Project 52, Week 52, Part Six – NEWBERY COMMITTEE!!!

It’s time for Project 52, Week 52!

53 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I took one year of my life and blogged about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 52 — June 14, 2016, to June 14, 2017.

Yes, I said 53 weeks ago. Yes, I’m 53 now – and I’m behind on Project 52. But it dawned on me: I’m finishing later than I meant to – and that’s not actually a problem. So, it’s not exactly “Week” 52, but I’m still telling about the year I was 52.

So far I’ve covered my trip to California in July for my niece Megan’s wedding, my sister Becky’s visit in September, my reading retreat in Chincoteague, my walks around my lake with lovely leaves, and my holiday celebrations.

Now I’ve gotten to the start of 2017. As often happens after a year with a really good blizzard, it was not a snowy winter at all. Though we got some cold. In fact it seemed like last winter was a cycle of my lake freezing and thawing over and over again.

Anyway, on January 7, we got a little bit of snow. And birds were still visiting my under-neighbor’s bird feeder and hanging out in the treetops outside my window.

A little snow, anyway!

There wasn’t a lot of snow, but it did get super cold, so it stuck around. The next morning, there was a flock of geese sleeping on top of the ice.

Not so much snow, but still pretty in the morning light.

Three days later, the lake was still frozen. Something about geese walking on the frozen lake always captivates me (and cracks me up).

On January 11, my Sondy for Newbery! cards arrived! These are little business card-sized cards I ordered to pass out at ALA Midwinter Meeting. They give the link to, where I explain my qualifications. Only ALSC members – the Association for Library Services to Children – are the ones who vote on the members of the Newbery committee. Since they are scattered all over the country, the best way to get the word out is when they come together at ALA Midwinter Meeting. And this year, the day before the conference was going to be an ALSC Mini-institute, so an even better place to campaign.

Based on a discussion I’d had with a friend, I started a tiny habit of peeking through my shades at the sunrise in the morning and using it as a reminder of God’s love for me. (Now that it’s not winter, I peek at the morning sun, rather than the sunrise!) This one on January 15th was especially beautiful – and so was its reflection in the lake!

On January 19, I flew to ALA Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta! Kathe drove me to the airport, and I took the MARTA to my hotel. That first evening, I had dinner with my friend Susan Kusel and we had a good talk – mostly about the year she was on the Caldecott committee, which was the same year I’d been on the ballot for the Newbery committee the first time – but hadn’t gotten elected.

In the morning was the ALSC Mini-Institute, which turned out to be a fabulous day of meetings. (And a great networking/campaigning opportunity!) It started out with a breakfast featuring two husband-wife picture book collaborating teams: Kevin Henkes & Laura Dronzek, and Erin & Philip Stead.

I got a picture with Kevin Henkes while I was wearing a Kevin Henkes t-shirt!

The other institute sessions included talks on Early Literacy programs, a wonderfully entertaining lunch with Carmen Agra Deedy, and a closing session with Jacqueline Woodson. (It was Inauguration Day, so there was much talk about standing for what you believe.) That night, I made it to the opening of the Exhibits and the mad dash for Advance Reader Copies. I scored a copy of Thick as Thieves, by Megan Whalen Turner, the book that would have made the whole conference worth it even if nothing else had gone well.

The next morning, I went to an Author Panel and signing. I got another Advance Reader Copy I was super excited about – Real Friends, by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. And when LeUyen Pham signed it – she also drew a picture of the signee! So I have a picture of myself drawn by LeUyen Pham! That’s one ARC I will never get rid of!

That afternoon I did some thinking about doing art versus doing crafts. Here I am with a craft I made – not actually something I will treasure, though it was rather fun to make it.

On Saturday, I went to some Publisher Previews in the morning (more free books!), shipped some books, and went to a talk by Kwame Alexander in the afternoon.

I got a book signed by Kwame!

