My Bio

My Bio
My name is Sharon Levin and I've been reviewing children's literature for 20 years. I founded and run the Bay Area Children's Literature List. My biggest passion (outside my family) is getting books into the hands of children and teens. My favorite thing is getting non-readers to realize that they're readers. I also LOVE t-shirts that have to do with books or literature. As soon as I figure out how to do it, I'll have a click through on the above picture so you can see my entire collection (and where to get them).

September 30, 2014

Who SAYS kids aren't reading? (written in 2010)

 I originally wrote this (in my now defunct writing spot, The Grind) when a woman said, very offhandedly, to me "Kids today don't read."  I was furious and pounded out the piece below.  Sadly, the sentiment remains.

Who says kids aren’t reading?  I find myself constantly defending kids and their reading habits to adults who seem to feel that kids aren’t reading at all, distracted by texting, computer games, and really bad movies (really, Jackass 3D?!?!?!?).

Thirty nine years after I was in junior high (go ahead, I’ll wait while you do the math) I am FINALLY cool to teens BECAUSE I read their books.  I find I can talk to almost any kid because I just ask them what they’re reading and then the conversation goes from there.  I do not cut down their tastes (even if they’re reading Twilight, we are all allowed our ‘trash’ reading) and I love to hear how they view various characters and plot.

We know the stereotype of 8th graders:  too cool for words, into fashion, video games, boys or girls and perhaps sports.  Excited about a book?  Nope, that’s not what we think of.  Well, let me tell you about my morning.

Today, I paid a surprise visit to my daughter’s 8th grade Language Arts class (YES, I asked her permission first, so it wasn’t a surprise to her, just the teacher and her classmates).  I had gone to Kepler’s (our local, independent bookstore) to pick up Mockingjay, the final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy that was just released today (August 24). 

I knocked on the classroom door and when I walked in, I didn’t say a word, I just held up the book and grinned.  There was a moment of silence and the room just exploded.  The kids who knew the book (about 85% of them) were going “Woo Hoo!  No way!!  I want it!!” as I handed the book to their teacher (it was a gift for her) who hugged it and said, “Mine, all mine.”  (yes, she’ll share, but she’ll definitely be reading it tonight)  The kids who didn’t know it were saying, “What?  What’s happening?”  Guaranteed, all those kids will be getting Book 1 today, in order to be in the loop.

Of course, I also handed a copy to my daughter, so she can start reading it during SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) today (why else do you think she gave me permission to come into her class on the second day of school?).

I left with a huge grin on my face and realized that I had not said a single word while I was in the room.  I didn’t have to, the book said it all. 

September 23, 2014

The End of an Era... my last 'first day' of school

I remember (and right there, that's a shock, given the quality of my memory), anyway, I remember Elise's first day of kindergarten. (1999).  We were sitting at the kitchen table and she was eating her breakfast and I was looking at her, feeling tired (we aren't morning people) and thinking, "Oh my gosh, this is my life for the next 15 years.  Grey, early mornings at the kitchen table.  Wow."

So, it was with shock and sadness that last Tuesday was Sasha's last 'first' day of school.  Well, as far as I'll experience it.  When she's off to college next year, her first day will not have an impact on my daily schedule (I may possibly be curled in a fetal position and sobbing, but technically, her first day won't have any impact on me).

She wasn't at the kitchen table drinking her cocoa, as Elise had been all those years ago.  I 'deliver' cocoa to her room and she drinks it while she gets ready, I sit at the kitchen table still, with my coffee and newspaper.

Nevertheless, I was very aware that this was the end of an era.  Setting the alarm to get a 'kidlet' off to school with breakfast, lunch and a kiss (when it's allowed), that's not going to be my reality next September, unless I'm like the creepy, obsessive mother in Love You Forever, and if I am, please whack me upside the head.

I feel like there's one of those montages running through my mind (like in t.v. shows when they want to put a cheap episode together).  In the beginning, the girls always wore a tie dyed dress on the first day.  We used to buy them at an art and wine festival every year, then we decided to start making our own.  So a week before school started, after I'd rush ordered the dresses from Dharma Trading Company (because I procrastinate in EVERY area of my life), we'd be in the backyard with the gloves, dye, clothing and having a great time.  Although, I do remember ANOTHER end of an era in the middle of that, Elise no longer dying dresses, but thongs instead (let me tell you, the dye goes a long way when you're only dying 2 inches of fabric).  :-)

So then on the first day we'd get a picture of our two girls brightly dressed, looking cheerful (no, really), thumbs up (that would be Sasha, who is more apt to flash a different digit now) and ready to go off to school.  Sigh.  

I know next fall will hold new adventures for all of us, but for this school year, I am just going to happily/sadly wallow in every event, moment, passage that I can.

(NOTE:  yes Sasha's first day was in August, see MANY references to my procrastination, hence the actual writing and posting of this blog)

September 16, 2014

Who knew the age and fitness of my DOCTOR determines MY care?

