Friday, July 31, 2009

Abandon All Hope

I am a writing freak.

You know those teenagers you read about who play video games until two and get up again at five to do some more before school? And you think when you read about it that you're glad that's not your child, and you would certainly have something to say if Timmy (or George, or Fred, or Wolfgang- I'm not picky) ever tried that- or if you're my mom, "Where are their parents?"

That's me.

I'm not too excited about video games. We own a lot, mostly because the Principal likes the idea of having them accessible to play at any time- as if he ever had any time- so I have been exposed. I usually break them out every two months or so, play one for two to eight hours, get bored, and abandon it. (The result being that I've only ever finished a game once. And that was Magic Pengel, so it doesn't really count. That was drawing practice. Art, practically.) I'm not capable of sitting that still for that long doing nothing but hold a controller and stare at a screen.

But I am capable of sitting for ten to twelve hours at my computer with my fingers on the keyboard typing eighty words a minute. Go figure.

But because the Teacher needs her kitchen help, and revokes my reading privileges when I spend too much time writing (ie, time I should be spending on chores), I like to do occasional writing marathons. Just to shake the kinks out, get an extended writing buzz (you can get high on plot twists. It's true), and incidentally get the week off of school.

There's this thing called NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month.) It's in November, which is perhaps the worst possible month they could have chosen. You sign up online, and on midnight, November 1st, you start writing. Not before. On midnight on the last day of November, you stop. You submit your word count. If you got 50,000 or more words, you get a shiny certificate.

But if you skip school, chores (or work), eating, and a little bit of sleep, you can actually write 50,000 words in one week. I've done it at least three times now. (I lose count.) The story might suck, but it's fun and a very good way to learn a lot fast.

But because I'm competitive and over-ambitious and possibly brain-damaged, I've decided to raise the bar.

100,000 words. Beginning tomorrow midnight. Ending next week on midnight Friday.

Let the sleep deprivation begin.

(I plan to post my wordcount and where I am in the story multiple times a day. Just because I won't have the mental capacity to think of anything else. Prepare yourself.)

What About Socialization?

What, the form of government that takes all your stuff away and gives it to other people? I'll pass.

But if you mean socialization as in friends and human contact- it's still a stupid question. And it's the one people always, always ask me when they first realize I'm a homeschooler. Right after they try not to recoil visibly, because everyone knows that weirdness is contagious. Why do people ostracize people who are different? It's quarantine, I'm telling you.

But if I were kind and answered the question they mean instead of the question they ask....

Let's think about this. You send your kids to public- or if you can afford it- private school. In this school, and I don't care how good the school is, your child will be in a class with ten to twenty other children their own age. In grade school (I hope I'm getting this right- public school is not something I'm overly familiar with) they stay in the same classroom with the same teacher and the same classmates all day long. In high school, they will change classrooms and teachers and even classmates every time a bell rings. And they will go to another room with- surprise!- lots of kids their own age. If you move, your children will still go to a school that uses the same system- lots of kids their own age. If you don't move, your children will attend classes with kids who are not only their age, but are the same kids they saw last year, and the years before.

As far as social circles are concerned, there are none more stagnant than the mass-school system. If you don't agree, think about it this way:

When your children graduate from high school (or from college, if they go or if they don't have to work through college), they will (hopefully) get a job. What are the odds that everyone in this workplace will be their own age? If they work in McDonalds or a new start-up company, they might. But what about the next job? And the next? Your kids get older. What happens when they work for someone older than they are? Younger than they are?

Think back to your own work experiences. Was there ever a time when you were in any workplace where everybody- from your co-workers to the clients to your employers- were all the same age? Ever?

Sending your child to be herded in a group of kids their own age does not prepare them for the real world. It insulates them from it. You teach them for eighteen years that they only need to be able to communicate with and relate to people their own age. And then you're surprised when they come home and seem to speak a different language. You're surprised when they get a job and don't do well. Why are you surprised? Only being able to communicate with people their own age is what you've trained them to do.

In the real world, the people you meet and have to work with or for are not going to be your age. They might be older. They might be younger. Very rarely you might be born within three years of each other. But if you cannot communicate with someone thirty years older than you are, you have a problem. If you're ever an employer, and cannot communicate with people twenty or more years younger than you are, you have a problem then, too.

I do not have a 'socialization' problem. Everyone imagines that as a homeschooler, I live in a fishbowl. I don't. I've been swimming in the sea my entire life. I've met more kinds of fish than you can imagine.

And the kids you force into the public school system? They're locked inside a sardine can. If they're lucky they'll be able to escape when they graduate. If they aren't, they'll never shake off the sardine mentality.

'What about socialization' is the most unwittingly-hypocritical question anyone ever asks me. I've lived here for four years now, and since I don't wear a tag saying "Homeschooled! Come Make Sure I Know My Times Table!" I haven't had this conversation in a long time. I don't look forward to having it again.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thankful For Weird

Today isn't such a good day. The Teacher and I don't feel too good, so of course we're embarking on a cleaning marathon. This does not put me in a good mood.

So I decided to post the things I'm glad for.

I'm glad I'm warm-blooded. Because if I wasn't, then going to seminary in December when the temperature hovers in the twenties would kill me. And our car's heater doesn't start working until eight or so miles down the road.

