Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ran an Errand...

As in, I literally ran an errand today!

I had a couple of things to pick up at Walgreens, and I needed to get out for a run.

Hubby tried to tell me it was too far to run...but I really wanted some exercise.

I checked on (love that site), entered my home address, and after a few mouse clicks, I learned that it was only 1.3 miles round trip. Easy peasy.

I really love my new running togs. I'm motivated to get out and run because they feel good to run in, and because...well...I spent a little extra moola on them, so I need to get out and use them, you know? Got to get my money's worth.

Oh, I love this! I really am turning in to a runner!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Places in my House

There are some places tucked into my home that just make me happy. Here are some of them.

 This is the corner table in my living room. I love the handmade doily. I love the photos of family. I love the ceramic bow lamp and the gold-leaf picture of the woman in prayer. I especially love the little paperweight in the middle. More about that in a minute. I know it's kind of funny that the phone is in the background, but I love that,'s my line of communication with my grown-and-flown children!

 Here's a closeup of that little paperweight. It fits in the palm of my hand. My father made it by hand when he was in college, before I was born. He had to hand machine the metal to square edges, drill the holes and thread them, and make everything fit together perfectly and all lined up. It took him 12 weeks - one whole term of a class in college in 1953. He gave it to me for Christmas this year, and I cried when I opened the box. I felt like he was giving me a piece of his life.

 He even stamped his name--Ken Jenkins--on the side of it.

 These jars are in my kitchen. I love how they line up under the window sill, filled with healthy goodness. They are all different whole grains that are so delicious. I can cook them easily in my cheapo rice cooker--genius! Basmati brown rice, quinoa, millet, short grain brown rice, and lentils. Almonds on the end. Yum!

 This is a corner of my dresser. I love little ceramic or glass or metal boxes. The grayish box in the back (with doily on top) is covered with quilted fabric. It used to be lavender. It used to be lovely. Now it's showing signs of age, but I love it because my father gave it to my mother years ago, when "hankie boxes" were an important item for a lady to have on hand. The tall wooden box in the background was a gift to me from my brother when we were in high school. He made it out of cedar--smells so good--in wood shop. Those are Julia's baby shoes on top of it. It makes me happy to have trinkets and treasures tucked away into the boxes.

 Here is my nightstand. I love settling in to bed to read for a little while before drifting off to sleep. The green book on top of the stack is a wonderful hand-made journal that Kendra made. That's such a good photo of my sweetie in the background. And above his photo, the little wooden plaques are hand-painted with miniature flowers. My best friend in high school, Ann Barrows (now McConnell) painted them for me.

Final stop on the tour: the bathroom counter. I picked up the line of rocks when Mark and I camped near Trinity Lakes last summer. The little ceramic girl was a birthday gift to me when I was a child. It says "May" (my birthday month) on the front of her apron, and she's holding some Lily of the Valley flowers. The little basket is holding a bunch of soap stones I collected as a girl at Camp Natoma in the foothills of the Coast Range in central California.

PS: One more thing that makes me soooo happy!
A new camera!
I used it to take all* of my "happy pictures." As you can tell, I am still learning how to use it. But it is SO much better than the old camera I've been using for 6+ years. Kendra had a camera like this when we visited her in Kansas last week, and I instantly fell in love. So simple, and just sophisticated enough for me.

*Of course, the photo of the camera is the one photo I didn't  take with the new camera. I used my cell phone...clever me!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cold and Wet

It's not just me. Even the weather man says that the Portland metro region has had a long and nasty spell of cold, wet weather. Yesterday we broke the record that was set in 1957, and have now entered the longest stretch of no temperatures above 60 degrees since they started keeping weather records in Portland. It's been raining all last night and all day today, and we are likely to break the record for rainfall in March, too.


Even the webs between my toes are starting to prune up!

I don't mean to complain, but I could sure use a little sunshine!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Warrior Woman

Yesterday I received an updated photo of my niece, Becky Jenkins Bateman. I think she is a remarkable woman, and I wanted to share a little about her on my blog.

