Monday, June 30, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

I just finished Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  I really think that some of these publishers are sprinkling narcotics in the spines of these books because there is absolutely no reason for me to read a 500-page book in two days.

Especially when it's a bad book.  After the first chapter, I could have sworn on a stack of first edition children's books that ANY of my creative writing seminar classmates could write better.  The prose had no spark and was so repetitive.  Really, the first 2/3rds of the novel consisted of a young girl, Bella, falling madly in love with a vampire, Edward.  He's a gorgeous vampire (occupational hazard) and he gives off a smell that intoxicates her.  And he has a crooked smile (OMG, how many times I had to read that little piece of description!).  And he loves her because she has an equally interesting scent (so much smelling!).  What really freaked me out was when he would keep kissing her neck--talk about tempting fate, eh?

Yet, I zoomed through the book; I set up a reward system for myself where I could read a chapter every time I completed some assignment for one of my classes.  I got sucked up into their silly little romance and now I will be among the throngs attending the film version in December (I was happy to see they got the girl from Speak to play Bella; maybe she'll finally seem intelligent).  There are already two follow-ups, but I'll wait until I get all my work done for the week before I make my way to Wal-Mart to pick up some cheap paperbacks.  I can't even borrow them from the library because there is a 201-day wait! 

It's kind of like Harry Potter (yes, it's better written but I have the same basic issues with it).  J.K. Rowling has a knack for storytelling but there is no reason for her books to be as popular as they are.  Same with Twilight.  My students are ravenous about this book.  They ADORE it.  They all want to go out and find cute vampires to tempt with their various smells.  I don't want to critique the novel; I want to do a psychology experiment to figure out what is wrong with our species because there is no reason for us to get this worked up about fictional characters in sub-par novels.  

Bella is the worst kind of female protagonist--she's so clumsy she constantly has to be saved, she's ready and willing to become a vampire for a cute boy, and she has absolutely no self-confidence (You like me?  Really?  I'm cute?).  Sure she is described as intelligent in her Biology class but that's only because she had already done the work before at her previous school.  For a feminist, Bella (her name even means beautiful, gag) is like turning the clock back to the early 1900s.  

But, yes, I did read the book and I will read the others because I am invested enough at this point to want to see how it turns out.  But I'm blaming it on whatever stimulant they sprinkled the pages with because I can't explain my interest.  Not. One. Bit.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

There once was a Ville named Dan.

So, Danville, VA. Bryan's presence always adds a little luster to that small city, but it was just as boring as we remembered it. We went to the Danville Wal-Mart, the Danville mall, the Danville K-Mart (because at the time we didn't realize they had a Wal-Mart) and the Danville movie theater. The latter was the most fun because we saw Wall-E, which I can say is another Pixar gem. They are an inspiration to Children's Book writers because they prove that less is most definitely more.

The VERY Happy Couple

But the trip really isn't about visiting the small communities of Virginia, it's about quality time with the hubby. Our conversations usually go as follows:

Bryan: I really miss you.
Michele: I really miss you too.
Bryan: Life sucks at home without you.
Michele: Hollins cannot compare with staying in this crappy hotel room with you.
Bryan: I love you so much.
Michele: I love you too.

Sickening, isn't it? Seven years and we're still sappy. I know it's a good thing, but I probably won't get called on to write dialogue for Lost anytime soon.

Now I'm back in my dorm room, the sky is overcast and I have a list of things to do (a long list). Stories to critique. Picture books to write. Chapters of "my novel" to write.

Sigh. Less than two weeks and Bryan and I are going camping! For two nights instead of just one! I'm a little excited, to say the least. In meantime...

There once was a small town in southern Virginia without a Target...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head

It rained again today. Twice. I actually got trapped in the English building because it was coming down so hard. It rains in Roanoke every day during the summer. Big storms with lightning and thunder. Great writing weather.
Last night, for the first time in probably 7-8 years, I had a "sleepover." Robin's room seems to be a beacon for the creepy-crawlies (downside to having so much vegetation everywhere) so she inhabited my spare bed. We didn't stay up till 4AM and talk about boys or anything (we're married, after all), but it was another reminder of how we all regress a little while we're here. Thankfully I did not snore or maybe she just said that to be nice. Darn it, now I'll never know.

