Author Archives: Michelle Ross

Wordless Wednesday: To-Do List

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Quotes from Books

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Quotes from Books

toptentuesday(Inspired by The Broke and the Bookish. Check them out here.)

Top ten lists are never as easy as they sound since the problem rarely lies in not enough choices, but rather the overwhelming abundance of great choices. Each week I struggle with whether I should stick to a theme to help narrow my thoughts (YA literature, travel literature, non-fiction, etc.) and yet each week I seem to end up with a seemingly random assortment. With this week’s theme being favorite quotes from literature, I’ve put together a list that really is all over the place. Some are quotes that are memorable because they are great “sound bites” from the narrative (The Hunger Games and The Outsiders), while some are powerful and stand firmly on their own, without needing any further knowledge of the work itself (East of Eden and The Infernal Devices).

So, presented without further commentary, here are ten literary quotes that speak to me:

“And may the odds be ever in your favor.” –Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden

“Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.”
—Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

“Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”
—T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together…there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”                                                                                                                                                                            -A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”
—Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
—Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

“Stay gold, Ponyboy.”                                                                                                                                                                     – S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders

“Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.”
—L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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Wordless Wednesday: Kinabatangan River, Sabah

Photo credit: Thad Ross

Photo credit: Thad Ross


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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters You’d Like To Check In With

Top Ten Characters You’d Like To Check In With

Here’s another book-driven “top ten” list as suggested by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

(As always, in no particular order because it is hard enough to keep my lists to ten, let alone come up with a numerical order for them!)

  1. Ebenezer Scrooge- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I’d love to know how well Mr. Scrooge stuck by his newly-minted resolve to be a better person. Many of us make resolutions at this start of the year, in hopes of being better than we were the year before, but oftentimes the best of intentions fall to the wayside, as it takes a lot of work to break behavioral cycles. While I have great hopes that Scrooge stuck by his better self for years to come, I would love to pop in and see it from time to time, much the way he got to pop in on scenes throughout time.

  1. Narrator- “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

I’m a huge Poe fan and would love to pop in on a variety of his characters, but figured for the sake of this list I should choose just one, so I am going with the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Once he rips up the floorboards, I am sure the police arrest him, but then what? Does he plead insanity? Does he get off for the murder of the old man? Does he recover his wits or live the rest of his life listening to the incessant beating of a heart thrumming in his ears?

  1. Esperanza- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Rightly so, Esperanza is a character filled with hope. She wants to use her writing to get herself out of her rough neighborhood, creating a name and home where she is safe and has the physical and emotional space to be the author she wants to be. She’s a teenager in the book, but I would love to see her at 25, 35 and 45 and see whether she broke the cycle of poverty in which she was raised and if she now has a daughter of her own to whom she can pass along her wisdom and love of words.

  1. Ponyboy- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

This was my 3rd quarter go-to book when I was teaching 8th grade literacy. It was always a tough slog of a term, after the hype of the Christmas holidays and before the beautiful spring weather sets in. Ponyboy and his gang of friends was the perfect draw for all readers. Over my nearly ten years of teaching, I must have read this book cover to cover at least thirty times. So, I want to know, just like with Esperanza, did Ponyboy continue to write as a way to escape the hardships of life? Did he go to college and also create a better life for his family? (I’ve never thought about them in the same vein before, but now I am thinking Esperanza and Ponyboy might make a great couple!!)

  1. Hillary Clinton- Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton

With an assumed presidential candidate announcement not too far off and the current email hubbub making headlines, I could really use an extra chapter in this book. We regularly see Clinton in the media, so it is not so much that I don’t know what this “character” is up to these days, but I would love to have some additional questions answered!


  1. Female characters- The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit

I connected strongly with the female characters of this novel, who were carried along by their husbands’ jobs. New homes. New friends. Maybe a job. Maybe not. I would love to pop in a decade later and get each of their thoughts on their time at Los Alamos. Was it worth it? What did they think once they found out what their husbands had been working on during that time? Would they change anything?

