Monthly Archives: April 2010

Beverly Cleary–we love you!

Eli’s learned that trick of asking questions to keep us up later, or rather, to prevent himself from being put to sleep on time.  Emma did it for a long time before we caught on, and now, I think we’re mostly too tired to protest and just make him go to sleep.  Even more, he has learned to ask questions that will spark our interest.  The other night he got talking with Bill about different kinds of seeds and how they are spread.  If you know Bill, then you’ll know there’s nothing like talking plant biology to get him excited and going for a while.

I was putting him to bed last night and he started with,  “Why don’t you write a kids book?”

Given the proper bait, I bit willingly.

“Tell me what you think makes a good book,” I said.

“Well, you should write a book like Beverly Cleary,” he said.  “Like Ramona and Henry Huggins.  Those are good books.”

“What makes them good?” I ask, wanting to know the winning secret of one of his favorite authors.

“They are about children who really, really, really want something.  And then, they mess up when they try to get it,” he said.

“Oh?” I ask, wanting a little bit more.

“Well, yeah.  They mess up, and they usually get what they wanted but not exactly the way they thought they might or how they thought.  And sometimes, they don’t get what they want and it’s okay in the end.”

Eli has been awarded the family gift of gab, but I hadn’t realized until tonight that he also has the ability to think and speak succinctly and clearly in a way that I find rather amazing for his age.  Okay, maybe I’m just another mom who’s in love with her child,  so sue me.  But,  he nailed the essence of these wonderful books.   The plots are simple and based in reality.  No monsters jump out of the closet, no bad guys lurk around corners and magical tricks are non-existent.   We talked longer about what makes a good story and what he likes in books.  Sure, he enjoys the exciting Riordan Olympian series as well, but he keeps going back to Ramona and Henry like a comfy blanket.   When I finally stumbled out of his room, leaving him asleep in the end, it was nearly 9:00, on a school night when he should be in bed by 8:00.  The extra time was probably worth it because he was in such a good mood and so open with his ideas.  He even slept in an extra forty-five minutes this morning to make up for the lost sleep.

It occurred to me after our conversation that I didn’t really know much about Beverly Cleary.  I have a copy of “Socks” from my childhood that still sits on my shelf, so I knew she’d been around a while–not to mention her Ramona and Henry stories pre-date cable and there are paper routes involved.  My best guess without looking at one of the books had her writing in the sixties and seventies.   According to Wikipedia, she had gotten her start earlier than I had thought.  She wrote one of the first Henry stories in 1950 and was actively writing for another fifty years.  She’s won tons of awards and still lives in California.   If I were to turn toward writing children’s fiction, I can’t think of many role models that would suit me more than Beverly Cleary.


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Filed under Avoiding Bedtime, Beverly Cleary, Parenting, Writing


The other day we were in the car and my friend, who is about to have surgery, brought up the concept of “check-lists” and how impressed he was the surgeon uses them during surgery.   My nephew is an airline pilot who has mentioned how important “check-lists” are in that industry.   I don’t deal much with life and death on a daily basis.  But, I am a big fan of lists.  I wouldn’t get much done without them.  My mind became a sieve when I was pregnant with my first and the holes have only gotten bigger over the years.

Those little scrap of papers I make tend to keep me focused, and when I don’t have a list I tend to aimlessly do things without staying on task.  If I didn’t actually make a note to try to blog, I would completely forget that I should do it more often.  I notice my last post was ten days ago, but I have a very good excuse for not blogging.

On Saturday, I hosted a chamber music event at my house as a fundraiser for my son’s school, Three Cedars Waldorf School.  We are blessed with an amazing amount of talent there–parents, faculty and friends–who combine their efforts to bring a high-quality performance every time.  My lists last week were epic, and I even used word to type them up and then printed them.  They included the food prep, the party prep (chair-rental, moving furniture, cleaning lists) and miscellaneous life stuff that had to happen even though I was having a party.  Blogging was not on my list.  Notice lack of blog posts last week–though I did get something up for my knitting blog.

Not everything I do gets put on my list every day, but there have been days when I start my list with “Wake Up”  and “Get out of Bed” which are followed by “Get Dressed” and every other daily minutiae just to get myself through the day.

Today’s list is rather short by comparison.

  • Work out
  • Catch up on Email
  • Write a blog post
  • Figure out next month’s book to read for book group
  • Get to the Lighting store (in Wallingford) and pick up repaired lights (tried to do this last week, but it was left undone)
  • Take Emma’s shoe back to Fluevog  (Third trip? yeah, you’d expect better from a Fluevog!)
  • Pick up an after school snack for Emma
  • Pick up Emma and drive her to violin
  • Move furniture back into place

What’s sort of funny is that I started this blog with three things on my mental list.  As I wrote it down, I added everything else as I remembered various things I ought to get done.  Oh, well.  It’s still short in comparison to some days.

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Filed under Fluevog, List Making, Organizing, Uncategorized

Thank You, Richard Nixon.

Yeah, I know.  It’s a provocative title.  I would like to remind some of  you I have a degree in advertising, so I might as well flex the word-power every once in a while and employ a bit of shock inducing hyperbole.   But, by the time I end this little post, I hope you can say a little thanks to the man as well.  Let me explain.

Many of you know that I like Chinese food, and by that I don’t mean red-dyed-sickly sweet-coated deep-fried pork.  I’m talking the real stuff that employs Sichuan pepper corns, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, dim sum, shredded tofu and a host of other exotic ingredients.  My first dinner out with Bill was to his parents home when they were getting ready for a Chinese banquet.  My life changed that night.   Not only did I fall in love with new flavors and textures, I met my dream in-laws. (I already sort of  sold on Bill, and this clinched it. )

My father-in-law can cook Chinese better than most Chinese.  He’s made a long time study of it and has honed his skills.  So, when I expected my mom’s Chung-King style egg-fu-young from a can, I was served things like Phoenix Prawn and “Ants Climb a Tree.”

