Sunday, July 29, 2007

When I finished sending out the last emails to my students late Friday afternoon Steve was coming in the door. I said I was ready to celebrate the end of a very long and arduous Summer Session of grading, vertigo, grading, oral surgery, grading, a wisdom tooth extraction site infection, grading, more vertigo, grading, a different wisdom tooth extraction site infection, grading, etc. In other words, it wasn't a fun 11 weeks! So, we went right down the street to The Bone Fish Grill. All I can say is, "Yummy!" We started out with crunchy breaded calamari with a delicious tart sweet and sour dipping sauce along with the regular marinara sauce. Then our journalism/psychology major at UK waiter brought us delicious bread - I wouldn't let him take the tangy sauce - I dipped my bread in it while Steve tried the oil and herb dip. I had Atlantic salmon with an Asian sauce - delicious. Along with a couple of glasses of white wine I was so full and satiated that I came home and vegged in front of a really cute 1999 movie with Hume Cronyn (who I adore - when he smiles how can you not? It goes right to his eyes.) called The Sea People. He and his just as elderly wife are sea people (they prefer not to be called mermaids, especially the men!) who are nearing the end of their years and it is time for the old man to return to the sea. Problems are arising because the water near where they are living is not cold enough. Enter a teenage girl, who is missing her father who is away on a job. She discovers their secret, along with a fisherman's teenage grandson - the very ones who can help them. I thought of my yummy salmon dinner as Cronyn comes out of the water with a fish in his mouth and spits it out because it isn't the type he was fishing for. And, heaven forbid, they learned how to eat fish cooked that evening at a beach bonfire with the the teens. I am not a sushi fan so their dislike of cooked fish cracked me up. I made the mistake of ordering my tuna cooked at a restaurant on Tortola and the chef came to our table and gave me heck about it. Was more than a bit embarrassing - not been a tuna fan in restaurants since then.

Yesterday was a truly lazy day. Spent it doing a bit of cleaning and working my way through the piles of "it isn't crucial" paperwork near my favorite chair. Did get the seashell adorned wreath for the master bathroom ordered from LL Bean so I can then match new carpets and a window shade to it. Decided, though I do not want to live in the tropics again until we truly retire, I miss it very much and need a bit of the ocean feel and colors around me. We have a number of tropical looking pictures and Steve gave me gorgeous tiles made from real shells pushed into them to make an imprint. They are going to go around the wreath above the jacuzzi.

Went to bed early and read a bit of Patrick Jones' Chasing Tail Lghts. Christy is a teen living in a Flint, MI home that most of us wouldn't wish on our worst enemy - dysfunctional is too kind of a descriptor! So she goes to the freeway and chases tail lights, the desire to get out of town. Her father once told her if you are lost to follow the tail lights in front of you and in most cases you will get where you want to go. I am only part way into the book, but I do like the way it jumps between Christy's earlier life, to help build foundation knowledge for the life she is living now and why those tail lights look so attractive.

Today has been catching up with emails and finishing up the paperwork for the Tennessee Association of School Librarians presentations in November. I'll be doing back to back booktalking sessions on MS and then HS books. Looking forward to attending this conference as TN is our southern neighbor state. Also read through the North Carolina Library Association Youth Services Section Chapbook which reminded me I am doing a morning preconference workshop on "hot formats"in teen literature on October 16th as well as a session introducing new children's books on Thursday at the North Carolina Library Association Conference in Hickory. The Fall is going to be a busy semester as I am also presenting a 1/2 day preconference and a session at the AASL Conference in Reno.

The 2007 winners of the North Carolina Children's Book Award Program were announced in the Chapbook:
Once Upon a Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O'Malley in the picture book category and A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M. Martin in the Junior Book category. No wonder so many of my students referred to these two books in their summer school assignments! The 2008 Nominee list is also included. Go to for more information and the lists. My vote for the 2008 award in the picture book category is Wolves by Emily Gravett, which I talked about in an earlier blog entry. My favorite for the Junior Book category is Jennifer Holm's Babymouse 1: Queen of the World. I just finished reading Camp Babymouse and found myself laughing out loud at this precocious mouse's antics at summer camp. She has the most delightful sense of humor! This sister and brother collaboration is a delight. The 8th episode in Babymouse's active life will be published soon. A perfect graphic novel series for elementary school - actually, for any age. I heard these are very popular in dorm rooms. I want a t-shirt with Babymouse on it! :-) Check out the cool website at: There are some great tools on their for teacher - such as actual graphic novel pages students can make up their own stories on as well as posters that can be printed out etc.

