Thursday, October 30, 2014

Paperboy by Vince Vawter


“Paperboy” takes place in the mid to late 50’s sometime after Elvis had made a name for himself and when Arkansas started integrating schools
The story takes place in Memphis and reads like a journal.  No commas, no quotations.  Very cleverly written, I think.
The summary of the story itself got my attention, but what really intrigued me was Rob Buyea’s recommendation.  I had posted a review on Buyea’s books here
Victor Vollmer has agreed to take his friend’s paper route for a month.  He enjoys throwing papers and is good at it.  His problem is with collecting money, for Victor has a stuttering problem and lacks the confidence in talking with people.
But he learns a lot and meets a few people that he may not have otherwise.  He records his thoughts and some conversation and little by little the reader can see the growth of this young man.
There doesn’t seem to be much of a plot until pretty much towards the end – after all the characters have been introduced.  He sums up the last chapter as Primrose had here in “Everything on a Waffle” and I love how he portrays who he is and who he’s met and how it’s made him grow (although he, himself, may not be aware of the growth that we see as a reader.)
My favorite quote is on page 217 as he’s wrapping up a brief description of his mother:
“I don’t know if it’s worse not being able to say words at all or being able to say them and not know what they mean”
It’s a very good book.  Easy reading.  Strong recommendations on my part.

Three Weeks Without Sugar



I remember seeing a story on the news about a class project featuring two rodents with different diets.  I was hoping to find the story online, but have given up my search.

I believe it was an elementary school, but don’t know what grade or from which state.  The class had voted the names of the rodents to be “Nut” and “Honey”.  Nut was given a healthy diet of lettuce, nuts and whatever else might be healthy while Nut was given sugars and starches.  The children were able to see Honey wilting away as she became skinnier and thinner – while Nut remained healthy and had gained weight.

I remember the newscasters making comment that they wondered if that might backfire for anyone having the desire to lose weight – to follow Honey’s diet.  Sadly, it was Nut who died first and not Honey.  I remember the newscaster trying hard to fight the smile as the story unfolded that Nut had choked on a healthy cracker.




I LOVE sugar – well, my mouth does.  I’ve never lost weight as Honey did.  I’ve suffered in other ways though.  The energy (if there’s any to start with) gets sucked out of me.  My blood stream seems to fail.  I could very well be diabetic.  The temporary satisfaction on my lips is not at all satisfying to the rest of my body.  So shortly after school started for Jenna, I decided to give up sugar.  Not completely.  I know it’s in my condiments and bread and some other things.  So it’s still there.  I have just refrained from eating candy bars and cookies and drinking sodas (because if I can’t have sugar in my soda, then there is really no point in drinking a disgusting beverage).  I have said “no” to so many things.  It’s been tough.  But it’s something I need to do cold turkey.

I was really good until last week when Roland and Jenna decided to make some peanut butter cookies.  They’re actually not my favorite and so I did not think I’d have that temptation – which I didn’t – for the cookies themselves.  Unfortunately, my error took place as the ingredients were being mixed into the bowl and Jenna had a theatre box of Junior Mints that she was popping into her mouth like it was popcorn.   


 Subconsciously I joined her.  After about six or so, I thought, “Oh, no!” and then thought, “Where did Jenna even get a theatre sized box of Junior Mints?”  I did stop eating them, but still – once the sugar enters my system, my tongue has an incredible desire for more. That is why I chose to go cold turkey – around the holidays nonetheless.  But you know what?  I can feel the difference when my body isn’t loaded with sugar. 

Haven’t lost my sweet tooth yet, but often do around the holidays.  Here’s hoping it will happen again this year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Don't Spring Clean - I Clean When the Weather's Crummy


We got a new furnace and thermostat – which we haven’t totally figured out.  It was really cold yesterday morning.  Not a big problem for Jenna and me, but Roland needed warmer.  So he made a few adjustments and the air blasted and continued after he left.

I put my hair into pigtails to keep it off my neck.  I keep it up during the summer because it is so thick and weighs like a fleece blanket in addition to the already blasting sun. 

When Jenna and I left the house, my hair was still in pigtails.  I have worn it down when the morning air’s been cold.  But I didn’t bother taking the bands out of my hair, but secured my hat around them.  It was amazing how warm my ears felt.  I may just continue to do that.

