Imhotep Beauty Wraps

Grab Yourself Some Death

Wrap yourself in the same cursed death shrouds worn by unlucky evil for time immemorial!

We now have in stock the death shrouds of the infamous Egyptian priest who had his tongue cut out and was embalmed alive to accompany his king to the netherworld. You got it: Imhotep! He came back, and he just keeps coming back! Now you can too…! Amaze your friends and make a fashion statement! Come back from the dead in the worst way possible! The biggest Hollywood celebrities do it ALL the time!

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Be The First On Your Block

—Or at least the first at Little League Practice!

—Or the first in your book club!

—Or the first in your office!

Just Be The First. That’s what really matters! Contact us and we’ll reward you with unendurable suffering that you can force on everyone around you! So if you actually do manage to contact us, well, you may have it coming. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Side effects may include becoming a walking dead mummy, mumbling wordless imprecations, falling into preserving bogs, smelling odd, being chased by torch bearing villagers, never truly finding eternal rest, smelling odd, stiffness in the joints, lack of internal organs, tendency to go up in flames, smelling odd, and clumsy shuffling.

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To Coupon or not to coupon

Coupons R <not> us

First, welcome back to my intermittent log. I have to address this issue, again, for my own sake. I love having a blog, I love practicing self-promotion in the form of shouting into echoing hollow chambers. I actually sorta like that no one is looking. I feel like I can, you know, get away with stuff. So here I am, talking about how I don’t blog, to be honest. It’s one of those really good things I want to improve on. I am starting to have time and energy. Priorities are their own balancing act. I intend to do this my way. Blogging is one of those creative endeavors that I prefer to, say, noncreative maintenance like scrubbing something that is dirty. I also like that I have cleaned off my back porch and arranged it, with my daughter’s help, into a new shape, so to speak. We look forward to hanging up all our white sheets around the perimeter and setting up a table and laying out a table cloth. Then we set the table with napkins, tea service, and tea with yummy nibbles. It is a wonderfully creative measure of life- physical, calming, cheap, beautiful, and vaguely Regency or Victorian British. We slow down and connect. Not much of this experience will translate well to the internet. So, yeah, the blog has some serious competition in good things that hold my attention. But that’s ok. I’ll just keep plugging along.


So now to the main topic: couponing. I love coupons. I love discounts. I love using a discount coupon at a second hand store and getting ten percent off a dollar book. I am just that bad. When I used store coupons, I loved getting $20- $40- even $60 off my grocery bill. It felt like I was beating the system. I was playing the game. I was getting ahead. My neighbor and I competed with each other, finding the best values, cheering each other on, going out and finding the deals again. It felt great.
Things started to change for me because I valued my time as much as I valued those deals. I didn’t want to spend my time running from store to store for the deals that ate up my day. Then I started noticing that most coupons were for the more expensive items- say, I could cut the high-cost item down to the price of store brand, maybe even better. It required carrying a little plastic satchel of coupons, running through the numbers, squinting at newspaper ads, doing the math for each item in the aisles, keeping track of my grocery list as well as kids, taking the stuff out of the cart that someone else had slipped in, and so on. It started getting on my nerves. I have not yet discovered hypoallergenic numbers that I could easily handle without breaking out in a sweat, or irritability, or just a bad case of internal jitters. It didn’t help that stores started adding television screens with continuously running ads. Nor did it help that many coupons came with detailed restrictions on how you could even begin to attempt to refund them: ‘buy three of this product and two of this to get a dollar off the first thing you bought’. I only wanted one of product number one, otherwise we ate it all in one weekend because there seemed to be so much of it. And then our income started going down, and it kept going down. I eventually cut nearly five hundred dollars from our food budget.

