For five seconds, it looked like we would be living in Chicago when we returned from New Zealand. During that brief moment, I researched Chicago's public schools and neighborhoods. There was a map.
I did the same thing when we decided to move to Seattle, and I don't mind the extra work. Having a plan--even one that will change before we enact it--settles my brain. Most of the Chicago details have spilled out of my brain already, but if you want to know about Seattle public (elementary) schools and neighborhoods from someone who's researched them to the Nth degree, I'm your girl.
I'm not sure how Drew Barrymore wound up in here, but this is absolutely a face from my future. This expression will show up on 2008 any day now.
As a kid, I was a dead-ringer for Drew Barrymore. Even strangers would stop and ask, "Has anyone ever told you you look like Drew Barrymore?" Only every day since E.T. came out. (To be fair, Drew probably has millions of people reminding her that she looks like me. Right?)
Since 2008 looks exactly like me, we have to assume that she's going to grow up with Drew Barrymore's face. And this one? This "You must be fucking kidding me, mother" face? I know it's coming.
I promise to tell you when it happens.
Have I mentioned I'm a stickler for rules? The SSS rule is that I choose an image randomly. So this week our screen shot is actually a digital photo that wound up in the wrong desktop folder. But fair is fair.
In my house, we call this guy, "Michele's Turtle," because he and I shared a religious experience. Last October, while on holiday in Australia*, we spent a day on the Great Barrier Reef. I really wanted our girls to see it, and by the time we're back in the Southern Hemisphere, there may not be much of it left! Plus, who am I kidding, I love sea life.
While my family played on the beach, I snorkeled around the reef. Blue sea stars, dozens of sea cucumbers, lots and lots of fish. I even stumbled upon a blue-spotted stingray and terrified us both.
Nearly a year later, I still wish I'd snapped a photo of that guy.
At one point, before the ray incident, I turned to find this turtle hunting for his lunch. We swam together for the better part of an hour. His grace--diving for food and reaching upward for air--mesmerized me. Eventually he swam into water too shallow for me to follow. But wow, what a day!
*When you live in New Zealand, you have to go to Australia. Also, nothing else is remotely close to New Zealand. . .and 1977 and I hadn't visited for decades. It was a great trip.
I'm new in Seattle, so I'm wading through the social structure looking for kindred spirits.
This week, when I finished the public draft of my manuscript, I needed to celebrate with someone. I shared the good news with an acquaintance and she was ecstatic.
"Tell me about this book!"
"It's contemporary YA about a guy whose mom is murdered on graduation day."
Her transformation was immediate: blank eyes, fake smile, squared shoulders. "I only read books for grown ups." And then she glanced furtively, as if the book police would arrest her for talking about YA.
I can't befriend a book shamer. I'm not embarrassed of what I write or what I read.* Here's a sample:
That's just one shelf of the 36ish in my house. (I'm not counting the children's shelves.)
I'm not ashamed of the YA or the commercial fiction. I don't need to justicy the Griffen & Sabine trilogy (though really, the letters! The envelopes! I swoon.) I also don't feel compelled to explain the two copies of The Time Traveler's Wife (or the other three copies floating around my house.) Hey, there is American Erotica on the shelf, too. (Also, I hadn't realized how similar the spines are for I Thought My Father Was God and In a Sunburned Country.)
I thought about cropping out the shelf below for aesthetic reasons, but why? It elaborates on the story. Liberating Grammar, written by one of my favorite college professors, is quite good. You probably recognize the Harry Potters (including an English, i.e. Not American version. There's a story behind that one.) What else is down there? More Bill Bryson, The Help, Erich Segal's Love Story. (There's a story behind that, too. Two stories, actually.)
I'm not ashamed of any of that. I didn't remove a single book from that shelf. (In the interest of full disclosure, note that I did remove a chocolate bar from the shelf. When Dove milk chocolate is found in the house, it's a sign. It was delish.)
I'll photograph every shelf in my house if you want. (Hey, that would be fun! Take photos of your closest book shelf and share it!)
Read what you love. Graphic novels ring your chimes? Go for it. You only like 18th century French literature? Bon appetit. Everything by Stephen King and no one else? Go ahead and scare the crap out of yourself again and again.
Being ashamed of what you read is one step removed from lying about who you are. Read what you love. It's the literate equivalent of letting your freak flag fly.
Don't be ashamed of what you loathe, either. I could never get into David Foster Wallace, no matter how hard I tried. Most fantasy is just not for me. Ditto space operas. Most of Shakespeare, even though they might revoke my bachelor's degree for admitting it.
I love lots of different kinds of books. I love adult contemporary. And I love really good science fiction. I love nonfiction. I love reading middle grade books (Is 2008 ready to read The Penderwicks yet?) and I love reading YA.
I love writing YA. In fact, I am happier writing YA than I ever was writing adult contemporary.
We've gone round and round the Internets about books for boys, books for girls, books for grown ups. It's all BS, people.
Books are for readers. Read on.
*I am, however, somewhat ashamed that I haven't organized my books in the eight weeks since we moved in.
[shakes Magic 8 Ball]
This was the story of my Internet life in NZ. Nope, can't have Netflix. Can't watch movies on Amazon Instant. Can't use Google.com (!!!!) It was a little weird.
Traveling, sure, I expect hiccups in Internet performance. But living somewhere for over a year without movies? That was rough. Since ours was only a sabbatical (i.e. we weren't going to live in Christchurch forever,) we bought only the necessities. Everyone had a bed and our kitchen had (most of) what we needed. But we didn't have a DVD player*, nor did our computers like playing DVDs that weren't manufactured in the US.
Basically, we missed a lot. Thanks, Netflix.
*LOTS of movie rental spots in Chch, though. That was a nice throwback.
Ever since Sunday's Screen Shot, I can't stop thinking about Christmas. And now it's July, so Christmas talk is fair game.
Christmas is my go-to happy thought. When I was a child, people treated each other in December the way I thought they should treat each other year round. Now, when I am feeling overwhelmed or don't know what to do with myself, I play Christmas music.
I know it's weird.
Take pregnancy--one of the longest marathons of discomfort and uncertainty--I played Christmas music in July. In May. Whenever I felt like I needed a sliver of calm in my day, I pulled up some "Winter Wonderland" or "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and the calm took over.
There was this period when iPods couldn't hold all my music. I would gladly drop some Paul Simon or U2 or Beatles tunes if that's what it took to get all my Christmas music on the device. Maybe that speaks more to my taste in music than my state of calm, I don't know.
I do know that Christmas is coming. Wrapping presents, filling the advent calendar, baking cookies, making special crafts, telling stories. It's all on the way. And it's all to that very nostalgic soundtrack.
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: