Sunday, November 25, 2012

Have Fun This Summer

I found it on the bottom shelf of one of my bookcases.  I knew exactly what it was, just from touching the narrow spine.

And when I opened it up, the days came rushing back. We were all writing our innermost thoughts on the endpapers of the Olympic Cougars eighth grade yearbook. 

I now live three thousand miles away, but it doesn't seem like such a distance.  That time seems as if it was three weeks ago.  And my nerdy, silver-braces-wearing, wants-so-desperately-to-be-popular thirteen-year-old life drifts back to me, etched into the light blue inside cover, superimposed with a faint shadow of Mount Rainier.

I really did think I was on the brink of cool.  But when I read the messages to my eighth grade self, I see how far away that brink really was.

Some of my favorites:

    "...we had fun these 2 years trying & trying for cheer (leader).  But at least we tried.  Have a great summer."

    "... I think you are a swell person even if you did get straight A's in Algebra.  See you maybe this summer."

    "...It's been fun having you in band.  See ya next year."

    "...Keep playing the clarinet.  See you this summer, probably most of the time on Sundays."

But my favorite one was:

     "...Have fun this summer.  Don't get into to(o) much trouble."

Sure, because there was a ton of trouble you could get into in the spare time not taken up by playing the clarinet or doing Advanced Algebra problems or chatting up a boy or two at a thoroughly supervised Sunday School activity?

So why would I write for this unsettling, uncertain time?  Why would I write for middle-graders?  I get to bring it all back, if I want to.  I can relive it or completely change it.  I can switch up the heroes and villains.    

Friday, September 7, 2012

Go Ahead ... Try to Make a Mistake

Make a mistake with a first grader, and you can pretty much slough it off, letting it trickle away unnoticed.  

But with a third grader?  Not so much.  I now have eighteen new personal assistants in my life.  These kids could charge for their services.  

Don't even think about making any kind of technological snafu on the giant smart board, because they will sniff it out and point it out in three seconds or less. 

"Mrs. might want to minimize that screen.  Here.  Let me show you..."

"That's not how you get there (impatient, trying-to-be-polite sigh).  It should be in your Favorites file."

Then a few grumblings and looks my way that clearly said, Who let her in here?  And, My second grade teacher knew way more than this bozo.

I get up at 5:00 a.m., but I might have to bump it back to 4 if I want to stay ahead of this game.

But it's worth it with this group.  I can already tell.  They won me over from the very first second, because they may love books and writing as much as I do.  

It's so quiet when I'm reading aloud Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, that you can almost hear all eighteen of their heartbeats.  They laugh and look crestfallen at all the right places.  When Charlie Bucket's family was starving, they had expressions of devastation.  And when Charlie found the Golden Ticket, they gave a collective gasp that could have been heard from down the hallway.

I can't wait to read what they write today.  I'm dying to hear what happens with the alien spacecraft and the next chapter of "Man Vs. Vampire".  Eight is definitely not too early to think about a writing career.

And they can always put themselves through college with their personal assistant gigs.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Sweet Life

When we drove up, my niece was in full sprinkler regalia, also known as, just her underwear.  I want to be a two-year-old again.  You can get away with pretty much anything.

"We're going to go to dinner," my sister-in-law told her.  "Let's go get some clothes on you."

"Nope," she said.  "I want to be naked."  She then proceeded to peel off her remaining clothes, and she settled in on the front step where she had an excellent view of the neighborhood.  That doesn't go over very well if you're not two.  

The life of a two-year-old is sweet.  There are so many perks that sadly go unappreciated until many years later.  

If you decide you don't want something, you merely cast it aside, and somebody else picks it up for you.

You get hungry, and all you have to do is say, please, and a super delicious fruit roll-up magically appears for you.

You decide you're tired of walking, and you merely go boneless, and somebody has to pick you up.  It's the rule.  

Sometimes we get tired of listening to other people go on and on and we just want to hear the sound of our own voice.  It's nice to have the floor.  When you're two, you can make grand announcements and nobody thinks you're crazy or pompous.  This thought must have occurred to my niece when we were all having dinner.  She sat up a little straighter in her highchair and called down the table, "I have no hair!" Then, perhaps realizing that didn't quite make sense, she added, "I have no hair on my knees!"

