Saturday, December 27, 2008

All is Calm, All is Bright

Whew! The hectic holiday hubub has past! Perhaps it is only now, post-holiday, that you and I can stop to catch our collective breath and take in the wonder of the season.

Light displays are always sights to behold, and this year, Sioux Falls is no exception. Falls Park, a popular place for tourists and residents during the summer, became a winter wonderland this holiday season.

The boulevard beckons visitors with rows of lighted trees. Turning the corner into the park makes even the most jaded Scrooge gasp with delight. White lights decorate deciduous trees, evergreens hold multi-colored light strands, deer made of lights "nibble" the snow-covered lawn, and the frozen falls glimmer in a medley of changing colors. Visitors quietly follow the slippery walkways, as if afraid to break the wonderland's spell. I hear an occasional "ooh" or "aah" and see people pointing out favorite features. All the structures are festooned with lights and wreaths.

Visitors climb the tower to view the city's nightscape. In the background, the lit cathedral spires rise above the park to the west. Decorated high-rises--banks, office buildings, and hotels--stand to the east.

Lights remind us to celebrate and appreciate the beauty of each season. They give us hope that, in this darkest time of year, days will get longer. The cold temperatures will get warmer. In the meantime, all is calm, all is bright.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Deck the Halls

The halls of the elegant South Dakota Capitol in Pierre are decked with with almost 100 Christmas trees, turning the marble interior of a government building into a wonderland.

The grand tree this year is a stately 54 ft. Black Hills Spruce from near Deadwood.

The trees are decorated by community and civic groups, and even families. Each tree is decorated in a way that represents the group. The Sinte Gleska University tree, for example, had a red tailed hawk as the tree topper and a star quilt patterned tree skirt. The tree sponsored by firefighters had ornaments representing firefighting tools. Children from Laura B. Anderson school made paper bumblebees to hang on the tree. Family trees featured ornaments with generational family pictures.

These trees show the state's diversity, creativity, and festive spirit. The trees' decorations indicate what's important to each group and what makes them special.

What do your decorations say about you? What kind of creative decor reflects your personality and heritage?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jan Brett Magic

Author-Illustrator Jan Brett's magic began in the parking lot, where her enormous bus proclaimed the stops on her Gingerbread Friends tour. Inside the store stood a large backdrop with a scene from the story. Eager fans of all ages fell under her spell.

Brett told the story and showed the book, adding details only she would know. Ever wonder why she makes her famous borders on the pages of her books? Because she has too many ideas to fit into one book. The extra ideas go into the borders.

The chicken pulling a sleigh idea came from Brett's seeing a real chicken pull a small wagon. She used her own rooster as a model for the book. She baked her own gingerbread boys as models for Gingerbread Baby, posing the out-of-the-oven cookies before they hardened on the pan. She used them to see what Gingerbread Baby would really look like if he were running or jumping. Brett kept her gingerbread boys in a basket on the floor and one day noticed there weren't as many as before. When she took the gingerbread boys out of the basket, she discovered a hole in the basket and a mouse who had been enjoying her baked treats! The basket is in an illustration in the book.

Brett said she knew she wanted to be a children's book illustrator from the time she was five years old. Now, she gets up in the morning, has breakfast, and then goes to her office where "I color all day." She thinks the job is even more fun than she thought it would be.

Next, she gave an art demonstration, giving tips on how to make Gingerbread Baby look three dimensional. She used markers chosen from her Hedgie the Hedgehog shoulder bag/pencil case. For her books, she uses watercolors and brushes working at the pace of an inch an hour.

Here's her advice to young artists: "Look at your first finger and your thumb. Do you see some lines there?" She went on to explain that these fingerprints are unique to each of us. Similarly, no one can draw or write like anyone else. She encouraged young and old in her audience to find their own styles. And, like magic, she made us believe we could do it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Recycling Rewards

Airlines, credit cards, and stores of all kinds offer rewards for frequent business. Why not recycling? What? Yes, you heard right--recycling!

Few people think of South Dakota as a recycling hot bed, yet our sanitation service is one of several in the country offering rewards for recycling (in addition to the intrinsic reward of being kind to the environment). A September 27 Newsweek story explains, and quotes Bob Novak, owner of Novak Sanitation, our service.

