Sunday, February 17, 2013

Carmen Agra Deedy--Storyteller and Author Extraordinaire

"Storytellers are the most powerful people on earth.  They might not be the best paid, but they are the most powerful.  Storytellers have the power to move the human heart--and there is no greater power on earth." --Laurie H. Hutzler

I love to read and always have.  My grandmother instilled this love of reading in me.  I remember sitting in her chair with her while she read books to me.  I was very young and she always took the time to read whatever book I brought for her to read to me.  My Aunt Teresa also contributed to my love of reading as she had me enrolled in several book clubs as I was growing up.   Books would be delivered in the mail on a monthly basis.   Although my mom was not a reader, she also contributed by never questioning anything that I ever read. If I was reading, whatever the book was fine with her.

After becoming a teacher, I saw first hand the power of children's literature.  There are so many picture books and children's books that are amazing and very powerful in many ways

Several years ago, I found a book that to me is the most beautiful book I have ever read.  It is called "The Last Dance" written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Debrah Santini.   

This book is about the cycle of life, the importance of family, and the limitless power of love.  

I was so excited to meet Carmen several years ago when I went to the International Reading Association Conference.   She gave me her card and phone number and I had hoped to have her come to Gilbert El sometime.  That never happened, but she visited Douglas Unified School District on February 6.   

Carmen is a warm, funny, sincere human being.  She told three different stories to our fifth graders and then to parents and families after school was over.  I was fortunate to hear two of her stories.  The children were totally into the stories she told.   There was so much laughter and joy that day.

I had the great fortune to go to lunch with Carmen.   And she is a warm, funny, sincere human being.   I love all of her books, but I shared with her what "The Last Dance" has meant to me.   Through the years, I have given this book to friends after they have lost a loved one, particularly a parent.   In the book, the grandfather tells his grandchildren that every human being has the right to three things in life:

TO DANCE.  The great thing in life is   not so much to dance well,
but whether one is willing to dance at all.

TO SING,  Even if you   sing off-key.  The crow has as much right
to a voice as the nightingale.

TO TELL STORIES.  Those we love are 
 never  really gone as long as their stories are told.

Every October, we try to get together as a family and tell stories about my mom.  She died Oct. 6 and her birthday was Oct. 8.   Although Cameron was only four when she died, I believe that the times that we have told her stories makes him think that he remembers her more.  "Those we love are never really gone as long as their stories are told."

Through the years, I have been honored to deliver eulogies for special friends and relatives.  I have used this quote often.  And this is so true.

Last week, I got an email from our cousin, Allyson, who teaches in Atlanta.  Carmen is from Georgia and she was at Allyson's school.   She told Allyson that she loved coming to Douglas and is looking forward to coming back!  What a small world it is!!

Meeting Carmen and seeing what a wonderful person she is means so much to me.  I feel honored and privileged to have been able to share her with our kids and families!!

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world."--Philip Pullman

I couldn't agree more!!   

Sunday, February 3, 2013

'S'now Joke!

During the last 2 1/2 years that I have been back in Douglas, there have been two weather "crisis."   In all of the years I was in Gilbert, the worst thing we ever had were heat advisory days.    

I had forgotten how cold it gets down here in the winter.  My office is 3 1/2 blocks from the house and I wear a heavy coat and gloves most mornings.  In addition, there are many days that it takes me ten or so minutes to get the ice off of the car windshield so that I can see to drive!

Two years ago this month, we had the coldest temperatures on record down here.  It was 0 degrees and was below freezing for two days.   That was my first really big decision as superintendent when we cancelled school for those two days.  

A couple of times this school year, snow has been in the forecast, but didn't happen.  On Monday, the weather forecast was for some possible light snow showers, but it didn't appear to be really going to happen.

I woke up about 4:00 a.m. and looked outside and there was snow!  At about 4:30, I got a call from our Transportation Director.  All of the highways coming into Douglas were closed.  That meant that he couldn't send any buses outside of Douglas and we have a lot of kids who live in outlying areas.  In addition, we have 30 or so teachers who don't live in Douglas, so they wouldn't be able to get to school.   There was no way we could find 30 subs!  So I made the decision to call a snow day!!

We called all of our principals who started calling their staffs.  I called all three of the Tucson television stations to ask them to announce it, as well as our local radio station.  We had it posted on our website and sent out messages to parents.  We have enough academic minutes required by the state, so we don't have to make up the day.  

My puggies didn't know what to do when I let them out.  They have never seen snow before.  It was really funny watching them trying to figure out what to do.  Of course, Lucy, didn't like it at all.  She would rather stay in where it is comfortable no matter whether it is winter or summer!

I had to drive up to Tucson yesterday.  Although it is winter,  the desert between here and Tucson is absolutely gorgeous.  It was a clear day and you could see snow on the tops of the several of the mountain ranges around us.  I wish I could capture that beauty with photography.  Maybe someday I will learn how to do that.  For some  people, it is natural.  I don't have much artistic ability so I am thinking I will need to take some classes.  Maybe that will be a goal when I finally retire down the road!