I'm glad we have chickens. Because someone has to eat all that eggplant.

I'm glad I'm not a chicken. Because I hate eggplant after the second serving.

I'm glad I have parents with ears. Believe it or not, ears are a bonus in the average parent package.

I'm glad I'm weird. I'd be bored to death in my own head if I were normal. Huh- this explains why most teenagers are glued to their cell phones all the time. Like an oxygen machine.

I'm glad I have an aunt who laughs at me. She says the way I say hello makes it sound like I'm rubbing my hands and cracking my knuckles.

And most importantly, I'm glad I have a chocolate fish waiting for me on Saturday (when I will begin my epic journey to write 100,000 words in one week). Fish fillets, here I come....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fall Back! Fall Back!

I used to think I was destructive. Things break easily around me. I'm more careful now, but things still seem pretty flimsy. I'm the kind of person who doesn't collect nick-nacks not because I don't like them, but because I don't like to be constantly on the edge of breaking things.

Macavity and Deuteronomy make me feel like the gentlest of butterflies.

Example one: eyewitness. We have one of those big, industrial push brooms. (Being an engineer, the Principal has a fondness for industrial-strength anything.) For some reason it was propped up against the wall on the porch brush end up. Not a big deal if you don't experience sudden high winds or an attack of kittens. I walked out one morning and found Macavity on top of the brush- don't ask me how he got there- gnawing on the thick orange straws (made out of plastic, so they aren't straw, but I don't know what else I would call them).

Just as I came back with the camera, the broom fell down. One scared kitty and no cool picture. Story of my life.

Example two: circumstantial evidence. A loud sound occurred on the porch early this morning. I went out and found the screen door (unattached, just leaning against the wall, they aren't that strong) flat on the ground with a flower pot and lots of dirt on top of it. Nearby were two spooky looking kittens. (Spooky is another word for guilty when you're dealing with cats.)

So, if you need a natural disaster to occur at your home so you can fill out an insurance claim, there are two kittens available for rent here. I'm charging $13.25 per hour, but it probably won't take them that long to wreak sufficient havoc. All proceeds go to my college fund.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Teacher is very martyred right now. Groans and moans and variations of 'my life is hard' are the order of the day right now.

Being young and insensitive and unfeeling and never having had to do a gall stone flush myself, my sympathy is limited. All that groaning gets old after a while, after all. And she does this about once a month. It's becoming routine.

Right now I'm participating in a contest over at Writer Unboxed, one of the blogs I follow. We're making up analogies. Right now mine is the second comment, but since it's a week-long contest and we're allowed multiple entries, I expect to post again.

I'm considering saying that 'his body was like a limp hot dog; all the good stuff fell out long ago and the bun is disintegrating in the grease.'

Go check it out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happied, and Why It's Evil

There's one thing that fairy tales have that ticks me off:

And they lived happily ever after. The End.

Seriously, who lives happily ever after? Even if you and your prince are both saints, and your children are saints, and your neighbors and friends and family and politicians and everyone you come in contact with are saints, you won't live happily ever after. If nothing else, the toilet will back up and flood all over the wall to wall carpet. Or something.

I don't object to happily most of the time ever after. That's something achievable for ordinary mortals. (And stories about unordinary mortals- people who never make mistakes or lost their temper or ever act stupid- are really, really boring. Super powers, okay. Super saints, not.)

But when a happy ending is forced on a bunch of hapless, unsuspecting characters, I get mad. The whole point of fiction is to simulate real life so that we can learn a little more about all the things that don't make sense. Unreal happy endings cancel that out.

Case in point: Jacob Black, from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. In the first three books, he is Bella Swan's best friend, guardian while Edward is absent, and then loyal I'll-be-here-when-he-isn't boyfriend. In other words, he loves Bella, and can't make himself stop even as he sees her making choices that will make them mortal enemies. At one point he walks around in a park and tries to force himself to fall in love with any- he doesn't care which- of the girls he sees there. Much angst is spent on the misery he foresees for himself. And the reader is miserable with him, because Jacob is a really sweet guy, deserves better, and isn't going to get it- in part because he's so good and great and all-round awesome. (I like Jacob better than Edward. Go figure.) So the reader is all upset, possibly crying, and praying that the author manages to bring a happy ending out of this mess, even though they personally can't see how it's possible without violating everything that makes Jacob, well, Jacob. And that's sad, but real life works that way and so good fiction does too.

Except that some of those prayers must have hit the mark, because Stephenie Meyer does, right before the end, pull out a happy ending. And like I said, she violated what made Jacob Jacob: his complete, unwavering loyalty and commitment to stick it out to the end. He falls out of love with Bella like it never happened, impresses with a newborn, and snap bang, all that grief he's been angsting over doesn't have to happen. I can see why Stephenie Meyer did it. Sometimes you meet a character in your writing so wonderful it's hard to let them suffer. I used to do the same thing for all my main characters. (Now I stray on the other side of the line. I kill all my main characters off and have a state funeral for them in the epilogue. So far they've died of blood loss, freezing to death, explosion, and several inventive variations of self-sacrifice. I'm working on that.) But I still feel like Jacob Black- the real Jacob Black- died when Bella did, and the Jacob you see after that is just a place holder to keep you from noticing. I really felt, reading the book, that Jacob Black should have stood up and said something like "Help! Help! I'm being happied!"

