Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Save the Ta Tas!

     Life introduces people to many firsts . . .  first solid food, first bike ride without training wheels, first kiss, etc.  Females experience firsts exclusive to their sex:  first menstruation (icks), first brassiere (my dad's reference to this item of clothing), for some, a first birth, and for the fortunate forty-year-olds a first mammogram.  As of yesterday, October, 18, 2011, I am one of the fortunate to have completed all of the above.
     Interestingly enough, I can remember crying at the sight of my first menstruation and wishing it away.  The tears fell not from fear, but from the dread of becoming this "woman" with all of her adult responsibilities.  I wanted to simply remain the girl I was without having to deal, for starters, with female hygienic issues.  Then, ultimately the dread of having to wear a bra.  Witnessing the boys in elementary school snapping girls' bras created a further sense of doom.  I liked to run, bike, and swim.  I didn't want these growths sticking out of my chest and hampering my tomboy lifestyle, so I tucked my undershirt in tight in order to smash what little development had occurred and hunched forward a bit in the hopes of fooling my mom (and the boys).  As you can imagine, the jig was up in due time, and I found myself mortified standing in Kmart alongside my mother who was scanning the lingerie racks for my size (I didn't want to be a size anything).  Blue light special or not, I wanted to run for the hills.
     Now, at age forty, I have learned to tolerate the twins and have no problem searching the lingerie racks at Kohls for what I refer to as "boob cages."  Although the "ta tas" fell short when I attempted to breastfeed my squirts, I had to give them some slack due to complications with preeclampsia.  All is forgiven . . .
     Facing the mammogram, apprehension ensued since my right twin was beginning to act out with some spontaneous discharge and red streaking.  Thus, instead of a routine mammogram, I had to first meet with a breast surgeon.  Prior to our meeting, I was ordered a heavy dose of antibiotics in case of infection and am pleased to announce the red streak vanished.  Yeah team!  However, since the surgeon felt a nodule, a mammogram and ultrasound was the plan du jour.  Given a pink robe (with missing belt) to wear, I was kindly escorted to a waiting area with other women wearing the same pink robes (belts included).
     These ladies seemed cool and collected and spanned various age ranges.  A beautiful silver-haired lady was entranced in a book (should have taken her picture for my blog) while a youthful twenty-something was hurriedly texting.  I wondered if I looked as cool and collected when I knew I was full of uncertainty and trepidation.  I responded to e-mail via my phone and then scanned the room while a woman was sporadically appearing from behind a door marked "MAMMO" and calling various names . . .  "Miss So- and- So" with much kindness in the tone of her voice.
     Having once taught an ethnography (a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures) writing course, I realized at that moment in time I was immersed in a culture whose story needed to be told and told and told.  Giggling on the inside, these ladies and I were, in essence, on the same team with our pink "uniforms."  Although on the same team, we simply nodded to one another and/or smiled.  No strategies were discussed amongst ourselves or high-fives exchanged.  Perhaps, this could be deemed our private time for individual preparation (finding our zone) before the big game.
     Noticing a framed set of tiles on the wall, I knew I needed a picture, but attempted to be inconspicuous while taking the shot.
Assuming these were tiles created by breast cancer warriors, I wanted to take the time and savor their work;  "An apple a day didn't keep the doctor away" and "Duct tape fixes everything; try it" were two of my favorites.  Alas, though, "Miss Winkler" was called, and I was able to glimpse what was awaiting behind that door. . .
    Finally coming face to face with the opponent, I was not looking forward to what my buddy referred to as the smashing of the boobs.  After a brief history was entered into the computer, I was asked to disrobe one side of my upper body and place the body part in question on the machine.  The clear tray lowered and lowered and lowered onto my poor "girl" and felt like someone had placed a concrete block in its place.  "Ouch," I mumbled as my breast seemed to be separating from the skin near my shoulder.  Yet, after being told to hold my breath, the clear tray was quickly lifted, and the radiologist was soon adjusting my other "girl" on the machine.  Luckily, there was no time for modesty;  the radiologist manipulated my "twins" with experienced, deliberate movements, and I was told to return to the waiting area.  Crossing my beltless pink robe in front of me and carrying my jacket and purse, I returned to my seat in the waiting area and noticed some new faces had joined the "team."
      Just as I was eyeing my bag and wishing I had prepared better by including water in it, a voice interrupted the silence asking if anyone was interested in a bottle of water.  With a grin on my face, I retrieved some water from the trick or treat bowl she was carrying and promptly quenched my thirst.  Score!  
     While wondering what the stories were of the other women seated on this metaphorical pink team bench, another voice called me by my first name and escorted me into the ultrasound room.  Lying on the bed next to the ultrasound machine, I was thinking how reassuring it was to have a woman surgeon, woman ob/gyn, and woman radiologist when entered a young, tall, dark, handsome male doctor stage right.  Nice!
     After he and his supervisor both had a look with the ultrasound, I was informed I had an enlarged duct in my right breast.  Told my surgeon would come up with a plan, I was walked back to the initial examining room and told to dress.  Through the thin walls, I could hear ladies exiting their rooms and told to schedule mammograms for a year from this date.  Yeah pink teammates!
     Soon, a knock was heard on my door, though, and coach (i.e. the female, close-to-my-age surgeon) entered the room and thoroughly explained the duct excision procedure I was to have.  Responding with, "Sounds great!  Let's do it . . ."  I really just wanted to exit the office, make a call, and hear the voice of my number-one fan, the hub.
     Feeling better having shared the news with my lover and best friend, I purchased a breast cancer awareness cookie from the cafeteria (chocolate cookie with pink M&Ms) and pink bulbs from the Siteman Cancer Center in order to benefit breast cancer research.  Thrilled with the odds of my procedure being nothing but routine, I couldn't help but think about the other women I laid eyes on earlier in the day in the waiting room and hoping their news, too, turned out to be just as routine.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Purdie Magee Book Club

    I am not sure why I continually do this to myself, but I cannot help myself.  Rhonda Tibbs' written works are addicting even though they cause me much anxiety during the reading and much sorrow after the reading of her novels.  With the release of her third novel Purdie Magee, I, in essence, had no choice but to immediately download the e-version.  Yes, my name is Courtney, and I am a Tibbsaholic. . .
     Intrigued by the backstory of the main character, Purdie Magee, there was no turning back once I turned the page to chapter six and met Gabe Austin, the green-eyed, Camel-smoking man with a "cat-like walk"  (33).   Not simply due to the "va va voom" effect of this character description does Tibbs entice the reader, but because of Tibbs' ability to create in the reader a true empathy for her characters.  Two souls literally and metaphorically abandoned by their families cross paths, and what evolves are two complex histories interwoven with plot twists which keep the reader on the edge of her seat throughout Purdie Magee's entirety.
     For the purposes of book club, a field trip to a local pottery studio would be ideal.  An English teacher's dream, Purdie Magee revolves around the theme of creating beauty from what was once deemed ordinary or imperfect.  Thus, The Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois, offers such classes where one may manipulate clay into an object with aesthetic value.

