Monday, August 14, 2017

Social Media and Socialization

It's funny how we weigh the value of our online friends and acquaintances. Social media has become so ingrained in our daily lives, that it's a regular point of discussion how we should interact with others online, like which topics we should or should not publicly post. If it's ethical to post photos of other people online without their permission, including children. During the election, I saw dozens and dozens of Facebook posts from people who claimed they would block or un-friend anyone who posted anything in support of Trump. The rule that I have follow for my own social media management is "Does this person post things which contribute to my overall enjoyment?" If the person regularly writes things that are not interesting, or intentionally inflammatory, or go against my morals and ethics, then I simply unfollow that person. I have also used this logic to initiate or maintain online relationships. For example, there is a person on Facebook whom I knew only peripherally during high school, but she always posts links to articles that I love. The topics range from feminism and women's studies, child rearing, history, literature, pop culture. Anyone who has such a wide range of interests is someone I consider worth knowing.

One of her recent posts was an article discussing the recent exhumation of several bodies from the burying ground from an old Carlisle school. The remains of the three Native American boys are being returned to their tribe so that they can be honored and the proper ceremonies can be performed.

When I was earning my Master's in history, I took a course about gender and sexuality in Native American culture. I did my final paper on the Carlisle schools, so ever since I have tried to learn even more about the topic. Right now, I am making my way through a book about football legend Jim Thorpe.

I admit that I didn't even know he was until I visited the Football Hall of Fame a few years ago. The section dedicated to Thorpe is the one thing I remember, since I'm really not into football at all. It was there that I first learned about one of the most amazing athletes in American history; Thorpe is known for football, but he also played professional baseball and basketball and won Olympic gold medals in the  pentathlon and decathlon. He was the first Native American athlete to win a gold medal. 

His athletic abilities were first noticed at the Carlisle school he attended as a teen. He excelled in track and field, lacrosse, baseball, and even ballroom dancing, winning an intercollegiate dance competition in 1912.

Therefore, when I saw that there was a new book about this amazing man last year, I knew I wanted to purchase it for the school library. Even though I don't have much of an interest in football, the history of it IS interesting. The history of pretty much anything is interesting. If we were to watch a football game according to the original rules and traditions, it would be pretty confusing. Apparently, it resembled rugby at its most organized, and resembled a free-for-all fight at its least organized. Pads (which would have been home-made) were rarely used. Instead of helmets, the players simply grew their hair long-ish during the season to provide a minimal amount of cushioning to their heads; the lack of protection almost led to the Carlisle schools banning the sport since so many students were receiving serious head injuries.

The book is good for readers interested in football because it provides a good history of the sport and discusses plays and introduces readers to the early players and coaches that they might not know about. The book also illustrates the 19th century viewpoint of the "Indian problem" by stating the Carlisle schools' approaches to assimilating the Native Americans to white society. It describes how the schools chose new Christian names for the students, changed their hairstyles (often cutting the males' hair), forbade them from speaking their native languages and forced them to adopt Western clothing.

Tom Torlino, a Navajo, photographed upon his 
admission to the school and three years afterwards

Not every student may be motivated enough to read the entire book, but certainly portions of the text would be useful for a variety of content areas ranging from history and social studies to Language Arts (writing biographies) and of course  Physical Education.

It kind of makes sense that my Facebook friend, who displays such a diverse range of interests and and passions, would post an article related to a historical figure who exhibited such a range of talents.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Little News on Little Women

This morning on my Facebook feed, a terrible piece of clickbait appeared before me. The link to a post from Book Riot claimed that Beth doesn't always die in Little Women. I fell for it.

The article recounts a story from a bookstore customer who was reading the classic with her daughter, and she had warned her daughter about a very sad part in the story, but when they finished the book, the daughter didn't know what her mom had been talking about. Yes, Beth had gotten scarlet fever, but she recovered. And then all this other good stuff happened too, like Amy developing a bond with their cranky Great Aunt March, and Meg getting married, and Jo getting a story published.  .  .what sad part?