(Don't get me wrong. I like happy endings. But only genuine happy endings. If Stephenie Meyer had followed the course she set for Jacob- the course of getting his big heart trampled and smashed and really and truly broken- I wouldn't have liked it much, but it would have felt real. And then if she had wanted to come back in the epilogue and show Jacob in five or ten or twenty years- that not-aging thing is pretty convenient- finally pulling himself out of his grief and picking up the pieces of his life and moving on and meeting a nice girl- just meeting her, not falling in love, because this is the epilogue, not another book- that would have been real too and I would have been happy for him and the future she was setting up for him.)

So the thing is, happy endings in of themselves are not evil. Happy endings that seem like they were grafted on from a different set of characters are. A happy ending is good. A sad ending that's genuine is better than a happy ending that isn't. And a genuine happy ending is best of all.
I can illustrate this best with another example from Stephenie Meyer.

Take The Host. (Someday I'm going to own my own copy, and what a happy day that will be, but until then, this is from memory.) Through the whole book, you become more and more emotionally invested not only in the narrator, but in all the main characters. And it seems impossible for there to be a happy ending for anyone without making everyone else unhappy. (And believe me, I was trying to think of one while I read.) Wanderer's strict sense of ethics makes that even harder, because even if everyone else is satisfied, she's not going to be happy unless she thinks that she's done the right thing and no one is being made unhappy by her happiness. (I like Wanderer a lot better than Bella, too. Refusing to conform, that's me.) So through the whole book you're getting ready to have a good cry after you read the last page, and then send some hate mail to the author for somehow not making it all better.

And then Stephenie Meyer pulls one of the best happy endings I've ever read out of the hat. Everyone is with whoever they want to be with. (I better not try to name them or I'll embarrass myself by doing something like mixing up Ian and Jared.) And no one is hurt in the process. And everyone is still the same person they were, and not a cardboard stand in. And there's even a little bit of sadness with the happiness- because, like I said, it's impossible to be completely happy and still human- to make the happiness even sweeter. (I'm talking about Sunny here.)

So in wrapping up, if you haven't read The Host, go do it right now! I mean it! And if you ever want to write a story, and I can't imagine living without writing although most of my friends seem to manage it, remember that being happied won't make your characters- or your readers- happy. And even if you mess up on one project, you can outdo yourself on another.

(I would like to say that I want to write like Stephenie Meyer, but that would be a lie. I want to write like myself, and I want to write better every time I sit down at the keyboard or pick up a pen. But I will say that I experienced some writing envy when I read The Host.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Her Famine, My Feast

The Teacher is on an Internet fast right now. For ten days, she says. (Since I like having the computer to myself, I will withhold skepticism.)

The Teacher spends a lot of time on the computer. A LOT. This is partly because she has fibromyalgia, can't do strenuous activities- like scrubbing pots- blah blah blah. But if we're going to be honest- and why shouldn't I be?- she's had a not-so-mild addiction to surfing for at least four and a half years. Once when it was really bad I started having nightmares about it. There was a chainsaw-murderer running around outside and I had to go and fight him because he was going to kill a nameless (nameless in the dream, I mean, not nameless for privacy; the neighbors we really had at the time didn't really talk to us) neighbor/best friend. And I tried to get the Teacher to come help me, but she was sitting in front of the computer and wouldn't get up. She wouldn't say anything, either. So I went out to fight the chainsaw maniac alone. And then when he had already seen me and it was too late to go back, I realized I had forgotten to get a weapon.

And then I woke up.

So the point is, I fully support the Teacher in her fast this week.

Having the computer to do my own unlimited surfing during my one week of grace before the writing and then the SAT descend on me has little to do with it. Honest. Cross my heart.

Now, what does Janet Reid have to say today?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Pearl

This is one of those shiny bright pearls the scriptures say to not throw before swine. But it's also too beautiful to keep to myself, so I'm sharing it with you anyway. (I say anyway because I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a stupid thing to do. But what's adolescence for if I can't do stupid things occasionally?)

What I'm trying to say is, don't be a pig about this.

Okay. I went to Girls Camp. The first day and a half- all of Monday and Tuesday morning- were as bad as I expected. There was nothing for the YCLs (Youth Camp Leader) who showed up a day early to do. I had a long conversation with some girls, debating just how bored you would have to be before your brain killed itself. We agreed that extended solitary confinement with absolutely no entertainment- not even colored chalk and an empty wall- would probably do it. I contributed that if I were in solitary confinement with nothing but my math textbook I might actually understand the mysteries of 'geometry' someday.

Then, on Tuesday afternoon, the girls arrived.

When you sign up to be a YCL, you get to choose which year you want to do. You can choose 1st years (twelve) all the way to 4th years (fifteen). Three or so months ago I volunteered for 1st years. I don't remember why anymore. I think I was thinking along the lines that they would be small, easily bullied, and wouldn't bully back. (I've met a few people who are afraid of my size. Most are not. A few take that even farther and discover that they can wrestle me to the ground even if they weigh less than half what I do. I don't want to talk about it.) So anyway, I chose 1st years.

