Sunday, October 24, 2021

I Love The Christmas Pig

 A Book Review

The Christmas Pig

By JK Rowling

Illustrated by Jim Field

When I was a child, I had a steadfast friend in the stuffed chimpanzee which once graced my mom’s college bedroom. I renamed it Judy after the chimpanzee in a tv show called Daktari, and soon I could not be separated from my friend. I played with her and cried with her and when nothing else could help, her hugs always did. 

My parents quickly became expert at the game of hide and seek required to discover the many places our adventures deposited my Judy.  I never remembered by bedtime where she had been snuggled last, but I knew I’d be eaten by the monster in the closet if she wasn’t holding my hand as I slept. Our milk was delivered to an insulated silver box on the front porch and Judy thought it was the perfect place to catch a nap.

“Der Pig, DP,” is so much like my old friend. And my friend, Judy now wears her Harry Potter Gryffindor robes quite proudly in spite of controversy surrounding JK Rowling. I have to say, I love Hogwarts and the world of magic as much as I loved Judy. I don’t agree with Rowling’s stand on the issues of gender identity, but I still love the world she created and where I spent so many hours with my two sons as we read all the books and saw all the movies together. Now my granddaughter is starting to find her way to identifying with the book loving Hermione and I will be happy to watch that journey wether or not she later decides that she isn’t as feminine as the winter ball version, but perhaps finds herself in one of the other shades of the gender rainbow. I have so many friends who felt hurt and betrayed byJK Rowling’s words that I have to acknowledge that here. The more they loved Harry Potter and found themselves in Hogwarts, the more her failure to defend them hurt. I see them, and have tried separating that betrayal from the stories and movies she created. 

From the moment I finished reading a Harry Potter story, I longed for the next, and once there were no nexts arriving, I tried the other books written by this author, but while they were well written, they were not magic. I never wanted to reread one. I liked the characters but forgot them once I closed the book. 

But in the Christmas Pig I found it again; The magical stuffie that could be so filled with love and tears and secrets that it was alive, The characters who stayed with me and had to be shared with my sons and the grandkids, and the book that begs to be reread again - out loud, with friends and family. 

Jack and Der Pig share so much love that it is heartbreaking tragedy when they are separated and only a night of miracles, and sacrifice and hope can turn that tragedy into something that makes everything better.  

Thursday, August 19, 2021

When I am Fading as Fast as Summer

 Today it is still summer, but school has begun in many places, and will in 11 days here. 

I am as always, still reluctant to give up the warmth and water and grandchildren time that is summer to me. I usually opt in for parades, river time and then give myself time to write. 

But I am also still sick, so summer has also been more time at home, more time in bed, more time getting ready and then not going, or leaving early. Even when grandchildren are involved  

I am never one to say no to a child's birthday party, but I stayed home from my granddaughter's third birthday party. Even now the tears spring into my eyes at the thought.  I got up and just showering and getting dressed took all my energy for the day.  I remembered 15 months ago, at the same place, and realized that that time I couldn't sit on the ground, so I brought a camp chair.  Now I would fall sitting down and not be able to get out of the camp chair.  Even my dining room chair is lifted now and my wingback chair, and a love seat and the bed.  My home accommodations allow me to pretend to be OK, but a lakeside birthday doesn't.

Then last night I took the 7 yo to swimming lessons, and then climbed in the pool to join her for family swim, but my back locked up from cold, even though it actually was pretty warm in the water and after 45 minutes of trying to look ok, I got out and left her with her Dad and Grandpa while I turned on the heated seat in my van.

I have been left at a blank wall by my personal care physician and my neurologist, and everytime I think of the argument I need to have with them,  and I sit at the computer to write a letter, I fade out and can't think.

