Parenting, Young Teenagers, and Teen Literature

Hi all!  Today’s post is written by a guest writer, Jeff.  A little background:  Jeff is a calm and thoughtful man who has four children.  He works as a master in the circuit court hearing cases involving juvenile delinquents.

Here’s Jeff:

I love to read.  Histories, mysteries, biographies, adventure, espionage, crime, Dusty Lizard Blog – they’re all fun for me.  Once I discovered books on CD, I could even read while driving!  My wife loves to read, too.  In fact, she reads so voraciously that we tease her about only reading every third word on every other page.  My wife and I produced four young readers.  We constantly hear the happy refrain of “can you reserve the next book in my series at the library, please.”  No problem.  As parents, one of our great joys is to see our children curled up with books.

As our children age, however, we spend less and less time in the children’s section of the library.  This is the natural way of things and, despite a bit of nostalgic melancholy, we are grateful for their advancing reading skills, the new adventures they will encounter, and the opportunity to discuss books as peers.

Our son Peter’s school helped this process along by assigning a summer reading project.  He was to pick a book (1) appropriate to his reading level, (2) that he had not read before, (3) that had won or been a runner-up for a literary award, and (4) that had not been made into a movie.  The arrival of this assignment prompted one of those delicious parent moments when our son was alternately whining and venting his wrath while his mother and I smiled serenely.  Little did we know that it was to be us, not our son, who would encounter a brave new world: teen literature.

First, let me introduce you to book awards.  I was familiar with two, the Newberry Medal and the Caldecott Medal, both of which are given for children’s literature by the American Library Association (www.ala.org).  After some research I learned that the ALA is not alone in this endeavor.  Everybody gives out book awards.  Professor Google can introduce you to book award lists created by anyone from international literati to individual local libraries.

I decided to stick with what I knew and perused the Newberry and Caldecott winners and honor books for the last several years.  It quickly became apparent that my son’s reading level was beyond the books considered for those awards.  I kept looking and found the Printz Medal, which is awarded by the ALA for teen literature.  I also found the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, which is awarded by the National Book Foundation (www.nationalbook.org).  Given that both are awarded annually, I thought the past five years would provide a good-sized pool of books from which to fish.

I tried to separate the fish from the chum by eliminating all books dealing primarily with relationships, mysticism, horror, girls, and general teen angst.  I also shied away from non-fiction, just for the sake of keeping my son interested.  From the remaining books, I selected three: “Feed” by M.T. Anderson, “Jasper Jones” by Craig Silvey, and “Nation” by Terry Pratchett.

“Feed” (2002 National Book Award Finalist) is a futuristic story in which people are implanted with a device that feeds instant internet-type information directly into the brain.  The main character, who is implanted, meets another character, who is not implanted, and must face the consequences of this technological development.  Sounded like something my son would enjoy.  Unfortunately, in the first chapter the main character and his friends talk about going to the moon (a popular hang-out) to get drunk, pick up girls, and …  I didn’t read any further and I didn’t give it to my son.

“Jasper Jones” (2012 Printz Medal Honor Book) is a coming-of-age story set in Australia.  I enjoyed this book despite the nearly constant cussing.  The dialog is well-written, and the plot carries you along and leaves you anxious for the conclusion.  The author admits to being a fan of authors from the American south, and readers will recognize Huck Finn and Scout Finch among the pages of “Jasper Jones.”  Unfortunately, the reader will also find an explicit sex scene where the main character catches his mother in adultery as well as a key plot line involving parent-child sex abuse.  I let my son start this book, but thankfully I was reading ahead and made him stop before he encountered these heavy topics.

Worried that this process was not going well, I selected several more books including “Ship Breaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi (2011 Printz Medal Winner; 2010 National Book Award Finalist).  This post-environmental apocalypse story is about an impoverished teen employed to strip valuable materials out of decrepit, beached transport ships, but who has big dreams and big challenges.  The story is raw, which effectively conveys the main character’s stark existence, but there are repeated scenes involving drinking and drug abuse, child abuse, and prostitution, including child prostitution.  Not sure he’s ready for that either.

I also tried “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to a Nation Volume 1: The Pox Party” (2007 Printz Medal Honor Book) which is also by M.T. Anderson.  This book met the school’s criteria, but I would’ve picked it up anyway because I’m a sucker for a unique title.  I didn’t finish it.  It’s weird.  I’m not sure that M.T. Anderson and I are going to get along.

I began to fear that “teen literature” was code for “teen characters dealing with adult issues.”  I admit that my journey through the world of teen literature has not been comprehensive. I have barely scraped the surface.  But as a parent, particularly a parent of avid young readers, I became concerned.  How was I to encourage more difficult reading if doing so accelerated the pace at which I wanted to introduce complex, mature topics and the manner in which I wanted to introduce them?

Before you reject me as a book-burner, rest assured I am not.  I oppose efforts to burn or ban books.  But I’m also a parent charged with nurturing and protecting my children.  Those tasks become more complicated when a book suddenly involves – SURPRISE! – a father molesting his daughter.  It’s hard to discover those tidbits in the blurbs on library websites, Amazon, or even the dust jackets of the books themselves.  Am I to spend my children’s teen years previewing their books?

