Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I could never be a writer....

I love to write, I do.

But I love to do it when I want to do it.

Writing on demand has never been my forte.

When I was writing my dissertation, I would plan certain times that I would write…set aside certain day and set hours. It didn’t work. It would take me three hours to rework a paragraph and in the end I typically reverted to my original words and thought. It took a looming due date before I glued my rear to the chair and banged out the pages.

Before my dissertation, I loved to blog. I would come up with what I’d like to think were some pretty funny stories told in a pithy style. Again…the dissertation ruined that for me. It was forever before I was able or interested in blogging again. Or writing in general.

But…I am hoping maybe the bad taste has left?

This weekend I wrote a short synopsis for a chapter proposal, fleshed out three grant proposals and started seriously working on converting my dissertation to a paper*.

Ok…so it’s not pithy, but it is words on a page.

*Taking 200 pages and reducing it to 20 is not as easy as you might think. I was taking the actual file and deleting stuff and it just wasn’t working for me. So now I am highlighting the good stuff from my paper and lifting it. I know it sounds weird, but it feels less negative. Taking instead of deleting.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Photos coming soon...

From New Orleans and my recent author visit with Gail Carson Levine.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Author Visit with Rebecca Stead


We had a lovely time at the Valley Ranch (Irving) Public Library with Newbery Award winning author, Rebecca Stead.  Rebecca read from WHEN YOU REACH ME (Newbery winner) and her most recent work, LIAR & SPY.

We had a great crowd (about 85) and Rebecca was delighted that most were young people who had read her books. So often, she explained, her library events are attended by teachers, librarians and future writers, so it was a treat to be able to discuss her books with readers who brought along their dog-eared, highlighted and annotated copies.  There were some well read tomes present that now include another line of text...Rebecca's signature.

Refreshment table.

Custom water bottles and bundtinis with cover art work.

Custom cookies based on two key elements of WHEN YOU REACH ME

Backdrop based on the cover art of WHEN YOU REACH ME

Rebecca speaking

The crowd

Rebecca with kids

Me and Rebecca

I like this one because we are laughing...and you can't see my face...(ha)

"No flash photography please....!"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I learned it by watching YOU!

Recently I had a conversation with my son about reading.

As a librarian and avid reader I always tell my patrons, and friends, and children, that if a book doesn't grab you in the first couple chapters (say 50 pages) it probably isn't the book for you.  Not to worry...there are plenty more and life is too short to read a book that isn't right for you.

This theory was tested this summer when my son Owen, entering 11th grade, had to read IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote.

Now, I understand the importance of this book and appreciate the ground broken by Mr. Capote.  I also think the movie adaptations of his research fascinating.


I don't like the book.

There, I said it.

Here is a case where the movie depiction is better than the book. IN MY OPINION.

Again, I can appreciate the build up and the pains taken to paint the close knit rural community.  I understand the shift in narrator.  I really do appreciate this as the birth of a genre.


I still don't like it.

The overly descriptive, overly long set up drove me bat shit crazy.

I am a fan of voice and I appreciate good pacing, so it is easy to see how Capote's treatment of each of these elements jarred with my personal reading preferences.

So...back to Owen.

Me:  "Owen you have to read this book for summer.  It is a ground-breaking book that birthed a whole genre!" 
Owen: "I hate being assigned books to read."
Me: "I understand, but you are a good reader.  You can knock this out in a week."

Three days later
Me: "How's the book coming."
Owen: "Holy crap, what is this book even about?  I don't understand.  Nothing is happening."
Me: "Well, Capote uses this literary style to make a point and allow the reader to view things differently. It also is unique in that you have sympathy for the killers."
Owen: "What killers?  I haven't even gotten to that part yet."
Me: "Be patient."

Three days later
Me: "So, do you like the book any better?"
Owen: "I stopped reading it.  I don't like it and don't want to finish it."
Me: "Owen, you HAVE to finish it."
Owen: "Actually, I don't.  You always tell us that we have to read a book for the first 50 pages and if it doesn't work for me, I can put it down.


No one ever tells you how hard parenting can be.  There is a constant war within your head.  There is the correct reply to this arguement and then there is the right reply.

The correct reply had me parceling out pages for him to read by certain dates. Not continuous pages, but samplings of chapters.

The right reply had me agreeing with him that I too thought the book kinda sucked and then purchasing SPARKNOTES.

In addition to IN COLD BLOOD he also had to read another recent nonfiction title. He read FREAKONOMICS, which he finished in two days and then asked me for more books like it.

He got a C on his back to school quiz on IN COLD BLOOD.


For your viewing pleasure...other cases where kids learn "bad" habits from their parents:

Do you remember this?

And then there was this...of which I am totally guilty.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fake it til I make it 2

More droopy feelings in a post today. 

I read this piece from the Washington Post this am and it set me off. 

Most significant:

But with due respect to my son’s feelings, I have the worse of it. I know something he doesn’t — not quite a secret, but incomprehensible to the young. He is experiencing the adjustments that come with beginnings. His life is starting for real. I have begun the long letting go. Put another way: He has a wonderful future in which my part naturally diminishes. I have no possible future that is better without him close. 