Jen used to chat with my UHCL students in my YA literature courses as I am a big fan of her Boston Jane historical fiction series set in the Pacific Northwest. Most of you know her best for her Newbery title, Our Only May Amelia, which holds a special place in my heart as it is based on Jen's Finnish heritage. And, for her second Newbery honor book, Penny from Heaven, based on the other part of her heritage, which is Italian, and on her own mother's life.

A long post today to make up for the days without!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I have the perfect reason to work on a blog entry right now, actually two. One, I have caught up on my grading, at least until tomorrow. And two, I couldn't find all of the ingredients I needed for the casserole I planned on making for dinner so I headed back to my keyboard. Sure, Meijer is all of 5 minutes away, but the fluorescent lights in there set off the vertigo symptoms big time so I am not going up there. Steve is a better cook then me and we have leftovers too so I don't think we will starve.

Actually, I would like to be where I took this picture - sitting on the wall on the waterfront in Cozumel watching the sun go down before going into Guido's and eating the best calazone possible - no cheese and lots of sauce, pepperoni, mushroom, and black olives. Hmmm. I must be hungrier than I realized.

I would convince Steve we need to go out for dinner, but we did that last night before the Allison Krause concert, which was fantastic!!! (We went to Rumors, which I thought when we first moved here was a topless bar and couldn't figure out why we were going to lunch there!) Her incredible voice is even better in person. I had goosebumps when she sang her ballads. I think Steve like the guys' singing better as one of them is the voice over for George Clooney when he sang in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, one of Steve's favorite movie. "We thought you was a toad!" is a favorite line of his. Not that poor Steve could see. We had center seats several rows from the front, on the floor, so they were great seats, but a behemoth of a guy sat down in front of me and blocked out the view of stage completely with his big head and even bigger wide brimmed hat. Steve changed places with me and we talked, a bit loud, to the neighbor about my not being able to see, hoping the guy would take his hat off. No such luck so Steve mostly listened to the concert and fidgeted as he had an even bigger guy on the other side of him with thighs the size of a whole 30 lb. turkey, not just the leg! Those small chairs hooked together are not great seating for well fed and/or large muscled adults! Uncomfortableness aside the concert was superb and I loved Krause's very dry and deadpan sense of humor. She is a hoot when she talks. I'd put up with seats and go back tonight if I could. Now to purchase her latest CD. :-)

I know tweenage girls love Meg Cabot, but I will not be experiencing Princess withdrawal now that I finished listening to The Princess Diaries, Princess in the Spotlight, Princess in Love, and Princess in Waiting. Okay - that is enough for me, I get the idea that she is very insecure about her relationship with a non-noble and with her own nobility status. Actually, my favorite character is the French grandmother who looks and acts nothing like Julie Andrews. She has her eyebrows painted on and has a cigarette and drink in her hand 24/7. And, she is not above a little lie (heck - a big lie) to get Mia to do what she wants. The narrator's voice for Grand Mere (sp?) is hilarious and almost made listening to four of these tween novels worth it. Almost! By the time I got through the 4th I was shouting at the radio in the car - "Get a spine already!" Okay, so I had been on the road for several hours, drank way too many Diet Cokes, and had made my still sore jaws even sorer by eating crunchy Cracker Jacks! There are now 8 books about this clumsy insecure princess. In the latest Mia, as a junior, finds out her beloved Michael is going to Japan in Princess on the Brink. Not ready for the next 4 yet, so I guess I'll see if I can find any of Cabot's Mediator series titles on audio. :-) It is amazing what I find at Half Price Books and I haven't been up there in over a month. Oh dear, just thinking about it gives me withdrawal symptoms. Just think of all those cheap YA audiobooks someone else besides me bought! How could I let my scrunging for a good deal go so far between visits?

