Scuff marks and memories

dart posterizerdI’m thinking about painting the basement walls. In fact, I’m looking around at our basement, and thinking it needs some work. Not just paint, but patching, sanding, freshening, and new carpet.
The basement has seen some action over the years. Many a school project has been constructed downstairs. The cats reside there. But mostly . . . there have been boys. Boys have logged many hours down there. It’s the place where my son and his friends hung out on weekends – because it’s home to the big TV and Xbox, the Pac Man arcade game, and the ping-pong table.

As I assess the condition, memories bounce in. Birthday parties . . . Superbowl parties . . . video game marathons . . . sleepovers, movie nights, and more. There’s a visible patch on one wall where my husband tried to repair a gouge in the sheetrock. Yeah, that was the time the ping-pong paddle flew out of one of my son’s friend’s hands and smacked a hole in the wall.

On the other wall, there are a series of pockmarks, a whole group of tiny indentations that make the wall appear dimpled. Well, that’s where we hung the dartboard. No, we weren’t expecting every hit to leave its signature behind.

Going up the stairs, I can see that the door and casing are severely scratched. It took me a minute to figure that one out. It happened a while back. My daughter’s Odyssey of the Mind team built a “vehicle” down there – a contraption large enough that one of the team members would control it from inside. Guess what? Once done, we discovered it was slightly wider than our basement door! Luckily, it had some give, so with a little pushing, shoving and finagling, we got it out in one piece. But, again, it left its mark.

While it’s definitely time for some freshening up, it’s also kind of fun to look at the scuff marks and enjoy the memories. Like the laugh lines on an old person’s wrinkled face – those scuffs and scars represent good times. Times worth remembering that I sure wouldn’t trade for a polished and pristine showroom.

Enjoy the moments!


Dream job . . . found in a high school library

IMG_0802Hello, everyone! Happy Friday!

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to an amazing lady. She runs the library at my kids’ high school – a school with more than 2,000 students. I love libraries. I’ve been to many, and I can tell you, this librarian makes a difference. How? She encourages a love of books and learning by making the library a happy place! Nooks to check out, Cappuccino Fridays, Blind Date with a Book . . . she’s got it all! Please welcome Kathi Knop, librarian extraordinaire!

Tell us a little about your job. And yourself . . . what were the steps to becoming a school librarian? Was that always your intended career path?
I graduated from William Jewell College with a degree in Elementary Education and taught elementary school in the Hickman Mills School District for 10 years. During that time I got married and had 2 daughters. I stayed home for the next 15 years to raise Megan & Elizabeth. When Megan was an 8th grader, I decided it might be time for me to go back to work. After some soul searching thinking about what I really wanted to do I decided to get my master’s degree in Library Science, which was a wonderful decision. I spent four years going to Emporia, KS one weekend a month getting my degree. I don’t think I originally ever thought about being a librarian, but when I became one, I realized it was a dream job.

What’s your favorite part of being a school librarian?
I love the teaching part of being a school librarian. I love giving book talks and just being around and talking to the students.
And least favorite?
Because of our new 1:1 initiative, technology has become a large part of my job. The least favorite would be having to take time out to deal with computer problems, issuing new computers and chargers that have been lost or damaged, etc.
How many students do you interact with on a daily basis?
My days are always varied and I can interact with anywhere from 30-300 students.
How do you encourage kids to read?
I think just talking to kids about books encourages them. Every year I have the young adult librarians from Johnson County library come gives book talks to the freshmen classes about current books during Teen Read Week in October. I also do book talks to the freshmen at the beginning of the year. I have also book talked different genres, such as biographies and non fiction books. This always gets kids to read something that they might not have before. I display new books as they arrive and books that bring awareness to a specified month, such as Black History Month, etc. This month we have a display called “Blind Date with a Book.” The books are wrapped in brown paper with a few key words on the front telling a little bit about the book. The first day we did the display, 10 students checked them out. I also have 15 Nooks that the kids can check out and take home. They might want to read a particular book, but end up reading lots more because so many are available on the Nooks.

Are you seeing any trends in reading/literature at the high school level?
Dystopian novels are still pretty big. I have also been ordering more GLBT books and have seen an increase in these books being checked out. Fiction books are definitely the most books that get checked out. Nonfiction books rarely get checked out any more. Students would much prefer to find their information online, which I can’t argue with, as I too like to have the most up to date information when doing research!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Pat Conroy, Jodi Picoult, Harper Lee

What are five books on your to-be-read list right now?
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

How many books do you read in an average month?
I usually have three books going at once. I listen to a book in the car or when I walk, always have one on my ipad and one “real” book that I read on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Name some of your all-time favorite books.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, My Antonia, Jane Eyre, Prince of Tides, The Woman in White, The Tortilla Curtain.

