Monday, January 24, 2011

That isn't a dog - it is horse! Mary is tall for a woman so that just shows you how big their dog is! I love the second pic of the boys - wonder who wore who out! I've yet to see this "puppy" and I am nervous around big dogs because of my balance. Can you imagine trying to dry her feet from a romp in the snow? I was talking on the phone to Mary the other day and I she was fussing at Michael as apparently he and Chloe had a snow fight and Cloe lost and brought her white blanket into the house with her. I was laughing but Mary certainly wasn't! :-)

Mary and the two little ones are coming down for my Spring break. :-) Can't wait! We are going to be lazy and lay around the pool and let the kids wear themselves out - at least I hope so. If it stays this cold they won't be doing any swimming, but it should be plenty warm for that by early March. Steve has solar panels floating in the pool - they look like big blue lily pads. They are supposed to warm the water up by we have a shady back yard due to our huge cypress and palm trees so they don't work real well.

Steve's Mom got here Sunday night. Sophie's nose is bent out of shape as she has a little dog that is considerably smaller than Sophie is. :-) They were nose to nose at first and now Sophie is just plain ignoring Carmen. Now I remember why I love cats - you don't have to take them out to do their thing - you can clean out a litter box in your pjs! Well, you could take a dog out in your pjs too but its cold down here as far as I'm concerned. I'm all bundled up in wool sox and a fleece shirt. Haven't worn shorts since before Thanksgiving and this is supposed to be South Florida! Was 46 degrees this morning when I got up at 5:00.

I've read a really odd mix of books lately. That reminds me - I need to get the VOYA review done for Jo Walton's Among Others If you are into SF this is your book. It is a booklist of the best SF ever written weaved into a heartbreaking YA novel about a fascinating Welsh teen. Not sure when the review will be published but I won't review it here. Just wanted to mention it - it hits stores this month.

I saw the cover of Shipwrecks, Monsters, and Mysteries of the Great Lakes by Ed Butts. and I knew I had to flip through to find the chapter on the Edmund Fitzgerald. It had to be there - it is one of the most famous, if not most famous, Great Lakes shipwreck. And Gordon Lightfoot brought this tragedy to life in his haunting ballad Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I grew up hearing horror stories about Lake Superior and how it is so cold that when you drown your body sinks to the bottom. Twenty-nine crew members died on that ore carrier during a November storm in 1975. Their bodies were never found and the theories raged until earlier this year when researchers concluded the ship had been swamped by a 50 ft. rouge wave. They were once though legend, but they have been proven real on Lake Superior.

As kids we used to see the ore carriers go by when we were at the lake and they'd come in fairly close when seeking shelter from storms. They were just a part of life. There was a coal dock on the "way to town" as we said - it was on the way to Houghton/Hancock in Upper Michigan and ore boats were often at the dock. So when this huge ore carrier sank, we realized anyone on those ships was at risk. 1975 is a long time ago now but I can still see grown men cry when Lightfoot's song came on the radio. Everyone knew someone who had lost a friend or family member on the boats. It still raises the hair on my arms when I hear it.

Although not as close to home to me, I read the other shipwreck entries and those on lake monsters, such as the Nessie type sightings (never had one myself). This may be a region favorite for the states and provinces that border the Great Lakes, but the drawing of waves crashing against a lighthouse against a black background on the front cover will get some of the boys attention even if they have never seen an ore boat or swam in the Great Lakes.

However, one never forgets swimming in the icy waters of Lake Superior in early summer - BRRRR!!! Nor will I forget my frozen fingers dropping a friend's shirt down the hole in the outhouse when we were shivering and trying to chance out of our wet swimsuits!

I always pick up debut novels and Stay Kramer and Valerie Thomas' Karma Bites caught my eye due to the lime green color and the girl looking like she is up to something (which she is) as she lifts the lid of a box emanating light. A quick perusal of the author information and the note that Kramer had produced one of my all time favorite "sleeper" movies, Ulee's Gold with Peter Fonda sure got my attention. Here's the Wikipedia info for it: It is such a beautiful quiet movie that touches the heart. It's about a quiet beekeeper and what he does to help his granddaughters safe as well as help his daughter-in-law detox. The character reminds me of so many of the quiet men I grew up around even though it is set in the South. I also love this movie because it addresses tupelo honey, which has fascinated me ever since I heard Van Morrison sing Tupelo Honey the first time in the early 70s. He sings the chorus and his splendid voice slides over the words "She's as sweet as tupelo honey" and I can't help but smile. But then again, there isn't a Morrison song I don't love!

