Monday, January 31, 2011

A Few Random Thoughts on Read Aloud

I wasn't going to blog this morning. I spent most of yesterday helping write a grant for a community organization, and I needed to get up early and do some work for school. But then I read Mary Lee's beautiful entry about read aloud. And I knew I had to write something…

Two years ago, I was doing reading intervention half time. For 90 minutes every afternoon, I met with a group of fourth and fifth graders who were reading at a second grade reading level. Two of the eight were English Language Learners. One little guy we later found out was living with his mom and little sister in their car most of the year. One of the girls was living with her mom and four younger siblings-- her dad was in jail. Another guy was a gentle giant, one of those kids who I know I will see on Monday Night Football some day, but also a kid whose sweet sensitive spirit had some how gotten overlooked in favor of his athletic prowess. And then there were the random children that arrived at our school for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, and then moved on, often without any notice at all. If you were to ask me about a group I would always remember, it would be that group of kids. The reason being- they reminded me of the power of a great read aloud.

The first book I read to them was Barbara O'Connor's HOW TO STEAL A DOG (which, by the the way, is one of my all time favorite read alouds, and a book I have read to two other groups and am about to start for the third time tomorrow). Given that I hardly ever use a novel as a read aloud more than once- that's huge!). That book became the cornerstone of our reading life and of our reading community for the entire year. HOW TO STEAL A DOG was the measuring stick by which we measured all other books, "That was good," the kids would say, "but not as good as HOW TO STEAL A DOG." I turned to HOW TO STEAL A DOG every time I needed to teach a mini-lesson. The children used HOW TO STEAL A DOG as a lens into each other's lives. "You have to be nice to B," said M, a girl who was recognized as one of the biggest bullies on the playground. "Remember HOW TO STEAL A DOG? You don't know what someone else might be going through." HOW TO STEAL A DOG became that scarlet thread that bound the kids together as readers and as human beings.

This year, I'm working with an entire class of fourth graders. And I have to say, in over a quarter of a century of teaching, it is one of the toughest groups I have ever had. Almost thirty kids. Seven reading at a first grade level. Another five reading at least a year below grade level. Five that speak more Spanish than English. A mean girl group that rivals any I have ever seen. Three kids in foster care. A child whose fifteen-year-old mom's in utero drug and alcohol use has led to severe cognitive issues. Several others living with random relatives. It's a tough, tough group, kids with life stories that take my breath away on pretty much a daily basis.

I have taught a long time and have a few tricks in my bag. Usually I can figure out something to tame even the most savage of beasts, but the first month that I worked with these kids was really, really hard. Every time I tried to do a minilesson, or have a writing conference, or engage the kids in independent reading, chaos erupted. They wiggled and squirmed and fought with each other. They stole each other's pencils and chips and book bags. They harrassed and bullied and were unkind to each other.

Over Christmas, I thought about the fourth graders. About how mean they were to each other. About how hard they were to teach. About how far they had to go. About what we were not accomplishing. And I realized that the one thing that I had not done with this group was to read aloud much. In my rush to maximize my 90 minutes of teaching, I hadn't helped them to become a community of readers, or to learn to care for each other. Overwhelmed by their academic and emotional needs, I had forgotten the power of a good book.

And so that first day after Winter Break, we started again. I sat down in my chair in the meeting area. I opened up THE FANTASTIC SECRET OF OWEN JESTER. And I read to them. I read away the hardness of their lives. And read them into a world where a kid could make a hard choice to say goodbye to a beloved pet. And have a big adventure. And stand up to mean friends.

Things didn't change all at once. That first day, the kids complained about sitting on the floor. Some of them didn't listen, or at least didn't appear to be listening. They wiggled and squirmed and poked at each other. I had to do teacher stink eye pretty much every time I turned a page. But I kept reading.

And somehow, over the course of 150 pages, this group is becoming a community. They come to the floor without protest. They press against my knees, gently stroking my legs as I read. They are quiet and focused. After every chapter, they beg me to read, just a little more, just a few more minutes. They are attempting to incorporate some of Barbara O'Connor's techniques into their own writing. They stop by my office to ask for other books by Barbara O'Connor. They are becoming better readers. And more caring human beings.

