Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Handwriting Happiness

Here's my first workshop in Indiana. To say that the room was full of eager participants is one thing, but to see their enthusiastic faces in action is quite another. Here I'm catching them all mid-giggles as we are working out our choreography for my favorite Zaner-Bloser song, "Top to Bottom" which is all about print directionality from the perspective of four and five year olds. Don't you just want your children to be in the classroom of these energetic teachers??
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hoosier Hysteria

I'm finally caught up to Indiana's AEYC..... which were the final days up to the very last few minutes before we departed for Europe. Here I am being greeted by my fanclub friends who were adding to their personal collections of Debbie Clement picture books. It's always great to return to a conference where I have presented previously. It's especially delightful to return to my Hoosier roots and get the hugs and encouragement of teachers who have already used my work in their classrooms.

****We pose these pictures for several reasons. The first and probably most important is that the teachers can then print out the picture and affix it permanently within the front cover of the book. That way, every time the teacher shares the book, they can share their picture with the author/illustrator. This is a brilliant idea from a children's librarian who poses with authors and illustrators in her travels for gift books to be given to her grand-children.

By having the photographic 'evidence', the young audience gets to meet a "real" author that becomes all the more "real" because they know and recognize their teacher. I have had all sorts of teachers get back to me about what a difference this makes in the connection of the children to the book itself. Children appreciate seeing a signed book. One that is personalized is all the more exciting, but one that is personalized, signed and has the picture of their teacher with the author is a real thrill.

I honestly believe that in the mind of a young child the making of authors into 'real' people -- people that their teachers can meet and hug, conveys the truth that 'real' people, people that they can come to know, people like themselves, real, live, ordinary, actual people, can write books. It's just a very small leap from there to the conecpt that they, too, can write a book.

Here's to making authors real people.
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Birthday Blast Bonanza!

After spending some sand-filled days with the Testosterone Trio of grandsons, we drove north from Kentucky and the Family Literacy Conference and made our way back to Columbus to spend a couple of quick and hug-filled days with Sarah and the WonderPeeps!! We decided that even though daddy, Scott was off in Iraq, we stil needed to celebrate their April birthdays. Birthday hats all around. Hugs, cakes and so much fun with friends and family.
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Saturday, June 25, 2011


It's summer-time!!! It's officially the first weekend of summer!!! That means daisies are blooming. Daisies are blooming and I have a new camera! I have the crazies for daisies.

Is it their simplicity? Is it their ability to grow cultured in sunny garden borders as well as along the meandering gravel pathways that attracts my eye? Is it the 'loves me/loves me not' exploration of my bicycle riding youth? Is it their seemingly accepting demeanor? Perhaps it's their unadorned humble posture? There are no hoity-toity daisies. No marketing. No holier-than-thou. No competitive daisies. None what so ever. Salt of the earth these beauties. Charming. Fascinating. Endearing.

And against a blue sky they are transcendent. Enjoy with me again, my first movie-making experiment.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Beach Boys & Building

One of the great things about being with grand-parents is that they are more than excited to go out on early morning beachie explorations. Here we found our 'professional' sand castle construction-guy getting all organized to start his final project of the week. He creates great big SOLID packs of sand from which to sculpt and build his creations. He brings all sorts of equipment to the beach, learning as he goes from a variety of websites and tutorials. He let the boys stand in his packing sand in an effort to get it even further compressed.

If you look very closely, you'll see that he is not compressing the sand in actual buckets. He explained to me that he has 'up-cycled' old conveyor belts from his job at a Frito Lay factory. He rolls the conveyor belts into the size circle/bucket that he desires to fill and then clips it into shape with some heavy-duty, seriously strong clips. That's when he starts the 'tamping' down process. Once he gets the sand really packed, he removes the clips and unrolls the side mold (conveyor belt) and he's left with the perfect sand cylinder for sculpting. He's a big fan of archways and bridges as you can see here. No. He did not get that entire castle sculpted while we did our early morning comb of the beach. We stopped back later in the afternoon to see his finished creation. Watching an expert at work at what they love is always an inspiration.

*****Next week includes "International MUD Day" where all things mud & dirt are celebrated. Surely slurping about in the wet sand is good preparation for pure 'mud' play? Whether you're seven in the slurrrpy/sloppy sand or a full grown man with sculpting tools in hand -- having the opportunity to dig and sculpt is pure delight, as evidenced by these pics filled with glee!

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Setting the Stage: Curtains!

