Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Real Reason for the Advent Avenger

If you are a parent, I am warning you. There will come a holiday season when your kid - or kids - doesn't want to have anything to do with you!  Santa Claus is passé. The magic is gone. And sure as shooting stars, the kid will NOT get the fabulous, very expensive gift they are too young, too reckless or too irresponsible to get. So, scowl!

This can be a temporary one season thing or it can stretch for YEARS!! I know. It happened to me.

I was miserable. I only have one kid. There was no other small human acting giddy and foolish over dreams and surprises. There was just this barely polite person who, honestly, had no patience for me or his father. (By the way, this phase bounced off and on for years. Sigh.)

When I am miserable, after marinating in some seriously superior self-pity- (it is one of my few native talents) -I always look for an action that will take my attention away from my misery. As my mother, the Wisest Woman in the World - the original WWW - always said, "When you feel sorry for yourself, help someone else." It works!

I searched my memory banks for help. The problem was that my memories involved sisters and brothers - pretty many of them. I had no idea how to take the games we played as a group of goofballs and turn them into something that would engage one goofball - who wasn't even talking to me except when absolutely necessary.

It all started with a kangaroo ornament, the first of my Advent Angel gifts. It was, the tag read, "An Advent Australian Animal." I found it at Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata. I planned to find items that I could alliterate with Advent and drop them on his bed each day.

It is very hard to find items that begin with "a" that fit the holiday season. Advent Apple? Done. Advent Automobile - a toy, of course. Advent Aardvark - I tried that. I did. The Advent Aardvark was my first Advent messenger.

And then, the Advent Avenger sprang fully clothed - or not, if you are familiar with the story - into being.

The Advent Avenger turned into a calendar - and a book - that I photocopied at a local printer. And I handed a copy to each of my brothers and sisters and to others besides.

We joke about the Advent Avenger among ourselves. One of my brothers made me a sweatshirt, a photo of which you can see below.
Note the holly on the shoulders. This brother is so creative.

The Advent Avenger kept me sane during those angsty years of growth and pulling away. They - the Advent Avenger is gender neutral because they could be anyone, even YOU! - still bring me joy and remind me to look for a hopeful way out of uncertainty.** (What?! I was "woke" even back in the early '90s.)

BTW, The Advent Avenger wants you to join the club. This is all you have to do to join. Spread good feelings everywhere. Smile. Speak gently. And if you have some holiday cash left over, here are some organizations that are spreading JOY! all year round.

The Heifer Project. Since the late 1940's, Heifer Project has provided livestock, plants and seeds to people in impoverished areas around the world. What could be more holiday-ish than purchasing a lamb for someone else?

Habitat for Humanity. When there is "no room at the inn", Habitat steps up to make homes for people who need them.

Conservation International got a 4 star rating at Charity Navigators making it a sure bet for working towards a cleaner and safer globe.

OR find a charity that is working for something that you feel is so necessary.

Have the best holiday ever. Remember that the difficult people in your life are having tough times. They have never lived through this holiday season before. None of us have.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Selfie -

The Army Ants came first.

It was a tough time. The budget was tight and services to children and infants stretched. My husband and his good friend worked in Intake, under a director who was later accused of malfeasance. (I forget exactly what she did.) At one point, Hub and J were ordered to tell new callers that they could not offer them ANY services. They took that order hard and did what they could to help all callers.

Their cubby was located near the front door of the agency. Hub took some of our son's Army Ants into work. Do you remember those?

When Hub and J found that workers came in to play with the Army Ants, (arranging them in battle positions or other positions, probably), they decided to make their little way station a "destination" office.

"The Quote of the Day" was a big hit. More about that later.

When the holidays hit, Hub asked me for the tackiest Christmas decorations we owned. He and J festooned their work stations. The other workers LOVED it.

But the best thing they did during the holidays in that time of duress was the Word of the Day. Each morning, they picked a word and offered prizes (candy) to anyone who guessed that word.

If you know my Hub, you can just imagine what words the workers expected. After all, it was a high stress time in the office. Caseworkers offered every foul word as a possible choice.

At the end of the day, all those barnyard speakers were delighted to find that Hub and J, both of them world class cursers, always picked something benign.

"No, no!" Hub would say in his mildest, somewhat incredulous voice. "The word is 'holly'." Or reindeer or snow or something else seasonal.

Hub told me that story - again - this morning. And it cracked me up - again - as it does every time I hear it.

It was a stressful time at work and here at home. Hub rose to the challenge, helping his co-workers stay sane in a job that is thankless and emotionally draining. J is gone and we miss daily.

When the agency's awful director was finally removed, Hub and J auctioned off their Quote of the Day post-its to raise money for small gifts for new foster kids. It was the end of an era.

Step up to keep your friends and family sane this holiday season. Do the little things - offer tea - a smile - a joke - Hold the door open. If you work, make your workspace a safe and cheery space.

If, like the coworkers in this story, you feel like cursing - buy some Army Ants! 

Bill's favorite Quote of the Day from the days of Bill and Jim:

"My kingdom will always have room for a boot licking lackey like you." (From the Gummy Bears cartoon show.)

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Themes and memes

The last two books that I read this year - not the last for the year! heaven forfend! - dealt with immigrants who moved from Asia to English speaking countries. Both books also dealt with dead or dying parents. Of course, beyond that the books are widely different. One is written for teens; the other is written for middle grade readers. One takes place in the good ole U S of A. The other is set Down Under. In the book for teens, it is the parents who have had trouble, or so it seems, adjusting to their move. In the book for middle grades, the main character, an 11-year-old, feels shanghaied by his family's move.

Language is a connector. It is also a barrier. A way to communicate CAN be found but we need to be compassionate enough to try.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon starts out as a typical last year of high school when will I get a girl romance. Of course there are complications. There are always complications. Frank's complications are his parents.

We watch Frank's parents "evolve" as Frank's view of his family evolves. Yoon never paints the parents broadly or stereotypically, but it seems that Frank does. They have "racist" attitudes about dating because they are immigrants. Frank knows how they think because he hears their opinions. They keep Frank's older sister at arm's length because she chose the wrong partner.
Not crazy about this cover. Just saying.

The very best thing about this book is Yoon's writing. He lays out the puzzle pieces and the reader is pretty sure where the pieces will go. Whether they fall into place as the reader predicts or not, Yoon adds depth of emotion and enlightenment to the simplest event.

So, here's the plot. Frank Lee has never had a date because his parents will only approve of him dating a Korean-American girl. His lifelong friend, Joy, IS dating a non-Korean, secretly. So they come up with a plan to fake date each other.

From comments on Goodreads, it appears that fake dating is a thing. I suspect it was a thing back in the pre-Cambrian Era when I went to high school,   - religion, race, neighborhood, the same-same.

The inevitable result of fake dating happens, but the ending is not rosy.

Meanwhile, Frank breaks his non-Korean girlfriend's heart. Frank's best friend, Q, spouts erudite nonsense (which cracked me up). Frank and Q's friendship made this book for me.