Yay, she's all better!

And the poor confused mother was left wondering, why didn't Beth die in this version?

Well, the answer is actually very simple and has more to do with the history of children's book publishing rather than the author's original intentions. The book we now know as simply "Little Women" was published in two volumes originally: the first in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The Story of Their Lives. A Girl's Book. 

Alcott wrote the second volume, titled Good Wives, following the success of the previous book. Her young readers were writing to her in droves, begging her to answer their questions about the fates of the four sisters, mostly, whether Jo and Laurie ever got married. So in 1869, readers were able to find out what happened to the March girls as they grew up. The second volume contains Beth's demise.

I think most book publishers reprint both volumes into one book with the abbreviated title Little Women, because most readers are going to want the entire story of the March family. However, it's certainly possible that some publishers choose to only publish the 'true' Little Women, meaning just the original volume. This is what led to the mother's confusion.

I'm glad that I fell for the clickbait though- it inspired me to blog, and I was overdue for a Little Women related post.

Speaking of which, here's a brief update on the two upcoming movie adaptations:

PBS Masterpiece Theater: Emily Watson is leading the cast as Marmee. Watson is an accomplished actress, with previous roles in Angela's Ashes and The Book Thief, among many others. I think she'll make a good Marmee. Also, Angela Lansbury is playing Great Aunt March. Even though the girls playing the daughters are young ingenues, with two strong actresses playing the older roles, I have high hopes for this adaptation.

Little Women, a Modern Movie: I feel like the reason this adaptation is modern is because they did not want to compete with the 1994 film. That's a wise choice I think, because that film has alot of loyalty. I don't have a problem with modern re-tellings of classic stories; in fact, I love them! After all, Clueless is a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Emma, and Bridget Jones' Diary is a modern retelling of the same author's Pride and Prejudice. And obviously, the 1996 Romeo and Juliet was very modern, even though Shakesperean dialogue was used.

And I have read a modern retelling of Little Women, titled The Little Women, by Katherine Weber. It took a bit of getting used to, but it wasn't bad. I don't think the movie will be based on that book though.

There's not a whole lot of info on this movie yet; the IMDB page is pretty sparse. The official Facebook page has photos of the actors and behind-the-scenes shots of the sets though. This seems to be the only photo that is from the film. It looks to me like it's depicting Chapter Two,  "A Merry Christmas".

I don't know of a release date yet, but the IMDB page says it's 2017, so we'll see. I guess I got my Little Women fix for a while.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hollywood Smiles

Given my long-time fascination with Old Hollywood and my more recent fixation on dentistry and its history and context, I knew buying this book was a certainty. I first heard about Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America on NPR, and I stalked it for a while on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, trying to see if it might go on sale or if I could find a used copy. But my wonderful godmother sent me a B&N gift card for my birthday, and weekends in August are Educator Discount days, so I bought it, feeling satisfied that I got the best price possible on a new hardcover book.

The book begins with a briefing on the state of dental care standards in our country; why so many people must go without even the most basic dental care and opens up the discussion of the premium we place on not just oral health, but the appearance of our teeth and our quest for dental perfection. It's not enough for us to have healthy teeth- they have be radiantly white and they have to be straight and there cannot be any spaces or overlapping or overbite or underbite or any other detractors.

Otto writes that dentistry and photography/film have a shared history and a symbiotic relationship. It's no coincidence that the first dental school opened in 1840, the same year that the camera was patented. The person who received the patent was Alexander S. Wolcott, an inventor. He was also a dentist.

Since then, we have used our photographed images to judge the state of our smiles. And we put a lot of time and effort into achieving the perfect smile because we want to look good in pictures. With the advent of Talkies in the late 1920's, there was much more emphasis on actors voices, and their mouths in general. In order to execute decent sound quality, the actors wore microphones, and had to speak clearly into them. It's difficult to speak clearly if you're missing teeth. And naturally, the films would be doing more close-ups on the actors' faces since they're speaking, and so their mouths not only had to produce good dialogue, they had to look good too.