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Then I had some warning signs at the doctor’s office. Those pesky blood tests had resulted in some elevated numbers. My husband started attending Weight Watchers (paid for by his work). My girlfriend went vegetarian. My other girlfriend was on a weight loss lifestyle change (notice I did not call it a diet) with her husband. A lot of conversations started being about stuff like calories, fat, appetite, aging, exercise, portions, budgets, and so on.
What it comes down to is that I rarely use coupons anymore. I make so much stuff from scratch that buying the brand name is ridiculous. I need a break from time to time, because one of the things I discovered is that there’s this thing called ‘washer-woman’s thumb’, or in more modern terms, ‘gamer’s thumb’, where tendons get sore and hands must rest. But we eat more fresh foods than we ever did before, and we eat a lot of home- made as well. We rarely eat out. I spend a LOT less time in the grocery store with less of that troublesome mental maneuvering between list and coupons and cart and kids and wait, where’d I leave my purse? I have started losing weight. I have organized my meals better, because on the whole we can’t just throw something prepackaged into the microwave or oven. And then there’s this side effect: when I get sick, my kids can make a healthy meal with minimal instruction from me. And then there’s this other, perhaps more significant side effect: those aching joints that the doctor could hear creaking when he bent a knee or turned a shoulder? Nearly all of that pain is gone. The glucosamine that I swore by, because it really did work, is gone as well.
So what do I do about food? I make it. I keep the meals simple. I use fresh foods. I rethink the whole Irish-meat-n-potatoes. I make my own pizzas. I make taco salads. Chicken soup is easy. I make my own bread, bread sticks, pita bread, bagels, English muffins, corn bread, and so much more. I make baked French fries, mashed cauliflower, home- made enchiladas, etc. Sometimes we just have what we call a ‘Farmer lunch’: boiled egg, fresh tomato, apple, fresh bread. Other times we have glorious breakfast wraps; my favorite has egg, garlic, spinach, chick peas, maybe a bit of leftover potato, a bit of milk or sprinkle of cheese, and some turkey bacon, wrapped in a tortilla from the store. Because as easy as tortillas are to make, they cost so little that I can afford to value my time instead.
I have two gardens now- not just the veggie garden we’ve had for years, but now a side garden next to the house with herbs and salad fixings in it. Some of those fixings are strange to the consumer-oriented ear: chickweed and purselane, for instance. Try them. They’re crisp and so full of nutrition. I think we’ve gone back in time and now maintain a kitchen garden. I love it. I absolutely love knowing where my food comes from, how it was processed, or not processed, and that I can adjust it to exactly my own liking that day. Do we want something sweet? I make oatmeal bars, a good compromise between sweet and nutritious. Do we want something salty? I just pop some popcorn on the stove. We eat a great deal less meat, we enjoy the variety of these news meals I try, and we feel as though we are living a fuller life rather than having fuller stomachs. My awareness of taste and smell has increased. My self- interest has shifted from indulgence to a deeper satisfaction. I think I might live longer; I will at least enjoy my time here more.

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Coupons are handy things. We cut those Weight Watcher coupons out and buy my husband their microwave meals for his lunches. I have this Yogi tea coupon I carry around in my purse, hoping that in some store, some day, I will find the tea my daughter asked for. It’s cool that I know what coupons I have, because so few are so easy to keep track of. I remember the Velveeta boxes my mom stored all her coupons in. There was a little pyramid of them stacked on the kitchen counter. I examined them one day and discovered that many had expired years before. I started slipping one box from the bottom once or twice a week and rearranging the stack, and then throwing away the boxful of carefully clipped coupons from another decade. Coupons have their place, they have their use, and they have their problems. They are undeniably connected in my worldview with fatty, processed, unhealthy foods. Not to mention a more complicated life with more math in it. I thrive on words, not numbers. Coupons just don’t meet our needs at this time. I’ll go see what is growing in its prime outside: is it early spring? Chickweed. Is it later in the season? Purselane. How are those blue berries coming along? That heirloom lettuce? Or the new one, for us: sugar snap peas. I’m at least as excited about the garden as I ever was about coupon deals. Coupons got me something; the garden I made myself. Life feels more glorious than I could have imagined! So I have to shout it out to my occasional reader: Hey, you! Whatcha growin’?

Vive Le Norton’s Anthologies

First, let’s talk about libraries. My family went to the library recently and I discovered two things:
1- Books that showed on the library website as not available at the library were actually *right there* on the shelf, in front of me. I got two books from my list checked out that way.
2- I have revolving library strategies: first, look through the list I brought to the library. Find some of those to check out, if I can. Second, stroll about, wander, browse, and strum a few fingers over the spines to slow me down. My gaze landed on a series of books I hadn’t known were there: books about books, books about authors, and books about story telling. That was where I discovered the Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature: the translations in English.
Norton is to anthologies as Asian is to elephant. These books are big, thick, wide, and full of memory. This is a 2005 edition, and since I have a couple Nortons at home, I was pretty interested in this one. In fact, since it was about children’s lit, I think I’m more interested in this one than in, say, The Norton Guide to Literature or The Norton Anthology of English Literature. This particular one has some great chapters in it. There’s a chapter on alphabet books through history, a chapter on primers, and even a chapter on comics, which surprised me.