And that, Mary Lee, is why I read aloud to kids...

Saturday, January 29, 2011


OK, so I really do know that almost everyone in the Kidlitosphere world has already read ONE CRAZY SUMMER. People already know it's the story of Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, three girls who were abandoned by their mother when they were very young. Now, seven years later, the girls are being sent cross country, from New Jersey, where they live with their father and grandmother, to California, to become reacquainted with their mother. Their mother, Cecile, however, is less than pleased about the trip. She is a poet, deeply involved with the Black Panthers, and doesn't really want to be disturbed by her daughters. Each morning, she sends the girls out the door to a day camp run by the Black Panthers.

This is a great piece of historical fiction. Kids will learn a lot about Huey Newton and the Black Panthers. More important to me, however, it's a terrific story about abandonment, and forgiveness, and people doing the best that they can, given their life circumstances. This year, for whatever reason, we have a ton of kids who are not living with their moms. And that deep grief is always at the surface, bubbling over and impacting their learning on a daily basis.. I can't wait to share this book with some of them, then, so that they know they are not alone…

A really great read for upper intermediate or middle schoolers…

P.S. I also know that almost everyone else in the world has had a Kindle, or a Nook, or some other e-reader for a while. BUT, I didn't have one, and my mom bought me a Kindle for an early Valentine's present, and I love it. Way, way fun!

Monday, January 24, 2011



Brownie Groundhog steps outside on February 2nd, hoping to see a few signs of Spring. Unfortunately, all she sees is her shadow, and a small red fox, who is determined to eat her for breakfast.

"Don't be silly," says Brownie, after the fox knocks her down and sends her basket flying. "You're too late for breakfast. You'll have to wait for lunch." And so the two head out for a morning of adventure, which includes gliding and twirling and swirling and looping and swooping across a frozen pond.

Soon, however, Fox begins thinking about food again, and informs Brownie that he is ready to eat her for lunch. "You skated right past lunch," says Brownie. "Now you'll have to wait until dinner." Before dinner comes, however, Brownie ties the Fox to a tree. She starts to leave him, but then has second thoughts…

A fun friendship book with a main character who is sassy and just a little bit bossy! Perfect for sharing with primary grade kids for Groundhog's Day next week!

Friday, January 21, 2011


A crazy busy week.

No time to read poetry.

No time to find or take beautiful pictures to go with the poetry.

No time to stop and stare.

Just 4.4 second to throw a poem on the blog for Poetry Friday, then run off to the next thing.


WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night…

W.H. Davies

Read the rest of the poem here.

Tara is hosting Poetry Friday here.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Several years ago, my friend, Laura Benson, remarked that books could be mirrors that help us look inward and understand ourselves better, or they could be windows, that help us understand the world around us. I have thought of that quote so, so many times since that day…

LOST BOY, LOST GIRL is a memoir, told in alternating chapters, by John Bul Dau and Martha Akech. Bul was 13, Martha was only 6, when Civil War, between the Muslims, who lived in Northern Sudan, and the Christians, who lived in the South, broke out in their country. The two authors, who actually lived in different parts of southern Sudan, were separated from their families, and forced to flee their villages. Both travelled long distances, facing marauding tribes, hunger, disease, and eventually ended up in refuge camps, first in Kenya, then in Ethiopia, before finally traveling to the United States, where they married and started their family

A terrific "window" for middle or high school students, or even adults wanting to understand a different part of the world…

Friday, January 14, 2011


"Morning Poem"

…each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

Mary Oliver

Read the rest of the poem here.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Laura Salas at Writing the World for Kids.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I read it! I actually read it!For the first time ever, I think, I had read the Newbery winner! And even blogged about it! See-- right here!

“Moon over Manifest,” written by Clare Vanderpool, is the 2011 Newbery Medal winner. I loved everything about MOON OVER MANIFEST- the story, the characters, the way the book was crafted. I had not, however, seen it mentioned anywhere as a Newbery contender and never occurred to me to suggest it myself.