Now, here comes the part where I have to say “Thank You”  to an old dead Republican.

I’m an avid listener of “The Splendid Table” on our local public broadcasting station, KUOW.   In the most recent edition, they interviewed the author of “Chop-Suey:  A cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States,” Andrew Coe.  Coe has written a history that traces the introduction of Chinese food to the country, to its near demise and its rebirth.  Apparently, Chinese food first became palatable to Americans in the form of “Chop-Suey.”  I’m not entirely sure what Chop-Suey is, actually, but apparently, at the turn of the last century Americans were gobbling it up.

Things changed after the wars, and Americans learned about “Pizza Pie” and other European novelties.  Tastes changed over the years and by the sixties, Americans were tired of Chop-Suey and its equally boring and bland counterparts.  Then…yes, the bit you’ve been wondering about…in 1972 Nixon flies to China.

Coe explains that Nixon’s trip to China opened the way for “real Chinese” food to make its way into the hearts and kitchens of America.  People seem to recall it as “Ping-Pong diplomacy” when, really, one of the greatest connections made during the trip was gastronomical.  He visited different provinces which introduced the great variety of Chinese cuisine to America.  The Chop-Suey image of Chinese food in America was transformed!  Voila.   So, there you have it…Thank you, Richard Nixon!

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Getting Into this. Sort of.

It was brought to my attention that I’m not really blogging yet.   One post a month, apparently, is not enough.    I was told by my husband that blogging is more off the cuff and not necessarily meant to be neatly rendered essays with witty quotations and exemplary editing.  Fine.  I’ll go with that for a while and see how I feel about that.   My slow entry into this world has been partly due to laziness, partly due to procrastination, and partly due to fear.   I realize some people blog on a daily basis.  That verb didn’t even exist in my youth, so I’m not sure why I should be expected to pick up and do it every day.

The procrastination comes in when it comes to topic.  While in the shower this morning, I realized that a blog  solely about writing is going to get boring for me.  And, if it is going to get boring for me, it’s got to get boring for anyone attempting to read it.   I never envisioned myself as an angsty writer–one of those people in black turtlenecks and berets sitting in a coffee bar anxiously words-smithing every syllable.   I just like to write.  Ever since I was young, I used to spin yarns and tell tales.  The  message I received growing up was to be quiet,  so I learned to put things into writing so as to not annoy those around me.  While I might not be writing about writing, the title still applies  for I do try to write 1,000 words a day–but not necessarily in this blog.  That was never my intention. I don’t count email in that goal, or it would be cheating, but I will count the couple of hundred words here, the couple hundred I can do on my other blog and what little “real writing” I can get done.

The fear comes into effect because blogging is “putting myself out there.”  That is part and parcel of why I’m not published yet, and I’m trying to get over it.  The rejection slips I have gotten have all been very kind.  All four of them, anyway.  One was downright positive, but I am who I am–A straight A kind of gal who sees rejection as a C at best.   When I put work out there that I think deserves an A, well……yeah.  That’s kind of the sucky part about trying to get published.

So, I’ll go for once a week–a regular schedule of thoughts, ambling or coherent coming this way.  And, maybe after I am regular for a few months, I’ll amp up the pace a bit and go for more than once a week.

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My Brain Needs a USB port

I’d love it if we could take a little memory card and dump memories onto and make room for more–sort of like that thing J.K. Rowling did in the Harry Potter series with that silvery goo stuff.   I can’t recall–heh–how many times I’ve observed something in life that I thought, “Hey…that would make a great scene for a novel…or at least a great start to something.”  And then, a year or so later I’ll remember that I had that thought but I’m not always sure about what it was originally.

A couple of years ago, okay, more like twelve years ago, I can’t remember when, but it was a while back, I was out with Emma and Bill and we witnessed this poignant and moving exchange between a grandmother and a grand-child.  I remember thinking, “WOW…I want to use that some day.”  And now?  I’m not even sure if the grandmother did something evil and nasty or loving and kind.  I just remember being moved.

Heck, if I had a USB port for a memory card, I could use it as a direct link to my computer.  Direct brain waves would bypass that persnickety voice recognition problem no one seems to be able to figure out and typing!

I’m always thinking about scenes, running dialogue in my head, and “writing” when I’m doing things that prohibit the physical act of writing.    I have written thousands of words in my head while in the shower, driving, washing dishes and working out.  Sometimes I can get to a note pad or a computer to get the gist of something down if not the entire scene. Usually, I end up sitting at the computer thinking, “What was that thing I was going to have this character do next?  I think it was a really good idea, too….”

It could be fun to use at that morning dream time when I know I’ve had some great stuff running around in my head.   I know of at least two books on writing that encourage writers to tumble out of bed, ignore the rest of the world and get some writing done without anything invading your creative, just waking self.  It sounds great in theory, but reality doesn’t always play along with theory.  I have kids, one who goes to bed after I do, and one who gets up before I do.  The only alone time I have for writing is generally during the morning after I’ve helped make breakfasts, lunches and ensured the kids are safely on their way to school.   By that time, any creative dream-like writing state I might have cashed in on has been spent on making a lunch my seven-year old will eat.

Plenty of writers use note pads and index cards to record these moments of inspiration.    Short of the futuristic computer implants and magical silver compounds, paper may be the best solution.  I’m just afraid I won’t remember where I’ve put them.

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