Monday, June 25, 2007

Hello from DC. I made it through it all, with only missing a couple of publisher breakfasts because my face was so swollen and my jaw hurt too much to even think about food of any kind! Been slurping soup in my room so no one has wait for me while I try to cut up food small enough to swallow without chewing, other than in my front teeth like a mouse. You'd think I'd lose weight this way - not a chance. All the things I can eat - soy ice cream, soft cookies, spaghetti string french fries, etc. are very fattening. I attempted salad at the Margaret A. Edwards Luncheon and that was a terrible mistake. OUCH!!

Attended one meeting with an ice bag on my face and others where people who only see me at ALA functions didn't initially recognize me because my face was so swollen. I told them I was impersonating a chipmunk. Also had a lovely greenish yellow bruise running from my right upper jaw all the way down to my chest. I have discovered I must have a very high pain threshold, or am incredibly stupid to have come to ALA, but I have loved every session and meeting I attended. Coming to ALA is like coming to twice a year family reunions. I get to catch up with BBYA friends from the mid-90s when we were all on the committee with Mike Printz and those I was on the Newbery, Carnegie, Printz and other committees. For me YALSA is my family and ALSC and AASL are the extended families.

The YALSA preconference on Friday was wonderful. I'll talk more about it when I can. I just packed away my notes and will go back to them when things settle down a bit. Listening to the Printz award winners for 2007 tonight was a wonderful way to end the conference. There were 700 people in the audience! I remember back in 2000 when it started and it was a small reception with a handful of die-hard YALSA members who showed up for the 8-10 p.m. time slot. The support for this YA literature version of the Pulitzer is fantastic!

That's it for me for now. Don't know as I'll get back here tomorrow as I imagine I'll be exhausted when I get home tomorrow afternoon. I go see the oral surgeon on Wednesday. I hope I hear good news but I suspect it isn't healing as quickly as it should as I didn't give it a chance to do so.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I apologize profusely for not posting for days and days. I have been in quite a funk. Initially, I was frantically reading for the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee meetings at ALA in DC, working on the booktalks for tomorrow's workshop here in Lexington, and reading for reviews. I was barely keeping my nose above the water with all that and teaching summer school, but I was doing okay. Then the hammer hit in the form of vertigo. Almost 2 weeks of this now. After falling on my face in the closet, with the room spinning and my vision jittering back and forth, and then hitting my nose on the faucet just trying to wash my face Steve came home from work and took me to the doctor's. Diagnosis was the kind of vertigo where things spin around you. Thank goodness I don't have the kind that I feel like I am spinning. I would hate to be the Tasmanian Devil! Moving my head too quickly or leaning back or forward really send things spinning and my eyes jittering. The doctor put me on a motion sickness medication and it works, but it slows me down and makes me tired. I don't have time to be sick! Tomorrow could prove to be interesting as I will be presenting from up on a stage.

When it rains, it pours. I went in to get my teeth cleaned on Tuesday and the x-rays were not good. The dentist doesn't even want to deal with one of the teeth that an island dentist botched a filling on until I have the wisdom tooth next to it taken out as it is resting on the root and the nerve. So, in preparation for another root canal, I had an oral surgeon consultation yesterday. All three of my wisdom teeth are right up against the nerve and may well be making the vertigo symptoms worse. At 7:15 Monday morning all 3 will be removed. I sure hope the swelling and pain are down before I leave for ALA in DC on Thursday. But, since I am only home for a couple of days after I get back from ALA before we drive up to Green Bay for a family gathering on Saturday at Mary's and then flying out for a week in Cozumel on Monday. No time in between to recuperate and most important is that I am feeling well enough to enjoy our vacation. Can't wait to wander the small ruins there. Steve is in second heaven as the resort we are staying at has no greens fees. I was looking at the spa options and saw a reflexology foot massage - that's for me!

Father's Day on Sunday. Steve received some really cute pictures of Michael and Kegan from Mary. Can't wait to see Kegan - the only grandchild I didn't see within a short period after birth. I feel like I am missing out on some of the best time with Kegan. But, I was not about to go up to Green Bay to visit with Mary and Scott remodeling their bathroom. Scott is doing the tile work himself and I know Mary is as persnickety about things being "perfect" as I am. Poor Scott! I didn't want to get in the middle of that. No way!! Can't wait to see it. Mary has also been doing a lot of yard work.

