A mortal insult

Recently a certain member of my family who shall remain nameless because I at least don't want to hurt his feelings made a grave accusation against me. I said I didn't bother to finish The Plot Against America because I felt that after two or three chapters I got the author's point, and perhaps it should have been a short story.

"I think the problem is that you just read for plot," said he.

Can you believe it? My own father unnamed family member?? Steve, honey, will you be my second? Because we're meeting tomorrow at dawn.

Sad news

Stanislaw Lem died today.

For those not in the know, he's a Polish sci-fi writer. His stories, the ones I've read anyway, are fairly straightforward spaceshippy stuff, but his style is literary and, well, inimitable. Here's a taste to whet your appetite, the opening lines of the short story "Pirx's Tale."

Sci-fi? Sure, I like it, but only the trashy stuff. Not so much trashy as phony. The kind I can dip into between shifts, read a few pages at a time, and then drop. Oh, I read good books too, but only Earthside. Why that is, I don't really know. Never stopped to analyze it. Good books tell the truth even when they're about things that never have been and never will be. They're truthful in a different way. When they talk about outer space, they make you feel the silence, so unlike the Earthly kind -- and the lifelessness. Whatever the adventures, the message is always the same: humans will never feel at home out there. Earth has something random fickle about it -- here a tree, there a wall or garden, over the horizon another horizon, beyond the mountain a valley . . . but not out there.

As soon as the kids are in bed I think I'll cuddle up on the couch and read the rest. Yum!

A new meme

I don't know if Ella realizes this, but she made up a new meme. Here it is:

Words that always look misspelled to me:

Words that look nicer in italics:
words with lowercase f's.

Words I enjoy saying:

Words I enjoy hearing:

Abbreviations I dislike:
"My bad" (ok, that's not an abbreviation, but I still detest it)

Proper nouns I enjoy:

Words I associate with happiness:

Words I always misspell:
Well [cough, cough] . . . there really aren't any. But I always have to check myself on parsley. Or is it parsely?

Words I enjoy spelling correctly, every time:
a lot

Those were Ella's categories. I'll add one of my own --

Words that, though I love their meaning, I'm too embarrassed to say out loud:

Laura Ingalls Wilder slaps me in the face

As you probably know, I'm pretty outspoken on the topic of censorship. I believe it's my job and no one else's to decide what my kids should or shouldn't be allowed to read. So when Lena received a copy of Farmer Boy for her birthday a few weeks ago, of course I had to stick to my principles and read it first. ;-)

Wow, was it good! I thought I had read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was a kid, even though I wasn't a huge fan at the time. Apparently I missed this one, though. Whoops!

I was totally unprepared for the magnitude of the emotional response I had to this book. Weeks later, I'm still thinking about it. Just to give you a quick recap, at the end of the book 10yo Almanzo is given the choice of becoming apprentice to a shopkeeper (a nice shopkeeper who likes the boy, has integrity, etc.) or staying home to follow in his father's farmer footsteps. Father advises him that if he becomes a shopkeeper he'll have a nice, soft, cushy life . . . but he'll have to depend on others for the very food on his table and clothes on his back. If he stays a farmer he'll work every day from dawn till dusk, but he'll be beholden to no one. He'll be self-sufficient -- growing, raising, slaughtering, preserving, tanning, milking, weaving, etc., etc. -- producing for himself everything he needs.

I find this independent, self-sufficient, beholden-to-nobody thing extremely compelling. I always have. This is why I love wilderness survival books, especially Clan of the Cave Bear. That book is stupid in so many ways, but I've practically got it memorized. And there's more than a bit of that in Patrick O'Brian: the ship is self-sufficient. I admire medieval hermits, too.

So, when Almanzo (of course) turned down the apprenticeship offer it was hard not to take it personally. I am so dependent on others. I don't even know how to grow vegetables in my sunny, south-facing back yard. Clearly, Laura Ingalls Wilder would not approve.

Who was I kidding?

What ever made me think I could go four months without blogging?

It's been five weeks and withdrawal has been severe. Unlike some bloggers, I've never had trouble thinking of "what to write." The only trouble I've ever had is finding the time to write it. And finding the time to visit my blogroll. A lot has happened in the last five weeks, and not writing about it was painful. Here are some highlights.

Daniel is (mostly) potty trained. Parenting tip: when toddler asks to wear diaper, assent enthusiastically. "Sure, honey! You can wear one at bedtime."

Lena lost her first tooth and has advanced from "Twinkle, Twinkle" to "Lightly Row" on her little violin. (For those not in the know, "Lightly" is the second song in Book One of the Suzuki Method. A very big deal.)

Joey is . . . still his usual, inimitable self. After his martial arts class we are standing by the front desk in the "pro" shop and he suddenly says to me: "Hey, mom! You know Baskerville Old Style? Doesn't it have an interesting uppercase J?" Oh, how my typography-loving heart swelled with pride. May you all experience the joy of knowing that you have successfully passed along your most deeply-held values to your children.

Business is going well. It must be. The reason I know this is because yesterday in the mail I received a 350-page catalog from this company, addressed to my business name. Oh ha ha! Steve and I had a jolly old time riffling through the catalog. Hey, we could purchase and install an industrial-strength GOJO dispenser in the downstairs bathroom! I could get a back support belt for the times when Daniel demands to be carried! We could buy Chinese Takeout Containers -- thousands of them -- for storing leftovers! Oh ha ha!

I've also read some interesting books, which I think I'll write about separately. Stay tuned.

Dang, it's good to be home.