Tuesday, April 8

You know you get up early

...when the cats have NO freakin' interest in getting up at the same time as you.

Sunday, April 6

The YA fiction generation gap

From time to time I look back on the novels I read as an adolescent and think how hopelessly outdated they are. I noticed not long ago that Monica Hughes' Invitation to the Game had been re-released under a different name—predictably, it hasn't done very well. Kids whose introduction to dystopianism was The Hunger Games aren't going to go back to Monica Hughes, any more than kids who read Harry Potter are going to go back to The Dark is Rising.

I imagined that it's always been like this—one generation's classics are boring to the next. But then I wondered: is it really the same as it's always been?

In some ways, Invitation to the Game was already a bit old-fashioned when I read it, not because of the publication date or the subject matter, but because the author used references from a different time. (A Pierrot? What's that? I had no idea until I googled it a decade later.)

Monica Hughes was 65 when she published Invitation to the Game*, and she wasn't unique among the authors I loved. Madeleine L'Engle published A Ring of Endless Light at 62. Lois Lowry was 56 when The Giver came out, while Robin McKinley was a relatively young 41 at the time of Deerskin.

Contrast that with today. J.K. Rowling published the Harry Potter novels from ages 32 to 42. Stephenie Meyer was also 32 when she published Twilight. Suzanne Collins leads the pack at age 46 when The Hunger Games came out, and Veronica Roth brings up the rear at age 23 at the time of Divergent.

The age gap between authors and readers of great YA fiction seems to have gotten smaller. Has anyone done a statistical analysis of this? Or tried to figure out why? It seems odd to me now that the women writing for youth were once older; that always must have placed them at a disadvantage. Yet we, the young readers, tolerated it. We noted their anachronisms and loved the books anyway.

Or maybe we didn't. Harry Potter turned up during my high school years. Before that, there didn't seem to be runaway YA literary successes the way there are now. Perhaps no one knew how successful YA fiction could be because fewer people close to contemporary with the youth were trying to write.

* I'm counting years from birth to the year of publication, not looking at exact dates, so ages may be off by a year.

Saturday, April 5

But how do you buy toilet paper??

You put it off until you are down to five rolls (instead of two like most people), and then you older a LOT all at once from Amazon or Wal-Mart and hope it comes in time.

Yes, Wal-Mart. Keeping it real here, folks!

Actually, to be perfectly honest, this is the way I did it even when I had a car. R and C thought I was completely nuts. R was like, "You know you can buy toilet paper at the store... right?"

Wednesday, April 2

Oh, the irony...

At the same time that I'm worried about summer because of the heat, summer is usually my least favorite season because of the cold.

Anyone who lives in the South has experienced arctic air conditioning, and I don't cope with it well at all. People say, "Just put on a cardigan," and it sends me into gales of laughter. A cardigan doesn't begin to help.

Now that it's warming up, they're cranking up the A/C at work and I've already had my first day of headaches caused by not being able to warm my hands and feet.

Like I've said a million times, I enjoy a fashion challenge, but this summer of trying desperately to stay warm indoors and cool outdoors will be a stretch even for me.

Saturday, March 29

Okay, right now I wish I had a car.

Just ate the last clementine from a bag I bought last week. Carrying home a bag/box of clementines rarely happens these days.

Friday, March 28

I am doing fine...

...but secretly I'm still worried.

Mid-September through mid-May, I can do car-free with no problems. I feel almost guilty about how easy it's been.

The other four months of the year still have me spooked. I haven't thought up a single summer-survival strategy besides the UV parasol (purchased in January)—I'm banking on that thing to keep me in business. I give it about a one-in-four chance that I'll make it into June and decide that going car-free was a bad call.

It's almost like planning for a snowed-in winter. Lay in provisions. Lay in entertainment. Lay in everything you need, because three months from now it may be hard to go out of your house and get it...

My neighbor is worried about me.

Every time she sees me, she offers to give me a ride somewhere.

I always smile and say, "Thank you, that's so nice—but I'm doing fine!" I don't think she finds that convincing.

Sunday, March 23

Don't forget your car-free meds!

I've had seasonal allergies since childhood, but this is the first season I'll be consistently taking an antihistamine all the way through until July.