Becky has an unusual job. She is an E6 security trainer in the Air Force. She spent the last 7 months deployed in Afghanistan, where she was overseeing the contract for security at Bagram Air Base.

 Becky is second from the left in this photo.

In this photo, she's the one on the right.

I'm told that the other Air Force personnel don't mess around with Becky! She means business. 

Her first assignment out of basic training was manning a 50 caliber machine gun from the top turret of a hummer guarding U.S. airplanes in Korea. That's where she met her husband, Jason. They married on his next assignment to the US. Since then they have been stationed in Guam and Italy (current assignment). Jason is in Air Force Security also, where he works as a detective. In May they will be stationed near Great Falls, MT, where their work will involve protecting underground missile sites.
Isn't she beautiful? This is the photo I received yesterday. It was taken after she returned from 7 months in Afghanistan to Italy, her current home. It will be wonderful to have her and Jason back on the U.S. mainland again in a few months.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Cleaning

(I am so excited that I get to go see this play in Provo next month!)

Now that we're home from our trip to Kansas, I've been working on a little "spring cleaning."

Yesterday I washed the curtains from the kitchen and living room. So fresh and clean!

Today I hauled all the books I've been collecting up in my bedroom.
I do a lot of my reading at bedtime or during the night...ah, insomnia...

These are (most of) the books I've been reading in my MFA program for the last 2 years.
They don't need to live in my bedroom any more...they are headed for the bookshelves downstairs.

What are you doing for spring cleaning? I'd love to be inspired by your ideas!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Read Along with Grandfather Twilight

Update: Polly has posted her additional activity idea for Grandfather Twilight here.

Since March is National Reading Month, my daughter Polly at Helping Little Hands has been posting read-along children's books and activities all month. Whew! It's been a busy month on her blog! If you like to read to little short people in your life, check out her wonderful March posts.

Grandfather Twilight

I'm excited to be linked to the Read-Along to feature Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger, in honor of grandparents...and bedtimes!...everywhere. 

This is a beautiful, classic bedtime story. I read to my own children when they were small, and even though that was a while ago, this wonderful book is still in print.

The story is peaceful and soothing, and the luminous artwork enchants me every time I share it with a child.

Now that my children are parents, I'd like to share it with grandchildren. But it's difficult for me to do that, because most of them live so far away!

Long-distance grandparents need to have a few tricks up their sleeve to stay connected with grandchildren whose parents don't have enough sense to live close to Grandma. I decided to use Grandfather Twilight as a "model" to create a little book about my husband and me for our grandchildren.

Grandfather Twilight opens with the line, "Grandfather Twilight lives among the trees..."

So I started the first page of my book by saying, "Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Mark live in a big blue house..."

Grandfather Twilight then goes through the Grandfather Twilight's nightly routine, but I wanted to share a little more of our lives with our grandchildren, so I added in a few of our daily activities, too. We both teach high school, and we love to play outdoors.

Then I transitioned into a few photos of Grandma and Grandpa and our bedtime routine, to stay true to Grandfather Twilight.

After I printed out the pictures with captions, I assembled them into inexpensive photo albums to take with us for our visit out-of-state grandchildren this week. (Hooray for spring break!) But if we hadn't been able to make the visit, I would have mailed the little photo album along with a copy of Grandfather Twilight for their mamas and daddies to read to them.

During our vacation, I was able to share Grandfather Twilight and my own little story book with two of our families in person! The children were tickled with both books.

They asked to hear Grandfather Twilight again and again. (Do they love it that much, or were they avoiding their own bedtime? Oh, it's so fun to be spoiled by visiting grandparents.)

And they pored over the little story book I made for them, too. Arora read this one to herself several times before we had to leave...hearing the bedtime book so many times had our own Grandpa Mark falling asleep! Time to head to the motel for the night.

Other ideas...
For young families on the other end of far-away, who want to help their children connect with grandparents, children could draw pictures of where they live and something they do at bedtime, and then mama could help them mail the drawing to grandma. Those little letters are always a hit at our house.