And THEN, there is a family crisis that is sad and revealing and ultimately healing. Nuff said.

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Now, this cover holds promise!

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai is also about immigrants. Jingwen, his mother and his younger brother, Yanghao have moved to Australia. Jingwen simply cannot get the hang of English. He views the other children at school as Martians. He understands just enough English to convince himself that some of his classmates are mocking him. And he realizes that HE is the alien.

Jingwen makes a lot of assumptions about the people around him because he can't talk to them. He reads body language and faces. His own feeling of failure imbues his interpretations with threats where none exist. What an awful feeling!

Jingwen and Yanghao's father wanted to move to Australia and open a bake shop where only the most special cakes would be sold. Then he died in a car accident. When their mother went through with the move, Jingwen feels that his family abandoned the memory of his father.

 Jingwen is sure that the only way he can ever feel happy again is by baking every cake his father planned for their bake shop, Pie in the Sky. So secret cake baking ensues. Yanghao has to be included because HE can make himself understood. Cakes! Messes! Duplicity! They need to keep their baking secret because using a stove is dangerous for children.

In the meantime, Jingwen struggles. His teacher reaches out. A classmate is kind. When Yanghao ends up in the hospital because of a marginally cake related accident, their mother finally pays attention to Jingwen's grief. It is not easy being a widowed mother in a foreign land.

All those cakes end up improving Jingwen's grades, help him make friends and create a hopeful ending.
ALSO, the drawings are delightful.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Sunday Selfie - Smile

People tell a friend of mine to "Smile." all the time. He hates it. I agree with him for disliking it, because it's disrespectful to order someone else to change their facial expression. This friend has an absolutely awesome smile. When I see him smiling at someone, it brightens my heart. His resting expression is serious and he prefers that people keep their opinion of that to themselves.

"Smile" is actually good advice, though. Studies have determined that if you smile - not that fake grimace we gave during school pictures, but an actual smile - the act of smiling alerts your brain that your mood is in the process of lifting. Keep smiling and eventually your mood does lift. Muscles and memory work together to help you feel better.

The other night I went to a club meeting where people got up to share stories. I love these events and I usually sit there with a smile on my lips. Or I lean forward in concern when the teller is relaying something sad or exciting.

I looked around and noticed that hardly anyone else was smiling. I wonder why. Were they just waiting their turn? Do they, like my friend, have serious resting expressions? Do they equate listening to a live performance to vegging in front of the TV? (THAT is a subject for a whole other post.) Later when people shared their impressions and thoughts about the stories, hardly anyone smiled. Again, I wonder why.

I admit that when I walked away from that meeting I had neutral to concerned feelings about the people there. The ones who smiled as they talked - appropriately to the content of their stories or statements, of course - I felt positive towards. I wondered if the others were sad, tired or even angry. When we go THERE, the next step is to wonder if they were angry with me.

See? Now possible friendships became fraught with obstacles because people did not smile.

Don't smile because it makes me more comfortable, though. Smile because it will help you through tough times.

When someone tells me I look worried, as I often do, it reminds me to smile, even to laugh. When I do, the worrisome things fall into their rightful place in my life. and I feel less stress.

Advice for the day is twofold:
Don't tell other people to "Smile."

BUT, remind yourself to smile. It will make you feel better in most situations.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sunday Selfie - why #savethanksgiving

Here's the story of why I post memes on social media about saving Thanksgiving.

I walked into the local drug store - which is actually more like a mini mart that concetrates on make up, vitamins and greeting cards - the day after Halloween and there was nary a turkey or pilgrim in sight. Now, I can understand not having pilgrims because of how they reacted to hospitality when they came here. But no turkeys?

There was a small segment of Thanksgiving cards in the greeting card aisle - shoehorned in between the graduation cards - ??? - and half price Halloween cards and alongside a special display of - yeah - Holiday cards, mostly Christmas.

That was November 1st. The Christmas stuff started moving into the stores in September after the back to school sales ended.

Being thankful is not all that good for the bottom line.

It is not a new phenomenon. As our lives become more insulated by cars, screens, work and responsibilities, we can't see what we can be thankful for.

Acquisition has become our most universal pursuit. We are a nation of consumers. Our economy depends on increasing purchases of everything.

This creates an even wider divide and accentuates income inequality. If acquisition is a measure of your worth and you can't acquire as much as other people - how does that make you feel?

If the entire culture is about the "20 Most Amazing Gadgets You Can Buy on A@@z Today" or Buy a Lexus for Christmas (!!!???), then people who can't afford those items feel cast out.

You know what happens to people who are cast out, made to feel "less than"? They become depressed and angry or just plain angry.

When people are angry they acquire things that are not good for them because no one has the right to tell them what to acquire.  Hmm, I am feeling a little angry right now. See? A downward spiral can lead to a lot of the meanness we see in today's news.

What would happen if we could reverse that feeling in ourselves? Turning away from acquisition, taking time to find things to be grateful for, makes us feel better about ourselves. Yeah and then we spiral upwards instead of into helpless rage and violence.

So, your life might really suck. No, really. You might be dying. But you are still here. You can see the people you love. You can hear songs that please you. Just one thing, that is all I am asking you to find, just one thing that makes you glad to have lived.

If you are reading this, you are "more than".  You are wonderful. It's true.

Sit back. Close your eyes. Remember one thing that makes or made you happy. Conjure up one beautiful sight or sound or feeling. Hold that in your mind.

Give thanks.

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Grateful Post - #savethanksgiving

Today, I had errands to run. I don't often go out in my car alone to do stuff. I let the Hub drive or I squire my Mom around. During those rides we listen to the radio or talk about happenings.

Today, they both had other things to do so off I went. I found so many things that made me feel grateful.

1. The smiling postal worker who sent off my packages is deaf. She had a sign to tell you this and she used her hands effectively to indicate what I needed to do. She even had a lovely little sign printed up to thank me for using the USPS. Fastest, most pleasant trip to the Post Office ever.

2. The trees are holding onto their leaves a little longer this year. The colors are bright and filled me with happiness.

3. It looks like someone swept a paintbrush of white paint across the sky today - a streak of thinning white against a blue canvas.

4. I found lovely Thanksgiving items on drastic discount at the store.  Whoo- hoo!

5. I had to stop for a train on the way home. Watching the freight cars trundle by, reminded me of waiting with small boys in the car. We counted out loud as the cars passed. We named the cars. Thanks to Donald Crews book, "Freight Train" , we knew most of the train car types.

I remembered hearing the train whistle in the night and the creak and crash as the cars rounded a bend.

My heart rose to see that this mode of moving cargo is still being used. We find affection for all kinds of things - the railroad tracks we walk along, the flashing of the lights.

6. I had no reason to hurry. And that, alone, made me glad.

A little blast from the past - one of my lightbulb turkeys.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Five Books You MIght Want to Read!


The reading continues - along with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) - which should be followed with InNoWriMo and GaNoWriMo and IntgNoWriMo. (International Novel, Galactic Novel and Intergalactic Novel Writing Month).