Some of you are thinking, “welcome to parenting teens.”  I admit that part (maybe most) of my difficulty is the fear of releasing my kids to grow up, to experience the world, and to decide for themselves what is right and wrong.  They will eventually discover all of these issues, but until now I have been the dam holding back the great reservoir of worldliness and sin that seeks to drown and corrupt them.  I am reluctantly opening a few flood gates in a controlled release, but it’s frustrating to discover that another gate is wide open without my knowledge.  Maybe I’m naïve.  Maybe I’m silly.  Maybe I’m sentimental.  Maybe I’m just like every other parent struggling to raise good kids in a dark world.

So what do we do?  We parent and we persevere.  We do the very best we can to know what our children are reading, viewing and hearing.  We maintain an open a dialog, and we stop what we’re doing to answer questions and talk.  We teach them, we train them, and then we trust them.  We pray and pray some more and keep praying while we let them grow up.  And we allow ourselves some moments of nostalgic melancholy over their childhoods.

Lest you become book-burners yourselves, I did discover a few fish in that pool were worth keeping.

“Flesh and Blood So Cheap” by Albert Marrin (2011 National Book Award Finalist) is about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911.  This is a dramatized account of an historic event.  For those unfamiliar with the Triangle fire, it was a horrific tragedy so the book obviously contains some difficult passages.

“Dodger” by Terry Pratchett (2013 Printz Medal Honor Book) is a fun and interesting story.  Imagine if the Artful Dodger (of “Oliver Twist” fame) was a real person who met and befriended Charles Dickens on the streets of London and helped him solve a mystery.  There is some language, drunkenness, and fallen women.

“Nation” by Terry Pratchett (2009 Printz Medal Honor Book) is about a boy growing up on a Pacific island who, thanks to a freak tsunami, finds himself alone on the island with a shipwrecked English girl.  They must find a way to communicate, work together, find the best of their cultures, and face their bleak prospects while they rebuild a “nation.”

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak (2007 Printz Medal Honor Book) shot straight into my personal all-time favorite books list.  I loved this book and the unique style in which it is written.  The story takes place in Nazi Germany, so the holocaust is part of the story but in a tangential way.  The main character is a foster child who finds what the people in her life are really made of while they face the ongoing war.  This could be a good book to help introduce some difficult World War II topics, like the holocaust, to your child.

“When My Name was Keoko” by Linda Sue Park (unjustly denied a major book award) is about a Korean girl and her brother growing up during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 1900s.  You will laugh.  You will cry.  Your heart will break and then this wonderful author will mend it and give it back to you.  One of my all-time favorite books.

If your readers are a little younger, try “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick (2008 Caldecott Medal Winner) and “A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park (2002 Newberry Medal Winner).

Slobby PJs, Pompous Lizards, and Alien Possession

PJ day again.  On a PJ day, I hang around in my pajamas all day long.  It’s such a novel thing that Darling Husband thinks it’s cute when I have a PJ day.  I doubt that he’d find it so cute if I wore my slobby PJs for days on end without bathing.

The last time I had a PJ day was on January 3rd.  I know, because I posted a picture of it on The Blog.  On Jan 3rd I was wearing my Steelers hat because it was so cold in the house.

The thing I hate about summer: being sweaty and gross when I’m outside. The thing I like about summer:  being toasty warm when I’m inside…and no hat head. I think my affinity towards lizards goes beyond my affection for the creatures themselves.

What a dorky sentence that last one was.  Can it possibly sound more pompous?

“I think my affinity towards lizards goes beyond my affection for the creatures themselves.”

Sheesh.

What I meant was that lizards are cold blooded, so they need the surrounding temperature to be warm, and I’m the same way.

I’m telling ya, when your Mama only lets you read classic novels when you’re a kid, you end up using bizarre vocabulary words and convoluted sentences.  Seriously people, I read all of the Bronte sisters in middle school and moved up to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in early high school—for fun.

There was only one kid worse than me.  (Worse than I?)  There I was, being my normal nerdy self reading “All Quiet on the Western Front” in 9th grade, ignoring the kids around me.  An even nerdier boy with thick glasses and pimples leaned over and said, “Oh.  That was a great book.  I read it in 8th grade.”

Show off.

I don’t read classics anymore. I stick to spy novels, detective stories and sci-fi or fantasy, but apparently the groundwork was laid.

The thing is I honestly do not mean to use facnypants words.  There I am, in the middle of a normal conversation, and then the decade of non-stop classics takes over–like that sentence about the lizard.  I can’t control it.  Out pops some convoluted sentence or some obscure vocabulary word, without me even trying.  I’m just as surprised by it as you are.

It’s like an alien possession.  But not really.  Because if it was an alien possession, my voice would either go really deep or sound like two voices superimposed on each other.  Which never makes sense to me.  Just because the alien possesses you, your vocal chords don’t suddenly change length, so your voice should stay the same.  Dumb movie makers.

I’m tired of writing and am going to bed and I don’t even have to change in to my jammies.  I love PJ day.

More Rain on my Parade and The Never Ending Trilogies

Well….as you can see, we were going to go to the Carnival tonight.

I’m a weak swimmer so we decided against it.

——————-

It was with great reluctance that I read the first book in a trilogy this week: a trilogy where the second and third books haven’t yet been written.

I’ve been burned before with trilogies.  I started with the first book of a trilogy back in ’91.  Found the second book in a used book store in ’03, and then discovered that the author never wrote the 3rd book of the trilogy.  And has no plans to.   I’ve been waiting over 20 years to know how the story ends.