Dentistry's role in the Hollywood machine is easily seen. For example, one of my all-time favorites was Shirley Temple. She became an icon at the tender age of five, and continued to make movies through her childhood and adolescence. And yet, she never lost her baby teeth.  .  .

Well, of course she did. She lost her baby teeth like any other kid. But the public never noticed, because every time she lost a tooth, the dentist would mold some veneers to cover up the space. Since she was losing teeth for years, she went through lots of sets of them.

Here's a rare photo that shows Shirley Temple's natural smile when she was eight years old:

That picture is from the files of Dr. Charles Pincus, the dentist of the stars. Pincus is known as the originator of the Hollywood smile, but of course he was not the only contributor to this golden standard smile. Many stars used veneers and dentures to give themselves the smiles that Nature had not. 

I think anyone who claims to be a Judy Garland fan knows that she started out her career as homely little girl- Louis B. Mayer used to call her his "little hunchback." Part of her metamorphosis into a starlet involved fixing her smile, with sparkling white veneers, She used to keep them in a little box shaped like a piano when she wasn't wearing them. Photos taken near the end of her life, when the drugs and alcohol were showing their damage and when she didn't have much money, show her natural teeth:

While some stars used veneers to cover up dental imperfections, some used dentures because they didn't have any teeth. Clark Gable, the King of Hollywood, suffered an infection in his gums when he was a young man. His teeth rotted beyond repair, and he had full dentures by the time he was 32 years old.

I wish that Otto's book focused more on this time period; it's a sound thesis and she introduces it like it's going to be the focus, but the majority of the text afterwards discusses the shortcomings of health insurance, and how dental health is not included despite the fact that a person's oral health is directly related to his/her overall physical state.

She also discusses dental care in the contexts of geographic location (rural areas tend to lack dentists), race (black and Hispanic Americans have historically faced challenges trying to access dental care) and economic class (people who live in poor areas have a harder time paying for dental care, or even finding locations that offer it, since many dentists set up office in middle-upper class suburbs).

She also brings up the unique way in which we view tooth decay as an indicator of a person's morality- a person with bad teeth has failed to maintain hygiene, and is 'unclean', inside and out. We don't question hip replacements or even basic devices like eyeglasses the same way- a shortcoming within our mouth implies a much great problem with our intrinsic self. But, I already knew that. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

An Old Friend

When I saw this book on display in my local library, I grabbed it because I thought it was actually going to be a book about fairy tales. Like, fractured fairy tales that have been modernized and reimagined. When I read the inside flap, I realized that the title was a bit misleading, but I decided to give it a try anyways. I guess I'm at that age now when I enjoy reading amusing anecdotes about getting older, and failed attempts at recapturing youth and beauty and bittersweet recollections of "what could have been".

Most of the poems and stories were enjoyable, although they weren't as funny as I was hoping. Most of them operate on a very upscale Manhattan, type of humor that references Botox, nannies,  summer homes, and Ivy Leagues. And it's not a tongue in cheek poke at this way of living like in The Nanny Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada; it's written in a way that assumes the reader will relate. Like, instead of "We were running late this morning, so for breakfast my kid had a doughnut from the gas station", it's the nanny who can't prepare breakfast for her charge because they don't have anymore organic spinach for the egg white omelette, so she stops in at Dean and Deluca and buys him a toasted bagel with lox.  .  .Yeah.  .  .I hate when that happens.  .  . .

So I read the book and I appreciated the things I could relate to, like not fitting into the same size jeans anymore, or remembering with a very bitter taste in my mouth the moment when I first realized that there's a different set of rules for women.

However, towards the back of the book, I found an old friend. How old? Well, she'd be 187 this December, but I've only known her since I was a teenager.

 Well, it's not  really her, but it's obviously an homage to her. 

"A man with a scythe rang my doorbell.
I saw him through the peephole.
I said he had the wrong apartment.
He said he wanted me.
I told  him to go away.
He laughed and left.  .  ."

