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Last weekend was my alma mater’s high school graduation. A thrilling, momentous (and gorgeous) day! It made me think back to my own graduation and the fact that what scared me at 18 scares me still: moving forward into the unknown. In fact, if I could go back and give myself advice it would probably be this: The future is scary. It never stops being scary. Get used to it. And don’t be scared.
Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to leave high school, to venture out of state to college, to make new friends and take classes towards two majors I was passionate about (screenwriting! creative writing! so much writing!). But I was also terrified. My high school was a cocoon of all that was familiar and comfortable and good. Not that every day was bliss. There were fights and tears and stress. But what I realized on graduation night was that I wasn’t ready to leave. I’m never ready to leave: not school, not a party, not vacation. I’m not ready to leave for work in the morning, and I’m not ready to leave work in the afternoon. And I’m NEVER ready to go to bed at night, no matter how tired I feel.
I spent much of the summer before college doing what I loved: reading–and finally there was no required reading. Free to read what I wanted, I think I read nothing but Orson Scott Card. I’m not going to get political here because this was during an innocent time before the internet gobbled me whole, so these books were merely the words on the page and what I brought to them.
I remember it so clearly. I was sitting on the deck at my parents’ house, feeling sorry for myself because in a few months time I would be far away from the beautiful rolling hills, when I came to one specific passage.
Alvin grimaced at him. ‘Taleswapper, I’m not ready to leave home yet.’
‘Maybe folks have to leave home before they’re ready, or they never get ready at all.”
I stopped and read it again. Because although I had not named it out loud, that was me. I was Alvin. And Taleswapper’s words were exactly what I needed to hear: it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not feel ready. Because if you wait to feel ready, then you’ll be waiting forever. Sometimes you have to jump out of the plane and trust that your parachute will open.*
*(Please note, I have never been sky diving, but I know someone who has, so that’s almost the same thing, right?)
It’s funny to think back to that day, because it it planted a seed which has motivated me many times since. Not always, of course. Sometimes I still chicken out. But sometimes when anxiety refuses to release its stranglehold: a new relationship, a new job, a new adventure–I find myself thinking back to those wise words, and I realize that I will be okay, because I’m always okay.
And if Orson Scott Card is not your bent, a good friend of mine recently gave me a new mantra, one that she repeats to her daughter whenever she is scared worried. “You are BRAVE. You are STRONG. You are WONDERFUL. And YOU will be fine.” What better words could you ever need?
There are so many things I could have missed out on, if I gave into fear:
So do you embrace the future at full tilt? Or are you worry-wart* like me?
*(Officially diagnosed by my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Burton. Thanks for that.)
5 Stars All By Myself! Emile Jadoul Eerdmans Books for Y.R. 978-08028-5411-7 26 pages, ages 3+ 140 miles north of my home is a publisher with some fantastic books. I try to bring them to you every chance I get, and today is one of those times. I am so happy to bring you All [...]
You may have heard of Tintin because a movie starring him came out recently, but I know Tintin from his comics. Tintin comics are the best. Tintin is the reason I have always wanted to be a reporter. I don't actually know what a reporter is, but if Tintin is any indication, it's the best job in the world. In his comics, Tintin gets to travel the world, fly airplanes, fight drug-runners, overthrow governments, solve mysteries and in one very weird adventure, meet up with aliens.
My local library had about half of the 23 Tintin books and I checked them out in an endlessly repeating loop. I have large chunks of The Shooting Star impressed onto my brain. Unfortunately, the library didn't seem to take my suggestion (which I helpfully wrote down and shoved in their suggestion box) to buy “MORE TINTIN,” leaving me no choice but to ask for all the Tintin books I didn't have for Christmas. (The Library did take my suggestion to buy “MORE HORSE BOOKS” and “MORE NANCY DREW,” so I can't be too mad at them.)
Asking for Tintin books for Christmas was a desperate move. Christmas is for getting toys! Books and clothing are down at the weak end of the gifts spectrum. Once my dad returned home from a trip and brought me a book as a present. I was outraged. A book? What was this nonsense! The book ended up being a comic book version of The Black Stallion and I read it until it fell apart and it was THE BEST BOOK EVER. (Besides Tintin.)
So I asked for all the Tintin books I didn't have for Christmas. King Ottokar's Sceptre. Flight 714. The Calculus Affair.
Christmas came, and my parents got me all those Tintins and more. My brothers and I read them until the spines broke and the pages fell out and I memorized practically every line. I don't remember many of the toys I got at Christmas, but I remember the year I got the Tintin books.