As a YCL, you are assigned to the year you choose. Within that year is a group of girls that, along with another YCL as your partner, become your own special responsibility for the next week. You give them presents, make sure they get places on time, see the nurse when they need to, aren't bullied by the other girls, drink enough water, and get their camp certification passed off. For that one week, you're constantly checking that your own girls are always present or accounted for at all times.

So on Tuesday the girls arrived. And when they did, and I found my little group of girls (have you ever noticed how cute twelve year olds are? Especially when they have braces.) the awfulness just stopped. I experienced the strangest thing- it was Girls Camp, and I was happy, all week long. Not my-heart-is-about-to-explode happy, but just constant my-cup-is-full happiness. The kind of happiness that I usually get when I'm on the couch in the air conditioning reading a really good book by a favorite author. But while the cabins had A/C, the walking around we did all day didn't (I sweated like cheese left out on the counter all week), the couches looked like they had housed several tribes of mice at one point even if they didn't now- I didn't try to find out- and I didn't bring any books, good or otherwise, with me. All week long, when I wasn't doing something else, I puzzled about it. I mean, Girls Camp. I'm not supposed to be happy during Girls Camp.

And then, on Thursday- testimony meeting day- Heavenly Father provided the brick I needed. I can be very thick sometimes. The YCL leader- the lady who makes sure we don't sell drugs to the kids and all that- had all the YCLs together doing the whole last-day-speech spiel. Thank you for doing this, blah blah, appreciate it, blah, something to thank you, blah blah blah, the Stake Young Women's Presidency.

And then the brick, right in the middle of her spiel to make sure I didn't hear anything she said.
"You've been big sisters to your girls this week."

I always say I'm an only child. It simplifies things. But I'm not really. I have a sister. She's buried in a cemetery in McKinney. When we can, which isn't very often, we visit. More often we ask the Horde to visit and put a pinwheel on her grave for us. (I've never denied that they have their good points.) (On a side note, visiting my sister's grave while growing up has given me a tendency to plan my funeral. I want a pinwheel on my grave too. If that seems weird, it's actually a really nice effect, especially when the grave has a small stone, which hers does. I've mentioned this once or twice to my friends. They think I'm weird. They're just perceptive that way.)

I never knew her, but I've always missed her. At one point, for a year or so- I think I was five or six- I was wildly jealous of her. Partly because I could tell how much emotional energy my mom spent on grieving and thinking of her- kids are not dumb- and mostly because some well-meaning person told me that she hadn't been born alive because she had done something really good before she was born and so she didn't need as much time as the rest of us. Which is nice, as far as it goes, but I took it farther- so I didn't do something really good before I was born, so I do need more time to suffer and perfect myself? Meaning that she's better than I am? (Which, honestly, she probably is- it wouldn't be hard- but it's hard to have perspective at that age. Now I deal with that by thinking that Heavenly Father will provide plently of opportunities to do impressively good things here. And that she had to give up chocolate ice cream to go to heaven early.)

But most of what I remember of my childhood- my entire life- is being alone and wishing that I wasn't. Wishing I had someone my own size, instead of just my parents, to share things with. Wishing that all my friends didn't have to be invisible, and that I could have someone to climb trees and play spaceship with. (Of course one of the best spaceship trees had power lines right through it and after I showed it to the Teacher she wouldn't let me play in it anymore. Grumble.) Someone to maul the cats with. Someone who would take turns doing the dishes. (That one's come up more often recently, ever since the Teacher was removed from dish-doing duty by fibromyalgia.)

So when the YCL leader said 'you've been a big sister', it felt a little like being hit on the head. (Hence the brick analogy.) The first years are twelve. My sister turned twelve earlier this year. If she had lived, she would have been one of the girls I took care of all week. I almost fell apart right there. But since I have an instinct for avoiding public embarrassment like that, I managed to hang together until testimony meeting. Then I really did fall apart. I cried a lot, and used a lot of my neighbor's tissues, and tried to be quiet so that other people could listen to the testimonies. Crying quietly is something I can do, but it was harder than usual Thursday.

All week long, I had little sisters. Four of them. And they were all of them completely different. One of them was so sweet I'm surprised her family doesn't get cavities from living with her. One of them was sarcastic, and totally got my sense of humor. One of them was a total trooper- she had horrible allergies all week, but managed to have fun and be fun anyway. One of them was shy, and had to be drawn out carefully.

And I know that my own sister would have been completely different, just because there's no such thing as duplicate people. For one thing, looking at the size of her hand- and footprints, she would have been a giant like me. And she was allergic to vinegar. And the rest has always been imagination. Sometimes when the loneliness bites harder than usual, I imagine that if I turn around really quickly, I might see her: a tall, gangly girl who hasn't grown into her own body yet, with bright red curly hair, hazel eyes, and a huge smile like mine, full of teeth. I never turn around, because I don't want her to not be there.

This one week of Girls Camp, I did have little sisters. And now I know just what it is I thirst for, what it is that makes my throat hurt when I see my peers towing younger siblings to Primary, what it is that makes me so ready to play stupid games with my younger cousins, what makes me listen to their simple tragedies and joys, what makes me so patient with them when I know that any of my friends- the ones with siblings I would definitely consider mauling if not murder for- would be bored into rudeness, into rolling their eyes and huffing their breath and dropping heavy hints that now would be a good time to go back inside and watch TV. Now I know what exactly is promised me in the words "families are forever".