If you're not the biggest fan of Transcendentalist/Romantic writers (although honestly, how can anyone not be?), then I'll just tell you that Sheila Nevins took a page from Emily Dickinson:

"Because I could not stop for Death-
He kindly stopped for me-
The carriage held but just Ourselves-
And Immortality.   .  ."

Dickinson personifies Death as a gentleman caller, and the speaker follows the etiquette of the time period by agreeing to accompany him on a carriage ride, with a chaperone of course (Immortality). In Nevins' poem, the speaker is also greeted by Death outside her door, and she also follows suit with the behavior typical of a modern New Yorker- telling him to go away.

I think this chapter is the one that made me smile the most, because I imagined Emily Dickinson yelling at Death through the peephole in a thick New Yorker accent.
I wonder what she'd order on her pizza.  .  .

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Random Summer Update

When you work in a school, everyone assumes you have all summer off, and just lay around for three months. That's not exactly accurate. My husband and I both work in schools, and this summer he's working three jobs and I am working two.  I know many educators (teachers, librarians, guidance counselors) and even if they don't work extra jobs in the summer, they're still going into school: cleaning, organizing, taking stock, learning new software and a variety of other tasks. The idea that we all retreat into beach homes and get daily hot stone massages is like a science fiction novel.

But I do consider myself lucky that one of my summer jobs comes with a considerable amount of down time. The other day, I managed to read Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming in just one shift at the town beach. I put my feet up, drank Coke Zero, and just read.

And even though I haven't gotten to work on my dollhouses as much as I'd like, I have been making windchimes all summer long. I recently started a Storybook themed one, and I added a few more  pieces to it:

Can you guess which classic tales are represented by the new additions?

And a while back, I found some glass cups on the side of the road; I think they were part of a punch bowl set. My original idea was to paint them all, but I ended up using four of them in another windchime I started making:

So, nothing too exciting in this post- just glad to be my pseudo-hippie, tie-dyed, summer self.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Applebees, but without the Happy Hour Specials

In my quest for forgotten cemeteries, I spotted one in Milton Mills recently. It's very easy to miss, because there is a stone wall around it, and a canopy of tall pines surrounding it, but I guess this ability must be a gift, or something. I didn't see a gate or entrance, so I had to climb over the stone wall in order to look around.

There were no markers denoting an official name for this little graveyard, but the stones that I was able to read had the surname Applebee:

That's not surprising since the road leading into Milton Mills is Applebee Road, obviously named after a family that  settled in the area early in the town's history. I did a little bit or research online, and it's Applebee Cemetery, officially, in the records. There are thirteen graves there.

Most of the stones were illegible, and or crumbling:

While I was trying to find out more about this little graveyard, I came across an article stating that Milton and Milton Mills, NH have 89 documented cemeteries! Given my interests in history and all-things-creepy, I guess I picked a good place to live!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Storybook Themed Windchime Creation

One of the things I do to relax and to feed my creative appetite is to make windchimes. I make ALOT of windchimes- they line my porch outside, and there are several on the inside porch too.

When Hobby Lobby moved into the area a few years ago, I got hooked on one of the jewelry collections- it's called Fairy Tale. I've had this idea for a while, to make a windchime that is storybook themed, and I recently got going on it. It's not finished yet, but I like the way it's turning out. I think anyone who knows even a little about fairy tales, or me, should be able to identify which tales inspired these strands:

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Cutest Little Library

Shortly after I moved to Milton, NH, I went in search of the local library. I was delighted to find out there are actually two! One of them is adjoined to the local high school, and the other is in Milton Mills, a village that is included in the town of Milton.

The library adjoined to Nute High School is fairly modern, whereas walking into the Milton Free Public Library is like walking into another century. That's not a criticism; the building that houses the library is an old schoolhouse that was constructed in 1875. The building appears now as it did then, because the only renovations have been to repair the building and to preserve it.