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day.  This started with a dog. Although Edie's mother is Native American, she was adopted by white parents. At a local PowWow, Edie meets a friendly homeless dog.  The dog fascinates her but her parents drag her home and leave the dog behind. That dog - just remember it.

At home, the summer project that Edie and her best friends have planned hits a bump when one friend wants to change everything. I put the book down for a day or two. Changing friendships, sigh.

The three friends find a mystery in Edie's closet and off we go on a "What haven't my parents told me?" tangent. Because parent's sometimes make awkward decisions. Edie finally confronts her Mom and learns a family history that is painful and enriching.

The adoption of Native American children was/is(?) rife with abuses until the Indian Children Welfare Act was enacted in 1978. That is the foundation for this book.

Our children are vulnerable. Protect them.

35535480. sy475 The Usual Suspects by Maurice Broaddus 
OK. This book came with high praise and kudos from my favorite book blogger, Betsy Bird.  So I had to read it.
It is a fabulous book. Truly. But the jacket calls it "hilarious" and it made me cry.

A gun is found on the playground, right next to the school - not on the school playground, but frighteningly close.  Thelonius Mitchell and his friends are the denizens of THAT classroom, the one with the kids who are hard to teach. So, immediately, they fall under suspicion.
The politics of the upper grades in this school are populated by some very crafty and dog-eat-dog students. As "T" tries to clear the names of himself and his friends, he runs afoul of the Queen Bee with painful results.
His solution to proving the innocence of the usual suspects is balanced on a razor thin line. Is it fair? Is it true? You decide. Funny episodes aside, this book just underscores the point of the previous review.

Our children are vulnerable. Protect ALL of them.

Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord   This book is about a bunny and the cover is blue so it was an easy sell for me.39983483

Here's what I said on Goodreads.
"Adorable middle grade new-kid-in-school story with low profile loving parents, and a found rabbit.

Animals! Finding friends! Being oneself! Accepting differences! This one hits a lot of great notes and even lends itself to discussion.

Wide appeal."

That says it all.

YAY! In this one the children are not the vulnerable ones.

43269502Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez.   Ofelia, Aster and Cat all receive mysterious invitations from Lane.  Their meeting is not filled with lifelong friendship on sight. But they continue to meet and they get involved in an attempt to end an environmentally unfriendly custom.

The Floras, a generations long "scout" type organization for girls in this Florida town, is central to the book, as well as the evolving relationships among its members.

Expect cloak and dagger-ish shenanigans, excellent research skills and family conflict.  Just like the rabbit book, this story hinges on love of nature and crafting friendships.  "Wide appeal!"

YAY again!  These kids have grown-ups who know their jobs.

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker with illustrations by Kelly Murphy.    Set in 1981, this book follows Olympia, a young artist living on Greene Street in New York City. Her father and his business partner, Apollo, clean and restore antique artworks. Ollie's mother is a sculptor, creating soaring works in their loft apartment.

 Then Ollie's father disappears - in the middle of the night -* leaving behind a note - just for Ollie.  My review on Goodreads is short and to the point. It tells you very little of what made this such a good book but why re-create the wheel?

"This was a read-right-through novel. Olympia's father disappears in the middle of the night, right before her mother takes to her bed. Assumptions are made. Art is destroyed and created. Mysterious men appear in the hallway. Good friends have Olympia's back.

My unreviewerly review is. I liked it. It is a good book. Nice characters, a bit of mystery, a screen free existence. Yeah."

Ollie was vulnerable but, thankfully, Ollie's friends looked out for her.  It could have been horrible. 
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* If you must disappear, I suggest doing it in the middle of the night.  Just saying. 



Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sunday Selfie - Self care or self indulgence?

When life fills up with commitments, self care goes out the window.  Promises to eat more healthfully, to move more, to take time to relax or to be still, get broken.

One reason for this is that time is not, as physicists want us to believe, flexible - at least, not for us non-physicists. Minutes tick by while we wait for an elderly relative to get cleaned up so we can visit with her. Hours disappear when we must prepare for a presentation. Suddenly, it is late. We are stressed. OK, I am stressed. The idea of a trip to the gym, or even 30 minutes of stretching feels like a punishment after a long day.

Since I have never been a "routine" person, preferring to control my own destiny (HA!), rather than to follow a strict schedule, it feels easier for me to just push through the things I must do for others and neglect to do things that are good for me.

Part of this is cultural. Self care feels like self indulgence. Taking care of others' needs seems more productive than walking for an hour. During that walk, nothing is cleaned. No errands are run. No words are written. An unselfish person would use that time to take care of someone, volunteer somewhere, make a difference somehow.

Forget just sitting. I love just sitting. It recharges me at a cellular level. If I want to just sit, I need to look like I am doing something - crochet a few rows, play a mindless game. My fingers or my hands or my body must be busy because, as we all learned when we were young, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop."  NOT!  So very not.

Look at self care this way. Refusing to take care of ourselves is an insult to the Divine. Our selves are our greatest gift and our best tool with which to do God's work. When we opt for another commitment, or choose not to stretch because we have so much to do today, we are mistreating God's blessings - our beings.

When we are exhausted and scatterbrained because our diets do not fuel our needs, or because we neglect to rest, we can not be a service to others. It's like putting on your own oxygen mask in a flight emergency BEFORE assisting others.  If you don't, you might pass out before you can help someone who depends on you. Then you both suffer or die. This is a bad thing. Just saying.

Self care is not just eating right, exercising, getting enough rest, staying hydrated. Those are all good things. Self care includes making time for things that feed our souls - crafting arts, listening to music, reading, sitting, hobbies, playing sports, spending time with friends.

For the rebels among us, be even more rebellious. Say "no", and gift yourself with time.  If you prefer routine, schedule in that ME time. You are worth it. The world deserves your best self.

Take care of your selves.


Friday, October 25, 2019

I'll be Back!

I have been busy.  And since I know all 6 of you are desperate for an update here are some stats from my life.

Books Read since my last post: 7 - most are middle grade and most of those are realistic.  I am soooo tired of books about friends who grow apart in 6th or 7th grade. I just am. On the other hand, most of these books are worthy of attention.  Loved "Strange Birds", for instance.  I promise you will get a full update.

Weird Story created with a very-close-to-eight-year old.  "Unicorn Poop". We took turns moving the action along.  Totally not as bad as the title suggests.

Days Off from School or Early Dismissals in the last three weeks.
and next week is another early dismissal and there's a day off in the NEXT week and they all seem to fall on Nana and Gramps days.

Stories read to Stuffies - a quad thousand or maybe only 100.
I have to find scary stories to share with the Halloween Scary Story listeners.  Stuffies are a great first audience.

Number of Craft events that I and a handful of Friends are coordinating tomorrow - 1.  I wonder if I will sleep tonight. 4116 Bath Pike, Bethlehem, PA 18017 - Lehigh Valley Quakers - 10 to 2.

