Monday, November 26, 2007

Yuck!! What an awful day. It has rained basically all day - think of the snow that would be on the ground if it were a bit colder. I went outside for a few minutes to see if the ties on a Christmas bow I found were long enough to put around our dog statue's neck and decided it could wait until the weather changed!

Thank goodness it was just very cold, not raining, on Saturday when we went to the races at Churchill Downs in Louisville, where the Derby is held in the summer. We were waiting for a buddy of Steve's to give us the tickets to get into his family gathering on what is called Millionaire's Row, which is basically a banquet room full of tables like at a big author dinner at ALA. Nothing fancy about it, nor about Churchill Downs really. But, the room was four stories up and you didn't have to go outside to see the races if you didn't want to. We actually were right down next to the track for the first couple races and it was really cool to hear the hoof beats so close. I made the mistake of using the restroom on that level - it wasn't heated! Let's just say my visit was as short as possible. I was really ready to be inside. We lost more than we won betting, but it was fun.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving at home, just the two of us, since both the granddaughters had pink eye and Monica had a head cold. My resistance is so low right now that, although we miss them something terrible, I am glad they didn't come down. We all would have been miserable. Thursday wasn't one of my good days so Steve ended up making most of the dinner. I had a leftover turkey sandwich for lunch today - that's my favorite part, with cranberry sauce on it too. :-)

I finally got the last of the Christmas decorations up inside. Now we just need to wait for the weather to clear up so Steve can put the grapevine deer out on the lawn. I like them better than the white ones as they look a bit more realistic, but then again - how realistic is a deer covered in white lights? Next project is to get the grandkids gifts wrapped and sent out. I did not attempt Black Friday sales shopping even though some of the prices were fantastic. We went to the eye doctor's instead. I can't believe how expensive our glasses were, even with our insurance. But then again, I didn't exactly pick cheapo frames and the no line bifocals are expensive - yes, I am too vain to wear ones where you can see the line.

My book for today is Boy Toy by Barry Lyga. I think the best adjective for this book is disturbing. I felt myself squirming and cringing as I read scenes between 12-year-old Josh and his history teacher. The poor kid honestly believed that he had seduced her while she was interviewing him for a fictitious research project, at her apartment after school. Most of the book is written from Josh's seventeen-year-old perspective, as he tries to relate to Heather, the very girl he tried to have sex with in a closet when they were 12, what had caused him to act like that 5 years ago. Sadly, his perspective, initially, isn't much more mature in relation to what happened to him than it had been when he refused to testify against the teacher in court. It took a final encounter with his molester for Josh to accept he was not at fault. This is one of those books I wish all teens would read, but I am sure it is going to be controversial.

That's it for today.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday afternoon is here and still no call from the pain clinic. This lack of promptness is getting to be a pain and I am not looking forward to calling the appointment's person at the other doctor's office and being told to be patient. Yes, I am a patient, but patient I am not!! By Monday I will be good and cranky about it when I call.

Made a quick run to WalMart to get salad makings for dinner. Steve is still doing great on the NutriSystem diet and I am still gaining and losing the same pound and a 1/2 but we have the food so may as well go for it until it is gone but man the minestrone soup I had for lunch was awful!! Wandered through the Christmas aisles but nothing piqued my fancy. Meijer has better stuff. Need to go to Garden Ridge and Michael's next time.

Pretty proud of myself - two final exams written and ready to go. I didn't want them haunting me during the Thanksgiving Break. I am going to curl up and watch old movies with Steve. We both love them, though I go more for the romance and Christmas movies and he goes for the military ones. We both love the humorous ones. I want to watch the Nick and Norah Christmas one again. Very funny and how can you not love Asta the dog?

For those of you looking for a cute present for your kid's teacher or for yourself, take a look at the delightful Mrs. Spitzer's Garden by Edith Pattou. The illustrations by Tricia Tusa are adorable - who knew how express flowers could be? It is a feast for the eyes and the comparison to students in her elementary classroom to the garden she tends is wonderful. The tidbit on the back book jacket flap states that Pattou wrote the book as a gift for her daughter's kindergarten teacher. The nurturing, watchful way of a teacher is very much like that of gardener. :-) I also like that it is smaller in size than a regular picture book - fits the story line. This one I am keeping for myself. Many of you already have this in your collection, personal or library, as it was initially published in 2001 but Harcourt brought it back out in a new gift edition - that's the one I have.