And Monday morning was, as always the highlight of ALA Midwinter Meeting, with the announcement of the Youth Media Award winners! There’s always the fun of trying to get up early and get in the line and talk with others about Newbery hopes, then getting into the auditorium and trying to find a good seat! This year the Newbery Medal was won by The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill (a fantasy novel! Yay!), and the Caldecott Medal winner was Radiant Child, by Javaka Steptoe. And John Lewis – in his hometown of Atlanta – set a new record by winning four Youth Media Awards with March, Book Three!

Of course, in the line and while waiting for the awards to begin was a wonderful time to let people know I was standing for the 2019 Newbery committee! I met some nice people and had some great conversations.

After the awards, I shipped some books and came back in time for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction and Morris Awards ceremony – where you always come away with some award-winning, signed books. This year, the awards were a John Lewis lovefest!

And after that, I made it to the closing session with Neil Patrick Harris, who is definitely entertaining.

When I got home and my shipped books got home, I’d only gotten 73 books at the conference – so I’d shown a whole lot of restraint!

Back home, the heron was again often eating breakfast the same time as me. I loved the way the rising sun lit him up.

On February 8, I saw a red-tailed hawk in a tree near my building.

Just for fun, after my walk I looked up the spirit animal “meaning” and got this nice passage:

“An overabundance of red-tailed hawk spirit animals in our lives can mean that our prayers are being answered… the answers are being brought to us on hawk’s wings. What are you wishing for right now? What are your dreams? Are you able to recognize the gifts being brought to you and the doors open before you?”

Hey, if it works!

Some pretty skies also fit with a verse I was reading in my quiet time from Psalm 103: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”

One morning, when I peeked out at the sunrise, I saw the heron right outside my window!

And the heron still often showed up at breakfast.

On February 15, I picked my Dad up from Dulles airport for a NASA workshop in DC the next day. I took him to the metro and picked him up, and we had dinner. It was great to see him! And how much fun to see him excited about how the things he heard fit with his theory – and who at NASA he could give corrections to. He made some good contacts. He’s already highly respected in his field of GPS navigation. In fact, he told me early the next morning that he’d woken up in the night thinking about a calculation. That’s my Dad!

On President’s Day, I took my usual walk around my lake, and saw two herons at the same time! This is unusual.

First, some geese.

This one let me get pretty close.

I loved the way the light shone on him.

There was another heron on the other end of the lake.

This one didn’t tolerate me snapping pictures for long!

Here’s another beautiful sunrise. By this time, I was spending more and more time writing Project 52. I’d gotten into the years we were in Europe and started having lots of pictures to post.

Another day off, another heron at the lake.

And on February 26, I told my story in church. It was framed as how God had used His Word in my life. I mostly talked about my divorce and how God spoke to me through those hard times.

What blew me away was the number of people who said my story made them cry! Even Pastor Ed had a tear in his eye! This really surprised me! I managed to keep it together myself. I lined up my friend Marilynn and John and Lisa Maulella (from my small group a few years ago) to smile at me while I was speaking! People were really supportive afterward.

It was nice to write up a summary of my story before I got to the hard years in Project 52. That way, I was able to keep a focus of looking at what God was doing during those hard years. But I did start talking about the divorce years in March – and was a lot more weepy during church for awhile!

Here’s the heron again, this time from my balcony.

And for variety, on February 28, I saw a deer on my walk!

On March 3rd, I went to a movie by myself for the first time in my life! I went to see Hidden Figures about African-American female mathematicians who were instrumental in getting men to the moon. I loved it and ordered the book when I got home.

The heron continued to eat breakfast the same time as me!

And on March 6, there was a heron out my window when I got up and peeked out at the sunrise.

There’s a fun note that day about Crazy 8s math club. It’s for Kindergarten to 2nd grade, but I’d been letting a couple moms bring younger sisters with their older siblings. On that day, Mickey’s Mom told me that 4-year-old Bailey thinks of herself as “a math girl” and that I changed her life! Wow! That warmed my heart!

