Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Desk Chronicles, Part Three: The Library

Welcome to the final installment of The Desk Chronicles!

This is the bookcase to the right of my writing desk (you can see a corner of the desk in the picture).  I have several bookcases, each holding a different assortment of books, and sometimes DVDs.  The bookcase at the end of the hall, for instance, houses mainly middle grade children's books.

This one by my writing desk houses the bulk of my academic library.  These are books that get my brain working on tropes and metaphors and the like, and make me feel smart and writerly.  They're also pretty neat!

The first shelf houses folklore, mythology and legends:

This is some really interesting stuff, I'm telling you.  I've mostly read the thinner volumes that you see, but I'm working on The Faerie Queene, and occasionally I'll read from the anthology tomes, like The Mabinogion and The Poetic Edda.  After I finish The Faerie Queene* I'll probably start in on Howard Pyle's The Story of King Arthur and His Knights.

The next shelf down holds my poetry collection:

Aside from The Word Exchange, each of the books on the left side of the shelf is comprised of a single poet.  The works on the right are miscellaneous.  There's Paradise Lost, some German poets, and a couple of anthologies.

Next we have the drama shelf:

Here we have a few anthologies, some TV and movie scripts, and a bunch of individual plays.  The ones on the right are in German, the rest are in English.  Someday I hope to have read all of them.  So far, I've made pretty good progress.

Next is the reference shelf.  These books are all more or less academic in nature.  Some are actually textbooks from past studies!

And finally, the bottom shelf.  This is a jumble of miscellaneous Stuff, but the books on the left are the important ones:

That concordance is great, and the I love my Matthew Henry's Commentary.  Good stuff.  They're on the bottom shelf because they're so big and heavy.

And there you have it, folks!  That's my home office, right there.  What does your home office look like?

*I intend to read the whole thing over the summer.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Adventures in Strawberry Picking

I have not been strawberry picking in years - decades, even.  It's been a very, very long time.  So when my friend Erica suggested we go picking this year, I jumped at the opportunity.  An early spring, conflicting schedules and recent rainy weather all threatened to derail our plans, but they could not defeat us.  We went today, and it was a perfect day for picking: overcast, cool, with only a few sprinkles of rain, and it was dry enough yesterday that the field wasn't all muddy.  Perfect.

We went to Lee Farms to get our berries this year.  The field was just a small one, but there weren't many people out picking and Erica and I soon discovered that the Terrible Spiny Weeds* growing amongst the strawberries were the key to finding hidden treasure: All the other pickers must have been avoiding the areas with more of those stickery weeds.  As a result, they hid tons of lovely ripe berries.**

Three big, juicy, flavorful Oregon Strawberries.

We had a great time picking, but as soon as we stopped, our backs, legs and arms became suddenly and extremely tired.  I'm happy to say I picked 12 pounds of berries in an hour and 15 minutes.  The flat was buckling under the weight.  It was awesome.

12 pounds of freshly picked strawberries.

You may be wondering what I'm going to do with all those berries.  Well, I'll take some to Mom and Dad.  And I'll keep some for eating.  Maybe have some strawberry shortcake.  I may slice and freeze some.  I don't know yet - I need to look at the freezer jam recipe and see how many I'll need for a batch.  Maybe I'll go picking again...once my muscles recover.

I think I'll look into raspberry picking, as well.  And I can't wait for blackberry season!

Oregon is berry country.

*These things were killer.  Surprise stabs while reaching for berries were very unpleasant.

**Ripe, delicious berries.  I was a little concerned they wouldn't be very good because of the recent rain, but they're great.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Desk Chronicles, Part Two: Beneath the Surface

Welcome to another attempt to justify my deskical messiness.  I give you: The Desk.

You may remember this from last week.

The saga continues.

Today I shall be walking you through the interior contents of my beloved (yet unnamed)* writing desk.

I call it: The Stationary Drawer.

There are three shallow drawers in my writing desk: A narrow drawer on the left, a wide drawer in the middle, and a narrow drawer on the right.  What you see above is a picture of the drawer on the left.  This contains a veritable miscellany of mail-related items.

On the left is a stack of post cards, which will in the future be sent either to my friends in Georgia or my Compassion sponsored kids.  There's some random stuff underneath the stack of post cards, but they are the main item here. To the right of the post cards is my little address book and a bunch of post card and letter stamps.  To the right of those items are some cards with envelops (not pictured).

And that is how I keep up on most of my correspondence.