And more recently, I read what was supposed to be a trilogy, but then turned into a fourlogy.  After the fourth book, it turns out the author wants to make it a sevenlogy.  He waited 6 years between the 4th and 5th book.  If he continues to wait 6 years between each book, it’ll be 2023 before he’s done and I’ll be fifty years old before I know how the story ends.

So, it was with great reluctance that I read the first book in a trilogy this week: a trilogy where the second and third books haven’t yet been written.

By the second chapter of the book, the reader is firmly rooting for the English protagonist.  He started off dirt poor but through sacrifice, hard work, a little bit of luck, and a little help from his friends, he’s starting to come up in the world.

But then—disaster!  A family secret is revealed and his life falls apart. And now WWII has just been declared.

He’s on a boat that gets sunk by German torpedoes and everyone dies except him.  He’s rescued by a passing ship.  As he’s lying there in and out of consciousness, he realizes, much like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, that everyone would be better off if he were dead.  So, when he recovers, he lies and tells everyone that he was one of the dead Americans from his sunken boat, thus taking on a new identity.

But as soon as the ship docks in America and he announces his new name to the authorities, they arrest him.  He’s not too worried because he assumes, “Oh, they figured out that I’m lying about my identity and are sending me back to England.”  But one of the people from the rescue ship, who befriended our protagonist, asks the cops, “Why are you arresting him?”  And the cops say…well….look at they say:

Ahhhh!  He took on the identity of a wanted murderer!

And that’s the last line of the book!  The last line.  How long will we have to wait to see what happens next?  Oh, why, oh why did I start reading a trilogy before they were all done?

Oh, wait!  Look at what I just found on the next page:

Spring!?  That was a few months ago!  Ooo!  Checking to see if it’s in my library’s system….

…and it is!  It’s at the library that’s at the end of my street right now, as I type this.

You know where I’ll be bright and early tomorrow morning.

Those Little Study Rooms in the Library? Yeah. They’re Not Sound Proof, and Don’t Eat the Exercise Equipment.

As of this morning, my new camera was sitting less than an hour’s drive away from me.  He’s not due to arrive before tomorrow, but maybe, just maybe, they would deliver Dave a day early? Maybe?

If so, I’d have to be ready to sign for him.  They won’t just leave him on the doorstep.  Today took me back to those days best long-forgotten, when I’d hang around by the phone waiting for a boy to call.  Because today someone had to stay in the living room by the front door, at all times, in case Dave arrived.

While I showered I told the boys to be on special alert and Stay In The Living Room.  They asked, “But what if the person shows up while you’re in the shower?”  Then I will leap from the shower, fling on a robe, and answer the door, never mind the shampoo fluffing out behind me.

I got a call from the library saying that another book I’d ordered was in.  At 7:00 Darling Husband and I were just about to set out to walk to the library to retrieve the book.  But then he looked at the tracking information for the camera and hollared, “Wait!  It says here that sometimes items will be delivered to home addresses after 7 p.m.”

Darling Husband stayed home to wait by the door while I walked alone to the library.

But no Dave.

———

It was really quiet in the library.  I mean, really quiet.  Which is unusual because we have a teeny-tiny library and noisy librarians.  They talk at full volume back and forth to each other all day long.  

I’m thinking of ingratiating myself in with the librarians.  Maybe I’ll invite myself to their homes.  Hey, I’ve done it before!

Why?  Because the librarians are very nerdy and read all the same books I do, and usually before I can get to them.  They’ll give me critiques, “Ooo.  That one was really good!”  They’re always right.  And they love nerdy fantasy movies like I do.  And they use long words and make jokes with the long words and laugh and laugh at them.  And I laugh, too.  And, don’t tell Darling Husband, but the one librarian even quotes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  It’s her favorite movie.  If you even mention Monty Python and the Holy Grail to Darling Husband, he will quote the entire movie.  (“What…is your favorite color?)

Anyway.  When I arrived at the library today it was dead silent. Uncomfortably so.

Shhh!  The library looks big, but this is pretty much the whole thing. (I’m in the shot because I used my mini-tripod.)

But then some students arrived and went into one of the study rooms and started talking to each other in normal voices and you could hear them all over the teeny-tiny library.

Which reminds me of a story.  It’s not my story, but I’ll tell it anyway.

My friend likes to sing.  She majored in music in college.  She leads the choir at her church.  One day, she was in the library and wandered in to one of the study rooms.  For whatever reason, she thought they were sound proof.  You know where this story is going, right?  Right.  She began to sing.  Loudly.  Very loudly.  She was thinking, “This is my chance!  Finally!  I can belt out this song in my own little private soundproof room and really hit those high notes!”

Someone eventually pounded on her study room door to tell the crazy lady to knock it off.

Anyway, I was in the library alone today.  Bad, bad, bad.  Library—books—me—alone?  I went in for one book and came out with five, and that was only because I’d walked and the pile was getting too heavy for me to carry.

But not for long, because I’ve been working on my arms and wrists lately.  I walk on the treadmill in the morning, and about a month ago I started using the weight bench in the creepy, million legger-filled basement.  The only reason I’ve started doing this is that there have been a number of times where I’ve had to hold my camera above my head for a picture.  And that takes  more strength than my wasted little arms could easily handle.

