Wednesday, October 31, 2007

For the Love of...

Jen Robinson is a smart and thoughtful blogger. She's one of a handful of kidlit blogsters who I correspond with and have tried to meet up with in her hometown of San Jose, where I also have family.

I was away last week and fell behind on my blog reading. Jen Robinson's Book Page is always the place where I find myself slowing down, nodding in agreement, and thinking how intimidating Jen is (she's so much more worldly and intelligent than me).

Anywho, she mentioned in a recent post, her love of reading and how she feels it led to her education at Duke University. I am convinced that my love of reading and my desire to be close to books led me to my dream job, but I digress. This is not about work or college.

My story begins in late 2003. I'm eight months pregnant and sitting on the floor in front of my (then) husband, surrounded by dozens of other just-as-pregnant couples, all of whom are strangers. The two teachers are irritating me, as is everyone there (hormones) and I'm emotional, tired, hungry and just want to know when I'd be able to receive an epidural (I had no idea that I'd end up having a c-section at this point).

At one point, one of the teachers asks us all, one at a time, to share one of our partner's traits that we hope will be passed on to our unborn child. Luckily, my partner and I are in the middle of the half-circle so I'm grateful that I will have time to listen to every one's responses and to come up with an even better one of my own.


People around us are saying things like, "Her smile, or his sense of humor," along with other physical traits that I can't understand. I mean, I of course want my child to be healthy and happy, but I never thought about wanting him to have certain physical features.

When it came to our turn to speak, I was proud of both my answer and my partner. I spoke up loud and clear and let everyone know that the one trait in my partner I hoped would be passed along to our son would be his work ethic. He's a very hard worker and does everything he can to provide for his family.

I thought this was it. I was done. I no longer had to speak or participate for the rest of the day so I let my guard down. My partner (who I couldn't see because I was leaning back upon his chest), said, "I hope our son inherits her love of reading." I would've fainted if I hadn't already been sitting down. Tears poured out of my eyes and I was literally choking up over his thoughtful response and probably the biggest compliment one could ever pay me.

I have been working hard every day to make sure that my son does inherit my love of reading. I think that part of my job is done, as he enjoys heading to the library, the local bookstore, or my office, which is of course lined with bookshelves.

My son is already a hard worker and I can see how dedicated and focused he is on whatever task or challenge is presented to him. He's inherited his dad's smile, his mother's patience and his grandparents' red hair. And who knows? He could end up at Duke someday, too.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

American Association of School Librarians

Even though I'm watching Game #3 of the World Series and sitting at the Reno-Sparks airport, I'm also running through my notes from the past few days during the AASL conference.

It was a quick two and a half days but I had a wonderful experience and accomplished quite a bit:
  • I met a lot of great people and introduced several school librarians to Kane/Miller
  • I met quite a few vendors who were so nice and pleasant to be working near
  • I was able to sign up for the 2009 conference which is to take place in North Carolina
  • I was able to donate the remaining books to a local school here in Reno
My flight is boarding soon and I still need to eat dinner while cheering for the Rockies. Overall, the last few days have been quite successful and I'm pleased that we attended this bi-annual conference and look forward to meeting again in 2009.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Night Delights

I've been busy the last few days; traveling to Reno, reading magazines (dated months ago), watching the World Series, networking with school librarians, sharing books with kidlit blogsters, discussing picture books with reviewers, getting caught up online and reviewing websites to share. I've discovered several and there are quite a few more I'll include another time.

Rice and Beans Vintage

the cocoa monkey:
distinctive gear for the curious

Interesting things from interesting countries

rose and lula:
rebellious, sophisticated, vintage-inspired, casual, bohemian, contemporary

The Curiosity Shoppe:
if I haven't mentioned this before, I should have

leather goods

modern mommy:
innovative design for the few few years of life

babyzone's most embarrassing parenting moments

I have more reading to do, packing (back to San Diego tomorrow), relaxing before my vacation ends and getting ready for the final day exhibiting for Kane/Miller at the AASL conference here in Nevada.

By the way, today was Nevada Day. I have no idea what the celebration is all about, other than what I assume would be the history of the state. Schools were closed, parades and festivities were held and yet, I was working inside the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. More on that later...

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Wicked Witch of the West

Throughout the Denver Broncos game last night, and during the entire half-time, the TV screen kept flashing with updates about the evacuated areas in Southern California due to the growing winds that kept the nearby fires spreading.

I had a flashback to 4 years ago to the date - just about - when I was six months pregnant with my son, and my ex-husband and I were just moving into the place where my son and I still reside. We drove South, past the wildfires that had just jumped across Highway 15 towards the direction of our new home, which we hadn't even slept in at that point.

Fast forward four years and my son and I are inside, doors and windows shut tight, air conditioner and humidifier running while all I could smell was fire. What used to be a pleasant reminder of bonfires is now a brutal reality that the fires could once again spread quickly and threaten our home and of course, those in our neighboring communities.