Less time in a car means more exposure to pollen, and I don't want to be stuck in my house because I'm sneezing every five seconds outdoors!

Monday, March 17

Two minutes on Facebook

I looked someone up on Facebook today. With the best intentions.

Not being on Facebook gets in the way of relationships. It gets in the way at work. It gets in the way of participating in the community.

But I'm not sure I can help it. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready for Facebook.

I looked this person up today, with great intentions, and when I saw their profile suddenly all I could think about was how they like that show. Are you freaking kidding me?? They watch and like that show?? Now I'm always going to know that about this person! I won't ever forget it! OMG HOW CAN THEY LIKE THAT FREAKING SHOW?!?

And I'm talking, here, about a show I've never seen.

And I'm the person who's always annoyed by how we define ourselves, and each other, by our preferences in movies, books, music, television. I'm the person who rolls her eyes when people explain who they are, and try to get to know who I am, by talking about these things.

Yet the minute I get on Facebook, that's what I turn into. Petty. Judgmental. Annoyed. And mad at myself, and sad.

That's why I'm not on Facebook. I hope that someday I'll be able to handle it. But until then, this is how I protect myself from disliking who I am.

Thursday, March 13


I chose my urban Durham home in large part because it is within 1-2 miles of many things. I can walk to grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, a mall, a dry cleaner, etc. And it's just a few minutes by bus to the downtown station.

But one thing I didn't check out before I bought my house was the state of the sidewalks. Mine is an older neighborhood, and the sidewalks are in sorry shape. Roughed up, cracked, uneven, pooled with water after only a little bit of rain. There are short stretches of gravel or no pavement at all.

These aren't sidewalks where you can push a baby in a jogging stroller. Not sidewalks where an elementary-aged kid can ride a bike. These are sidewalks where you have to watch your feet and do a bit of hopping and skipping.

It's sad, and I'm sure it's part of the reason why I don't see more people getting around on foot. Consciously or unconsciously, most people will avoid an unpleasant walk if they can, even if the distance is fairly short.

My understanding is that about eight years ago, Durham identified city sidewalks that needed work. My street and many others in my neighborhood are on the list. But progress seems to be very slow, with only a few of the identified projects receiving funding.

I'm not willing to live in a suburb just to get clean, even pavement a developer put in a few years ago. But it's ironic that the nicest sidewalks I see are in places where many people will never use them, because they lead to nowhere and nothing.

Monday, March 10

"Drive safely!"

I always answer, "Thanks, you too!" but I should probably come up with something better.

Thursday, March 6

I just realized

that I haven't gotten behind the wheel so far in 2014.

Not that I'm trying for some kind of streak or anything. I'll probably have to drive to PetSmart next month at the latest.

I'm a tiny bit nervous about it, to be honest. When I was younger, I had a fear of driving—I didn't get my license until I was 21—and it seems that not driving on a regular basis is allowing the fear to come back. I should probably use ZipCar once a month just to keep myself desensitized.

Wednesday, March 5

For what has been done

Last year on Ash Wednesday (different calendar day, of course), I got an email about a girl who needed a new foster home.

Little did I know that that girl had a sister, and that they both needed a new foster home in two days.

I've never explained on this blog why I took R and C. I probably never will explain it. It always feels too private, too much their story rather than mine.

I am always glad that I did it. But more than a year later, the way I reflect on the decision is still laced at times with anger and sadness.

At the agency, of course, for not planning better for R and C. And at other people who I felt were capable of doing more for R and C than they did.

And yes, at myself. Always, first and foremost, at myself for all the ways in which I was just an okay mother to R and C rather than a great one.

Most days, I accept that fostering was (is) a messy experience. Most days, the strongest thing I feel is gratitude for the positive outcome of R and C's case, and for the role I was privileged to play in that outcome.

But some days I still with myself too much discuss, too much explain. Some days, I feel like the spiral staircase never ends.

Tuesday, March 4

Great security plan

I left my keys at work.

Not the first time I've done it, and I'm sure it won't be the last. You'd be surprised how easy it is to leave your keys at work when you 1) never have to lock up the office at the end of the day and 2) never have to unlock a car at the end of the day. Keys are superfluous up until that moment when you're standing on the front steps.