While I walk I squeeze those things that you squeeze to strengthen your wrists. What are they called?  How do I describe them?  If only there was some way to show you what these little wrist exercise things are.  Maybe I can sketch one for you and then scan it…  😉

Here’s a picture.

Wrist exercise things

Dang it!  I was so busy taking the picture and uploading it that I forgot what the whole point to this was.  Something about lifting weights so that I’ll have buff arms and strong wrists.

Oh yeah!  I need strength to hold cameras above my head.  And Dave will be even heavier than Clarisse, so this is extra-important.

Speaking about those wrist exercisers, and while I’m on a roll telling other people’s stories, I have a friend named John.  Somewhere in his teens, he was squeezing those little exercise things, when he got the notion in his head, “I wonder what would happen if I put this in my mouth?”  So, he squeezed the exercise thing and put it in his mouth.  Can you see him?  Squeeza, squeeza…look at it consideringly…squeeza…pop into mouth.

Ouch!  Stuck!  Stuck!  Stuuuuuck!

He had to find his mother and have her shove the sides of his cheeks to close the exercise thing enough to pop it out.  He reports that it took forever for her to get it out, but mostly because his mother was so weak from laughter.

John was always doing dumb things when he was a kid.  There was the time his parents had a go cart.  He was given strict instructions not to drive the go cart without his father.  He nodded, “Yes, yes!  Of course!  Never ride without dad! Got it!”

But as soon as his parents left the house, BAM! The screen door slammed open and John was in the air leaping down the steps to the go-cart.  Vroom! vroom! around the yard until the neighbor’s Doberman caught sight of him and started chasing him.  Grrrrr!  Big dog, little go cart, panicked John.  John crashed the go-cart, which made the dog run away and left John with a totalled go cart and a steering wheel-shaped bruise on his chest.  It was the only time his dad said, “He’s been punished enough.”

Ok.  I’ve run out of steam.  No more stories tonight.  This blog didn’t make a lick of sense.

——————-

The Stand: 460 down, 693 to go.  If I wasn’t blogging, I’d already know how this ends!  Suspense!  Two days ago I thought the faceless man was a metaphor, but now I’m thinking he’s real.  Kinda.  Dunno.

——————

Oh, and The Man from Earth was very stupid!  Spoilers below:

In the end, they ask the 14,000 year old cave man if he was ever anyone famous from history and he tells them that he was Jesus.  He was crucified, but he used his eastern techniques to slow down his heart and they thought he was dead and buried him.  But then his body healed itself and they thought he’d risen from the dead.

Oh, come on!  I wouldn’t put something that lame in my blog, much less in a movie that people would have to pay to see.

Every 10 years, the cave man would up and leave where he was and move somewhere else, even if he had a wife and children.  He’d just abandon them before they could realize he wasn’t aging past 35 years old.

Turns out that one of the cave man’s old friends was one of the cave man’s sons, who always wondered why his daddy abandoned them when he was a kid.  The 60-year old son was so shocked by the news that the cave man was his father (confirmed by knowing their pet dog’s name) that he keeled over and died of a heart attack.

The end.

Sheesh.

Kris’ Cat is Going Bald and I Think I Cowed the Rain God

I’m starting to understand why people prayed to rain gods in times past.

As most of you know, it rains, sleets, snows or is monstrously hot every time I go grocery shopping.  This was true for about 5 months in a row.  It was insane and people were starting to give me a wide berth and make signs against evil whenever I walked past them in the village square.

Then, suddenly, it stopped.  For the past two weeks, we’ve had lovely weather on Grocery Shopping Day.  I thought the curse was broken.

But now I’m not so sure.

Today was Grocery Shopping Day, and the weather was fine.  A bit muggy, but no rain–until the moment that I set foot outside the grocery store with my cartful of groceries.   As I walked to the car, drops of rain began falling on my head.

It got worse during the 20 minute drive home.  I had to use the windshield wipers, and not on intermittent!

But as soon as I got home…it stopped.  I’m not sure if this means that I won, or if this means the weather is toying with me, letting me know, “I can make it rain on you anytime I want.  Don’t mess with me!”

—————–

Soup Day.  I announced to my Soup Day friends that Dave will be arriving on Friday.  Here’s a link to see what Dave looks like.    Isn’t he dreamy?

Although my Soup Day friends know that once Dave arrives they’ll be subjected to more awkward portrait taking than ever, they still managed to look happy for me.  We’re asking Traci to make us a ‘Welcome Home, Dave’ cake for the next Soup Day.

Come to think of it, perhaps they weren’t really sharing my joy, as much as enjoying the thought of eating a Traci Cake.

No, no.  They really were happy for me.  They understand the love we hold for our little electronic friends.  Here’s a picture of some of the silent, yet dedicated members of Soup Day:

These little beauties sit on the dining room table ever at the ready to answer calls, send texts and look up wonky veterinarian advice for us.  Kris’ cat is going bald.  One website suggested we pray to the rain god as a cure.  No, not really.  I’m making that up.  It actually said to do a bloodletting and then tie a frog on the cat’s tail to balance out the humors.

———-

365 pages down, 788 to go

Why is it that every time I go to Sonic after Soup Day so that the boys can spend their allowance money on half-price slushies, that it takes them a good 15 minutes to make the slushies, except for the one day I have a book that I really, really, really want to read?  The slushies were at the car in under a minute flat.  Not fair!  How’s a girl supposed to get in her reading with ridiculous service like that?  I’m going to write a strongly worded letter to the manager about this outrage.