I don't know what to do or who to see and all the news makes going to medical places seem foolish at best, but this life is only a half life and I need to keep pushing.  The two labels that seem to match most of my symptoms are Parkinson's Disease, and a fairly innocuous sounding, but horrible "Stiff Person Syndrome."  If you have personal experience with either, I am sorry. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

I have lived a Thousand Lives

It's possible that my love of Chicken Little was the impetus behind my Mom's decision to sign me up for the Dr. Seuss book of the month club when I was a child.  I suspect that she was beyond tired of my unquenchable first for another adventure where the sky was falling on the foul friends.

It wasn't really the Cat in The Hat and other Dr. Seuss books which made me anticipate the monthly book in the mail, but rather the books by other authors which were often featured.  Look Out for Pirates became my Favorite, and later my sons and students had to hear it so many times that my copy fell apart, I laminated the crumbling pages and sewed them back together.

I still 52 years later, remember the delight of Fish Out of Water, and Robert the Rose Horse and Sam and the Firefly and Little Black, A Pony and A Fly Went By and . . . Endless hours of reading and rereading, first with mom, then to myself, then to my students and my sons and now to the grandchildren.

From there, First grade became a marvel of weirdness and wonder.  We learned in a phonetic program called ITA, that book was spelled "bwk" and school was 'skwl" and Oh, how I argued with the teacher.  But there were a plethora of wondrous tales all translated into that muddle, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Danny and the Dinosaur, and many adventures with Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat, were waiting for me.  Life was fun, but life as a reader was more than one life, it was an endless dance from one life to another.

Scholastic book clubs became my reward for going to school.  I loved books but hated school.  I was horrible at social skills and soon my main, often only friends, were between the covers of scholastic readers.  I could pretend not to see the other kids avoiding or mocking me, if my nose was buried in a book.

As I moved on from Magic Elizabeth and The Ghost of Dibble Hollow, to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, and then to Jaws and Flowers in the Attic, I began to tell myself stories, and share them with other children and then to write them down.  Deciding to teach Creative writing and Literature seemed a natural progression, but after Student Teaching, I kept finding myself teaching Severely Handicapped students instead, and reading the old childhood favorites to them.

Then I adopted a son and gave birth to a second son, and began writing seriously.  My Dad who also loved books, got esophageal cancer, and in a heart wrenching time, one of the most heartbreaking conversations was when he sighed and looked at his "to be read stack" and said, "I guess I've read my last book."

I'm getting to that point myself and am trying to reverse it.  I don't read unless its picture books to the grandkids, or facebook posts. My attention wanders, I rarely even write comments on the photographs I post or about the ones my friends post.   I tell myself I'm not dying but often I don't believe me.  I have seen so many Doctors and still am working on a diagnosis which looks more and more likely to be Parkinson's Disease.

But if I'm wrong, and I am dying, I am so grateful for the gift that I have been given of living in a time and place where books are abundant and girls are expected to learn to read.  There is only one gift I've cherished more, and those are the people who have shared the best story time snuggles with me.

Friday, August 2, 2019

When Things Don't Matter Which Things Still Do?

When things don't matter, and the only things that matter aren't things, you start looking around at the items you worked so hard to accumulate and realize that they could all be threatened by fire and flood, and you'd grab the people in your life snd gladly let the rest of it vanish in smoke and water.

Then your mind stumbles on that one, old ragged item that you would cry to lose, and if the people were safe, you would actually snatch up and carry away with you.  In my case, it would be a threadbare, faded, stuffed chimpanzee that went from my mom's college dorm room, to my childhood bedroom, and still sits on my shelf, still stained with my tears when first grade proved a scary unfriendly place, and with her ear still holding my whispered hopes the first night I kissed the man I've now been married to for 35 years.