Anne sent me pictures of their house in Finland with the lilacs in full bloom. The house looks like many of the ones I grew up around in Upper Michigan. She also sent me a picture of rhubarb, but she didn't call it that. She wondered if I knew what it was. Boy do I! I love rhubarb. When I was a kid we used to dip the stalks in sugar and chew on them raw, but they work best cut up and mixed with strawberries in a pie. Yum! I had red rhubarb growing in front of the house in Alaska and it grew very well with the long days of summer. Steve wrinkles his nose over rhubarb like I do over lima beans so I guess I won't be making anything with rhubarb in it soon.

Nothing really to write about other than my frustration with the vertigo and wishing it would just go away so I could go back to being a "Speedy Gonzales" Type A. I wanted to scream when the doctor told me I just had to learn to slow down. Yeah - right! My inner response was, "Like that is going to happen!" But, the dizziness and fatigue have certainly slowed me down. I am so tired at the end of the day that I haven't even read in bed. Our Mama/kitty reading time in the a.m. recently has been spent with The White Tyger by Paul Park, but I am not impressed. I am sure it is because I have not read the first two books in the series. I feel lost a good portion of the time as I am lacking foundation knowledge about the characters and what is going on. It is very well written - a bit of a head-trip book - which I think I would enjoy if I had read the other two in the series first. Some series just need to be read as a whole since the books don't stand alone. I normally love alternate history novels but this one isn't as intriguing as Blackman's Naughts and Crosses. I need to get a copy of Knife Edge, the sequel in which Sephy is a singer and raising her mixed race daughter alone. When Callie, Callum's daughter, is fourteen she finds out how and why her father died. So many books, so little time! Please excuse my errors - the medication makes me a bit dopey along with being tired.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I am trying to keep my head still as I type this. Some weird kind of "flu" hit yesterday with a vicious headache and dizziness and hasn't given up on me yet, but I don't have time to be sick! I even had to turn down Steve's offer to go to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Mi Mexico, last night for dinner. No way could I have had one of their yummy margaritas as I was already dizzy! Bummer!!

We finally got rain yesterday!! More than rain - hail and tornado warnings. I watched the hail hit my car in the driveway and wished I had put it in the garage, but the hail didn't get nickle size as the forecast warned it might. Steve called and told me to turn on the TV for the warnings and to head for the bathtub if the wind picked up. He came home earlier than usual, which sure reduced my storm stress. I wondered how one of the guys he works with was doing as the cover for his little convertible isn't working and he has been using a shower curtain instead. First he used rocks, or it might have been bricks, to hold it down, but moved "up" to clothes pins to keep it on. Wonder if it stayed put with the high winds and hail yesterday. The rocks would have been a better idea under the circumstances. I could just see him going out to his car at the end of the day, opening the door and having water pour out! Convertibles are still strange to me. I am startled each time I walk into our garage and see 1/2 of a car! And Sophie decided it is a fun place to curl up and sleep if she can sneak into the garage when we open the door. Steve isn't too keen on that - heaven forbid, she might scratch the leather or paint when she climbs/jumps out.

Sunday evening we went to see The Producers at the little Opera House on Broadway. Yes, on Broadway, but in downtown Lex. :-) There is no bad seat in this little theater. We have our own copy of the movie and love it, but I had not seen the play before and it was delightful. Actually, much funnier. Steve is very good at remembering lines from movies and plays, etc. and he has been channeling Leo Bloom, pointing at my poor cat and sputtering, "Fat, fat, fat, fat...." Sophie has no idea what he is doing but I am cracking up at him and she is looking at us like we are both crazy. He said I sounded like Leo the when I was sputtering, "Won't work, won't work..." at the remote when I couldn't get it to change the channel. Never a dull moment in the Clark household! :-) We may buy seasons passes for next year - 6 shows, including Cats, which I saw in NYC way back in the mid 90s. We had poor seats in that theater so I can't wait to see it here in Lexington.