Rhonda Tibbs

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives Book Club

     While searching for Cheryl Jarvis' The Necklace:  Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives in the library, I was surprised to find myself in the non-fiction aisle.  The title conjured memories of reading Guy de Maupassant's short story, "The Necklace."  Interestingly enough, though, having finished Jarvis' The Necklace, the two works together spark a thoughtful comparison of themes while encompassing two opposing genres.
     A literary sap when it comes to biographical non-fiction, this is, in essence, what kept me turning the pages.  Intrigued by these thirteen women's truthful revelations, I was compelled to understand the seemingly shallowness and pride which seemed to exude from the pages in a rather (as Dr. Howard would say) sophomoric style of writing.  Yearning for more substance, I struggled within chapters trying to determine whose story was actually being told as well as waiting for a dramatic conclusion to each individual's tale which never came to light.  Feeling I would find what I was hoping for in the final chapter: growth, redemption, resolution;   instead, I was and still am bewildered.
     For book club purposes, a read which may not make everyone's "Top Ten" usually makes for the liveliest discussions.  An imitation (cheap!) version of the diamond tennis necklace may be purchased for your book club in order to fulfill the guidelines offered in The Necklace.  Tamales are a must since it was revealed in Mary O'Connor's section that they are "a Southern California holiday staple" (179).  In addition, a nod to each woman should be incorporated into the meal;  for example, local-grown organic strawberries to represent Roz McGrath and perhaps a bottle of Dom Perignon (or not) to represent Priscilla Van Gundy.  What ideally one should come away with from this reading is the motivation to create change, find a cause,  and fund raise for a purpose.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Learn More about Romance Author Heidi Hall

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
The Notebook! I started crying ten minutes in. My husband had fallen asleep (of course!) and when he asked me the next morning how the movie was I could hardly talk. A lump formed in my throat and the tears started all over again. Finally I squeaked out, "He loved her so much!" and ran from the room. We don't talk about The Notebook at my house ;-).
Describe your first kiss.
Eew! Sixth grade...a boy cornered me by my locker. I kind of liked him, so I didn't move away as he swooped in with puckered lips. It was the tongue that creeped me out (LOL). Very juicy introduction.
Your favorite children's book, and why . . .
Are you there God? It's me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I don't know that it qualifies as a children's book, but it made a definite impact on my life. I need to read that one again *wanders off to Amazon*.
A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. My cousin's daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 (Insulin-dependent) diabetes at 9 months. It was so tragic to watch her cope with the constant needles and highs and lows of her failing pancreas. And the disease seems to have become so prevalent. We need to find a cure! I participate every year in the JDRF walk to find a cure in Arizona...Join me!
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be and why?
Right now, I would be Kayla McKenna - my latest heroine. She's a recovering assassin and I take out all my road rage and rude people encounters on other characters in my book through her. Pretty fun! My friends and family get into it too and can often be heard muttering, "I know who's going to get it next in your book." Bwahaha.
Explain the worst job that you've held.
I worked as a hostess in high school for a Mexican food restaurant. Yummy, but people are jerks. I am not fit for service-oriented professions, but I'm now a real big tipper!
A quote that motivates you . . .
"I want to be Barbie, that *i**c has everything." - It makes me laugh.
The title of the one song you would take with you on that deserted island . . .
Hmm... I'm not good picking one since my tastes are so eclectic. But if you insist... it would have to be "My Immortal" by Evanescense. I can listen to it over and over and never get tired of it. 
Three Wishes
I would wish for the economy to recover so we could all take care of our families. I would wish for a cure for disease (all of them - thinking big here). And finally, I would wish happiness upon those who seek it. 
Favorite game you played as a child . . .
Hungry Hippos! Loved that game.
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
My one and only goal is to entertain. I strive for each book to be an escape from the grind, a peek into a life you might wish for, a bit of humor to hopefully surprise a laugh out of readers, and always a happy ending. Happy Reading! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Train to Nowhere Book Club

     After completing Train to Nowhere:  Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation, a few days were needed to fully comprehend the senseless, traumatic occurrence that author Colleen Bradford Krantz features in her work of non-fiction.  Without bias, Krantz unfolds various accounts and backstories of the people involved in the gruesome deaths of eleven undocumented immigrants.  Not only does Krantz paint a vivid picture through the peppering of the text with actual photographs, but also provides legal documentation and historical backgrounds while detailing the politics involved in the immigration issue.  By the end of this written account, I felt as if I, too, had made feeble attempts to preserve dirt floors, to search tirelessly for repeat immigrant offenders, and literally to bake to death while desperately searching for a better life.
     On a grammatical note, tears welled in my eyes at the accurate punctuation of "20s" (35).  Yet, my anal English-teacher self cringed at the repetitive use of the words "got" and "things" which (in my opinion) would have read much cleaner and clearer with the use of active verbs and concrete nouns respectively as replacements.
    For the purposes of book club, no food or drink allowed.  This meeting does not call for feasting and merriment.  Instead, a productive talk about how an individual can act as an instrument of change regarding the immigration situation in this country.  Furthermore, a viewing of the accompanying documentary Train to Nowhere:   Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation  will only further place the reader inside this journalistic must-read.


Colleen Bradford Krantz

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Learn More about Author Colleen Bradford Krantz

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
It has to be "Love Story." I love quite a few older movies, but this from the 1970s is one of the best when it comes to tear-jerkers.
 
