Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You can't win them all!

Click here for a really cool interview from a blogger who really knows how to do it!

I'm a READ poster!

The Media Specialist at Lafayette High School in Williamsburg, Virginia, put me on a poster! Media Specialists are the folks that used to be called Librarians, but because they do SOOO much more these days, they've been upgraded. They're are always cool, innovative people, and I appreciate what they do. I've always admired those READ posters that I've seen hanging in libraries because I think they are a great way to encourage young people to read. I never thought I'd be on one. And now I am. Way cool. Thanks, Mrs. Schauffler!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mr. Obama's Letter to his children and ours

'What I Want for You — and Every Child 
in America'
By Barack Obama

Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me-about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential-schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college-even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other.

Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country-but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free-that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better-and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It's a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you've had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much-although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you-to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.

Love, Dad

Monday, January 12, 2009

More great letters!

Dear miss draper
Hi, Ms. Draper i just wanted to say that tears of a tiger was a great book, and that you should make it a movie. if you actually decide to make it a movie can i be in it?

Dear Ms D,
Can you get me a hook up with Keisha on the cover of Darkness before Dawn please?

hey my name is Lisa and your book "forged by fire" is awsome. my life was similar and i cry when i read it.

Hi. Mrs. Draper you are my favorite writer. I have never read a book that amounted to the suspense i had when reading one of your books. Anyway I am writing to let know that there should be more English teachers like you and then it would be more interesting. Also, i should let you know that i am upset that I am finished with all the books you have written so please write another one real fast.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I love these kids! Emails from wonderful students.

Hey Miss Draper:
Well I just finished your magnificent book The Battle Of Jericho. It was wicked book. I loved it but it was really sad (I cried ).

Dear Mrs. Draper,
I have a question. You look really nice on your website, and you look like a nice lady. How in the world do you think up all this horrible stuff that happens in your books? You don't look like somebody who would write that stuff.

Dear Sharon,
My teacher told us to write to celebrities or movie stars or authors. I figured a celebrity would not answer my letter, so I chose you instead.

Dear Ms. Draper. I'm 12. I read your book Tears of a Tiger and I thought it was ok, but not great. But it did make me think about drinking and driving and stuff. But last week I was at a party and the kid who was supposed to drive me home had been drinking. I called my mom to pick me up. She yelled at me, but only a little because she said I made the right decision. Later that night my friend got killed in her car. You saved my life and I didn't even like your book. So thank you Mrs. Draper.

hi ms. draper i just wanted to know what the setting and the plot is because my report is due tomorrow and im going into seventh grade and i don't wanna start off badly at school!!!! oh and the book is wonderful!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

If I could help improve education

If I could change the world of education, I would:

--Infuse joy into each day. Joy for students. Joy for teachers. We learn better when we smile.
--Create excitement about the learning process through discovery
--Encourage creativity, original thought, and honest questions
--Increase teacher salaries and appreciation
--Remove teachers who don’t like kids or teaching
--Allow teachers to teach subjects, not test topics
--Allow teachers time to talk to each other and plan together for learning activities
--Allow students to ask questions as well as figure out answers
--Provide time for arts--music and dance and art and poetry—all types of creative expression
--Provide funds for trips away from school so that children can see a larger world—museums, shows, events. Experiential learning.
--Provide time for physical education—exercise their bodies as well as their brains
--Increase the time of the school day and the length of the school year. Learning takes time.
--Focus on the positive rather than the negative. Praise and recognition instead of approbation and criticism.
--Celebrate success

And that's just a start!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Possibilities and Realities