There's the rub. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fake It 'til I make it....

Day 1.

There is no getting around it. I am depressed. I have been depressed before and it seems to me that it takes a couple of different forms.

Classic depression: I have been the kind of depressed where you don’t want to go out of the house, or get dressed or sometimes even bathed, depressed.

Postpartum depression: Why wasn’t life like the Pampers Commercial depressed? And by the way…who knew your nipples could ever look like this depressed.

Anxious and Depressed: I have also had times in my life when I experienced panic attacks so serious when leaving the house that I couldn’t go to the grocery store and my hair started falling out.

Surgically Depressed: A few years ago I had a surgery that threw my body through a loop. Everything went well, but for the longest time afterwards I felt disconnected from life and had trouble focusing.

Postpartum (but not really) depression: Finally last year after finishing a degree that ruled my life for six years, I was left wondering “is that is?”

Now, my second child has moved out of the house and into the dorm. I feel like crying.

Don’t get me wrong: he is doing well. I am so happy that he has navigated the social structure of school, met some friends, and likes his classes and professors. He is chomping at the bit and wants to be on dean’s list even though he knows it is going to mean working hard.

I am so proud.

Yet I can’t stop crying.

And here is the thing, and maybe people have said this before, but I haven’t read it (maybe I read it and didn’t’ believe it) : It isn’t that I miss my baby and want him home, although I do miss him and I look forward to seeing him in a couple of weeks.

I think it’s that part of my life is coming to a close and there are no do-overs.

I will never get back the elementary years, or the middle school years.

I never took them to Disney or the Grand Canyon.

Oh sure. I can still do that.

But they will never believe in Santa again.

And they are happy and healthy and navigating the waters of young adulthood just fine; so I guess we must have done something right. Right?

I just am a little bit mournful over moments lost; a little guilty over things not done, or not done well enough to my thinking; and for facing a reality of the next stage of life.

Thank god there is Owen. He will get our undivided attention for the next two years.

I am sure he will thank his brother and sister for leaving him home. Alone. With us.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I did some figures for work the other day. 

We are tyring to justify the need for additional staff and in order to do so took a look at a comparable library close by. 

We looked at how many storytimes and events they did each month, and what their attendance was, and divided it over the number of employees they had to put things into perspective.

Their numbers were sort of comparable. The big difference was the staffing.  They have 2.5 FTEs (Full time equivalents) and we have me.

Boiled down the numbers look like this.

Their employees serve 219 kids a month.  That is they "see" that many individuals in storytime or programming a month.

Me: 769

Yes, you read that number correctly.

I think this goes a long way towards explaining why I seem to be getting sick so often.  1) I am tired and 2) I am exposed to many, many people (and runny noses).

I have an apt with my primary care physician on Monday (the soonest I can get it).

I think I have an ear infection.

Monday, May 6, 2013

TLA and Phantom Limb Pain....

Are you tired of hearing about TLA yet? 

I guess I really didn't say all that much about it, and I still have to post the photos I took of my panels.

But I wanted to discuss something else today. 

Why every morning at 2:30 I bolt upright in bed thinking: Oh My GOD!  I forgot to....."fill in the blank!"

Every morning since TLA.

I know this has been on my mind for some time and it will take me a while to "get over it."

Can you have post traumatic stress syndrome over a life event?

Friday, May 3, 2013

I know some smart people

And they are all doctors!

My friend Rose Brock completed her dissertation defense yesterday and is now Dr. Brock.  Having just done this last year, I know how good this feels. 

Here we are with our advisor, mentor and role model Sylvia Vardell.

Lessons learned in mockery

I confess, I am not always a nice person.

Sometimes I am downright mean.  At least in my head.  I am still polite enough not to verbalize the sarcastic slings and arrows that zip around my brain.

One of the recipients of my mocking thoughts have been those moms who get all upset as their kids leave the nest. 

Me...I would joke with my kids: When you leave? This (their bedroom) becomes the media room.  I am going to paint the walls a dark forest green; have reclining leather seats and the big screen?  That goes right there .

I was serious.

Now as my 18 year old prepares for his Eagle Ceremony, Graduation and moving 3.5 hours away to college, well, I am singing a different tune.

Seriously, I understand that successful children who transition into productive, independent children is a good thing. It actually means that Fred and I did our jobs correctly, and have raised functioning adults.

But still. I have been a bit weepy. 

Like right now.

< 12 yo Freddy in the middle putting on his scarf>

Thursday, May 2, 2013

More on screen free week

Follow the link to hear my friend Dan Yaccarino chat about the need for everyone, but especially our youngsters to unplug and learn through experiencing the world.

I think she enjoys torturing me

I called my mother in law the other day to see how things were going. 

She asked if I was stressing out.  I asked about what?

She replied: At having all of us to come down for a visit.

Yes, I knew they were coming.