Steve came home, didn't smell any dinner cooking and headed out to mow the lawn. Hmmm. Wonder if that is good or bad news in relation to me getting out of cooking dinner. But, not much can ruin my momentary good mood since I am caught up on my grading! :-)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I have been so terrible about posting in the last 6 weeks since the vertigo hit. I am back in bed with it and it had better settle down as we have tickets to go see Allison Krause in concert tonight in Rupp Arena, where the UK basketball team plays. Steve can lead me in if I am still dizzy! This town is "Go Blue" crazy. I don't even wear my ECU t-shirts around here. I would rather be right in the middle of this picture than in bed! This is Guido's in Cozumel - my favorite restaurant in Mexico so far. And, it is Italian! The court yard is canopied by flowering trees. We ate there twice because I liked it so much.

I did booktalking presentations at the ECU Library Science and Instructional Technology COLRS workshop on Saturday. COLRs is an IMLS grant scholarship program for MLS students who plan to work in rural North Carolina schools. The participants were new scholarship participants and other students in the MLS Program. It was great to meet students in my courses. I feel like I know them from how active we are in the discussion boards, but it is always nice to hear their voices and see their faces. Two of my summer session Children's and YA Literature course were there and they were busy reading whenever they could as the semester ends this week. Thank heavens! I need to get the grading done and the grades posted so I can breathe a sigh of relief and take a few days off before I start setting up my Fall semester course sites. Of course, both courses I am teaching have new textbooks so my "pleasure reading" will be set aside for awhile to read the texts and prepare the new quizzes.

Steve's Mom is in the hospital and he was up in Kansas City while I was in Greenville and I drove back to KY prepared to feed the cat and get the next flight out of LEX into KC if needed. Thank goodness she is doing better. Don't know as I could have driven myself out to the airport with how bad the vertigo was on Sunday. I couldn't even get up to say welcome home when Steve got home from KC late that night. The MRI results came in Monday a.m. - negative, so the next step is an ear, nose and throat specialist to see if there is something going on in my inner ear. I get really frustrated with this all, but sooner or later we are going to get an answer. Steve is so sweet - he came home at lunch time yesterday to check on me as I was a real mess in the a.m. He brought me a Subway sandwich and a yummy cookie. And, he made dinner last night. I am getting so frustrated as I can't get out in the yard and put in more flowers and bushes. Or get my closet and drawers set up now that our bedroom furniture has all been delivered. I feel like life is going on around me and leaving me behind. I use what energy and time I have to grade and try to keep up with my students' emails. Not been a good summer!

Not much reading as I am sleeping so much because of the vertigo medication. But, I did finish listening to Kate Mosse's Labyrinth. It is a Holy Grail story with a twist - two story lines, with two women who may just be the same soul, if you believe in reincarnation as the early believers did in the medieval storyline. In 2005 an archaeological volunteer, Alice Tanner, stumbled upon the labyrinth cave, with two sets of bones, one of whom she shares dreams. This is a long listen - 16 CDs - but I loved learning more about medieval France and how the Inquisition was so strong in this area. Alice unearths relics that are links to the Holy Grail, which is not the cup we often think of and the mystery begins, with her being chased by two opposing groups who think she has the ring and/or the book that will help bring the Grail to life. Kept me listening to say the least! As far as teen appeal, the fact that Alais is only 17 at the beginning of the book may be appealing to older teenage girls, but this is not a quick read for anyone.