I met with Nancy Willard today about my work-in-progress. She thought it was funny. She laughed out loud at some parts! Nancy reminds me of Alice Walker--they have presence. She has been the Writer-in-Residence several times at Hollins because she is just an amazing mentor to aspiring writers. She had insightful suggestions, a great idea for beefing up one part of my story and even though my story is drastically removed from what she writes herself, she still enjoyed it. This semester was supposed to be my chance to see if I have the chops to really make a go of it in the creative side of writing, and I am starting to get excited about going home and really developing a writing schedule that will enable me to produce completed manuscripts. I also have a few friends that had talked about getting a writing group together, which would help tremendously because I really like getting other writers to critique my work.

So I guess I'm not a lost cause. What a relief. :-)

Of course, I'm only a third of the way through here and I have to write a picture book text and another two chapters of my novel by Tuesday. So yeah, not time to celebrate yet.

But (drum roll, please), this Saturday I get to see Bryan! We are reuniting at the lovely (cough, cough) Innkeeper in Danville, VA, for 24 hours of quality time. Thus, I will not update again until Sunday when I have returned from my sojourn. Valete!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh The Thinks You Can Think

Last night we went to see Into the Woods. Natalie and co. put on a very good show and it was great to see her again after an 8+ year absence. It was also really good we got off campus because I wasn't able to get my lovely picture book critiqued during class (ran out of time) and I think I would have thrown it out of my dorm window if I had the chance to simmer and think about it too much.

And today, on what was supposed to be a relaxing Thursday, I got up close and personal with the realities of putting on a mini-Broadway show. It's like the Roman Weddings all over again except there are four director-esque people involved and a cast of people I can't threaten with F's if they don't learn their parts. :-) We have our first "rehearsal" tomorrow and I'm praying that people will be willing to commit to actually speaking in front of a group of people. For some reason, this particular performance doesn't bother me in the slightest. 1) I know all these people and the ones I don't, well, I don't know them, so who cares? 2) It's Seuss so it's supposed to be silly and bad performances can be covered up easily. 3) It's a literature conference so we're not the main attraction (although we might be depending on how dull those critical papers are).

So worried about performing in front of a group of people in 3 weeks? Not really. That's about the only thing I'm not worried about, in fact. Mostly, at this moment, I'm looking out my window and seeing that we're about to have a rain shower and I have to go to class in 45 minutes. That is a combination I am not too happy about.

Oh, and tonight I get critiqued for the first time for my creative writing. I'm smack in the middle of the group, #4 out of 6. Frankly, I hope they rip it to shreds so it can be as good as it can be. I really love the idea but I'm not married to the POV or tense or any particular image, so as long as they don't tell me it's a crap plot then I'll be just fine.

Man, it's dark.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Really Did Try!

For days I have been trying to "storyboard" the tale of Rapunzel. It's essentially a sheet of paper with little boxes that will eventually represent the pages of a picture book. I couldn't do it. I couldn't think that small. I came up with a few ideas that way but I was really struggling with being original. So I said screw it and just started making the pages themselves. The larger canvas really made it so much easier, BUT the pages are a little more developed than a "dummy book" should be. I can't draw, so I had to collage several of the pages for ease; most of it isn't fit for print (too rough) but it has more color than I think she originally wanted us to have. So here's hoping that doesn't bite me in the rear.

I stayed up till 5AM working on this thing, but Robin thankfully helped me keep going for the last 2 or 3 hours. It's 32 pages, people! What do you expect?

Here are a few samples:

Rapunzel growing up into a desirable young woman (with really long hair).

The Prince seeing Rapunzel face-to-face for the first time.

The Prince falling from the tower.

The Prince wandering the desert blind with Rapunzel in the distance.