I recently spent an hour on the phone with the principal of a school who had to cancel my visit there. Funds have been cut and expenditures have to curtailed. Nothing as frivolous as an author visit can possibly be allowed in these tough economic times, say the budgetmeisters. The principal was devastated that she had to cancel. Fundraising had flopped and grants had evaporated. The teachers and librarians were upset. The kids were in tears. But it not because of me. It’s because they had finally learned to love reading, and had connected with an author—a real, live person, not an old dead guy from two hundred years ago. The librarian couldn’t keep my books on the shelves. Kids argued about who got to read which book next. It was a wonderful, glorious reading frenzy--and it had to be extinguished. It hurt me, not because of some financial loss to me, but because the very kids who needed to see and hear and touch a real author were the ones who would once again be left without the opportunities they needed. She and I talked, and we might be able to come up with a Plan B, or even Plan C. I hate to disappoint a child. But there ought to be a fairness genie who sprinkles struggling schools with the same hope and possibility (and the funds to make each possibility a reality!) that schools in wealthy districts take for granted. I once visited a school that had an indoor and outdoor pool, a fully-equipped TV studio, stables for the polo ponies, and a library with over 100,000 volumes. The next week I visited a school whose library had been eliminated because they had to choose between computers and books on the budget, so they chose computers at the expense of books. What kind of choice is that?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Joy comes in sips, not gulps

I envy folks who have time to blog. I’m usually so far behind in answering emails or letters or even washing the dishes that to take the time to sit down and write about what’s going on in my world is a little daunting. But I shall try to be diligent and post something at least once in a while.
I recently filled out a form on a website that really forced me to think. It’s asked all kinds of thoughtful questions. Like, what’s my greatest flaw? Gee, do I have to admit one?
Who do I most admire? My parents and Barack Obama.
What talent would I like to have? I’d love to be able to dance. I feel the music, but my body does not respond. My fingers, do, however. Maybe my dancing comes through words.

What are my five favorite songs? I don’t really have such a list, but I’ll start with: What a wonderful World sung by Louis Armstrong. The Rainbow Connection sung by Kermit the Frog. Sunshine on my Shoulders sung by John Denver. Bumpin by Wes Montgomery. Brown Baby sung by Oscar Brown, Jr. Lots of others.

What are my favorite songs? I had to think about that one for awhile. What do I hum in the shower? What’s on the most played list on my iPod? I like a wide variety of music and it really depends on my mood. I listen to classical as well as country. I like the blues. I like songs with great beats and songs that are silly. So I chose a few I can listen to over and over.
The song I most recently added to my playlist is called When you Taught Me How to Dance by Katie Melua. It’s from the soundtrack of a movie about Beatrix Potter—the woman who wrote the Peter Rabbit stories. (Yes, there is such a movie! It was a Sunday afternoon and I clicked on Showtime and the movie was there. I couldn’t turn it off because it was about a WRITER!) Anyway I really liked the song. Maybe because I can’t dance. Maybe because my daughter IS a beautiful dancer. But the song clicked with me—I thought it was pretty and a little sad. It was hard for women back then to be independent and free, hard to be a writer. But she succeeded. I guess I admire that.

Or, what is perfect happiness? Hmm, that’s one of those questions that forces a person to evaluate the very essence of life. Heavy. I think perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall. It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events. Joy comes in sips, not gulps.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

My friend Sara

It's because of Sara that I have this blog. I told her I'd screw it up if I tried, and she said it's SOOO easy. But I managed to mess it up anyway. But she helped me and I think I'm up and running now.
She and I have been friends for a long time--We were just moms when we met (as if there is such a thing as "just a mom," and now we're both grandmas. And for sure there's no such thing as "just" a grandmama! We are special people who provide hugs and toys and cool stuff to wonderful, beautiful kids. And don't go calling us old--we're just seasoned and salty.
Sara and I love words and writing and poetry. She'd probably listen to Bonnie Raitt and I'd probably choose Etta James, but that's cool. We used to do emails every single day. We've shared a lot over the years, some good stuff, and some terribly awful stuff as well. If I have a really big problem, I call Sara first. And she calls me. And somehow it's all better.
Sara has the coolest blog. She's got photos and wonderfully deep commentary on everything from schools to travel to raspberries. Check her out while I figure out how to navigate this new ship.
Bon Voyage!

Happy New Year!