Newbery Honor Books (have not read any of these yet)
“Turtle in Paradise,” by Jennifer L. Holm
“Heart of a Samurai,” by Margi Preus
“Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night,” written by Joyce Sidman,
“One Crazy Summer,” by Rita Williams-Garcia

Randolph Caldecott Medal
I have read all three of the Caldecott/Caldecott Honor books.

“Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave,” illustrated by Bryan Collier- This was nominated for the CYBILS nonfiction picture books category, so I read it last month. I thought it was a beautiful book, but wasn't sure about the "kid appeal."

“Interrupting Chicken,” written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein- Every year, I buy myself one new picture (OK, sometimes a few more than that) to start the school year. INTERRUPTING CHICKEN was the book I bought this year. I love it!

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author of outstanding books for children and young adults
“One Crazy Summer,” written by Rita Williams-Garcia- I have been trying to get this one in the library for a couple of months now, I may have to go buy it myself.

“Lockdown,” by Walter Dean Myers a
“Ninth Ward,” by Jewell Parker Rhodes
“Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty,” written by G. Neri- I loved this one. I took it to school and it has been making the rounds of sixth grade. The kids love it too, and I have serious doubts as to whether I will ever see it again.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award recognizing an African American illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults
“Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave,” illustrated by Bryan Collier,
“Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix” - another CYBILS nonfiction picture book nominee

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Author) Award
“Zora and Me,” written by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon, is the 2011 Steptoe author winner. The book is published by Candlewick Press.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Illustrator) Award
“Seeds of Change,” illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler- This was another book we read for the CYBILS. The illustrations are gorgeous.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience. I haven't read any of these.
“The Pirate of Kindergarten,” written by George Ella Lyon
“After Ever After,” written by Jordan Sonnenblick
“Five Flavors of Dumb,” written by Antony John- I have heard lots about this one. I want to read it.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award honoring a Latino writer whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience. I haven't read any of these yet.
“The Dreamer,” written by Pam Muñoz Ryan
¡Olé! Flamenco,” written and illustrated by George Ancona
“The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba,” written by Margarita Engle
“90 Miles to Havana,” written by Enrique Flores-Galbis

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience
“Grandma’s Gift,” illustrated and written by Eric Velasquez
Fiesta Babies,” illustrated by Amy Córdova, written by Carmen Tafolla
“Me, Frida,” illustrated by David Diaz
“Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin,”

Robert F. Sibert Medal for most distinguished informational book for children
“Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot,” written by Sy Montgomery

Sibert Honor Book “Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring,” written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca- Another CYBILS nominee
“Lafayette and the American Revolution,” written by Russell Freedman and published by Holiday House.


Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book

“Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!” written and illustrated by Grace Lin- I have read this one, but I didn't blog about it.
“We Are in a Book!” written and illustrated by Mo Willems- I love, love, love, love this series. THERE IS A BIRD ON MY HEAD is still my favorite though.

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens
“The Freak Observer,” written by Blythe Woolston (I want to read this. Blythe is a Poetry Friday contributor and I have looked at this book several times on her website. It looks great.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.

“Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing,” written by Ann Angel, is the 2011 Excellence winner.

Friday, January 7, 2011


A couple of months ago, Son #1 had to do a project on an artist from the Harlem Renaissance. I thought I knew quite a few poets, but when he got the name out of his backpack, it was Sterling Brown, a poet who was new to me. As we got further into the project (and yes, this project was a "we" project-- and please don't send me any notes about parents who do projects for/with their kids because I am a teacher and I already know all of that stuff, but there is just something about slapping two pictures on a piece of posterboard that brings fuzz to my teeth!), I wondered why I had never heard of Sterling Brown. He was one of the first poets to publish in the black "vernacular." He was a professor at Howard University for 40 years. When he retired, some people wanted to rename the university after him. He is considered one of the founders of African American studies programs at the university level. He wrote books and essays and literary criticism.

At one point in "our" research, I said, "Holy cow, Zay you got a rock star."
"You mean like Lil' Wayne?" he replied.

Reading about Sterling Brown, I wonder why I was never asked to read his work in high school or college. He really was a rock star in the literary world. His poetry is mean and gritty and true to life.

