redemption looks like–we are overcoming and life is moving forward.

Last night, I visited with my grandparents that I have hardly seen in a year. As they welcomed us into their home under the protection of both Jesus and the vaccine, I felt the redemption and restoration. As Grandma reached out to me for a hug I remembered all the days that I longed for that over the past year. Time was stolen from our relationship, but God is redeeming all that was lost and broken. It is not yet time to let down our guards, but it is time that life begin to move past this.

Thank you, God, for your faithfulness to redeem all that has been broken.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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This Time Last Year…

Below is an actual entry from my Pandemic 2020 journal. In fact, it’s my first entry. As we begin to face the one year mark of the shut down I have been taking a look at how I have changed and developed over the past 365 days of life looking differently. Ironically, on the eve of this anniversary of quarantine, I received my second vaccine last week. It kicked my butt and made me pretty sick, but I am so glad I have the protection against the virus that rocked our world.

Here is a look at my very first entry. And cheers to the new normal not being our forever normal.

Date: Monday 3/16/20

Today is Sam’s birthday. And today the reality of this quarantine is setting in. As of yesterday, all restaurants are closed apart from pickup or delivery. All bars are closed. Schools are shut down until further notice. All in an effort to prevent the mass spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19)

A week ago, we planned for Sam to be in England for his birthday.

We planned for gifts to arrive during his trip and I scheduled play dates and events for Spring Break with my girls.

Thankfully, Sam is home with us today. However, it has drastically changed our plans as a family. Unfortunately, the mail service is slowed by the lockdowns and many of his gifts have not arrived. I know that he was really looking forward to spending his birthday at home for the first time in twelve years, but I’m also very happy to not have to worry about when he will make it home.

We have a friend who is from Oxford, but lives in Pickerington with his wife and kids. He had flown home for a funeral, and was stranded in England for quite some time with his three year old son. It’s been a very difficult time for that family and their separation, but thankfully he and Ollie are on a flight as I type, and hopefully they will be home in Ohio this evening. I can’t help but think that it could’ve been us separated. And I have no idea how I would weather this storm without Sam beside me. I am so thankful that he made the difficult decision to stay and I vow to do all in my power to make today a special day for him because he deserves it.

Today is the first true day of quarantine. It has forced us to be grateful for all things as a family and has also forced us to be creative with how we spend our time. We are going on a driving scavenger hunt today (because it’s too cold to be outside and even the gyms/libraries are closed). Sam will pick lunch wherever we end up and we will get carry-out and eat in the car or outside at a park.

The days look different today than we imagined. This isn’t the Spring Break we planned for nor is it the Spring Break we would want, but our new family motto is, “We are making the best of it!” We are working to enjoy this time as a family. It’s time to slow down. Time to forget the hustle. Time to remember what is most important in life. Time to recharge. Time to love. Time to forgive. And time to remember that we are all in this together.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Capsule Wardrobe Update and Spring Capsule Reveal

Before you read this post, please check out my review of Courtney Carver’s book Project 333. In this post, I explain the principles behind my Capsule wardrobe and my commitment to live according to the Project 333 plan for a year.

In December, I did a complete clear out/pack up of my wardrobe and set aside 33 pieces that I absolutely loved. I lived for 3 months wearing only items from my 33 piece capsule. And guess what…

I thrived.

Now that I have made it through an entire 3 month period dressing with 33 pieces I have some insight to offer:

1. People notice what we are wearing far less than we think they do. It’s okay to repeat outfits! No one cares!

2. We waste so much time picking through clothes that we NEVER wear. Why not limit our closets to ONLY the things we actually wear?

3. It’s best to stick to a neutral palette so that we maximize our options.

4. We can still have fun dressing with less. Mixing and matching can open up so many possibilities that we never would’ve thought of when we had a closet full of unworn pieces creating clutter.

5. When we feel comfortable and love every piece we feel more comfortable and JOYFUL daily.

The biggest setback to this method is the increase in frequency of doing the laundry. You aren’t washing more pieces, but having all the laundry done weekly is imperative.

I am so excited to take these tips and ideas with me into my second capsule. Here’s a look at the template that I developed for my Spring 2021 wardrobe (in my bullet journal):

Setting up this second capsule took about 2 hours. Ohio’s spring weather added a layer of complication to the process because I had to consider what I would wear in March-May (a time period with a potential for a wide weather variation.) I started by grabbing the totes from storage of out-of-season clothes that I LOVE (because I donated all the pieces I don’t love back in December and kept only what brought me joy…Marie Kondo style!)

Next, I went through all clothes and organized them into the categories from my template like tops, pants, shoes, etc. I dumped it all on my bed. This is a tip from Project 333, because it forces you to get it done in one day. You must dig out the clothes to get to your bed before nighttime.

Then, I played around with outfit combinations taking style and colors into consideration and selected the most favorable pieces in each category. Playing a nice, relaxing playlist during this part of the plan is helpful.

Finally, I hung up EVERY piece. This part is crucial. When you can see each of the pieces in your capsule it makes the process of creating outfits quick, easy, and fun.

This is my Spring 2021 capsule. I am so excited to dress with less and to embark on another Project 333 journey.

Happy Spring!!!!

The Ameri Brit Mom

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March 2021 Bullet Journal

I blinked and February 1st became March 1st. Time seems to be slipping through my fingers in 2021. We are on the cusp of the Covid-19 lock down anniversary. How is that even possible!?! At any rate, it is a new month and time to reveal and share my pages for March 2021.

But first a review of February

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I failed at keeping up and staying organized with my journaling in February. I started out well, but the deeper we got into the month the busier and less focused I became. Not to mention that I nearly had an entire week of snow days in there when I forgot the day of the week.

I did complete a really cute February review page with a Top 3 photo display using my new Sprocket photo printer. I like to wrap up each month sharing Top 3 photos from my phone and a brief description of things I’m into at the time. Those pages are really fun to both make and to revisit down the road. They may be my very favorite pages of the bullet journal process because they serve as a mini time capsule.

So without further ado, my March 2021 spreads:

Cover Page: House Plant Theme

One of the top Bullet Journal influencers on social media is Amanda Rach Lee. I’ve never done a recreation of her entire theme before, but I decided to try it out this month. All of the houseplant designs are inspired by Amanda Rach Lee and her March 2021 Plan With Me video on Youtube.

2. March Calendar

This month’s simple calendar layout is made up of small boxes and plenty of blank space for notes and dates.

3. Fitness Spread

Here’s to hoping I fill more of this spread in March than how I did in February.

4. Meal Tracking Spread

Because writing it down helps me stay accountable!

5. Weekly Spread and Habit Tracker

This is a very simple weekly spread with a small habit tracker in one corner and illustration in the other.

I kept it all simple this week. As for the tools I used in creating these spreads I stuck to a basic color scheme of teal and light gray Tombow Dual Brush pens. All illustration was done using a Tombow Fudenoske hard tip pen. I used a milky white gel pen to write the dates and accent spreads–and that’s all! I hope you enjoyed this peek into my 2021 Bujo!

The Ameri Brit Mom