So that's my best effort. With my own work, I'll have more creative freedom. Besides going to this class this afternoon, I'm taking a breather on picture books until Friday. I need to write some more of my novel, and I also need to catch up on my sleep!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Inhumanity

If I have to draw one more rough sketch of Rapunzel or her hair, I'm going to jump out of the window next to me. We have to do a picture book of a famous fairy tale but we can't include the narrative ourselves. And each part has to be interesting looking. Dynamic. Beautiful. Intriguing.

Next up we are doing a concept book (ABCs, 123s, etc.). I have a great idea, so once we get past this torture, I'm golden. All this creative work is working a part of my brain I haven't really used in three years; it's tough going but I'm determined. To. Not. Fail.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I Really Should Be Working...

I have a small (cough!) list of things to do tonight, but I wanted to do a quick update. We're having fantastic thunderstorms outside right now which always makes me happy (when I'm safely tucked inside someplace) because it makes for such a great show. I accomplished a lot today but only a smattering of it was for my actual classes. I'm starting to get a little worried about how my commitments to the conference and our numerous lectures/pot lucks are going to affect my work, but we're almost over the first major hump so here's hoping that I can start to have my evenings back and not spend them in the Hollins Room at the library! (I love the lectures, but four days in a row?!)

I guess I should introduce you to the lovely ladies who have been keeping me company this past week:
Michelle, Michele and Robin

Our little No Bake cups were a hit at the pot luck and I guess we'll see tomorrow if they caused any digestive problems (we did do a few things out of order with the peanut butter ones). :-)

I now have less than a week to go before Bryan and I get to see each other. 5 days to go! I'm also hoping to get my mom up here, partially to see this amazing place and also to do a little advising in the art department (I swear on my favorite children's books that I will not submit any of her work!).

This piece won't get looked at until Thursday, but I thought I'd give you a glimpse. I'll post the rest after it has been revised a little. This is the very beginning of my first novel, gulp:

I tapped my fingers on the keys of my laptop, drumming along to the beat of the Jason Mraz song I was listening to. I was, to be put it simply, bored.
I had exhausted every gossip site, checked my five different e-mail accounts, looked up various friends’ myspaces. I had even, believe it or not, read some articles on I was lying on my bed, my legs at right angles as I propped myself up by my elbows with a pillow underneath my torso. It was dark outside, but I was having one of those days where time ceases to be of importance; I was just waiting to feel tired so I could sleep. Ending that sorry excuse for a day was my only desire, but I couldn’t do it. I had turned to my computer in the hopes that a technology coma would set in, but the whir of the machine and the obnoxiousness of Perez Hilton had done nothing but make me feel more pitiful as I spent another night alone.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Roanoke and a Saturday Off

I don't really talk too much about the actual city that serves as home to Hollins because I really don't get out much. But today, two of my classmates and I ventured out downtown and saw the sights.

Roanoke really is a cute place. It has a pretty active downtown scene with several museums, a thriving market and the usual array of specialty shops. We are actually going to see the play Into the Woods down there later this week. I'm especially excited because I found out, after researching the play, that my old classmate Natalie Newman will be playing the part of Cinderella. She graduated with me at NBHS and I probably haven't seen her since the summer of 2000. She has had a pretty steady career on stage since graduating from Elon University's musical theatre program so I am excited to see her perform again.

Today we just walked around, wandered into a few shops and toured "the hotel" also known as the Hotel Roanoke and Convention Center. For a relatively small town, Roanoke has this bizarrely huge Swiss-esque hotel by its main railroad tracks. It is owned by Virginia Tech now but it really is an amazing structure.
Very fairy tale like. They were doing a bridal photo shoot while we walked around, which was a little bizarre because they had two brides but only one groom.

We then got lost. I was driving, so it really doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out how that happened. We eventually found our way home again but I was very lucky to have two of the sweetest human beings on the planet in my car because they totally didn't care that we went through two extra towns to get back to our part of Roanoke.

After dinner and a lecture on campus, we went for a walk and we actually went up this dirt road to a graveyard that is home to some of Hollins' most famous families (i.e. the ones the buildings are named after). It was incredibly creepy and maybe a little stupid for the three of us to be walking around in the dark in a remote graveyard that is on a knoll that is a pretty good clip away from the campus proper. I was comforted by the fact that there were three of us, but we didn't hang out long.