Trick or Treaters that I and the above mentioned not-quite-eight-year old handed candy to tonight.- 80.

Halloween Events  that I will take part in as a story teller next week - 3.  
Catasauqua Public Library - Monday, October  28th at 6 pm. Families welcome.
Godfrey Daniels - Wednesday, October 30th at 7 pm. ADULTS ONLY.
Emmaus Public Library - Thursday, October 31st  at 7:30 pm.

I plan to sleep until 10 am on Friday, November 1st - the day that above mentioned not-quite-eight-year old turns EIGHT!! 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sunday Selfie - a day late

Today, I picked up my mother (93) and my Aunt  Mary (96) from their volunteer work counting the Sunday collection at their church. I drove around the block to my aunt's house.

"Don't get out!" Aunt Mary insisted. "Your mother can help me to the door."

I listen to my elders. I stayed in the car. I watched as my mother supported her big sister, step by step, up the walk. Two old women, gray and slow, side by side, walked together, as I imagine they have walked their entire lives.

I feel privileged to have seen the abiding sisterly love between them. It's unspoken.

Then, having delivered her sister safely to her home, my mother made her way, more quickly and surely back to the car. I drove her to her home where we wrestled empty recycling bins back into their places in the carport.

It is Fall.  We notice the empty places in our garden. We anticipate shorter days, colder nights and darkness. We look forward to loss and if we can stretch our imagination, to the growth that covers the bare spaces.

 Still, today is a good day because, for now, I still can watch these two sisters walk together.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Naked Mole Rat Saves the World - October 15th

Middle school is seriously bad enough without turning into a small hairless rodent in times of duress.

And is it true that a Naked Mole Rat Saves the World (by Karen Rivers) (Out on October 15th!)

Though kit (with a small k) has her own problems, such as having NO HAIR since birth, she needs to make life easier for her mom. kit's Mom had a brush with fame with a musical one-hit wonder. Now, she is afraid to leave their building.  So, kit picks up take-out. She goes to her doctor's appointments with a grown-up friend. Luckily, her mother's place of employment is right downstairs on the first floor. Luckily, kit has good friends who seem to understand without explanation.

Then, Clem falls, or is dropped by her twin, Jorge - on nationwide TV - as kit watched, at hom. They failed at their chance at fame as aerialists AND Clem is badly hurt.  In a matter of seconds kit is - whoosh - gone! A naked mole rat races through the building and out on the street. The first time it happens, kit - and probably the reader - wonders if it's not just kit's imagination. Then, it happens again - and again.

 How can kit get her Mom to go outside? How can she help Clem get back to being Clem after that awful fall? There is the small thing about Jackson, too, and the awful thing he told kit. And Jorge, what's his secret? What really happened that day on the tv show? Who is kit's dad? How can turning into a naked mole rat even be a thing?????

These are engaging characters with relatable problems. Readers will see themselves in kit and her struggles. In middle school, all students feel out of place. Friendships WILL change. Kids WILL question their roots. People will say hurtful or thoughtless things. Our parents and our siblings ARE the weirdest. BUT, true friends will remain true. Love will draw families closer together. We all evolve!

Hopefully, we won't all evolve into small hairless rodents.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sunday Selfie - Time - The Little Prince

I wrote this last night after a day of not doing much. I titled it "Fugit"

It is all about the time
that stretch between sprout and compost -
between droplet and the sea.

All about time...
The broom sweeps
the dust returns.

The pen scribbles racing against,
but keeping pace with,

Eyes closed-
blanket clenched -
waiting -
all about time.

I worked through several fairy/folk tale collections with my stuffie friends. So, two nights ago, I started reading The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). Last night, I came to this paragraph.

"The fact is, I don't want my book to be taken lightly. Telling these memories is so painful to me. It's already been six years since my friend went away, taking his sheep with him. If I try to describe him here, it's so I won't forget him..."


I found tears running down my face as I read that. That paragraph is not at the end of the book when we know where the Little Prince went and how he got there. No, it comes not all that far into the book, right before we learn of the Little Prince's journey through the planets.

I know how the book ends. I know why the narrator is in pain. And I know what happened to the author, He met the same fate as thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of pilots during WWII.

No wonder I cried.

Time. There is no chance to go back, no do-overs, no insight that allows a gunner to lower his barrel. Or a chance for a word to be unspoken. Or the joy of a pleasure to be lived again for the first time.

Time is funny - funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha. It can feel, as it did yesterday, that we putter to just fill up the time, "between sprout and compost". Then, we read something that shows just how active time is against us - taking our memories, our only defense against erosion.

Sit under the autumn trees tomorrow. Walk in the crisp leaves. If time is only that stretch between, fill it with images that will sustain you as you slide toward the end.

Love widely. Work for others. Play hard. Sing. Dance. Read.

Take that, Time. I can fill you to the brim.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Slay! Read this book.


I finished Brittney Morris's book, Slay, two or three days ago. I worried that I'd be at sea in this book because I am not a person of color - seriously, I am so very, very white that I have to be loud and silly just so I don't disappear -, a teen, or a gamer. Morris kept me afloat with her smooth narration.

So here's the story. After a few racist incidents on popular virtual reality-role play games, Kiera creates a game for people of color. The game is called "Slay" because of the double entendre of the word - to dominate, or to kill.  Players challenge each other to duels. Their moves are determined by cards dealt at the beginning of each duel and by their cleverness in playing those cards. The cards all refer to Black American icons, heroes, and culture. Auntie's Potato Salad, anyone? Success or failure in the duels raises or lowers a player's status and can earn the player "coins".

Then, someone is killed over a misuse of "coins" and status, out here in the real world. Suddenly, the game is all over the news and Kiera - who has kept her identity as the co-creator of the game a secret from everyone around her -even her boyfriend, Malcolm, - hears the game vilified all over the media.  Life gets very interesting after this.

I mentioned this book in an earlier post and I mentioned that I was not happy with Malcolm.  Malcolm and his behavior make me sad. That is all I will say about that.

The book was an eye opener because of my demographic. Although every page showed me something new about gaming or color, even about teen life, I never felt excluded by Morris's prose. There is a universality about Kiera's desire to create something that shields her people from abuse, and in her horror that this creation is misunderstood. The arguments for and against allowing people of one group or another to have their own space are everywhere. Is it better for girls if we educate them without boys in their classes? Do Italian Americans need their own social clubs? When must these clubs, schools, activities be open to everyone? Discuss among yourselves.

One of Kiera's classmates is incensed that this game is closed to anyone who is not black. This limit, regardless of its intentions, even effects (is that the right word?) the game's co-creator who describes herself as bi-racial, though everyone around her thinks she's "African".

Race is a minefield. Morris points out so many different shapes of these explosives. Then, she leads the reader through the field with barely a scratch  - or with assumptions shattered.

Kudos, Brittney Morris, and thank you.