Maybe some of you are like I was, and had never heard of Sterling A. Brown either. But we should have. We certainly should have.

Strong Men

They dragged you from the homeland, They chained you in coffles,
They huddled you spoon-fashion in filthy hatches,
They sold you to give a few gentlemen ease.

They broke you in like oxen, They scourged you, They branded you,
They made your women breeders, They swelled your numbers with bastards..
They taught you the religion they disgraced.
You sang:
Keep a-inchin' along
Lak a po' inch worm…
You sang:
By and Bye
I'm gonna lay down this heaby load…
You sang:
Walk togedder, chillen,
Dontcha git weary…
The strong men keep a-comin' on
The strong men get stronger.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Poetry Friday is at Live! Love! Explore! Thanks for hosting Irene!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


One of the hardest things about changing schools is having to change reading buddies. I miss my old friends- the people who would stop by my room or office with a book in hand. I'm starting, though, to develop new reading friends. This week, one of my new reading friends brought me SPOON, a book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, an author I really love.

SPOON is the story of a little spoon, who lives in the silverware drawer with his mama and daddy. One day he decides he is not happy being a spoon, he would rather be a knife, or a fork, or a pair of chopsticks. His mama and his friends, knife, fork, and chopsticks remind him that everyone has their own unique and special talents. A sweet little book, with lots of clever word play, perfect for a beginning of the year "Me Unit."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Over Christmas break, I read Pat Conroy's MY READING LIFE. I checked it out from the library, but I think it is one I am going to have to own. It is a book that is meant to be savored- read, reread, underlined, dogeared, copied, quoted.

Here a few of my favorite lines, so far, anyway:

I had witnessed with my own eyes that a poem could make a Colonel cry. Though it was not part of a lesson plan, it imparted a truth that left me spellbound. Great words, arranged with cunning and artistry, could change the perceived world for some readers. From the beginning, I’ve searched out those writers unafraid to stir up the emotions, who entrust me with their darkest passions, their most indestructible yearnings, and their most soul killing doubts. I trust the great novelists to teach me how to live, how to feel, how to love and hate. I trust them to show me the dangers I will encounter on the road as I stagger on my own troubled passage through a complicated life of books that try to teach me how to die. pp 10-11

I take it as an article of faith that the novels I’ve loved will live inside me forever. 11

Writing about a very special high school teacher

“Tell me a story,” he commanded and I did. Those were the last words he ever spoke to me and they formed an exquisite unimprovable epitaph for a man whose life was rich in the guidance of children not his own. He taught them a language that was fragrant with beauty, treacherous with loss, comfortable with madness and despair and a catchword for love itself. His students mourned Gene all over the world, wherever they found themselves. They were ecstatic to be part of the dance. 76

Slowly my students started displaying the confidence that comes from being smart. 79

I grew up a word haunted boy. I felt words inside me and stored them wondrous as pearls. I mouthed them and fingered them and rolled them around on my tongue. My mother filled my bedtime hour with poetry that rang like Sanctus bells as she praised the ineffable loveliness of the English language with her Georgia-scented voice. I found that hive of words beautiful beyond all conveyance. They clung to me and blistered my skin and made me happy to be alive in the land of crape myrtle, spot-tailed bass and eastern diamond backs. The precise naming of things served as my entryway into art. The whole world could be sounded out. I could arrange the whole world into a tear sheet of music composed of words as pretty as flutes or the tail feathers of peacocks.

From my earliest days, I felt compelled to form a unique relationship with the English language. I used words to fashion a world that made sense to me. p. 85

I could build a castle from the words I steal from books I cherish. 87

I’ve known dozens of writers who fear the pitfalls and fastnesses of the language they write in and the glossy mess of the humanity they describe. Yes, humanity is a mess and it takes the immensity of a coiled and supple language to do it justice. 88

Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself. 88

At an early age, I had turned to reading as a way for the world to explain itself to me. p.111

Books are living things and their task lies in their vows of silence. You touch them as they quiver with a divine pleasure. You read them and they fall asleep to happy dreams for the next ten years. If you do them the favor of understanding them, of taking in their portions of grief and wisdom, then they settle down in contented wisdom in your heart. 111

I envied the way they (poets) could make language smoke and burn and give off a bright light of sanctuary. The great ones could fill what was empty in me. In the vast repository of language, the poets never shout at you when you pass them by. Theirs is a seductive, meditative art. They hand you a file to cut your way out from any seductive prison of misrule.

