Thursday, December 27, 2007

How is it that time goes so much faster when on vacation? The day is gone before you know it. May be in part because we sleep in a bit later and I read with Sophie a little longer in the morning. :-)

Called the pain management doctor today to see if I could start physical therapy again and he was not happy to hear that I had even been to the gym and did a few things with my arms. I guess my brain was as numb as my neck as I don't remember him telling me I had to be careful as I could hurt myself without realizing it. Well, now I know as I am hurting again. The numbness has worn off and I am scheduled for another set of cervical facet injections next Wednesday. Now that I know how darn awful they feel (combination of pain and pressure) I am even more nervous about them.

So today when Steve went to the gym to work out a bit, I went along and just walked on the track for a mile. Even that tired me out! I hate this - I have great days and do too much and then have bad days. So I'm sitting with a heating pad again. It can take several times with the injections before long term pain relief so I just need to suck it up and deal with it.

I am listening to The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks on my MP3 player as I walk. I have been listening to it for quite awhile as I haven't been doing much of that lately. The book is one you ponder about after just a few minutes of listening to it as the idea of someone always watching you and a foundation trying to eliminate anyone who thinks for themselves sounds a bit too real these days. The ones they are really scared of are the people who have a gene that allows them to travel through time. For generations the Travelers have been eliminated whenever found. I think teenage guys would love this book because of all the fighting, especially the Harlequins, with their swords. They have been trainedfor generations to protect the Travelers, who have ushered in changes in history. The Travelers is book one in the Fourth Realm Trilogy. Dark River, book two is out, but I haven't downloaded it yet. I am sure I will as I am thoroughly loving book one. Some days the idea of living "off the grid" - where no one can find you through a trail of paperwork - sounds pretty good. Especially when the mailbox is full of junk mail.

I was feeling lonesome for the kids on Christmas Eve so we went to see the second National Treasure movie to keep my mind occupied. I liked it better than the first one as Jon Voigt has a bigger part in the movie and his ex-wife is one feisty anthropology professor played by Helen Mirren. Clearly she loved this part and said she did most of her own stunts. Clues hidden national monuments and the president's desk results in more than a bit of a history lesson but in an enjoyable manner. Just seeing Mount Rushmore in the movie made me smile as I remember when we got to the park, it was raining and the clouds had settled in around the faces. We walked all the way out to the closest viewing area and couldn't see anything. We hung around for quite awhile, but gave up and walked back and got ready to leave. The dog had to pee so while I was walking Coco the breeze picked up and blew the clouds away, one face at a time. It was incredible. Took my breath away. And we would have missed it if it weren't for a tiny dog's tiny bladder! :-)

My morning reading has been The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. A superb junior high age book. English teachers will love this one as it makes Shakespeare sound like something rambunctious, adventurous young teenage guys could get into, with all the violence and cussing! Because Holling isn't Jewish or Catholic, he is stuck in the classroom with Mrs. Baker while all the other kids are off to their lessons. This is where Shakespeare comes in - Holling is expected to read and understand it. His knowledge of Shakespeare results in him playing Ariel (in yellow tights with white feather on the butt - much to his dismay) in The Tempest on stage. He was so good at the part that his picture, flying through the air in a jump, ends up on the front page of the local paper - him in tights! Not a good thing for a teenage guy. The book is set during the Vietnam War era and Mrs. Baker's husband is missing in action, Holling's sister wants to be a flower child, and Holling would just like his father to pay attention to him other than to make sure he doesn't hurt the family's architecture business by offending anyone who might have an influence on if his father's company getting the contract for a new building. No vulgar language, no sex scenes to worry about - a perfect book for classroom reading. This one is going to win some kind of award - or at least it should. :-)

All for today.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Good heavens - 10 days since my last post. How fast this Holiday Season is going! Last weekend Steve and I went to see a Christmas concert in our very lovely little Opera House downtown. Two local girls who have made it good on Broadway - one of them plays the lead in Legally Blonde and the other one is the dance team captain and dances in A Chorus Line. I thoroughly enjoyed it as they sang holiday songs, and a few Broadway tuns from their shows, with a local jazz band. I think Steve did well with tolerating it because he isn't into Holiday music. We drove by the wonderful downtown Christmas lights, including the very large tree in front of Court House, which someone had run into earlier that day. How they ran into it is beyond me as to where it is, but they had it fixed.