And here's another idea...coming soon! The other day Polly read Grandfather Twilight to her son and nap time, and together they came up with another wonderful "extension" idea for art and creative thinking. 

Polly will be posting more about how Little Brother creates his own "Grandfather Twilight," so be sure to check back to her blog. (Is it just me, or do I have a really smart little grandson?? Wait till you see what they have in store!)

One more wonderful grandparent book:
Looking for more grandparent books? Here's another tried-and-true title: 
Sitti's Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye.

"Sitti" means grandmother in Arabic, and the little girl in the story goes to visit her grandma in Palestine. The little girl doesn't speak Arabic, and her grandma doesn't speak English, but they find ways to communicate with love. I took my youngest daughter to hear a reading by the author when the book came out in the early 90s. It's still in print, and perhaps even more needed by the world today than it was then.

Last but not least...
Of course, I can't close this post without mentioning how wonderful it is to be a grandmother today, when we can skype with our little people! It is so fun to watch their growth and progress, and skyping gives them a chance to see what we are like, too. My friend Dorothy often reads books to her grandchildren via skype. She arranges with the parents ahead of time, so that the children have a copy of the book on their end of the skype, and Dorothy has a copy on her end, too. They can read it together, talk about the pictures, and genuinely enjoy a book together even though they are 3,000 miles apart! Genius.

She inspired us so much that Mark and I bought skype cameras for our children as Christmas gifts last year. We found good little cameras, reasonably priced (about $12-$15) at Radio Shack. (Mark bought them online.)

Reading is such a wonderful way for grandparents and grandchildren to bond. Even over long distances, we can share our love of stories with the children in our lives.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What it's like in Kansas

Sign in the airport restroom: "Tornado Shelter." Haha! Actually, that was in the Denver airport, but I couldn't resist mentioning it here.

Southwest Airlines now offers WiFi (for $5) in flight! I checked email and read a lovely message from my darling father.

80 degrees!!!! We put our Oregon jackets away. Wish we'd brought more warm-weather clothes.

The best part so far:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Didn't Happen

I drove to Portland Monday afternoon for a dentist appointment. The day was overcast. I was feeling pretty good because I had just used a little flex time to go for my 2-mile run along the Clackamas River. I was driving north on I-205; traffic was fairly light, and I was listening to a story on NPR.

Suddenly--brake lights ahead. I couldn't see much because there were cars ahead of me in all three lanes, but peeking between the cars, I could see other cars ahead of them, swerving different directions. I hit the brakes, and glanced in the mirror--the left lane was open, so I switched lanes in case I needed to head for the shoulder.

Just that fast, I hit the brakes again, glancing to my right, into the middle lane, where a little red pickup truck with a blow-out tire was stopped completely, in the middle lane of the freeway. Just past the little truck, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a large semi-truck bearing down on the little truck, in the same lane, swerving. He missed the little truck.

I pulled off at the next exit and called 911. Then I went to the dentist. I was shaky for another hour or so.

What if... What if I hadn't slowed down? Changed lanes? What about the semi?

I thought again and again about the driver of that little truck, watching the other cars and semi-trucks bearing down on him, stuck there in the middle of the traffic, with nowhere to go. How helpless that must have felt! I wish I could have stayed and watched the rescue. As far as I know, the problem was taken care of without injury or worse. There wasn't anything about it on the news, and the traffic was fine when I drove home an hour later.

Later in the week, lying awake one night in the middle of the night, I thought about what didn't happen that day. What could have happened. And I didn't even mind that I was having trouble sleeping. I was just grateful to be lying there alive, breathing.

(If you'd like to read more about just how good and healthy I'm feeling lately, hop on over to The Skinny for my latest post.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

OC Rocks

In January, many of the employees--teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, the superintendent--at my school district got together and made a "just for fun" video.

Oregon City Schools - Staff Music Video from Oregon City School District on Vimeo.

Sadly, I am not in it. :(
But many of my friends and colleagues are.