When we got back to the dorm, we made No Bake little cupcake things for our Potluck dinner tomorrow at Amanda's house. We misread the directions for both of the desserts and I still have some peanut butter on my pants from our hapless attempts at cooking in our non-kitchen, but we laughed up a storm.

I have been very lucky this summer to meet two people whom I mesh with very well. They both live in Greenvilles (one in SC and the other in NC), and we have a great time together. We all live upstairs in Carvin (convenient) and I find myself very thankful that things worked out the way they did. I had tried, in vain, to get a room in Sandusky (the other dorm), but I had missed it by a day. Now I can't imagine being anywhere but Carvin with such cool people. I typically don't have a lot of female friends. I can't really say why that is--I just don't know a lot of women who share my interests or personality traits. Being at Hollins certainly gives me better odds because our program is dominated by women but most of my friendships here have never gotten past a superficial level. When I think about all the time I spent on my own last year, this past week has really blown me away because I have been able to be a lot more social. I think it makes the whole experience more rewarding and I find myself a little sad I will not get to see these two women (perhaps :-)) on my London trip next year. I'm working on one of them, so we'll see.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Freak Out

We critiqued our little picture books today. Mine fared well but some of my classmates have definitely upped the ante. I was definitely stressed this afternoon when I was trying to figure out how to do my next assignment. We have to do a wordless picture book of a minimum of 16 pages. It can be rough but you have to be able to get a gist of what's going on in each picture. And it has to be based on a well known fairy tale or fable. That's tough. Regardless of what I choose, I'm going to either have to draw it 12 or 13 times or I'm going to have to cut it out 12 or 13 times. Plus my classmates introduced me to some new techniques today that I would like to draw but it's just daunting to do something like this. If I could actually draw I could do it in fifteen minutes (as my artistic students have proven on more than one occasion). Instead I'm going to be slaving over this assignment for anywhere from 5 to 25 hours. I'm already hyperventilating and it's not due until Wednesday.

Other than a slightly increasing work load, everything is going well. I went to a lecture tonight about children's book publishing. These lectures should be titled: "Reality Check with a Dash of Pipe Dream." They make you very aware of the challenges of trying to become a published author but then they tell you about how some first-time novelist just got a six-figure sum for her novel about a girl that is a modern member of the Knights Templar. Yeah, carrot on a stick. Let me tell ya.

I guess I can say now, since it's technically Saturday, that I have survived week one of six of my 2nd semester of graduate school. Which means that I only have five weeks, about a gazillion entertainment committee meetings to organize, a conference to help run, a couple chapters of my first novel to write, a 100 pages of everyone else's work to read, a play to attend, another 50 pages of various picture books to create, a meeting with Chip to remember to do at some point, an advising appointment to also remember to attend, and two visits with Bryan to look forward to. Oh dear.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Things That Go Meow In the Night

I present to you my first ever children's picture book:

Please keep in mind this was just a classroom exercise in a children's book signature (a set of 8 pages).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Controversy of Skippyjon Jones

So I went to my Creating Picture Books class, which is held in an art studio (kind of neat). The class is pretty fascinating. Our teacher is Ashley Wolff, who is most known for the series of books featuring Miss Bindergarten. She brings her border collie with her to class, and it's a very fun environment. I had a little trouble creating things in class because I didn't have all my materials with me, but I hope that I will get comfortable enough to work on cue. I did try to do too much with my first project, but I let go of my determination to DO IT MYSELF and asked for some help. She really is pretty insightful.

Within that same class, we got into a lot of discussions about the politics of children's book illustration. We had all brought some of our favorites (I brought the Lorax, I Love You Stinky Face and the Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales). Someone brought Skippyjon Jones. Now I love that book. I have given it to both of my nephews, and I usually give it to people when I attend their baby showers. So imagine my surprise when one of my classmates said it is racist. Huh?

