Monday, August 31, 2009

Why YA?

I have accepted the idea that I am a young adult writer. I am currently working on a memoir, which wouldn’t be classified as YA, but my completed novel is YA all the crap that I wrote in the past that could never be considered publishable was YA and all the ideas for future books I have are YA. So I’m accepting reality, I write for teenagers.

In some ways I think that this is because I’m really imature. Talking like a teenager is easy for me. I can write in a young adult voice without difficulty, but me trying to sound soffisticated is a bad idea. But there is more to my attraction to YA than just my maturity level. I think my biggest attraction to teenagers is the endless opportunity associated with youth.

I’m not one of those people who thinks high school was the greatest time in my life. A lot of adolescence was down right horrible, and I don’t want to go back. But that doesn’t mean being a grown-up is perfect either. Kids are encouraged to be well rounded. They are required by law to study both math and English, science and history. And playing sports and getting an after school job are considered good too. Teenagers are regularely told they can do and be anything. When was the last time an adult heard that?

Adults are pigion holed and catigorized. I have always had a hard time fitting into narrowly defined boxes, and as a result find adulthood repressive. I’m an engineer, I’m good at math and science and I enjoy figuring out how things work. But I’m also creative and I love imagining unseen worlds. I read six books last week, and wrote a book last year. This wellroundedness tends to confuse most of my peers. When engineers hear that I’m a writer they say things like, “I read a book once.” And when writers hear that I’m an engineer are often struck speachless – which is quite a feet among professional storytellers.

So I write about teenagers. People who still have the chance to do and be anything. People who are encouraged to be well rounded. People who are allowed to dream about futures that may never come. I’m not dreaming of a past that I somehow passed by, but a world that still has the possibility of a new and brighter future. Technically I might be a grown-up. But I think in my mind I will always be a kid, always eager and willing to look beyond the unknown horrizon, but never willing to limit myself to the boxes society tries to cram civilized adults into.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


For my 30th birthday (two weeks ago), my husband gave me a Kindle. I am very excited about this gift. Especially when you consider that my husband gave me a broken leaf blower that he purchased at a swap meet for my 29th birthday. I did ask for a Kindle, but I really wasn’t sure how much I would like it. I normally listen to two or three audio books a week, so I didn’t know how much time I would have available for e-reading.

It turns out that I love my new Kindle. And I expect as time goes on I am only going to learn to love it more. The thing that I am enjoying most isn’t actually reading books on my Kindle, but reading free sample pages. Amazon does have the “look inside” feature on most of the books they sell online. This enables you to read two or three pages online before you buy it, so you know it is a book that you actually want to read.

This feature manifests itself on the Kindle with the ability to order sample pages for free on any book that is available on Kindle. This sample is usually about two chapters. This is just enough to get a good idea of a writers voice and narative style, even if I don’t learn the entire plot of the story. I am also able to gage the stories hook and determine how quickly I am emersed into the fictional world I’m reading about. I now feel a bit like an agent requesting partials from already published authors. As a writer, I know how crititcal the first two chapters of a book are, so I have gone about ordering the free sample pages of every single book in the genre I’m currently writing that is available on Kindle. Yeah, I know, I’m totally OCD.

What can I say. Obviously, I’m loving this wonderful new toy. Some of the books start out very boaring. Other’s have a great voice, but don’t seem to be going anywhere. Some are extreamly timely, meaning they will be extreemly outdated in a few weeks. Then there are a few story beginnings that are simply magical. Those are the books that I turn around and buy. So now all of a sudden I am reading the books that I wish I had written. Really amazing books that I love even more with each turning page.

I am still listening to two or three audio books a week too, just because I’m me and it’s painful for me to not spend the majority of my time listening to audio books. A few of the books that I’m listening to are ones I started on my Kindle, than turned around and ordered in audio. But my listening que and my reading que tend to be two different lists.

This extream focus on books beginnings, has also forced me to think a lot more about book endings. When I do break down and read/listen to an entire book, I have an expectation to like it. The books I don’t think I will like, I quit after reading the free sample. So when a book comes to an unsettling ending, it really pisses me off. In the past five days I have read/listened to four books (two audio and two on my Kindle). Two of these four books had horrible endings. One seriously pissed me off and made me all of a sudden hate a book that I had been loving up until about the 90% complete mark. The other book just ended without any point or conclusion and made me feel like I had waisted an entire day reading it. There was no point, just a few mildly interesting characters with unique enough voices to make me want to read more than the first chapter.