We only recently began to rack up reward points. The company brought us a recycle bin much larger than our garbage bin. Recycle pickup is every two weeks, with garbage pickup every week. Since so much can be recycled (all kinds of paper & cardboard, plastics #1-7, cans of aluminum, tin, and steel, and glass), we have less and less trash.
Eventually, we will earn enough reward points to eat out for free at local restaurants or get free merchandise at local stores. And we can recycle the packaging to earn more points. Sounds as if everyone wins on this deal, including Mother Earth. Why not ask if your sanitation service will do the same?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Remembering Tony Hillerman

I can't remember when I read my first Tony Hillerman novel, but I was hooked and read every one as soon as it came out. I'm proud to say that I even have two autographed books of his. Thanks to him, I know so much more about the Southwest and its cultures than I would have merely driving through. He wrote good stories with characters I care about and taught me about my neighbors' ways.

In spite of all his acclaim
and failing health in later years, he continued to help new writers and was always a gentleman.

My former workplace, an academic library, celebrated his 80th birthday with a special display in the foyer. We had a card at the check-out desk for people to sign. One student wrote that Hillerman had saved his grandfather's life back in WWII. We sent the card to Hillerman's publisher and soon after received a reply. Hillerman remembered the incident differently. In his typical, humble way, he refused hero status and thought maybe it was the student's grandfather who had saved Hillerman.

A friend who worked in Oklahoma when Hillerman was beginning his career says proudly, "I knew Tony Hillerman before he was Tony Hillerman!"

Though the world will miss Tony Hillerman's physical presence, I'm thankful that his view of life and love of the Southwest will live on in his books.

Read the New York Times' story here, the University of New Mexico story here, and a story from the LA Times Book section here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Transformative Power of Reading

Luis Soriano, a teacher from La Gloria, Columbia, packs his two burros with books to lend to villagers in the area. His "biblioburros" are much awaited and open doors to both the outside world and the world within. He has witnessed the "transformative power of reading" as a teacher and as a lender of books. Paul Coehlo's books are the most popular, but people read a vast array of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. He started the project himself. It has grown into a 4,800 volume collection thanks to donors. He has suffered physical injury and threats. Yet he continues because he knows that books and reading change people's lives. Read the New York Times story about Soriano here.

His story reminds me of author Margriet Ruurs' award-winning book for children, My Librarian is a Camel. Its text and photos show the unusual ways children receive books around the world. It also shows children's eagerness to read. See more about the book here.

We take for granted our ability to read and our access to print and online materials. Give thanks for the ways reading enriches our lives!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bending Over Backwards

Trees grow and endure under all kinds of conditions. Sometimes harsh conditions or difficulties cause trees to take more interesting shapes than their unstressed counterparts. The same can be true for people. Unlike trees, we have a choice in the way we respond to troubles. Living through difficulties can make us stronger, more compassionate, and more human. Choosing bitterness and vengeance does not enrich us.

I call this photo, taken at nearby Beaver Creek Nature Area, "Bending Over Backwards." What titles would you give it?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Go Big or Go Home

Previous posts attest to my fondness for South Dakota's Black Hills. Young adult author Will Hobbs found it such a compelling place he set his latest novel, Go Big or Go Home, in Hill City. It's an exciting story about a teenage boy, Brady, who has a meteorite crash right into his bed! A consultation with a scientist at the Hill City museum reveals that the meteorite originated on Mars and may contain dormant life forms. The title is taken from extreme sports, and both of the main characters get into some extreme situations. I won't reveal more of the plot except to say that it is a fun read containing astrobiology, geology, astronomy, biology, family & friends, enemies, disease, history, recreation, teen scenes, humor, and more. As usual, Will jam-packs his books with facts in such a subtle way that readers don't know they are learning. Also as usual, he does extensive research, and South Dakota readers appreciate that he got the Black Hills exactly right.

Will and his wife, Jean, live in Durango, Colorado, and I was pleased to meet them several years ago. Our paths still cross from time to time, including this week in Chamberlain at the South Dakota Library Association Conference. It was a special audience for Will, as the librarian at Lead helped inspire the story.