Describe your first kiss.
I just heard a great commercial asking listeners to describe their second kiss. Their point was you can't remember it. First is best, they argued. I barely remember that first kiss, though, so the commercial was lost on me. I can say it involved a game of spin the bottle in the seventh grade, but wasn't exactly a romantic highlight in our lives.
 
Your favorite children's book, and why . . .
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would have to be my favorite (along with the others in the Chronicles of Narnia series). As a kid, I loved this world the author created through that wardrobe door. It was a place I wanted to explore myself.

A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .
I lost my big sister to cancer when she was just 34 so cancer prevention and research are close to my heart. As much as that, though, is trying to embrace an attitude of generosity and kindness that was so built into my sister's nature. I try to donate time and money to a mix of causes that fit into her view of life.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be and why?
Probably Brianna from Born in Ice or the other Concannon sisters in the Born In trilogy by Nora Roberts. I love the idea of living in Ireland, which my ancestors left long ago, but Roberts also makes these women very real with real interests/hobbies (besides the men).
 
Explain the worst job that you've held.
I've not had any truly horrible jobs, but I guess de-tasselling corn as a high school student might qualify. I grew up in rural Iowa, and walking the fields of seed corn and pulling off the top of the corn plant (the tassel) was a quick way to make good money during the summer. Of course, the corn was usually soaked with dew at the 5:30 a.m. start time so you were too within five minutes. But, hey, there were a bunch of my friends out there too so somehow it was more fun than not.

A quote that motivates you . . .
This sits on my desk, nice and simple: "Dwell in possibility" - Emily Dickinson
 
The title of the one song you would take with you on that deserted island . . .
"If I Had Words" - a song featured in the movie Babe - but I'd be most happy if it were sung by the farmer and then the little mice. Hey, it's going to be a long stay on the island. I'd need something to amuse me.
 
Three Wishes
1) I'd wish that all my family and friends live a healthy and happy life, and when their time comes, that they might go gently.
2) I'd wish for a boatload of money with which to do good around the world. Yes, money might be the root of all evil, but, let's face it, it can also be a tool for good.
3) I'd wish that all my future wishes would be granted once I'd submitted them and waited a required two-week waiting period to make sure it was a smart wish.
 
Favorite game you played as a child . . .
Capture the Flag. Not sure why except I love the outdoors and this is best played in a forest.
 
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
I want them to walk away understanding a perspective they might not have truly understood before or even considered. In the case of Train to Nowhere; Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation, I wanted those on one "side" of the immigration debate to understand the boy from Guatemala who wanted so badly to have his chance to see the United States. But I also wanted the other side to understand the former Border Patrol/immigration agent who once guarded that line in the sand even though his own ancestors once crossed it to leave Mexico. My goal is to tell both "sides" of any story as fairly as possible.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Of Love and Other Demons Book Club

     Searching through my tubs of books, I came across Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons.  Remembering that I had purchased this short novel years and years ago after a class introduced me to this remarkable Nobel Prize-winning author via One Hundred Years of Solitude, I  knew I had unearthed my next read while feeling a pang of regret at not yet having turned its pages.  Translated by Edith Grossman, Of Love and Other Demons in much the same manner as One Hundred Years of Solitude immerses the reader into the genre of magical realism.
     This style of writing not only entrances me through its melding of fantasy and reality, but also, quite often, causes me to giggle at its absurdity written in such an authoritative manner, "He was an funereal, effeminate man, as pale as a lily because the bats drained his blood while he slept"  (9) . . . "In Burgos he had seen a possessed woman who defecated without pause the entire night until she filled the room to overflowing"  (98).
     For the purposes of book club, the host may prepare a meal of "goat's eyes and testicles cooked in lard and seasoned with burning spices"(65) in order to be true to the female protagonist's likings.  However, cups of chocolate accompanied by bread and cheese may better suit more finicky tastes as it did the Bishop in the novel.  In addition, an assortment of pastries much like those smuggled in for Sierva Maria by Cayetano would be a welcome addition.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Learn More about Children's Author Byron von Rosenberg

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .   Pikachu's Good-bye

Describe your first kiss. It's best forgotten.

Your favorite children's book, and why . . . I Don't Want to Kiss a Llama! because I read it all the time and it always makes me feel better.

A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .  Muscular Dystrophy Association because they helped my dad when he had ALS.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be? I don't know.  I'm making this up as I go along.

Explain the worst job that you've held.  Scout Executive in Wichita Falls, TX although I can now thank God for sending me there.  I learned so much about people and the world, and found out how much God loves and protects us all.
 
A quote that motivates you . . .  From "Look at My Hands"  (the dedicaton to Don't Feed the Seagulls on my website at www.idontwanttokissallama.com)  "The love that I gave him he passed on to you.  Now pass it to others and watch it renew"  which I am blessed to do on an almost daily basis.

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island . . .  I don't know.  They titles have deserted me already!

Three Wishes
    1.  World peace
    2.  God's grace
    3.  a new poem!

Favorite game you played as a child . . . Peekaboo as a little child, Capture the Flag as a Boy Scout

Byron von Rosenberg

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Learn More about Author William Mattatall


A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
Father Of The Bride
 
Describe your first kiss.
I closed my eyes and missed, kissing an eyebrow.
 
Your favorite children's book, and why . . .
Neverending Story
 
A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .
Bring Home Our Pows and Mias. Above all I am an American and a true-blooded patriot.
 
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be and why?
The Lighting Thief. The adventure is amazing. and we all kinda want to be a hero.
 
Explain the worst job that you've held.
Being a contractior, doing a job for someone who has no respect for you and no matter how perfect the work is, it just isn't good enough.
 
A quote that motivates you . . .
" Just Do it!"
 
The title of the one song you would take with you on that deserted island . . .
I Know He Lives
 
Three Wishes
1. Health 2. Love 3. Security
 
Favorite game you played as a child . . .
Hide and seek
 
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
I would like them to realise that not all war stories are blood and guts. That my writing was worth reading, and the reader gained a little more insight about Vietnam after completing the book.
 