Today was the end of the trimester, and the beginning of spring break!
The "OC Rocks" video seems like an appropriate way to kick it off.

(The "OC Rocks" video was based on this idea.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Boundless Possibilities

"I suppose I was seeking the boundless possibilities that are said to live on the frontier," 
(Lydia in The Jump-Off Creek, page 168).

Today I showed clips from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in my Oregon Literature class.

I use the film clips -- which make the West look squeaky-clean and loads of fun -- as a way for students to grapple with the contrasts between our romanticized mythology of the West with the difficult, sometimes grim realities Oregon's early settlers lived with.

Tomorrow on their final, students will compare the authentic literature we've read this term with Seven Brides, as a way to get even deeper into the texts.

This is one of my favorite teaching activities (thank you to Annemarie, who helped me develop it several years ago!). Even though the film is an oldie, it's a goodie, and through it, my students are able to articulate some things about literature that they haven't thought about before.

So today I was sitting in my classroom, watching the dance scene from Seven Brides with my students, and all of a sudden I found myself blinking back tears. I quickly brushed them aside before my students noticed, and ran through a quick personal inventory. What was going on? It wasn't a sad scene or anything...

Long before I began showing these film clips in my classroom, I watched the film countless times at home with my children. I think it was Polly who first introduced our family to the rollicking tunes and classic romantic plot. For a household full of girls, this was a winner. Definitely G-rated, set in Oregon, what more could I ask? Family members memorized some of the lines, and teased one another when they got it wrong. (Polly still defends her line of "That's the old pass," even though the rest of us are certain it's "That's Echo Pass.") I have lots of happy memories of laughter and family camaraderie around this film.

And now they're all grown and gone. Who knows if we'll ever sit and watch this funny, fun old film together again? It was some hard-core nostalgia that got me a little misty-eyed this morning. I'm happy for each of our children, living good lives in a variety of places, mostly a little farther away than I'd like, but strong and positive and making their part of the world a better place. I don't want to go back to being 35 and having all the kids at home. Through my children and their ongoing lives, I, too, experience some of those "boundless possibilities" that Lydia seeks in The Jump-Off Creek. But sometimes when I least expect it, a tender little feeling catches me unaware.

PS: The Jump-Off Creek is by Molly Gloss, one of my favorite Oregon authors. If you haven't read anything by her yet, check out these good reads:

The Jump-Off Creek (single woman homesteader in the 1890s)
Wild Life (woman lost in the woods / possible Sasquatch encounter)
The Hearts of Horses (a young woman, real-life "horse whisperer" set during WWI)
The Dazzle of Day (sci-fi, set in the future, her most challenging book to read, I think)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Thoughts

Here is a video of today's tsunami surge at the small harbor on the central California coast where I lived as a teenager.

The first part of the video is aimed south, toward Pismo, with Avila Beach off to the left. (It's time-lapse photography, so everything looks like it's moving a lot faster than it really is.) Nothing too dramatic to look at here, but it's interesting to think that the surge traveled more than 5,000 miles from Japan. You can tell the surge is coming in when the big rock in the foreground is covered with water.

You can click here to read more about the setting of the video.

The second part of the video is aimed north, toward Port San Luis, where my father was harbor manager from 1968 until about 1980. You can see all the boats moored in the Port San Luis anchorage in the video, and when they all swing around to another direction, that's when the surge is coming through.

My family lived right at the harbor, with only a parking lot between us and the ocean. I think if we still lived there now, our home would have been safe, but I am certain we would have been evacuated today.

Mark and his mom on the Port San Luis pier, Summer 2008
You can see the boats anchored in the background.
You can also see the island by the breakwater that shows in the tsunami surge video.

I have two tsunami memories from my childhood on the California coast.

I remember being evacuated late at night in 1964, when I was ten years old, the night a tsunami raced south from the Alaska earthquake. We lived in Morro Bay then, and Dad was the harbor engineer there. He was already down at the harbor, so it was up to Mom to get my brother and me away from our home, adjacent to a low-lying beach, after the firemen came through our neighborhood, knocking on doors. Dad had the car, and Mom was not at all happy about having to drive us kids in the jeep, especially when the engine flooded!