That got a good laugh from the adults, and suddenly it was as if she'd just written a really good op-ed piece for the New York Times.  Her audience continued to laugh and quote her.

Another thing that's great about being two, is that you don't have to politely pretend that you're too full for dessert, even though you've been secretly plotting how you're going to grab a chocolate chip cookie on a faux bathroom break.  My niece just raised her voice above the table din and called out, "I'm ready for my cookie!"

Yet another perk for the two-year-old set is the great napping option.  Others might look at you disdainfully if you should choose to take a power nap, say, on the job.  But if you're two, it's encouraged.  You can nod off pretty much anywhere and a soft, comfy blanket is bound to automatically appear.  There's also the fantastic pajama option.  Should you desire to do so, you can don your pjs at virtually any time of the day, even on a trip to the grocery store,  and no one will call you white trash.

So to all you Judgy McJudgers out there:  Should I happen to nod off at work in my jammies with a little cookie drool in the corner of my mouth, just move along, people.  Nothing to see here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Do I Really Have to Read That?

They were an arm's reach away from the candy at my table.  The four of them were a perfectly synchronized team, eyes never wavering from the Jolly Rancher bowl, waiting for my attention to be diverted.  

I've always loved a challenge.  "Are you guys in high school?"  I smiled at the shortest one, but she right away deferred to the group leader who had her hand hovering, one step closer to the bowl, poised and ready.  The Hudson Book Festival was in full swing and there were plenty of shiny objects to steer them away.

The leader nodded quickly toward the two on the end.  "They're in seventh."  She elbowed her second in command and edged ever-so-slightly closer.  "We're in ninth."

I decided I'd better make my move, seeing as I was quite obviously on borrowed time.   

"What kind of books do you like?"  I tried to make eye contact with the Alpha.

She gave me a you-must-be-crazy snort and spoke for the group.  "We don't like books."

Then what are you doing at a book festival?  My inside voice shouted.
I wanted to grab the leader's iPod and surreptitiously download an audio book, but I knew there was no time.

Reinforcements were needed.  I searched out Walter Dean Myers on the other side of the room, wondering if I could beam an emergency mental message over to him.  Maybe he could leave his table and perform an intervention of sorts.

As the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, his platform is straightforward and no-nonsense.  "Reading is not optional."

Even though it seems like such a simple statement, it motivated me to try harder.  Getting a book in a child or a teen's hands is a duty that belongs to all of us--as teachers, as parents, as writers ... as interested and interesting people.  Walter Dean Myers says that "people who read well earn more, have more rewarding lives, and pass on their skills to their families."

I decided to try again with the Alpha.  "I'll bet you have a book--one book--that you liked." 

One of the seventh graders rolled her eyes at her.  "You don't like nothin', unless it's about love."

My books are realistic fiction.  Maybe that wasn't their thing. "How about fantasy?  Have you read Watersmeet?   I pointed toward my friend, Ellen Jensen Abbott, a couple of tables down.  "There's even a sequel.  And I think there might be some love."

The other seventh grader did a quick candy scan of Ellen's table.

I pointed next to me.  "How about Danielle Joseph?  She has a new book out.  And her first one was made into a movie.  Definitely some love in that one."  

The movie part got a half a raised eyebrow.  

Then the leader gave an almost imperceptible nod and they moved on.  

I sighed.  I didn't know how they'd done it, but my candy bowl was completely empty when they left.  But then I had a silver lining moment.  What the ReadingRebels didn't know, was that I had purchased those Jolly Ranchers the day before at the dollar store.  Who knew how old they were?  Maybe there'd be time for them to read when they were on their respective couches, recovering from their triple root canals.

I couldn't be sure, but around 3:30 that afternoon, I thought I caught another glimpse of them.  One of the seventh graders had something under her arm.  

And I think it might have been a book.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don't Be Afraid to Tell it Like it Is

Rudolf Nureyev once said, "Any artist is the bringer of light."  It's a good thing for me that there are many different kinds of artists.  In a family of musicians and artists and writers, it was pretty apparent when I was about five that drawing wasn't to be my destiny. 

 I'm sure my cousin, Jon Kiphart (second from the left), will be thrilled to see my creative interpretation of him doing "jazz hands".

