Tuesday, April 10, 2012



I think I'm going to award myself an honorary degree:  HAP (Hypochondriacal Amateur Physician).  Spring break was marred by the fact that I was in terrible pain from my jaw, which radiated out into my ear and then gave me a headache for my free gift.  In addition, I've been having these weird pains when I brush against things or apply pressure in such activities as picking things up.  When I say weird pains, it's because the contact involved is minimal, but the pain is excruciating, like someone grazed me with a sledgehammer.  My care provider was away for the week, so I waited till yesterday to go to the doctor.  The facial pain may be residual from Bell's palsy, although it's on  opposite side of my face from the last bout.  The headaches are not a symptom of the jaw pain, but a result of it, from scrunching my facial muscles when my jaw hurts. I'm on a course of steroids and painkillers, so I have to monitor my blood sugar closely, but after 24 hours, I'm delighted to be having my first pain-free day in over a week.  I'll be having blood work done in a couple of weeks because my PCP thinks I might have neuralgia.  The fun just never ends, where my health is concerned.

Spring break was too short this year.  I knew I was off work when I took my watch off on Friday afternoon, even though I had to do my Little Debbie job on Saturday.  Conversely, I knew it was time to go back to work when I strapped my watch on to go back to work on my Little Debbie route this past Saturday.  I was kind of amused at my self-imposed rituals, which including returning my school lanyard to the rear-view mirror so I can find it every day when I get to work.

Easter Sunday flew by so quickly.  We didn't color our Easter eggs because we got preoccupied painting birdhouses for the hummingbirds and finches that proliferate the trees and feeders in our front yard.  My birdhouse was about as badly painted as it could be, but the activity made me happy, so it was a check in the win column.

We went for a family walk on Sunday afternoon.  My intent was to net some minnows from the creek to put in the turtle tank.  I recently read a book called Wesley the Owl (a book reference, to keep my blog on topic!) and the author wrote about how animals in captivity get bored if you don't change things up for them by hiding their food and giving them new things to play with.  I thought the fish might be company for Viktor, or at least give him something new to look at.  So, off we traipsed, me with a pink bucket and net for fishing, and Harold and the kids with walking sticks.  Evan immediately went into ninja mode, attacking palmetto bushes with abandon.  Kirby, our dog, was thrilled to be out with us and rolled in the grass in ecstasy.  Hillary and Evan went into Hunger Games: The Blind Man's Bluff edition, hacking and slashing at each other as well as nearby trees and bushes while wearing huge dark sunglasses and shouting "Huzzah!" Harold and I just collapsed with laughter.  Our greatest joy is the bond between our children, and it was as lovely as ever on Easter.

When we got to the creek, Harold was immediately captivated by the abundant crop of blackberries on the banks.  Butterflies and dragonflies dotted the sunny sky, and squirrels made a huge racket in the trees.  Evan had recently heard me use the word "milquetoast," and amused us all by repeating it and the many synonyms I'd given him for the word, much to Hillary's amusement.  I scooped minnows into my bucket with my trusty net, evoking the Brave Little Tailor and his "seven with one blow."  The kids were somehow not familiar with this tale (Mom failure there--apparently I never shared that story with them), so Harold and I filled them in on the basic details. 

To my dismay, the minnows kept jumping out of the bucket, beaching themselves on the creek banks or sticking to the sides of the pink plastic.  I kept tossing the escapees back into the creek, but viewed their determination to escape in a different light after my recent re-read of The Hunger Games trilogy.  Wearing an ankle-length dress and thong sandals was not the best choice of sportswear, so I slipped out of my shoes and tried to hold my skirt up, but ended up pretty well soaked from the knees down.  When I decided I had enough fish, we headed back home.  Hillary took several very nice pictures (which I will try to post later), and Harold got some nice ones of the kids, so we walked back with quality family time warming our hearts.