The weekend is almost here and I can finish decorating the tree! :-) We are going see Trans-Siberian Orchestra tomorrow night. I can't wait - I love their Christmas CDs and DVDs. Mary saw them in Green Bay a few years ago and loved them and I was so jealous. Now they are here in Lexington.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I am exhausted! I sure don't have the stamina or strength I used to. Mary and I could go shopping all day and then still have energy to do something that evening. I spent a couple hours in Kohl's doing Christmas shopping for the grand kids and I am wiped out - and so is my charge card! Found lots of cool stuff for all four of them and even a couple things for McKinley who isn't even here yet. I am sure the fact that it was a one day only 50% off sale made the store more crowded than usual on a weekday afternoon, but it was also senior citizen day and they were meandering around the store at a leisurely pace slowing down all us type A personality moms and grammas who move as fast as we can without taking anyone out in the process.

Then I sat on hold with the doctor's office to find out that yes they had faxed the request for an appointment to the pain clinic and it might be a few more days before they contact me. How hard is it to pick up a phone and call to set up an appointment? I am not supposed to do it - I am supposed to wait until they call. Yes, I am getting a bit grumpy with doctor's office, waiting 2 hours to get in for appointments, etc.

Okay, deep breath - AHHHH!! Now to talk about another gentle book. I really love Norma Fox Mazer's writing. A search on B&N shows 127 items. I am delighted to see Out of Control still in print as I think it is one of best YA novels available about ostracism of a teen who is the victim. Valerie is accosted on the school stairs by three jocks who sexually harass her, grabbing and roughly fondling her. When she reports it, she becomes the victim. I also love When She Was Good - a very raw and difficult look at a teenage girl who has been victimized for so long her mentally unstable older sister that she does not know what to do when her sister is dead. On a much gentler side is Baby Face, which I wrote about in the blog a bit ago. Mazer has written so many other wonderful middle grade and YA novels and a few picture books too. I couldn't resist Ten Ways to Make My Sister Disappear when I realized it was by Mazer. Not only do I love the title, I love the cover art as well - it just calls to girls in 3rd-5th grade. A girl sitting with her arm around her dog , with her sister's feet floating off the page above her in a cloud. Love the smile/smirk on her face. Sprig is ten and her sister Dakota just turned twelve. "Boom!" Just like that, like something fell out of the sky and hit her on the head, she also turned bossy and know-it-all." This change in her sister's personality is difficult for Sprig as she wears her heart on her sleeve and when she is upset she cries, making Dakota tease her even more. But, Sprig has good reason to cry as they find out their father is going to be working in Afghanistan for several months and Sprig is worried he might not come home. Mazer explores the fears of a shy 10-year-0ld who loses her anchor, her father, and is dealing with a preoccupied mother and a bratty sister. I have never had a sister so I don't know how accurate the depiction of interaction between sisters is, but this book works for me. :-) And, I think the 8 -10 year olds with older sisters, and the older sisters who read it, will enjoy it as well.

I am enjoying the first Christine Feehan novella about a reclusive rock star who was terribly burned in a fire trying to rescue his children, who were already out of the house. They are now young teens and the woman who has cared for them for years will reawaken feelings in him. Remember - these are paranormal romances!! I forgot how sensual these books are. She never uses any private anatomy terms but you know exactly what she is writing about. I have to chuckle when I see teenage girls, some tweens even, walking around with romances written for adults. They can be downright steamy. I snuck the ones that were around our house growing up but most of it went over my head.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I am just now starting to come out of my funk over the MRI test results. I had an appointment with the neck specialist on Friday and he shared the results with me. I have nerve impingement at the C 1 & 2 vertebrae, which explains the vertigo symptoms as well as the throbbing headache at the base of my skull. I also have herniations between each of the vertebrae from C 3 through C 7. The weakness and numbness in my right arm has gotten worse and I no longer have a reflex in my upper right side. No fix in sight as surgery isn't an option. He is referring me to a pain management specialist and I am waiting to hear when my first appointment is. The assumption is they will do injections to help ease the pain and swelling. I was so hoping for a quick fix and felt sorry for myself most of the weekend. Had a follow up with my regular GP yesterday and she went over the results with me again in easier to understand terms. She has a beside manner! With something like this where you look normal, other than a bit tired, it is hard not to feel like a hypochondriac as you look fine to everyone else. She prescribed an anti-inflammatory that has yet to begin working, other than to make me sick to my stomach. I have been keeping Walgreen's pharmacy in business with all the different medications they have tried.