The premise of the book is that Skippyjon, a Siamese cat, wants to become a chihuahua. Not just a little dog but a dog bandit who likes to sing in English words with -o's attached to them so it sounds almost like Spanish. The whole book, to me, is about an imaginative kitty who mimics a Zorro-like character. I love the way the language rolls of the tongue and the humor that is sprinkled throughout the text.

I can see, now that it has been brought to my attention, that some Hispanic readers might be irritated with the stereotypes of Spanish bandits (played by the real chihuahuas) and the over simplification of Spanish words. Kind of like those Taco Bell commercials with the chihuahuas, Skippyjon just hits too close to home for some people. But this book, much like those little fast food dogs, is incredibly popular and has won many awards including the E.B. White Award for Best Read Aloud Book. On, 112 people gave it 5 stars and 12 gave it 1 star (mostly for the reason stated above). There is now a whole series of books about Skippyjon. I am usually one of those people who is very aware of how certain pieces of literature might affect people but this one definitely slipped past my attention.

And now, post discussion, I still can't say I feel differently about the book. I can see how it might offend some people, but it's kind of like leprechauns. I'm sure that there is still a minority of Irish people who find them offensive, but I would like to think that human beings today do not actually associate such creatures with real people from Ireland. Same thing for bandits who like tacos. I would hope that young children would not think that a small Siamese cat's fantasies have anything to do with a real person who lives in Mexico. These issues are so challenging because I am not a part of the culture that might be offended by Skippyjon, so how can I really say whether it is offensive? One of my classmates mentioned The Story of Little Black Sambo as a book that was popular in its time but is now seen as offensive. She suggested that someday, despite its numerous awards, Skippyjon might face the same fate. I am open to anyone's thoughts on this issue because I really am perplexed. Are there any other current and popular children's books that could also be seen as racist?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And so it begins...

Today was my first day of class. But my class wasn't until 6PM. So I pretty much had the day to do whatever I wanted. I went swimming for the first time at Hollins. I hung out with some classmates. I tried to draw (cough, cough). I finished the Seussical script and made some rudimentary notes about what we can do to adapt it for our production. I TRIED TO DRAW, PEOPLE!! I drew a pretty good thumb (don't ask), but everything else was pathetic. What amuses me is that some illustrators use very simple drawings, and, for some reason, it works. When I copy their drawings, it looks amateur and silly. If I could go back and tweak one gene in my body, I would make sure I got my mother's artistic talent. I wouldn't even change the fact that I have to be super careful about diet and exercise just to be normal-sized. Just give me the magic fingers!

My class itself was good. Very chill, very open to whatever it is we feel like writing. Still, this program can be deceiving. Sure, you think you just write things, you read things, end of story. But it takes a long of organization to make sure, for that one class, that you write in your journal every day, prepare your presentation on time, read all your classmates work (twice!) and make good comments on their stories each week and write 10-15 pages a week yourself. Not to mention compiling it all into a portfolio at the end. So, it's no joke, but I like that my teacher isn't making me write in every genre. I can't write kid's poetry. Sorry, but I teach teenagers. I can't write about Pat the Cat who likes to play Pattiwhack.

Here is a snippet of something I wrote during our exercise in class today:
I had to orchestrate my own adventures during those long and monotonous afternoons, and, in that special universe, I was a tree shaker, a girl locked in a magical castle, a spirited warrior trained to save the human race by reading as many books as possible. I was caught in a world of silence where I had to bang the drums of my imagination to remember I was alive. For me, all it took was the right tree.

Monday, June 16, 2008


What a difference a year makes. Last year I had to map out how to get to all my various orientations and I probably arrived 15 minutes early to every one. Today, I woke up fifteen minutes before the first one started, rolled out of bed and ate breakfast, and then leisurely walked NEXT DOOR to the building where my one and only orientation was going to be held.

Today was mostly about meeting up with old friends and getting a few things squared away for our literature conference later in the semester. I am an entertainment co-chair and the theme of the conference this year will be Dr. Seuss. So, I, along with one of my classmates, am in charge of creating a Seussical extravaganza complete with singing, a little dancing, and some acting. I'm already feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of orchestrating around 15 students in a amateur and abridged production of a Broadway musical. Deep breath.