Something else surprised me: a fair amount of opinion. I find it a relief to read a human opinion, particularly ones I tend to agree with. So many books (or other information sources like the media, etc.) have grand delusions of objectivity, which they absolutely fail at. Instead, they call what they write objective, and then react strongly to someone else who simply responds to the opinion held within their writing. And yes, there is a lot out there to have opinions about. And a lot out there where opinions don’t carry much weight. Anyway, here is a quote from Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature: the translations in English. Page 85, at the bottom, has these sentences:

“Today as demands for accountability dominate discussions of education and standardized testing is advocated at every level, the factory models of the early nineteenth century appear to be returning and are threatening to circumscribe our understanding of literacy. Literacy is again being defined narrowly as a skill rather than more complexly as the ability to gain access to a long literary tradition and to engage with a text’s interpretive possibilities.”

Below that I read an interesting passage that taught me about an incident I had not been aware of before. In 2003 a group of ninety British authors signed a petition protesting rampant state testing and stating “children’s understanding, empathy, imagination and creativity are developed best by reading whole books, not by doing comprehensive exercises and short excerpts and not by ticking boxes or giving one- word answers.”

Our public school is a CEO-run cyber school. It has a business model and runs on contract with the state. We want business models, because business models often work very well. A Business can make money and succeed in society. But education is neither just a business model nor a government program. If it must be one of those, I would choose the first, because then, as a consumer, I at least have some chance of being heard where the voice of the people in government is so much more sadly lacking. But business models don’t always work when we are growing children. We are not, I must emphasize, not building children. We raise them, like cows. We grow them, like fetal cells that become walking talking human beings. We train them like puppies and we interact with them like the each other that we are. A certain amount of testing and accountability is necessary. Measuring has its uses. But beyond that, we have an entire world at our disposal of personalities, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. The Norton in question discusses how one can not talk about children’s literacy without discussing education, and this is often true. Our educational system determines much of the perception of how children learn, what will be taught them on a daily basis, and how they may end up perceiving the world around them, including books and the worlds therein. Our educational system is not doing this well. Neither is some of our publishing business world, either. In some areas of these massive organizations, reading is a skill to measure by word number, word length, basic reading comprehension, and so on. This requires experts who research children and draw up generalities that can then be pressed onto the individual child like a cookie dough cutter. The same happens to many books: they require set lists of vocabulary words be used rather than creative story telling of a rich and natural sort. Storytelling as a formula, only more processed, like Velveeta world building. You may even be able to microwave it. Creativity tends to be the first casualty in this model, and then children are the next. If I look back at the quote from the petition of those British authors, I see words like ‘empathy’, ‘imagination’, and ‘creativity’. These are far too human to fit in a processing plant of human conditioning. When stories are no more than training for a person to follow instructions, then we have lost access to essential aspects of being human. This is not done by accident. No expert who recognizes these things will say, “Oh, I wasn’t aware that every society that has done this in history did it to the detriment of the humans involved”. Or “They must have oppressed the human spirit by mistake”.

Unless we have no spirit. Would that make it ok to lose our heart?

I kept out of our house those books that tended to instruct children on how to prepare to follow instructions. It was a weird pattern I became aware of as I accepted books from friends, joined book clubs, or went to the library. Some books didn’t just use simple words because they were written for very young children learning their words; they used simplistic vocabulary and stories to dampen down the questioning young mind. Questions are part of what drives the human mind. Books and education can stimulate that questioning, or repress it. Our current society does a lot of suppressing these days in language and thought. Well, it encourages harsh language of one kind while oppressing honest opinions or questions of another kind. I mean, while we have become anxiously aware of how we refer to various other people or we worry about offensively expressing our deepest beliefs, we have also become a coarser nation using the worst swear words in more commonly traveled social circles than ever. In books, definitely. And more often in children’s lit than ever before.