In addition to a new furnace, some new appliances were added to our house.  As we made room for all our new material things, items were moved, furniture rearranged and it looks like a tornado blew into our house.  It’s in need of so much attention right now.

It’s much easier to clean the house when the skies are grey and the elements are cold and dreary.  When the sun is out, I would like to use the sunshine for other things – like reading or running errands or even taking the dog for a walk.  It’s hard for me to be motivated to clean when the weather is nice.



My niece and nephew would always clean whenever they would stress – which happened quite frequently when they were living with mom and her health had deteriorated.  I thought it would be nice to have them in my house (though the clutter alone could give anyone stress) and right now I’m so ready to let go of everything, I wouldn’t care what they threw away.

Monday I did an excellent job going through the drawers and discarded a lot more than I kept.  I need to do that with every room in the house.  But I have to be motivated.  I think I need to take a break and pick up when it gets dark again – which seems to happen earlier with each passing day.

I remember voting online for whether to keep daylight savings or not.  Must have not been legit as the anchors are sending reminders to set our clocks back.  The majority said to get rid of daylight savings.  Like 80%.  I hope that this is the last time we have to move our clocks an hour and that we can just stay on standard for the duration.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hank Zipzer is Laugh-Out-Loud


                                              Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler: Hank Zipzer authors

         Hank Zipzer is a character invented by Henry Winkler – though I wonder how much of the character is based upon himself as he had struggled with learning though nobody understood that he had dyslexia but wasn’t diagnosed until he was in his 30’s.

         The first Hank Zipzer book that I read was “The Curtain Went Up, My Pants Fell Down” Hilarious.  I laughed out loud with almost every page.  
 
         I really liked how in this particular story, it is not the obvius talent put who play the leads.  The director picks those that seem to struggle – someone he can help mold into the part.

         Hank’s fifth grade teacher is named Ms. Adolf – I’m guessing a play on words, as she appears to be stern and unfeeling, but perhaps not quite Hitler.  Just his first name.
 
         In my mind, Henry Winkler does the narration for the character Hank Zipzer.  I think the voice of Principal Love twould sound like Ben Stein.

         I tried reading it to Jenna, but she’s just not interested and she has a marvelous sense of humor.  She just doesn’t identify with the character at all.

         Learning has always come natural and easy for Jenna.  She doesn’t feel pressure from others that she’s being made fun of – nor does she make fun of others.  She’s got a great gift of accepting others as who they are and never stereotypes another based on looks or behaviors.  Although she has ruled out bullies, she still treats them with respect.

         I didn’t have a learning disability.  I enjoyed learning things – at my own level.  I liked learning what I wanted to learn but for the most part did not enjoy what was being taught.  I had a tendency to tune things out and daydreamed entirely too much.  I was never a class clown.  More of the shy wallflower.  But I can relate to some of Hank Zipzer’s character.

         I like the series for a few reasons.  One would be the font size.  Because I don’t struggle with my failing eyesight.  Two, I believe all seventeen stories come in paperback (at least they have thus far) which is less weight in my backpack (good reason, huh?) and three, because it’s easy reading, marvelously written and really does put a smile of my face.

         Now that my school years are so into the past, I learn older I get, the more that I really do enjoy learning.  Many of the things I refused to learn in my youth have become more interesting as I age.  I also enjoy being entertained with Witty humor.  Thank you Henry Winkler for Hank Zipzer!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hartman: For All of your Contracting Needs



            No, I am not getting paid to advertise.  For heating and air conditioning I had always used Gils.  Gil comes out and gets the job done and no need to call back because the system works and they don’t leave glitches.  They’re reasonably priced – inexpensive even.  But it’s just a father and his son.  They don’t finance.

            We called Hartman when our furnace seemed to give out.  They had serviced our furnace before.  I hadn’t remembered, but it was Hartman’s paperwork tacked to our furnace that hadn’t been serviced since two years before we moved into the house.

            As I was waiting for someone to pick up, I started playing with a switch on the side of the furnace.  Apparently it had been knocked into last time someone had been in the closet to retrieve or return the card table or step latter.  The heat went on, but as it had been seven years since the heater was last serviced, I made an appointment and asked to get a bid for Central Air (Gils had given us one, but were quite booked during the summer and quite overworked I am guessing.)

Hartman’s bid was just a little above Gils – only they could finance – which could be done over the phone.  Sorry Gil.  I really do like your service.    We won't forget you.  You do a great job! But I just wasn’t comfortable paying it all up front at this particular time.

