Saturday, May 30, 2009

It is hard to believe but Steve and I will have been married for 7 years at 5:30 this afternoon. I am so bad with numbers and dates that he chose May 30 (5/30) at 5:30 so I would remember our anniversary date. And, he proposed on Thanksgiving so I don't have to remember a particular date. What a wild ride it has been from the economic crisis in Houston that sent us to the U.S. Virgin Islands to try island living (not to my liking) and now in horse country with the hopes of moving to Florida soon. Just waiting for the house to sell but we are in no big hurry as are some of the folks trying to sell before they default on their mortgage. Summers are a wonderful season in KY so I have no problem with waiting for the right buyer as long as we have to. There certainly hasn't been a dull moment since we met in 2001 and I thought I'd lost him before we had a chance to develop a relationship when he was supposed to be in the World Trade Center but, thankfully, missed his plane. Our guardian angels have been working over time for both of us.

We are going to dinner at the lovely Merrick Inn here in Lexington but I won't be able to wear cute little sandals due to the wound between my big and second toe. Who would have thought to look for moles between your toes? I would not have had I not read an article in a woman's magazine about skin cancer. I read anything I see on skin cancer as I have a not so lovely scar on my back due to the removal of a cancerous mole and surrounding tissue last summer. Well, the scar between my toes may mess with wearing my favorite style sandals, but two scars on my back certainly curtail any thoughts of a low back dress tonight! During my annual check up yesterday he found another mole on my back that had to be removed. Hopefully he took enough tissue around it this time that he doesn't have to go back in for more like he did last year. So ladies - have your significant other check your back and you check those odd places like between your toes, your belly button, and under your arms. The "bad" kind of moles tend to hide there. Am I paying for frying myself in baby oil as a teen? I am hoping the 15 years in Alaska where I rarely was in the direct sun will save me from too many more scars.

I finished up an article for Library Media Connection on new YA authors and their debut novels. which will be in the October issue. What fun research! One of the novels I read had started as the author's master's thesis and she won a writing contest sponsored by Canadian Orca Book Publishers who also publish the wonderful Soundings titles - high interest subjects/themes for teens with low reading levels. However, Leanne Lieberman's Gravity is not one of the easy read titles and it certainly doesn't let you forget about it once you close the book. You feel like you have vicariously spent time with Ellie Gold as she comes to terms with her own sexuality within the very confining rules of her religion and culture - her family is Orthodox Jewish. Ellie's older sister can't wait to leave home for college but Ellie finds security in her faith and the rituals that go with it. Then she spends part of the summer with her non-Orthodox grandmother at a lake outside of Toronto and Ellie discovers that the barely clad body of the neighbor, Lindsay, is more interesting than the frogs science-minded Ellie has been observing. Ellie is infatuated with Lindsay and when she's back in Toronto she walks by Lindsay's school in the hopes they will "accidentally" bump into each other. Before Ellie realizes what is happening she is in a sexual relationship with Lindsay, forcing Ellie to examine her attraction to females and how it impacts her faith.

One of my favorite children's authors is Barbara Joosse, whose name you may recognize from her Mama, Do You Love Me? with a lyrical text complimented beautifully by the Arctic set illustrations of Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee. This book is a delight to read aloud as is In the Night Garden in which three little girls pretend to be different animals - a bear, a sled dog and a whale - as they play outside as evening sets in and it is time to go to bed. Elizabeth Sayles' illustrations, lush with pastel shades of blue and purple, perfectly compliment the simple text as three distinctly different little girls (one blonde, one in dreads, and one with short black hair in pigtails)"Rraaaaow, Haaoooo, and Eeeee" as a bear, dog, and whale as they prepare for bed. I cannot wait to read this one with my granddaughter McKinley and let her do the roaring, howling, and whale song along with me. Barbara Joosee will always hold a special place in my heart as she went out of her way to be emotionally supportive to me after Mic died. It was as if she had written him as a young child into her I Love You the Purplest where two siblings, one fierce (my Mary-although both book characters are boys) and one shy (my Mic) want to know who their mother loves best. I could not have found a better way to tell my children how my love for each of them is as individual and unique as they are. She has a gift for writing books that we parents need to share with our little ones - she helps us say, through her stories, the very things for which we can't find words of our own.

While I was working on this blog entry, Steve came home with a wonderful light lime green floppy brimmed hat for me with UVA protection so I can still ride with him in his car with the top down. And a picture of horses racing in the snow - to remind us of the first year we watched races at Keeneland - the last race was in white out conditions! My presents for him have a Florida theme (a solar lighthouse, a scaled to size sailboat to sit next to it, and a small potted palm tree) whereas his is Kentucky themed right down to a matching stuffed horse and key ring whose crazy sounding neighs indicates they got into some fermented oats! I'm going to wear the tiny, but very detailed, horse earrings tonight. :-) I am sure our next 7 years together will be as full of fun and adventures as our last almost 8 together has been.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I am thoroughly disgusted with myself that I have not blogged in a month! I talk to my students about time management, but I let myself get caught up in spending way too much time dealing with emails and that is just my ECU email. I rarely check my yahoo one anymore as I just don't have the time. I was just reading through the ALA newsletter and feeling overwhelmed with only browsing through the connections to myriad social networking options, YouTube library/youth literature related videos, etc. I could spend all day online. My goal is to limit my time daily on email - we'll see if it works.