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Help Book Club

     Kathryn Stockett's The Help leaves me mourning the lives of her characters.  Having first been welcomed into these characters' homes and lives as a guest (perhaps a fourth at Miss Leefolt's bridge table) in the form of a reader, a transformation occurs, though, by the end of the novel where the reader emotionally entangles himself/herself with these seemingly living, breathing, struggling human beings.  Will Aibileen continue to . . . ?  How will Miss Skeeter fare in . . .?  Does Minny triumph as a . . . ?  Does Miss Hilly ever admit to . . . ?  The telling dialogue and vivid descriptions places the reader in the moment.  In fact, Minny's words, "I intend to stay on her like hair on soap" (158) induced the gag reflex (icks).
     Besides the entertainment factor,  I hope the reader, more importantly, acknowledges the issues The Help brings to light such as racism, sexism, and domestic abuse (which nonsensically remain in today's society) and is motivated to take action.  Having personally dealt with a sexist stepfather during my own upbringing, the reality is that these negative, needless influences have life-altering effects.
Picture and cake courtesy of Rhonda Tibbs.
     For the purposes of book club, a delectable caramel cake
shared among members seems the ideal choice since this inanimate "character" weaves itself throughout the novel.  If feeling playful and wish to determine who has completed the book club's reading of the month, serve a chocolate pie alongside the
Two-slice Hilly?
cake and see which members help themselves to a slice or two.  Then, without a doubt, as a group view the movie version of The Help and determine whether the book was better . . .

Kathryn Stockett

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dancing with Gravity Book Club

     Mentally draining, thought-provoking, and utterly fascinating are the descriptions that come to mind after reading Anene Tressler's Dancing with Gravity.  An International Book Awards 2011 Literary Fiction Winner, Dancing with Gravity immerses the reader into the novel through rich descriptions (some of which caused giggling on my part):
     "Whiting took his ice cream and stepped over to the trash barrel to unwrap it.  The wafer stuck to the paper so that each time he lifted a piece of the wrapper, it tore.  Tiny strips stuck to his fingers.  Ice cream dripped down his hands;  he leaned over the trashcan to avoid dripping anything on his jacket.  He tasted paper and spit it out.  As he unwound the sandwich, a large chunk broke off and fell into the barrel.  He tossed the remainder into the can in disgust and looked around for a napkin or water to rinse his hands" (161) and clever use of vocabulary, "He knew the parents wanted him to respond, but his words were stillborn"  (136).
     The complex protagonist, Father Samuel Whiting, an educated man who suffered a less than stable childhood, inserts the proper anecdotes at the proper times, but remains socially and romantically immature at the age of forty-eight.  Whiting's incessant questioning, analysis, and uncertainty invites the reader into his psyche and ultimately into the role of psychiatrist to his ramblings from the metaphorical couch (thus, naps were needed between reading "sessions" in order to process and recover).  Tressler accurately portrays the ideal that there is much more to a person than what one witnesses on the outside; even a person who acts as a spiritual advisor or counselor experiences real emotions.
     The setting of Dancing with Gravity centers around a circus specifically located in St. Louis, Missouri, so why not have your book club entertain the idea of a group outing to the circus?  Circus Flora has been thrilling St. Louis audiences for over 25 years.  If this is not possible, bring circus food to your book club discussion.  Hot dogs, flavored ice, cotton candy, popcorn, and an ice cream sandwich for the road.  In closing talks, recognize the importance of thanking a spiritual advisor, pastor, rabbi, counselor, or guru.  Trained to assist others, these often thankless professions deserve appreciation.


Anene Tressler

Monday, August 1, 2011

Learn More about YA Author Hermine Steinberg

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
There are so many but the one that probably had the most impact on me was Schindler's List. That was probably because my parents were holocaust survivors from Poland. There were many scenes that affected me deeply but the one with the little girl with the red coat just made me sob out loud. My mother was eleven when she was sent off to a labour camp.

Describe your first kiss.
My first kiss can only be described as awkward and embarrassing. I was only 12 and it was on a dare...although I really had a crush on this boy. I don't even really remember the kiss. I only remember how silly I felt afterwards.

Your favorite children's book, and why . . .
I always loved to read but one of the first books that really stayed with me - ignited my imagination and actually led me to start writing - was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I think I have been searching for that secret door to another world of adventure of fantasy since that time.


A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .
There are many things that concern me today and I have made contributions (money, time and energy) to, but the ones that I think most about today are breast cancer (my mother recently died as a result of breast cancer), alzheimers (my father has been suffering from the disease for over 10 years) and climate change (I am deeply concerned that our actions have destroyed the planet for future generations).

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be and why?
Of course this answer would change depending on the day and my mood, but at this very moment I would like to be Clove in my own book - The Co-Walkers. She is funny, full of confidence and spirit. Most of the books I have read lately have been quite sad - Caleb's Crossing, The Glass Castle, Room - I wouldn't want to be any of the characters in these books.

Explain the worst job that you have ever held.
The worst job I ever had was one summer as a university student working in a typing pool. They probably don't exist any more. But it was mind numbing, and the more efficient you were, the more you were given.

A quote that motivates you . . .
There are many but one of them is "Try not to become a man of success but a man of value." by Albert Einstein

The title of the one song you would take with you on that deserted island . . .
Sooo hard to choose! Maybe Hero, or Hallelujah or Somewhere over the Rainbow.


Three Wishes . . .
Of course this sounds so corny and cliche but...
1. World peace
2. My family and friends being happy and healthy.
3. Everybody's family and friends being happy and healthy.

Favorite game you played as a child . . .
When I was about 5 I loved to play with my cut-outs. If you don't know what I'm talking about, these were dolls that were made of perforated cardboard. My sister and I or my friends and I would spend hours, making clothes (drawing them and cutting them out) for them, creating stories, building them rooms and houses out of discarded shoe boxes and other household items. 


What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
I would like young people to feel empowered to choose the life they want, to understand that the world needs them and their decisions impact us all.