The building was originally a grammar school on the ground floor, with the high school on the top floor. In 1902, the high school students started attending Nute High School. As time went on and progress beckoned, the schoolhouse was threatened with closure several times through the decades. By 1975, the building was used only for grades 1-3; however, the school remained in use until 1991.

The following year, the building was re-opened as the Milton Free Public Library.

I love this library. I love that the old hardwood floors creak and groan as you walk around perusing the shelves.

I love that the original chalkboards were preserved.

I love that the movie selection is on the teacher's platform.

In 2002 the schoolhouse was added to the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places.

Last year a local Eagle Scout refurbished the wooden floor on the second story as his project.

The second floor retains the little coat hooks used by the kids in 1991, as well as the remnants of their name tags:

Seeing those little stickers with faded names like James and Lindsey on them was a little sad; those kids were the last ones to use this school, and it made me think about the schools I attended (St. John's, Nazareth Academy), which are now defunct. But they are also a tribute to the building's original use, and the generations of kids who were educated within its walls. And now it has a new life as a library.

That's not a bad life.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Another Little Cemetery

 During my morning drives for day-care drop-off duty, I noticed a tiny little cemetery on the side of the road, near a Mobil gas station.  A little while ago, I wrote about another little local cemetery which is outside of a Starbucks (formerly a Taco Bell), and how these little cemeteries are forlorn remnants of former lifetimes.

Yesterday I decided to stop at this cemetery and take a little look. Unlike the previous graveyard I blogged about, this one is pretty neglected. It doesn't have anything that indicates the name of the site, the weeds are almost as tall as the headstones, and the stones themselves are tipping over. One of the stones is so weather-worn that it's unreadable, and a couple are so obscured by the large, overgrown, privacy hedge that I wasn't able to squeeze in there to look.

So far, I haven't found very much information on this little resting place. It is called Hussey Cemetery, and several of the stones had that surname on them, so it's obviously an old family plot. The name has existed in Somersworth since at least 1766. There was a Hussey family that owned a farm on the outskirts of Dover, and Somersworth is right on the line of the two cities, so the placement makes sense historically.

They seem to be kind of forgotten, but with the weeds flowering up around them, they have a sad beauty.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Call Me Booger"

I haunt bookstore and museum event websites. The Brookline Booksmith in MA is one place where we've visited several times over the years, because they tend to have a really interesting assortment of authors come through there. We've seen Molly Ringwald there (she would not sign my Pretty in Pink soundtrack), and we've seen Patton Oswalt (who was signing pretty much anything) and last night we met Curtis Armstrong. Although Armstrong has had a 40+ year career in theater, television and film, he is forever known to the American public as Booger, from the 1984 movie Revenge of the Nerds.

I'm a huge fan of this film- I used to have it on VHS, and my brother and I watched it countless times.  I now have the collector's edition DVD (the Panty Raid edition). I've seen all the sequels as well, but they never captured the heart of the original. Speaking of heart, Armstrong said that although he was reluctant to play a guy named Booger, who said and did such disgusting things, that ultimately he is very proud of the movie. The prologue of his book is poignant, as he illustrates a brief history of nerd-dom. The word "nerd" was coined in 1950 by Dr. Seuss in his book If I Ran the Zoo, and the word became a description for adolescent social outcasts. He points out that the word is often applied to smarter than average teens, who do not meet the standards of physical attractiveness for their peer group: bad skin, prescription shoes, thick glasses, etc. That is the stereotypical image, but it's really intended to label anyone who doesn't fit in. Nerds  are known to have a variety of interests: anything from math and science to computers to comic books and video games and Dungeons and Dragons and model trains. Some of them are genius level, some may have above average intelligence, and some of them were labeled as "retarded." He revels in the fact that there is now a geek pride movement, and words like "adorkable" have even come to exist. 