  1. Cady- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This was one of the best YA books I read last year, mostly because it broke the mold of the dystopian trilogy that has taken hold within the genre. (Don’t get me wrong, I love a great dystopian book, but I’d like to see YA authors branching out a bit more.) I won’t throw in any spoiler alerts, because if you haven’t read it, you should go get a copy right now, but suffice it to say that the whole thing is a bit traumatic and I would love to know how Cady deals with the good and the bad of her situation five and ten years down the road.

  1. Claire- Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman

I know this is an odd inclusion on this list, as I did not have a lot of great things to say about this book after I read it. The narrator was horribly unsympathetic and the book was painful to read. One thing that really bothered me about it was the ending and how abruptly Claire is dismissed from the narrative. I couldn’t believe Gilman wasn’t more curious about what eventually happened to her. Plus, I have my own theories about why she behaved the way she did and I would love to not only see where she is at today (and hear what she thought of the book!), but to see if I am on the right track with my guesses about the roots of her strange actions.

  1. Students- Miss Nelson’s Missing! By Harry Allard

My love of reading started young, so I wanted to include a few childhood favorites on this week’s list as well. I remember loving this book as a kid, the fact that poor Miss Nelson was run off by her horrible students. The kids may have won the battle, but they lost the war, because in Miss Nelson’s place, the odious Miss Viola Swamp arrives! She kicks those kids in to gear and makes them wish they had their sweet, kind teacher back once again. It would be great fun to drop in on those kids as adults and see what they remember about the great-teacher-switch and if they ever had an inkling what was really going on. Plus, they probably all have children on their own now and I want to see if they ended up with angels or hellions. (I am sure at least one became a teacher too, so, how did that work out?!)

  1. Ramona Quimby- Ramona, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

There are no ifs, ands or buts about it, Ramona Quimby is awesome! I feel like she and I had a lot in common growing up, as I too was the “annoying” little sister. I always pictured us as about the same age, so I would love to see where she ended up now that she would be in her 30s. Does she have a family? What does she do for a living? Is she close with Beezus now?

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Wordless Wednesday: Tawau Mosque

Photo credit: Thad Ross

Photo credit: Thad Ross

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List

While this blog is mostly a travel blog, it does have a second life as a book blog, although I must admit to having neglected that section in recent months. It is something I feel guilty about. (I do guilt pretty well.)

But, recently, the owner of the fabulous Erratic Project Junkie blog and friend from high school (also my amazing dentist) recommended that I participate in a book-driven top ten list run by The Broke and the Bookish. What a great idea! This will give me a focus for my book blogs that is more than just the reviews I was doing before and hopefully keep the literary part of In Search of the End of the Sidewalk from dying entirely. I can’t promise I will post a new top ten list every Tuesday, but at least this will resuscitate my floundering “Book Musings” tag.

This week’s theme is “Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List” which is absolutely perfect as my new term at school starts a week from today and I spent this last weekend Skyping with my thesis adviser and creating a reading list for one of my courses. I placed a huge start-of-the-semester order with Amazon yesterday, so now I eagerly await the boxes to come rolling in through our embassy mail room. (It is times like this that two-week mail kills me!)

So, without further ado, here is my inaugural Top Ten Tuesday list.

(In no particular order, but can you sense a theme here?! I may or may not be working towards a thesis about travel literature, so these books are going to be my life for the next year or so.)