We watched the news - and the football game - and after my son fell asleep I made sure I had packed away the belongings and personal items that I would take with us come morning.

I really couldn't get much sleep. I kept tossing and turning. The smell of smoke grew stronger throughout the night, as did the howling winds and I kept thinking about what we would do, where we would go, what I would take with us.

Just as I assumed, the morning sun did not peek through the smoke. Ash was now falling from the sky. My son and I made two trips to the car before finally feeling ready to leave, not knowing when exactly we'd be back. I ended up taking him into the Kane/Miller office with me while I took care of a few things, but mostly just needed the comfort of being around other people. There was no reason to really be working since a State of Emergency had been declared for all of San Diego County, as well as six other counties in Southern California.

My son is with his dad this evening. I am staying with one of the founders of Kane/Miller, as she has kindly opened up her home to me. This is the first time I have spent the night here but certainly not the first time her spare bedroom has been offered. In fact, I had a key to her house on my key chain for nearly six months after my ex-husband filed for divorce and things started to become unsettled in the home front.

I have become rather close with the Kane family and all of the employees during my nearly seven years with the company. I am grateful for all they have done for me, both personally and professionally. It was Mrs. Kane and her husband who first initiated me on my first business trip back in 2001. It was Mr. Kane who introduced me to anchovies during that same visit to Baltimore. And it is with the Kane family who my son and I will spend Thanksgiving with, as we have done every year (with one exception) since I started working for Kane/Miller.

I can't imagine working for anyone else after all this time. I have fantastic co-workers who are wonderful individuals and have become family to my son and I.

We are safe this evening and we are grateful for every one's kind thoughts and prayers and can only hope that all of the good karma that's due comes our way this evening.

The Santa Ana winds are supposed to get worse over the next few days. Homes just North and East of my neighborhood have been evacuated, including the home of one of our staff members.

After the Cedar Fires of 2003, the county and city of San Diego, the people, and the emergency crews are better prepared. Evacuations have been prompting people out of their homes with time to spare but the fires are unpredictable, the winds are sporadic and the resources are scarce.

The Witch Fires of 2007 have already been determined to be the worst fires that Southern California has ever seen and I hope and pray that all of those that have been evacuated can recover from this devastating loss once the fires have died down and our lives are meant to return to normal.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Java Mama Story Time

I had an opportunity to promote and sell Kane/Miller picture books through the Working Moms with Toddlers Meetup Group that I'm a member of here in San Diego. One of the moms in the group suggested that I host a story time at Java Mama in La Mesa.

It turned out to be a fantastic event although I couldn't tell you how many moms and kids were there (I was too busy reading a counting book to count the number of heads).

The counting book that I read, with the help of my page-turning assistant and son, was One Woolly Wombat, from Australia. Written and illustrated by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent, this picture book features Australian birds, reptiles and other creatures along with rhyming text and the numbers 1-14.

Afterwards, I read a second book from Australia, Bobbie Dazzler. By Margaret Wild and Janine Dawson, this one features a red-necked Wallaby who amazes her friends with the acrobatic - gymnastic abilities she has, although sadly, the list doesn't include the splits. Bobbie's friends Koala, Possum and Wombat don't mind, but Bobbie certainly does.

After much practice Bobbie finally manages to do the splits, although she's not quite sure how she's going to get back up to a standing position! Her friends help Bobbie, encourage her and even participate in these activities that also kept the children jumping, hopping, whirling and twirling.

I sold a few books this morning, made some new friends and discovered a wonderful place to take my son and enjoy my daily caffeine requirement at the same time. I can't wait to go back and possibly host another story time event before the holidays.

Selznick, Frazee & A Big Box of Books

The SCIBA Trade Show and Authors Feast was last night. It took us nearly three hours to get to the Biltmore with an accident, road construction and typical Saturday evening traffic holding us back but we finally arrived!

We had enough time to walk the floor of the Trade Show, visit with many wonderful Sales Representatives and page through several fall books which I had not had a chance to see prior, and we still had time to mingle, enjoy a cocktail and wander through the beautiful hotel to see what other events were taking place that evening.

I was joined by two of my colleagues for dinner: Lynn, who most SCIBA members recall from her previous position as manager of The White Rabbit; and Christina, from The Book Works in Del Mar.

Also at our table was a member of the Harcourt children's division (also located in San Diego), along with four booksellers representing Russo's Books and Newsboy Books & Video.

The highlight of my night was meeting two of the award nominees (the two that I would've asked to meet if I was able to choose). Marla Frazee, whose work I absolutely adore, sat down at Table #12 just before dessert was served (what was that, by the way?). I nearly leaped across the table to shake her hand and gush over her work. She took me by surprise when she mentioned that some of her favorite picture books were Kane/Miller titles and I couldn't even begin to think of what to say to her after that, especially since we had to practically yell at one another to be heard.