Find out more about Will and his books here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Advice from a Wagonmaster

An historic trail ride was re-enacted this summer to commemorate the 100th birthday of the Ft. Pierre to Deadwood Trail. This trail from prairie to mountains served as a freight-hauling route from 1874 to 1908. Some passengers arrived in Deadwood via this route, too, as stagecoaches clattered across the land.

The trail today is marked with signs, but even without them wagon ruts are visible in the prairie grass along the highway. This summer, a maximum of 300 people per day rode horses or drove wagons in pioneer style to experience the approximately 200-mile trip in a non-motorized way. After 17 days, the wagonmaster and his followers arrived in Deadwood. A participant told me that it was fun, but she was glad to get back to the comforts of home. I'm guessing everyone gained a new respect for the early settlers and appreciated our modern conveniences more than ever. In respect to copyright, I'll direct you here to see pictures.

Before they began their journey, the wagonmaster spoke to the participants and those gathered to send them off. He cautioned them that many things could go wrong. Inconveniences, potential injuries, insects, varmints, and bad weather could befall them. Traveling with a lot of people and animals is not an easy task, and they would get in each other's way at times. "Patience and courtesy," he admonished, would get them through. "Patience and courtesy."

Seems to me that society as a whole could benefit from the wagonmaster's advice and make the world a tad more civil.

For more about the trail and the trail ride, click here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

? for President

The poltical conventions are upon us, and we will be even more deluged with political news, views, previews,and reviews until after the elections. Let's take a deep breath before we dive into all this and lighten up for a minute.

I loved ShelfTalker's blog post (bookseller Alison Morris) from August 6. What fictional character would you want in the White House? Read the post and comments below the post, then post your own comments here or to me on email. Choose running mates and an entire cabinet if you like. Have fun and let the voting begin!!

Might I suggest:

Left to right: Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Vice President, President

Friday, August 15, 2008

Of Wormholes and Life

When a group of 13 intrepid hikers set out on Doc's Super Hike in the Black Hills, we had no idea how challenging it would be. This unmarked hike was developed years ago by a man who liked to squirm through small spaces he called "wormholes." This hike was up, down, over, under, and through granite, creeks, bogs, sheer cliffs, fallen trees, and slippery pine cones. By the time it was over, we all felt we'd accomplished something. Many of us had scrapes and bruises to prove either the difficulty of the hike or our lack of coordination.

The wormholes our hiking guide took us through were each different--rock passageways so small as to be unnoticeable to the average passerby. A person can fit through there? A friend said that in New Hampshire these places were referred to as "lemon squeezers," an apt name considering how the granite grated our skin!

Each wormhole along the trail posed its own challenges. Some were easier for tall folks, some for short. Some tested balance and coordination more than others. We all made it through--not to go through would have been even more difficult!--with the help of the others. Helping hands, boosts, pulls, grabbing packs, and giving directions made us a triumphant team by the end of the journey.

One wormhole was especially difficult because I couldn't see where I was going. My head was above the rock and my shoulders squeezed and twisted through the opening. My arms struggled to hold me up while my feet sought purchase on rock below--if there WAS rock below! Was it far? Would I fall? If I fell, would I be okay? Could I breathe going through the tunnel? How badly would I get scraped? Finally, like the hikers before & after me, I let myself go, found the foothold, and scrambled out into daylight.

Our guide remarked that the wormhole was a test of faith. He's right. I have learned that in wormholes--and in life--in the darkest of times, if I keep going, the light will come.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Poet’s Place

What environment do you think is conducive to writing poetry? Do any of these come to mind?

A mountain cabin
Beautiful views
Walking paths
Deer and other wildlife
Tall pines and spruce
Wild flowers
A fireplace
Time for reflection
That list adds up to the home of South Dakota’s first Poet Laureate and cowboy poet, Badger Clark. Clark built his own cabin in the late 1920’s on property in the Black Hills, where he lived until his death in 1957. Now a tourist site in Custer State Park, visitors can see Clark’s many pair of cowboy boots in a row in his bedroom, note what basic kitchen products he used, and imagine him in contemplation before the fire.