Hartman was to our house bright and early yesterday. Though our furnace and water heater were both working, Roland and I realized that their days were numbered as our furnace was 35 years old and our water heater was 15 – which I understand is 3-5 years longer than normal.  Mineral deposits may have kept it alive.  At the same time I think may have been solely responsible for sucking our water pressure as the water pressure we have now is so much better.  Who would have thought?

I never looked at our relic furnace and water heater as blessings before.  We have been major blessed that neither had gone out on us – or our tenants before us.

Hartman does plumbing, electrician, roofing . . . Last night the plumber was here making things right.  He told us what a good company Hartman is to work for.  Thus far, I don’t have any complaints.

Thank you Jason, Stetson, Julian and Jim for making a difference already.  Summer will be so much bearable.  And we will definitely use you again.  Especially for the electrical part, I’m certain – as we know only a few electricians and they are PRICY!!!  I bet they don’t finance either.  And you do seem more reasonable with your prices.

Could be more thorough with your communication skills, I think.  As with many big companies, often the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.  But everything has been resolved (at least we hope it has) and for that we are grateful.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Wind Has Knocked Me in a Coma - Journal Entry




I take Highness for a walk
He’s notorious for wanting attention
after we have all gone to bed
I want to wear him out
I’m already worn out

Roland and I are on the couch
watching Shark Tank
I suggest we finish watching
in our room
He let’s the dog out just before
he comes into the bedroom
to join me

“What are you doing
letting the dog out?!”
I think.
Now one of us will have to
get back out of bed
to let him in.
I can’t remember
which one of us
received that honor.

I am asleep
I missed the end of Shark Tank
I actually don’t remember
turning on the TV
maybe Roland did

It’s 2:00 in the morning
when I can hear Highness whining
“Go lay down!” I say
Sometimes that works

Highness ignores me and continues whining. 
I let him outside.
I have two pillows in my hand.
I sit on the couch in a reclined position.
I don’t know how long I have slept
when I hear Highness bark again.
He has stayed out longer than usual
How surprising
Especially when I consider that
he’d been out for five to seven hours
while I was away less than
fourteen hours ago.
Not to mention the twenty minutes or so 
when we had gone to bed

Roland wakes at 4:10.
He sees that I’m gone
and goes back to sleep.

On couch this morning. 
It is getting cold.
I decided to turn on the heat for Roland.
I don’t hear the click when I turn the dial.
I don’t check the clock.
It could have been 5:30 or 6:00.
I should have checked.

I stir on the couch
The wind is howling. 
I pull the afghan around me.
I think the heater is broken.
I get up.
I am in a daze.

I hear noise coming from
the TV in my bedroom.
I see that the light is on.
The door opens. 
Roland is fully dressed.
He says it’s 6:30.  Oh, shoot.
He was supposed to take us
to school this morning. 

Jenna has drama club
early in the morning and
he doesn’t want her left alone
before the school opens
That is why I have to go with her.

But Roland will be late
if he takes us all the way
to the school so I tell him
to go ahead and leave

Jenna is crying
because nobody had woken her up
and she believes she’s going to be late
and she didn’t get breakfast. 
None of us did.

I throw on a wrap
and grab my windbreaker for Jenna
to wear over her hoody
(which is not all that warm)
I grab a hat from my back pack
I should have grabbed one from Jenna’s room
as well

Before we head out the door
I grab an apple and banana
Roland hits McDonalds
before he gets to work
He wanted a hot chocolate
and they told him there’d be a wait.
I think he would just leave
except he already paid.

He doesn’t drink it
until he gets to work.
It tastes awful!
McDonalds messed up his order
Roland received a coffee
instead of hot chocolate.
He finds another
to give his coffee to.

Jenna and I wait for the bus.
We wait and wait and wait.
Jenna cries
as she believes she will be late
She will be if the bus is as late as it had been
last night.
We’re not going to be late.
The bus finally comes
We arrive at the school
fifteen minutes before drama club starts

My wrap blows in the wind
I am reminded of the tail end of

though my cloak doesn’t 
wave that long

I make three bus transfers
I am home by 8:30.
I turn on the TV to watch
“Dancing with the Stars”
I missed two dances
because I was asleep.