On my writing desk, I always keep the poets close by, and I reach for them when those silver, mountain-born creeks go dry or when exhaustion rearranges the furniture of my fear chambered heart. The poets force me back to the writing life, where the trek takes you into the interior, where the right word hides like an ivy-billed woodpecker in the branches of the highest pines. 141-142

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reflections on #bookaday

Over Christmas break, Donalyn Miller and other "Twitter Friends" organized #bookaday- the goal literally was to read a book a day. Don't know that I reached that goal, but I did read a lot.

Here is the list, as best as I can remember:
1) Moon Over Manifest- Claire Vanderpol
2) Countdown- Debra Wiles
3) Because of Mr. Terupt- Rob Buyea
4) The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda- Tom Anglebarger
5) The Secret Life of Ms. Finkelman
6) Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off
7) Bink and Gollie- Kate DiCamillo
8) Lulu and the Brontosaurus- Judith Viorst
9) 13 Words- Lemony Snicket
10) Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog
11) A Sick Day for Amos McGee
12) Once Upon a Royal Superbaby
13) Children Make Terrible Pets
14) I also read about two thirds of Pat Conroy's My Reading Life and not quite half of The Book Thief
15) And I reread and reread and reread about twenty of the CYBILS picture books in preparation for the panel's selection of semifinalists.

It was great to spend so much time reading (although looking at my house right now, some people might argue with that). Because reading like this, and "chatting" with people about reading reminded me of some big and important truths:

1) Reading is about community, about connections, relationships, talking about books, sharing titles, saying, "I loved that too."
I loved getting to do all of this reading, catching up on my novels, reading a few books that people think might win the Newbery, etc. But what I loved even more was "talking" to folks about books. I "met" so, so, so many nice people on line through "bookaday." And had so many great conversations. And added so many great books to my TBR pile. I also loved my face to face conversations with my book club, who has been together for fifteen years, now, and sharing coffee with The Boy Reader (who so should try Twitter but so far hasn't) and talking about books with my good friend, Patrick (coloreader).

2) Reading is not about competition or completing a certain number of pages. I am an over achiever. If I am supposed to read a book a day, by gosh, that is what I will do. The problem with this, however, was that several of the books I read during #bookaday were pretty long. THE BOOK THIEF, for example, was over five hundred pages. The subject matter, at least so far, is really heavy. I couldn't read that in a day. And yet some part of me, in the back of my head, was telling me that I "failed" at bookaday because I didn't read a whole book every day. (PLEASE NOTE: That wasn't anyone else's assessment of the situation, no one was grading me. - it was only my own inner critic talking!)

3) You don't always have to read books "at your level" whatever that means.
I have a Ph.D in reading and writing instruction. I read a lot. Growing up, I was always an "Eagle" never a dodo bird. That means that I should be able to read pretty hard books, right? But you know what? I don't always want to read hard books. I don't usually want to read hard books. I would much rather read three shorter middle grade novels than one really long one. Or some days I just want to go to Tattered Cover and sit and read picture books for an hour (or two or three). And that's fine. Why then, for Pete's sake, do we insist on kids reading books "at their level" (whatever that means) all the time, or even most of the time? The best reader in the sixth grade, who could probably easily read and understand THE BOOK THIEF should be allowed to read ORIGAMI YODA or any other book she wants. And the worst reader in the class, the kid who struggles and struggles and struggles to make sense of print, should be allowed to read ORIGAMI YODA too. No one should be telling anyone what they can or can't read. "Level," whatever that means, is about a whole lot more than how many words are on a page, or how many mistakes a reader makes while they read those words. Sometimes "level" is simply about interest or being part of the reading club in your classroom.