One of my favorite sentiments from Dr. Jean Feldman is the time I heard her say, "In our rush to give children the things we never had, let us also remember to give them the things we did have." In my workshop presentations I address that very issue and expound on the concept by sharing the black & white pictures from my childhood scrapbook, saying, "I am so old, (how old are you?) I was born before they had invented color." Ba-ding, ching. I go on to say that I was from the era when we threw a blanket over a table and it was a submarine -- because we said it was a submarine. You didn't have to go to Walmart to purchase the submarine pack of do-dahs.

Imagine if you will, arriving at a time-share resort and exploring your new digs to find a huge garden-tub in the master bedroom suite. Just imagine the fun you could have with sea urchins if that same tub is seperated from the sleeping area with a set of hinged decorative shutters. VOILA! A stage. A stage complete with curtains!!! "Let's have a show!!"

Gather up all manner of fluffies and lovies and let's get this fun started!!! Our Daytona time included one entire 32 hour stint of down-pouring rain. Thank goodness GeeGee is a good audience for 'shows.' We got so elaborate that the lead actor began the hand-printing of tickets, complete with times and seat assignments. Imagine the good feelings that came flooding back when one of those precious writing exercises fell out of my stack of beach reads weeks later. 'Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.'

Parents. Teachers. Grand-parents. We give our children amazing power and gifts when we let them create from the raw ingrediants of nothing. I grew up with an active imagination. We took l-o-n-g car-crossing-the-country camping trips where the telling of stories and the singing-of-songs and the playing-of-games from road signs were the main attractions of the day. What we did have growing up was the opportunity to 'make believe' to write our own stories, to create our own skits, to continue our new songs by adding additional verses around the evening campfire.

Go retro. Be the first in your play group to have a day to go green. Be sure you take ample time this summer to turn off the screens, to disconnect from all of the technology at hand and to listen instead to the stories that are just awaiting being written. The twin gifts of creativity and imagination will fuel the heart & soul for years to come, when given the opportunity, sufficient time and an appreciative audience to stretch and grow in the hands of developing playrights.

P.S. That same garden-tub "stage" can be coerced into creating a perfect spot for shampoo and bubbles -- when absolutely necessary.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!!

Happy Father's Day. Enjoy the variations on fathers pictured above. My husband, Allen and our youngest grand-child. Then three generations captured together with the addition of Brian into the picture appearing as both son and father and then the final snap is one concluding with Brian and all three of his sons in the same frame (pretty unique -- as a beach calls boys in all sorts of directions at the same time.)

The picture of Allen walking with eager toddler reminds me so much of an old photo of my own dad, walking a then-toddler-Sarah down the sidewalk in her little green personalized OshKosh overalls and purple hooded sweatshirt. That photo is one of my very favorites of my dad. What is it about grown men with toddlers that capture the heart-strings so immediately? Rough 'n tuff manly men, family providers, now gifted with a new role, that of appreciating the role of grand-father-hood. With the gift of time comes opportunity & insight, both. That's part of the equation undoubtedly.

The other portion of the equation? That total, complete trust and adoration on the part of the toddler. Decades apart in perspective, on the scenes unfolding, yet connected by a teeny finger's grip into that of a big-bear paw of a mitt of fingers. The cruising toddler is out exploring the world anew, every wave's splash or sidewalk's twig a whole new marvel to explore, surely a gift to the parent. Multiply that blessedness by a gazillion for the grandpa on the journey. PRICELESS, indeed.

What a treasure for my daddy to get to explore the role of great-grandpa. He wears the hat well, happily known as "POP-POP" by three blue-eyed wonders. Just last week I was walking Pop-Pop's 'Little Red' down the local metro park trail, when passers-by inquired, "Where'd ya get that amazing red hair, little one?" I knew the answer: Pop-Pop!! She just smiled and waved, flipping her carrot-top tresses knowing even as a three year old that they set her apart.

We have biological gifts from our fathers for certain, but the gifts of time and attention are the ones that hew the marble of our personalities into what the world will come to know over time as our own legacy. The consistency of presence is the most magnificent present of all. The attendance at junior high band concerts or coaching of sporting teams, the supervision of homework and trips to the orthodontist, the wild cheering of the original Big Red Machine from the top deck -- in honor of a straight A report card, those are the impressions that string together the pearls of childhood into a worthy necklace for adolescence and create a treasured heirloom to share through adulthood.

Happy Father's Day, daddy!!! Happy Father's Day, Allen!!!! Happy Father's Day, Brian & Scott!!! It's a great day to reflect on the value of love and dedication.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Family (Literacy) and Friends

Blogging backlog, testy technology, foggy memory and attempting to sort things out..... For whatever reason my Picassa program for downloading my photos has not been chronologically correct this spring. Picassa has just randomly put pictures willy & nilly where ever it has thought would be the best way to confuse me. I've encountered this once before and if I'm blogging in real time it hasn't been too nutty. As I think back now, literally a couple of months after the Family Literacy Conference has come & gone, I do believe that these particular pictures are from the day-BEFORE my presentation. (So these pictures took place before those I've posted over the last couple of days..... not that there will be a quiz over any of this. LOL) The only reason that I knew that these photos existed and went searching diligently for them, is because of the last two images in this series above.