A short loop path offers stops with snippets of Clark’s poetry. Sunset, Collier’s, and Arizona Highways are just three of the many magazines that published Clark’s work. "A Cowboy's Prayer" is one of his best know poems, but is often published with "Anonymous" as the author. He dedicated the poem to his mother. The text is here:

His books have never gone out of print—rare for any author, but especially a poet. The Badger Clark Memorial Society promotes his work and helps maintain the Badger Hole.

More information about Clark and his influence on cowboy and western poetry is available here: .

I would add two things to the list of environmental needs for a poet: modern plumbing and electricity! Still, I appreciate Clark’s environment and the sentiment in his poem “Ridin’” (full text here:'.htm) :

I don't need no art exhibits

When the sunset does her best,

Paintin' everlastin' glory

On the mountains to the west

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Swinging on Birches

The birch trees on Isle Royale stand tall, strong, and straight as pillars. Their white bark lightens the dark woods. Pieces of bark peel off and are carried by animals or wind as if to leave notes for hikers along the trail.

The birch trees Robert Frost wrote about were bowed down by wind, weather, or--maybe a boy riding them! Frost considers that perhaps a person could ride a birch tree all the way to heaven, which of course is foolish. Yet he ends with the line: One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
In respect of copyright law, I offer this link to the full text of the poem:
What kind of fantastical conveyance would you like to transport you?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Take It All In

A trip to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior ( awakened our senses. On the 6 hour ferry ride to the island, National Park Service Ranger Paul talked about the environment and encouraged us to “Take it in! Take it all in!”

Pristine wilderness hiking trails gave us mountaintop views of Canada, marshy meadows filled with water lilies and wildflowers, and rocky shorelines with crashing waves.

Pink, purple, yellow, and white flowers popped out of the green brush.

We were ever alert for wildlife. First we saw moose scat, then tracks, and finally, the moose herself.

Squirrel, fox, and hare also crossed our path—or we crossed theirs. The ever-changing sky held white and gray clouds as well as eagles, ducks, loons, mergansers, and other birds.

Our boots thudded on the pine-needle carpeted path. Near the lake, the loons laughed at us (well, maybe it wasn’t personal). The waves hit the rocks with a relaxing rhythm. (To see images of loons and hear their calls, go to

The scent of pine, fresh air, decomposing vegetation, and dirt mingled on the trail. Back at the lodge, we looked forward to the aroma—and taste—of a well-cooked dinner.

We did our best to take it all in.

Taking it all in when we’re on vacation is one thing, but can we remember to take it all in when we’re back home? The robin bobbing in the back yard is not exotic, but is still amusing to watch. The way the ash tree dances in the wind, the smell of steak grilling, and the promise of blossoms on our tomato plants are ordinary parts of our day. And we take it in. We take it all in.

What are you taking in today?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

A recent trip past Mount Rushmore gave me a glimpse of George Washington's profile. It's fitting to think of him, the Father of our Country, today. He fought when necessary, negotiated when he could, motivated his bedraggled army, and served his country as President--not king-- in spite of his preference to be a quiet Virginia farmer. That's a lot to admire.
Washington was against political parties and geographical favoritism, always considering the good of the whole. Today, we complain about the government and argue about political issues. A look at Washington's life reminds us that we are the government and one person can make a difference.
Here's more:

Friday, June 27, 2008

What Color is Your Homeland?

A colleague and I attended a conference several states away. It was a valuable conference, but by the time it was over, we were ready to come home. Looking out the plane window after 30 minutes of flight, I saw green. The next time I looked, I poked my colleague and said, "Look! It's brown!" Hooray! We were getting closer to our arid home!

Now I've moved, and my eyes are adjusting to green, green, green. At first I was thrown by the lack of colors in the pallette here. I still love my desert reds and browns. But now I'm getting acclimated. Green is no longer boring, but fresh, lush, verdant, and full of promise.

What color is your homeland and what does that mean to you?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Synapses Afire!

Experts say that to keep the brain alert, active, and creative, we need to keep challenging it and trying new things. If that is so, you might see smoke coming out my ears, my synapses are firing so fast!