And it is almost sweeter than I can bear. I was allowed to taste, this past week. The price was that I had to give them back again.

But I'm still glad that this was my last year of Girls Camp.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Which It's All My Fault

I admit it. I procrastinated. I had all week to get this stuff done. Admittedly it was a busy week, running hither and yon, but there were many hour long gaps where I didn't have anything scheduled. I could have gotten some of this done then.

Tomorrow is Girls Camp. I despise Girls Camp. So of course I'm going ('optionally', ho ho ho) as a youth leader. And I suppose I'll manage to have fun anyway. I better. But I will not have fun because it's Girls Camp. I'll have fun because I have the will to overcome obstacles in the path of happiness. Including, but not limited to, Girls Camp.

I have two presentations to teach, including several getting-to-know-you games I need to prepare to play with my girls. I still need to pack. And my leaders aren't really talking to me, so I don't have a clue of really what will happen this week- but I'm supposed to be part of being 'in charge' of it all.

Girls Camp is a joke. One of those jokes that are so far on the other side of not-funny that you want to punch the joker.

I am aware that this is blasphemy, heresy, and proves once and for all my origin from another planet. People stare at me like I've grown a third eye when I say I hate Girls Camp. It's like saying I hate chocolate.

A while ago, when I was griping about Girls Camp, the Teacher joked that it would serve me right if I became Girls Camp director someday. But if I was the director for Girls Camp, I'd change so many things it wouldn't be Girls Camp anymore. So if you like Girls Camp the way it is, pray I'll never get that calling.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I'm insanely busy and stressed and I won't be back until Friday, and probably won't post again until Saturday.

The only good thing about this is that it's my last year. They can't make me go again next year no matter what.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Awww.... Ha ha ha ha!

Okay, so I finally watched Twilight for the first time. What can I say? We're Netflix people. Plus, I really wanted a pause and fast-forward button for this movie.

So I was expecting it to be a lot worse than it was. Other than terminal stupidity on Bella's part, and creepiness on Edward's (he seems way more like a stalker in the movie than in the book), it wasn't too bad.

Except for Edwards hair. You've probably already seen the movie, but if you haven't- it reminds me of the Teacher's chicken, Quetzlecoatl. It goes every way but down. Like feathers on steroids. Or maybe an irish sea urchin. Every time the camera did a zoom of his head, and included the hair, I cracked up laughing.


Edward does his ominous first appearance, the whole walking slowly alone into the cafeteria.
I choke on my tongue.

Edward has dinner with Bella in Port Angeles. I keep snickering every time he leans forward and says something forebodingly ominous.

Edward and Bella are out in the woods and Edward is demonstrating how un-human he is (did I mention terminal stupidity? Oh, I know you're a vampire- now let me lead you out into the woods where no one will hear me scream). I have a hard time breathing, I'm laughing so hard.

The Cullens play baseball. I keep giggling every time Edward's hair comes on screen.

Edward is throwing and being thrown by James. I've been exposed to the hair for over an hour now, so I'm in the not-really-silent snicker range.

Edward and Bella have their romantic dance at the prom where Bella expresses her desire to be a vampire. Edward tilts his head forward to kiss her and brings the hair to front and center. I almost swallow my tongue.

So yeah, I don't think I reacted to Edward the way they wanted me to. I can only hope that his hairstyle doesn't become popular, because otherwise people will think I'm weirder than they already do. The best thing I can say for Edward- the actor, actually- is that he did a good job acting some really corny lines. But they overdid the makeup. The eyebrows looked like Groucho Marx. That really didn't help my problem with the hair.

P.S.- Direct quote: the Teacher said I 'blushed delightfully for every kiss scene'. I hate being a redhead. I really, really do.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things I Do To Drive My Parents Insane (Part 1)

Again, this is a part one just because I suspect I'll have more to say about this later.

I love music. Not all music, (any song with the words honky-tonk deserves to go to the big incinerator in the sky), but a lot of music. I like to know songs well enough so that I can have them running in my head without earphones or speakers. It's like constantly being plugged into an ipod, even in No Hand-Held Electronics Zones. Like an SAT testing center, for instance.

I also like to know which song will play next on a CD. This doesn't involve memorizing the little piece of paper on the back of the case. Knowing the next note requires intensive training.

Which means that the CDs I really, really, like get played more than once. Or twice. More like fifty or sixty times. In a row. And I play them loud, because what if I need to leave the room and don't remember to pause it?

The Principal bought some Evanesence CDs. They've played nonstop since they came into the house. The Teacher has been contemplating murder under her breath. Fortunately I'm aware that I'm safe until the threats can be heard from the other side of the house. Then I'll start using headphones.

I think I'm a weird teenager, someone not fitting any patterns, and then I do stuff like this. I think adolescence may be unescapable.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Tale of Illicit Skin

Modesty is something that's important in my church and in my family. This makes buying clothes for a six foot teenage girl more interesting than it might otherwise be, and leads to interesting gymnastics in the changing room. Bend forward, sit down, stand up, do a little shimmy- if nothing comes apart it's good.