Today is my last day of "vacation" between Spring semester and the Summer session. And, basically I haven't taken a day off during the break. Somehow it is much more time consuming to bring a new Blackboard site up than it used to be to update lecture notes, etc. when I taught face to face classes. It is amazing how many URLs I list in the course documents that have to be updated each semester. I feel like the Internet has taken over control of me!

This morning I was going through the last of the Sunday paper while watching NBC and there was a short piece on a group of teens who went without their cell phones and other electronic "toys" for 10 days. Wow - they actually did their homework and communicated with their families! I can't imagine bringing up kids in this technology glutted world where they'd rather text message than spend time with real people. I have been wavering over whether or not I am going to "treat" myself to an iPhone. Do I really want to be able to check my email from my phone? The more I think about it the less I like the idea. Perhaps we all need to have a "technology free" time during our day.

I type this in my home office with six 5-shelf bookcases filled to the brim - some of them double-shelved with children's, YA, and youth services professional print materials. Looking around at the books helps me feel grounded in a world where I feel like the lone wolf who has yet to explore Second Life or other virtual worlds. I know me - I could get lost in those worlds like I do in my books. And honestly - I rather the comfort of my books, whether I read them or listen to them.

Speaking of listening to books. I listened to Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and savored all 14 hours of it. I remember reading it when I was a tween, but I missed out on so much reading it as such an "innocent". I found myself smiling at the irony of young Francie Nolan's Aunt Cissy calling all of her "husbands" John no matter what their name actually was. I even chuckled aloud when I caught the old b/w movie version of it the other day and noted that they had changed the generic husband name to Bill instead of John. I guess the "hooker" connotation was too much for the time period. Heck - it went right over my head when I first read it! The author grew up in the same part of Brooklyn her protagonist did, in a time when families like the Nolans were the poor who lived in buildings where families shared a bathroom and knew everyone else's business. Francie adored her alcoholic father and disliked her mother, who was the strength and backbone of the family. It wasn't until her mother is in labor, with a child born after the father dies, that Francie realizes her mother does need her more than her beloved younger brother. So often we give children and teens books, especially classics, with young protagonists, assuming because the characters are children or teens that the book is appropriate. Somehow "maturity level" of the reader does not come into play when we recommend classics as they are so much "tamer" than the modern day young adult novels. I beg to differ! As I listened to Francie's tale I pondered why a teacher had recommended to me, but then again, she was the same teacher who had us reading Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter in 9th grade English- I didn't "get" that one until I read it again in college!

As far as a true YA novel goes - one of my favorites of late is Alex Flinn's A Kiss in Time which came out in April. When you have had enough of the gritty, edgy YA realistic fiction (I often feel this way) and want something fun to read - grab this one. If you have kept up with my blog you'll know Alexandra is one of my all time favorite YA authors. She can "blow you away" with her edgy contemporary realistic novels such as Breathing Underwater that addresses abuse from the 16-year-0ld teenage abuser's point of view and Breaking Point where we hold our breath as we vicariously live through Charlie being tormented by his fellow private school classmates. And then she can merge the contemporary setting with the fantastical fairy tale in Beastly - a contemporary Beauty and the Beast. One cannot help but chuckle over the online chat room for "creatures" such as the Beast. I love her sense of humor! So after enjoying her first foray into the fantastical, I knew I'd enjoy A Kiss in Time. Growing up on fairy tales, I knew Princess Talia would indeed prick her finger on a spindle and be awoken by a kiss, but this is where the story takes a contemporary detour. The kiss is laid on her by a less than charming contemporary teenage Jack who gets lost while sneaking away to look for adventure on his European tour. He certainly isn't seeking true love. Alternating between Talia's and Jack's perspective, the reader is allowed to vicariously watch this unlikely couple learn to care about each other. For girls who love chick lit and fantasy this will be a delight. Suggest it as a fun read for the beach or at the pool.

I do love fantasy and would read nothing but if I were totally selfish. So, I (who despises what Disney has done to the great traditional tales of the past) admit I watched Enchanted while "wallowing" in the New York Times yesterday morning. I constantly have to remind myself that if I am going to stay current with children's and teens' reading/viewing/listening materials I need to go beyond my own "comfort level". However, the only character I was enchanted with in this movie was the chipmunk! What a dorky movie, but little girls/tweens/teens/adult women (!) who still want to be princesses will enjoy it. I'd prefer they watch Ella Enchanted with Anne Hathaway as the self reliant princess who can take on wicked stepmothers and sisters as she fights to overcome her curse of being obedience. Then hand them Ellen Carson Levine's wonderful tween novel of the same name, which this movie is based on

Okay - that's it for today. :-)