I love old movies and Broadway shows, especially those based on beloved books. If you haven't read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, put it on your summer reading list. You will feel totally different about Elphaba (Yes, even witches have names) than how you did after watching the movie. Elphaba was born green due to her mother's clandestine love affair - it's not her fault! She becomes a real person who loves and hurts, just like everyone else in this novel. I also enjoyed Son of a Witch, the sequel. Who figured Elphaba had a child, one she raises but does not acknowledge as her biological son. The other Maguire book I love is Lost, a mystery set in England, with a woman moving into a house that is haunted by the person who Dickens' character Scrooge is based on. And, is it Jack the Ripper's body in the wall? A delicious ghost story. I want to read Mirror, Mirror - it is on my "gotta read" list with a myriad of other great books. I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly and read it from back to front as the book reviews are in the back. I keep starring books I want to read and pull out the pages. I have a stack of those pages! So many books, so little time!!

I don't always realize that Steve actually does listen to me when I chatter on about the books I love. He knows I love Broadway shows and book combinations so my darling husband gave me the soundtrack for Wicked, which I can't wait to listen to, and Wicked: The Grimmerie, A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hit Broadway Musical by David Cote, with photographs by Joan Marcus. I was curled up with the beautiful book last night. It is gorgeous. Love the picture of little green infant Elphaba. The time line starting with Baum's birth and ending in 2005, when the book was published, is a delight. I knew about the many additional titles Baum wrote about Oz due to the popularity of his first Oz book, but I didn't realize that after his death other authors kept writing them and there are now 40 books in the series. Would love to have first editions of the ones Baum wrote - they have such weird green illustrations, but I love them. I wonder how many people only know about the movie. All these years later there is still a fan club with many members, a newsletter, and conferences where they meet and discuss research on Baum, etc. I am not that much of a fan, but if I had the time I would take the whole set of books Baum wrote and find a nice Caribbean hotel to take them to, and read in a hammock under a palm tree!

Now to get some grading done. My students are writing some fantastic booktalks! :-)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I am sitting here watching The Today Show and wishing I were with Matt in Havana, Cuba! I recognize all of the places shown after two visits to that absolutely gorgeous Caribbean country. Of all the islands I have visited, the people in Cuba are the most friendly and helpful. I had such fun with the children, many of whom spoke English. I was enchanted with the National Library's Children's Room. It was full of children working on homework and curled up reading when I visited. They were very friendly, though some were shy. The middle school we visited had hand written cards in the catalog and their pride in the books they had, though few, was clear. Their little one room library was packed to the gills with students doing research from old almanacs and atlases. No Internet terminals. The literary rate in Cuba is one of the highest in the world. Puts the U.S. to shame. The statement was made this morning that the average daily salary in Cuba is 50 cents. Although there are no homeless people on the beach and streets like I have seen in other Caribbean countries, the quality of housing is deplorable in many instances. The beautiful old buildings in Old Havana are falling down around their heads. The issue of the rich Cubans who left Cuba when Castro took control returning to Cuba and taking back their property came up, which won't happen. We are the only country who doesn't have an involvement in this country's economy. The beaches are full of Canadians and Europeans. And, U.S. products are purchased in the "$ stores" in Cuba. A bottle of Johnson's Baby Shampoo is almost $9! I frequently the $ store near the hotel for my Diet Coke, although it wasn't the "real thing" as it was a foreign made Coke product, sweetened with something else. The cola in Cuba is sweet and syrupy and not at all pleasant to drink. But, the rum is to die for! :-) Fascinating - baseball, boxing, and ballet - the three "B's" in Cuba. I knew about the baseball, but not the other two.