Note: I read a paperback advanced reader's copy that I picked up at The Book & Puppet Company in Easton, PA.  This book comes out on September 24th, 2019. Order it now. Just saying.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Remembrance - 9/11/01

I wrote this on September 12th, 2001. It was meant to soothe children when things - big or small - go wrong. The song does NOT address the event that evoked it.  I have no clue how to encompass the hugeness of that loss in a song. It has a melody to go with it.

When the world breaks in two -
now, I don't want to scare you
but skies always blue
are in stories alone -
well, you get out the glue and
you patch things together.
That's what you do 

when you have to move on.

Though your life's rearranged
and your smile may falter,
The stars will still shine in the sky.

With a crack in your heart,
or a scratch on your finger,
toys all in parts
or a friendship gone wrong -
Morning will come and
you'll pull it together.
One step at a time, you'll go on.

When the world breaks in two,
with my love as the glue,
you'll get by.

Authors try to help kids process big events.  Here is a list of books written about the terror strikes on 9/11/2001.

Remember. Look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers' mother always told him. And whenever you can, be a helper.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday Selfie

I spend the week between the young and the old.

My mother called me last Sunday when she got stung by a hornet. She was fine except for the pain She called the doctor - my brother - so I got to talk to him when I got to the house.

On Tuesday, she got an odd message when she tried to pay a bill online. I went over and called the bank for her because I know the "trick" of getting a human to answer the call. Mom did everything right. But now, she knows why she got that message.

We went greeting card shopping on Thursday. So many people have birthdays, need condolences or reassurances. Then we picked up Gramps (my hubby) and went out to lunch.

Yesterday, we played Scrabble. I have been winning lately but only by a few points. I relish those wins. My Mom still plays a mean game of Scrabble.

She'll be in upstate NY this week with my brother, the doctor. She left this morning. I already miss her.

My granddaughter, on the other hand, is still in town. (She lives nearby.) She slept over last Saturday. We did not get to sleep until midnight and it was NOT her fault.

On Tuesday afternoon, we picked her up from school and for an hour and a half she played with me.

We pretend to text various stuffed animals when Gramps drives us to D's piano lessons.

D likes to mix things together - like glue and peanut butter - to see what happens, usually with no rhyme or reason. I'm a Nana so that's ok with me.

I let the toys lie where they land for a full day before I pick them up. These days will pass too quickly.

The resemblances between these two ladies fill me with awe and with melancholy. They both live life with joy, laugh at mistakes, worry about changes. One smiles because her life is full of memories. The other smiles because she has so much to do.

Today, after worship, someone asked me how I spent my summer. I told them I spent it with these two awesome people.

"One will grow up," I said. "One will leave me forever. I hope they stagger these huge changes so I don't find myself bereft all at once."

As the days shorten, I am grateful that I still have my mother. I rejoice in my granddaughter. And I appreciate the others, the quiet steady ones, my husband, my son and his wife, who stand by.

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Week of Books

Went to the library. Most of the books I wanted were not there.  Came home with three books.

Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught.  Neurodiversity plus small cute dogs plus bullies plus new kid in school plus deployed parent plus mystery involving at home parent plus tornado. It all adds up to a fast-paced awesome read.

Sea Sirens by Amy Chu. There is colorful and graceful artwork in this graphic novel I am still reading because I get distracted by all the pictures and my visual literacy is not the best.  Storms and dementia add texture to the story.  I will tell you more later.
So pretty!

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. I finally read this graphic novel about  kids who spend their summer making costumes and acting out their favorite characters. The kids don't keep to gender lines in their play. Each chapter is a different child's story. Problems abound and problems get solved with imagination and fun. I miss this kind of summer and hope that neighborhood like this exist everywhere.

And then I  read some of the books I bought. Let's start with the book I bought for the subtitle.

Shipwreckers: The Curse of the Cursed Temple of Curses (or We Almost Died. A Lot.)  by Scott D. Peterson and Josh Pruett.
This is the first in a proposed series. Lots of puns, lots of death-defying escapes and traps and jungle animals of the fatal kind. This will be an action packed, fun, pun filled cinematic roller coaster ride of a series. It should be a little shorter. Just saying.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt.    On the first day of middle school during a horrific rain storm, Carter Jones opens the front door to find a butler - a true English butler - standing on his doorstep.  The book has a Bentley, a deployed father, flashbacks to an Australian rain forest, and...CRICKET!!  After years of Lord Peter Wimsey's saunters on the cricket pitch, during which I despaired of figuring out the game, I think it might even make sense. I have been enlightened, and the game is so much more than a cucumber sandwich and endless runs.
Cricket is just a metaphor for the family drama that unfolds. I need someone to talk to about this wonderful book.

Update: This post was started a few days ago.  More reading has happened. I started Slay by Brittaney Morris. (due out toward the end of the month). Reading takes us to unfamiliar places and stuff we are not always aware of - or aware of only peripherally. One of only four black students at a upper middle class high school, Kiera hides the fact that she developed the online virtual reality, role playing game, Slay, from everyone around her. When a player is killed right before his appearance in a tournament online, Kiera's world tilts. That is where I am right now!
Just one thing.  Please don't hate me. But Malcolm? Um, no.
So far, the book is a page turner.

Every now and then I read a book that I download from various "cheap e-book sites", like Early Bird Books or Riffle. I especially like mysteries and non-fiction for adults like me.

Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson. Charles Oakes is dead. His father suspects foul play. So, he calls Frank Malloy, a private detective, to find out what happened. Malloy gets help from his fiancee, widow Sarah Brandt. Set in NYC 20 or so years after the Civil War, the mystery is full of period details about lifestyles and social justice issues. It was edifying - also a good mystery and a new series to fill my vacation or escape reading needs.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Library Haul ACHIEVED!

I went to the library on Friday and checked out four middle grade novels.  Oh, no! I have to go back to the library and check some more because...I read them all.

Middle grade novels are short - ish.  200 pages or slightly more is a common size.  And the print is not big but it is not tiny either.  Still, I have been in a reading slump this summer.  It looks like I am back.

First book:
Song for a Whale by Lynn Kelly.  Iris is a spunky techie nerd who is Deaf. Her parents and older brother are Hearing.  Iris is the only Deaf person in her school and is having trouble because no one speaks her language.
When the science teacher shows a video about a whale whose song is higher than any other whale's song and who travels alone, Iris wants to fix things for the whale, (called Blue 55 in the book).  She comes up for a plan to "call" the solitary whale using her electronic knowledge and with help from the music teacher and her rebellious recently widowed grandmother.

The start of the book promises frustration and difficulty but things morph into a truly empowering - and fun - adventure.

Second Book:
Ra, the Mighty: Cat Detective by Amy Butler Greenfield.  Ra is the Pharaoh's cat, living the life of luxury.  His best friend, Khepri, a scarab beetle (dung beetle), convinces Ra to help a kitchen cat clear the name of a little girl servant.  This is light and fun.  Ra is not as inscrutable as he wants his friends to believe.  Egyptology fans and cat fans will enjoy this romp.  This is the first book in a series. The next book comes out in October.