He even got a little emotional when he recalled the point in the film where the newly minted fraternity, has the words NERDS burned on the front lawn of their house. It was never meant to be a throwaway part, it was a very deliberate part of the script to show how destructive intolerance and hatred can be. Furthermore, this experience is what leads the fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda, a national black fraternity, to side with the nerds in the final scene. Everyone in that fraternity can relate to how it feels to be discriminated against. 

As you can see in the photo, we had our little monkey with us.  It's almost impossible to get him to sit still and be quiet in a place where there's so much going on, and I was worried that people would get annoyed with him and start shooting us dirty looks. He enjoyed clapping with the audience though, and he waved at Curtis Armstrong, who smiled and waved right back. He is so nice! Not only was he gracious and personable to all the fans who came out to see him, he signed books and DVD's and posed for photos. He also explained that he has a personal connection to the Brookline Booksmith. Before it became the Brookline Booksmith, it was a different bookstore, owned by the people who would become his mother and father-in-law. His wife worked at the store when she was a young woman, so it was a small piece of history for his family.

Of course we bought a copy of his new book Revenge of the Nerd: Or,.  .  .the Singular Adventures of the Man Who Would be Booger. If you'd like to know more about the book, NPR did a nice little review of it. 

I'm sure you can guess what movie we put on last night to watch in bed. .  .

Sunday, July 9, 2017

When I was Fifteen

The May/June issue of the Horn Book magazine was their annual humor issue. One of the contributors interpreted this theme as writing a letter to his younger self, like a 40 something guy telling his 13 year old self things that would amaze, confuse and horrify him. Because nostalgia is one of the most powerful emotions, and retrospect is often 20/20, it was the article that made me laugh out loud (something about how whenever he's alone now, he likes to find a good documentary to watch, whereas the 13 year old would probably try to find something about "naked ladies" to look at.  .  .).

It got me thinking what I might write to a younger version of myself. And since my birthday is tomorrow (gulp), now seemed a good as time as any. So, I'm picturing myself as I was around 14 or 15 years old, and trying to think of the things that would encourage, shock, or prepare me for the future.

1. A can of rainbow chip frosting is NOT a well balanced breakfast. Nowadays, your favorite thing to eat in the morning is a toasted bagel topped with avocado.

2. High school is tough for almost everyone, but try to figure out what makes a good friend. This way you can make sure to keep the right people around, and lose the ones who don't understand.

3. You know how you don't like anyone to interrupt you while you're watching Friends on Thursday nights? In about 20 years, you'll be able to watch any episode you want, whenever you want, pretty much wherever you want. And it's still funny!

4. Don't be afraid to try new things. It doesn't matter if you're friends aren't going, or you've heard of it before, or you don't think you'll be any good at it.

5. Soak in your highschool experience. It's four short years. And I don't mean just the usual cliche stuff, like first day of the school year, or prom, I mean really look around. Memorize the way the old building looks, look at the faces of the people teaching you, and appreciate the bus ride/uniform/lunch money because soon it'll be on you transport yourself, figure out to wear everyday, and feed yourself.

6. When you write in your journals, just write. Don't try to record any sage wisdom or sound profound. It's really embarrassing to read now.

7. Your family drives you crazy, but this is pretty much a universal truth. If you don't spend enough time with them now, you'll spend the rest of your life regretting it. Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles- just stop by and say hi, or write a letter or an email, anything is better than nothing.

8. Dancing is good! Just because something's not a career path doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. It's good for your body, but more importantly it's fun. Even if you're not as good as you wish you were, don't stop.

9. "Listening to what ignorant people say is like listening to a dog fart- you just hope it goes away." I read that in a book just now, and it's a good thing to remember. Oh yeah, remember that time you gave the dog all those leftover pork and beans? Don't ever do that again!

10. Despite how you're feeling right now, you're not "in love." You have loving feelings, and they are intense and they are valid, but they are only a few pieces of the puzzle. There's alot more that needs to get filled in before you can really see the picture. You are very fortunate though, because you will meet someone who makes all the time, and pain, worth it.