My mother was an incredibly talented artist, and she always appreciated and celebrated anything my brothers and I created.   I just found some of my writing my mom saved from the fall of 1968 and the summer of 1969.  So much was changing in the world, but not in my corner of it.  


I hated keeping that diary.  My teacher made us all do it, and even then, I would rather have been off by myself making up my own stuff, rather than sticking to the nonfiction details of the day.  The Vietnam war was in full swing and the Civil Rights movement was Front Page news, but I was writing about making "dezines" and flowers and seeing a film ... and some girl named Jeanne who was bugging me while I was trying to write and read my "Happy Hollisters" library book.  (I've never been one to confront someone or make waves, so per usual, I got back at Jeanne in print.)

On a personal note, my Aunt, Patricia Kiphart, died on May 4.  She was the first one on the left in my drawing at the beginning of this post and, in case that didn't quite capture her good side, she's the first person on the left in the photograph below.  

My brothers and I loved her and our mom thought the world of her.  My artist/writer brother, Tim, could have done a much better job with her portrait, and I hope he doesn't mind that I'm sharing some of the wonderful words that he wrote about our mom's beloved big sister:  

"She was my Aunt Pat, and I really loved her.  There was (and is) something wonderful about every sibling in that family; they were all extremely smart and nice and 
really funny.  After having lived almost fifty years and experiencing countless other families, I think the Conway brothers and sisters are the only
set of aunts and uncles I've ever come across where there
wasn't one person who didn't love being around any other.
My family, the Haywood five, loved seeing them every time.  
Patricia always told it like it was.  
And then she'd hand you a five spot."

Auntie Pat, thank you for all those five dollar bills, and for teaching me to tell it like it is.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Homelessness is in Your Own Backyard

Twelve-year-old Emily Kassing from Dallas, Texas is the kind of person you don't hear about everyday.  After reading Also Known as Harper, she got to thinking about the issue of homelessness.  She wrote to tell me that she had discovered that there were 5,600 homeless men, women, and children in her own community!  This affected her so deeply, that she felt that she needed to do something, and that "everybody needs to help make homelessness go away."  

So Emily did just that.  She conducted a coat drive for homeless people in her city.  Emily impressed me so much, that I felt like others needed to hear about her!  She and her parents kindly agreed to an interview on The Backstory.  

Please tell us a little about your project.

EMILY:  I sent out letters to everyone in my neighborhood ( I just stuck letters and a garbage bag in 300 mailboxes) to let them know I was trying to help give encouragement to the homeless in my community.   I mentioned that I read your book and was inspired to try to help...because of reading "Harper."  I invited them to collect coats and put them on their front porch a few days later and I would collect the bags .

 A week later I went and collected all the white trash bags I saw.  My goal was to collect 100 coats. I collected 97! 

I donated them to the Homeless Shelter in Dallas, called the Stewpot. I really think all the children who are homeless, along with their parents, would love the coats: especially this winter. 

 My family and I had a complete tour of the Stewpot and learned all about the homeless services they offer and just how big and sad the situation is.

How did you come up with the idea?

EMILY:  After I read your book, I realized that homelessness is real. It is really happening everywhere...and to children...that could be just like Harper.  It really broke my heart.  So I really wanted to help them.  This is one thing I wish I could change about the world.

What did you enjoy most about your project?

EMILY:  My favorite part about my project was... collecting all the coats!  My family and I really had no idea if we would get any coats; it was really a gamble.  

The Saturday morning came to start driving around, and my sisters and brothers came with me.  When we saw the first white garbage bag, we all screamed.  It was a joy to drive up and see all the bags on the front porch of houses. It was so awesome and humbling to see that so many wanted to help the homeless.  I also received some letters with the coats encouraging me.. It was so rewarding.
If others wanted to do a similar project, what advice/tips might you have for them?
   * I think an adult should help you.
   * I think you should read "Also Known as Harper" so you can get a glimpse of what homelessness is really like. You can feel for the people who are in that situation.
    * Before you send the letters, make sure you know where you will be sending the coats.  I think it helped that people knew about my desire to donate.
    * If you have siblings~ ask them to help if they can.  Many hands made light work.

I want to thank Emily and her parents so much for their time and for agreeing to this interview.  Emily has a forever place in my heart, and is a living example that nobody is too young to make a difference in the community.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Would You Say Such a Thing?