Hermine Steinberg

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Same Birthday Book Club

     Ever wanted to promote the love of reading within your own family and needed a book with the ability to garner the interest of three generations?  Carol Galusha's The Same Birthday is the novel that meets this criteria. 
     An educator for more than twenty years, Ms. Galusha implements components that draw the young adult reader into the novel such as active-voice sentences which are direct, yet chock-full of details, brief chapters overflowing with discussion material, and themes in which a young adult can relate.  Students will be pleased with the 120 pages when the novel is distributed in class, yet mesmerised by the journey in which the three protagonists take them.
     Interestingly enough, this journey is full of complexities which engage the adult reader also.  Thus, not only an ideal choice for the secondary classroom complete with lesson plans provided by the author, but also a work with the ability to bring multi-generational readers together.  Yes, Grandma, Mom, and Daughter, for example.
     In the case of book club, what brings people together better than food?  In this case, the food acts as a symbol for the lives of each of the three main characters.  To represent Janine, appetizers should be available such as those mentioned on page 23 in The Same Birthday:  pigs in a blanket, vegetables, and chips with elaborate dips.  In the case of Mary Anne, earthy potato soup and rustic ham sandwiches express her backstory.  Without a doubt, the essentials for making a mouthwatering pizza pie will not only coax the adolescent reader to book club, but also create a starting point for discussing the life of Molly.  Looking for the ideal gift for the tween, adult, and seasoned person in your life?  Look no further  . . . you cannot go wrong with the gift of reading.


Carol Galusha

Sunday, July 24, 2011

40+ and Fabulous Book Club

     Kismet?  Absolutely!  With forty fast approaching, I became familiar with author Sondra Wright and her debut publication, 40+ and Fabulous:  Moving Forward Fierce, Focused, and Full of Life!  Previously, I had searched via hashtags for links and/or Tweeps dealing with turning forty, but came up only with  tweets concerning a particular size of malt beverage.  Truly shocked at not finding a plethora of groups, causes, and sayings including the infamous "turning forty" ideal, I was elated when I came across a book celebrating this decade (and then some) of adulthood.
     A compilation of autobiographical essays written by talented, strong women at least forty years of age comprise the majority of the pages.  These pages reveal with much honesty and humor the truth about experiencing one's forties from a female perspective.  After close reading and much highlighting, recurring themes began to take root . . .  the inevitability of the "girls" heading south (and not solely for the winter), the deepening of female friendships and the release of toxic relationships, the forgiveness of not only others, but also one's self, and a thorough understanding (physically and intellectually) of the often perplexing male specimen.
     An excellent book club choice for a lively discussion, a Ladies on the Lawn party as portrayed in sixty-year-old Terry Kohl's contributing commentary is the optimal setting.  Taking liberties due to extreme St. Louis summer heat, I opted for an air-conditioned Ladies on the Linoleum and Carpet party.  Although long, flowing garden-style clothing would be welcomed, I am more of the tattered jean capris and hoodie kind of gal, and I want my gal pals to come dressed in whatever suits their moods.  Guests may bring a dish of her own choosing to pass.  What is crucial to this book club discussion is the one male instrumentalist.  In Kohl's case, her musician played the fiddle, violin, and mandolin.  For our purposes, the hub with minimal urging retrieved his electric guitar from his man cave and serenaded us with heavy metal as we sipped our sangria.  Think Amazon Women at the Festival of Dionysus . . . 
Even if a hunky musician does not reside in your abode, do not hesitate to invite the girls over, turn on the iPod, and with the guidance of Sondra Wright, discuss how 40+ and fabulous you all are.

Sondra Wright

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Learn More about Author Anene Tressler

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . . Cinema Paradiso

Describe your first kiss...
  A very nervous and emotional affair; I was certain I looked different afterwards.

Your favorite children's book, and why . . .
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry—a lovely story about a horse...and I was mad for horses as a child.

A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .
Animal rights. Because I cannot bear the ideas that animals suffer —often because of our actions or greed—and have no recourse The senseless suffering we often inflict on animals is a source of shame and grief for me.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Any of Dumas’ Three Musketeers (I’m a fool for derring-do); Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series (she’s smart, she has lots of adventures and she knows magic, too)

Explain the worst job that you've held...
I once worked in a hospital department that  helped physicians write up their research. Everything about that job was wrong...from my micromanaging boss to the people I dealt with.

A quote that motivates you . . .
"Without fear, there is no courage.” I’ve seen that quote referenced a lot, but I’m not sure who said it originally.

The title of the one song you would take with you to that deserted island . . . Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1... or, with lyrics, any of a number of Leonard Cohen songs.

Three Wishes

   1. World peace (I may sound like Miss America there), but just imagine what it would be like
   2. More wishes
   3. The wisdom to choose those wishes well.

Favorite game you played as a child . . .
Hide and Seek. It scared me....especially when I hid so well I couldn’t be found.



Anene Tressler

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Learn More about YA Author Stacey Darlington

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .Mary Queen of Scots, starring Vanessa Redgrave springs to mind. I saw it as a child was was deeply affected by her execution and the way she accepted it so elegantly. I usually don't watch sad movies.

Describe your first kiss...
My "best friend" stole a kiss from me when I was eight while we were playing cowboys and Indians...I punched him out! haha

Your favorite children's book, and why
. . .I will always love Where The Wild Things Are. I have an affinity towards monsters and the misunderstood....later I was all about Nancy Drew and Alfred Hitchcock.

A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .
Literacy for young people. I found such an escape in reading when I was a child. It's a blessing to be able to enter a fantasy world away from a sometimes turbulent household. I also do volunteer work at children's homes...my mother was an orphan.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Noelle Page...Forever Amber

Explain the worst job that you've held...
Working at KFC when I was 16, had to clean the oil and mop the floors. I still found a way to enjoy it, though.

A quote that motivates you . . .
To the victor go the spoils

The title of the one song you would take with you to that deserted island. . . Cheeseburgers in Paradise

Three Wishes
   1. That my book series catches on and becomes successful
   2. To make enough money to help the hungry and homeless in a BIG way
   3. That the people on this planet would stop hating and battling and become spiritual and peaceful

Favorite game you played as a child . . .
A card game I invented with my best friend to practice our ESP. We would take turns hiding a penny beneath one of the fifty two cards we had arranged in a circle. We would move our hand over the cards and select the one that hid the penny. We both got it on the first try every time. I also liked Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. I have always been drawn to the occult and supernatural.

Stacey Darlington

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Reading Camp Finale!