Okay, so there's my list. I tried not to make it too sentimental or erudite. Just as I wrote in #6 about not trying to be profound, I don't want to think I am recording some great truths here. It's just a tool for introspection.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Keeping Secrets

After I read All the Rage, I wanted some more intense reads about heavy issues. I guess that's been my reading MO for a while now- I am trying to read a middle-grade novel right now, but I find myself losing interest in it whenever I try to read a little. There's so much dialogue, rather than internal thought narration, and they're discussing silly things. I enjoy middle-school humor, but I also need to be able to explore and discuss more controversial topics that are not appropriate for that age group.

I picked this one up while browsing in the local library. Devon Davenport cannot believe that 'it' was inside her. Was she really in denial for nine months that there was something growing inside her, or is she just another teenager who did not want to take responsibility for her actions? Nothing about 'it' ever seemed real, so when she gives birth alone in her home, no one else, not even her mom, believes it. How could she have hidden that secret for so long? Furthermore, what could have possessed Devon, a talented soccer player and honors student, to try and hide all the evidence, including 'it' in the garbage can? After tells the story of a girl who is desperate: desperate not to end up like her mother, desperate to go to college, and desperate to keep her secrets. Author Amy Efaw manages to keep the story focused on Devon, and her psychological struggle, rather than condemning girls like her or proselytizing.

I'd been waiting on this inter-library loan book for a couple of weeks, and I finished it one day. I think this title came up on Amazon as a suggestion while I was browsing one day, and it seemed like a good companion for all those Jodi Picoult books I've become kind of addicted to.  Lisa Kallisto is a mother of three, with a full time job at a local animal shelter, balancing her schedule with the crazy hours of her husband, who is a taxi cab driver. One day, her daughter's friend, who was supposed to be sleeping over, vanishes. Lisa takes the blame, from her friend, the locals, and herself, for neglecting to tell anyone about the change in schedule that led to the miscommunication, and the search for the teenage girl begins. Running parallel with the story of searching for young Lucinda is the narrative of a man, a predator. Reading the book is like being in a race against him.  .  .at least until all the secrets start coming out.  .  .

I don't think this book is on par with Picoult in regard to the careful characterization, and the crafting of descriptive passages that always renew my addiction, but it was a great read. Readers who enjoy mysteries, and the satisfaction that comes with uncovering deep, dark, secrets would enjoy this.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mini Workshop

I did a little workshop today at the Dover Public Library. I met one of the children's librarians at the Maker Faire last year, and she contacted me a few months ago to see if I'd be willing to display some of my dollhouses there, and possible do a little workshop since the summer reading theme is Build a Better World.

I'm always happy to display my dollhouses, and even though I've never really done an official workshop before, I figured it'd be fun.

I was a little nervous today when it was time for the workshop, and there were no kids around, but after a few minutes,  one little girl came in. As I was showing her the houses and talking to her, a small a group of little girls gathered around, and they wanted to see what we were doing.

I showed them how to make tiny lollipops and jars of candy, how to cover a battery operated tea light candle with stones and twigs to make a working campfire, and how inexpensive supplies can be put together to make furniture.

Before I knew it, they were painting cardboard boxes, and getting their own ideas on how to make items. Two of the little girls were working on a Cinderella scene, and the little candy crafts inspired one of the other girls to do Hansel and Gretel.

I love being able to share this hobby, especially with kids. I love hearing their ideas, and seeing them try new things. There are a couple of dollhouses on display there right now, but later this month I am going to bring in the Harry Potter one to go along with the Harry Potter party they're having (to celebrate Harry's birthday).

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Still Foolin Em

The reading challenge this year put, put forth by the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, is Reading without Walls.  I was lucky enough to see this year's ambassador, author/illustrator Gene Luen Yang at the Carle museum this past spring, and he outlined the three parts of his challenge:

1. Read a book about a character who doesn't live like you or look like you

2. Read a book about a topic that you don't know much about

3. Read a book in a format that you don't normally read for fun.

I accomplished #1 by reading The Pact, a story about three boys from a poor part of New Jersey that made a pact to all become doctors, and succeeded. I accomplished #2 by reading The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda. I was struggling with the third one though because I'm pretty open to any format in print, but audiobooks have always been difficult for me to get into.