I have always loved my quirky students the most. Most first graders have a mind of their own, anyway, but the bold, brazen ones hold a special place in my heart.

I love the grand announcements they make. Some of them are so good at this, that you can almost hear the fanfare of a full orchestra building behind them. One of my favorites was from a class long ago from a girl I'll call Scout, because she had the spunkiness of Scout Finch.

"I'm getting a new sister," Scout announced.

She was an only child, and this was definitely exciting news. The class started to gather around her.

"We're adopting her," she went on.

"That's wonderful!" I said. "Is she a baby, or is she an older child?"

She looked thoughtful, as if she was searching for the right answer. "She's two. Her parents were in a car accident."

At this point, I was trying to keep the tears from coming, and there was a blanket of hush over the crowd. Scout truly had the floor.

"How sad!" I said. "Did you know her family?"

She nodded. "They were our friends."

I searched for the right thing to say. "Well, she's so lucky to have you."

She smiled, definitely pleased with how her announcement had been received.

Her mother came by to pick her up for an appointment that afternoon.

"Congratulations!" I said.

Scout's mother had a puzzled look on her face, as she stooped to tie her shoe.

"On your adoption!" I said.

More puzzled looks. "We're not adopting ..." Her voice trailed off, as she slowly turned toward Scout.

Scout's focus was on the nearest escape route. She shot me a "thanks-for-snitching" look.

Her mother's voice boomed through the open window as they headed out to their appointment. "Why would you say such a thing?!"

But I knew why. Scout had her audience. She got to provide the details she wanted to create the story she wanted them to hear.

She was a born fiction writer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Geeky Writer Joy

I'm still basking in my geeky writer joy well over two weeks after attending the annual SCBWI conference in New York.

Everyone takes away a little something different from the award-winning authors, publishers, agents, and people who appreciate all-that-is-the-written-and-illustrated-word.

I have attended many a conference, small and gargantuan, over the past years. At each one, I've gotten tidbits to take away with me; to mull over and to incorporate or apply to my own writing.

This year had a very common thread for me. The thread was simple, but it spoke volumes. It was basically, be kind to each other. Support your peeps. You are all in this thing together. When you break it all down, we all have the same hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities. Prop up your fellow illustrators and writers -- whether it be with just a kind word of encouragement, or a positive comment on a blog post.

Writing and illustrating can be a lonely process. Hang together and support each other.

And now ... the answers to the last Trivia Tuesday questions. (See previous post for pictures, etc.!)

1. Who is the awesome author/SCBWI Team Blogger/cupcake aficionado on the right?

That is Jolie Stekly, a.k.a. Cuppa Jolie!

2. Identify the author of the upcoming, One For the Murphys.

Linda Mullaly Hunt's One For the Murphys will be released this May!

3. Name the Texas Sweetheart on the left.

That is Jill Alexander, the author of The Sweetheart of Prosper County and Paradise.

4. Okay, I sort of cheated with this last photo. That is Peggy Conway Haywood, my mom! It is one of my favorite pictures of her. She taught me to appreciate and cherish art in my life!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SCBWI New York and Trivia Tuesday

This past weekend was the "Lucky 13th" Annual SCBWI New York Winter Conference, so my questions for Trivia Tuesday, all have to do with Kidlit! And just for the fun of it, I will remove my "No Googling"rule today. Tomorrow I'll post the answers, with links!

1. Who is the awesome author/SCBWI Team Blogger/cupcake aficionado on the right?

2. Identify the author of the upcoming, One For the Murphys.

3. Name the Texas Sweetheart on the left
(there was a hidden clue in there!).

4. Name the illustrator/painter in this amazing retro photo:

And finally, not really a trivia question, but more of a polling question...This last photo is of a gentleman who sets up shop around the corner from my daughter's apartment. Who thinks we should get him to do, at the very least, a break-out session at the next conference?

And last, but not least, the answers to last week's trivia questions:

1. What was the name of Erica Kane's high school sweetheart on All My Children? Phil Brent.

2. Name the host of Hollywood Squares. Peter Marshall

3. How many choices were behind the wall on The Dating Game? 3

4. What was the name of the Brady Bunch's dog? Tiger

5. Who were the only two members of the Partridge Family who actually sang? Shirley Jones (Mom Partridge) and David Cassidy. The rest were pretty much Milli Vanilli.