And on March 11, I finished Tim’s Coded Blessing Blanket! When he moved to Portland, I’d asked him if I could knit him anything, and he suggested a “stunt double” for Blue Blankie, the blanket I’d knitted him when I was pregnant with him, but in purple. I made one using the same pattern – but this time I coded in some blessings, using a base 5 code. (Explained in the link.) It was soft, and it was a whole lot of fun to knit a blankie for my little boy who’d gone and grown up and moved away! Lots of love in that blanket!

Then, on March 14, we finally got some snow! Okay, they didn’t close the library, but there was so much ice out there, I took unscheduled leave and got myself a snow day.

You can see it was a good bit of snow!

The flakes were big enough, you can see them in this picture.

And I took this one to show how much ice was on the road.

Spring had already started before this cold snap. I liked the juxtaposition of blossoms with snow behind them.

The sun came out in the late afternoon!

It made for a lovely sunset.

And on that snow day, I also voted for myself for the 2019 Newbery Committee!!! Yes, ALA online voting had opened up – continuing until April 5th. I’d find out the results on April 12. I was on edge that month!

The next morning, the sun rising on the snow was beautiful.

On March 17, I had another day off. The snow was melting by then, but still made some pretty patterns.

I was happy I’d gotten one snow day, but it was really time for Spring, so I welcomed these robins.

There was still enough snow in spots for some snow shadows.

And cardinals still hung out awhile longer.

But Springtime did come early this year. On March 29, I had a late day, but got in a walk and pictures of blossoms before work.

And I’d started in on writing about the hard years for Project 52. I talked with a lot of friends while I was in the middle of those weeks. It ended up being hugely helpful to have a fresh perspective. I was able to see God’s hand in my life all the more clearly. And I was able to have compassion on my younger self. She was so bewildered, but trying so very hard! In fact, I wrote a letter to Younger Sondy that expressed some of that.

In fact, on April 1st, our church showed the movie “War Room” to a group of church women. It’s a movie about prayer – but in the context of a failing marriage. Yes, it was hard to watch – because things worked out for the woman in the movie, and how I wished it had happened that way for me.

Here’s what I prayed the next day:

I saw War Room last night.
And I’m sad You didn’t answer my prayers like hers in the movie.
But You did answer my prayers.
And You did walk with me.
And You were faithful.
And You are good.
And I want to proclaim that.
And I do want to mentor other women going through it.

One of the nice parts about writing Project 52 this year – I can see that God has brought me to a spacious place! Literally! On April 5th, I was thinking about Psalm 118:5 – “When I was in distress, I sought the Lord, and he brought me to a spacious place.” Then I got some extra close-up shots of the heron that day.

And the blossoms were still out!

On April 9th, after church I did my annual Bluebell Walk at Bull Run Regional Park.

And a full moon out my window that evening:

And April 12 was the day I would find out the results of the ALA election! They were going to count in Chicago, then notify me by email. So once it got decently late in Chicago, I started checking my email a lot! But I did have another Breakout EDU program that afternoon, which was nicely distracting – and away from my computer!

They broke out!

After the program, I went straight to my computer. My hands were shaking so much, I almost couldn’t log on. I managed to check my email. There was something from ALSC.


Yes, I did some screaming and jumping up and down.

What does this mean? Well, I will be reading every American children’s book published in 2018 that I possibly can. Then I’ll be joining 14 other committee members to choose the most distinguished of these books to award the Newbery Medal.

I am super excited about this! Could you tell?

There was still a bit of Spring left.

Another morning view of the heron.

And another wonderful sunrise, reminding me of God’s love.

On April 21, after Capitol Choices, I went to Meadowlark Gardens with Kathe.

At the start of May, I took a week off work for a “personal spiritual retreat.” I want to make it an annual thing. Some year, I’d like to go somewhere to do it – this year, I admit I included a lot of errands that going away would have prevented. But I did have a nice time.

And this silly goose on the housetop across from me entertained me one morning!

I visited my friend Nancy from my small group on her property out in the country. She gave me a ride on her ATV around her property!

And we put out some corn for deer!