Yesterday we made it until half-time at the Cincinnati Bengal's game. We got there pretty early as Steve wasn't sure where to park. Of course we found the parking lot ($25!!) quickly and had to either sit or stand in the cold and wind and wait for the game to start. I had tights, wool pants, two sweaters, my winter jacket and a scarf wrapped around my head under my hood and I was still freezing. Every time I'd get the freezing cold seat warmed up I had to stand up to let someone by. I had a little tunnel view but it didn't do me much good as the tall guy in front of me stood up most of the game. Maybe his buns were as cold as mine! Steve took pity on me at half-time and we left. Listened to the rest of the game in the snug warm car with the seat-warmers turned on. The Bengals won. :-) I drank most of a pot of coffee as well as took a hot bath and a shower last night to warm up. It might not have been so bad if the wind hadn't been blowing close to 35 mph. My hood was acting like a wind tunnel at times. Let's just say I like the Texans stadium in Houston much better. Even with their warmer weather they have a roof they can close.

Haven't been doing much reading - more watching Christmas movies, but I did read Christopher Paul Curtis's Elijah of Buxton. If this doesn't win the Coretta Scott King Award I will be surprised. And, I suspect it is getting a close look at for the Newbery. Curtis just gets better with each book. Set in a settlement for runaway slaves across the border from Detroit, Buxton is home to 11-year-old Elijah - the first free born child in the settlement. He is a "fragile" boy as his mother calls him, but he shows his true courage when he has to leave the safety of the settlement in pursuit of the corrupt preacher who has taken all of a family friend's money to purchase his family. What Elijah sees in the slavers' barn in his search for the culprit brutally washes away his innocence but he he returns to Buxton as a hero, with a tiny new resident in his arms. Absolutely love this book. I laughed and cried - the sure sign of a Curtis book. The use of vernacular language may make this difficult for some young readers, but the story and Elijah will delight them so thoroughly they will gladly join Elijah in his adventures, both funny and terrifying.

All for today. It is Christmas Eve and the sun is out, though it is very cold out. No snow, but that's fine with me. I love being in our own home, content and warm and listening to Steve chuckle as he is watching one if his favorite shows on his laptop. We are off to Christmas dinner with friends' - my contribution is double chocolate brownies - of course! :-)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another week have gone and it is only 10 days until Christmas. That is hard to believe! I was at the Fayette Mall today and it was pretty crazy, but not as bad as I expected. I was so excited - I found a watch repair place that was able to replace the battery on my watch without me having to send it in. I also had the pleasure of sitting next to, in the food court, a lady from Scott county who told me her Homemakers' group, the Buffalo Club, is responsible for the gorgeous painted quilt blocks on sides of barns in the area. The ladies paint them free of charge, other than materials. They also do lots of other volunteer projects. I need to find this group in Fayette County.

I stopped by Tates Creek HS on my way to the mall to drop of the two playaway audiobooks I had borrowed and to donate some graphic novels and other YA titles. I love this library. I was only there for about 20 minutes but during the whole time there were teens coming up to check out books and there were others on the computers. I am going to be doing a day long booktalking workshop at the HS in June - how fun!!

I can actually move my neck to the right without hearing awful noises and gasping in pain. The muscles in my neck, arm, and upper back are still sore, but the sharp pain is gone. The cervical facet block yesterday at the pain management clinic worked!! It was quite uncomfortable, if not down right painful, to have the injection needles stuck in my neck and I could feel the pressure as the stuff was going in, but I woke up this morning with less pain and more movement in my neck than I have had since May, so a miserable few hours was well worth it. The pain relief could last for only a few days, or for a couple of months, but however long it lasts I am a happy camper. I go back in January 10th for biofeedback to try to learn how to manage the muscle spasms.