                    Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List
1. Angry Wind: Through Muslim Black Africa by Truck, Bus, Boat, and Camel by Jeffrey Tayler

2. Methods for Teaching Travel Literature and Writing: Exploring the World and Self (Travel Writing

Across the Disciplines) by Eileen Groom

3. Forgiving the Boundaries: Home as Abroad in American Travel Writing by Terry Caesar

4. The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia by Brian Hall

5. The Long Hitch Home by Jamie Maslin

6. Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through The World’s Most Dangerous Country by Tim Butcher

7. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

8. Tourists with Typewriters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Travel Writing by Patrick Holland

9. Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey

10. Wide-Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family’s Lives Forever by John Marshall

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Being SCUBA’s Weak Link

It’s official. I don’t belong in the “real world.” I should just ensconce myself in the world of academia for the rest of my life, make a fort of books and live there. That is my spot.

This was once again confirmed for me last weekend as I spent two full days in SCUBA class.

Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent in the classroom, watching videos, reviewing the books and taking the quizzes. This was my happy place. I will read and write and take tests all day long, happy with my indoor habitat.

Afternoons, that is where things got ugly. Each afternoon we had to kit up at the embassy pool for skills practice and assessment. Keep in mind, I am not a water person. I took years of swim lessons at the Caldwell City Pool (always the first session of the season/day, so it was freezing cold and miserable) and when that didn’t work, my parents enrolled me in private lessons with a teenager from church. Still, I can’t swim. I can float okay, but you’re not going to get anything more graceful than a dog-paddle out of me.

So of course, how does Saturday afternoon start? With a mandatory four lap (one lap being down and back!) swim. This was the first indication that I was going to be the weak link of the weekend. While everyone else did their quick four and rested, I slogged my way up and down the pool solo. The trials (I mean, skill tests) continued from there. After successfully getting on the kit, which I would estimate at about 683 pounds (remember, math, much like swimming was never a strong suit for me), we headed into the pool for all sorts of floating and bobbing and breathing exercises. While I was never the champion, I survived each one. Strangely, the worst part of that first day was not when we had our oxygen tanks shut off while sitting on the bottom of the pool, but rather when we had to de-mask and hang out, again on the bottom of the pool, for a full minute. Even with a respirator in, not being able to see clearly about did me in. (In other news, why was the embassy pool so murky?!)

SCUBA from 8AM-6PM made for a long, exhausting day, with the tiredness falling more on the side of being emotionally drained from spending the entire afternoon reminding myself not to panic than it did from the physical work of the lessons.

One day was not enough though.

Back to the embassy we went on Sunday for another day of keeping the terror at bay and trying to act like a normal SCUBA class member. The morning again was fine, with a few hours of videos and quizzes and then a sixty question final exam. Soon though, the clock struck 2PM and it was time to gather poolside once again.

On day two, my “big step” into the pool was much less spastic and I wasn’t always the last one to take that leap, so that was an improvement, but once again there was a series of skill that needed to be demonstrated before we could call it a day. Getting weight belts on and off under water was no problem and I was even able to drag a “non-responsive” swimmer (Thad!) to the other end of the pool, but swimming the length of the pool and back with no mask was less than pleasant. (I think this gets to the heart of my underwater issues. I don’t like not being able to see what is going to get me!)

Somehow, I passed each of my skills and ended the day with the thumbs-up to go on the sea dives in a few weeks. I’m not sure whether to be happy about that or not. It is one thing to be nine feet under the water in a pool and another to step off a boat into the great open sea. I’m hoping that the underwater world is as amazing as I’ve been promised, making these lessons worth all of the dread and anxiety. Right now, I’m leaning towards being a snorkeler for life, but maybe, if I spend some time where the “seaweed is always greener” and “all the fish is happy as off through the waves they roll,” where the clams all know how to jam and the slugs can each cut a rug, I’ll change my mind and dream of spending my days down under the sea.

(Sadly there are no photos of this crazy weekend adventure. I took my phone along, but my focus was on breathing regularly so that my lungs didn’t explode like crazy blown-up balloons and making sure my kit was fully assembled and attached at all the right points each time I had to take it off and on. So, no pictures, but believe me it happened. Hopefully there will be pictures from round two of SCUBA certification when we go to Tioman Island in a few weeks.)


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