I had nightmares after that, about being out on the beach with my brother, and the water would get sucked out by the surge, and my brother would follow it, and there was nothing I could do to save him.

I also have vague memories of being on the family sailboat, tied up at the dock in Morro Bay, when it suddenly tilted with a tsunami surge following the Chilean earthquake in 1960 and I had just turned six. Dad yelled at Mom to get my brother and me to safety, and he took the sailboat out into the middle of the harbor, where he anchored it over a deep hole in the harbor, while the surges ran in and out for hours.

My brother, me, my mother on board The Echo
6 months before the tsunami from Chile

Of course, those are just tiny blips on the scale of human experience with tsunamis. What happened yesterday in Japan, and in 2004 in Indonesia, are horrific beyond anything I can imagine. The pictures look like something from Hollywood, but they're real. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, if my wimpy little tsunami memories can leave me with my stomach tied up all day, thinking about the horrible suffering of so many people in Japan, how much worse it is for the people who are actually there, unable to counteract nature's raw power.

I can say that I feel powerless to do anything to help, but then that becomes absurd when I think about the actual fact of powerlessness the people are in the stricken communities. I'm sitting here in my home, safe and warm, typing on my computer. At lunch today, I sat in the teacher office with colleagues and we talked in amazement about the tsunami, while we munched on Girl Scout cookies, and I thought to myself in that moment, someday there will be a disaster here, and it will be awful, and meanwhile, on the other side of the world, someone will wonder what it's like for us, while they go about their normal, daily lives. How can it be so "normal" here when it's so awful there?

In my last post, where I listed a bunch of nonfiction books, one of them was Hiroshima by John Hersey. He visited Japan just weeks after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and he documented what life was like when the sky broke open. I've been thinking all day about the images he creates with his words. I imagine that the actual, horrific, lived experiences of the last 24 hours for the people in northeast Japan have many similarities to what was experienced in Hiroshima.

I like to think I am in control of my life. I like to imagine that I can pray in the morning, and have some idea of what the day will hold. I like to think that I know what to expect, and I usually do, or I think I do, until a tsunami comes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reading List

Disclaimer: Sorry, I think this is a boring post. Yawn... Blame it on April being National Book Month.


The new students in my graduate writing program at PSU are being presented with a Reading List upon acceptance into the program. They are expected to read all of the books during the time they are in the program, even though most of them will not be required course reading.

Because I started the program eons ago, I don't have to meet this requirement. But it does look like a good list. I've read 11 of the 31 books on the list already. (Although I think I should be able to count John McPhee, because I've read 4 or 5 other books by him.) I've marked the ones I've read in red (haha - word play!) with a comment or two.

Have you read any of them? Any favorites? Recommendations?