Third Book:
The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly by Rebecca Ansari.    No one remembers Charlie's brother, Liam.  There is no trace of Liam anywhere.  Even Charlie's best friend, Ana, who believes that Charlie had a younger brother, has no memory of the younger boy. His father travels a great deal for work, and Charlie's mother's depression grows worse daily. Charlie knows if he can find Liam he can slow his mother's illness down.  Then, someone messes with Charlie's comic books - just like Liam used to. And he finds a note telling him to talk to the assistant baseball coach, Jonathan.  The note looks like Liam's writing. What Jonathan tells Charlie and Ana leads everyone down a dangerous path.  I did NOT see the huge twist coming - not at all.
The past, regret, grief and forgiveness all play important parts in this novel that combines fantasy, time travel and horror in one. (Light horror but scary!)

Fourth Book:
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams.  Genesis comes home to find her family has been evicted - again.  Her unreliable Dad never paid the rent.  When he moves the family - Genesis, her mother and father, into an empty house in an upscale housing development on the outskirts of Detroit, Genesis has to start at a new school.
Genesis is convinced that her father hates her because, instead of being light-skinned and "pretty" like her mother, Genesis is dark black like he is. This preference for light skin seems to be a generations long attitude.  The only person who doesn't hold this opinion is Genesis' Mom.
Trying to find real friends, dealing with self-loathing, learning for the first time what she wants to do, all adds up to an obstacle filled adjustment in the new school. Then, there is the specter of another eviction.

Good reads and all different.  I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday Book Haul

A bookstore chain that I frequent is running a Book Haul for its members. I don't usually buy books.  I do the photo thing and then go to the library. But 50% off every book on the table - many of them 2019 books - how could I resist that?

Then, I added a new Phoebe and her Unicorn (I promise I will stop it. Honestly. Someday. But they are just so heavenly - like Marigold's Nostrils.) And a middle grade novel for which I might never read a review but the the subtitle "or We Nearly Died. A Lot." just called my name.

Here they are in their colorful glory.

 I will now explain my selection process.
1. A book by Gary D. Schmidt. That should be enough of a reason but this book features a butler.  Who doesn't love books with butlers in them? Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

2. A book about food - doughnuts in particular. (Turns out, it's the second book in a series.)  It has doughnuts on the cover!  Come ON! The Doughnut King by Jessie Janowitz

3. Roller skates.  I can't roller skate.  I am obsessed with roller skates.  I am also afraid, as most people my age are, of breaking a hip. So I read about it. The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes

Those are my 50% books.  The bookstore chain promised me a tote bag but, surprise, they were out of them.  When I asked the young - very young - maybe college aged clerk for a rain check, he did not know what I meant. "Rain check" dates me.  I am old.

The other books in the photo include Unicorn Bowling by Dana Simpson. We know why I bought that. Now, I want to go bowling, at which I do not dominate.

Last book - the one with the alluring subtitle; Shipwreckers: The Curse of the Cursed Temple of Curses - or - We Nearly Died. A Lot. by Scott D. Peterson and Joshua Pruett.

Problem: I went to the library yesterday and checked out these books. Sigh. These must be read first (except for Unicorn Bowling. Read it.).

Friday, August 16, 2019

Old Friends

I am now in the habit of reading out loud to myself, almost every night.  Well, not just to myself.  I make sure I have a stuffed animal or two in the room and I pretend to read to them. I pretend they interject from time to time.  Um, no, I don't think I need to seek professional help - yet.

Ah, you want to know what I read to the stuffies?  Well, I finished Winnie-the-Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner, then I found some Uncle Wiggily books and read those.  I went through several story collections. Eileen Colwell's Storyteller's Choice got quite a few visits.

But the best ever of all sources of stories - the most beloved, - the trip into my childhood and into timeless stories - are these two collections.

My Book House - edited by Olive Beaupré Miller - is 12 volumes of stories, poems, rhymes, excerpts arranged in accessibility by age.  Each volume covers a different type of story and each volume is more complex and more challenging in readability and concepts than the volumes before it.

My favorite books right now are Collier The Junior Classics.  This 10 book set taught me my Greek and Roman myths, Celtic tales, animal tales that were considered the best in the 50's and 60's.  The series was first put out in 1918. In the 1970s, Junior Classics underwent some changes.  I know this because I had lost a volume from my husband's 10 volume set - almost identical to the set that ended up in one of my sibling's homes.  The local used book store got me that volume from a 1970's printing.  Wrong stories!  Different illustrations!  My childhood had been tossed away. 

Bless them, the ladies at The Old Library Shop found the book I wanted. The set is complete.  The stories I loved are all there.

See the source image

It's way past bedtime.  I have to "get ready".  Now, where did I put Felina Fairyfox and Nutty Romomlia?

Read an old story - out loud if you choose.  Good night.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Discontent - Lyrics

A while back, I found myself looking through Sunday paper's ads obsessively.  I realized I was looking for an answer.  Since then I pay attention to the way things are advertised. "Your life is incomplete," advertisers say. "There are better cars, medicines, cleaning products, etc., than the poor things YOU own."

No, they don't make fun of people who don't own the things they're selling. But they make their products appear iconic, liberating, empowering.

I wrote this. Now, I need a melody and a guitarist.

 Every thing’s for sale

 Every thing’s for sale and I scan the gaudy pages
For the key, the map, the clue that will unlock my goal.
I will save each cent and dime and then when I have found it,
 I will hold it in my palm and it will make me whole.

I will know it when I see it.  It will stand out from the others.
I will ring it up and bag it and clutch it to my chest.
I will know it when I see it, that one thing to ease my sadness,
that one shiny little trinket that will give my soul a rest.

Every week my hope rises as the ads come to my door.
Is the answer at the Walmart or at the Dollar Store?
I have bought so many gadgets in hope of some relief.
I have heard so many promises I’m losing my belief.

The ancients scanned the skies for the answers to the future.
The sailors ranged the seas in search of treasure and of home.
I wander down these aisles looking for the purchase
That will finally make me smile and not feel so all alone.

Every week my hope rises as the ads come to the door.
Is the answer at the Target or at the Superstore?
Can I fill this hole with objects made in far off distant lands?
Can I find peace in just being who I am and where I am?

Today I think that I will lie upon the hillside
 and watch the clouds until the very first star’s light.
I’ll walk through growing gloom to the home we shared together
I will unchain my bike, pedal off into the night.

Every week my hope rises as the ads come to the door.
Is the answer at Best Buy or at the Discount store?
Can I fill this hole with objects made in far off distant lands?
Why can’t I just find peace in who I am and where I am?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Peace Camp!!

Peace Camp LogoWhen you work as a Youth Services Library staffer in a public library, your summers are never your own.  So, back when Peace Camp started, I was only able to help out as a visiting storyteller - ONCE!!

I retired from full time employment a long time ago - 8 years ago.  I worked most of the last 7 summers as a part time Youth Services staffer at public libraries so... Last year was the first time I could volunteer for Peace Camp. Volunteering is how Peace Camp is done.