That along with finally seeing my Creating Picture Books syllabus has certainly helped me get into full swing here. I have to create a mini 8-page children's book by Friday. I have to create a 24-page WORDLESS picture book by next Wednesday. Yep. I am in WAY over my head, but I'm going to be a good sport and see what I can come up with...wordless picture books....oy vey.
Anyone have any ideas they would like to share?

I have enjoyed reconnecting with some old friends. I stayed up late last night watching the new Pride and Prejudice with some classmates (probably the 10th time I've seen it, to be honest). Today I have mingled with a ton of different people in the program--new and old. I'm trying to be a good ambassador to our new students but also get some quality time with my friends from last year. Everyone here is really nice; some people like to keep to themselves but most see the benefit in coming out of their rooms for fresh air once in a while.

Speaking of fresh air, I am loving being able to bike everywhere again. I used my car to take my neighbor to the grocery store this evening, but otherwise I have been able to bike or walk everywhere. The campus is so gorgeous and I just can't get over the landscapes. I envy the people who work here year-round because they are in an idyllic little setting here. It's paradise.

Not bad, eh?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Coming to Virginia

It all started with this:

And then a 3.5 hour car ride that brought to mind such questions as: Why did ANYONE think it was a good idea to name a county, Pittsylvania? And, why is it that there are so many duplicate city/town names? It's a little confusing that there is a Rocky Mount, VA in addition to the Rocky Mount, NC. Maybe it's just me....

And then we arrived!
Carvin Hall, my new home

So this is my first go-around with the dorms. The apartments were quaint and I enjoyed having two roommates that I could get to know pretty well but the apartments aren't technically on campus which means that I was looking out on a parking lot instead of this:

I think you can see the advantages to my new digs. Living in the dorms does mean that I have a lot PBJ sandwiches in my future (no stove!), but I didn't cook that much even when I had a stove last year so I don't think I'll miss it too much.

As for the accommodations, I didn't do too bad this year:

The mess above eventually became:

So far I'm enjoying the beautiful scenery, and I'm sure I'll like my roommates as soon as they start in move in. It has been a slow trickle around here; I've met a few nice new people, but most of the returning guard is coming in tonight or tomorrow, so for right now, the hall is pretty quiet. I'm sure I'll be bemoaning the wait for the bathroom in no time.

As for my and Bryan's last moments together, we had a nice "anniversary" meal at Hollywood's last night, watched Knocked Up for the third or fourth time, and tried to share a bottle of wine. However, we forgot a corkscrew. Now this corkscrew situation has become a hallmark of my and Bryan's marriage. Over the course of our 7 years as a married couple, we have had at least three occasions where we've had a corked bottle of wine and no corkscrew. One time, in Paris, we had to have the man at the local grocery open it for us. The Swiss corkscrew we bought after that little fiasco was taken away by the German airport security (only because we were flying to the States, mind you; the Italian airport security official had no problem letting us on the plane with it when we were on our way to Germany).

Bryan and I really don't drink a lot of wine, but it really seems unfair we have to go to these lengths when we want to have some with our dessert:

I'm sure anyone living below me last night was thrilled to hear the reverberations of Bryan hammering on the cork of our bottle of wine.

Besides the Cork Craziness of '08, we had a nice evening and a somber goodbye this afternoon. I won't pretend it's not incredibly difficult to be away from him during these summer sessions. As much as I love this opportunity to immerse myself in writing and reading, I do have to make some sacrifices and our two-week separations are certainly the biggest. I am fortunate to be able to see him while I am gone, but it takes a day or two to really get used to not having him around every morning and evening. I immerse myself in a brisk schedule to make the time go faster, but I still get the pangs. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the spouses of our soldiers who serve time overseas. I really don't think I could bear it.

So, I'm a Hollins resident again. I'm going to go for a bike ride and forget about the fact that I have to practice my "drawing" sometime this evening. Michele drawing...hmmm....