I never ended up becoming a reporter like Tintin, but I make comics for a living, so it's pretty close. I get to draw people going on adventures, running through forests, fighting zombies, being stalked by ghosts ... I think Tintin would be proud.
Exhibit A: One of the more annoying adverts I've seen on buses in the Bristol area was paid for by my own university. A few years ago, they tried to attract students with the slogan "Real life starts here!" The implication, I suppose, being that childhood is merely a kind of marking time, a training on the (literal) nursery slopes for real - that is, adult - life.
Exhibit B: an official sign spotted recently affixed to a local lamppost: "Do not feed the seagulls. They annoy people and children."
As a children's writer, what is one to make of it all? That children are but half-formed adults, and childhood meaningful only in so far as it points the way to better things ahead? What could be more calculated to make one march down the street shouting "Children are human beings too!"? This attitude affects children's writers as well, who are notoriously grouchy at being asked when they are going to start writing "real" books - that is, books for real people - that is, for adults.
Prompted by all this, I've been thinking about the ways children's books portray the transition from childhood to adulthood, and I've come up with one of my trademark taxonomies:
1) Avoid it! This subdivides into two categories:
a) The School of Death. From Helen Burns to Leslie Burke, there are heroes and heroines (the latter rather more than the former) who have cheated adulthood by dying before it could get its clammy grey hands on them.
b) Supernatural Solutions. Peter Pan is the obvious example here. But of course, he is a slightly tragic figure, who can stay a child only at the cost of forgetting people and events, and by being excluded for ever from the embrace of a mother. I might mention PippiLongstocking, too, who at the end of Pippi in the South Seas gives herself, Tommy and Annika a pill that should keep them children for ever. Alas, for jaded adult readers this is clearly a case of whistling to keep her spirits up. The book closes with Pippi blowing out the single candle that sits on the table before her, and we all know what that means.
Recently the New York Times published a major story featuring Jeffrey Arnett’s research on “emerging adulthood,” his term for the age period from 18 to 29. The article received tremendous attention (boosting it to the position of top emailed story) and Arnett was soon asked to appear on the Today Show, among other major media outlets around the world. In the original post below, he expands on the ideas previously presented and responds to stereotypes about emerging adults.
By Jeffrey Arnett
How do you know when you’ve reached adulthood? This is one of the first questions I asked when I began my research on people in their twenties, and it remains among the most fascinating to me. I expected that people would mostly respond in terms of the traditional transition events that take place for most people in the 18-29 age period: moving out of parents’ household, finishing education, marriage, and parenthood. To my surprise, none of these transition events turned out to hold much importance as markers of adulthood. In fact, finishing education, marriage, and having at least one child have consistently ended up near the bottom in importance in the many surveys that I and others have done in the United States and around the world over the past decade.
Consistently, across countries, ethnic groups, gender, and social classes, the “Big Three” criteria for reaching adulthood are these: 1) Accept responsibility for yourself, 2) Make independent decisions, 3) Become financially independent.
What the Big Three have in common is that they all denote self-sufficiency. For emerging adults, adulthood means learning to stand on your own as a self-sufficient person. Only when you have attained self-sufficiency are you ready to take on the obligations of marriage and parenthood. Because the Big Three all occur gradually rather than as one-time events, most emerging adults feel in-between until at least their mid-twenties, on the way to adulthood but not there yet.
There are negative stereotypes that have sprung up with regard to emerging adults: that they are lazy, spoiled, selfish, and never want to grow up. These stereotypes are common and extremely unfair. Lazy? Have you noticed lately who is pouring your coffee, working the retail counter, mowing the lawns? It’s mostly emerging adults who are doing the crummy, low-paying, no-benefits jobs older adults try to avoid. Emerging adults often hold one or more of these jobs and combining them with going to school as they try to work their way up to something better. Spoiled and selfish? Who is it that is applying in record numbers to Teach for America, Americorps, and the Peace Corps, among other volunteer organizations? Not their Baby-Boomer critics, but emerging adults. Never want to grow up? By age 30 most people are married, have at least one child, and are committed to a stable career path. Why begrudge them the freedom of their twenties to try to make the best possible adult lives for themselves, and to have fun and adventures that they will not be able to have later?
Whatever older adults think of it, emerging adulthood is here to stay as a stage of the life course. Instead of tearing them down, as parents and as a society we should be building them up and giving them the support they need to enjoy their twenties and have a successful entry into the responsibilities of adult life.
I turn you over once again to KimberlyBuggie, who is saving my life, one review at a time. If you want the blurb, click on the cover image above.