On the positive side, I decided with all that bad news I deserved a bit of holiday joy so I went to Macy's and bought myself a starter set of the Spode Christmas tree dishes I had some of years ago when the kids were little. They are gorgeous but very expensive even with the discount. But, now I have something else Christmasy to collect. :-) We do have the tree up already and I am enjoying the lights but I have yet to put any ornaments on it.

I finished the Bill Wallace holiday treat - The Dog Who Thought He Was Santa. What a great read aloud at home with your kids of all ages. The main character, Don, is eleven, but he has a little sister who is a delight so the whole elementary age spectrum would enjoy it. My favorite chapters are the ones that Frank, the family bloodhound, narrates. Such wisdom! He knows human behavior better than we do. Heck, he can smell a lie a mile away, especially when it is one of his family telling it. Set in Oklahoma in the 50s, this is a gentle family story that will become a classic for reading aloud during the holidays. You can't help but laugh when Frank discovers what Susan wants for Christmas and is mortified that such a creature could be added to their family.

My other treat to myself is to read a book that is not for children or YAs. I found a sale copy of A Christine Feehan Holiday Treasury - a collection of three novellas with a Christmas setting. I love Feehan's series about the paranormal Drake sisters and want to read the whole series when I have time. Only read two of them so far. Too many books, so little time. Have yet to delve into her vampire books but would like to explore those as well. Her books are complete escapism reading for me.

That's it for today. It is already dark outside - I hate daylight savings time. I'd rather it be lighter longer in the evening than in the morning. The weather was so dark and dreary today it never did get very light outside. I have had the tree lights on all day to brighten up the house a bit. At least we got quite a bit of rain this morning. Our new little spruce tree in the front yard is doing so well. Now if only we could keep rude people from letting their dang dogs pee on it when they walk them!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Well, we didn't make it to the basketball game last night, which is fine since they got slaughtered. It turned out to be a much better evening. After our "delicious" NutriSystem dinner we headed out to find Hobby Lobby. Not only did we find it, we left with a 9 foot tall Christmas tree. :-) Steve put it up last night as he knew I couldn't resist doing so today and would be trying to get it out of the box myself. The darn thing is in 4 parts and takes up a good portion of our living room! I want to get most of it trimmed before the granddaughters get here and Ally can help me with a few of the decorations.

I am not going to be one of the stars of NutriSystem, though perhaps Steve could be. I got excited when I lost 2 lbs, but not only have I put those back on, I added a 1/2 pound on top of it! GRRRR!!! And, I am turning into a rabbit from all of the salad I have been eating. I was craving bread so I had the Sloppy Joe for lunch as I could have it on a bun. YUCK!! I took two Tums right afterward as I knew it was going to mess with my stomach. But, I have to say the dinner entrees are really tasty in most cases. I am stopping at the store every other day to buy lettuce, radishes, mushrooms, etc. We are eating healthy but I do see the pounds sliding off, but Steve has lost close to 10 already. I am very jealous.

I finished The Bonemender's Choice last night and I sighed at the ending. Made me happy - I read so many realistic problem novels the happy endings in fantasy are a nice change. I really like Holly Bennett's writing style and noticed she also has a YA novel called Warrior's Daughter. I thought I received all of Orca's YA titles but I don't remember seeing it in on my shelves. Will have to look closer as I'd like to read it since it is loosely based on an Irish legend. I love this kind of fantasy. Well, in all honesty - I just love fantasy. If I could read just want I wanted to I'd pretty much stick with fantasy and a few historical romances here and there. But, not an option for someone who teaches children's and YA literature and does presentations on all genres of youth literature. I just started a Christmas book - no surprise! A Bill Wallace title where the boy and the family dog are the narrators. I was chuckling in the office while waiting to get in for my MRI this morning. A dog's perspective on a family can be quite amusing. Will write more about it when I finish it.