Perhaps the business model is part of the problem. Our cyber school was bought by Pearson, a textbook publishing group. Yes, our school is now run by the corporation that prints our textbooks. That’s like pharmacies buying hospitals. It isn’t wrong for a company to buy another company, but it may be wrong for a company to buy certain other companies. No system is perfect, of course, but some things just seem like a really bad idea. I’ve been watching the beginning of the effects following this acquisition, and there has been one surprise, so far, at least. The lit books have actually gotten better. I’m waiting to see how this plays out in 10th and 11th grades, which in the past had particularly horrendous literature for fresh young minds to digest. I’ve got my eye on you, Pearson.

So in my ramble I’ve mentioned coarse society, literature texts, and suspicion of government and business together. And libraries. I can hope, can’t I, that the libraries will continue to serve the general populace? Banned Books Week aside, libraries tend to be about truth, not just information. Even if as a school assignment one has to go mine information at the library, the truth remains there for us to stumble upon, in the stacks, online, in conversation, in personal thought, in a fairy tale. This Norton’s is over 2,400 pages long. It is nearly an entire library unto itself. Can’t wait to step in and strum my fingers through the pages, pausing at a picture here, reading a story there. It gives me lots to think about.

The Back Yard

I hope my tendency to make pictures with words translates well to an internet where pictures kind of make up the large part of pictures. This is the way I work. I like to add clip art or something along that line sometimes. Other times, I just have to ramble a bit before plunging in. This piece will be familiar to close friends. It is the result of a writing assignment to describe my back yard, which, as I like to say, I utterly failed at. But the title stuck. I hope the images do too. They will be unique to each reader, which is pretty cool when you think about it.

The Back Yard

The back yard spreads all the way from the farmhouse to the Rainbow Cliffs of the High Dragon Seas. The ideal time to see the namesakes of these dangerous waters is after a storm. The churning from the winds tends to rouse them up from the depths. On occasion a dragon will appear, restless and grudging, spraying great salty flumes about himself, stretching his cold wet wings, and ruffling his spiky head with a shake, all the while watching the swirl of unending skies above him. Rarely do any of them venture onto land or beyond the beach. They may slumber in the depths of the ocean, but the sky is their kingdom, the wind their throne, and the sun their god.
A little farther inland, our pasture grass is clipped by a herd of friendly miniature horses. They roam about, sensible of the cliff hedging them on one side, and on the other side the stone wall winding along a timeworn byway that passes through our farm. At night they burrow into mounds of fresh straw inside the old wooden barn. Each morning one of us will walk out to the gate and usher our fuzzy, snorting herd across the public byway into the pastures on the other side. When it is my turn, I usually pause beneath the drooping wisteria tree to look out over our home. The pastures provide the finest view of sea and skies beyond the land. There is always the background music of whispering trees, singing birds, and what we call mini-whinnies. When I walk back inside, the perfume of the wisteria blossoms clings to my clothing like soft colors you can only just see.
The farmhouse is built from white stone quarried centuries ago, and has a recent wooden addition, perhaps only two or three hundred years old. This time of year it is surrounded by blossoming fairy bushes, and the meadows are colored as much by blue violets and ripening strawberries as they are by grass and sweet clover. The land is magically tended by the grateful fairies in return for our protecting the flowers that are the source of their favorite nectars. Most people find it a nuisance to abide fairies on their property, not that there’s much chance of keeping them out should they extend their preferences. We find them helpful, because no matter how regularly our little herd foals, no matter how much they graze, their home pasture remains thick with flowers and many other sweet nibbles. The fairies and the ponies have come to love one another very much, besides. To tamper with that communion of half wild hearts would only result in grief and trouble, so we do our part to encourage the way things are.
The orchard is faltering a bit these days. There are fewer golden apples and more fallen limbs. The suffering of the trees in the face of wild, pressing sea winds throughout the year has worn on them. But in the orchard is a strange, new tree. We recently learned it was a mimosa tree: an exotic, feathery looking thing apparently made of fern leaves and impossible looking wispy flowers on thin sweeping branches. When the tree appeared, however it appeared, the apple trees seemed to rally themselves around it. All of the orchard seemed to regain a fresh sense of hope as revealed in the renewed surge of blossoms, leaves, and hanging fruit.
The mimosa flourishes right in among the apple trees because the fairies wish it to. It somehow glows in the moonlight, the apples providing strings of tiny reflected lights all around it. At Midsummer’s moon the orchard looks like a garden party in full swing for it attracts the fairies, who crowd together, curtsying and bowing, turning in pairs, strolling through waves of music that carry a wisp of scent or a flash of color or the ripe rich fruits of the imagination with it. Only at the hint of coming dawn will the music fade and the dancing shadows slip away in the rising mists of morning.
Our family has run this farm for centuries. People have sprung up and died away on this land for a long time, and their roots are deeply felt even if they remain unseen. Livestock has grazed and blossoms have opened beyond memory. The sea winds have been carving the stones of both house and wall long before hands ever stacked them in their place; the unsteady blow of sand and salt have smoothed the stones in place, mortaring them with sunshine and the slow fertile thoughts of the land.
There were more fairies and more dragons, long ago. However, no one had yet encountered miniature ponies. They are relatively new to our sighing old world, and their particular magic in all its quiet glory remains to be seen. They breathe a fresh kind of sweetness into the salty air around us. As the animals munch away at grass the fairies spend their time braiding those long manes and sweeping tails. They have their mysterious conversations as the sun follows its familiar path across all sorts of skies: blue and grey and golden and wispy. Even Time in our lands is as much a season here as the harvest or the Autumn storms. It fluctuates in lives and loves, passing from eye to eye and heart to heart. It hovers gently as the blossoms drip and the butterflies dance, as dragons snooze for years on end, and as the wind blows over, around, and through everything that has ever been here, and everything that will ever be.