Kimberly's review: Growing up, I was a big fan of Louis Sachar. The Boy Who Lost His Face, There's A Boy In The Girl's Bathroom and all the stories from Wayside School. Years later, (many, but I won't say how many), I'm happy to find that Mr. Sachar has still kept his sense of humor, good writing and sharp observations.
I'm not going to lie. The Cardturner does have A LOT of information about the game of bridge, which some may find boring. I don't know how to play bridge, nor do I have any interest in learning. And for all that information, it really is just a vehicle used to move the story. Sachar does a fun trick where he'll show you a whale, you'll have to read it to find out why, and what follows is a particularly long scene about bridge. At the end, he'll summarize it for you. (Thank you for realizing that I do not necessarily want to learn how to play bridge.)
But the story is about a boy and his search for his own identity. About his Uncle, a loner and a mysterious figure who may have more in common with him than he thought.
The story is filled with wonderful characters. (Toni, Gloria, and of course Lester) And while it's not a page turner, a thriller, a stay up late all night--it is a charming story about finding some friends, interests and yourself, in unexpected places.
When you were growing up did you have a special place where all of your dreams seemed possible? Sue and Ron, our college friends, just came to visit from Florida. Sue, who had lived in Brighton, had one request — a tour of her old neighborhood. As we approached an old stone bridge, fireworks erupted in her mind as she recalled playing under that bridge...
Julia Gillian is accomplished at many things including the art of papier mache mask making, spreading her gum across her top teeth, and knowing exactly what her dog Bigfoot is thinking. She is still trying to master the claw machine at her Minneapolis neighbourhood hardware store. She has been trying for 3 years to get the meerkat perched inside. Julia Gillian is also good at the Art of Knowing. For example, in the morning, she's knows exactly when her mother will butter her toast, and what plate she will put her toast on.
But this summer, her Art of Knowing is letting her in on the fact that things change. Her parents haven't been taking her for picnics, or really spending any time with her at all. They are busy taking double load grad school courses. And they keep sending her out for walks in the 9 block area she is allowed in her neighbourhood. That's not exactly fun. She still has her green book to finish and she is just certain that it is going to have a sad ending. She tries talking to her babysitter and neighbour Enzo about everything, but Enzo is a woman of few words. Thank goodness Julia Gillian can put on her raccoon mask when she needs a bit more courage to head out the door.
Alison McGhee has written a sweet "moment in time" story about Julia Gillian's summer. She is growing up, and fighting parts of it. Black and white illustrations by Drazen Kozjan perfectly compliment the story. Julia Gillian is a great read for fans of Ivy and Bean, Clementine, and those who have outgrown Amber Brown.
Here's a photo of myself working on painting #5 for the Growing Up show. It features my grandfather after his stroke and heart surgery. While my family gathered to support his efforts to recover, his heart was not in it and he died within a month. This scene was initially created to depict death as a part of growing up but I decided instead to focus on the aspects of family support, frustration and love. The scene depicted is truly appropriate for the gallery space, being in a hospital, where patients can take the time to wander in with their families.
I started this painting with many thumbnail sketches and searched for appropriate references, including searching my own diaries and sketchbooks from the time. I'll continue to photograph the painting in many stages and share the progress here.
Here is a photograph of the finished sketch with a figure started.
I attended a lecture series about creativity & brainstorming yesterday and as soon as I got home I made a brand new spider chart for more ideas for the Growing Up Show. I'll try to share some of the techniques I learned about in the next few blog posts.
This is another finished piece for the growing up show. I'm hoping it's quite obviously a scene from a girls sleepover, an event that many girls experience while on their path growing up.
Growing Up Show Painting Links 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5(#5 is still a progress picture - will upload the final soon!)
On another news worthy note, a book I started illustrating for Tony Potter Publishing late last summer that was put on hold is now back in full force. Apparently there was some interest shown when they took the mock-up to the Bologna Book Fair this year. This will most likely be the last project I can fit into my schedule before I take maternity leave (unless something little and lovely comes into the picture). I'm hoping to finish all client work by May 15th so I don't end up with deadlines and a newborn at the same time. I hope this leaves me with some time to complete a series of paintings for the baby's room!
So I posted a few photos on Facebook on Saturday, never realizing it would cause a problem.