On my retreat, I’d just finished writing about the worst of the years of my marriage falling apart. I felt like God gave me the verses Song of Songs 2:10-12 —

My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on earth;
the season of singing has come.”

So be it, Lord!

Also that day, I finished knitting myself a second normal distribution scarf. This one was the complement of the one I’d posted about.

I take numbers from a bell-shaped curve. More common numbers in the middle of the curve get dark colors of yarn, gradually getting lighter. Numbers that are outliers get white yarn. Here’s how it turned out:

And here it is with the earlier scarf I’d knitted using the same yarns and the same method – only with the first scarf, I used light colors for the middle of the curve and dark yarn for the outliers. I accidentally knitted the second one way too long, but it will be warm and cozy when winter comes around.

And I got another Stitch Fix outfit. I wasn’t sure I didn’t look like a clown in pink pants and polka dots, but people told me it looks good! If a stylist picked it out, it must be stylish, right?

In May, I got to attend my friend Paul’s wedding celebration with Sharyn! It was a very small service, so it was a treat to be included. This was the first time I’ve ever played games at a wedding reception. It was completely appropriate at Paul’s!

We had some families of goslings this Spring. First, I saw them on a walk.

Then at the start of June, I saw the little family of three goslings settling down for the night right outside my window.

But when they seemed settled, another family of goslings came by – this one with a full dozen babies!

This family wasn’t settling down, in fact, I think those goslings were partying!

Funny thing, but the first little family of goslings didn’t seem nearly so sleepy after these ones showed up!

On June 9, a mysterious package showed up on my doorstep, covered with FRAGILE stickers. It was super heavy! What could it be?

The return address was Amazon. I knew it must be a birthday gift, so maybe if I opened it, there’d be a notification of who it was from.

When I opened the outside box, there was another box inside, encased in bubble wrap.

When I opened the second box, I laughed out loud because I knew exactly who it was from! It was a 12-pack of Blenheim super-spicy ginger ale!

How did I know who it was from? Well, my son Tim is the only person on earth who knew that I love Blenheim super-hot ginger ale! I used to get it every single time we had lunch or dinner at the Cheese Shop in Williamsburg when I took him to William & Mary or picked him up.

I called Tim to thank him, and we had a lovely talk. It was such a delightful gift! I love the way he was the only one who could have given it to me.

(The only sad thing is that now as I’m writing about it – there is no more ginger ale left! Alas! Writing about it makes me thirsty.)

And on Sunday, June 11, after we met my small group sang Happy Birthday and had cards for me. Debbie Schmidt got me personalized bookmarks – the perfect gift for the year I’ll be doing Newbery reading!

And then my gaming group surprised me with cake and gifts! This meant a lot. I feel like I got away with something becoming friends with them. I joined them when I was dating John, and they took me in and became my good friends even though I stopped dating John after only two months. Now it’s been three years, and they are among my best friends – just from meeting together and playing games almost every week. (I also love it that I’m still friends with John. I still say that was a big win for OKCupid, even though we’re not destined to be a couple.)

On my birthday, I took the day off. The day before and the day after, I was booktalking in local schools, talking about the summer reading program and good books – so I needed the break.

I spent a lot of the day working on Project 52. I’d hoped to finish on my birthday, but instead finished Week 51. Oh well! At least I’d gotten through the whole year before I got behind!

But I also went with Kathe and Darlene to see the movie Wonder Woman! It seemed like the perfect birthday activity!

We had a whole lot of fun and went out to eat afterward. For anyone who’s read Project 52, you know that Kathe and Darlene have sure been a consistent presence in my life!

And my sister Wendy sent flowers from Maui, where she lives!

So – that pretty much covers my first 52 years of life!

And some of you know – this is actually the second time I wrote this last post. The first time, 90% of the post disappeared after I’d published it, but was trying to make a tiny change in one of the last lines. When I hit Update – it was swallowed into the void. So this time, I have backup!

The first time, I wrote a reflection at the end, but I think this time around, I’ll save that for its own post.

Good night! Thank you for being interested in my life!

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