All for today.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Isn't he cute? This is one of the many crocs we saw while in Mexico. Makes you really wonder why anyone writes cute kids' books about crocodiles, such as Waber's classic Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile or DePaola's Bill and Pete. I loved to read the DePaola's books during storytime, but that was before I saw one up close. For a new title, go with Guji Guji by Chi-Yuan Chen - lovely story about a croc raised with a group of ducks and has to save them when his own kind decides they will be dinner. The other night we saw some nutcase on the National Geographic channel who made a croc form and crawled around with the crocs. Why do people do things like that? One look, from safely up above, via the view finder of my camera was enough for me. What a creepy deadly looking animal. Didn't help any when Steve told me about the ocean crocs off of Australia who can eat half a man in one bite. Okay - no beach visits to Australia in my future!
Steve is off to the golf course. He has been in his glory again with golfing since we moved here. So I have the house to myself for the day and an LMN Christmas in July movie marathon is on. I am in second heaven - I'm on my second movie already! :-) One of my favorites, One Special Night, with Julie Andrews and James Garner is on right now. Speaking of Julie Andrews, there were a lot of unhappy people who didn't get in to her speech at ALA. I didn't even try. But, I did go to listen to Judy Blume, who was very emotional as she spoke to the very people who love and protect her books in our collections. I have a soft spot in my heart for her because of the censorship of her Forever back in the early 90s that I dealt with in the Rib Lake SD, a small rural district in N Central Wisconsin, not so far from Wausau. I can't help but wonder if there are any copies of Forever left on the restricted shelf the school board created after I left the district. What the three administrators who went after the book didn't realize is that they shot themselves in the foot. Due to the exposure they gave to the book, including the Principal of the HS where the book had been in the collection since the 70s reading excerpts aloud at the basketball game to selective parents, bookstores were sold out and there were waiting lists at the libraries. The inflammation of the conservative parents in the school district got the relatively new to the district principal the exposure he wanted, but it also made Forever the most talked about book in the state of Wisconsin for many months. But, then again, censors are rarely logical in their thinking!
I recently read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, the latest Printz Award winner and the only graphic novel to have won this award to date. I wanted to have it read before I listened to his speech at the Printz reception at ALA. It sat in my suitcase unread as every free moment I had I slept to try to heal from the oral surgery! In some ways I am glad I waited - his speech was wonderful. It gave me the background knowledge of how he came up with the grossly stereotypical Chin-Kee, who offended at least a couple of Chinese American teens who addressed the book at a BBYA Teen Input session that I attended before the book was chosen for the award. I went into the reading experience was a great deal of respect for the author and what he went through to get this book published. Three stories lines (an ancient Chinese tale of the Monkey King, the trials of a modern day Chinese American teen who wants to fit in, and the obnoxious Chin-Kee) merge in the end, making it a fulfilling read. A gotta have for JH up. Yang was such a delightful speaker and the fact that he is a teacher was so evident in his comfort level when talking about teens.
This is my first posting in days as I am dealing with the vertigo again and it is taking all of my energy. The little I have left over I use for grading and just keeping my head above water with email and basic stuff that has to be done. I went to the doctor's again last Tuesday and she doubled the vertigo meds. and scheduled an MRI for this Tuesday. Hopefully they find something that can be "fixed" so I can get on with my life. I don't have time to be dizzy and exhausted all the time! On to grading, after I get a load of clothes in the washer. Life just keeps on moving forward, even when we can't seem to keep up with it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

My Blogger page is coming up in Spanish! Guess that is to be expected since I am in Cozumel, Mexico and Google is the Spanish version too. The pic was taken off our our balcony at 7 a.m. this morning. The beach area at it's best - quiet, with no people on it!
I am learning a bit more Spanish while staying at the resort - all of the waiters and staff have taken it upon themselves to teach us Americans a bit of Spanish. Even the taxi driver was helping out the other night. It is basically $5 to get to most places on this island and there are taxis everywhere. We only rented a car for a day to drive around the island and visit San Gervasio, the small Mayan ruins site and Punta Molas, the lighthouse area where the turtles come in to lay their eggs. We were told about the evening event that the park service has where you can help mark nests but it was in the middle of the night, ending at 3 a.m. Too late for me! We did see a number of crocodiles. I'll post one of the pics I took another day. Very creepy looking critters. Steve says they are all over the golf course!