Anyway, Karma Bites is a bit of delightful fluffy candy. Not a whole lot of substance, but a fun read for MS girls who like magic. Franny's Granny is staying with them and she brought a box with her that was given to her by Lama, who knows Justin Timberlake, but I digress! Franny discovers how the box grants wishes through funky recipes and she decides to fix the problems in her life, including the fact that her two best friends no longer hang out with each other. One has become a popular cheerleader and the other is a band geek. Franny spends her time running between their two after school practices. There are some laugh out loud moments in this plain fun to read romp, with a few lessons thrown in from Granny and recipes that go wrong. Middle School girls who like tween chic lit will eat it up, but I'm not too keen on a 12-year-old talking about looking hot at the end of the book. I guess I'm a bit of a prude that way.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Vowing I am going to do more frequent shorter posts. Can't believe another semester has begun. Classes begin today. Where did 2010 go? I hope 2011 is better health wise - I am optimistic it will be.

Sent in the review to VOYA for Jennifer Pharr Davis' Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail - a memoir/trail guide about her trek up the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine when she was 21. Not one I would have self selected but I am glad I read it. That is one of the joys of reviewing - you experience books you would not have chosen on your own.

I loved the spiritual snippets in the book but my days of camping and hiking are long over so the trail descriptions weren't quite so enjoyable. We did a lot of tent camping in, as well as to and from, Alaska. Most summers we drove home to visit family in Upper Michigan. Even a grizzly tearing a small backpacking tent open above my face with Mic next to me as an infant didn't stop us from camping with the kids, but we moved to a larger tent and then to a truck camper but the bears in Alaska are known to tear the backs off campers if they smell something they want to eat so it really wasn't so much about what you slept in as how you cleaned up after you cook.

Davis didn't like to cook with the small backpack stove so she ate packaged food during her nights on the trail. We had the luxury of larger camp stoves but still ate a lot of granola bars! Becoming Odyssa would be a great graduation present for a college graduate who wants to experience the Peace Corp, hike the world, or go on some other type of "quest" before settling down into a job or going on to graduate school. Even though it is a female perspective, I'd have given this to Mic to read as I think much of his trip to and hike through New Zealand was to do just that - find himself. He'd graduated from college at 20 and wanted to travel a bit before starting graduate school. He was an old soul and very insightful, even when he was a little one. His early observations often amazed me as he seemed to know and feel so much for one so young. Mic was a joy as a son, as a child, a teen, and young man and I feel blessed to have loved him for the 20 years he had on earth. He may have passed from this world, but I will always be his mother. I remind myself daily that he still lives in my heart and always will.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Wow! I had no idea it had been so long since I posted last. I am so sorry! I think I need to just start doing short posts when I think about them rather than taking the time to do the long posts I normally do. Between moving to Florida, a wild Fall semester, and then being quite ill in the last few months, I've barely kept my head above water with the basics. Some days even those don't get done!

The good news is I am finally getting settled in with new doctors down here in Florida who I really like and had my first set of occipital nerve blocks last Friday. You know those occasional headaches that are so bad they make you sick to your stomach? Well, I had one of those 24/7 since September since I had my last nerve block in August before we moved from Lexington. Now the headache is just thudding away and that I can handle. The doc was optimistic that he can give me more long term relief and that was the news I needed to hear.

This morning I'm busy working on getting course docs up for my YA Lit course starting on Friday. Anyway, I was checking links in course docs to make sure they are still live and found a pleasant surprise on The Shambles web site - someone had posted a link to me booktalking at one of the workshops we had for our COLRS grant students: I didn't post it, but I am glad it is out there even though most of us hate to see ourselves on camera. I had the mic clipped to my pocket and it made it difficult for me as I don't normally stand just in front of the room while I booktalk but my YA Lit students are required to present a 6-book booktalking session to high school age teens and find the video useful in preparing, especially my students who have never worked with teens before.

Due to the headache, I've not done as much reading as normal but did enjoy a new fantasy that is going to be a hit. John Stephens' The Emerald Atlas is the first in a trilogy about three siblings who are the key to three books of magic that the wizards of old hid so that no one could have the power bringing them together could create. Fourteen-year-old Kate has been trying to protect her younger brother and sister for the the last 10 years since their parents disappeared as they are shuttled from one nasty orphanage to another. When they arrive at a mysterious dilapidated old house, they find the first of the books and discover their ability to travel through time via this Emerald Atlas. A high-spirited battle of good against evil with the siblings in the middle of it all. Kate is one feisty young teen and her little sister Emma is right there behind her. The bookish dwarf-obsessed Michael is also a delight. His love of reading, with specticles sliding down his nose, brought back memories of young Mic's oversides glasses, visible above the latest book he was happily lost in. We make such a personal connection with each book we read; or at least I do. This is a fantasy romp Mic would have devoured. Watch for my review at a later date in Library Media Connection.

Back to course docs. My 2011 resolution is to do short blog postings regularly. Let's see if I can keep it up!