All for today. Off to the doctor's again tomorrow to find out what the results are of the cervical MRI. Just want some closure on this!!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I did well with postings for a couple of days in a row. Then I got caught up in doctor visits, etc. Weakness in my right side is worse so I go in for a new cervical MRI tomorrow and right back to the neck specialist on Friday. The new pain medication he gave doesn't work worth a flip so I hope this MRI offers up some answers. At this point I'd be happy to hear surgery could fix it. I had not realized how tired a person can get when experiencing pain over long periods of time - this has been going on since late May.

A friend gave us tickets to go to a basketball game at Rupp Arena tonight, but he just called to say the game doesn't even start until 9:00. He said he totally understood if we didn't use the tickets because of that. This old lady is normally in bed reading by that time of night. But, Steve thought it might take my mind off my neck. We also could have gone to a UK hockey game last Saturday night, but they play at Midnight! That is absolutely crazy. Perhaps when I was in my 20s I would have been up for freezing my fanny at that time of night, but not now. I hate daylight savings time as it gets dark so early. It is only 5:00 and the sun is starting to set - it will be dark by 6:00. I'd rather it be dark in the morning.

Thanksgiving is coming up and I need to start thinking about recipes for fun foods since we will have Monica and family down. The two girls, Isabella and Olivia Gerasole, who wrote The Spatulatta Cookbook would probably do better with making fun stuff with our granddaughters than I could. I really do like this kids' cookbook. Spiral bound so it sits flat and has thick slick heavy stock pages so spills will easily wipe off. Up close color photographs of the two girls in the kitchen busy with their recipes add a touch of fun as they look like they are loving every moment of it.

I am winding my way to the end of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and am almost disappointed it is coming to an end, but it has been a long listen - about 15 CDs. I am afraid I just may be sounding a bit like a prissy British woman if I listen too much longer! I can see older teens being interested in this book as much of the book focuses on the main character and her twin sister when they were children and teens. The narrator also focuses on the loss of her twin in a very spooky way. The author has a way with beautiful descriptive passages that are glorious to listen to, but unlike a book, I don't stop the CD and "re-read" them as I would if I were reading the text. They just hang in the air for a bit and make me smile as I can see in detail what she describes. The narrator's love of books is so intense that it vibrates off the page and into the soul of those of us who too are book lovers. This is the perfect book to give as a Christmas gift to someone you know is always surrounded by books, especially books set in a time long past, such as Wuthering Heights. It is a perfect curl up and read after a Christmas dinner book.

On my bedside table is the third book in the Bonemender's series - The Bonemender's Choice by Holly Bennett. I was enchanted by the main character Gabrielle in the first book, The Bonemender, and was further wrapped up in her life as she falls in love with an elf and seeks him on the battle field, hoping the next man brought to her for healing is not him in The Bonemender's Oath. In the third book in the series, Gabrielle's niece and nephew are stolen by pirates and while in the pirate stronghold the girl contracts the Grey Veil, a plague like condition that produces a gray membrane that covers the throat and eventually kills. I am about 2/3s of the way through and still don't know if Gabrielle's healing powers will be able to save her or not. I love how close knit Gabrielle's family is and how they have even taken into their own one of the enemy (from the second book) after Gabrielle heals his battle injuries. He and his lady love help rescue the kids. A wonderful fantasy series to offer to JH and HS age girls. Girls who love Tamora Pierce's books would like Bennett's as well. I am hooked. When the box of Orca books came in, I reached for this one first.

All for today.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I wish I were one of those people who could work well in small chunks of time. I do fine with finishing household chores like that, but not actual work. Knowing I have to leave for a doctor's appointment shortly makes it impossible for me to concentrate on much as I need time to settle in to what I am doing - be it grading, writing a review, a booktalk, etc. So I deal with email, which takes much too much of our time these days, and little things. Lately, my whole life has been been broken up into little chunks of time with physical therapy three times a week, virtual meetings, etc. getting in the way of long blocks of time to work.

I was reading Jim Arnosky's book - Whole Days Outdoors: An Autobiographical Album and wish I could be like that. He writes and/or draws for a bit and then goes outside and does something and then goes back to it. This short autobiography is a delight to read and one to share with boys and I think many males work better with short blocks of time and different activities. I lose my train of thought and my flow if I am interrupted in the middle of something. I guess it is a good thing I work from home most of the time as I am easily distracted. When I am working I look up and it may be an hour or more later. If my body didn't insist on bathroom breaks (too often as I consume large amount of diet coke and water) I could sit and work for hours. But, I need to know I have those hours to work without having to stop for an appointment, etc. I guess we all work differently.