Baker, Nicholson.  U and I (1991).
Baldwin, James.  Nobody Knows My Name (1961) OR Notes of a Native Son (1955).
 Baldwin always seems deep and dark to me. Am I smart enough to be a good Baldwin reader? Not sure...
Capote, Truman.  In Cold Blood (1965).
 Read this last year, just as Kendra was getting ready to move to Kansas (where the story is set). It kept my interest better than I thought it would, and there was less blood and gore than I thought there would be...although there was still plenty...
Conover, Ted.  Newjack (2000).
Didion, Joan. Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) OR The White Album (1979).
Another author that makes me think I'm not much of an intellectual. The constant L.A. artsy scene was hard to keep reading and reading and reading...
Eggers, Dave.  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000) OR Zeitoun (2009).
Ehrenreich, Barbara.  Nickel and Dimed (2001).
 I thought this was a fascinating book. Ehrenreich tries an experiment to see if she can live on minimum wage for several months. Of course, she still had her "real" life to go back to after the experiment, unlike people who have to live on that kind of income all the time.
Fox, Paula.  Borrowed Finery (2001).
Gornick, VIvian.  The Situation and the Story (2001).
 I may have read this, but I'm not sure. I've heard about it a lot. It's definitely on my "must read" (re-read?) list. A solid, thoughtful book for writers.
Mitchell, Joseph.  Up in the Old Hotel (1992).
Herr, Michael.  Dispatches (1977).
Hersey, John.  Hiroshima (1946).
 I've read Hiroshima several times. I used to teach it in freshman English. Moving. It looks deceptively's short, the language isn't deep, but the content shakes me every time I re-read it.
Kapuscinski, Ryszard.  Shah of Shahs (1985).
Kerrane, Ken and Ben Yagoda.  The Art of Fact (1997).
LeBlanc, Adrian.  Random Family (2004).
Lopate, Philip.  The Art of the Personal Essay (1994).
 I read Lopate's "how to" essay book several years ago. Probably time to read it again.
Malcolm, Janet.  The Journalist and the Murderer (1990).
Mailer, Norman.  The Armies of the Night (1968).
Markham, Beryl.  West With the Night (1942).
 This was a fascinating memoir of growing up in Africa. Markham was a bush pilot at a time when few women were flying. It was really interesting to read.
McPhee, John.  The John McPhee Reader (1977).
 Like I said, I've read a lot of McPhee, but I don't think I've read this one. I like his writing. He explains complicated-but-interesting things, like geology, in an accessible way.
Murakami, Haruki.  Underground (2001).
Orwell, George.  Down and Out in Paris and London (1933).
 Orwell seemed to drag on and on in this book. I read it because it was assigned, but I don't think I'll go back to it.
Royte, Elizabeth.  Garbage Land (2005).
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis (2003).
Skloot, Rebecca.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010).
 I've heard a lot about Skloot's book, too, and I'd like to read it. I wonder if she is related to the Oregon writer, Floyd Skloot?
Smith, Zadie.  Changing My Mind (2010).
Stewart, Rory.  The Places in Between (2004).
Thoreau, Henry David.  Walden (1854).
 Thoreau does tend to go on and on, and I couldn't help but be irritated by the artificial construct of his life at Walden - he couldn't have lived there without the help of the people in town - and yet, that ideal of simplicity, of a turning away from superfluous trappings, is so enticing...
Twain, Mark.  Roughing It (1872).
 I enjoyed this Twain book much more than I expected to. He is such an engaging liar, but even then he's telling about places in the West with such beauty and reality. I would gladly re-read Roughing It.
Wallace, David Foster. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997) OR Consider the Lobster (2005).
Wolfe, Tom.  Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby (1965) OR The Electric-Acid Kool-Aid Test (1968).
I read The Electric-Acid Kool-Aid Test last year, and I still think about it. It was interesting, repulsive, sad, all at the same time. Parts of it made me really angry. It gave me a much fuller understanding of Ken Kesey, a revered Oregon writer, than I had before reading Wolfe's book. I can't make up my mind about Kesey, and I feel that way even more after reading this book.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Humming Along with Annemarie

(I borrowed this photo from Annemarie's website. 
There's no way my elderly camera could take one this nice.)

Last night Mark and I stayed up way past our bedtime to hear our friend Annemarie Russell perform from her new album, "100 Reasons" at Mississippi Pizza in Portland.


We love Annemarie.

She used to live just south of us in Canby. She and I taught together for four years, when we planned wonderful lessons together for our Oregon Literature classes at Oregon City High School. She came to our home and taught Mark guitar lessons. Then she moved out of state so her husband could finish his schooling, and now they've settled near Seattle.

We miss Annemarie.

It was really, really wonderful to hear her sing last night. Annemarie's voice is a lovely, rich contralto, and it pours out of her like warm flowing honey. The combination of her deeply thoughtful, personal words (she writes all of her own songs) with her gift for melody and rhythm result in music that has me humming along (not last night--that would be today in the car, after listening to the CD) and thinking deeply about what she has to say.