Next, the middle drawer:

Clockwise from the bottom left: An assortment of permanent markers, yellow highlighters, extra pens and pencils, and tubes of pencil erasers; Stacks of letters from my Compassion kids;** the welcome packets and other information about my sponsored kids, a piece of stationary for a letter to one of them, and some spare Compassion envelops; my old, blunt, scratched up pocket knife from Crater Lake, my good scissors, and a ruler; a little wooden tray that came with the desk and holds mechanical pencil lead, my red colored pencil, and a red, blue and black ink pen.  Somewhere in this drawer is also a cord that can be plugged into a wall outlet.  It's connected to a little power strip in the back of the desk, so I can plug things in right there if I need to.  I've never used it.

And finally, the drawer on the right:

This drawer has a variety of small office supplies, from the 3x5 lined note cards that I have loved ever since 9th grade German, to the colored tabs I use to mark pages and 3x5 lined note cards, to some address label things and a container of clear tacks I used to hang my Doctor Who exploding TARDIS poster in my children's book publishing classroom; there are note cards with Bible verses written on them and scotch tape; more thank you cards, an awesome Awesome Citation notepad, some sticky notes, and a thumb drive that's currently in my backpack.

Well... That appears to be it.  That's what's in the drawers.  Lots of Stuff.

*I once had a lovely Ikea desk named Alfie. It was a derivative of the desk's Ikea name, which I no longer remember.  Interestingly, that's the only desk I've ever named.

**That's one of the best things about sponsoring a kid through Compassion International - you get to exchange letters with them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Another Conference?

This last weekend marked my third consecutive Oregon Christian Writers one-day conference!

It was a great day, aside from getting up just after 5:00 in the morning to drive to Eugene, where it was being held.  I car-pooled with Linda, an OCW friend, and we arrived early enough to not have to hunt for a parking spot.

The theme was bridge-building, and Bob Welch was an engaging keynote speaker. Good stuff!

I gave away a copy of my book in the drawing, and Linda and I were the poetry experts at the conference, so I sat at a table with a "Poetry" sign on it, and at lunchtime people could come talk to us about poetry. We had a great time.

After lunch we had workshops.  I went to one about self-discipline as a writer (and time management, and organization) that was a lot of fun.  I ended up spending a bunch of time in the bookstore talking with my friend Hillary and generally having a good time.

Worth the drive.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Struggle is Real

Oh, look at that - a stack of middle grade children's books!*  Just sitting there, resting quietly on top of one of the shelves in one of my bookcases.  And what's this?

The Faerie Queen!  Also nestled peacefully amidst its fellow books.  There's just one problem.

As a lover-of-books, I always have a multitude of volumes on my shelves that I have yet to read, but there is always hope that one day, I'll get around to picking up King Lear, digging into that biography of King Hussein of Jordan, ploughing through The Faerie Queen,** and reading the History of the Kings of Britain.  But the children's books always take precedence - I never have a pile of unread middle grade novels sitting on my shelves.

Until now.

For the first time in my life, my children's books purchases have outpaced me.  I simply haven't had the time to read them.  Which is absolutely heartbreaking.  Every day, several times a day, I walk past that stack of children's books.

My hands itch.  My steps falter.  My gaze lingers.  My brain runs through a catalog of all the books on my shelves that I'm dying to read and don't have time to right now.

I suppose it's a good problem to have.  Much better than having time to read but no books nearby.

But still.  It's a little disheartening to turn away from such bounty, day after day, to go do homework.^

*Actually, two stacks.

**Which I actually have started.  And haven't had time to continue...

^Even though my homework this term is fantastic.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Waiting for the Paint to Dry

It's Mother's Day weekend, and my Mom just got back in town from visiting my brother and his family, so we're hanging out today.  It's kind of funny, because we're both tired.  So we've just been relaxing.  Here's what we've done so far:

1. Had lunch.  Mom made curry pea soup and quinoa - delicious.

2. Talked about painting - set stuff up.

3. I practiced guitar for a bit.

4. We went for a stroll along the river.

5.  We came home and took a nap.

6.  We did some painting - Mom's doing a big canvas acrylic of Niagra Falls, and I'm basically doodling; I have no idea what I'm doing.  I did a couple of trees.  Now I'm going to do a landscape of some sort.  Hopefully.

7.  Right now we're waiting for the paint to dry before continuing.  Mom watched some painting videos on YouTube and I started this blog post.