I used to read about 2-3 books a week.  I was the dorky student who when the professor told us to pick a book from among six to read and then critique it in an essay, I read all six books on the list and then picked which one to write the essay about.  But that’s all slowed down considerably since I started taking a picture of the day and blogging about it.  I got The Stand on Saturday, and could easily have been done by today.  Now I won’t be done until Sunday or even Monday!  A travesty!

There are only so many hobbies a person can have before something has to give.  Photography, blogging, sleeping, tv watching, reading…  One of them’s got to go.  I guess there’ll be no sleeping for me this week.

——————

Movie watched while washing the dishes (because we spent the dishwasher money on Dave):  The Man from Earth.

It’s about a man who was born in cave man times and never died.  For some inexplicable reason, he decides to tell a group of people the truth about who he is.

The script is cheesy, motivations are non-existent, the pacing is wrong, and the background music is highly distracting.

But I can’t stop watching.  I must know how it ends.  My plan is to make a big fancy dinner tomorrow so that I have plenty of dishes to wash so I can finish the movie in one sitting (standing.)

I’m Big, The Book is Big, and The Moon is Big

Slept in until a sensible 9:00 this morning.  Got up, brushed teeth, weighed myself.  The verdict: Do not eat chipped beef gravy on homefries for breakfast, quarter pounders with fries and sweet tea for lunch, and spring rolls with shrimp fried rice with more sweet tea for dinner all in the same day.  ‘Nuff said.

Later I got a call from the library saying that the book I ordered was in, but I couldn’t remember what I’d ordered.  The weather was nice and Boy7 was antsy, so I said, “How about we walk to the library to get my book?”  Because, after all, how big can one book be?

Pretty big!  Egads!  I must have ordered the biggest book the library has.  Had to lug the thing home two whole blocks!  Two whole blocks!  I had to roll it the last few feet up the driveway.  It got away from me at one point and almost rolled over Boy7.  Here’s a picture.  In case you can’t tell, that’s a quarter next to the book.  It’s over 1,000 pages!

BOOK

It’s The Stand by Stephen King.  Every single time I read an introduction to some other book, the author refers to The Stand somewhere in their introduction.  Well, maybe not every introduction, but enough to make me sit up and take notice.  Decided to finally read the thing once and for all.

Went to another kid birthday party today.  No one puked.  There were  a few kids wearing pinatas on their heads, but other than that, it was pretty tame.

At the party I drank too much caffeinated sweet tea so I’m shaky and hyper right now.  (Hyper, hyper!)  As usual, whenever I get hyper, Darling Husband gets calm, a rarity for him.  He’s sitting next to me quietly looking up new camera information for me and finding rebates.  Because if there are rebates to be had, Darling Husband will find them.

In about thirty minutes I’m heading out with Melissa and Kevin to take pictures of the moon.  The position of the moon relative to the earth will make this the biggest appearing moon since 1992, so we’re going to try to take pictures of it in Gettysburg. If you read this in time, go out and take a look at it.  Moonrise is a little after 7:50, at the horizon.

If I get a decent shot, I’ll add it in later.  If not, I’m done the blog for the evening.

Tragedy for Lynn, a Pet Peeve, and Dagnabbit, I want my Potatoes!!

The blog posts I most enjoy writing are the ones that have an actual point to them, where the entire post is about one thing and I can tell a story or explore an idea from beginning to end.

This one won’t be one of those.  It’s 10:15, I’m just starting to write and I have no clever ideas of what to write about.

On those days (this day), I write strictly about what happened throughout the day.  Which makes sense, being that the whole point of this blog is for me to keep track of what happens every day for a year.

First was Photo Club.  However, due to many differing circumstances, the only two members attending Photo Club this week were Gerhard and me.  For the past couple of days, we wrote back and forth on Facebook figuring out what we were going to do.  We settled on a field trip to the local diner.

Gerhard lives in the house at the other end of my street, so we carpool to Photo Club.  As soon as I got in the car he said, “Well, should we head right to the diner?”  And I said, (and I shouldn’t have) “No, let’s stop by the church to see if anyone new shows up to Photo Club.”

Of course, no one new was going to show up.  I mean, what are the odds?  On the day when none of the members were going to make it and my chipped beef gravy over homefries with sweet tea was waiting for me…surely this would not be the day that someone new showed up, right?

Oh so wrong.

Yup.  New person showed up.  Wanted to learn how to use her camera.  Didn’t have her manual.  Gerhard looked over her camera to figure out how her settings worked and we all chit-chatted while he did.

Gerhard is from Germany.  I’m not sure if this is true of all people from Germany, but Gerhard talks very slowly and deliberately.  Which makes him a great storyteller.  Every word is carefully chosen and profound.

The new lady was from upstate New York and talkedveryquickly.

I was entertained.

And thirsty.

If I’d had known there was going to be a newbie at Photo Club I’d have brought a drink.  Oh, I was thirsty.  And missing my potatoes.

Came home, ate an early lunch, and decided to hang the prize I won at Bunco last night.  You can see it in the picture below.  As I was hanging it, Darling Husband was washing dishes in the kitchen.  There I was, on the stool, tying the prize into place, when the kitchen window flies open and Darling Husband calls out, in great alarm, “Where’s the sock?!?!

