I am deliriously grateful for the educators (teachers and librarians, aides and paras) who care so much about reading and young readers that they ventured out on a cold February Saturday morning in Minnesota to talk with 26 authors and illustrators and 5 stellar booktalkers. It is a COMMUNITY of people who LOVE BOOKS and understand that if children grow to love books (stories and true books) their lives will be infinitely better. These are dedicated people. They listened carefully. They talked with new friends and old friends about books, books, and more books. Those Books for Breakfast feelings are keeping me warm! [Thanks to Debra Frasier for permission to use this photo.]
If it weren’t for insects and lizards, archaeologist was high on my list of careers. The history, the discovery, understanding the connection between then and now. Today I am an armchair archaeologist, avidly following developments in the field. One aspect I could never align with my beliefs is removing items to a museum, oftentimes in another country. I am grateful to know that Factum Arte is reproducing artifacts without moving them, without endangering them, “accurate to one-tenth of a millimeter.” Their work is jaw-dropping, so be sure to watch the video. There are days that being a Luddite is highly appealing (except that I spend 12 hours a day on a computer), but Factum Art’s use of technology is a welcome advancement in archaeology.
There are some people in my life with whom, even though they aren’t present every day or even every year, I feel a solid connection. Part of my writer’s group for many years (begun in Maureen LaJoy’s class), I kept in touch with Terry Lovaas. We didn’t agree on politics, or religion, or what we were writing about, but I respected him. We had lively conversations. We read each other’s manuscripts and gave honest, forward-moving critiques. We worked together on videography projects that made us both proud. Terry was brilliant and caring and an inspired dad and husband. He passed away yesterday, still a young man. He will be missed by a legion of friends and writing group members, and his family. I’m grateful Terry is a part of my story. I’m going to miss hearing him laugh, wondering what he would write next. Fare well, Mr. Lovaas. You were one-of-a-kind.
Eighteen years ago, I woke up in the recovery room after a particularly rough surgery and said, in that anesthetic fog, “I feel like I have an elephant standing on my chest.” I had never heard that phrase before but I have since learned it is a well-known symptom of a heart attack. The staff at Abbott Northwestern Hospital immediately transferred me into a coronary care unit and did everything possible to make sure I wasn’t in danger. As it turned out, I wasn’t. At all. But their care during that hospital stay and the follow-up afterward helped me understand how pro-active our medical community is … and the lifesaving support they offer. On this day, February 1st, I am grateful for Go Red for Women Day, recognizing the importance of women taking care of their heart health and all the efforts to help us recognize what we need to do. Spread the word. Pay attention to your heart health. Go Red!
I know, what a weird thing to be grateful for, but this cheese grater is important in our lives. Roughly 20 years ago, I started coughing about 15 minutes after eating in some restaurants. I talked with my doctor, asked other people, and no one knew what could be causing this. The reaction increased: I could barely breathe for five minutes, my voice was raspy, my head plugged up, and I coughed and coughed. Through trial and error, we figured out that it was a reaction to two things, PHO (partially hydrogenated oil—trans fats) and propylene glycol (which is used to keep food, such as grated cheese, from sticking together). I have to be very picky about what I eat in a restaurant … and we’ve stopped buying grated cheese. With this wonderful cheese grater, it is very easy to grate your own cheese … and it saves money! (At Ikea, it’s a Stralande Rotary Cheese and Food Grater; adjustable for left- or right-hand use)
Gertrude Chandler Warner started writing when she was five years old, in 1895. She wrote The Box-Car Children when she was sick at home, recovering from bronchitis. She wrote a book she wanted to read, believing she would like to live in a caboose. That first Box-Car Children book was published in 1924. Forty years later, I would find it in my elementary school library. That story began a lifelong love of mysteries. They are my go-to stress-relievers, a place for me to get lost in a story. I particularly like a series of mysteries—because I can inhabit that world for a longer period of time. The detectives become memorable people I know well. Warner wrote eighteen books in her series about the Box-Car children. She wrote that first book nearly 100 years ago … and it persists. You can visit her childhood home in Putnam, Connecticut, and tour the Box-Car Children Museum across the street, housed in—what else?—a railroad freight car.
I will forever be grateful to Lorraine Livingston, my professor at Augsburg College, who taught Shakespeare: “Study of ten or twelve major plays, comedies, histories, tragedies with attention to the development of Shakespeare’s dramatic and poetic art. Additional plays assigned for reading and analysis.” The papers were demanding. The final was brutal. I loved every minute of that class. Because of her teaching and meticulous attention to details, I continue to read everything about and by Shakespeare to this day. Such a gift. Did you have a particular teacher who left a lasting gift with you?
I am of two minds about awards. For every award that is given, another book or film or illustrator of equally fine accomplishment goes unrewarded. I always want to stand up, raise my hand, and say, “Yes, but …” When the choices that are made by a committee draw attention to something I don’t want people to miss … I am delighted, of course. Today I am grateful that the Robert F. Sibert Award committee of American Library Services to Children shone their light on two very fine books by authors I am honored to call friends.
Seed catalogs? I collect this artwork on a Pinterest board called “Seed Art.” It’s fascinating to me to mark the changes in illustration over the years. But then there are these “oddities” for which I’m grateful. I love knowing that there’s nothing new about a sense of humor. Did these vegetable people help sell seeds? Steve just ordered Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes from Seed Savers Exchange. It’s a tomato from the Great Depression. We shall see.
It is very cold outside. It’s going to get colder. And it will snow. It will snow a great deal tomorrow. My thoughts turn, without help, to spring and gardens and planting. Seed catalogues are filled with color and dreams, the scents of soil and flowers and greens. The tenderness of sunlight and shade. It is gratifying to know that people have sought a winter lifeline in seed catalogues for more than one hundred years. The artwork is an inspiration.