Those last two pictures are very near & dear to my heart. They are dear cyber-sisters from BCO (BreastCancer dot Org) who live just across the river in southern Indiana. There are tens of thousands of members at BCO -- unfortunately -- and the longer I remain active there, now offering support, where once I was the recipient of amazing support, you come to feel as though you truly know your cyber friends. But the three of us are significantly even 'closer' as we are three members of "Team January 2010" meaning women all going thru BC surgery in the same month: together. We three were truly on the same trajectory of anticipation and experience and have followed each other's stories very closely as a result.

I don't think she'd mind if I mention that in the two months that it's taken me to get these photos onto my blog, Gina, pictured in khakis in the last two pictures was actually diagnosed with Breast Cancer for a second time and has gone thru yet more surgery & its aftermath. So she and I consider ourselves to be two-time sistahs and have the unique experience of knowing what that second diagnosis feels like. Tall Robin is a musician and she has used my materials in her elementary music room setting. So it was an enormous thrill for me to meet the two of them!!! I am particularly blessed to meet my BCO sisterhood in my travels and these two are truly gems. In the hour we had to visit we all 3 yakked in unison nearly the whole time, just taking breaths in-between for the laughter to roll off into the hallway. Thanks to all my Team January buddies & especially to these two who made a point to track me down.

As I am re-thinking what having this blog is about, who it is for and why I keep adding to it, I periodically do indeed reference my trials with BC and how that fits into the whole picture. Some suggested I keep a whole separate blog about those travails. I knew that I couldn't keep all of that straight. It's all me, polka-dots, laughter, breast cancer, quilting, artwork, BC side effects, singing children, the whole of my ups and downs, all rolled into one, which is after all how my days unfold. Tangled together. One reality impacting the other.

There was just recently a thread (discussion) over at BCO entitled "Did I Make My Treatment Look Too Easy" and the person writing shared that she had been all 'happy-face' and nonchalant with her professional peers & buddies during her treatment and then was surprised that so many were lax in offering her support. The title of that discussion has really had me reflective. I've thought about what a 'dis-service' I may be to my fellow sisters, in that I am out and about and might appear to be traveling the world with big cheesy smiles as though nothing's happened. On one hand the fact is that both of my BC's were detected VERY early and consequently I've never had chemo or any of those ramifications. I certainly refrain from calling it 'cancer-lite' but the fact is that my experience is far from that of many women, whose work is truly impacted by treatment and its aftermath. Then there's the extremely unbelievable oddity that I would have Lymphedema ramifications, that are barely understood by anyone: layperson or professional.

As long as I'm on a ramble I just feel the need to point out that while I am able to appear to 'zip' about in blog pictures, the LE does raise it's ugliness in my stamina and also in what I even schedule to attempt. I have the great good fortune of having a husband who can now do the extreme driving that I had once done under my own power. He's there to lift in and haul out all of my gear and the boxes of books -- there is no way on earth that I could attempt such exploits solo any more. Hurrah for Allen!!! BOOOOHISSSSS for LE!!!!

BC is a strange concoction of initial shock, multitudes of pamphlets, numerous doctor appointments, marketing over-hype, personal experience, some individual yet genuine limitations, follow up dread, celebrity spotlight, and the stark reality that science is not yet providing all the answers. I write this post on the heels of learning that science failed our dearest "Konakat" a too young Canadian, who by all rights should have been a stand-up comediane. She was brilliant and funny, making hilarious descriptions of her decline as she spoke of chocolate in memorable ways. She was too amazing for you to have any sense in a quick mention here, but she will be utterly & forever missed. Her voice was so completely unique, witty and informed, upbeat even in the face of the unthinkable and now it is forever and all-too-soon silent.

Every now and then I feel the need to veer from the polka dots and share just a tad bit of why I am so THRILLED to continue my work, humbled/hobbled as I am at times. Despite all of the pink ribbons -- from dog food labels (truly THE most bizarre use of a pink ribbon ever IMHO) to license plates and everywhere in between.... we are still losing far too many brilliant women, far too early. This being my 1312th post I felt the need to get a little off my chest.... where there's not a whole lot of much anyhow. End of rant.

I promise a quick return to the beach tomorrow, in time for Father's Day, as I stumbled into those pictures in the cache of out-of-order photos. We will return to sunshine and lollipops, which is where I prefer to spend the majority of my time.

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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