Father's Day

Today all I can think about is Luke Russert, Tim Russert's son. This twenty-something young man was in Italy with his mom and he got a phone call on Friday that his dad had died.

No warning.

No chance to say goodbye.

His father, the famous journalist Tim Russert, had a history of coronary artery disease but had controlled the problem with good diet and exercise and had done well on a stress test just a few months ago.

While Russert died doing something he loved and certainly did not suffer in his last moments, his family still had no idea that he, at the age of 58, would be gone.

And now, today, Father's Day, Luke is being forced to deal head on with the fact that he will never get to see his father again.

The reason this particular story is so painful for me is because it is my own. A little over two years ago, I got a phone call similar to the one Luke and his mother got on Friday. Just like him, I had no warning. Just like him, I was going about my life with absolutely no idea that at any moment I could lose my father. My dad had been doing well on his stress tests too. Yes, he had some blocked arteries in the past, but his doctors were being very vigilant about his care. Just like him, my dad was doing what he loved (mountain biking) and did not suffer. And just like him, a few days (in my case two weeks) later, I had to celebrate Father's Day with everyone except for my father. My dad was 55; his was 58.

I could try to impart some wisdom about appreciating your loved ones every day instead of just on Hallmark holidays and when it's too late. But for people who still have their parents, my story and Luke's will still probably not resonate through. It's just a fault of the human race that we can't appreciate what we have until it's gone or we worry so much about losing someone that we can't enjoy ourselves in the moment. There are some people who manage to avoid both pitfalls, but I don't know many.

I just know that today and every other day, I miss my dad, and when I read about Tim Russert, I got that same gut wrenching sensation I felt on May 28, 2006, because I knew that some other young person was having to deal with the unexpected loss of a parent. I do feel fortunate that I have so much to miss and I'm sure Luke is grateful for his father's amazing legacy, but the tributes and the outpouring of love and support can never make up for the loss of a good parent.

My dad, Joseph Hageman

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I did get a little excited tonight. Bryan and I had our final Mexican dinner at Los Tres and he reminded me I wanted to get some picture books for inspiration for my Creating Picture Books class. So I went and grabbed about 20 different picture books with varying styles of illustration.

So much genius. I have the inkling of some creative juices flowing. Could be good. :-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oy vey

So, Saturday is it. I return. I get back in my car with my boxes of "summer stuff" and drive myself to the little (actually more medium-sized) town of Roanoke and live amongst my own kind for six weeks.

What kind am I, you ask? (I love to envision people actually showing interest in such a question.) I am a lover of children's literature (and proud of it, whoop, whoop!) I enjoy writing although this summer will determine if I have the determination to take it further than my personal computer. I enjoy mountainous landscapes with rolling green hills and the peacefulness of a mostly empty campus. Ahhhh... I enjoy the completely selfish endeavor that is a Master's in Children's Literature that could very well never make me any additional income.

My classmates are quirky, wonderful people. I am looking forward to living amongst them again. However, I am, of course, apprehensive about leaving my partner in crime. Bryan and I handled the separation so well last summer that I am going into this more confident that we will survive but also that our relationship will strengthen because of our time apart. However, I wonder if this time won't be harder because it's no longer a new experience. He knows what it is like to be here on his own and I know what it is like to immerse myself in my schoolwork for a while. And with London coming up next summer (oh yeah)...this summer feels more like a waiting period until the real fun begins.

I'm not a good waiter, which probably explains my fixation on the whole process. I don't know if it is teaching or what but I get itchy feet so quick these days. I find myself hurrying people a lot. Let's go downstairs now. Let's go for a walk now. Let's get this show on the road NOW. I can't just sit and smell the roses anymore. I need constant stimulation. Not the same kind of activity my students need (with their texting and other various annoying forms of communication), but I do need to constantly feel like I'm making progress towards a goal of some kind. So sitting around waiting for graduate school to start? A little difficult but I will try to enjoy these last few days in my own home, with my husband and my two little kitties. Deep breaths.... Smell roses...NOW!