Steve has been golfing just about every day and is playing in a tournament today. The first day he came back early with a huge tear in the seat of his shorts. When we went to dinner at the French Quarter, a lovely restaurant in San Miguel, the owner recognized Steve as the tourist with the ripped out shorts on the golf course the day before. I only had to deal with the embarrassment in the lobby, thank goodness!! I was at the front desk getting us moved to another room when he came back, red faced and undies exposed. We were moving upstairs and he had to walk up the flight of open stairs in the lobby like that! If we had stayed in the first room they put us in here at the Playa Azul I would have got on the next plane and went back home. No sleep the first night, and we had been up since 3 a.m. to catch our early flight out of Lexington. The room smelled so bad for mold that we couldn't breathe - even the sheets. YUCK!! Not only that but it was the room right off of the lobby and pool area and a wedding party came in on a late night plane and they were so loud in the lobby they may as well have been in the room with us. To make matters worse the loudest couple moved in next to us and then started chatting in front of the door at 6:30 a.m. again, when I was just starting to fall back to sleep. I was so tired and grumpy I was about it tears. The room we are in now had a sweet icky smell to it at first and we burned some candles and that helped. I think it had also been vacant for a bit because of the noisy air conditioner. But, it is big, with a separate seating area, and it is quieter, and the wireless works from the room! This resort got rave reviews on Yahoo and Travelocity, but I would only give it an okay. Yes, the staff is very friendly and nice but the swimming areas are rocky, with little sand. Guess Hurricane Wilma scoured away the sand. The pool is small and very murky. I stepped on a piece of chewed gum the first day - gross!! Full of little kids as this appears to be a popular family resort and we aren't "kid-friendly" tourists unless we have our own grandkids with us. I'd prefer something quieter. In the two hours we spent on the beach yesterday afternoon I had one little girl jump from the pier above us into the water directly next to me and send a wave of salt water right into my ear. Then she proceeded to fling her arms around to splash me. So we got out of the ocean and sat down to dry off. The little boy with the family in front of us decided to have a melt down and scream and cry because his older brother squirted him with water even though he was purposely standing in the way while the older one tried to wash sand off his feet. They left, I sighed in relief and then got nailed with water by the next group of tweens cleaning off and messing around with the hose. But, we old folks waited them out and had the place pretty much to ourselves for a little while before dinner. We were the one of two couples eating dinner here at the hotel restaurant. The fajitas were superb!
This is off season in Mexico - extremely hot! I thought I was going to have sun stroke the afternoon we wandered through the shops in San Miguel. This is a cruise ship stop so the shops are the same as the ones on St. Thomas, just more silver than in the USVI. After just a few of them I had enough. We stopped in Senor Frogs on the evening of the 4th and it was hardly crowded at all. Just a group of young Americans taking advantage of the $25 to drink all you want deal. We had one drink each and it cost us $23! We didn't say not to put it in one of the ugly huge palm tree shaped plastic tourist glasses so we got ripped off. We drank 1/2 of poorly made drinks and left them on the table. Won't go back to that place again.
The best part of the trip has been a long relaxing lunch on Polancar Beach. Fairly quiet with clean facilities, good food, friendly waiters, and a great view. We had our suits on but didn't even go in the water - just sat in the shade and enjoyed ourselves. Then we got sunburned while wandering along the trails at the Mayan ruins. Not very well kept up with few tourists around as it was later in the afternoon when we stopped. Mostly lizards sunning themselves on the rocks.
No reading I am afraid, but I have been listening to Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. It is wonderful to listen to as there are at least two storylines to follow, one in modern day France and the other during the the 13th century. It is a grail story with Alais, a 17-year-old new bride, given a ring and a book by her father, keys to a protector of the grail, when he leaves to fight in the crusades. During a dig in modern day France, Alice unearth a cave with two skeletons, a drawing of the labyrinth on the wall, and the ring, which is stolen. Two very unscrupulous French citizens (one who wants to destroy the artifacts and the other a descendent of the religious sect that created them) are after the ring and they think Alice is in danger as she was the last to have seen it in the cave. The stories intertwine with Alice have flashbacks of memories that may well suggest she is Alais in another time. I am only part way through it as it is 16 CDs long. We listened to it most of the way up and back from Green Bay. I loved it, but I think for Steve it was like having a woman talking in the car for several hours on end! I have a very tolerant husband - I had no clue it was grating on his nerves until the next day. I was more considerate on the way home. I listen to books in the car when I am by myself pretty much all the time so it seemed normal to me!
All for today. I may be in Cozumel, but I am teaching summer school so grading awaits me, just a click away on another Web site.