That makes me think of the other thing that would matter.  They aren't the things that can be bought for money, of course not, those are insured and a trip to the market takes care of the issue. The things that matter are those that are one of a kind, hand made, shared with loved ones, passed down through generations. The stories we hear from Grandparent laps to grandchildren ears. each generation gently shaping and adding their own features to a whole that still remains recognizable.

following the youtube video my granddaughter and I drew Cinderella, and hers became a Cinderkitty so we laughed and created memories along with the paper pictures

We went to story time and our octopus shared the same beginning but quickly became our own, and maybe in the future, if climate change allows a future, her grandchild might make an octopus and just maybe they won't be extinct.  People matter, the humanities that allow us to choose kindness matter, the boredom we experience when we unplug allow us to de-tox from the political trash heap and find the spark of beauty we carry.  "We are humankind, and we can choose to be both."

Friday, July 19, 2019

Camping in Nano Land again

At Splash, Springfield

Garden Pirates

painting Desert Sunrise
Writing has been difficult for me.  Once upon a time it took me ten years to finish a novel, so the fact that I'm in another low energy slump isn't surprising.  I love telling stories to kids, and exploring them in my own mind, but the translating to a finished novel is WORK.

NaNoWriMo with its rigid timeline, helped me publish four novels but the last three Novembers have each been interrupted by the death of a parent or my spouse's parent, and writing ceased.

Recently I gave myself permission to doodle in paint.  Its something I never do, because I know I can paint well, not the best but far from the worst, but I chose other activities to make my life work and my dedicating 20 or more hours per painting was over.  Finally, I went to a painting party, a three hour limit, and a lot of that time spent visiting. I only went because my book club was all going, but I loved it.  Lately I've been dreaming of compositions for more complex paintings, but Ive also been doing half hour paintings with my five year old granddaughter.

I decided, after several failed attempts on the same novel, that perhaps my writing needed similar permission to just be, casual, wandering, short stints at the keyboard.  Camp Nano allows that flexibility and instead of a word count, I chose to aim for half an hour a day in July, writing mostly inspired by the objects I've carried with me through my life, in a jumble I've titled, "self-storage."

It's a simple, fun goal and still I've had to forgive myself some skip days. And it's working.

So I'm playing at writing, Playing at painting, and playing with Grandkids.
Tumbling class

I'm still dealing with my health, and no diagnosis, plus now high blood pressure, but Life is still good.

I hope you, too, are getting away from the news and making time for the activities that refresh you. If you have, I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

I love being her Grandma.

There is this girl I love intensely. She calls me Grandma, and lately she gave me, what is undoubtedly the most wonderful compliment I've ever received. She was standing in font of the mirror and I was a couple rooms away, when she called to me, "Grandma, you know what I like about me?"

"I like everything about you. What do you like?"

"When I see me - It reminds me of you."

I choked up, tears instantly springing to my eyes.  There is a lot of amazing beauty in my granddaughter, but there is also a lot of leftover doubt and self loathing in me from my early school days when I was the target of more bullying than I could easily recover from. 

"I remind you, of you?" I questioned

"Yes, we are both Strawberry blondes, and we have the same freckles and the same pink in our skin, and we smile a lot."

She came around the corner then, and clambered up on my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck. I've never felt more blessed, or more loved as she nearly choked me with a hug and dropped a copy of "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" into the chair next to us, "and we both love Daddy and Grandpa and BOOKS!" 

searching for leprechaun Tracks

St. Paddy's world of beauty
So Yeah, if the size of our smiles and what we love is her measuring stick, then being the same, is just perfect.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Writing ???

 Are you still a writer when you aren't writing?

I see that question often in the writing groups where I hang out online, and I have to tell you, I am.

I may not be able to answer for everyone, but for me, eve when I'm not writing, I am. I'm listening, seeing, thinking, and stories are simmering in the subconscious mind.  I'm a writer because everything translates itself into potential stories, everything connects until the universe is only one story and all those dots are only awaiting the lines to stretch between them and show everyone the big picture that was already there.

I'm a writer because I believe stories can generate what our world needs most, the empathy to know that under all the surface skin we see everyday, lies a strong skeleton we are all connected through, a river of red blood and hearts that beat separately yet in a tune so glorious we can't hear it and fail to love.