Speaking of boys - elementary and MS libraries have to get a copy of The Boys' Book: How to be the Best at Everything by Dominique Enright and Guy MacDonald. Guys loves to read tidbits of information and this book is perfect for the boys who can't sit still to read. There are short, one of two pages, sets of directions on everything from how to do an ollie, see through your hand, play the toilet paper roll, race stick boats, read someone's mind, juggle, etc. You name it - the directions are here. I love the Note to Readers - "The publisher and authors disclaim any liability for accidents or injuries that may occur as a result of information given in this book." Boys will be boys. I remember the story of one of my brothers breaking his shoulder blade, falling while trying to roll a barrel and then another brother doing the same thing. Perhaps to prove it could be done. I cannot believe my mother once said I was more trouble to raise than all three boys combined. She must have forgotten by then some of their childhood antics!!

I finished Stephanie Meyer's Eclipse this weekend. It was patiently waiting for me to finish review books first. Although I enjoyed it as much as the first two, Twilight and New Moon, I did get a bit tired of Bella's hysterical outbursts. She is an emotional mess, but then again I am sure I would be if I were about to be married, for eternity, to a vampire and was also, but just a little bit less, in love with the werewolf I once thought of as my best friend. I did like the dynamics between the vampires and werewolves and impatiently wait for book four. Meyer has me hooked just as she does thousands of tween and teenage girls.

That's it for today - time to jump in the car and head to the doctor's. Hope he has some good news for me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bummer - we didn't get very many trick-or-treaters last night. Had to chuckle over the teenage guy with the bandanna over his face and in his regular street clothes with a pillow case. His buddy stood in our driveway, acting embarrassed. Mostly little pirates this year, even girl pirates. And princesses, of course. We had one large group of kids show up and one of the little guys (about 6 or 7) asked me if we were watching Blade, which we were. This is a pretty darn violent vampire killer movie with Wesley Snipes. What kind of parent allows a kid that young to watch this movie? He recognized it just from the background noise as he waited at the door for his candy! But, now we have bags and bags of candy left and it is calling to me - at least the stuff I can eat is!!

I was almost embarrassed to be watching that movie while kids were coming up to the door last night as it is so kid inappropriate, but they couldn't see the screen from the door. It is funny how I enjoy vampire movies, and the series we have had on TV, including the new one on Friday nights after Ghost Whisperer - can't think of the name of it at the moment - but a vampire detective is pretty cool and the actor isn't hard on the eyes either. :-) I am one of those people who cannot watch slasher movies or many of the other horror movies that have "real" people in them, but the supernatural ones don't bother me anywhere as much. When the stake goes in - that isn't a real person being killed. I still turn my head a lot - heck, I turn my head when Ducky is doing an autopsy on my favorite show, NCIS. I don't mind a scare now and then, but I want it on my terms! Guess this is all on my mind as I just started reading the third Meyer's book Eclipse. Bella is certainly caught between two supernaturals - a werewolf and a vampire - both of whom love her. I laughed out loud when Jacob, the werewolf, indignantly tells her, "At least I'm human!"

Not anywhere as scary, but I think I will wait a few years before I give a copy to my 4-year-old grandson Michael, is Graeme Base's (a.k.a. Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc.) The Discovery of Dragons: New Research Revealed. It is a reissue of the 1996 edition with a new section on New World dragons. I love this book! Although younger kids will enjoy looking at the stunning full-page illustrations of Base's gorgeous, gross, weird dragons from Europe, Asia, the Tropics and the New World, tweens and teens will be the ones who "get" the humor of the letters written by the explorers in each region. Being Scandinavian probably added to the delight for me, but the letters from Bjorn of Bromme to his bad-tempered cousin, Olaf the Grim, are a hoot. Adding to the humorous text are wonderful "comic strips" along the bottom of the page that add depth to the tales. This is a gotta have book in elementary through high school. Today's teens are very much visual learners and we need to take that into account - purchasing as many age appropriate picture book formatted books as possible. Put this one near the graphic novel or fantasy section and the teens will be eating it up. Oh yeah - it was really cool - in Constantine, Keanu Reeve's exorcist character has a tool of some kind that contained dragon's breath.

Okay, on to other work for the day - like finding the top of my desk, which hasn't been visible for the entire month of October!