3) I didn't make dioramas or take tests on anything I read. I didn't even keep very good track.
Lots of people have written about that whole take a test or do a project approach to reading, so I'm not going to. I am also not going to write about the benefits on an online record keeping system, e.g. Goodreads. Lots of people in #bookaday keep track of what they have read through this system. I tried that over break, but I seriously doubt that I will continue. It just adds one more layer that I don't want or need to my reading.

I did blog, on some of the books. I started the blog three years ago, because I wanted to learn to do something new. I'm really thinking about its purpose now, however. I like blogging, but more than the actual writing about the books, I love the connections I have made with other people (that community thing again). And lots of the books I blog about are books other people have already blogged about. And I only have 19 followers. So maybe I don't need to blog. Or maybe I need to figure out something new and different to blog about.

4) The more complicated we make the program and record keeping, the less actual reading gets done.
I read. I blog. Then I go on Goodreads and I'm supposed to make another comment. "What a minute!" I think. Didn't I already say something like this on my blog. Yeah, I did, but because I am a little compulsive about a few things, e.g. reading (not housework) I say the same stuff again. And pretty soon I have eaten up fifteen minutes that I could have been reading (or cleaning).

5) It's ok to nibble a book a little at a time.
There are some books, e.g. ORIGAMI YODA that I gobbled at one sitting. There are other books, however, that took me much longer. Pat Conroy's MY READING LIFE, for example, really isn't meant to be gobbled. Nor is it meant to be read at 2 am on New Year's Eve when I was waiting for my son to get home from his girlfriend's house. MY READING LIFE is rich and beautifully crafted and full of gems I wanted to remember. I wanted to stop and write them down and think about them (I checked the book out from the library, otherwise I would have been writing all over it). I will probably end up buying this book. And reading, and rereading, and rereading. And that's ok. Some books are meant to be nibbled, a little at a time.

6) Certain books are meant for certain times in a reader's life.
THE BOOK THIEF is deep and dark and complex. I have wanted to read it for a long time, and when a colleague gave it to me I was thrilled. It was the first book on my TBR stack. I didn't finish it this break however. 2010 was a hard, hard, hard year for me. I also have a hard time with winter, when it's cold outside, and when the darkness comes so early. I wasn't up for reading THE BOOK THIEF. I will probably finish it, but I'm not sure if that will be 15 or 2o pages a night, or if I will wait until this summer, when I am in a better head space, and the world isn't so dark and the earth isn't so cold.

7) When I read more, I think more. And writing comes more easily.
But that is a subject for another day, because now I have to go back to work...

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I'm not much of a New Year's resolution kind of gal, mostly because I don't see much point, because I never keep them. For the last four years, for example, I have resolved to lose 20 pounds. And walk more. And take my two badly behaved labs to doggie boot camp. The trouble is, I usually don't last too long with resolutions. This morning I was eating Frito Lay scoops at 10:14 am. And it never got above 20 so I didn't go for a walk. And one of my dogs, who shall remain nameless, tore up a Christmas wreath my sister made for me 20 years ago, when I went to answer the phone.

I have, however, tried several different variations on the New Year's Resolution theme. One of my good friends says that rather than making resolutions, people should make a list of really concrete things that they want to do that year, e.g. Go see the King Tut Exhibit at the Museum before it leaves on January 9th. And that you should have as many things on the list as you are years old. I have actually tried this a couple of times. And I like it. Or I like it until I lose the list, which usually happens about January 10th.

Another group I follow take the "one word" approach to resolutions. With that approach, you choose one word, and focus on that word all year. Some people even make scrapbooks or do special projects related to their word. I actually tried the one word thing last year. I chose the word order. Looking around my house, my car, my desk at work, though, it kind of looks like I chose disorder. So I am not sure that quite worked for me either.

All this to say, the resolution thing just doesn't work for me. Or the yearly bucket list. Or the one word thing. But I do feel just a teeny bit of guilt that I don't do any of that stuff very well. So I try to do my own thing. It's called the "Learn One New Thing" list. This year, I'm going to learn to use the camera that I bought myself for Mother's Day. To that end, I'm setting up my own personal 365 photos blog. Feel free to drop by any time…