No, they weren't that kind of photo! We had our clothes on, it was all quite innocent. It was a photo of me and my husband with one of my childhood friends. We had just helped her move into her new apartment in Tucson and the three of us sat on the bottom step and took a photo together. Seeing it reminded me of happy times and I thought she would feel the same. Boy was I wrong!
please... please... please remove that photo of me on your website .... I'd really appreciate it!!!!!!!! I do not like photos of me - especially from the past on anyone's site - PLEASE!!!!! take down IMMEDIATELY. Any photos of me – and our past PLEASE KEEP PRIVATE AND PERSONAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Believe it or not, I don't spend all my time on the internet =) So I didn't see her URGENT message until Sunday. But while I was cooking dinner for my family on Saturday evening, the phone rang.
"Sherrie? It's ____________ ______________. PLEASE take down that photo you posted of me on Facebook."
No hello, no how ya doin' or I've missed you. I was surprised. I didn't know what to say. But apparently my silence spoke volumes.
"You're upset?" She sounded amazed.
"Well, yeah I'm upset. I haven't heard from you in years and now the only thing you're calling me for is to say you don't like the photo I posted of us on Facebook?"
"I have to protect my image. I don't like old photos of myself and I can't have them floating around out there."
I should probably explain here that my "friend" is on TV. She's a newscaster on a Los Angeles channel. And she dates the weatherman. So I'm sure that when she goes out, some people recognize her. She's not like Katie Couric famous, but people kinda know her around L.A. So not to be mean, but we aren't talking about major stardom here. And since we've known each other since she was 12 and I was 14, I've got WAY worse pictures I could post of her. I wasn't trying to infringe on her image or exploit her or anything. It was just a photo that reminded me of a good time with a good friend. My mistake.
I fought back tears and tried to control my voice as I spoke to her. It wasn't just that she yelled at me. It wasn't even the fact that she was obviously in the throes of some overblown superiority complex.
I thought of us at summer camp singing "The Little Green Frog" and acting like total dorks. I remembered sleepovers and sailing, going to the mall and flirting with strangers, driving through Beverly Hills acting like we ruled the world. I'd visited her in Miami when her career started to grow, listened to her cry when her mother died. We hadn't been as close the last few years, but we'd always been able to pick up where we left off. Up until now.
Who was this person on the phone telling me to keep our past private? Why was she suddenly ashamed to be associated with me? Or was she worried that people might realize she had her nose fixed and her hair isn't naturally blonde? No one in L.A. is a natural blonde. Who cares?
I felt like a part of me died as I listened to her going on and on about her hair and her image. I wanted to be 14 again or 20 or anywhere but here, listening to her voice and realizing how different we'd become.
The Good: This story of learning to fly is written as a sestina. The repartition both lulls the reader and reassures the reader, while cheering on the young witch in her goal: flight. This also makes it a great read aloud; there is something about poetry that just works better when read.
On the surface, this is a story of try, try again, similar to stories of learning how to ride a bike or swim. But, this is flight. Something so much more than just riding or swimming; flying is about growing up and leaving childhood behind, it's about not accepting limitations, and it's about freedom.
Here is the young witch, finally flying, and its words that could cheer and encourage anyone: "Hold tight to your broom and float past the stars, and turn to the heavens and soar. For only a witch can fly past the moon. Only a witch can fly."
And I read those final words and thought, "and we are all witches."
Let me tell you, that photo of the cover doesn't give the actual cover justice. The moon is a soft, light butter yellow that matches the font of the title and it just makes you go "oooohhhh... I must pick this up. I must touch this cover." The colors throughout the book are warm: black, brown, orange, green. Yoo shares details about her art at an interview with Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. And the young witch has striped stockings. I so, so want those types of stockings but alas, at my age cannot carry off that look.
Since I write mostly for kids and teens, I find myself observing their world and also revisiting my own life during that time period.
I stumbled upon The Childhood Belief Site - I Used to Believe. It’s fun site that has a list of things people believed when they were kids. My favorite section is the Nature section. Growing up in the country, I was always outside and with my vivid imagination and limited kid knowledge, I came up with some beliefs that are funny now that I’m an adult.
Here are just a few things that I actually believed when I was a kid:
Ice cream came from clouds. Strawberry ice cream came from sunsets and chocolate ice cream came from storms.
Each brick along my grandmother’s sidewalk was a tiny apartment where ants lived with their families.
Butterflies came from flowers and that was the reason they hung around them so much — they were talking to their friends.
I thought of leaves as hair for trees. In the fall, when leaves changed colors, I always thought it was hair dye job. And since the leaves always fell out, a bad hair dye job.
And those were just a few things that I remember. I’m sure I could think of more. Did you have any weird and/or funny things that you believed as a kid?