He was so distracted by the hanging of the prize that he didn’t noticed that the sock was still there, safe and sound.

Find the sock.

Which reminds me of a story someone once told me.  (It’s 10:30, I don’t have time for stories!  Ahhh!  Here’s the story:)

One day Lynn was driving to work on the Baltimore Beltway.  Traffic was at a standstill from a car accident (as usual.)  As she neared the accident, she noticed that the car looked exactly like her mother’s car.  Hmmm.  Her mother drove that same route to work every day.  She inched closer and sure enough…it was her mother’s car!

In a panic she changed lanes until she was pulled over on the side of the road, right next to the accident.  She burst out of her car, crying and screaming, “That’s my mother!”  The police held her back until she explained, then they led her to her mother, who was strapped down on a gurney, with her head in a brace.

Lynn looked down at her poor mother.  Her poor mother looked up at her, her eyes scared and confused.  Lynn kept sobbing, “Mother, mother!  Are you ok, Mother?”

She followed them onto the ambulance.  And that’s when she looked a little closer at her mother.

Huh?  That’s not my mother! 

It wasn’t her mother!  It was some other woman who looked nothing like her mother!  She had to tell the police, “Er…that’s not actually my mother.  I don’t know this woman…” and slink off back to her car.

So, you can see, that when people panic they don’t always see things clearly, which is why Darling Husband couldn’t see the sock that was still right where it should be.

And that poor woman on the gurney must have had quite a fright:  “I’m her mother?  Oh no!  I have amnesia!  I can’t recognize my own daughter!

After hanging the prize, I wanted to sort out and clean up some toys that were all over the attic floor.

No I didn’t.  What I really wanted to do was to take my book and hide in the nice, warm attic and sit on the bean bag chair and read it with a soda and some Doritos.  And that’s what I did, sort of.  I had the book, bean bag chair and soda, but no Doritos.

Which reminds me of one of my pet peeves.  When I’m planning on sneaking to eat the last of the bag of Doritos, I just hate it when Darling Husband has the same idea, only he gets the idea first.  I had to make do with Easter “fun-sized” Butterfinger candy bars.

At the end of the day when no one felt like making dinner, Darling Husband said, “We should eat dinner at Li’s Buffet.”  He’s really smart and clever like that.  That’s why I married him.  I said, “We can take a board game and play it while we eat,” which sent him into his second panic of the day and he immediately deflected my attack by saying, “How ’bout we see if Gerhard and Janet want to come?”

Due to a misunderstanding, I thought Janet didn’t like going to Li’s Buffet, so I said, “Well, I don’t think Janet will want to go,” to which Darling Husband immediately replied, “How about Claude and Kendra then?”  He was angling to make me forget about the board game.

We called Claude and Kendra.  No answer.  While Darling Husband called, I popped on to Facebook to let the Photo Club people know we’d had a guest at Photo Club.  I suppose they didn’t really care, but I thought it was a little funny that the one day none of them showed up, we had a guest.  And lo and behold, Gerhard was online.

So I went ahead and invited Janet and him to Li’s buffet.  They were out the door and ready to go in ten minutes. And Janet was distressed that anyone could ever let the idea cross their minds that she didn’t want to go to Li’s Buffet.  She loves Li’s buffet!

After we ate a lovely dinner and had a lovely conversation and were just starting our ice cream, who should call but Claude?  And where were Claude and Kendra headed?  Li’s Buffet!

So, we all had a second round of dinner and some more lovely conversation and I made sure to eat lots and lots of potatoes.  They didn’t come with chipped beef gravy, but they did have a lot of butter.  Mmmmmm.

Chinese potatoes

The Ghastly Hanover Library

This is a picture at the Hanover Library.  It’s a beautiful library.  Stained glass windows.  Silent-as-a-tomb magazine section.  Private rooms.  Elevators.  Children’s storytime where the parents are not allowed in the storytime room.  Which means a full half hour alone in the library, free to pet the stacks of books in silence without interruption.  It was an unhappy day when my kids outgrew storytime.

Great library, but I hate it.  Yes, I love it, but I hate it, too.

They only let you keep books for 2 hours before they’re due.  The late fee is $80 per day per book.  If your husband puts a book on hold, they will not let you pick it up without his card, no matter how much you beg and plead and tell them that you’re not some crazed ex-wife with a diabolical plan involving stealing his library books to run up huge late fees for him.

I’ve gotten spoiled at my local library, where they know my name and are always glad I came and renew my books for years on end (that’ll be due March 6, 2053) and waive fees whenever they’re in an especially good mood.  And they laugh at my dorky jokes, because they’re dorky, too.  We’re all a bunch of library nerds and it’s a happy, happy safe place.

————–

Meyers Briggs Personality Assessment.  Darling Husband and I are the same personality.  We’re ENTJs.

Here’s some more information about our personality:

“When challenged, the ENTJ may by reflex become argumentative.”  No we don’t.

Ok.  Yes we do.  Darling Husband will argue anything.  Anything.  For no reason at all.  You can’t make small talk with him without him taking the opposite stance.  “Boy, it’s cold today.”  “Not really.  The record lows at this time of year are much colder, so relatively speaking, it’s warm today.”  Seriously.  I’ve had this conversation with him.

