Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blissfield Footage

I had a fabulous time yesterday at the Schultz-Holmes Memorial Library in Blissfield, Michigan.  What a nice library, with a wonderful staff and a fun, active story time bunch.  It was a true pleasure to be there!

If you'd like to see some of the highlights of my story time session, click here to see the YouTube video.

A Brownie Without Chocolate; A Beehive Without Bees

I encourage all of you, if you haven't already seen it, to read Bob Peterson's article "A Librarian In Every School; Books In Every Home -- A Modest Proposal" in the Summer 2010 Rethinking Schools.

Be sure to read all the way down to the poem, and the financial piece.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday Workout Review: Jari Love's "Get Ripped & Chiseled"

Working out with weights is an important but often neglected component of fitness, especially for women.  The neglect aspect I speak to with personal experience:  my own upper body strength is well, er, pretty much nonexistent.  So I've been trying out several DVDs lately that focus on upper body strength training with handheld weights.  One that I've found I like is Jari Love's Get Ripped & Chiseled.

Yes, I agree, it's a silly-sounding DVD name.  Neither "ripped" nor "chiseled" am I; nor do I aspire to be.  But I would like to be stronger and healthier, and this DVD seems to be helping.

If you do the whole DVD, it's an hour, which is longer than my schedule permits for a workout.  But I can fit the upper-body exercises (ten of the DVD's fifteen tracks) into an approximately 40-minute slot.  Each of the tracks focuses on a particular muscle, and each muscle is worked thoroughly.  There are a high number of repetitions during each track, with variations to change the way you're working the muscle.  You may need to use a lighter weight than you've used for other upper body workout videos, and then work your way up.  For a few of the tracks, I can use an 8# pair, but most I have to stick with the 5#s; and a few of them (like the Skull Crushers and the Overhead Press tracks), I have to cry uncle and go even lighter.  But the instructor encouragingly states that after four to six weeks of training, you can up your weights.  So we'll see if I can eventually find my way out of the Upper Body Wimp Zone.

The instructor, Jari Love, has a steady, calm demeanor and an engaging smile.  She's a little more laid-back and a little less prone to Stuart Smalleyesque affirmations than in this DVD than in Slim & Lean, which is also an effective workout DVD of hers.

Other reviews here and here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shutta at Nicola's This Wednesday

If you're in the Ann Arbor area tomorrow evening (Wednesday, July 28), be sure to pop over to Nicola's Books for the launch of the new book by the fabulous Shutta Crum.

Thomas and The Dragon Queen was released just this month and has already garnered great big pile of great reviews!

For details about the event, click here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Versatile Bloggers

Susanne Drazic, of the blog "Putting Words Down On Paper," was kind enough to present me with a "The Versatile Blogger" award.  Thank you Susanne!  Those of you who haven't visited her blog before, be sure to head on over!

Part of the award asks you to share seven things about yourself on your blog.  Since I can't think of seven interesting things about myself right now, I thought instead I'd share seven interesting things about Mr. Fish.

Those of you who saw his blog post last year on his birthday already know these things about that pouty fellow, but if you are new to this blog, maybe you don't.

Says Mr. Fish,

1. In high school, I was known as the Class Frown.

2. For karaoke night, I always sing “I am the very model of the modern major general…” but I substitute the word “blub” for all the lyrics. Blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub!

3. I’ve never harbored a desire to drive the bus. I would, however, like to drive the sub.

4. I don’t mean to brag, but I can mambo like nobody’s business.

5. I love card games, except “Go Fish,” which gives me the heebie-jeebies.

6. I do a spot-on imitation of Garrison Keillor. “That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the swimmers are strong, all the fish are good-looking, and all the minnows are above average.”

7. I prefer boxers to briefs, though I don’t know what either one of them are.

Oh -- And I’m a little bit scared of the dark!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Story time at the Farmers' Market This Wednesday

If you're in the Lansing area, stop by the Allen Street Farmers' Market this Wednesday.  It's a great market, and it's always got lots going on.  This week, I'll be there at 3:00 to do a story time.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Poetry Friday

Logged Off, And On The Porch


Away from the screen,

my world widens out.

Birds twitter tweet

as neighbor kids shout.

Sun taps my eyelids

and knocks on my mind.

Doorway, meet Pencil --

let's see what we find.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chapter Eleven

This past Sunday, I participated in the Eastwood Schuler Books read-a-thon of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. The event was a celebration of the book’s 50th anniversary as well as a fundraiser for the Capital Area Literacy Coalition. On both counts, I was glad to participate.

Unlike most of the other participants, I have no great memory of reading To Kill A Mockingbird during my formative years. Surely it was an assigned part of my high school or college curriculum, but there’s a mental blank spot where one would think to find my “the-significance-of-my-first-encounter-with-To Kill A Mockingbird…” memory. This leads me to believe that my initial encounter with the novel was a speed-date facilitated by Cliffs Notes; and if that’s an appalling admission for a writer to make (and it is), I say in my defense only that though I love to read, I can’t stand being told what to read.

And so it was not until a full decade into my adulthood that I actually read To Kill A Mockingbird. I came to the book willingly – not as an assignment or as a literature chore, but as a choice. And I re-read it again just this past month. On both readings, I was fully absorbed by the writing, the plot, and the characters.

It is next to impossible to ever have the full freshness of a first read for a novel that is so well-known and so thoroughly and frequently discussed.  So perhaps it’s impossible for me to really have an opinion on the book. Plus, I’ve never been one for book discussions or literary analysis. But this I can say for certain: Harper Lee wrote herself a damn fine novel.

After I recently re-read the novel, I focused in on Chapter 11, as it was the part I was assigned to read at the read-a-thon. As I practiced the words aloud, I paid particular attention to those I knew by definition but not by pronunciation. I pulled out my dog-eared dictionary and looked up the syllables and stresses for words such as interdict, philippic, apoplectic, gallantly, and calomel, to ensure that I had some chance of saying them correctly. After that, I spent time savoring some of the singular sounds of Chapter 11’s words and phrases. “Scuppernong,” for instance, is a delight to say aloud. Or try this phrase, from a description of Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose’s place: “… a house with steep front steps and a dog-trot hall.” Such a beautiful, natural cadence there. Or try this out loud: “’Conscious,’ he smiled, ‘and cantankerous.’” Cantankerous is definitely a word that we all should get to say more. It makes a happy little clatter in your cheeks.

But also in Chapter 11, as elsewhere in the book given its timeframe and subject matter, resides another word. A word that I have never said aloud, never even thought aloud. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that on Sunday I’d actually be able to say it. In the days leading up to the read-a-thon, it caused me to think quite a lot about the flip-side of the power of words. I take such joy in words that I never fail to be surprised by the sheer wretched ugly of disparagements, slurs, and aspersions. Words of prejudice are a poisonous pox on the landscape of language. Just as prejudice itself, in all its forms, is a pox on humanity.

Twenty-five years ago, I probably read something to that effect in Cliffs Notes. But my English teacher had it right after all:  to have any hope of understanding, you really have to read the book.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

MSU's Grandparents University

Today I had the privilege and pleasure to be one of the instructors for Michigan State University's Grandparents University.  I taught a class about writing to a group of students (ages 8-12) and their grandparents.  The class members were enthusiastic and fun, and were all very patient with their I'm-new-to-this instructor (that would be me).

The Grandparents University program runs extremely smoothly, and it was a joy to play a small role in it.  Kudos to everyone involved in the program, and special thanks to the MSU College of Social Science (where I earned my undergrad degree) for inviting me to participate.  Great fun!