Story telling

I have been missing in action from my own blog because while I enjoy it, I really must have a certain amount of energy to enjoy it. Life has a way of challenging a person, especially a mom, and between the holidays and the needs of teens (WHY do people think that teens are somehow ‘done’ by the age of 15? Like consumable baked goods??), I have been a very tired blogger. So here is my chance.

One of the things that gets my attention is book reviews. I loved reading them in the newspaper, when we used to get a newspaper. I love them on Goodreads. I love them elsewhere, like that other behemoth that recently bought Goodreads. Recently I’ve observed what I consider a total misunderstanding of the idea that a writer should ‘show, not tell’. We hear this from 5th grade on through adult life. It really is a good method of writing. But sometimes, telling a story has its own merits as just that: a spinning out of a yarn, a flowing monologue of memory, a passing of oral heritage from one person to another. Just telling the story can be a fine and blessed experience.

In the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” this is exactly what happens. An old woman relates stories from her youth to the woman who visits her. Meanwhile, the second woman goes on with her own life in between visits and what develops is what is called a story within a story. This is one of my favorite ways of story telling. This is seen in a children’s book I recently read: “An Elephant in the Garden” by Michael Morpurgo. It’s very similar in that an elderly woman in a care home tells a boy and his mother her amazing experiences as a teen during the bombing of Dresden in WWII. There are two stories going on, although the story of the ‘here and now’ is not as heavily developed as the story of her memories. I enjoyed the story and my daughter and I enjoy discussing it. Next time it comes up, I’ll have to tell her that some reviewers gave the book bad vibes over this element. Reviewers had no patience, it seems, for the most original form of narrative- that of simply telling a story. I found it rich, compassionate, lively, and timeless. Of course, many people saw this in the same way I did. But I wondered about this demand for rules I thought I was seeing. Sure, we’re supposed to ‘show, not tell’. But we also have to fill the need for the way each story speaks to us. Rules exist for many reasons, and one of those is so that we can break them!

I have started reading Wendell Berry’s novel “Hannah Coulter“. I’ve read several of his non fiction essay books. This is my first try at his fiction. I peeked at some of the reviews online, and there it was again: a bit of a lecture that Berry needs to follow the mantra to ‘show, don’t tell’. What is this? Public school? Have our minds contracted this far?

The book is glorious. It is rich, gentle, and its tells its story. It feels as if I were sitting on an old lady’s porch watching the summer day drift by as she rolled word after word, sentence after sentence, off her tongue. It has been a beginning of what I hope will continue to be a wonderful reading experience.  A book like this shows that you really can tell.

Now back to baking Christmas cookies and trying a no-yeast bread stick recipe. Glorious Christmas wishes and more to all my readers!

Hallowe’en Pet

kitty

This being a week before Hallowe’en I got all silly and conjured a poem. I like long poems that run on, and now I have mastered the art of clip art insertion, so y’all might want to look away.