The mood quickly changed when we dumped the fish into Viktor's tank.  The water had not finished swirling before our mighty hunter cornered several minnows and chomped them right down.  There he hovered, the tail of a shiny minnow dangling from his jaws as we looked on in stunned acknowledgment of the fate of the last batch of minnows.  Harold had kept saying he thought they were dying from the trauma of the transfer to our tank, but now we had proof that their demise was no accident, but rather a tribute to our turtle's determination to supplement his diet with fresh fish.  We were all a bit horrified, but we couldn't help laughing in admiration, too.  Really, when you come right down to it, it's no different from putting mice or crickets into reptile tanks, and Viktor's disposition seems more sunny and animated than it's been in a while.

We were also (finally!) able to catch up with our DVRed episodes of Justified, which we've been watching together as a family since Season One.  Now we're all pumped for the season finale tonight, although this will be the first episode we haven't watched together.  The jury's still out on whether we'll watch it now or save it till we're all together again.

I bought myself one of those LED daisies that bob from side to side when placed in direct sunlight. It's the silliest thing on the planet, but it makes me laugh every time I look at it.

I've had to (temporarily) abandon reading A Storm of Swords, book three in the series that began with A Game of Thrones.  Evan finished the first two Hunger Games books, and my only copy of Mockingjay, the third book, iw on my nook, so I've loaned him that for now.  Harold had indicated interest in read the first book before the movie arrives at the on-post cinema, but we'll see if that actually happens, as he has several other books in a stack of titles he's promised to read.  Meanwhile, I'm flipping through magazines and working my way through the (ambarrasingly) large stack of books I've started reading and tossed aside for various reasons.

Really, for a quiet week when I was debilitated by pain, could spring break have been any better?

Sunday, April 08, 2012



I had read The Hunger Games trilogy at least a couple of times before seeing the movie when it opened last month.  Of course I then had to buy a copy of the first book and reread it, which led to buying the second book to reread it.  In between, I saw the movie again.  Luckily for my budget, the third book was archived on my Nook, so I read it again--twice.  I had recommended the books to my kids and my friend Sue, resulting in the following oft-quoted exchange:

Sue (after hearing my synopsis of the first two books, prior to the publication of the third book):  Well, that just sounds stupid.  And you've read two of these?  I wouldn't even read one of them.

Me:  Sue, you would really like this.  You love Survivor and The Amazing Race.  These books are kind of like those shows.

Sue:  I don't think so.  I'm not going to read them.

I gave up, never thinking the subject would be up for discussion again.  When the first movie trailers showed up on TV, I was so excited, and the movie itself exceeded my expectations.  I couldn't resist teasing Sue about it, so I asked her if she was planning to see the movie.  Imagine my surprise when she said the previews look pretty good.  After seeing THG, she told me she'd really enjoyed the movie, but added darkly, "I'm still not going to read those books."

Well, you can't win them all.

In the meantime, having read the series again and seen the movie twice, I can't get the story out of my head.  I would read the third book again, but my son is currently reading Catching Fire and will be ready for Mockingjay in the next day or so, if we don't get hijacked by the last few episodes of Season 3 of Justified on FX.  I've given a lot of thought to what I would recommend to readers who are still hungry for some good post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction to fill the void until the second movie arrives in November 2013.  Here are my selections, in no particular order.

LIFE AS WE KNEW IT           \
THE DEAD AND THE GONE--Susan Beth Pfeffer
     In this trilogy, a meteor knocks the moon out of its proper orbit, wreaking havoc on the earth with tidal waves and other natural disasters to add to the chaos.  The first volume focuses on a family in Pennsylvania, the second on a family in New York City, and the third on both families as they struggle to deal with food shortages, lack of electricity and other amenities, and facing what passes for normal in the wake of disaster.  I had minor issues with the books, which I will gladly discuss with anyone who cares to comment, but overall, I liked the trilogy and have read it a couple of times.

     Honor and her family move from the Polar North to Enclosed Island 365, where everything from the climate to children's names to people's jobs are dictated by the Colony.  Differences are punished swiftly and harshly, and conformity is the rule of the day.  Since Honor's parents act differently from their neighbors, it's only a matter of time until they draw attention in ways that cause Honor to question everything she believes.