There has been a huge book challenge in the Miami-Dade schools about Vamos a Cuba by Alta Schreier, one of many titles in the Heinemann Raintree series of books on countries. This is the Spanish edition of the series, which is also available in English. This books infuriated Miami Cubans because it portrayed Cuba in a positive light.
The ACLU got involved to voice their disagreement with what the School Board did - they ignored the Advisory Committee's decision and the Superintendent's recommendation to keep the book in the school libraries and voted to remove the entire series from the schools! Cases like this show how emotional censorship cases can become. Anyone who says we don't have an emotional response to books hasn't read about this controversy! So much for the idea of a variety of points of view should be available to children and teens! Rather than removing the book, find another to balance the information available. With this response to the book, the school board acted like the Cuban government - remove any book that doesn't agree with their point of view. Ironic to say the least!

My Cuba "fix" on NBC is almost over so I need to get my act together and refocus on booktalks! :-)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Sophie is exhausted from making sure Mommy and Daddy were awake at 6:05. I swear this cat is better than any alarm clock around. The problem is, Steve's alarm doesn't go off until 6:20 so she deprives us of a good 15 minutes of sleep! So now she is fast asleep on the floor by me, spread eagle on her back - such a lady-like cat! We were so tired last night we gave up on watching There's Something About Mary in bed. Yes, the cable guy came yesterday and hot wired the outlet! I have the Today Show on as I type this. Although I was yawning like crazy, I was also laughing as I hadn't seen this movie is years - Cameron Diaz looks like a baby! Wow- lots of Diaz movies I have not seen, including The Invisible Circus, which really looks good. I love movies that are set in various areas in Europe as I have yet to travel to Europe.

As I type this the page proofs for Tantalized Tidbits 2: More Booktalks for the Busy High School Library Media Specialist are printing. :-) I need to add the final page #s in the index and table of contents, check for typo errors and we are good to go! I have until the 5th to get it back to Linworth so will be spending most of today with the manuscript. Once this is done I need to get some articles written based on all the data I have been getting from my students as to how their teens are responding to the different styles of booktalks. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

The weekend is upon us again and we are still in drought-like conditions here in Lexington. No rain in over 2 weeks. It is so darn hot and dry. Hazy and sunny and 68 degrees already and up to 90 this afternoon. No humidity to speak of so it not like Houston was. Maybe some rain on Sunday. I should get out there and water my babies and maybe even feed them. But, can't do that until I get the page-proofing done.

If and when I start on Tantalizing Tidbits for Middle Schoolers 2, Suzanne Crowley's debut novel, The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous, will be included. I absolutely loved this book. Part of it may be because it is set in small town West Texas and I love the down-home feel and the great tidbits of rural speech. The small town of Jumbo, TX helps the Monroe family raise Merilee, who exhibits Asperger Syndrome symptoms. Merilee has a daily schedule of what she does to help her keep her V.O.E. - Very Ordered Existence - intact. Overall her family is supportive, other than a bratty sister and the very sharp tongued Grandma Birdy, who I initially disliked but you can't help but change your mind about her, at least a bit, when you find out what her earlier years were like. Biswick and Veraleen are newcomers to Jumbo and they most certainly mess with Merilee's V.O.E. Biswick bubbles over with bits of trivia and data, but has absolutely no social skills and has the audacity to eat Merilee's purple Tootsie Pops without asking! Biswick and Veraleen, a herbalist/nurse who was fired from a nearby hospital, quickly become a part of the Monroe family, much to Grandma Birdy's dismay when Veraleen outdoes her in the kitchen. Merilee was quoting Shakespeare at age 3, and at age 13 she is into the classics, which her mother buys a new box of books for her each month so that Merilee can curl up in a leather chair in Mama's bookstore and read. I love this young teen and adore this book. A gotta have for every MS/JH library. It will be out from HarperCollins in September.

GRRR!! Been fighting with the printer while working on this. First it jammed, then it ran out of black ink, then it jammed again, and yet again! I am sure it is because I am recycling paper to print on the back, but talk about frustrating. Let's hope the last few pages make it through this print cycle without jamming or something else happening. Listening to Big and Rich as I type this. One of them looks like a throw-back from the 60s (think Bob Dylan but with a better voice!) and the other looks just like a country bubba, but with a dress shirt and tie. They are certainly a weird duo! I do love their Lost in a Moment and their silly Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy! :-) Reminds me - I need to order tickets for Allison Krause - she will be here in Lexington next month.

Printing is done - need to start proofing.