Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I have always known that books are a teeny little bit of my addiction in my life, but I think I've reached a new level of craziness.

About two weeks ago, my friend Mary Lee posted a review of a brand spanking new alphabet book, TAKE AWAY the A, by Michael Escoffier. Mary Lee said,  

"You will want this book. I guarantee it.

Best. Alphabet Book. Ever.

This is the kind of mentor text that makes you want to try writing this way...right NOW.

Here's a taste:

"Without the A
the BEAST is BEST.
And then, as if that wasn't enough, Mary Lee went on to say, "Need a quote for a slide in your word study/vocabulary presentation?" And she shared a terrific quote about the connection between vocabulary and concept development.

Well, not only do I LOVE alphabet books, but I actually was doing a vocabulary presentation the next week. I needed that book.

But it's not even actually out yet.

So I went over to Year of Reading and commented, "I am doing a vocabulary presentation next week! On Friday! I NEED this book!!!!!!!! NOW!!!!!!"

About ten minutes later I got a text from Mary Lee.  "How bad do you want it? I can bring it to Colorado today and you can come pick it up at the airport."  That very day she was headed to Denver.  

I wanted it. I wanted it badly.

No actually, really, I NEEDED it. I needed that book for my vocabulary workshop.

And so we made arrangements to meet at the airport. And I drove to the airport, 30 minutes away, during rush hour.

And met Mary Lee at the baggage department.

And got the book (also got to visit for a few minutes while we waited for her ride, which was definitely an added bonus).

And shared it at my workshop.

Then put it in an envelope to send back to her.

Because I love books.

And I really did need it.

But some people might think I'm just a teeny bit crazy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Dear friends.
Thirty five years ago.
When we were sorority sisters.
Alpha Phis at CU.
She left early.
Went to Chicago for Physical Therapy School.
Met her husband.
I was in her wedding.
And then somehow life happened
And we lost touch.

Today we saw each other for the first time in many years.
We talked children.
She has five.
The oldest two are entrepreneurs.
One has pink hair. Owns a florist.
The second one has a wedding lighting business.
I never knew such a thing existed.
Another son has just come back from 8 years as a missionary in Uganda.
Married last October.
Is hoping to start a Ph.D. in third world economics.
And then there is a basketball player.

And the youngest, newly graduated,
was at Arapahoe High School last December
during a shooting.
 I shudder as she tells me about getting a text.
"I'm fine, mom. Don't worry."
And going to the school to find him.
People abandoning their cars on University Boulevard
a major thorough fare. 
Standing in line with parents whose kids didn't have access to their cell phones.
Who didn't know if their kids were dead or alive.
Finally finding her son at King Soopers.

We talk families.
Aging parents.
Her mom's death a year ago.
Difficult siblings.
(Does everyone have one).
Middle aged health challenges.

And then we talk about faith.
Bible studies. 
Books read.
The character of God.
Because that is how we became friends. 
And that is what matters most
to both of us.

And somehow, the years we have lost melt away.
And we are right back where we were
Thirty-five years ago.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Poetry Friday

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

A Fourth of July poem from one of my favorite poets.


A far thud,
Then the rocket
Climbs the air,
A dull red flare,
To hang, a moment,
Invisible, before
It's shut black shell cracks
And claps against the ears,
Breaks and billows into bloom,
Spilling down clear green sparks, gold spears,
Silent sliding silver waterfalls and stars.

Valerie Worth

POETRY FRIDAY is at MY JUICY LITTLE UNIVERSE! Thank you  Heidi for hosting on a holiday!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


I'm getting ready to sell a house.

Or at least I hope I'm getting ready to sell a house.

And it's been more than a little stressful.

But maybe I should start at the beginning.

Eight years ago, shortly after I adopted the boys, it became apparent that my little two bedroom bungalow, in a not very diverse part of Denver, was not quite going to work for our family. It wasn't big enough for their ever growing bodies. No one in the neighborhood looked like them. And it was twenty miles, through city traffic, away from the school where I worked and they attended, and the area where their friends lived, and where all of their sports practices and games were held.

And so, even though I have always loved living in the center of the city, I bought a home in that far east suburb of Denver. And sold my house, ok, well first I rented it, but that's another story.

And to be really honest, even though the boys loved being close to their friends and activities, and the house- with a loft for their video games, and a basement for their drum set, and a huge yard-was perfect for our growing family, I hated the house and the area from the day we moved in. It just wasn't me.

Four years later, when my boys were ready for high school, the coach they had loved, who had filled the father figure role in their lives, was moving on to coach high school football at a more centrally located school. And I decided to follow him and move back to the city.

Except by that point, the bottom had completely fallen out of the real estate market in that part of town. And you couldn't give away a house, let alone sell one. I contemplated a short sale, or foreclosure, and finally decided to rent the house. A friend of the boys had an aunt who was getting divorced and needed somewhere to live. She wanted to rent for a year, then buy it. She was a pharmaceutical sales rep, someone who seemed like she would take good care of the house. I painted, got the carpets cleaned, windows washed, and she moved in.

A year went by, two, three, and now four. I've had the air conditioning repaired. Replaced the refrigerator. And six months ago the hot water heater. This year, my tenant switched jobs. Took a pay cut. Has not been very good about paying rent on time. Bounced several checks. I am not good at confrontation and it's been really stressful.