For the most part, modesty in not something I struggle with. I'm coming more and more to the conclusion that all tall girls are self-conscious, and when you're self-conscious it's easy to walk on the safe side of modesty.

But sometimes I like to sprawl on the floor to read or write or play video games or watch a movie. Not because the couch isn't big enough, but because there's something very freeing about lying on the floor.

And sometimes when I do this, my shirt and my pants part company.

The Teacher started a game to remedy this some time ago. It's called "Illicit skin ha ha ha ha!" Just like money on the floor belongs to Mom, illicit skin- that stripe of skin between my shirt and my pants- is a free tickle. And I'm ticklish (shh! don't tell!). Not as ticklish as I used to be thanks to a certain someone, but I am ticklish. So the result is that when I sprawl on the floor, the first thing I do before picking up my book, pencil, or controller, is yanking my shirt down. Just to be safe.

And if this was the end of the story, it wouldn't be very fair. (The Teacher doesn't believe in fair anyway.) But the beautiful thing about rules in this house is that they are never double standards. The Teacher would say this is because of her gracious nobleness blah blah. I say it's because I'm too old now for her to get away with it.

The point is that sometimes the Teacher likes to sprawl. And her shirts are normally shorter than mine anyway. And sometimes her clothing parts company. And sometimes a little bit of skin gleams like silver against the couch.

And then...!

Monday, July 13, 2009

In Which My True Love Abandons Me

I'm bookholic. I go into book-withdrawal if I go for a week without reading. (This is the extreme downside to girl's camp and EFY. No books.) I love the feel of a book in my hands. I love the sound the pages make when they turn. I love the smells of new vs old books. I love the way they line up on shelves, ready to be friends. I love the words on a page, in straight lines, with secrets and stories waiting to be read.

The side-effect of this is that I go to a lot of libraries. I love libraries.

This means a lot of library cards. We live in a rural area, so we have to drive fifteen minutes to an hour (depending on the direction and what your criteria for 'town' is) to find civilization. I can name eight off the top of my head without going to look, and one of those cards is for Austen and is for more than one library.

Normally Libraries and I experience a sunny relationship. Aside from the occasional late fee on my side, and not having a book I want on their side, we get along fairly well.

Right up until I turned seventeen. Austin has (had, but that's the end of the story) an annoying policy towards people who are out-of-county, which we are. Only check out so many books, can't renew online or over the phone, blah blah blah. Unless you're a child or a student, in which case you can do no wrong. When we moved here I was thirteen. I was a child. I got a child's library card. The Teacher and I shared this card so that we wouldn't have to drop everything and drive an hour in every time we had overdue books. We really only go into Austin once a month or so, sometimes twice.

But now I am seventeen. I am no longer a child. They won't let me use my library card. I have to get an adult library card. (This has a happy ending; the Teacher got a library card and found out that their policy had changed- of course they never told us this- and the books got checked out anyway.) But I am seriously annoyed.

I can't buy cigarettes. I can't buy beer or any other alcoholic beverage. I can't drive (yet- fear and tremble!). But I can't use my library card, because I'm seventeen.

Stupid library.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Not Carsick, But Sick of Cars

Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather ride in an air-conditioned car than actually walk anywhere in three-digit weather. And cars these days are far more comfortable than, say, a covered wagon.

My aunt took me home today, along with her family of husband (1) and children (2). In one car. With everybodys luggage. And the box of cool stuff that she just 'forced' me to salvage from the get-rid-of pile. And I finished my one book within half an hour because I'm just not capable of planning that far ahead. And my cousins were watching cartoons in the back seat. (For the record, I could quite happily live without ever hearing the words 'Strong Bad' ever, ever again.) It was more than a little crowded.

And then there was the restaurant where we had lunch. I'll begin in the bathroom, since that's the first place I went. (I don't know what the men's room was like and I don't want to know.) The first thing was that the lighting was really bad. They had a heavy glass shade over the one light. Which meant that when you went in the stall and shut the door, it was dark. Very dark. I had to find the toilet paper by feel. I suspect that there was a secret conspiracy to keep the bathroom dark so it wouldn't have to be cleaned as often. The air freshener, wherever it was, was strong enough to make my head hurt in the five minutes I dared to stay in there. When I went to wash my hands, I turned on the supposedly hot tap (after I had already soaped my hands) nothing happened. Unless you think that an irritated grumbling from somewhere inside the plumbing is an acceptable something. I tried the other tap (my hands are already soapy at this point, remember). Fortunately, the cold water worked.

Sometimes I think the Greeks and the Romans were onto something when they believed in omens.

The wait was long. First we waited. Then my aunt got up and snitched the menus from another table. We deliberated on what to order for about twenty seconds before the waitress materialized and asked for our order. We ordered drinks and proceeded to memorize the menu while we waited for the waitress to come back. We ordered, and two of the orders were things (unmarked, by the way) that were not prepared until after five o'clock. I and whoever else it was who was unfortunate hastily (and somewhat randomly) chose something else. The waitress disappeared again. (In kindness to her, she was apologetic throughout all of this- whenever we saw her- and admitted to being new.) I began the next Great American Novel on some mostly intact straw wrappers. (Fun Fact: if you write small you can fit two lines of writing on each side of a flattened straw wrapper. Your punctuation is going to look weird, though.) I got maybe halfway through a small paragraph before I sloshed my drink on it. Still, that burned about forty minutes or so.