     Last I reported, my oldest squirt and I along with our buddies completed week 2 of Reading Camp.  The hub escorted our daughter to week 3, and we played hooky for week 4.  Thus, the final week, class number 5, met today.  Although sitting next to our child was preferred, I was banished by my daughter to the seat behind her for which I was happy to oblige considering I felt she was asserting her independence (a change from the usual Momma's girl).  Class began with the optional sharing of homework (under Miss Rebecca's direction) before the class (aaaah, the days when it was exciting to stand in front like the teacher) followed by thunderous applause after each student's presentation.


     Enthusiastic cheers, "I have this book at home!  I've read this book!" rang out once Miss Rebecca passed out the day's reading, Dr. Suess' Cat in the Hat.  Again, the young students were given autonomy over their learning by handling the book themselves and being in charge of the turning of its pages.  My daughter graciously gave me the thumbs up after I requested (yet again) the seat next to her in order to follow along.  Yes!
    After the oral reading, Miss Rebecca reviewed the story by selecting a page from Cat in the Hat, reading orally to the students again, yet this time omitting some key words much like the cloze technique.  The four and five-year-olds then shouted the missing vocabulary word at Miss Rebecca's pause.   Thus, they "knew" the story nearly verbatim without literally being able to read using their memories and the pictures as guidance.  The pride at knowing the correct word emanated from their faces, a joy to see.
    The final activity of the day consisted of a spelling game where the teacher handed each student two letters.  She then wrote a word on the board.  If a student had one of the letters in the word, he/she was to move to the front of the class and place himself/herself in the correct letter order in relation to the other students at the front of the room.  Thus, not only were students asked to identify the words on the board, but also recognize which letters comprised that word and in what order those letters needed to be placed in order to mimic the word on the board.  Thrilled at the recognition of his/her letter in a word on the board, a student would hurry to the front of the room in order to participate in the spelling.
     Thus, Reading Camp came to a close.  Although a storybook as a token of "graduation" would have seemed appropriate (considering the tuition amount), we walked away without even a certificate symbolizing all of our intended hard work.  What matters, though, was the memorable experience facilitated by a young, motivated teacher determined to make a difference in the lives of her students.

Friday, July 8, 2011

'Twas the Night before Forty


'Twas the night before forty, when all through the house
My three-year-old was stirring, much like a mouse;
The Spanx were hung by the shower rod with care,
In hopes that one day the tummy's not there;

The hub and I were nestled all snug in our bed,
Until I started snoring right next to his head;
He whispered, he shook me, and finally a hard tap
Before solace in the Princess Lounge for a much-needed nap,

When out in the Big Room there arose such a clatter,
I stumbled from bed to see what was the matter.
My life until now was before me in a flash,
Giggling and crying, I prayed this streaming video wouldn't crash.

Through the window, the moon shone on my pajama tank top
Reminding me that my “girls” have yet to drop,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a memory of when growing boobies equaled fear,

Laughter emerged, so lively and quick,
Until the next moment I saw my dad in bed sick.
More rapid than eagles an adult you become,
At the passing of a parent, certain trauma in life's album.

"Now, chin hairs! now, age spots! now, menopause and pimples!
On, wrinkles! on scars! on, stretch marks and dimples!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
Someone approaching; panic set in; I was no longer aloof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney my present self came with a bound.

I was dressed all in sweats, from my head to my toes,
My clothes covered with finger paint, glue stick, and “who knows!”
A bundle of laundry I had flung on my back,
And I looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

My contact-colored eyes -- how they twinkled with glee!
At the sight of my children and the man who loves me!
My Burt's Bee pink mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the joyous tears from my eyes did flow;

I sprang to my bed, to the night's events blew a whistle,
And away my youth flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard myself exclaim, beckoning middle age into sight,
HAPPY FORTIETH TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cultivating Radiance Book Club

     Whew!  Having just turned the final page of Tamara Gerlach's Cultivating Radiance, I can honestly say you cannot estimate the time it takes to read a book simply by the number of its pages.  At first glance, I thought 180+ pages would be an engaging weekend read.  However, a weekend read stretched to a two-week self-discovery adventure.  Yet, since the theme of the novel, "cultivating radiance," is actually an on-going process, I know that I will revisit, reread, and review as needed.
     Cultivating Radiance is divided into short chapters which end in homework assignments comprised of a Discovery Question, an Activity, directed Gratitude work, and a Mantra for memorization.
     Each chapter is sprinkled with anecdotes, biographical contributions as well as Ms. Gerlach's honest recollections as proof of the author's authentic requests of her audience.
     For book club, this is an ideal choice for weekly study groups, an on-line book club, or a monthly book club that checks in with one another on a weekly basis.  Some homework assignments may be completed together such as attempting meditation (think The Center in Glen Carbon, IL), cooking healthy with local ingredients from a farmer's market (think Fournie Farms in Collinsville, IL), or participating in your first 5K (think A Signature Hollywood Salon's Annual Running with Scissors).  Perhaps, your book club members will register as a group for a Women's Retreat (I'm in!).   Whatever tickles your fancy, attempt an activity which lies beyond your norm in order to experience Cultivating Radiance.

Tamara Gerlach

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Learn More about Author Billy Lindsay

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
Phantom of the Opera

Describe your first kiss.


Behind the school in winter, cold, fast, and tense, soft and confirmation of my masculinity.

Your favorite children's book, and why . . .
Green Eggs and Ham

A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .

Care for animals-love pets and animals because they depend on us
 
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Captain Nemo

Explain the worst job that you've held.
loading turkeys

A quote that motivates you . . .
We are all actors in our own theater of life.

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island . . .
Eye of the Tiger

Three Wishes
   1. 
ideal mate
   2. 
financial freedom
   3. 
more time

Favorite game you played as a child . . .

army with neighbor kids


Billy Lindsay

Tatty Ratty "Baby" Book Club



     By being participants in the 2011 International Postcard Exchange, our United Kingdom pen pals, Sam, Rebekah, Jeremy, George, and Daniel recommended the picture book Tatty Ratty by Helen Cooper to us.  So, we immediately placed our order online and anxiously awaited an e-mail from our local library, Glen Carbon Centennial Library, stating our book was in.
     The image of a bunny eating a doughnut while taking a ride in the evening sky piqued our interest.  What follows is an imaginative tale of the whereabouts of a lost bunny enhanced by the reference of familiar characters from other children's storybooks.  Thus, not only is a new tale being told, but the backstories of other famous literary figures are introduced within Tatty Ratty.  As a parent, I found the story useful as parenting advice if ever in the unfortunate predicament of a child missing a favorite toy.  As a teacher, I appreciated the introduction of allusions in this literary work.
     As a means of experiencing Tatty Ratty, the squirts dug into their own collection of stuffed animals and found their own "Tatty Ratty."  Opting to create an adventure exclusive to our Tatty Ratty, we took turns placing Tatty Ratty in various circumstances throughout the house and then using our imaginations to explain how she arrived at each location.
Tatty Ratty taking a joy ride on the Plasma Car.