Bonus: On what day was Jennifer Tompkins born? Sunday

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Airplane Compliments: I'll Take 'Em Where I Can Get 'Em

"Wow!" said BadBreathBusinessManNextToMeOnAirplane. "I've never seen anyone do a crossword that fast in my life! We haven't even taken off and you're almost finished!"

I nodded, trying to convey an expression of both humble thanks and uppity wisdom, quickly trying to cover up any part of the page that might say "People Magazine" on it.

That's right. I can finish the People Crossword puzzle in about seven minutes or less --even if there's an unknown rapper as the double-big-money word. (Five minutes, if the d-b-m is an aging soap star, game show host, or cheesy singer from the seventies or eighties.)

My brother, Tim, has this skill, too. We got it from our mother, a charter subscriber to People. She would punish us mercilessly if we did the crossword before her--extra tongue lashings if we did it in pen AND got the word wrong.

Anyway ... I digress. This is Trivia Tuesday, and my questions today have double (possibly, triple) value to you, the answerer. Not only will you have the possible satisfaction of getting these correct, you may also be able to use these in a future People crossword --or even a USA Today crossword.

Remember the NO-GOOGLING rule.

1. What was the name of Erica Kane's high school sweetheart on All My Children?

2. Name the host of Hollywood Squares.

3. How many choices were behind the wall on The Dating Game?

4. What was the name of the Brady Bunch's dog?

5. Who were the only two members of the Partridge Family who actually sang?

Bonus: On what day was Jennifer Tompkins born?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Medal Monday

My friend, illustrator and storyteller extraordinaire, Mary Jo Scott, had no idea at the time, but she was handing me a National Book Award winner, and a Newbery Honor book. I'll read anything MJ recommends, so when she showed me INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai last summer, I went home and devoured it in one sitting.

The story and the writing are beautiful and poignant, but Thanhha Lai went so much further with her story. She pulled off what only the best of storytellers are able to do and made me (a middle-class, American-raised, mostly caucasian girl) identify with her main character, a Vietnamese refugee.

Maybe "identify" isn't really the best choice of words. The author made me remember my friend from high school, also a Vietnamese refugee. People treated her as if she was stupid and as if she didn't exist, because of her broken English and her second-hand clothing. But she ended up in my Physics class as my lab partner. I was working my tail off, trying to figure out the lab, and I so ignorantly discounted everything my lab partner was trying to contribute. She must have been getting frustrated, because I couldn't understand what she was trying to say. But she remained patient and polite.

It turned out that I was going about things completely wrong. Thank goodness I finally let her help me, because she truly saved us from failing the lab assignment. I can vividly remember our eyes meeting during that moment of realization! We couldn't stop laughing and we became friends after that. I still have the doll she gave me from Vietnam.

Oh, and it turned out she had lived in a French-speaking country briefly, after she fled Vietnam. So she was translating everything from Vietnamese --into French --and then into English.

Thanhha Lai: Congratulations on your well-deserved awards. And thank you for reminding us to read the beautifully written pages, and not just glance quickly at the cover.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fiction Friday and ... Bewitched Trivia Revealed!

First, the answers!

1. Where did Darrin and Samantha Stevens live? (1 point each for city and state; 5 bonus points for actual street address!)

Darrin and Samantha lived at 1164 Morning Glory Circle, in Westport, Connecticut.

2. What was Darrin Stevens' job?

Darrin (both Darrin #1 and Darrin #2!) worked in advertising. (By the way, did Darrin #2 really think that Samantha wouldn't notice that he and #1 had done a switcheroo on her?)

3. Name Darrin's place of employment. (Bonus point for city and state!)

Darrin worked in Manhattan for McMann and Tate.

4. What Hollywood Squares comedian played one of Samantha's relatives?

Paul Lynde played Samantha's Uncle Arthur.

5. What was forbidden in the Stevens household?

Witchcraft/magic, of all things (!), was forbidden in the Stevens household.

The best thing about putting these trivia questions out there, is that I often end up getting more facts to tuck away in those corners of my brain that should actually be housing more important things. Anyway--got a great add-on to this week's questions from my friend, School Psychologist Extraordinaire, Kristina. Kristina is from none other than the real Westport, CT, and actually lived by the actor who played Darrin's mother on the show. How cool is that? The closest I ever got to a Stevens was through the screen of my TV in my living room in Auburn, Washington.