My cousins were bored to death. So was I, but I had a pen and am slightly more experienced in entertaining myself. My uncle finally fished out his palm pilot- or other electronic, nameless thing- and started a game of pictionary. (This is where the first person writes something, the next person draws a picture of that, the next describs the picture, until you've gone all the way around. This is somewhat like the telephone game, which I will not waste time explaining here. Then you repeat endlessly in the Resturant of Doom.)

On my turn- the next to last one to start a round- I wrote 'a very long wait'. I worried- after I had already passed it off to my seven-year-old cousin- that this might be a hard one to draw. Not so. It came out the other end as 'never get served food in this resturant'. (Mispellings withdrawn. You're welcome.)

Sometime during pictionary a plate of food- gasp- arrived at the table. But no silverware. Then two more plates. Then a third plate, which was the wrong order and disappeared again. Then my aunt went and snitched silverware from the same table she got the menus. I waited for my food. The palm pilot continued its rounds around the table. My food arrived. I had tacos.

We ate quickly. (At this point it was almost three. We walked in around one-thirty.) No one was either disgusted or impressed with the food, but everyone agreed that it was not worth the wait. I began to feel sick before I got up from the table. I felt sicker when I went to stand with my aunt at the cashier. (On a side note, she mentioned that she could have fed us all at On The Border for the same price. If you happen to not live in Texas, On The Border is one of the best chain Tex-Mex places available. And the service is better.) My aunt noticed and asked what was wrong. I admitted to certain up-and-down motions going on inside.

To cut the suspence off at the knees, I did not throw up. I almost wanted to, except that it would have prolonged the car trip. The Teacher met us at a turn off point so the others could go to Tourist Mecca and took me home. Having discussed (and cussed) the resturant at some length, it's been decided that the cheese was the processed plastic kind. I'm violently allergic to processed cheese; if it really was that, then I- and everyone else in the car- is lucky that I didn't throw up after all. I still don't feel to great, but I'm not about to die either, so I suppose that's an improvement.

In conclusion: if you are ever in Lampasas, do not eat at Medinas. Not worth it on any count.

I'm home and happy to be so. My kitties are still cute (I was really worried about that). I'll sleep in a bed instead of on a couch (although it was a very comfortable couch, it's not the same.) And I'm not carsick. I'm just sick of cars.

(Chocolate fish!)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Power of Suggestion

It's finished. Every box has been unpacked, sorted, repacked, stored, or banished to the garage. The desk is clean again. (We've cleaned it maybe six times this week. It attracts mess like an industry-strength magnet.) The floor is pristine, even vacuumed.

And I'm clearly psychic. At the beginning of the week, I looked upon the office and made suggestions for the future. I suggested that since my aunt and uncle are both in scouts, besides homeschooling, they needed a shelf for non-book things. Like buckets of supplies or to hold bags or other scouting things. I suggested that all the books could be gathered into one side of the room so you wouldn't have to skip from one side of the room to the other looking for a particular book. All the bookshelves lined up together. I suggested that the Evil White Shelf was evil and deserved complete and total exile to the garage. I suggested that a tall cabinet/bookshelf really wasn't serving its purpose efficiently (the doors won't shut and since it was right in front of the closet that was more than slightly inconvenient) it could be repurposed to begin a new life as a garage-located pantry. I suggested that a smaller, more benign cousin of the Evil White Shelf could be rescued from the depths of the garage, cleaned off, and used to hold not-quite-scrapbooking-supplies. I suggested that the closet could become a craft/file storage closet instead of an inaccessible hole. I also suggested that the blankets currently taking up ten percent of the space in the closet could be relocated to the hall coat closet.

My aunt is not an entirely suggestible person. This is not completely surprising since I get my tendency to passive resistance from her side of the family. (The Teacher has said, more than once, that I'm a master of passive resistance. I'm sure, remembering context and tone, that she didn't mean it as praise.) Some of my suggestions were immediately embraced. (Like the blankets and a few others.) Others.... not so much.

So it is with a sense of half awe, half smug surprise, that I look around at the end of five days and realize that every suggestion I made (I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but anyway, all the ones that I actually meant) was, eventually, acted upon. The books are consolidated. The named furniture has departed. The Evil White Shelf is gone, gone, gone. The closet looks halfway friendly to the approaching supplicant. The non-book-shelf holds its unliterary burden with pride. The Evil White Shelf's cousin serves well and unobtrusively, which is the way furniture should be.

And now it's over, and tomorrow I go home to kittens and schoolwork and my own room which is a hypocritical mess. (On the other hand, it's only hypocritical if I pretended it was clean and happy and the way I wanted it to be.) But when I think about those suggestions that became prophecy, I am reminded of things I already knew.

Sometimes all you need is someone else to say what you're too afraid to think for yourself. Every time I wanted to get rid of a piece of major furniture, my aunt freaked out and went into stuff withdrawel. "I can't, can't, can't!" But in the end, (and many boxes later), it turned out she could.