The Plot: Juliet, ten, has lost her best friend, Lowell. Why? Because Juliet is a girl. Six years of friendship mean nothing, now that Lowell is friends with Tommy and Mike. Boys do boy stuff, she is told, and girls do girl stuff.
GO. AWAY. is the message.
Patsy, Juliet's new friend, isn't afraid of anything. Or anyone. One thing leads to another, and suddenly the boys and girls are challenging each other to see who is better, faster, stronger, braver. No matter the risk. No matter who gets hurt.
The Good: This fifth grade battle of the sexes plays out in October 1962, against the backdrop of Cuban Missile Crisis. Wittlinger lets the reader connect their own dots about the motivations and fears of the various kids and parents. For example, Patsy. Patsy adores her father, but he prefers spending quality time with his son, Patsy's younger brother. Patsy loves her father, is interested in what he is interested he, but he cannot see how a girl would be interested in mechanics and airplanes. Patsy never says that the reason she is driven to best the boys in the challenge is to prove something to herself and her father. Juliet never connects those dots, either. Instead, Wittlinger respects the reader, letting them make this connection.
Yes, Juliet is frustrated at the boys who start drawing lines about what boys like and girls like. Yes, Juliet doesn't see the appeal of giggling over boys, like her older sister Caroline or two girls in school, Annette and Linda. Yes, Patsy's dad echoes these thoughts.
But, Patsy dreams of being a pilot (and, as we know from Almost Astronauts, it wasn't an impossible dream). Other adults voice the belief that it's about what people like, not boys versus girls. And (spoiler alert!), by the end of This Means War, the two groups of boys and girls have gotten to know each other and become one group of friends. Also? This Means War is not critical of those boys who happen to like go carts or those girls who like to dance and giggle about boys. Oh, at the start, Juliet in her unhappiness is critical of Lowell's new friends and of her default friends, Annette and Linda. This changes by the end of the book.
This Means War is not just about the war between two groups of fifth graders; it's the war against prejudices, against fear of change, against the unknown, against oneself. Juliet's parents are at war, with progress and each other. They own a small family grocery store and are losing business to the new supermarkets; money is a frequent topic of argument. Her father is fru
From infant to child, you have a come a long, long way! This book reveals just how you got as smart as you are. You watched and listened. Chewed on things. Explored and asked lots of questions. You investigated, made friends, and were very brave. Each and every step taught you something, and that is what made you so very smart. This jolly book takes a humorous but sincere look at how babies grow into amazing children every day.
Milgrim’s success with this book is in its tone. It is funny but really honest and truthful about what makes each of us smart. The best part is that it is about normal children, who all grow in their own way, who all explore, who all invent. Every child will see themselves here and relate effortlessly to the book. Milgrim’s illustrations add to the humor. They also bring the necessary bright colors and charm.
Perfect spring reading for classes of children who are advancing to the next grade. This reminds everyone that they are special and smart. Appropriate for ages 4-7, older as a treat read-aloud around graduation time.
"What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our gift to God." ~Eleanor Powell
Today my oldest grandson attended his Senior Ball. A little more than five years ago we didn't know if he was going to live or die. He was dying of a disease that destroyed his liver. Miracle of miracles, he was given a liver transplant and survived the operation, and got better and better, day by day. He spent a lot of time in the hospital before and after the transplant, but the operation was certainly worth it.
He was given the gift of life by a stranger. It was this last thing this stranger did on Earth. So, it was an amazing gift. After that, my wife and I signed up to be organ donors. It's a worthy cause. You should consider doing it if you are not already signed up as donor. Perhaps, you can help a young man or woman make it to their Senior Ball. What a blessing that would be!
My grandson has a wonderful, loving personality. I am sure he will make the Earth a better place as an adult. He is already doing that by working part-time in an animal hospital. He's giving back on a regular schedule. It might become his career.
He's using his gift of life, which he has been given twice, to give back to God four-legged creatures. And I am very proud of him.
0 Comments on Thank You For This Life! as of 1/1/1900
I remember all the first-day-of-school photos I took of the kids. I remember the time I took a picture of Mx blowing a bubble for the very first time. The look in her eye. Today, Joe and I took pictures of her before her very first day of work, her first job out of college. She actually got the job offer before she finished her last year and since it's her dream job, she went for it. Turns out she'll be able to finish her degree online. It will be a mountain of work, but if anyone can do it, Mx can. We're so proud of her. Last night she said something so sweet. I guess I'm grown up now. And it was such a sweet moment. Hard to describe, really. A moment of becoming and of leaving behind. A moment of awareness and playfulness and everything all wrapped up into one. I love this picture of her, all grown up. As if we ever, really are:)