He never even remembers what he’s argued for in the past.  I catch him all the time arguing for an issue one day and then arguing against it the next day.  When I call him on it, he looks delighted.  “Oh yeah!  You’re right!  I did argue for it yesterday!  Ha!”  Doesn’t faze him.  It’s a matter of pride.  He can argue any point and convince you of it, even if he doesn’t believe it himself.  He likes to say, “If I can convince you of something I don’t even believe, then I know I’ve made a good argument.”

Of course, when I say “argue” I don’t mean having a fight.  An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition, as explained in this skit:  Monty Python Argument Clinic.

——————

Song stuck in my head for the past 2 days:  That’s All, by Genesis.  I dare you to listen to it.  Please.  That’s the only way to exorcise a song from your head: pass it on to someone else.

Unclassy People Have More Fun

Took the boys to the movies today.  What did I see?  The picture is a clue.  Can you tell what it was?

Here’s another clue.

And the final clue:

I could not pass up “The Princess Bride” on a big screen, even if the theater was an hour and a half away.  I saw it in the theater when I was 14, but I didn’t have it memorized from hours of study back then.  This time around, I could quote along.  So could everyone else in the theater.  And we pre-laughed at all the jokes, much to the confusion of Boy9.  “What are they laughing at?”

When you watch movies on the big screen, you catch all sorts of little details you just can’t see on the little screen.  For example, when I saw The Sound of Music on the big screen, there were three extra Von Trapp kids you don’t even notice on the small screen.  (Yuk, yuk, yuk.)

I wish they showed old musicals in theaters again so we could all sing along.  I’d love that!  “Doe a deer, a female deer, ray a drop of golden suuuuuuun….”

Then again, when I saw The Sound of Music, no one sang along, so maybe no one would sing.

Oh, I know why they didn’t sing!  It’s because The Sound of Music was shown in the Historic Senator Theater.  The people who went to the Historic Senator Theater (which is closed now, last I heard), were too refined to sing along.

If you want to have fun at a theater, either go to the midnight showing of a movie with the diehard fans, or go to the unclassy part of town.

For example, I went to see Air Force One in two different theaters.  Air Force One is about bad guys who hijack the president’s (Harrison Ford) plane.   The bad guys are shooting hostages.  In the end, Ford tells the bad guy, “Get off my plane,” and pushes him off the plane.

In the Historic Senator Theater with all the refined people, there was no reaction to the movie.  Everyone sat in their seats, silently eating their popcorn (refined people know how to do that), making no eye contact with strangers, quietly filing out when the movie ended.

But in the Westview Theater, with the unrefined people, it’s a whole ‘nother world.  Audible gasps when the hostages get shot, with a few Oh-no-he-didn’ts thrown in.  Cheering and clapping when the bad guy was thrown off the plane.  It’s like being at a sporting event.  I used to make a point of going to the Westview Theater, just for the audience reactions.

I saw Titanic at the Westview theater.  Lots of people saying “Ouch!” when that poor guy hit the propeller.  (How come that’s the one part everyone remembers?  The guy falling off the side of the ship and “Clang!” into the propeller.  “Ouch!”)  Lots of open crying at the bittersweet ending.  “Near, far, whereeeeeever you are..”  Titanic’s coming out again this summer in 3D.  Let’s all go together and all warble along.  I’m sure the other viewers won’t mind…

———————–

For fun, here are the opening paragraphs to the book The Princess Bride.  I adore the author’s writing style:

“The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette. Annette worked in Paris for the Duke and Duchess de Guiche, and it did not escape the Duke’s notice that someone extraordinary was polishing the pewter.  The Duke’s notice did not escape the notice of the Duchess either, who was not very beautiful and not very rich, but plenty smart.  The Duchess set about studying Annette and shortly found her adversary’s tragic flaw.

Chocolate.

Armed now, the Duchess set to work.  The Palace de Guiche turned into a candy castle.  Everywhere you looked, bonbons.  There were piles of chocolate-covered mints in the drawing rooms, baskets of chocolate-covered nougats in the parlors.

Annette never had a chance.”

Isn’t that an awesome beginning?!  Draws you in from the first sentence.  It doesn’t begin with stupid descriptions of the scenery.  I hate it when books begin with the scenery.  If I ever write a book, I promise you that it won’t begin with descriptions of scenery.

Here’s an example of a very bad beginning to a book:

“The Jeb les Zubleh is a mountain fifty miles and more in length, and so narrow that its tracery on the map gives it a likeness to a caterpillar crawling from the south to the north.  Standing on its red-and-white cliffs, and looking off under the path of the rising sun, one sees only the Deserts of Arabia, where the east winds, so hateful to the vine growers of Jericho, have kept their playgrounds since the beginning.”

I’ll bet you didn’t even read the whole paragraph, did you?  And if you did, you probably already forgot what it was about.  Bad, bad beginning.  I’ve tried to read that book 3 times, and I just can’t.  It’s Ben Hur.  I’ll just watch the movie.

Here’s the opening of the book I’m reading now:

“It rained toads the day the White Council came to town.”

That’s a good opening line.  I’ve been enjoying the book.

Here’s the start of a Sherlock Holmes story:

“Holmes,” said I, as I stood one morning in our bow-window looking down the street, “here is a madman coming along.  It seems rather sad that his relatives should allow him to come out alone.”

I love that beginning.  “It seems rather sad that his relatives should allow him to come out alone.”  That could be reworked into a really good insult.  I’ll have to remember it and use it on someone some day.

—————–

Westley: I’ll explain and I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon.