The other thing is that I have a really awesome aunt. It takes courage to admit that you need help beating your stuff into submission. It takes something more than patience to let that help be your seventeen-year-old niece. Who may not be the most tactful or respectful of persons. ('Respect your elders' always seemed like a nice saying... for the elders. I don't believe in one way streets. If you want my respect... earn it. Inevitably, I don't seem to get along with some unnamed people very well.)

The moral of this long post is that sometimes all we need to change our life is a suggestion.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Evil White Shelf

In my aunt's office (and it really is an office now, we're almost completely done- we contemplate not having much to do tomorrow, which will be an absolute hardship) there was a shelf. It was a tall shelf. It was wide. It was white. It creaked and groaned and fell apart when you didn't take things off of it with the right amount of tactfulness and courtesy. It's hard to be courteous when you're dead dog tired. And when you moved the shelf, which we did several times, it didn't matter how tactful we were, it fell apart in protest. Like a furniture tantrum.

It's the Evil White Shelf. (I just love my capital letters.) It looms, like some kind of albino vampire, waiting to fall on you. It doesn't matter if you stand just next to it or across the room. Even the other furniture is afraid of it. They shuffle away from the Evil White Shelf, fearing even its touch, in case the falling apart plague is catching. And the Evil White Shelf is wimpy. Load too much- and by too much I mean more than a box per shelf- and it screams in agony. The Evil White Shelf reminds me of a two-year old. It exists to whine and be wimpy.

I hate the Evil White Shelf.

My aunt is also not entirely fond of the Evil White Shelf, but she believed it to be necessary to the happiness and welfare of her office. Every time I said "I want to get rid of the Evil White Shelf," she said "Nooo! Not the Evil White Shelf! I can't survive without it!" (Editors Note: commentary here may vary from actual real conversation in some technical points, but be assured, loyal readers, that our diligent staff of purple giraffes in charge of all abridgment make sure actual meaning is not altered.)

But this afternoon, the final, fatal thing occurred. We unloaded the last things from the Evil White Shelf. We cleaned out the Closet of No End. (Seriously, it took forever to find the floor.) There was no longer a purpose to the Evil White Shelf's continued presence. Aha! I dragged it away to the garage, never to be seen by mortal man again! (I was careful to throw it into a deep dark deadly corner in case my aunt has a relapse and ever considers needing it again.) Of course the Evil White Shelf went out fighting, disintegrating many times on the way to its doom. I laughed and picked and hauled it on, refusing all pleas of half measures, where it might conceivably edge its way into good graces again.

I am absolutely merciless when it comes to bad furniture.

P.S- I offer no pictures of the Evil White Shelf, because it's already in the garage and anyway it doesn't deserve to be so honored. And you know what the Evil White Shelf looks like. You have one in your own home... waiting... watching... biding its time until it can hold something important and fall apart again...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Excavation Underway

At this point in our archaeological venture only an expert (or extremely hopeful optimist) can detect the signs of an underlying office. This is the 'before-before' picture, taken before I arrived.

This is what we did Sunday evening when we were bored and didn't have much else to do. It consisted mostly of moving mess from one surface to another, but having a floor was very useful the next day.

Here the floor has begun to disappear again, but the office is emerging. At this point, we've removed three pieces of furniture and brought two in (one of them one of the ones we removed, brought it to hold things off the floor so we can walk around. Walking is nice. You can't see it in the picture, but if you could see it, I would advise you not to get attached because it's not staying.) The desk has been rotated to the window, one of the bookshelves was moved to a different wall with the other bookshelves, another bookshelf/cabinet was moved to the garage to start a new life as a pantry, and the microwave cart has mysteriously evaporated.

Here are the books as they look now. Be glad you didn't see how they started. The brown bookcase is the one we moved. The next item on the excavation checklist is to re-excavate the floor and get rid of enough stuff so that the floor is no longer a filing cabinet.

This has actually been a lot of fun. Hard work, but fun. And all the little trinkets from ancient times bestowed on the native worker don't hurt either. Two words: Chocolate. Fish. It weighs more than a pound. Life is good when you're an archaeologist and you don't have to register all these little finds with whoever archaeologists register. Treasure is everywhere.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm Back! Sort of

Well, I'm back from EFY- for a given value of back. I'm actually at my aunt's house. (Here I go pretending anyone who doesn't already know this actually reads my blog.)
She has found traces of an office in one of the rooms of her house, and has called me in to help excavate it. We'll begin by removing the top layer of dust from the fossil underneath. (The dust is composed, as far as I've seen, of wood fragments (papers, cards) and small gravel (everything else on the floor).) When the dust has been analyzed and disposed of, we'll get out the hammers and chisels and start knocking off the large pieces of extraneous stone. (Excess furniture that needs a new home.) Then we'll begin with the brushes, moving carefully so as not to damage the artifact underneath, but quickly, as some things, like newly excavated offices, can be damaged by overexposure to procrastination and needs to be removed to a safe place as soon as possible. This archaeological project will be hopefully completed (or at least majorly progressed) by Friday, when she'll throw me out of the house and take me back home to my kittens. I miss my kitties. But some sacrifices must be made in pursuit of knowledge, science, and bossing someone else around. (She did this for us a few months ago, and a year or so before that. What goes around comes around.)
And so now I boldly go where no man has gone before... tomorrow.