What is Peace CampLePoCo, a local Peace and Justice organization, has run a camp for children in kindergarten through 8th grade for THIRTY YEARS!  This year was the 30th Peace Camp. For a whole week, from 9 am to 12 noon, kids meet to learn about cooperation, non-violence, mindfulness, diversity, and respect. Adult and teen volunteers lead non-competitive games - and they are so much FUN! - singing, folk dances, drumming, yoga, arts and crafts, STEM projects that encourage respect for the environment, storytelling, and anything else that can involve kids in peaceful interaction. The group I helped with this year met with a beekeeper, learned about aroma therapy, and made spinning fish, among other things.

LePoCo arranges for transportation. Camp fees are on a sliding scale. Every single adult and teen that helps with the camp is a volunteer.  Over 100 children and young teens sign up each year.

I have already blocked out my calendar for Peace Camp in 2020. If you live in the Lehigh Valley, consider helping with this worthwhile and fun program.
HUGE thanks to First Presbyterian of Allentown for letting Peace Camp use their facility from the very beginning.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Phoebe and Her Unicorn - POETRY!!

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I discovered Phoebe and her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson a few weeks ago and I am in huge like with them.  (Sister Ann insisted that people can only love other people, not things.) So I really, really, really like these clever books very much - and a lot.

D LOVES them.  She never met Sister Ann so she's allowed.

I need to share poetry/lyrics written to the tune of Gibert and Sullivan's "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General" from Pirates of Penzance.  You can find these lyrics in Volume 2 of Phoebe and her Unicorn or Unicorn on a Roll.   Everything written and drawn in these books is done by Dana Simpson!

"I am the very model of a modern magic unicorn
I've information, magic and I never wear a uniform.
My entrances are heralded by trumpets and a flugelhorn.
I've eaten many bagels and my horn can write in cuneiform.

I make up for my lack of hands with magic ingenuity,
manipulating objects with a startling acuity.*
I'm also rather stunning in a way that's undeniable.
To stare at me in wonder is completely justifiable."

If you are not familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan's song, Veggie Tales does a clever and easy to understand version in this video. Enjoy and admire.

*This rhyme - alone - places Dana Simpson forever in the pantheon of poets I most admire.

Poetry Challenge - Writer's Digest

Poetry is not all that easy.  Some people, Edward Lear, for instance, made rhymes tumble effortlessly.  Poetry is more than rhyme and rhythm. As Karl Shapiro and Robert Beum state at the end of The Prosody Handbook, "...the rhyme exists for the sake of the poem, and not vice versa."

Fitting the poem to a specific poetic form, a couplet or a limerick or a sonnet, in which line length, rhyme scheme and  number of lines are predetermined is akin to solving a puzzle.  We have the idea and the image or emotion and then we find words to fit the poetic form. 

Over on Writer's Digest's Poetic Asides, Robert Lee Brewer has issued a challenge to write zejels!  Until the challenge landed in my inbox, I never even HEARD or zejels.  Brewer gives instructions on how this old Spanish, or perhaps Arabian, poetic form is constructed.  Check out the challenge here.

I love a challenge.  So, here is my entry.  Hopefully, my effort will show up on Poetic Asides someday soon.

Good or bad?

Every time I rip out a weed
I wonder - could it fill a need?
Does a cure hide in leaf or seed?

That discarded stem, root, or flower -
a blot cleared from my garden bower -
might hold calming good health or power
if left in place to spread and breed.

The foragers might find true worth
in these plants I pull from the earth -
oils to sooth or to promote mirth,
or hungry multitudes to feed.

Still I tug and tear, pull, reject
the plants that grow without respect.
There are rules I cannot reject,
that botanists, long gone, decreed.

Karen Maurer
zejel July 11, 2019

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Too much and Rumer Godden

I have been thinking about Rumer Godden's children's book, The Diddakoi.  Kizzy is taken in by a  single woman of just comfortable means when Kizzy's grandmother dies.  Kizzy has to adjust to the lives of "normal" British people after living in a gypsy caravan all of her life.

I don't remember all that much from the book. The woman who took Kizzy in was sensible and kind.  She was also frugal with the money she spent on her young charge. Kizzy had three outfits for school; one to wear, one for the wash, and one, just in case. THAT is the thing that keeps jumping to my mind.

A child doesn't need more than that; I remember that was the argument.  Children grow too quickly to lavish them with clothing they do not need.

As I move through the absolute chaos in my office made of THINGS, THINGS and more THINGS., as I search for that shirt in my closet or attempt to organize my scarves and my costume jewelry, I remember - three outfits; one to wear, one for the wash, one just in case.

Times were simpler then. The Diddakoi was first published in 1958. Clothing was not as cheaply made or readily available. Styles for children did not change rapidly until TV ads hit the airwaves. Hand-me-downs were normal, not a source of shame.

Still, imagine a world where even comfortable people purchased with restraint and used their money for only the things they needed.

The economy might collapse. OR we might find ways to cope with less things in our homes, in our landfills, clogging our waterways, wasting our money and ruining our happiness. We might use our money to fund education, the arts, science and health innovations.  The mind boggles.

One to wear, one for the wash, one just in case.  I'm not brave enough to try it - yet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Kevin Henkes and the inevitability of change

I just - JUST- closed Kevin Henkes' book Sweeping Up the Heart, (contented sigh).  So calm, yet so dramatic, I got what I expected from Kevin Henkes, who is one of the best authors and illustrators out there.  Also, rabbits.

I read somewhere that Kevin Henkes - who has written and illustrated lots of books about mice and kittens and rabbits - has taken to sculpting small rabbits from clay.  I can't find that interview so maybe I dreamed it up!  No matter.  Amelia, the hero of this new book, sculpts animals of all kinds and in this book, she concentrates on rabbits.

The book is about emotions, not clay rabbits, - especially the emotions of confusion and sadness.  And the book is about communicating with all kinds of people.  It covers a few days of Spring Break, meeting and making a new kind of friend, seeing adults in new lights, appreciating what has always been and worrying about the future.

The set up is simple. 12-year-old Amelia lives with her father because her mother died when she was only two.  Her father seems uncomfortable in his own skin, perhaps because of this great loss. They are lucky that their neighbor, Mrs. O'Brien, is there for them as housekeeper and friend.

During this Spring Break, Amelia runs to the clay studio, her home away from home, and meets Casey, the studio's owner's 12-year-old nephew! A new friend and a new kind of friend, Casey introduces Amelia to the idea of "signs" and he points out a red-haired woman as a "sign" for Amelia.

This red-haired woman ends up being more important than Casey or Amelia could imagine and not in the ways they both hoped.

Quiet, calm drama - no action scenes, no high-impact blow-ups, pulled me effortlessly along to the last page.  Read it.

I do have afterthoughts.

When I was 12, I had an insight so profound that nothing before in my life prepared me for it. My life was devoid of trauma. The most disrupting thing that ever happened in our life - I mean permanently re-arranging - was the arrival of a new sibling. That happened with such regularity that by 12, I was no longer excited by yet another kid. There were 6 of us by then.