But I'm proud to report that I finished an audiobook yesterday! And it wasn't an audio version of a book I've already read in print. We had a lot of drive time since we traveled out to Western NY to see friends and family, so the day before we left, I went to the local library to scope out the selection. I ended up leaving with Still Foolin Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell are my Keys? by Billy Crystal.  I had just recently re-watched Analyze This,  and remembered how funny he is, so I was looking forward to hearing the story of his career, which spans decades and film, television, stand-up, directing, Broadway and writing.

The book is read by the author, because honestly, how could any one else properly tell the story of his life? His warm voice, and trademark delivery made it very easy to listen to all seven discs. He begins his story at the best place: the beginning. Talking about his parents, siblings and growing up in Long Island, it was the typical coming of age humor that most adults can easily relate to. My first realization that his book was not going to be all laughs though is when he recalls his first night of college; he went into town to get something to eat, and stopped in at a diner.  He was asked to leave, due to the Star of David necklace he was wearing.

I know it was the 1960's, and I know he went to college in the South, but I guess I never fully realized that anti-Semitism was still a concern then, only two decades after the world learned of the horror of the Holocaust.

He tells his story with ease, even the painful parts of it like the death of his father, and interspersed with the joys and sorrows of his personal life are episodes dedicated to his long career. From his first time on Johnny Carson to writing and directing his one man Broadway show 700 Sundays, and of course the film that cemented his movie star status, When Harry Met Sally.

I always enjoyed his movies and his comedy, but I never realized how interesting he is.  He married his wife in 1970, and they're still together now, 47 years later. He enjoyed close friendships with legendary athletes Mickey Mantle and Muhammed Ali. He lived his boyhood dream of playing for the New York Yankees (at least for one day). And there's one chapter in which he recalls an encounter with a black shrouded figure in the night, and is convinced it was his father speaking to him from beyond the grave, despite the dismissal and scoffing from others.

After each disc ended, we were eager to put the next one in. It made the drive time much more enjoyable, and I'd recommend the book, especially the audiobook, to anyone who is even a little familiar with his movies or comedy.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Uncle Sam

Since we were driving through Troy, NY on July 3rd, it was only appropriate that we stop by Oakwood Cemetery and pay our respects to Uncle Sam himself.


One version of the song "Yankee Doodle" mentions Uncle Sam ("a real live nephew of my Uncle Sam, born on the 4th of July.  .  ."), but as with many folk songs, there is a long history and many alternate versions and lyrics, that change with the times and reflect the political climate du jour. 

However, the Samuel Wilson that is laid to rest in this cemetery was a meat packer from the town of Troy, and his name is widely considered to be the source of the Uncle Sam character that symbolizes patriotism. He was an appointed meat inspector during the War of 1812, and when a barrel of meat was approved to be sent to the troops, it was marked "E.A. -U. S.". The E.A stood for Elbert Anderson, the meat supplier, and the U.S. stood for the United States. Many of these barrels were sent to the troops in Greenbush, NY, and many of those soldiers stationed there were from Troy. They knew of Samuel Wilson, and his affiliation with the fresh meat they were receiving, and over time, anything else that was marked with those initials became linked with his name.

The cemetery is bigger than it looks at first glance, but the way to Uncle Sam's grave is well marked and easy to follow. And if you're into cemeteries, or trivia, or visiting obscure tourist attractions, it is listed on Atlas Obscura. It was an interesting little tidbit of American history, and the perfect way to begin our 4th of July celebration.

On the actual 4th of July, we headed over to the New Hampshire Farm Museum for an old-fashioned celebration. It was kind of perfect actually, because the museum is home to the world's longest toboggan sled, and the sled is named Uncle Sam. Then we headed home for the usual fanfare.

I hope everyone enjoyed the 4th of July!