Working off some of that porridge on the treadmill.

Cleaning up after a full day's worth of adventure.


Fresh from our Farm to Table field trips, we made a trip to the local produce stand, Norma's Produce and Greenhouses, and selected items which a bunny would most likely enjoy.  Returning home with our bounty in tow, the squirts cleaned their (few) selected vegetables and (numerous) fruits and prepared them with minimal assistance ("I can do it!" was heard often during preparation) into a child-friendly salad.



Helen Cooper

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen Book Club

     Having finished mourning over my one-night read of Janet Evanovich's Smokin' Seventeen, I feel I am ready to offer book club ideas.  A near obsessive fan of the Stephanie Plum series, I have read this series three times due to the fact I truly miss the plethora of characters (okay, specifically Morelli and Ranger . . .  ooh la la!) when I am not engaged in the series.  So, when a fellow author groupie and friend notifies me of the latest release date, sleepless nights ensue until I am able to download the book to my phone.  Thus, promptly at midnight June 20st, my phone declares "download complete."  Thrilled with the girth of this novel, 39 chapters, I take the plunge. 
     Without having to attach "spoiler alert" to this blog, I can say with all certainty that "Smokin'" is an apt description for this book's contents.  The two main male characters (my two sweeties), Morelli and Ranger, definitely make their presence known in the novel as well as in Stephanie's life.  What I do feel is lacking is the more protective side  of Morelli, more consistent with previous novels in the series.  In addition, a quote spoken by Ranger explaining his interest in Stephanie as entertainment read as near verbatim from a passage in a previous book.  However, I do admit that I have most of Ranger's quotes memorized (ask my hub who now sports a black RANGEMAN t-shirt), so others may not even think twice when reading these lines.  Perhaps foreshadowing hinting at a change in their relationship in Explosive Eighteen?  November, the month of the next  book release, will tell.  In the meantime, yes, other characters do exist in Smokin' Seventeen, and the plot takes on a familiar, yet unique spin of twists and turns.  An entertaining, engaging read which I am sure will be reread at least once before 18's release.
     As for book club, dressing as characters from the novel would be an ideal way to set the mood.  Think Grandma Mazur, Stephanie, Connie, Morelli, Ranger, Vinnie, Lula, Mooner, Alpha, and Dave.  Since Dave offers some mouthwatering dishes in the novel, book club can take his cue and together prepare a meal of salad, scalloped potatoes, and lamb chops (see chapter 29).  Lemon meringue pie for dessert would be the feasting finale along with an assortment of doughnuts in honor of Steph and Lula.
     If hosting the book club for Smokin' Seventeen and wish to dispense party favors, a grab bag of assorted granny panties from which members may choose would be a memorable giveaway.  Or, asking each guest to bring a pair of granny panties of his/her choice for a White Elephant gift exchange and/or competition to guess who brought what may add to the festive nature.

Janet Evanovich

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Farm to Table Field Trips Part 2-Day Tours Rock!*

     Coming from an entertaining, educational child-friendly cooking class centered on the farm to table ideal, I was eager to participate in the adult farm to table field trip authored by Paula Creech, Recreation Specialist for Adult Programs at the Renaud Spirit Center.  I convinced a buddy of mine, a registered nurse and dietitian, to join me who I knew had a passion for organic foods, so we registered in anticipation of learning as well as having some time to ourselves minus the squirts.  We knew we were visiting two farms and a winery, but that was the extent of our knowledge due to my misplacement of the information (I am sure the information is hidden in the stacks on my countertop somewhere).  To be honest, we really did not care what we did or where we did it;  we were just thrilled with the idea of going somewhere.  Of course, I loaded my purse with book, camera, water, cellphone, and snacks while my buddy came prepared with a backpack.  She wore sensible athletic shoes while I opted for the flip-flops ("Wrong shoes," my father-in-law warned me as I dropped the squirts at his house the morning of the trip).  Kisses, hugs, and promises of seeing them soon, we left the squirts in route for the bus.
We're going on a bus trip . . .
     At promptly 9:00 a.m., we loaded ourselves and our gear onto the air-conditioned motor coach.  We opted for a seat in the back and yapped the entire way.  Before we knew it, we were at our first stop, Vesterbrook Farm, a Certified Naturally Grown producer of vegetables, hay, tree and bramble fruit.  In addition, Vesterbrook Farm raises free-range eggs, heritage breed turkeys, and lamb.  Not quite sure what to expect, we watched as one of the most passionate (we soon came to learn) men I have ever seen wearing bib overalls approached our group- enter Mike Brabo.
Passionate Organic Farmer, Mike Brabo
He and his wife, Carol, along with their two children run this farm along with employees who earn living wages.