Now, for you writers out there, on to the Fiction Friday part ...

Over the years, I've often gotten so devoted to my favorite TV characters, that I have wished, like Kristina, that I could go over to their house and hang out and play with their dogs--really get to know them.

It needs to be the same with my characters. I'm at the point in my WIP where I need to get to know them better. I need to sit down with them like they are my best friends (or my worst enemies!). If I sat down and watched TV with them, what would they laugh at? What would make them cry? What books would be on their bookshelves? What kind of snacks would they go get from the kitchen? Who would they pick for president? Board games or video games? Kickball or Dungeons and Dragons?

If I get to know my characters well enough, their stories will tell themselves.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trivia Tuesday!

I had so much fun with last week's questions, I decided to crank out a few more!

A little something for everyone today ... I've decided to do a Bewitched theme this time. It doesn't matter if you caught it first run during prime time, or if you tuned in to Nick at Nite.

But remember ... keep those googling thumbs free! And for those of you hard-core googlers with voice recognition: we will be having none of that. You must search the recesses of your technology-atrophied minds!

1. Where did Darrin and Samantha Stevens live? (1 point each for city and state; 5 bonus points for actual street address!)

2. What was Darrin Stevens' job?

3. Name Darrin's place of employment. (Bonus point for city and state!)

4. What Hollywood Squares comedian played one of Samantha's relatives?

5. What was forbidden in the Stevens household?

Stop by tomorrow for the answers!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Both of us. The same.

We were twins. I knew she had noticed it, too, because she hugged her knees and smiled at me from across the floor.

Both of us. The same. White knee socks with red argyle diamonds. I loved those socks. My mom had bought them for my first day of kindergarten, and it was my first time wearing them.

Her name was Verna, and we knew we were best friends right from that first day at Pioneer Elementary. We sat next to each other any chance we could, and we scooted our rugs together at rest time. I remember she smelled like a combination of my backyard and our laundry basket. When we put our arms side by side, we smiled at how much tanner she was than me.

I was a walker, and an entire group of neighbor kids would make our way home together after morning kindergarten, people peeling off the group, one by one, on the way home. But on that first day of school my mom and my brother, Tim, came with the car to pick me up.

"That's my best friend!" I was so excited to spot Verna, walking all by herself, sticking close to the curb like her mother must have taught her.

She was walking in the opposite direction from my path home, and my mom pulled the station wagon over to offer her a ride.

Tim and I slid over to give her room and I can vividly remember her sitting forward on her seat, telling my mom how to get to her house.

My mom must have been surprised at how far Verna would have had to walk. Her house was all the way under the highway, and when we pulled up to let her out, I could see why her mom couldn't come to pick her up. Her car was in the middle of the front yard and it didn't have all of the wheels on it.

I was so excited to wear those socks again, and I couldn't wait for my mom to wash them. Verna wore hers again right away the very next day. And the next one after that. Finally, mine were ready to wear again, but this time I remember that Verna's looked dirtier than mine. I told my mom this when I got home, and she said that Verna's mom probably didn't have a washing machine. Not everyone on the reservation had running water.

I remember wanting my mom to wash those socks for her in our machine. But something kept me from offering. Even in kindergarten, Verna had a quiet pride about her.

We used to trade sweaters sometimes on the playground. Hers was thicker, and it had better cushioning when we wrapped them around the bottom rungs of the money bars, each throwing one diamond-socked leg over, and hooking our arms in place to twirl.

I wish I still had those argyle socks -- and a friend like Verna.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Secret Confession

I have a secret confession to make. I love Batman. I always have.

I'm not talking about a secret crush on Adam West or Val Kilmer, or even my old E.R. heartthrob, George Clooney.

I'm talking about the comics and the TV show with the caped crusader, the Batmobile, Gotham City, and of course ... the Bat Cave. Oh how I longed to be a fly on the wall of Wayne Manor.

The show started on this day in 1966, and TV has never been the same for me. Never since have my brother, Tim, and I gone to the lengths we went to for any other TV show. We risked life, limb and reputation for our love of that show.