Stopped at Urban Active Fitness and bought Steve and I an early Christmas present - a membership. They used to be part of Gold's Gym but went independent. What a gym! It is huge, but what I am interested in is the pool. I was given a "prescription" of water aerobics 3x a week and they have a nice heated pool so I guess I start tomorrow. I did water aerobics with Mary when she was pregnant and enjoyed it so we shall see. Steve doesn't know it yet, but he is going to go to spinning classes. :-)

My recent Christmas reading has been Ann M. Martin's On Christmas Eve. What a delightful feel good book about about an 8-year-old who is determined to meet Santa on Christmas Eve and give him a present. She has a snow globe with a spring scene for him to enjoy in the North Pole. Tess asks Santa for a gift he cannot give her - a cure for her best friend Sarah's father, but even Santa cannot cure his cancer. But, he can help to make sure Christmas stays alive for Sarah and her mother. The moment when Tess meets Santa is so precious as is her realization that the animals truly can speak during this magical night of the year, including her beloved dog. This is a one of those books that is going to be classic, in part because it is set in the 1950s when life was much simpler for our children, but also because it is a beautiful but gentle read aloud for the Holidays. This is keeper for both the home bookshelf and the library shelf.

All for today. I have all kinds of ideas what I want to do while I am able to move around a bit. Maybe I can convince Steve to drive through the Horse Park tonight so we can see the lights. We are supposed to get snow/freezing rain during the weekend so now would be a good evening to do it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Another weekend has come to an end and I still haven't put my Fall courses to bed. I have a student who is sick and I am waiting on her final assignment. Already thinking about the changes I have to make to the documents for Spring semester courses. When I was a school librarian I loved the Holiday Break as I was truly on vacation when school was out. I could curl up and read, bake with the kids and we'd play cards and Scrabble for hours. I never worried about going back to work. I always was given a much wanted bestseller that I curled up with Christmas afternoon. Now I look at semester breaks as a time to try to catch up on work. I think I need a vacation with no laptop, email, or phones!!

We were supposed to drive up to Georgetown and go to a radio show style play of It's a Wonderful Life. You know I have to be feeling really rotten not to want to go out to dinner and to the play. Steve also has an awful head cold and I don't think anyone would have been very happy to be sitting next to him. So we watched old b/w movies while I sat with the heating pad on my neck. I can't believe I am actually saying I am looking forward to having needles stuck in my neck and arms tomorrow afternoon, but I am. At least maybe the neurologist will find something. This testing has to be done before I go back to the pain management doctor on Thursday when he is going to do some type of shot that should block the pain in my neck. If it works there may be light at the end of this 6 month long tunnel of pain. I really like the new pain management doctor - he has the most wonderful British accent. And, he lived in New Zealand and knows exactly where Mic was hiking. He was telling me what a beautiful country New Zealand is. Still don't have the heart to visit where Mic died.

We would have tons of snow if it were a bit colder. Lots of rain for days here. We need it, but I am tired of the gray days. Kinda of matches me mood lately. But, I have been watching Christmas movies while putting together receipts for the end of the year Flex Spending Account. I am on my second Dolly Parton Christmas movie. Steve is watching football in the living room so I am curled up on the bed. Thank goodness for laptops!

Not exactly a Christmas title, but I loved Neil Gaiman's M is for Magic, a collection of his short stories that have been published in other places and pull together for a teen audience. He has such a way with creepy! My favorite one is about the boy that has been raised by ghosts and finds himself entering the human world to try and buy a headstone for a witch. Gaiman plays with well known nursery rhymes and turns them into a detective short story about finding out who really killed Humpty Dumpty. I found myself laughing out loud and/or shuddering all while reading the same story. The writing quality varies greatly amongst the stories but they are all a delicious read. A great Christmas gift for the younger teen who loves ghost and horror stories.

I listened to part of Gaiman's interview on B&N and he is a very interesting guy. I had to chuckle as he talked about teachers telling him not to read comics as they would rot his mind, but he was also the kid who won the English award and has read every book in the school library. I wish all kids would just listen to their own reading hearts and read what they want. The more comfortable with books kids get the more likely they to be reading everything in sight as they get older. Tell them the books they love are trash reading or junk is an awful thing to do, but teachers and some parents do just that.

I know my Christmas romances are junk reading, but so what? I enjoy them. I am wallowing in Janet Dailey's Mistletoe and Molly and read almost all of it last night as I couldn't sleep because of my neck. They are escape reading that helps me keep my sanity with the rest of the things that are going on. Why would we deny kids or teens this same kind of stress relief?

Monday, December 03, 2007

I am seeing light at the end of tunnel!! The semester is almost over. I think I am as excited as my students this time. This has been the semester from Hades with all the health problems. The last of the assignments are due by midnight tomorrow and then I can finish up grading and start putting Fall semester to bed. I have had a wonderful group of students - it is just trying to keep up with everything along with doctor's appointments, etc.

