Thursday, August 23, 2012

For The Love Of Reading

I feel like I just came out the other side of a sandstorm of school fundraisers, and birthday parties, and writing assignments, and my own crippling sinus infection, which probably qualified for medical research but not blog material.  Though, to be honest, for the last four days, a lot of my free time has gone into Greg Heffley and his repeated diaries about life as a Wimpy Kid.

My son asked if he could start reading these books last week.  Apparently they're all the rage amongst the literate third grade crowd.  I had my suspicions that anything that popular with little boys probably contained messages that are contradictory to some of the actual good parenting I've attempted, so I told him we'd read them together.

I was right.  The main character/narrator promotes laziness and selfishness and general dishonesty.  But, the fans are right too - he's hilarious.  I don't exactly have to force myself to read them.  I still can't keep up with my son though, who is currently holding two very nice librarians hostage until they deliver into his hands the fifth book in the series.  They promised him they'd call as soon as they got a copy returned or transferred into our library branch, but he wouldn't budge from in front of their desk, so I just left him there to wait it out.

We've discussed a couple of scenes in each of the books that I decided to use as examples of what not to do, but I pretty much gave a broad warning of, "If you start acting like Greg, you'll stop reading about him."  And, fortunately, the mom in the books, Susan, does some decent parenting of her own and tries to instill some values into her sons and the readers.

And I'm willing to talk through the bad to benefit from the good.  Because my son has never been this excited about reading.  He's never been this excited about anything other than sports and dessert.  If a sarcastic, scheming, sullen middle-schooler is what it takes to spark his interest in books, so be it.  Now I just need to find a series to bridge the gap between this elaborate cartoon and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series.

Since Brainy is tracked out right now, we practiced some of the laziness this wimpy kid preaches and watched the first two movies on Tuesday.  Which, as always, aren't as good as the books.  But my son's reward for getting through four full weeks of nightly football practice (and tackling a lot of teammates to the ground) is that I'm taking him and a friend to see the third movie at the theater tomorrow.  If I can get him to abandon his post at the library that is.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Technological Entanglements

This is sort of embarrassing to say as a “writer”, but I didn’t own a laptop until last week.  I know most people over the age of twelve have one already, but I’m slow to warm up to advancements in technology.  I try new flavors of M&Ms the minute they hit the shelves, but that’s because I’m comfortable with chocolate.  Computers, phones, and Blu-Ray players baffle me.

I have to take this opportunity to mention that we owned a Blu-Ray player for almost six months before I realized it.  I was actually at a Redbox renting a movie for the kids and I said, “Oh, they only have this one on Blu-Ray.  We’ll have to pick something else out.”  Brainy looked at me sympathetically (because I’m mentally handicapped and he’s kind) and said, “Mom, we have one of those.  The white Sony player downstairs.”  Oh.

Anyway, my career is looking more promising, so my husband bought me an Ultrabook.  I would tell you that’s another word for a laptop, but I’d get in trouble.

I’ve been really busy lately, so it wasn’t until today that I had a chance to take it for a spin.  (Just kidding, honey, I handled it more carefully than I did our children as newborns.)  And, well, things didn’t go so smoothly.  I had the whole thing locked up inside of twenty minutes and I was probably crying out of frustration after ten.

First of all, I’m not very adept at avoiding an invisible mouse that’s playing possum underneath my wrists.  And I’m just typing along, crafting beautiful prose and whatnot and then the bottom falls out and suddenly my fonts change, or my margins, or I’m knee deep in a find and replace edit that I never even started!  Sometimes my paragraphs would go rogue and set themselves up like poetry stanzas.  For every three words I typed, I was hitting the undo button or backspace ten times.

And it isn’t just the mouse that’s sensitive.  The keys are too.  I was trying to think of the appropriate adjective for a thought I was trying to convey, and I left my fingers hovering over the keys for a moment while I looked up and pondered.  When I conjured the word I was looking for and returned to my document, there was half a page of Ls.  And don’t even think about breathing too hard near the caps lock button.  Or CapsLk as he goes by in Ultra circles.

So, I got this great gift and I can’t use it.  Not effectively.  Once The Voice of Reason unlocked my keyboard, I started typing this blog.  That was four score and a fortnight ago.  I’m hoping practice will make possible – perfect being too far of a reach at this point.  I had a similar learning curve with my smart phone when I got it for Christmas.  I still don’t take advantage of most of its features, but I’ve learned to use the ones I need, like checking the weather and quicktexts and getting gmail updates.

The plan was to use this contraption to blog, do my writing assignments, and create amazing works of fiction on the go.  You know, like writing the next New York Times bestseller on the sidelines of football practice or in carpool, obvious places for great ideas and inspiration.  But none of that is going to be possible if I don’t conquer this mouse pad.

My mother-in-law was asking me tonight if there was something she could get me for my birthday to go along with my new Ultrabook.  Why yes, some patience and an IT specialist to travel around with would be lovely.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Spare Parts

There are storage facilities everywhere and I’ve always wondered why there’s such a big demand for them.  Are there really that many people with homeless possessions?  Isn’t it just a way to pay rent without actually using your things?  Doesn’t that mean that you don’t really need those things?

Storage facilities were a mystery to me because I’ve never needed one.  But based on the prevalence of them, I assumed I was one of the few people who don’t.

Well, mystery solved.  Almost.  I still don’t know how so many of them end up abandoned and on A&E’s Storage Wars, where odd people come in and bid on the units at auction with only a glimpse and a guess from the outside.  (I’ve never actually watched Storage Wars, but I have friends that watch it and have told me more than I ever cared to know about it, so I’m semi-qualified to mention it in this blog.  Clearly I’m also “semi-qualified” to choose friends.)

But at least now I know why a normal person would need to rent one of those.  My brother, who is arguably the most normal person in my family, invested in not one, but two storage units because he’s moving.  He put his house on the market and it sold in the first week, sooner than expected, too soon to move into his new home.  This stroke of luck (who sells their house after one showing these days?) left him with three months of homelessness that he’s decided to wait out in an apartment.  An apartment that can’t even come close to holding all of their things.

So, The Voice of Reason and I spent two sunny and muscle-testing days helping him move, store, and arrange.  And I got my first experience with self-storage.  It’s a different game than Storage Wars, where someone wants to get everything out of a unit.  Our game was how to fit as much as possible into one.  Well, two.

It reminded me of my true calling as a structural engineer.  Because for a girl who has always loved to pack a trunk like I’m assembling a puzzle, this was like the world championships of that event.  Standing with one foot on the back of a sofa and the other atop a bookcase, I was able to drop rolls of Christmas wrapping paper into a cylindrical slot between workout equipment and a high chair, winning me the gold medal in acrobatics and mental acuity.

But all the while, I was wondering why a guy who has never wrapped a Christmas present in his life had so many rolls of Christmas paper.  I used to earn extra Christmas presents from him by wrapping all of his to other people.  

I had one of those he-doesn’t-need-me-anymore moments because I realized that his wife wraps their Christmas presents now.  But then I figured out how to thread his weed eater between the two kayaks and it reminded both of us that I’m still useful.

And that’s good.  Because if there’s one place you don’t want to find out you’re expendable, it’s a storage facility.  Someone could knock you off and toss your body into one of those units and it probably wouldn’t ever be discovered.  Unless those Storage Wars weirdos show up and bid on the leather recliner and mahogany table they see from outside and then get burned not only by too much wrapping paper, but also a dead person.  Because who needs more of those?

So, storage facilities exist for in-between stages of life and homicides, mystery solved.Photobucket