After offered an intriguing history of Vesterbrook Farm as well as a geology lesson of the area, which even I could follow, we were directed to the plastic bags.
Ready, Set, Grab a Bag
Not knowing until this minute we were going to participate in the farm to table process, I definitely knew I had the "wrong shoes," but didn't care.  Thus, we harvested such bounty as onions, garlic, turnips, purple carrots, lettuce, chioggia beets, and edible weeds.   Using the grass as a cleanser, Mike cut into the various vegetables with his pocket knife and allowed us to savor the crisp, earthy onion, the spicy garlic, and the sweet candy-cane-like beets.  Fierce competition ensued when Mike promised a pound of lamb to the one who picked the largest beet.
The Largest Beet Winner

The Chioggia Beet
Embarrassed to admit, this was the first beet ever to touch my palate, and now will certainly not be the last.  I was even able to persuade my girls to try the candy-looking slices which I brought home in my plastic bag, and they were sold.  Nearly two hours passed in a flash, and I could have listened and learned more.  Although Vesterbrook Farms' Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is full for 2011, there is always next year or a Saturday visit to the O'Fallon Farmers and Artists Market.
     Next stop on the bus tour, Overlook Farm, where we ate from their bounty at the Clarksville Station Restaurant.  A single piece of paper, titled Summer 2011 Menu was presented with seven or eight mouthwatering choices.  My buddy ordered the bleu cheese angus burger while I ordered the Hilty grilled chicken sandwich smothered in cheese.  Freshly-squeezed lemonade along with homemade potato chips with not too much salt and just the right amount of crunch accompanied our meals.  Since we shared sandwiches, I can say with absolute certainty (according to the buds in my mouth), both meals were juicy and straight-from-the-garden fresh.  We ate inside, but a beautiful lavender-colored courtyard complete with lilac-colored Adirondack chairs and light purple wisteria vines adjacent to the restaurant called to us for a return visit in the near future.
The courtyard framed by the windows at Clarksville Station Restaurant is calling for our return.
     With bellies full, we loaded the bus and headed for the Crown Valley Port House.  Here we were offered a warm Clarksville welcome by Mayor Jo Anne Smiley and introduced to our bubbly tour guide who ushered us inside The Port House located on the private resort Tievoli Hills ("I love it" spelled backwards).
Crown Valley Port House


Crown Valley Port House Storage
After a brief oral background on the Crown Valley Port House's history, we watched a short movie in a cool and comfortable viewing room which further told The Port House's story.  After this restful portion of the tour, wine tasting commenced upstairs.  Given a wine glass with five tokens (to yield five tastings), we studied the wine list and socialized with trip companions.  Our section of the tasting bar unanimously praised Crown Valley's Viognier perhaps due to Dionysus' influence, and, fortunately received 10% off the purchase price.
     Ready for naptime, our tour was not over yet.  On our return home, we stopped in downtown Clarksville for some perusal of handcrafted work by local Missouri artists.  We sniffed and tested various body spray and lotion combinations at the factory and retail shop Bee Naturals, tried on the beautiful glass jewelry crafted at Clarksville Glassworks, and fondled handmade leather purses and rings at The Bent Tree Gallery.
A picture at The Bent Tree Gallery after our homemade button bracelet purchase.
If you have never tried a group day trip, try.  If you tried, register for another one.  This happened to be my second day trip, and I am looking forward to number three.  Being able to learn and experience with others without the hassle of driving allows one to truly savor the moment as well as reduce our carbon footprints.

*This blog is dedicated to Cory, the Guard Donkey, a permanent member of the Vesterbrook Farm family once exiled from his previous place of residence for being quite the "ladies' man."
Cory, the Guard Donkey

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Farm to Table Field Trips Part 1- Happy Dairy Month!

     The term "author" may be defined in terms of written pieces, but also "the maker of anything;  creator;  originator"  (dictionary.com).  Although I tend to focus on the written word when blogging, I found an opportunity to discover farm to table authorship, so to speak.  Thus, the squirts and I enrolled in a cooking class at Eckert's under the guidance of guest teacher, Rebecca Collier, Nutrition Educator for the St. Louis District Dairy Council.  Of course, the squirts were looking forward to shopping with squirt-sized grocery carts (as promised) after class courtesy of Eckert's Market,
but I was eagerly anticipating the actual cooking class with my girls.
     In approximately 90 minutes, the girls completed four nutritious and aesthetically pleasing snacks:  Tuna Cheese Sailboat Sandwiches, Ring around the Rainbow Parfait, Vegetable and Cheese Kabobs, and Strawberry Milk Blender Special.  Besides the focus in each of the recipes as having dairy as a main ingredient, the farm to table ideal was also brought forth with fruit for the parfaits and smoothies being freshly picked that day.   Being introduced to the baker who baked the rolls bright and early from the adjacent kitchen for our sandwiches allowed us to literally visualize where our food originated or was authored.  Thus, if an ingredient was not produced from farm to table by Eckert's, local products were implemented for use in the recipes.

Mixing the Strawberry Milk Blender Special

Tasting the Strawberry Milk Blender Special

      The girls worked at their own stations with much intensity and determination.  My three-year-old sawed diligently through tomatoes with her plastic knife while my (picky-eater) five-year-old ate every last bite of the cantaloupe parfait she had created.  Although neither squirt dived into the tuna sandwiches (convinced they do not like tuna, but don't realize I hide it in the marinara sauce), their pride with their handiwork was evident when they demanded we take the sailboat-shaped sandwiches home for Daddy to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Molly's Magic Pencil: The Blue Genie


     Peter Davies' second book, The Blue Genie,  in the Molly's Magic Pencil series is an ideal picture book to use for dramatization.  With only four prominent characters in the story, our family of four had no problem in dealing with lack of participation.  Having short jumpers the squirts consider "genie" outfits, I figured the two girls would be taking turns playing the Blue Genie.  Instead, they both chose to play the protagonist's part, Molly.
      So, we dug in closets for red (okay, hot pink) outfits to mimic Molly's red jumper.  Then, backpacks were filled with paper and the crucial Magic Pencil.  By default, the hub played Blue Genie since he was wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans, and I was inevitably Mrs. Jones, the tearful geriatric lady (I'm being typecast already, yet still a month away from 40) whose cat, Tiddles (played by our stuffed black cat), is stranded high on a tree limb.
Tiddles stranded in the tree.


     Since each squirt wanted the spotlight to herself, we rehearsed the scene several times (more than I had planned) in our backyard (luckily, the neighbors already know we're nutty) each time alternating the actress who portrayed Molly.                           
Take 1:  Molly #1 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.


                                                                               
Take 1:  Molly #1 drawing a teapot.
Take 21:  Molly #2 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.
Take 21:  Molly #2 drawing a teapot.
The Blue Genie saves Tiddles.
      When every blank space on the paper had been filled with a drawing of a teapot,  we brought the dramatization to a close by singing the first verse of, "I'm a Little Teapot."  Bedtime was accomplished only with a sincere promise, "Yes, we will act out The Blue Genie again tomorrow."


Peter Davies