Lynn was able to introduce me to Brian Selznick after the event and I was able to congratulate him after he received his much-anticipated award for his children's novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Other award-winners were: Lisa See (Peony in Love), Wendy Werris (An Alphabetical Life), Denise Hamilton (Los Angeles Noir), and Robin Preiss Glasser (Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy), who admitted on-stage that she had a little too much to drink.

It was a wonderful event and I was so pleased to be able to attend and very grateful for the big box of books that I opened early this morning with my son, who insisted that I read him Bossy Bear and Merry Christmas, Mouse! immediately. (This of course, after he asked me why his babysitter had to leave.) Welcome home, Mom!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's Official!

It's about time. It's about independence. It's about moving on and putting my past where it belongs - behind me.

I heard from my lawyer's office today. I've had a more difficult time dealing with the end of my relationship with the legal secretary and receptionist from his office more than I've had saying good riddance to my marriage.

After sixteen long and life-altering months, I am officially divorced, no longer married, free to do just about anything I please, as long as it does not involve my son, of course. (Anything related to him still requires permission and a court order, but that's a whole other story.)

Sixteen months. I can't believe it's been that long since my ex-husband announced that he was filing for divorce. Of course, sixteen months ago I wasn't in the same place, emotionally, and it took a while for the seriousness of his statement to sink in.

Now, I can proudly say that I am stronger, happier, healthier and more confident than I've ever been before (thanks mostly to my therapist). Throughout the last year and a half (just about), I've gained new friends, fell in love, had my heart broken, reconstructed my relationship with my son, my father, and my ex-husband. Along the way, I discovered strengths within me that I never knew existed.

It's been a growing period, that's for sure, but I'm pleased to report that after all the tears and heartbreak, I have no regrets. I have nothing to apologize for and certainly don't feel there's any reason for anyone to feel sorry for me.

The only person in this world that I will need to explain my portion of the responsibility to, is of course, my son. He's much too young now to understand the implications of the marriage between his father and I or why it was not possible for us to have remained together, but at some point, I will need to sit down with him and answer the many questions that I know he will have.

I will say this right now. Each of us (his father and I) have a different version of the story to tell. And I'm certain that over time, those versions will be altered with what we recall and what we want to remember as our own truth, however different and separate those truths may be.

I am proud of my son for having the courage to deal with such a major disruption in his life and I am equally proud of his father, for having the strength and courage to walk away when he did. And I am just as proud of myself for having the strength and courage to not give up, to fight harder for the life that I want for my son and for standing up to those who weren't sure if they agreed with my course of action.

It's official. I am no longer a married woman. I'm a 30-year-old, single, working mom, newly divorced. It sounds less scary for me to say this out loud than it probably is for most married (or never married) people to hear.

We all have different paths in life that take us in directions that even we can't predict. I believe mine was chosen for me and although it's been a bumpy ride, I'm still moving, now at a faster pace, and I can't wait to see what's around the bend.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shopping in St. Paul

...and Minneapolis (Part Two)

I spent a good portion of my time researching boutiques for Moms and children in last week's post. Here, I'm going to focus on even more!

Cal Surf: large selection of skateboarding / snowboarding gear

JL Esso: stylish footwear on the edge

Shu: global footwear
Grand Avenue, St. Paul
Grand Way, St. Louis Park

Wiggles N Giggles: shop there for their shoe section

Awakenings: Enhancing intimacy, education & strengthening relationships
St. Paul

Bjorling & Grant: pieces with a past

Happy Shopping!

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This book really opened my eyes as a parent and how *easy* it is to miss important signals about our own children. My son is only three, but I'm glad I read this book now and have recommended it to parents and teachers since it deals with a high school shooting and how the shooter evolved.

Jodi Picoult jumps from year to year - past to present - to tell the story of Peter during different stages of his life, the victim who ends up retaliating and fighting back against the numerous bullies who pick on him, beat him up, make fun of him and literally make his life miserable on a daily basis.

As a mom, I wanted to embrace this young boy and protect him but then you see that his mom does just that and how the consequences of her behavior plays out. You see his childhood friend slowly forget and ignore him when he needs allies more than anything.

If you've ever made fun of someone or been made fun of you can certainly find something in this story that you can relate to. If you're a parent or educator working with children of any age, you can't help but be affected by this touching and heartbreaking story of a young boy who was too afraid to ask for help and a witness who didn't know how to speak up or speak out against the attackers (aka bullies) until it was much too late.

Jodi Picoult, 41, is the bestselling author of fourteen previous novels: Songs of the Humpback Whale: A Novel in Five Voices (1992), Harvesting the Heart: A Novel (1994), Picture Perfect (1995); Mercy (1996), The Pact: A Love Story (P.S.) (1998); Keeping Faith: A Novel (P.S.) (1999), Plain Truth (2000), Salem Falls (2001), Perfect Match: A Novel (2002), Second Glance: A Novel (2003), My Sister's Keeper: A Novel (2004), Vanishing Acts: A Novel (2005), and The Tenth Circle: A Novel (2006).