THE GIVER               \
MESSENGER             /
     I actually read MESSENGER first, after purchasing it at a school book fair, and then had to seek out the other two books, which my kids had recommended to me.  THE GIVER in particular gives a chilling perspective on a world where political correctness is taken to the extreme and everything less than perfectly normal is made to disappear.

THE FAR SIDE OF EVIL--Sylvia Louise Engdahl
     Yet again, I begin a series with the second book.  Elana is a new graduate from a University very like Starfleet Academy.  She is sent to the planet Toris as kind of an undercover social worker to help this "Youngling" planet negotiate the perilous time when its population will either succumb to nuclear war or unite to develop a space program and explore extraterrestrial life.  This book shaped a lot of my attitudes about politics and war, and it didn't hurt that Elana had some pretty cool psi abilities.  The first book dealt with a more primitive population, and Engdahl uses more of a fairy-tale style to tell her story, which is very effective at presenting the Younglings' point of view.

RUNNING OUT OF TIME--Margaret Peterson Haddix
     All I need to say about this book is that it bears a remarkable resemblance to M. Night Shymalan's movie The Village, which it predates.  There was some controversy when the movie came out, but the book is well worth a read.

FRIDAY--Robert A. Heinlein
     In a world that seems remarkably like the Capitol of Panem, Friday, a genetically-enhanced Artificial Person, is a courier of top-secret information.  She faces discrimination because of her not-human parts, even though, until she reveals her secret, she is completely accepted and popular in her social circle.  What's remarkable about this book, to me, is what an amazing job Heinlein did of creating a futuristic world that is very like the world we currently live in.

RESTOREE--Anne McCaffrey
     It's no surprise that this is one of my favorite Anne McCaffrey titles, since it is, at its core, a romance in science fiction clothing.  Sara is kidnapped from Earth by aliens intent on devouring the human race.  When she regains consciousness, she discovers that she has had a makeover that has turned her into a model of physical perfection, but she is working as a caretaker for a man who is being drugged to keep him out of his rightful role as Regent of the planet.  She decides to wean him off the drugs, thus opening the door to intrigue and romance.  McCaffrey once said she was surprised at how much fans loved this book, which she wrote in protest of the science fiction that was then being written by men, but it remains a huge favorite among her fans.

     If your only exposure to this series was the less-than-satisfying film version that came out a few years ago, do yourself the favor of forgetting the movie and sink into the books.  Lina and Doon live in the City of Ember, an underground community that was designed to be the last hope of mankind in a post-apocalyptic future.  The electricity in Ember is failing, supplies are running out, and food is becoming scarce.  When Lina and Doon find the pieces of an old map, they realize that there is a way out of Ember.  The remaining books deal with the people from Ember trying to carve lives for themselves aboveground, where resources are nearly as scarce as they were in Ember and the people are not completely thrilled to welcome them into society.  I've read this series a couple of times, and I can tell you, the filmmakers did duPrau a huge disservice with what they put onscreen.

THE HOST--Stephenie Meyer
     This book was as unlike the Twilight series as it could possibly be, but I loved it.  Yes, it does feature a love triangle, but the rivalry is not like any you've encountered before.  Earth is being invaded by parasites, shiny silvery wormlike creatures which are implanted in the brains of humans and take over their minds, displacing the humans.  When Wanderer is inserted into the body of Melanie Stryder, she is flummoxed to discover that Melanie's being refuses to be displaced from her body.  As they share one body and get to know each other, Wanderer gets to know Jared, Melanie's beloved, who is a rebel in hiding from the aliens.  This book is, pardon the pun, more cerebral than action-packed, but I enjoyed it as a cautionary tale against the arrogance of humans and the decline of social mores.

I'm certain there are lots more books I could add to this list.  I'm equally certain that I am not finished with The Hunger Games.  If, like me, you're suffering from Hunger pangs, perhaps this list will help you find something to keep them at bay.  May the odds be ever in your favor!