Is there one book you think every high school student (or every person) should read?
It would have be To Kill a Mockingbird. I think it is a timeless piece that has something in it to appeal to everyone. It is a moving novel that has life lessons.

You’ll be retiring at the end of this school year. What will you miss the most?
Most definitely the daily interaction with my colleagues and the students. The students give energy to every day! I will definitely NOT miss getting up at 5:15 every day.

Tell us a favorite memory/story of being a school librarian.
Wow. There are so many, it’s hard to choose one. Probably my best memory is having started cappuccino days in the high school library. When I first started at East, it was apparent that we needed to find ways to bring kids into the library. We started Cappuccino Fridays and sold cold cappuccinos and cookies. So many kids started coming in saying “So this is the library!” We would have about 3 classes in the library about every 15 minutes and make between $1,000 and $1500 each month. This also was very timely since our budget was taken away and we were still able to purchase new books for the library. Once a year we gave all our proceeds to an organization such as Habitat for Humanity, Heart to Heart International, the Red Cross, etc. This was definitely a rewarding, fun thing to start in our library. And of course there was getting to accompany a group of students to Italy and opening a brand new beautiful library at Mission Valley Middle School!

Everyone who knows you knows that you’re one of the coolest school librarians ever: How would you like to be remembered?
Ha!! I think just as a person who really enjoyed students and provided a comfortable environment for them to come to, whether it was to find a book, to study, or just to hang out and eat lunch.

When you aren’t working/reading, how do you spend your time? Any hobbies?
In the spring and summer it’s definitely gardening and working out in my yard!

What’s next on your journey?
I’m just going to give myself a semester to see what happens. I will definitely be gardening and also volunteering. I want to volunteer at the Childrens Center for Visually Impaired and also Children’s Mercy Hospital.

One of Kathi’s favorite quotes:
“[Librarians] are subversive. You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They’re like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn’t mess with them.”
― Michael Moore

I love this quote because to me it says that we’re always thinking up new ideas, events, and the next new thing!

Celebrate all the love!

love_cookieThis Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate love! I know, right now you’re thinking, well, duh. That’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. But it seems to me that more and more the holiday is touted as a romantic day, a special time to get away with your sweetie, spouse, significant other. It certainly is that, and I enjoy my chocolates, flowers and special dinner. It’s more than that, though.

I enjoy lots of aspects of Valentine’s Day – including the non-romantic ones. I often send cards to friends. This year, since neither kid is home, I mailed them both Valentine packages full of goodies. This is a first – included in my son’s package is a little gift for his girlfriend. 🙂 Yesterday, I left cookies for a favorite waitress at a restaurant we frequent. I used to sit the kids down with construction paper, doilies, markers and stickers and have them make valentines for grandparents and neighbors. I remember the excitement of picking out valentines for classmates, and making special “boxes” to collect the valentines in year after year with my kids. For several years, I hid little cut-out hearts around the house and sent the kids on a heart hunt. I know lots of kids had Valentine parties at school yesterday. I’ve seen adorable pictures on Facebook of girls in big pink hair bows, red sweaters, and red and black leggings with hearts all over them. Lots of fun stuff!

Often at this time of year I see posts from people lamenting Valentine’s Day, especially if they don’t have the aforementioned sweetie, spouse or significant other. If that’s the case, I hope there’s an opportunity to celebrate all the other love in your life. Spend the evening with a parent, a sister, or friend, and share a bottle of wine. Send cards to family, neighbors and friends. Not all love is romantic love, but it’s all worth celebrating. Earlier this week, I had lunch with a friend who’s never been married, has no children, and has lost her parents. That may not sound like it has the makings of a stellar Valentine’s Day. But this gal has a huge heart, and lots of friends. She’s loved by many, and that’s something to celebrate! You don’t need a “love life” to celebrate the love in your life.

Cheers to all the love in your life!

Meant to be, or . . . not?

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share a little snippet from my most recent contemporary romance novel, Something Good. This scene takes place near the end of the book. It’s full of romantic tension  – will they or won’t they. Love me? Love me not?

CoverOnly.SG.lowresOf course you’ll have to read the whole book to find out what happens next! Enjoy, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

That evening, Mandi picked up on the second ring.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey, there. Out with the gang last night, huh?”
“Yeah. It’s a fun group.”
“That’s great. Anyone in particular?”
Mandi laughed. “Well, my boss is kind of a funny guy. He tells a good story.”
Lane’s heart lurched. He couldn’t remember what else she’d said about her boss. How old was he? Was he married? He couldn’t let it go. He had to know. “Mandi, are you seeing someone?” His question hung between them for a long moment.
“You mean like dating?”
She spoke only one word, but Lane had a feeling there was more to it. Her voice was quiet, strained.
“You okay?”
“Why did you ask me that?”
More silence. How to answer that? “I just needed to know. Guess my imagination got wound up when I couldn’t reach you last night.”
“Well, I have made some friends, Lane.”
“But no one– No one you want to go out with.”
“No. How could I?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
His heart thumped. “What do you mean?”
“You’re not here.”
Her response stole his breath, and he had to pace a minute before he could hear anything other than the blood pounding in his ears. “Say that again.”
Okay. He couldn’t pressure her for more. God, he wanted to head straight to the airport and book the next flight out. He took a deep breath. “How would you feel about some company before school starts?” Or sooner.
Silence met his question. Again. He wished he could see her face. “I miss you,” he said. Now he really wanted to see her face.