8.  Mom's prepping an early dinner and I'm finishing this blog post.

We are just a couple of balls of energy today, aren't we?  But it's nice to be relaxing together.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wednesday Review: Fun 4 Hire

Hello, everybody!  Welcome to another edition of The Wednesday Review.  Today's topic is:

Book One in the Fun 4 Hire Series
Introduction: The Water Fight Professional is book one in a new series of middle grade books* about well-meaning trouble-maker Joey Michaels.  It's summer time, and Joey is trying to make money by getting people to pay him to throw water balloons at their enemies.  It's a risky business, especially when Joey makes a bet with his best friend about how much money he can make.  Can he win the bet, or will his annoying little sister and the obnoxious neighbor girl ruin everything?

My Review:  I read a lot of middle grade fiction, but on the surface, The Water Fight Professional doesn't look like the kind of book I'd be much interested in.  It's not terribly long, there's nothing life-or-death at stake, it's in first person, and the writing is fairly breezy.  Nothing wrong with any of those things, but they do tend to go against my personal tastes.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I absolutely loved this little gem of a book.

That breezy, first person writing is deceptively simple.  Author Angela Ruth Strong does a fantastic job of getting inside Joey's head and portraying him as a fun, regular guy.  You can't not like this kid.  This is important because, although the stakes may not be the fate of the wizarding world, they are very high to Joey.

The book is published by Ashberry Lane,** which is a Christian small press, but Strong doesn't hit readers over the head with the spiritual aspect of things - it's never really center stage, but is very naturally integrated into the story.  So here we have a pretty normal boy living a pretty normal life and dealing with his faith in a corresponding manner.  Very well-done.

There are a couple more books already in the series:

Book 2

Book 3

I don't know how many books will be in the series when it's all said and done, but I've read these first three and have been happy to see that the series incorporates the passage of time very well.  We get to see Joey learn and grow over time, so it's not a cookie-cutter series with all the same plot and character arcs repeated over and over again; it's theme and variation.

I think this is a particularly good series for boys, especially if they aren't huge readers yet - it's very approachable and easy to read.  And it's a lot of fun.

Copyright: 2014
Publisher: Ashberry Lane
Length: 168 pages
Genre/Age: Middle Grade

My rating: 4.5 stars

*Middle Grade books typically appeal to kids aged 8-12.  And me.

**That's how I found out about these books.  I do some editing for Ashberry Lane, and when I first started I went on their website to see what else they had published.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

I Have A Tattoo! Adventures at the Dentist

Sort of.

Apparently if you've had silver fillings (even if they've re-done them as composites or those teeth were pulled or what-have-you), some of the material can get into your gum tissue and eventually leak, staining the gum.  Also, if you happen to be missing a tooth in the middle of your left jaw, you can hurt the gum a bit while eating, resulting in some tenderness for a few days.  I did that, and had a sore gum, and when I looked in the mirror on Thursday night to see if it was inflamed, lo and behold: It was gray.

In case you're not aware, gray is not a normal color for your gums to be.  And the gray wasn't just localized where the gums were sore, oh no.  No, it was also spread in front of a couple of neighboring teeth, which were also feeling a bit tender.

Naturally, I immediately looked up my dentist information to see how to go about making an appointment.  It was night time, so I'd have to wait until the next day to call, but given that my face might be rotting off, I was pretty sure they'd fit me in quickly.

Feeling daring, I did a quick google search to see what I could find out about gray gums.  There's trench mouth, which was clearly not what I had, and a couple other things that I thought I *could* have, and that were either not a big deal or easy to treat.  Then I found a page with disaster information all over it, so I got off the internet - you can't base your self-diagnosis on what you read online anyway, so why get worried about a doom and gloom site that's probably completely wrong, anyway?

Yesterday morning I called the dentist and got an appointment for that afternoon.  When the dentists looked at the affected area and poked at it with one of those fierce metal dental tools, and then got a complete set of x-rays to examine, the verdict was delivered: The discoloration is an amalgam tattoo (silver filling leakage), and is totally unrelated to the tenderness, which was probably solely from eating whatever it was that hurt the gum.  Completely harmless.

So, I'm pretty happy about that.  Of course, my entire mouth was sore for the rest of the day from all the brushing and flossing I had been doing, and from the dentist poking around for my complete check-up (I was past due anyway), and from the stupid unwieldy and slightly painful mouth x-ray apparatus.  But hey, I'm just glad it wasn't something that had to be fixed.  As it was, I had no cavities and all my gum tissue numbers were good.

A day without the need of a dental or orthodontic procedure is a good day.