Since I last wrote, I have (with the assistance of dear ones--THANK YOU!) packed up my household of 10 years, left my job of 17 years, moved two states away, gotten married, taken a honeymoon to a place I'd never been, merged two households, met new in-laws, and remember where I put the things I've unpacked. I've changed my name, address, phone number, drivers license and license plates, hairdresser, medical caregivers, church, grocery store, and umpteen other things.

Though I was familiar with my new city, I still need to concentrate on what route to take to my destination and back, mindful that Hansel & Gretel's breadcrumb method didn't work. So far, I haven't gotten hopelessly lost or needed more than two tries to get where I was going. But I do allow for extra time, and my usual efficient self feels stymied by having to try so hard to do the basics.

If the brain experts are right, all this mental exercise will result in excellent mental health and acuity into old age and happily ever after.

To keep your brain sharp, see the puzzles at Brain Metrix:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What's Your Motto?

It's graduation time, and you are probably receiving announcements from the Class of 2008. Class officers no doubt labored over choices for class colors, flower, and motto, offering selections for class votes.

My class had a choice of three, each of which had its fans who offered impassioned pleas to choose their favorite. In the end, we chose "The world will stop to let anyone pass who knows where he is going." The words were strung in two lines across the top of the stage the night of graduation, and we proudly sat beneath them in our caps and gowns. Not until the yearbook came out did we discover something perhaps more truthful. The page showing the graduates on stage had cut off the top line of the motto. The words above us in the photo were "Who Knows Where He is Going?"

Friday, May 2, 2008

Never Enough Poetry

Don't say goodbye to poetry just because National Poetry Month is over! Enjoy poetry year 'round by visiting poetry sites. A few favorites are listed below:

Poetry for Children blog features new poems and poetry books for children.

Representative Poetry Online is sponsored by the University of Toronto, Canada, and holds a large, searchable catalog of poets and poems.

Children's Haiku Garden offers original haiku by children from around the world, many with accompanying artwork.

Giggle Poetry is a fun site for humorous children's poems written by such favorite kids' poets as Bruce Lansky, Kenn Nesbitt, and Eric Ode. has poetry and a wealth of information about poetry. This site also sponsors A Poem a Day, which sends you a poem a day via email. Sign up here:

These are just the top of the iceberg. Get online or go to your library to find more poetry.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hail, Poetry!

It's National Poetry Month AND prom season!

Here'a a little something to honor both:

Hail, Poetry,
My high-falutin’ friend.
You dress the ordinary in organza
Like a tomboy at her first prom,
Bedazzled by her beauty.


How does poetry enhance your life? What would you compare it to?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Happy Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. To T.S. Eliot, April was "the cruelest month" but around here, we are rejoicing in the first spurts of spring.

Here is some ancient poetry from the Song of Songs celebrating spring:

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Live in the Moment

“Live in the moment.” Surely you’ve heard that before and discovered living in the moment is easier said than done. Our pasts color our present and future with memories and experiences. Our futures are unknown, leaving our presents fraught with anticipation or anxiety. If we think too much about the past or future, we will miss out on the here and now. Yes, memories can give us joy, and experiences give us lessons. Planning for the future is good and responsible. But thinking too much about either leaves us without a present.

Karina Sabac, a concert pianist, says that music is one thing in the moment. If you think about anything else for a second, you miss playing or hearing the note, detracting from the piece as a whole.

Stop right now and notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you. During what activities do you concentrate solely on the activity and nothing else? What activities make you feel most alive?

This year’s Easter sermon reminded the congregation that because of the resurrection, we need not fear death. The pastor’s main message, though, was that we need not fear life.

Dare to live in the moment—one moment at a time.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

An Irish Prayer
May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


It has come to my attention that adults don't celebrate enough. The nitty gritty details of life get in the way, I guess. Bad news bombards us from multiple sources, chores must be done, and life turns into one big, bad to-do list that does not contain fun.