The story went something like this:

BIL Bill: How come you didn't tell me the date of Freddy's Eagle Scout Ceremony?!?!?
Me: Just did.
BIL Bill: I want to come!!!!
Me: Come then.
BIL Bill: I am bringing my youngest.
Me: YAY!

Then my sister in law heard that in addition to my in-laws, Bill was coming.

SIL Lu: I want to come.
Me: Come then.

Then my other sister in law heard that in addition to my in-laws, and Bill, that Lu was coming and she wrote:

SIL Liz: Can I come too?
Me: Of course.
SIL Liz: Will you have room?
Me: We will find it.

So now I have 5 adults and one child coming to my house for four days.

What's there to be stressed about?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

So...what have you been doing lately?

You know I thought when I was done with my dissertation, I would have all of this free time.

It didn't work out exactly like that.

I am a part of the Texas Library Association, one of the biggest state organizations in the country.  I am involved in both the Young Adult Round Table (YART) and the Children's Round Table (CRT) which is of course a whole lot of fun. Work, but fun.

This past year I served as the Chair of CRT.  You know how sometimes your idea of something and the actuality of something are very, very far apart? That was what this was like.  I thought that I was going to be doing some decision making things, head some meeting, etc.

That is not what happens.  What happens is you plan the programs for your conference that year. 

So I have spent the last year coming up with ideas for conference programs that people might want to see.  Then I found speakers to speak on the topic, and moderators to keep the conversation going and presiders to make sure the room was set up properly and everything was going according to plan.

Oh, and there are contracts, and niceties like gifts that need to be awarded.

One of our events was an author breakfast, which meant creating a program and centerpieces. More on that in a bit.

So...that is what I have been up to lately.

I am going to post in detail on some of the events we had and some of the high and low-lights of the conference.

In the meantime I am still trying to adjust to life without a three page list of things to do.

I am sure I will remedy that, and quickly.

Monthly Book Club - Wife 22

So, one of my new year's resolutions was to start a book club for my neighborhood.

Me not sharing books with those around me is like the cobbler's kids going with holes in their shoes, right?

This will be our 4th meeting.

So far we have read: Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, which we thought was so-so; The Fault in our Stars by John Green which we all loved; Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which we liked pretty well.

This month is Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon. It is the story of a wife who has frustrated with her husband and marriage, and expresses her concerns as part of an online survey of the modern marriage. After a period of time she starts having feelings for her online interviewer.

Billed as smart chick lit, I felt that overall it fell short. I didn't find the character all that sympathetic, sort of like "poor little rich suburban housewife." I think the message was meant to be that in this day and age it is easier to communicate with a person online than it is in person.  I don't agree. 

The ending was a bit predictable, and anyone who grew up in the 70s will recognize the reference.

The idea behind the club is read outside of the box.  For me this means adult, but for many it just means keeping up with some titles that they may have missed in their day to day lives. 

Next month we are reading a children's novel.  I am curious to see if WONDER is as well received as TFiOS was.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


This week is Screen Free Week...the week where we think about doing less passive screen things (like TV) and more creative things...preferably without a screen.  But we all know that this is becoming increasingly impossible. 

I just came back to work after being "away" for a conference in Fort Worth.  I was gone from Wednesday through Tuesday.  I had 600 emails.  Of course my mailbox was full, which meant that I had to clean before I could even reply to a single one.  Good news/bad news for all of those listserv posts.


Then there were assignments given by the big boss that are due tomorrow.  Do you think she would buy the Screen Free line?  "Sorry, I am doing less passive screen activities this week. Too bad. So sad." I can imagine the reply ala Donald Trump.

You're fired! 

Well, I managed to sort through the emails and reply where needed.  I even did some good research.

I was pretty plugged in.

I have also read some really good books, and thought some really odd thought including how much I miss blogging. 

In other words, I am thinking about becoming more plugged in, not less.

But I think the key here is "passive screens." Blogging, photo shopping, film editing...etc are all very active ways to create something new using your brain, imagination

It's not all bad. 

Just go out and smell the roses once in a while.  Feel the sun on your face and take a walk. 

I did this morning.

Oh...and if you are in the market for a book discussing the importance of unplugging, consider DOUG UNPLUGGED by Dan Yaccarino.

Friday, January 4, 2013

On the twelth day of Christmas my true love said to me....

It's time to take down the tree.

I love Christmas decorations.  That's pretty apparent as you walk about my house.  We had people over for Christmas Eve and several ooohed and ahhhhed over my decorations.  Which struck me as funny.  What...everyone doesn't affix lights to every available surface? It IS JUST ME?

Oh.  I had no idea.

And I know this is wrong of me...on safety levels and electric usage levels, but we don't turn them off.  My twinkle lights on the mantle, up the stairs (even though I don't currently have a bannister) and over doorways, have been running continuously throughout the month.

So now is the day I dread.  The removal of the lights.  The boxing of the Santas and Snowmen. The closing of the season.

This removal of stuff, coupled with the New Year and the time for making lists of what needs to get done soon; well, they are just a bad combination. Because here is what I think when I remove all my sparkly stuff:

Gosh I really need to paint the "_________."