Still, the emotions that Amelia feels; the magical possibilities, the sudden appearance of adults as people with unexpected facets, the realization of change as a constant, - I felt all of those things with aching force.

But without that trauma, or other upsetting traumas, such as moving to a new home, the end of a friendship, a divorce in the family, the death of a beloved older relative, - without a life altering trauma to initiate the plot, can an author write effectively about these emotions? I mean SOMETHING has to happen in the book. Something has to change. Without a missing mother, that red-haired woman would have had little or no significance to Amelia or Casey.

Of course, other things do happen in this book. The sculpted rabbits, the friendship with Casey, Casey's home situation, - in themselves they do not make a compelling story line.  It is that one fact of Amelia's person-hood, her motherless-ness, that moves everything along.

I am sure that someone has written a book that displays this time of change in a pre-teen's life, in a stable family without a huge catastrophe, effectively and well.  And I suspect that I probably read some of those books. Still, a major shake-up grabs the reader's attention.  That is not a bad thing.

A sudden afterthought:  If the reader is a more literal person than I am, will he/she relate to a character whose situation is so very different than his/her own?  Just wondering.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

LBB is ACTUALLY a Squirrel

After I wrote this, I realized that my loyal readers already KNOW some of this stuff - because of LBB's little sister, Snow.  I feel that the subject should be enlarged on because stuffie space travel is a little known and very risky venture.

Little Blue Bunny LOOKS like a bunny.  He hops like a bunny.  He chews on things - just like a bunny but, really, he's a squirrel.

How this happened is a little known phenomenon of stuffie space travel.

Nutsa and Acornio Acorn, Little Blue Bunny's parents, are Stuffie-World Renowned Astrosquirrels.  They have explored the planets of Bunnyvania and Foxler.  Their next mission might be to the underwater world of Oceanslovakia.  Not right now, though. Nutsa is expecting child number ??.  I lost count after Foxleer - he's soooo cute!

Nutsa took the first trip by an expectant squirrel mother to Bunnyvania - EVER.   Space travel can effect things like being pregnant, so Nutsa ended up giving birth to Little Blue Bunny on Bunnyvania.  She was not due to have her squirrelkin for several days.
It was a Universe-shaking event because this had never happened.  And when Little Blue Bunny was born, well, his parents were very, very surprised.  They were so surprised they insisted on tests to make sure they got the right baby.

They found out that Bunnyvania's atmosphere has a strange effect on unborn babies.  If the space-traveling mother is not inoculated before entering Bunnyvania's atmosphere, the child will look and act just like a bunny.  Every. Single. Time.

Here's the thing.  No one, not even the residents of Bunnyvania knew this.  Bunnyvania has other creatures living on it - not just bunnies.  Their offspring look like the parents.  They must have some kind of inborn resistance to the bunny-shaping atmosphere.

Until the Acorn family made medical AND space travel history, no one knew of this odd result of entering Bunnyvania's atmosphere.

Soon after Little Blue Bunny's birth, Nutsa and Acornio went to the planet Foxler, and wouldn't you know it?  Foxler has the exact same problem with the atmosphere.  That's why Felina Fairyfox is a member of the Acorn family.  The latest member of the Acorn family is Foxleer, a cute little fox boy - see his photo above.  I think that Nutsa should give up space travel and concentrate on fashion design.

And don't forget that about a year ago, Snow was born on Bunnyvania, too.

Nutsa is actually expecting another baby.  D held a "gender reveal" party two weeks or so ago and the baby is a girl.  (Sigh).  Also, the baby will be born at home so, no surprises there.  D let the twins, Chester and Pinella, pop the balloons to discover the baby's gender.  (I should probably say "birth gender" since gender is more than just anatomy.)

Needless to say, with her previous experiences of traveling to other planets while expecting, Nutsa does NOT want to deliver her little girl early on an underwater planet - just in case.

I never knew that stuffed animals - oh wait, Nutsa is actually made of terra cotta - anyway, I never knew toy animals could have such colorful secret lives.

What the heck is going on HERE???

Friday, June 7, 2019

Nuruture Nature (sigh) Again

So, we performed our pieces three times - once at the opening, once again in January where the performances were videoed and yet again this Spring individually - for a more professional audio.

Here is the video of the second performance.  I was so nervous and you can tell in my singing.  But Andrei supported me like a trooper.

I try.  I do.  I'm happy that there is probably a better audio out there of both the speech and the song.

Visit Nuture Nature Center of Easton's YouTube channel to watch the other poets and speakers.  They are wonderful.

Thank you.

#oops, #voicelessonsneeded

Friday, May 31, 2019

New Kid

I have an overdue library book on my nightstand.

I have no book to read right now - no book that appeals to me.

I don't even want to TALK about books right now but...

I read this book this week.  It kept me up - because I had to finish it.  It is a bright read!  That's my new word for books I thoroughly enjoy that light me up - teach me new ways to look at the world!

New Kid by Jerry Craft

I give it five stars.

The trailer tells you the basics.  The book cartwheels a few sterotypes and schools some "well-meaning" teachers.  Humor and Jordan's grandfather's wisdom often save the day.

Backson. Bisy. KM


Monday, May 27, 2019

New YA from Penguin Random House

I got this in my inbox today - a list of new YA from Penguin Random House.

The list has fantasy, thrillers, romance, suspense - you know easy reading for lazy days.

I am very interested in THIS title; Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim.  It has fashion and feminism and fantasy and weaving cloth from starlight.

Which of these books would YOU read?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Best Time of the Day

I started to read to my collection of stuffies at bedtime about a month ago.

No matter how filled with self doubt, worry, sadness or stress I might be at bedtime - or even just plain tiredness - when I crack open one of my favorite story collections, it washes away.

I miss sharing these words with a small human.  My small human towers over me now.  And he only lends me his small human for overnights occasionally. For now, my stuffed animal friends, some of my own making, will do nicely.

Last night, we all enjoyed a lively reading of In Which Piglet Is Entirely Surrounded by Water.  Milne's run-on sentence at the end had the same soporific effect on me that Owl's story had on Piglet.  I pulled myself back just in time to save Piglet from slipping into the flood.

Uncle Wiggily, My Book House,  Hans Christian Andersen, the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde, and best of all, the stories of Pooh and Piglet and Christopher Robin, are all reminders that imagination rules.

Our imaginations, or MY imagination, can draw pictures of drastic events foreshadowed by the day's stresses.  Can I ever unearth my desk?  And if I don't, will bills go unpaid?  And if they do go unpaid, will I get into debt?  And if I... and those are not even big worries, like saving the world from climate change, or reuniting children with their parents.

Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy just sends Uncle Wiggily on an errand and, voila!, all is right with the world.

Hearing the words, as I look at Howard Garis' drawings with Felina FairyFox and Nutty Romomlia, - it's a time machine, a voyage into innocence.

It is the best time of my day.