I wish there was a way you could click a link and hear her sing, but I haven't been able to find any links like that. To hear her music you will have to go for a car ride with me, or you can go to her website and buy her new CD. (You should do that. Your money will go directly to supporting an independent music production, and you'll own a new favorite CD.) I want to say that Annemarie doesn't know I'm making this post. I was just so impressed with her music last night, that I really want to share it with others.

If you buy one of her CDs, get the newest one, "100 Reasons." It is by far the best. Her music has matured quite a bit in the last few years, and the CD was produced professionally.)

Mark and I listened to Annemarie play and sing for an hour last night. Then we listened to her all the way home from north Portland in the car (took us a while...we were a little lost..). I've been listening to her again today, and her songs are already getting stuck in my head.

Come again soon, Annemarie.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Heartfelt "Thank You" to the Good Doctor

Quick - what's your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

The Cat in the Hat?
How the Grinch Stole Christmas?
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish?
Green Eggs and Ham?

I love them all.  There are so many "favorites" out there! Theodore Seuss Geisel wrote over 40 children's books. I'll bet the vast majority of English-speaking people age 60 and under would cite one or more of his books as giving them a boost in their early reading.

Yesterday, March 2, schools across America celebrated Dr. Seuss's birthday by hosting all kinds of reading events. While most of those events occur at elementary schools, Oregon City High School, where I teach, go into the act, too.

We asked teachers to allow students to read for 12 minutes in every class. Students take 5 classes, and we have over 2000 students at our school, so when you do the math:

12 minutes x 5 classes x 2000+ students = over 2000 hours of reading in one high school in one day!

Here's a link to the school website with some photos and an article about the kids and the reading.
3 girls reading during PE class during
"Read Across OCHS" day

If you'd like some wonderful books and activities to share with young readers, check out the read-along going on over at "Helping Little Hands." My daughter, Polly, hosts this blog, and she's posting links to books and activities galore for the month of March, in honor of National Reading Month. Stay tuned...I'll be posting a grandma/grandpa related reading activity for children later in the month!

Thank you Dr. Seuss! And...happy reading!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Praise of "Normal"

Today was just a normal day. Things went fine in my classroom, I had a busy-but-not-overwhelming afternoon in the "literacy coach" part of my job, went for a 2-mile run after work, had a lovely salmon dinner with Mark, and now I'm getting ready to catch up on some grading and lesson planning.

There were no crises, no disasters, no roller-coaster rides.

In this lovely, normal day, as different things came up, I was able to devote my attention to each thing and, in most cases, I felt like I successfully accomplished some useful tasks.

As you may imagine, this is not always the case. Much of the time, my job-school-home life gets crazy busy, I feel overwhelmed and inadequate, and I wonder whether it's better to keep doggy-paddling as hard as I can, or if I would be better to just give it up and admit to the world that I'm really a fraud.

But today that didn't happen. Today was just normal and...nice. *


*In case you're curious, here are some of the things I did today: Enjoyed some "free read" time with my students in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday. Taught students to make inferences from chapter 22 of the novel, The Jump-Off Creek, by Molly Gloss. Students performed it as a reader's theater, then wrote letters from the perspective of one of the characters. Reviewed information about the new state literacy standards. Visited another classroom and helped a special ed student with writing his narrative story. Called the Clackamas Community College English department chair to set up some collaboration between the college and the high school where I teach. Wrote a new standards/proficiency-based syllabus, with a new grading system, for a writing class I will pilot next term. Gave feedback to a colleague on the reflections she is writing to renew her National Board Certified Teacher certification. Went to the remedial reading classroom and reviewed their practice test with a group of students, to help them figure out how to "get" the right answer on their reading test next week. Enjoyed lunch with Mark and other colleagues in our office area. Worked on a new set of lessons for teaching students in English 9 how to write a character-analysis paragraph. Exchanged text messages with a daughter about her upcoming baby shower. Took a 20-minute nap after work. Wrote another page of my thesis, and did some more work on the chapter summaries. Went running for 2 miles. Washed the dishes. Wrote my blog.