People are surprised that I celebrate my birthday--at my age! This year, I invited several friends and threw a dinner party--no gifts, just food and fellowship. (Well, ok, they brought gifts anyway, but that wasn't my intent.) Since then, I've attended two other friends' birthday parties, each in the style of the hostess. One greeted me at her door wearing a pink feathered tiara. She celebrated her life's journey with humor, confidence, and elan. The other wore a spring dress in a tropical setting (our local botanical gardens) on a wintery day. Her party warmed our bodies and spirits (see above. The candle flame on the cupcake is the same color as my friend's dress!)
Birthdays come but once a year. Holidays are sporadically sprinkled through the calendar. How about finding something to celebrate everyday? Even a little thing? Today, I am celebrating the yellow and white crocuses blooming in my otherwise brown backyard!!
An embroidered sampler sums up this kind of celebration well:
"Catch the simple and the ordinary
and turn it into the happy and wonderful
--You can do it everyday"
What are you celebrating?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Those Incredible Animals

The next time you're tempted to call someone a birdbrain, realize it may not be an insult! The March 2008 National Geographic has a fascinating feature on animal cognition.

Western Scrub Jays, often maligned where I live, can recall the past and plan for the future. They move their food caches if they realize another jay has seen them, and they store more food than they need in case of scarcity later.

The African gray parrot featured knew colors, shapes, and size. It was able to point out which of several items was different. It even invented its own word for "apple"--"ban-erry"--as the apple tasted like a combination of apples and cherries to the bird.

Other animals also display amazing intelligence, such as the border collie with a toddler's vocabulary, sheep that can recognize and remember faces (human and animal), and octopus that may show emotion by changing color.

And we think we're so smart!

See the photo gallery, video, and feature article at:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Word Puzzler

See if you can figure out what these words have in common.


Are you peeking or have you already given up? Give it another try . You will kick yourself when you discover the answer. Go back and look at them again; think hard.

OK . . . Here You Go . . .

Answer: No, it is not that they all have at least 2 double letters. In all of the words listed, if you take the first letter, place it at the end of the word, and then spell the word backwards, it will be the same word. Did you figure it out?

I didn't get this until I read the answer, but I enjoy such puzzles and rarely miss the Sunday Puzzle on NPR: . Sometimes I even get the answers!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cloudy CO

Cloudy Colorado did not allow me to see the lunar eclipse. I went outside several times between 8 and 9 and saw only clouds. However, coworkers told me that they could see the last segment of it when the clouds parted at 9.

Luckily, Nebraska had a clear night for the entire thing, and the Travelin' Librarian, Michael Sauers, posted his photos on flickr. Take a look if you missed it like I did:
Thanks, Michael!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Heads Up on Wednesday Evening!

An astronomy professor friend stopped by today to tell me to watch for the lunar eclipse on Wednesday. He said that the moon will rise in eclipse at 8 p.m. Mountain Time. The eclipse will last about an hour. Hope for no clouds and keep your heads up!

Here's a report from NASA:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Power of Shhhhh!

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science's health section includes an interactive exhibit demonstrating the correlation between noise and stress. You put 2 fingers in metal slots, which connects you somehow to something that triggers electric current. (I'm a writer, not a scientist!) That is connected to 4 columns containing lights. The more lights lit, the more stressed you are.

I put on headphones and listened to directions. The first column of lights went 3/4 of the way to the top. Next, the voice told me to close my eyes and breathe deeply, tuning out the sounds around. The lights in the next column went only 1/4 of the way to the top. Then the voice asked me to choose 1 of 4 scenarios and close my eyes. I chose the Saturday morning scenario, thinking that would be least stressful. Wrong! Dogs barked, kids screamed and cried, the phone and doorbell rang simultaneously. Guess where the lights were? Right! At the top of the column! Last, the voice told me to close my eyes and imagine an oceanside scene. I heard waves lapping at the shore. Breathe deeply. When I opened my eyes, the lights on the 4th column barely registered.

This exercise dramatically demonstrated the power of quiet and offers suggestions for calming ourselves when we are stressed. Take a deep breath and a shhh break. Aaaaaah!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Passionate about Reading

Last weekend I was one of thousands attending the Colorado Chapter of the International Reading Association (CCIRA Conference in Denver and one of many presenters. It's an inspiring time for people passionate about reading to convene for professional development. Many big name educators, authors, and vendors, as well as practitioners in the fields of literacy, reading, language arts, and library media gather to learn from each other. Gay Su Pinnell, Janet Stevens Susan Stevens Crummel, Marc Brown, and Ralph Fletcher just a few of the featured speakers this year.