So in that moment, on the front steps, I'm kicking myself. But I'm also congratulating myself. Because I have prepared for this! A while back, after the girls left and I was no longer driving home from work every day, I buried a key in my back yard, knowing that sooner or later I'd need it.

Now, of course you'll ask why I didn't just give the key to a neighbor. The sad truth is that I don't have that kind of relationship with any of my neighbors. Not to say that I'm not friendly with any of my neighbors, just that it's not the kind of friendly where I'm going to give them the power to break into my house.

Yes, I've lived here for coming up on two years and I have no real friends in the neighborhood, just people I wave at and chat with. Don't bother chiding me for this; my social worker already did it when I was getting licensed to foster. Because she just assumed that this lack of friendship was due to anti-neighborliness on my park, rather than a generalized awkwardness that makes me clueless about how to do things like knock on someone's door and make friends. I digress.

So back to the part where I buried a key in my back yard. I remember very clearly the morning when I did this. I remember the old pill bottle I bummed off a friend who takes lots of allergy meds, I remember the hole I dug, I remember the rock I placed on top.

So when I realize that I've left my keys at work, I don't worry. I just pick up a likely stick and head confidently around the house, feeling oh-so-smart for having saved myself from my own carelessnesss. I brush back the leaves, turn over the rock, and dig easily through the damp ground.

The key ISN'T THERE.

Which is impossible. I'm sure this is the right spot. I'm sure this is the right rock.

Picture me for a confused five minutes, turning over rock after rock and digging hole after hole with my stick. The bottom of my yard is starting to look a little strange. I'M starting to look a little strange.

Finally I throw down my stick in disgust and start walking in a circle to consider the problem from a new angle.

And there, on the other side of a tree, is the pill bottle with the key. On top of a pile of leaves. A darn SQUIRREL, or whoever the heck has been digging in my back yard, somehow got under this rock and pulled out this bottle. A key to my house has been sitting here in plain sight since... who even knows how many weeks it's been.

So, folks, that's today's PSA: really DON'T leave a key outside on your property. You think you're being smart, but squirrels are much smarter than you and I. (And not nearly as loyal as neighbors.)

Sunday, March 2

I'm starting to hate it

seeing the articles, hearing the laughing conversations, about what a freshman at a local university does during breaks to earn money for her expensive tuition.

As though it's something shocking.

What's shocking: that one student chooses to be this type of actress? Or that thousands of others on the same campus choose to watch the product she makes?

Why is she shamed, and not all the men who suddenly wanted to be friends with her on Facebook? Why is she shamed, and not the other freshman student who recognized her?

I'm so sick of this—of inconsistent standards. I try not to think about it, because most days I'm sure it will never change.

I can't picture the alternative. Most days, I think that no matter which way society goes—more conservative, more libertine—women will still lose.

Saturday, March 1

Practical ethics

Taking (okay, really more like watching, I probably won't do any work) an ethics course with Peter Singer! Yay.

Thursday, February 20

Sisal-rope posts

Ender's done a number on some, but others are still in great condition.

Anyone want? Free is a great bargain for the DIY cat owner.

The bus as boyfriend substitute

There's the a.m. driver who calls you "sweetheart" or "baby" before the sun comes up every day, that suave p.m. driver, the male passenger who leaps out of his seat so you can take it, the other male passenger who considerately closes the window so your hair won't get blown...

Of course, there's also the pushy boyfriend aspect.

Wednesday, February 19

How they got home

Naturally I had been wondering about the crowd I see on the bus every day and how they got home in the Snowpocalypse when no buses were making it in.

This one lady who works a ways outside of campus said she hiked to a frat house, knocked on the door, and asked, "Could one of you gentlemen make me a sign?" They made her a sign that said "Durham," and she stood on Franklin Street and hitched her way home.

In retrospect, this is precisely the way I should have done it, except then I would have had to lie to my mother about how I got home. (Sorry, Mom.)

Friday, February 14

Enjoying our stranded day

I'm still too spooked to get on a bus today, but tomorrow I'll venture out to go see a friend.

The cats slept all day. I worked, cleaned, and hauled downed branches off the sidewalk.

Don't worry, I also sat around and ate popcorn and watched YouTube. Man, it is good to be home.