Earlier this spring, I decided I would try to sell again. The market has improved and my realtor thinks we have a much better chance of selling. I told my tenant she would need to move out as soon as school got out. I thought we would do a few repairs, get the carpets cleaned, and put the house on the market by mid June.

It hasn't quite worked that way. My tenant's mother died, so I let her stay two extra weeks. And the few repairs have turned into a lot of repairs. Stuff that my tenant was supposed to fix- a broken window, two linoleum floors that her puppy chewed up, a bedroom that her teenage daughter had begged to paint, and started, but never finished, didn't get done. I should have collected a security deposit when she moved in, but she was a single mom, newly divorced, broke, and I felt sorry for her, so I didn't. She is supposed to give me the $1300 deposit when she could, but it never happened. It still hasn't. And so I'm stuck with the repairs.

Besides all the rental damage, the house is twenty years old. It needs updating- a new kitchen, new fixtures,  new windows. A hailstorm a couple of weeks ago destroyed the roofs of pretty much every house in the neighborhood. I have $1000 deductible, but it right now, it feels like a million.

To make a long story short, the house still is not on the market. I had to take out a home equity loan to make all the repairs. I've spent the summer running errands. To Home Depot. To the bank. To the real estate office. To meet the handyman at the house. To Home Depot.  To the bank. To meet the roofer at the house. To Home Depot.

And when I'm not running errands, I'm working at the house. Mowing. Watering. Pulling weeds. Dragging away trash that the tenant left. Talking to the sprinkler system guy about why the backyard is not getting any water.

When I'm not running errands or working at the house, I'm working. My district has several curriculum projects going this summer. They needed help. And I needed money. So I'm writing curriculum in my spare time.

I'm trying to stay positive. Looking forward to the day that the house will actually be on the market. Envisioning it sold. Hoping I will make enough to pay off the mortgage and the realtor and the loan. Hoping I will get to read a book or two before I go back to school.

But it hasn't been a very fun summer so far.

Monday, June 30, 2014


All I can say about CROSSOVER, by Kwame Alexander, is man, oh man, do I wish I had had this book a few years ago, when my boys were in middle school. CROSSOVER is a novel in verse, the story of two basketball playing brothers, twins, Josh and Jordan. Their dad is Chuck, (Da Man) Bell, a former European league champion. Their mom is the assistant principal at the school the boys attend.

The novel follows the boys through a basketball season and through a season of life in the family. When the book opens, the boys and their dad are serious, super serious, about basketball. But then Jordan finds a girlfriend and his focus changes. Josh is a little hurt that Jordan isn't spending as much time with him, and that comes out in lots of "brotherly angerish ways." (We have lived this story at our house!)

Kids from fifth grade all the way through middle school are going to love the rap-type poems. Can't wait to pass it off to some of my middle school, "I don't read" guys! Perfect!

In the car, I've been listening to SARAH'S KEY by Tatiana De Rosnay, which I thought was fairly new, until I went to look for a cover for this review, then I discovered it's been out quite a while, so long, in fact, that it is already a movie. SARAH'S KEY is a Holocaust novel,  about the Vel d'Hiv Roundup, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the VĂ©lodrome d'Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. The story is told in alternating chapters- one featuring Sarah Starzynski, a Polish girl living in Paris, whose family is part of the roundup, and the other about Julia Jarmond, an American journalist, married to a Frenchman, and assigned to cover the sixtieth anniversary of the roundup.  Julia discovers that her life and Sarah's are linked through a tragic secret. This is another sad, sad part of the Holocaust that I knew nothing about. The audiobook is really well done.

Friday, June 27, 2014


This is a picture I found, not one I took

I've spent most of the last ten days trying to get a rental property ready to sell. The last tenant did quite a bit of damage, plus the house is about twenty years old, so it needs a lot of repairs before it can go on the market. I've been making phone calls, gathering estimates, meeting with handymen, etc., etc. I'm not good at that kind of stuff, at all, so it's been a pretty stressful couple of weeks. I'm longing for beach time or at least a little breathing room…


I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels…
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
       full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.
Mary Oliver
Source: Poetry (August 2003).

Read the rest of the poem here

Buffy Silverman has the Poetry Friday roundup this week.

Monday, June 23, 2014


A couple of weeks ago, I read a review of ABSOLUTELY ALMOST somewhere. It sounded interesting, so I immediately put it on hold at the library. It came in this weekend. Interestingly,  ABOLUTELY ALMOST had its own little publicity campaign on Facebook and Twitter. I was glad, then, that I had already reserved it, because I bet it would be hard to get now.

When the book opens, ten-year-old Albie has just been kicked out of an exclusive New York City prep school, because he simply isn't able to perform at the required academic level. Enrolled in the public school in his neighborhood, Albie discovers he still is not smart enough. He is required to go to "Math Club" (remedial math) every day. He can't pass the spelling tests. His only friend is a girl named Betsy, who stutters.  And his parents and grandfather are all over him because he isn't meeting their expectations.  At the same time, Albie is a really good kid, a kind and caring kid. His babysitter, Calista, is the first person to point that out to him.

ABSOLUTELY ALMOST is a quick read. The chapters are short, mostly not more than a couple of pages, so it would be a great book for a kid who wasn't a super strong reader. At the same time, it's a really, really good story, with lots to talk and think about. 

I think I'm gonna have to buy this one!