Mandi clenched her eyes shut.  How to respond to that? She couldn’t tell him that her entire body ached for him, that she thought about him pretty much twenty-four seven. How could they really have a relation-ship? Long distance for at least three years? That was too difficult. Too stressful. Too expensive. She wouldn’t lie to him, but did she have to tell the whole truth?
“Do you like the beach?” she asked instead.
“I do like the beach. I like you and me sitting on the beach watching the sunset, having a beer or a glass of wine.”
She gave a choked laugh. “You do?”
“Yeah. Does that mean I can come visit?”
The visual played in Mandi’s head, and lodged in her chest. She and Lane walking along the beach at dusk . . . holding hands. Oh, yeah. She’d avoided the beach since that one time she’d ventured out by herself. Rather than being soothing, it’d been lonely. Something about the vast expanse of water had made her feel small and vulnerable. Alone. She loved being in California, loved her new job, and was excited about going to school. But somewhere along the way, being alone had become lonely.
Most nights, she worked. And talked to Lane. That kept her mind occupied. But then every night she went to bed, and the darkness reminded her that she’d left more than a chunk of her heart in Texas. She wouldn’t be going back to retrieve it, so where did that leave her? What was she supposed to do? Live without it?
At last she answered him, “Yeah. You can come visit.”

Purchase Something Good

An incredible journey to blend fact and fiction

Eglinski_036  white shirtHello, everyone! Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to an author who does fascinating research for her historical fiction novels. Follow her on a journey to visit the homeland of Genghis Khan!

Mongolian Safari
Researching: She Rides with Genghis Khan
A Novel, by Pam Eglinski

It was six o’clock in the morning when my guide and driver picked me up at my brother’s home in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. Tanks were in the streets, blocking access to Sükbataar Square—the center of the city. The night before we’d witnessed a street battle between the “old guard” Soviets and the new Democrats. Six men died and six-hundred were shipped off to jail—all protesters of the rigged parliamentary election of the day before.

We skirted the city in a large black SUV, making our way to Khentii province and the homeland of Genghis Khan. I was on safari, a mission to understand the soul of Mongolia and the one-time ruler of the known world. My quest would take me hundreds of miles across the legendary Mongolian steppe and deep into the Great Taboo Area.

Within an hour we’d reached the colossal equestrian statue of the great Khan—a newly erected one-hundred and thirty foot steel giant holding a golden whip—a whip that pointed toward his homeland, a day’s journey away.GenghisKhanstatue800px-Dschingis_Khan_in_Zonjin_Boldog

We stepped out of the SUV to take a few pictures. Turning back toward the car I heard a train rumble down the tracks, just below the highway. It was the historic Trans-Siberian railway, with passengers traveling to St. Petersburg. It reminded me of the Stalinist era, when trains linked Mongolia to the oppressive Soviet state and the man who forbade travel to the spiritual center of the country—the Almsgiver’s Wall—holy ground for Mongolians and perhaps the resting place of the great Khan.

Now, free of Stalin, visitors and scholars are able to explore the land of Genghis’ birth, where he came to be a man and where he gathered his first army—an army which ultimately conquered the known world. I took a deep breath. This was more than a research trip for my novel, it was a journey to the heart of a nation and its spiritual power center.

Genghis Full
My second novel in the “Catalina and Bonhomme Spy Series,” She Rides with Genghis Khan, weaves fact with fiction similar to the way Dan Brown presented The da Vinci Code. But She Rides is uniquely Asian, esoteric, and exotic. Research took me to the homeland of Genghis Khan, to ancient Buddhist scriptures housed in the British Library, to the Bamiyan Buddhas along the Silk Road, and The Secret History of the Mongols. I grappled with mystifying objects like the Buddhist wish-fulfilling jewels, and the Wind Horse—a shaman’s passage to the Blue Sky Heaven and an allegory for the human soul.

My journey began with an exploration into Mongolia’s Great Taboo Area, and concluded with a novel rich in Buddhist lore, a modern day caravan across the ancient Silk Road, and a supernatural ride with Genghis Khan. Come, feel the wind in your hair and the spirit of a nation in your heart. Enjoy the wild ride as you dip into a novel rich in imagery and history—a story never before told.
Find Pam’s books:

Connect with Pam!
Twitter: @pameglinski