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Hallowe’en Pet

by Lora Reynolds

“Oh Mother oh Mother

come quick and come see:

I’ve just brought home

a little monster with me!”

cutie

“Sonny, oh Son

What’s got into your head?

This thing, it might eat us,

and kill us ’til dead!”

“No Mom, no way,

he’s just a wee thing

when he clenches his fangs

you can hear his ears sing!”

“Sonny, oh boy,

this just will not work.

The rules say ‘no pets’

and the landlord’s a jerk.”

“But Mom he’s so cute

and so awfully alone.

It’s dark out and rainy-

just one night? At home?”

“Why not a unicorn

like when I was a kid?

Or a useful sad elf

like your grandfather did?”

“Those live in forests

of magic and trees,

not behind thrift stores

in lonely alleys.”

“So that’s where you’ve been!

I’ve been calling all day.

You were in the back streets

where the weirdos all play!”

“They’re not weird, no,

just misunderstood.

They have lots of fun

in their magical ‘hood.”

“Fun is fine

’til someone gets hurt.

Stay away from them now

and wash off that dirt.”

“What about Frankie?

I want him here safe.

I want him to stay,

he’s just a poor waif!”

tear

“For one night tonight

and one night alone.

He’s still not your pet,

but I’ll throw you a bone.”

“Oh thank you dear mother!

I promise this much:

no bloodshed, no fires,

no screaming and such!”

“Now go do your homework,

now go do your chores.

Your dad’ll be home soon

to argue some more.”

“So help me, Mom,

make Dad for to see

how Frankie is very,

very good for me.”

“I suppose it’s ok.

I’ll do what I can.

Afterall, your dear father

once had a wolfman.”

wolf

“Oh Frankie, let’s run

up the stairs and go bide.

‘Til Dad says ‘ok’

you’d better go hide.”

“Frankie, oh Frankie!

Let go of the cat.

Dad says it’s ok now;

you’re home and that’s that!”

The End.

boo

Banned Books Week- go read a classic!

It’s banned books week, in lower case letters, because it’s my blog. Here’s a link:

http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek

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This is one of the issues where I think libraries do a huge disservice to society. The main premise of Banned Books Week is to celebrate those books that have been challenged or banned in various theaters of reading, usually schools. The week also supports a more general freedom of reading, writing, expression, etc. Unfortunately, they make little to no discrimination between books that are worthwhile and books that are not. It often seems as if the assumption is that all books are of equal value within the library. Now, books of various kinds have had equal opportunity to touch lives, I’ll say that. But some books really shouldn’t have been made at all, and shouldn’t have such a huge proportion of our civilized readership wasting their time on them. BUT. The more important issue is that people must have the choice, they must be able to choose or they are simply programmable automatons. I fully believe in choice, even when it results in bad choice. It saddens me to see movies and books that have no value in them attracting people like flies. It scares me how certain kinds of media develop the need for them while at the same time providing the product. It’s an addictive culture and business, which is philosophical yuck.

There is no well drawn line where a book crosses into such filth that it is a blight on society not only to those who read it, but all those who come into contact with said reader who has such ideas and perspectives sloshing around in their brain. It can be argued that staying away from the boundary of quicksand is better than toeing the line asking to be sucked into the morass. There is some truth to the idea that what will affect one person badly may not affect another in the same way. I guess if I am using the same imagery, then some wouldn’t survive the quicksand while others would. But at some point we pass beyond experience and maturity issues and into processed addictive dehumanizing sludge. You know, spiritual quicksand.

Here is my main point why I resist the whole celebration of Banned Books Week: nutrition. I’ll get back to this soon. I have other paths yet to ramble.

Recently I watched a neat video of Neil Gaiman discussing stories, storying, and other cool stuff. He also discussed the idea of stopping books from being read- whether by banning or by parents censoring what their children read. He made it sound so bad. He called it ‘snobbery’. He did admit that when a child enjoyed R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books he felt the need to introduce the child to Stephen King. The result was the child switched to reading prairie settler books and other safer stuff because the King book had been too much for them. Gaiman laughed about that, but I wondered how much trust had been lost by offering King to a young mind. And in his entire speech, no where did he ever raise the word ‘standards’. It was all about making all books equally available to all children as though both books and children had no individuality. He made it sound as if disagreeing with him was laughable.