We hear a lot about how schools are failing. It's a given, right? Not necessarily. Schools employ professionals who are experts at what they do and who care deeply about the students they teach. These people do not shun research but are informed and affirmed by it to develop creative, effective lessons. These professionals prepare their students for standardized tests, but they also do what they can to prepare them for life. These professionals know that being able to read is the key to unlocking a successful future and opening the door to possibilities in the present. You may have seen the bumper sticker "If you can read this, thank a teacher."

To learn more about reading instruction, see the CCIRA web site and the IRA website:

If your work has anything to do with reading, consider attending next year's CCIRA. I heard that two of next year's keynoters are Jane Yolen and Patricia Polacco

And thank a teacher.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Happy Groundhog Day

Will Phil the Groundhog see his shadow? Will spring come sooner or later? In the movie "Groundhog Day," the main character lives the same day over and over and over. If you could choose a day to relive, which one would it be?

Emily, the main character in Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town," asks to come back from death for just one more day. The narrator tells her it has to be an ordinary day, so she chooses her twelfth birthday. She sees the day unfold and is overwhelmed by how very unordinary it all is. She is distressed that no one at the birthday party understands the beauty of life, the importance of love, the courage of daily living. "It's all too wonderful," Emily says.

Today will pass all too quickly. Go out and make it extraordinary.

BTW, Phil says," Six more weeks of winter."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Behind the Scenes in Storybook Land

Tonight our local public library family storytime featured stories about Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester with a special guest appearance by Tacky! Preschoolers, moms, dads, babes in arms, grandmas, grandpas, sisters--all wanted to meet Tacky.

You have probably seen costumed characters, but do you know what goes on behind the scenes? I got to help "Tacky" dress, another talent to add to my resume. Tacky and I were in the tiny supply room, maneuvering among the costume parts. The main body is attached to something like a hula hoop. Over that went Tacky's clothes--a flowery pinafore-like thing with a purple bow in front. To tell the truth, since the snaps and hooks were on the same side as the bow, we started out with that in back, but corrected it. The bow and snaps go in front! Next came the black, furry flippers that velcroed into the pinafore arms. Tacky & I got close & comfortable during these steps! Then Tacky stepped into her webbed feet, one at a time. It didn't work. Then I noticed that inside the foot was an actual laced shoe with a toggle closure. On the second try, we got it right and secured the feet to the costume with velcro. (This was industrial strength velcro, too!) Finally, the head. We wanted to wait until the last minute so Tacky wouldn't get claustrophobic or have heat stroke. These costumes are hot! At the end of the storytime story, I led Tacky out to greet the kids. She waved and waddled over to her chair, where she received hand/flippershakes, hugs, and stares. No child was afraid of Tacky, as sometimes happens with costumed characters. They took turns and stood in amazement at the creature before them. About that time, I realized that the piece on the back of the head should have been tucked UNDER the pinafore. The kids didn't notice, so all was well. But maybe I shouldn't put costumed character dressing on my resume after all.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Joy of Reading

Here's a link to an article from the Telegraph, a UK newspaper, about the joy of reading and how it can become drudgery when children get to school.

The author also lists 100 books every child should read. What books would be on your list?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Investigate, experiment, have fun

My friend/walking partner/artist/writer, Linda, is a daredevil when it comes to trying new stuff on the computer. Better yet, she encourages me to jump in and try it, too. She finds all kinds of great tips & tricks from searching to editing to promoting one's work and is excited and selfless enough to share. Sometimes she is a downright nag about it! That's something I like about her. So get out there in cyberspace and try something new!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Or SING, Learn, and be Happy

My friend, Eric Ode, works seven days a week during the summer, but he says it feels more like play. He leads preschool children in original songs and actions at Remlinger Farms in Carnation WA The rest of the year, he leads kids and kids at heart in songs and poetry at schools, libraries, and churches. Somewhere in there, he finds time to write, and cut award-winning CDs and DVD. He exudes enthusiasm and proves that if you find work you love, it's not really work.