Even though Batman was my favorite, my brother and I were equal opportunity superheroes, and we also gave Superman and Batgirl some air time in the back yard and in the vacant lot next door.
I think I still have shoulder scars from the safety pins that held my cape. My mother was constantly missing her best towels and scarves. There are probably still bits of gravel in my knees from jumping off the backyard fence and the picnic table with my cape.

I'm pretty sure that Super 8 footage still exists of some of my brother's flying leaps. We used to beg my dad to run the projector backwards, and there's nothing like a dive from the top of the swing set in slo-mo.

I loved the power and freedom that I felt when I got a good sprint going and my cape snapped in the wind behind me. And I'd still take Batman's utility belt over my cell phone any day.

Now I need to go do some yoga stretches or something. I've got to stop jumping into my Honda like it's the Batmobile. But I'll be back tomorrow. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Answers for Trivia Tuesday!

I have to say that the answers people gave to the Trivia Questions were probably better than the actual answers--definitely more entertaining! Thank you for playing! I am already hard at work coming up with next week's questions.

Here are the answers:

1. When is David Cassidy's birthday?

April 12

2. Name two possible desserts in a Swanson's TV dinner from the sixties and/or seventies.

Brownie, apple crisp, apple cake cobbler, and I think there was one with cherry cobbler--yum!

3. What was the first of the Nancy Drew books?


4. From where did Kurt Cobain hail?

Aberdeen, Washington (Same as my dad!)

5. (Bonus): What was the first line of ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.?

"Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Secret Talent

It's true. I have a secret talent. It runs in my family, and it's ... a flair for useless trivia.

I can't remember fifty percent of my shopping list, nor do I remember my kids' names on a consistent basis. But I can remember exactly what was in a Swanson's fried chicken TV dinner, circa 1969.

I've had this ever since I could remember. I could be tearing my hair out, trying to remember an algebraic formula, while quite easily pulling David Cassidy's birthday out of the card catalog of my mind.

It's not a particularly useful trait to have ... unless I happen to get a hankering to overthrow Alex Trebek.

So in honor of my useless talent, I am making this Trivia Tuesday. There are no prizes, other than the distinct satisfaction or discovery that you may also have this admirable hidden talent.

Here goes ... oh wait--no using The Google or other such cheater pants methods. Your answers have to be pulled out of the deep twists and turns of your own brain. You can put your answers in the comment section--but no reading the answers of others before you reply!

1. When is David Cassidy's birthday? (You didn't think I was going to leave that one out, did you?)

2. Name two possible desserts in a Swanson's TV dinner from the sixties and/or seventies.

3. What was the first of the Nancy Drew books?

4. From where did Kurt Cobain hail?

5. (Bonus): What was the first line of ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.?

And: Get your mouse off the Google button, Cheater McCheatsley. (You know who you are!) I'll post the answers tomorrow.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Didn't Really See That ... Did I??

I didn't really see that ... did I??

It was around 10:30 this morning, and Daughter #2 and I were on our way to church. We were on the freeway when a car came up next to us in the left lane. He was staying right with us, side by side, and he almost seemed too close--as if he was in my personal space. I don't know why, but that's always a little unnerving to me, like when someone steps up too close to you in the grocery store check-out line.

Then I caught something else out of the corner of my eye--a brown bottle that he kept tipping up to his mouth. Was that a beer that he was drinking for breakfast?

Daughter #2 leaned forward to look around me and nodded her head emphatically. "Yep, it looks like it." She whipped out her ever-present cell phone. "Want me to call 9-1-1?"

I've always taught my first graders and my own kids not to tattle. I don't want to hear about it unless someone's bleeding or in danger, I always say.

I also like to give someone the benefit of the doubt. "Maybe it's just a soda that looks like beer," I said.

Daughter #2 nodded, but skeptically this time. "Like a root beer."

"Uh oh." I hung back and let him get ahead of me. "Is he weaving?"

Daughter #2, ever the voice of reason, followed the car with her eyes as it went slowly side to side, from the shoulder and back to the center line. "Looks like it."

As soon as she tapped in the numbers on her phone, I felt a sense of relief.

"Making that call could have saved someone's life, I told her."

Sure, maybe we got a perfectly innocent Sunday morning root beer drinker pulled over, and at the very most, cost him ten minutes of his day. But I was at peace with my tattling.