I am Une Femme d'Un Certain Age (woman of a certain age, it just sounds better in French, everything does).  What does this mean?  Well, it means I can walk down Michigan Avenue in Chicago in November in shirtsleeves and be really happy.  It means that I carry a fan AND a spritz bottle in my purse (much to the dismay of my daughters).  It means that every calorie I consume likes to stay with me and every calorie I burn (and dammit, with this 'internal summer' I have there should be SOME burning) doesn't seem to have any impact.

Such a joy, let me tell you.

So, recently the lovely spousal unit and I went to Washington D.C. (yeah, cuz that's where a woman who runs hot belongs in July).  We walked 8-9 miles/day, ate really healthfully (they have some great and healthy restaurants in D.C. like Sweetgreen and Protein Bar  with very few snacks or unhealthy food (okay, there were a couple of iced mochas consumed, but it was frigging DC in frigging July!)

ANYWAY, I thought, "Well, even though weight loss is not the reason for the trip and I never want to obsess about it (I have two daughters, I try to be sane about that kind of thing) there's NO WAY I won't have lost weight from this trip."  Apparently, "NO WAY" does not mean what I think it means, because not one pound had left me (I guess it's so faithful to me that it will never leave, but honestly, my feelings would not be hurt if some poundage and I parted ways).

Before my trip I had seen my doctor and talked to her about the extreme fatigue I had been feeling, probably due to perimenopause, but I wanted to check. She also said that I'd feel better if I dropped about 20 pounds, which I agreed with in theory, at the rate of about 1 pound a week.

So, when we got back, I e-mailed my doctor and said, "Oh lovely, young slender Dr. X, here's what happened on my trip.  How the heck am I going to lose weight?"  She said she could give me a referral to a nutritionist, but that she and I could also discuss surgical options.  SURGICAL OPTIONS!??!?!?!?  Are we talking lap band surgery?  What the Heck?!?!?!  Even discounting my lovely lying friends aside who say, "Oh you look fine."  my DOCTOR friends all said, "Um, you are not badly overweight.  You would NEVER be a candidate for that kind of surgery.  It's shocking she would even suggest it."

So, am I being punished, mistreated (not as in 'beaten' but as in getting bad medical treatment) because my doctor is in her 30's and seems to be naturally slender?

If this were an isolated incident, I wouldn't be writing this blog (venting, yes, venting is also an apt word) but it's not.  So let me tell you about the other incidents (interestingly enough, these are all at the same large medical entity).

About two years ago I went in because my knee hurt a LOT and it made what I call 'crunchy granola' noises when I squatted down and then stood up again.  I went to the orthopedist and he did his thing (x-rays, manipulation, etc.) and said that I should exercise 1. 5 hours 2-3 times a week.  I said, "Low impact?  Swimming?"  "Nope", he said, "anything"  REALLY? Cuz you know, my knee really hurts (I didn't say that, hence the lack of quote marks).  His assistant asked why I didn't exercise and I said, "Because I'm a slug." and she said, "Well, at least you admit it."  Wow, nice bedside manner.  I did go on to inform her that I am LITERALLY (and I ALWAYS use that word correctly) allergic to exercise, having exercise-induced anaphylaxis, and no, you DON'T want it, believe me, it is not nice having an 'excuse' not to exercise.

I did take the Rx for Physical Therapy, I did NOT take the advice to do aerobic, high impact exercise 2-3 times a week.  When I talked to my PT, he said that was HORRIBLE advice and would definitely do more harm than good.

So, was it because my doctor was very fit?  Was I running (well walking) into fat bias?  Probably.  I was being treated based on who HE was and his judgement, not MY reality.

But the most invasive (and I mean INVASIVE) episode happened a few years ago.  While leaving out details, my urologist felt there was some irregularity in my urine.  He said given my age, I should get images of my bladder interior.  When Ismayil (lovely spousal unit) and I showed up at Stanford (which was NOT the entity that had made the initial diagnosis) the doctor who was to do the imaging said, "Why in the world did they send you in for this?" and I said, "My doctor said given my age, I should get checked."  THIS doctor (who was probably about 60) looked at 45 year old me and said, "You're a baby, you're not at higher risk for this cancer at all."  But, of course, since the 'C' word had been dropped and I was already there, we went ahead with the imaging.  Given the 'path' that needed to be taken, not only was it uncomfortable, I told the doctor that after that he owed me flowers and dinner!  :-)

Yes, everything was all clear (and the images once he got in the bladder were REALLY cool, the ultrasound engineer husband was fascinated) and the test was unnecessary.  So, my medical treatment was based on the fact that my mid-30's doctor saw mid-40's me as old.

Am I venting just to vent?  No (although venting is fun).  The medical industry needs to realize that this is going on and address it, because it adds up to bad medicine.  Do I think that MY posting about it and my 39 regular subscribers reading about it will make a difference?  Well, as one of my heroes, Pete Seeger said, “The world will be solved by millions of small things."  So, if nothing else, it's a start (and hey, maybe by next week I'll have *40* subscribers!)