I gave up on the pain management doctor who I initially was supposed to see. I made the appointment in early November and it was mid- January. Then his receptionist calls and says he will be presenting at a conference the day of my appointment and backed it up to the end of January. My wonderful physical therapist suggested another pain management doctor, and after getting the mandatory referral from my regular GP, I finally get in to see him Wednesday morning. I haven't been this excited to have a doctor's appointment scheduled in my life!! The anti-inflammatory meds are giving me some relief but I have forgotten what it is like to not hurt.

I turned the big 51 on Saturday! Steve treated me to blueberry pancakes in bed for breakfast - even blueberry syrup. I am a big blueberry nut in memory of my mom who picked wild blueberries with abandoned delight. She was so good at finding the patches of big ones that she was selling them to the local grocery stores. Well, those that were not going into her yummy pies. I love blueberry anything!! I even have the blueberry pattern dishes from L.L. Bean, and a blueberry wreath and picture on the kitchen wall. And, I absolutely love the book - Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. The pictures of her sitting in the patch eating as many berries as go into her can reminds me of myself as a little one. I ate more than I picked - still do if I get the chance. I never did encounter a bear in the same patch as she does, but this Caldecott picture book from way back is a gotta have for both home and library use. I read it to kindergartners- 2nd graders in Alaska as they knew all about sharing berry patches with bears!!
My mom also had this friend, Aili, who was my dad's best friend's aunt, who would go picking berries with us when I was little. Oh she was hilarious - she sang so loud we knew no bear would come anywhere near us. I can close my eyes and see her with her hair in a braid wrapped around her head and in gaudy pedal pushers!!

We also went downtown to the Christmas Parade. BRRRR!!! It was freezing out and standing in one place was awful - the bottom of my feet were so cold I couldn't feel my little toes. The parade ended and there was over a 1/2 hour of speakers, carols, etc. until the tree lighting. We almost made it, but had to give up. We caught a few of the fireworks from the car as we headed home. Next year I want to just go down for the tree lighting and fireworks, if I can get Steve to agree. He went because it was part of my birthday present. He also bought us tickets to drive through the Christmas lights display at the Horse Park and to the Christmas music at the opera house closer to Christmas. He knows what a Christmas nut I am. I am listening to either Christmas music or a Christmas book in the car right now. I love this time of year. People are nicer to each other and it all about finding the gift for loved ones that you know they will like. And, it could snow for a few minutes on Christmas day and then be done with it!

Speaking of Christmas, I read There's Something About Christmas by Debbie Macomber recently. It isn't a book to write home about, but I liked it because of the fruitcake theme. A novice reporter was interviewing three Washington State women who were in a national woman's magazine final contests for a fruitcake recipe. I know most people don't like fruitcake, but I love it. I had the joy of going to pick out my own fruitcake at Collins Street Bakery in Corsicana, TX when we lived near Dallas. Their fruitcakes are to die for, but the calories will kill a Holiday diet. I was just on their web site, drooling: My mom used to make these little fruitcakes and send them to us in Alaska. They weren't the greatest but it was because Mom had made them that they were eaten with a cup a coffee and a smile. My mom smoked like a chimney so when the care package came the whole box smelled for cigarette smoke instead of the good things inside. My dad always sent me red string licorice as I loved it as a kid and still do. And my mom made fruitcake, delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and Finnish cinnamon rolls I cannot replicate, no how. Must have been that darn wood stove!!

Anyway, back to the book. It is a romance between the young reporter and the small plane pilot who takes the scared-of-flying passenger to her interview sights. She had given up on celebrating Christmas when her mom died, but this guy and a lost dog she adopts bring Christmas back into her life. Yes, I agree - There's Something About Christmas. The author's note suggests the reader try the fruitcake recipes in the book, and I may well try the chocolate flavored one!! She also noted that she writes an annual Christmas romance so I guess I will always have at least one holiday romance to read. I do read other than children's and YA titles once in awhile, especially during the Holidays. I'd like to say this one has teen appeal, but only to the die-hard romance fan, or Holiday freak like me.

All for today. Steve should be home soon and I still haven't gotten the books to send to ECU for the Holiday party wrapped. We always give books to our secret pals and then donate them to the local homeless shelter. I can't drive over to the department party so I will have to send the books to my pal. This being "grounded" from the drive over to campus is not any fun at all!!