The fact is, I sometimes fought our school on certain books. I had standards. I also knew my children, knew how I was raising them, knew their readiness levels, and so on. All the librarian knew was her rules, which went something very much like this: at library time you must check out a book, it must come from the shelves approved for your grade, you must check out a different book each time, you could not check out the same book more than once, etc. My child read several books, then started coming across ones she didn’t feel ready for. Some she knew I didn’t allow. Eventually she brought one home because she was required to check it out, and I looked it over and told her not to read it. She was relieved.

In contrast, she was never corralled by the plentiful book shelves in her classroom, and she read and reread many books there. She felt safer. Her teacher praised her repeatedly. She discovered Treasure Island there. Also Robin Hood.

This is the thing: at the library she was maneuvered into having to check out a book, practically requiring it while not in actuality requiring it, and she was subjected to a weekly sense of being sent through a cattle chute. A cattle chute, if you don’t know, starts out as a wide corral, but as the cattle get moved along inside it to one opening only, it gets narrower and narrower until they have no choice but to walk a certain direction, face a certain direction, and eventually get caught in the narrowest part so cowboy folks can do cow medicine and other things to them. She had felt like she was being maneuvered, even at the elementary age, and had wanted to resist but also wanted to be good and follow the rules. So we had a long talk then, and later, and later, and later again, about how we have to be a little discrete in our rebellion, but there are options like civil disobedience and other things that usually other groups claim a monopoly on.

It comes down to this: standards. We have them. Other people have theirs. Some people appear to have none. But I don’t hear from the ALA about people who wish to not read a banned book. They may consider this a non issue, but it becomes an issue when a book that people want to ban is now an assignment, and an adult authority figure is telling a child that they must read it. Where is the freedom in that? This isn’t happening all that often as yet, but it is beginning to. There is a good chance that this tendency will become a trend (a more likely trend than burning books, too). And if a person opposes it, they risk being branded (remember the cattle chute?) as an oppressor of freedom; a possibly rabid book banner; an anal screeching jack booted monkey hovering over their wicked hellish bonfire while pages float up in the air as so much forlorn ash. Such a sad, sad image, and it makes people angry, which can be useful.

I do not propose banning books. I honestly would like that some had never been written. I also support the freedom to choose not to read certain books. This is where people think I’m a goose, but that’s ok. Let me bring in the nutrition argument. As a parent, as a person, I want to choose good healthy food for my family and for myself. Sure, we like our junk food, and we like dessert. We also absolutely love home made chicken noodle soup or oatmeal bread or cheese muffins or broccoli or carrots or tangerines. The healthy food is more important. The snacks are ok in wise measure. There is no place in our diet for gravel, manure, broken glass, heroin, nuclear waste, etc. It is obvious to most of society that a wise and responsible parent must make choices for good nutrition when considering what will go into the bodies of their children. So why not be aware and careful when we are feeding their young minds?

Freedom is important. Unfortunately, bad choices exist out there. Fortunately, I have avoided most of the really bad ones. Because I had the freedom.

That is what Banned Books Week means to me.

old books

Here is a list of some of our favorite books:

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott

The Gormenghast Trilogy, by Mervyn Peake

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Space Trilogy, by C. S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia, by Lewis

The Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

Dandelion Wine, by Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451, by Bradbury

(and others by him)

Beauty, by Robin McKinley

Rose Daughter, by McKinley

(and others by her)

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

the Brother Cadfael series, by Ellis Peters

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir A. Conan Doyle

Hitch Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

The Mark of Zorro, by Johnston McCulley

Many books by George MacDonald

Many by Agatha Christie

Numerous biographies, historical accounts, and a few political books

and many, many more.

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Random Thoughts:

(Sometimes as a kid I would just flip open a dictionary and start reading)

(I could find my favorite parts of the encyclopedias before I could read)

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(Sometimes in college after a hard day’s study I couldn’t handle anything stronger than Calvin & Hobbes cartoons. I once read a news editor complaining how college students loved their cartoons, so he had obviously forgotten what college was like)

(I’m a strong supporter of decent comic books and graphic novels. One series that is a favorite here is the Akiko series by Mark Crilley)

(Porn is to books what cocaine is to honest medicine)

(Don’t tell me that if a majority likes something, then it has a right to exist. If the majority makes a bad choice, it only makes the bad choice more supported, it does not give it value)

(Rant over)

bunnies read

(There are not enough pictures of books in the world for me)

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The End.