Roland calls me and relates the
events of his morning with McDonalds
Says he’ll return for lunch
and report to the manager
It’s a short day and so I leave the house
to pick up Jenna
I am wearing my windbreaker and wrap
and hat and scarf
because the wind is loud
and howling like this morning
not as cold though
but I don’t notice until I have passed
the house next door.

I remove the wrap and scarf
and return home so that
I don’t have to carry them on the bus
Before I get to the school
I have removed my hat
I pass a house with a windmill
Funny I have never noticed before
Today the wheel is spinning hard and fast
So fast it just might come off

The bell rings just before I sit down
at the bench
Jenna is playing on the playground
but does come eventually
I ask if she would like to catch the bus
in front or behind the school
she chooses front because
she needs to run inside the school
for a few moments

We notice Marvin out on the lawn
waiting for his grandfather
When we exit the school
Marvin is still waiting
It is a short day
Perhaps grandpa has forgotten
I asked Marvin if he would like me to call his grandpa
But he doesn’t know grandpa’s number
And I don’t have my old phone
Where I have grandpa’s number stored
I ask Marvin if he would like to go to the office
to call his grandpa or maybe
we could just walk him home.

I choose to walk around the school
rather than cross the field
(though it takes longer to go around)
That way we can look for grandpa’s car
in case he is on his way.
Marvin believes the sidewalk is a better choice
and faster than crossing the field.
It's not.
I don’t know why grandpa drives around to pick him up. 
His brother Isaac always crossed the field.
I wonder if Marvin has been bullied
and maybe that is why.
Or maybe it was expected last year 
because Marvin was just in half day kindergarten 
and is just used to being picked up

As we approach grandpa’s house, I notice
that his car is gone.
Marvin thinks that grandpa has gone to the store.
I hope that is where he is and
not at the school searching for Marvin.
Jenna and I continue to the main road to catch our bus.

We get off at the corner and grab
a late lunch at Burger King
before we continue our walk
to our house
I start dinner
Roland calls to say he’ll be late
He’s not hungry anyway.
He gives Jenna a coupon for a
Free smoothie or frappe from McDonalds.
She is off school for the next two days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath


My latest book review is Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath.  



Everything on a Waffle is a Newberry Honor.  I didn't used to like Newberry books.  But I really like this one. I suppose one reason why I choose juvenile over adult or young adult is the font size. 

Recently I had placed holds on one of each.  For the latter two, I am able to see the words better with a magnifying glass.  I prefer not reading with a book in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other.  And with the mornings having become darker, small fonts require more light if my eyes must read them.

 Everything on a Waffle is told in first person from Primrose’s point of view.  Primrose is an eleven year old that lives in a Coal Harbor, a small town in town in Canada (though it doesn’t specify which providence.) in the custody of three different guardians.

Initially she’s left with Miss Perfidy who often sits for Primrose – though, as the book starts out, becomes for an extended time and not just while mom and dad are out for the night.

Primrose’s father is a fisherman who is out during a storm.  Her mother, worried about the conditions of the weather, leaves Primrose to go in search of him to bring him home.  Both are lost at sea.

Primrose takes us on an adventure from the persnickety old lady to her Uncle Jack to a couple who live in city not as near to Coal Harbor as she would like.

I love the wit and humor in this book.  In one chapter she tells about being hit by a car and then waking up in the noisy hospital wondering if she might be dead.  She shares this thought: “This must be hell, I thought, because in heaven surely they try to keep the noise down.”

She also describes her last foster couple (who are short, plump and round as “look[ing] like a couple of kindly old hard boiled eggs”

At the end of each chapter, she shares a recipe – though most without exact measurements.  There is one she shares with two alternatives: The correct way, which is good, and the kind that you might choke down just to be polite:          “If you prefer Miss Perfidy’s tea biscuits, double the baking soda and leave out the vanilla.”

I also liked reading her profound thoughts:

“I was [grateful;] not just for their return but for their absence too, and where it had taken me and who I had met there.  I would never go home again in quite the same way, but that was okay, too.

“. . . I left parts of myself some places and found others unexpectedly . . .”

I wish all books could touch me in such a positive way.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Three short posts




            I’ve had a hodgepodge of thoughts off and on throughout the week (although it’s been longer than that since my last post)

            None of my thoughts seem to connect – though I suppose if I worked at it I could make the sentences flow to connecting.  But I’ve decided that I will just enter three short posts.  Four if you count this one.  Which I don’t.

