Monday, July 19, 2010


I spent this weekend in Florida visiting my dad as well as two of my sisters and their families. My Eric and Keri (ages 36 and 26) joined me as we all thought this may be their last opportunity to visit with their granddad. Today is his 88th birthday; he has bone cancer and is expected to live only another few months.

He was in great form and good humor and hasn't slowed his routine down much at all. He drives to 8:30 mass every day and takes Holy Communion to old, sick people. A bit ironic, but when he's not experiencing pain or suffering from exhaustion, he's up to speed.

We chatted a lot, which means I heard some stories retold for at least the 99th time and learned a couple of new tidbits about our family that apparently have floated to the top of his memory after over 70 years. He remembers the names of all 13 boys in his eighth grade class and assured me he could tell me all the girls' names as well. I don't doubt that at all.

I have learned that old people usually love to talk about their youth and are especially fond of retelling war stories and recollections of how they met the love of their life. Since I love to read and my favorite novels are about families, I don't usually get too antsy listening to Dad's reveries.

While at the breakfast table, my nieces and nephews were talking about their summer reading lists and a couple of them were dreading having to read certain books. This is something I hear often since I answer the library help line and try to find specific titles for children to read before going back to school. There is no question about the value of reading during the summer. Studies have proven that children can slip as much as two reading levels during the two-month period.

The best case scenario with reading lists is that children are introduced to books and authors they wouldn't otherwise have read. My niece, Abbie, fell in love with "Gathering Blue" by Lois Lowry in seventh grade and has been re-reading it every summer since then, as well as her other reading choices. My daughter also found a couple of novels on school reading lists that she reads over and over.

The worst cases are those times when children who aren't avid readers cannot obtain a book that might interest them because of very long waiting lists at libraries and short supply at the book stores. I answer calls on the libray help line from panicky mothers who are desperate to find books their child needs to read. When they find out they're at least number 55 on the hold list for all the titles they think the kid might read, they try to get anything on the list.

I know reading materials for students need to be monitored or many teenagers would dive into graphic novels or vampire tales and not even attempt to read anything else. And I don't agree with those people who say, "As long a they're reading, it doesn't matter what it is." Sure it does. My fear, though, is that children are being turned off to reading in general because of one "boring" book. If they stick with it, they may find they actually enjoy it, although they probably won't admit it, but they may also choose not to pick up any book if they don't have to.

Some young people call asking how many pages a book has and then request the Cliff Notes. Of course, you always have those who have no intention of reading the book and want the movie version. One young guy wanted the movie of "To Kill A Mockingbird." I told him we had the book available and that he would proably like it but he said, nah, he just wanted to watch it. Another thorn in education's side!

I do remember seeing "My Antonia" by Willa Cather on my reading list every year for the duration of high school and avoiding it like the plague although I have no idea why. It is still on reading lists so it obviously endured the test of time despite my snubbing it.

You YA writers have a huge challenge: Turn those video game addicts into eager readers. Their moms will love you for life and I bet we'll have long waiting lists for your wonderful stories.

Happy reading and writing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer Wear

How much longer will summer be here? We're in the South, so I guess another three months or so. I really like summer with so many beautiful flowers and trees in bloom and just the lazy daisy feeling that goes with it. Humidity and "warm days" of 99 degrees aren't even going to be mentioned! The problem I have with this season is summer clothes. I'm sure I sound like an idiot and should just wear whatever is comfortable but I'd rather not be the laughing stock of Georgia!

Summer clothes are designed for those lovely individuals who become golden brown even when lathered in SPF 45 and who have nothing to hide on their legs. Varicose veins or razor cuts wouldn't dream of marring those limbs. And some even sport discreet (?) tatoos. I know there are 101 products on the market to "simulate a tan." The one time I tried using one, I had orange stripes for a month and am not brave enough to go that route again, even with all the new and improved brands available.

Try to find a nice, light-weight pair of slacks or casual pants that reach the ankles, besides khakis. Capris and shorts are great -- for most people. It isn't the stores' fault; they can't sell what isn't produced and I am quite obviously in the minority with wanting to cover up.

Remember that old song "Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini'? That describes paranoid me when I look in the mirror at my pale, scarred bean poles sticking out from what appears on the hanger to be a cute garment. "And in the locker, she wanted to stay."

I don't want summer to end to soon but I sure do look forward to Fall clothes.