Prince Humperdinck: That may be the first time in my life a man has dared insult me.

————

Star Trek Stat:

Number of shirtless men: 2.  Kirk and Spock.

Cake, Real Readers and How to talk to Men

This is my payment for photography work I did for Traci.  Traci has a side business making cakes.  I have no business taking photographs.  And since I have no business taking photographs, I don’t ask for payment.  But when Traci offered to pay me in German Chocolate cake I wasn’t going to say no.  I’m not stupid.

I have a problem this week.  C lent me a few of his books.  That’s not a problem.  The problem is that C pretends he likes to read, but he’s not a real reader.

C had me fooled for a long time, and I even lent him three of my favorite books, but it’s been almost a year and he still hasn’t read any of them.  And I’m kinda worried.  What if they’re in his house for so long that he thinks they belong to him?  Or worse, what if they’re in the house for so long that his wife thinks they belong to him, and goes on a cleaning-out spree and gets rid of them?!?

(Oh no!  I just checked on Amazon to see how much it would be to replace one of the books I lent to C!  LOOK at this!!!   It starts at $120!   Quick, gimme a bag to breathe into!  I’ve gotta go make a phone call right now!!     )

Back to the blog:

A real reader reads all the time.  Nothing can stop you if you like to read.  Not bathing, not eating, nothing.

Actually bathing and eating are prime reading time.  Here’s the setup in my small bathroom.  This is where I do most of my reading, because it’s small (and heats up easier), and the kids have been trained to leave me alone in there:

See the ceramic heater on the sink?  The book is propped open with the box of tissues.  The tissues are doubly useful in case you get to a sad part of the book, like in the Wesley the Owl book.  Sorry, B.  Maybe I shouldn’t have recommended it to you.  But it’s worth the heaving sobs at the end.  Really–it’s worth it!  Great book!

I make a point of reading standing up in front of the sink, because I have to sit at the computer.  This is my way of balancing out my daily sit and stand time.  (What?  Don’t you balance out your daily sit and stand time?)

With this setup I can do pretty much all of my primping and hygiene and reading at the same time.  I have great dental hygiene.  I floss and brush and use mouthwash every day.  Sometimes multiple times in one day, if the book is especially good…

Ok—so back to real readers and the setup in my bathroom and how C isn’t a real reader.

C isn’t a real reader because he wants the spine of his books to stay smooth and uncreased.

What??

A real reader is willing to crack open those paperbacks and let the creases fall where they may.  A real reader doesn’t have time to hold open the books with her actual hands!

Here is how I have to hold C’s books.

Ridiculous!  It’s barely even opened.  I can’t see the words in the middle. I have to twist my wrist while I’m holding the book so I can peer into the skinny crevice to read the words closest to the binding.

If I try to prop open the book with the box of tissues, it’ll crack the spine.  This means I can’t dry my hair and hold a C book at the same time!  Or pull on my socks!  Or put on earrings!  Or eat a steak!  Or an orange!

So, while I love the books I’ve borrowed from C, it takes me forever to get through them since they can be read only when sitting (or standing) around holding them gingerly in my hands and doing nothing else.  Nothing else!  I haven’t been able to sit (or stand) and read and do nothing else since before I had kids.

Darn kids.

Real readers can’t go more than a few hours without reading something. Sometimes I can’t make it through a shower without reading the side of the shampoo bottle.

Having a job where you work for 8 hours straight is very difficult for real readers.  At work, I would bring a book to read during lunch and a magazine to read on bathroom breaks.  If you have a magazine, you can slip it under your shirt when you head to the bathroom.  You have to be sneaky about it because no one wants to see their coworker heading to the bathroom with a book under their arm.  Reader’s Digest is especially good for sneaking into bathrooms under your shirt.

If your shirt won’t work, and you work in an office, you could slip the magazine into a manila folder, but that’s a worse case scenario.  The problem with the magazine in the folder trick is that you’re supposed to leave the manila folders on the sink and not take them into the stall.  You don’t want coworkers catching you taking manila folders into the stalls or they’ll gossip about how gross your memos are because you take them into the stalls in the bathroom.

Coworkers are like that.

Lunch was a good time to read at work if you’d trained your coworkers to leave you alone.  I would hunker down in my cubicle, eating my smelly left-over tuna noodle casserole in my cubicle, reading.  If the tuna noodle casserole didn’t keep them away, then my doberman-like snarling would.  “Whaddya want?  I’m at lunch!”

A tip to non-readers:  Never impose on the sacredness of a Reader At Lunch.  You wouldn’t touch a dog with a bone, would you?  Exactly.

Towards the end of my stint working, I didn’t eat alone in the cube anymore.  I’d eat lunch with Frank, and we’d exchange tuna melt recipes.  Here’s a little tip, if you can’t think of anything else to talk to men about, exchange recipes.  Everybody has a recipe.  It’ll get the conversation rolling.  I’ve never met a man who won’t talk recipes.  For some reason, the only recipe I remember discussing with Frank was for tuna melts.   What with my tuna casserole and his tuna melts, no wonder no one else ever joined us for lunch in the breakroom.  Stiiiiinky.

Back to creased books.  Now this here is the spine of a well-loved book.

It used to be held together with duct tape, but now even the duct tape is falling off.  This is the Velveteen Rabbit of books.  Well-loved and worn thin.

As all books should be.