Too Much Time on His Hands


       For the past three years or so, Roland has been working as a recruiter for students to take online courses.  His title wasn’t recruiter though.  I forget what it was.
           
            When he first started, those in his position were responsible for having at least two people start per mod (don’t know if the three letters are abbreviations for something or if it’s spelled differently – but it means every six weeks to eight weeks when the classes start for each major) and somewhere along the line it was raised to three and then four and then six.

            My brother-in-law, Bill, had worked there just a few years before the stress pushed him into looking for another job.  He put in his notice before the requirement was bumped to six.  The company wasn’t happy with his decision and wanted to make an example out of him.  The company also has a 300% turnover (what does that tell you?)

            So ever since the requirement was bumped to six, I would often hear: “I could lose this job by the end of the mod” Roland had only four possibilities before we’d gone on vacation.  He expected to be let go after we returned, but miraculously he was able to stay until the next mod.  He was short.  But they didn’t want to lose him and have him working for the competition (which Bill has done) and so offered him a less stressful position for less pay.  To me it’s worth less money to see him not stress all the time.  Only I think he may be bored.  He’s able to think.  He thinks that means he’s slowing down.

            Our bishop won’t be calling on him to meet with him once or twice a week or delegate this assignment or that.  More free time.  What will Roland do?

Saying Hello and Good-bye to Autumn




Whereas autumn seemed to linger for several months last year, I believe that the cycle will be over all too quickly this year.

I had heard the mountain trees had started turning in August.  But as for my view of Salt Lake City valley, the trees (or the majority of them anyway) did not start turning until last week.

            There are still many green trees that haven’t handled the chill in the same way as those that are already starting to lose leaves.  What?  The ones that started turning last Monday are now shedding their leaves for the winter? 

            Toward the end of the week, I did notice more that were turning.  This morning I saw radiant beauty of yellow and orange golds, one tree that was undressing and still a wide variety of green.  I’d like to see them radiate color before the winter brings snow – if it brings snow.

            I heard that it had started snowing in the mountains earlier than it has in the past.  I don’t know.  I don’t seem to go to the mountains as much as I used to.  And yet I’m so close to them. 

            Weather is peculiar!

Saturday Went Well



            I actually received quite a few compliments on how well Super Saturday went and how many enjoyed themselves.  That’s nice.  But I really can’t take credit for any of it – except perhaps the date change. 

            I thought the first activity I was in charge of had a better turn out – but maybe it was the same.  I didn’t interact the way I had with the first. 

            We had four stations – two tables with fabric and sewing machines; two tables that held blocks and paint; my station was a single table which held journals, journaling ideas and hand-outs; was it two or three tables spread out for the popcorn ball demonstration?

            The older sisters watched as Sharon demonstrated how she makes popcorn balls.  We had 8 – 10 sisters signed up for the blocks and a couple of stragglers who hadn’t signed up for anything gravitate to the potholders.

            I had brought a sewing machine in addition to Pamela and Scarlett bringing theirs.  Unfortunately, I did not have the hookups with mine.  I just assumed everything was in the box.  Even when I took it out, I wasn’t thinking that it would need a plug or pedal.  (So why do I even have a sewing machine? you ask.  I obviously don’t bother with it if I’ve had it in a box.  The truth is, I don’t sew, but Roland’s mother does.  We had it for her)

            Kristin went home to get her machine.  I think we had three sisters sewing potholders.  Scarlett, Lisa and Mary came to my station while I rattled on about journal keeping.  Natalie had her ipad and went around taking pictures of the various activities – which I am very grateful for.  No one had asked her to.  She just did it of her own incentive.  She posted the activities to facebook.  I am so appreciative to her.

            I’m appreciative to my whole committee actually.  They all pitched in and helped set up.  Pamela had had this great calling before me and so volunteered to assist with Super Saturday, as she would have done had she still been in this position.  And Sharon says she’s full of ideas.  I don’t think she wants to be on the committee though.  She starts her day very early and ends it before our meetings our wrapped up – or so I believe.  She pushes herself and then gets tired.

            I was sad to have missed the bishopric wives luncheon.  I knew it would be my last.  Roland was released from being a counselor.  Actually both counselors were.  Roland has been called to a stake position.  He’ll be starting his new calling this next Sunday, I guess.