Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Slice: Four days to grow

I took a day off from work last Tuesday.  Make that four days, because I didn't return to work until yesterday.

It was the annual conference time again for Texas librarians.  Thousands of us converged on Houston's convention center, making our way through rain and flood warnings to gather and learn and celebrate literacy. Judging by the crowd, it seemed most of the attendees made it.  Sure, there were a few missing authors due to cancelled flights and impassable roads, but the conference carried on.

So what did I do for four days away from work?

I speed-dated the Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees for three hours on Tuesday.  Authors and members of the Bluebonnet committee traveled from table to table, talking about the books and showing us related activities to share with our students.  After the rounds, we lined up to get free and nominally-priced books signed.

The next morning, we were singing the theme song of "Reading Rainbow" with LeVar Burton in our general session.  His lifelong love of literacy and education is inspiring!
I attended breakout sessions on collaborating with classroom teachers to support the curriculum, engaging students with fun activities, and a showcase of the new Texas 2x2 list for our younger readers--can't wait to share those with them next school year!

At the Bluebonnet Award Luncheon, we listened as author Laban Carrick Hill read us a poem for Poem in Your Pocket Day.  Illustrator Theodore Boone III talked about his history with hip-hop music and bragged on his wife and adorable baby.

Jeff Kinney wowed us at our Texas Association of School Librarians breakfast.  Did you know he owns a bookstore in Massachusetts?
More breakout sessions taught me ways to support my teachers with their new T-TESS evaluation using technology in the library, and introduced me to the Little Mavericks, our new list of recommended graphic novels for the K through 5th grade crowd.

There were less serious events, too; the Children's Illustrator Sketch-Off was a hoot, and our district's Book Cart Drill Team was fabulous!
Our final session featured Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame.  Pilkey shared his childhood history of ADHD and dyslexia, and spoke about the importance of free choice in children's reading.  There are no "junk books", he said; any book has something of value for a child, if the child chooses to read it.
I drove back to Austin on Friday afternoon.  The sun was shining, no floods along the way, so I didn't even mind getting a teeny bit lost and adding a half hour to my trip.  More time to ponder what I had seen and learned in Houston.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tuesday Slice: Excuses

I didn't want to do it.  

I had plenty of excuses in hand.  
     Tired from a long day at work.
     Dressed up just a little today, felt good about how I looked at the moment.
     Would rather go out to dinner, dressed up as I was.
     There's reading to get done by Wednesday.
     I've got laundry to do.
     The plants need watering.
     It's already too warm outside, I'll need another shower after.

The voice of reason spoke up, then.  Or was it yelling at me?
     You promised yourself time outside every day this month.
     You are committed to forming healthy habits.
     Diabetes and stroke run in your family.
     You are not going out to dinner tonight.
     A hot shower feels good at the end of the day.
     You can water the plants when you get home.
     The reading can get done while the laundry is going.

On went the tee shirt and shorts, showing off pasty white legs and spider veins.  On went the brightly colored sneakers.  Out the door, take a right.  Wave and talk to hubby as he returns from his bicycle ride.  Round this cul-de-sac, then straight up the hill.  

Greet the gentleman as he heads for his front door.  Not much older than me, but can barely lift his feet up to the curb as he carries his groceries in.  That is why I'm walking.

Take a left at the top of the hill. Pause for the elderly man shuffling across the sidewalk to his mailbox, so stooped over that he looks as though he will fall at any moment.  I straighten up my own posture a bit. That is why I'm walking. 

Feeling wooden, plodding along, I almost turn left on the street that will lead directly back to my house.  I see another walker two blocks ahead, how she keeps going, and decide I can, too.

I cross over in front of the middle school, then turn left again up my street, noting each of the sixteen houses I pass on my way home.  A friendly chat with a neighbor on the sidewalk reminds me of what I miss when I am focused on the time, instead of the action. I can need to pause for this.

The plants get watered.  The reading and laundry get done.  I give myself a shiny star on the calendar, determined to get another tomorrow. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tuesday Slice: On drums and friendship

We arrived early, my daughter and my friend and myself, to the small studio on Kerbey Lane.  "Murphy's Law," I said, with a comment about the uncertainty of traffic and parking and unfamiliar places.  Our facilitator hadn't even gotten out of her car yet, but graciously answered my parking questions and allowed us in.

An arched entrance to a short stone path revealed a beautifully landscaped garden spotted with Asian statues and a quote from Henri Nouwen engraved on a plaque. I snapped a few photos and we entered the studio.  The walls were lined with percussion instruments of all sorts. A circle of chairs was arranged around several djembes, with various smaller instruments on each chair.

More friends arrived, until our group of eight was complete.  Introductions and connections were made, and we were invited to find a seat.  Our host, Sherry, explained her life events that led to drumming and the opening of this drum shop/studio, where she teaches classes and plays in a performance group of women drummers.  

Our warmup was playing on the small percussive instruments that were in our chairs. Sherry set the beat on claves, and we were free to follow it however we chose with our shakers, tongue drum, bells, tambourine, agogo, and other instruments I hadn't seen before.  We then passed them on to the left, saying "Life changes," and the next person with the claves set the beat.

A lesson on the djembes came next.  I got to pick a drum first, and the others followed suit.  We were shown how to find the nap of the skin, the spine of the drum, and position it to get the right sound.  Hand movement and placement mattered, too, lifting the sound from the drum, using our palms in the middle for deeper tones and fingers together near the edge for higher sounds.

Sherry talked about the importance of drumming in other cultures; women have been forbidden to drum in some places, and are just now returning to a practice that historically was women-centric.  Emboldened by that knowledge, we learned a simple rhythm and began practicing.

The last round of drumming was the most interesting, with our group split into three sections, each doing a different variation on the same beat.  Sherry and my percussionist daughter played the larger dunun drums with sticks, riffing on our basic patterns.  Several times, I caught friends with their eyes closed, focused on their parts and smiling.  I did the same.

Eight friends, drumming together for the first time.  What started as an outside-of-our-comfort-zone activity was, two hours later, one of the best experiences I've had.  We all want to do it again.