Hopefully as I continue to play with my wonderful new e-reading machine I will magically learn how to write not only great book openings, but also great book endings. Plus, I’ve had a lot of people come up and ask to see my Kindle while I’m reading on the train. So I’m making friends and planting X-mas gift ideas in people’s heads at the same time. A double win.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hearing Voices

I have always known I would be a writer. Sure I spent many many years questioning the prospects of very learning to read, but writing has a lot more to do with dreaming than spelling, and is as natural to me as breathing. I have met extreamly smart and entirely unimaginative people, so I know it is a possible condition. I just don’t understand how anyone could not day dream. I have been entertaining myself with complicated and whimsical stories since I was in dipers. If I wanted to stop, I don’t think I would know how.

My brain doesn’t have an off switch, it can’t just stop working. I always have to think about something. Sometimes I think about reality – the things happening around me at the exact second they are happening. But my life is kind of dull, so my reality rarely demands my complete attention. Often I think up parrellel realities for myself, things that could have or may happen to me. I enjoy planning things, even if I know they aren’t going to happen, and in genearl I have thought through most options to a situation long before they arrive simply to keep myself from getting to board.

But even my non-reality isn’t that exciting. I’m really not that intersting of a person, even in my fanticies. So I spend a lot of time thinking about other people. People who don’t actually exist, but who have interesting lives. I had a lot of imaginary friends as a kid, and unlike most people, I never grew out of them. I’m 30 years old, and I still have a lot of imaginary friends. They are interesting people, and I enjoy thinking about the things they can do and the lives they can lead. Always keeping a fraction of my mind in my own personal fiction tends to make my reality a little more interesting.

Over the years, I’ve dabbled with writing. After spending countless hours obsessing about some new fictisions friend of mine, I would get the idea that I should write my musings down. But I would wait until after I had thought through every detail of a fictision characters life before lifting my pen, so my stories were always overly complex and didn’t make sence to anyone but me. And lets be honest, the making up the stories part was more fun than the writing it down part. So I lived my life, with one foot in reality and one in fiction, always knowing that someday the fiction would find a way to break out and I’d succom to the life of a writer.

In April of 2008, one of the voices in my head started talking a bit louder than the others. She was interesting, and I liked listening to her. I figured at some point I might actually want to write her story down, so I desided to make myself a few notes. I figured I would write maybe 10 or 15 pages of pros and an outline. Just enough to remember what I was thinking about, so I could go back and write the full story at a later date. But as soon as I enpowered this voice with an outlet, so started screaming at me nonstop. Then her friends started chiming in and I had this choras of voices yelling at my 24/7.

I finished the first draft on my novel after only four months. Four months after that, I finished the fifth draft. I wrote an average of three to five hours a day, while working full time, and attempting to maintain the semblance of a social life. I have an author friend who told me he keeps a notepad with him at all times, and he always stops what every he’s doing to write himself a note when he hears one of his characters speaking to him. If he’s driving, he will just pull over to the side of the road and start writing. Hearing this the only think I could think of was, how does he manage to live his own life?

If I gave my characters that kind of power over me, I would stop being me completely. I never worry about forgetting what I hear in my mind and not being able to write it down later. I figure if it is important enough to the story, my characters are going to scream at me loud enough and long enough that I’ll have no choice but to listen. When I was writing 3-5 hours a day, I was still playing each scene in my head two or three times before I got around to writing it down.

Lately my internal fiction has been a lot quiter. I started writing my memoir back in January, just after I handed my manuscript off to beta readers. I’m currently about 40,000 words into the rough draft of my memoir. It’s shaping out to be a fairly interesting book. I’m a bit of a nut case, so my life story may actually entertain a few people. But there is nothing overly compulsive about writing non-fiction. The characters in this book are all real people, who are walking around and speaking for themselves without any help from me. They aren’t hiding away in my sub-consious, banging on the door and begging for a way out. I do want to finish me memoir, but while the longest I went without writing while working on my novel was 48 hours. I can easily go a full month without even thinking about my memoir.

So hear is my new delema. I currently have copies of my manuscript in the hands of half a dozen agents who are waiting to reject me. I am half way through the first draft of my next project, and last night I heard a new voice in my head. I think her name is Emily, but perhaps that will change. I don’t know to much about her yet, at most the first two chapters of a new novel. But she’s talking to me, and if I break down and pick up a pen and start voicing her words, I know she’s gonna start screaming. I have no idea what this next book is going to be about, but I feel it knocking on my mind. It wants me to write it, and a big part of me just wants to scream SHUT UP!

I like the freedom of not writing 24/7. I’ve read/listened to more than a dozen books in the past month alone. I’ve spent time with friends. I’ve spoken to my husband. I’ve done everything I can to keep my crazies at bay. And I’ve tinkered with some narrative non-fiction just to keep my writing skills from getting to rusty. Can’t this last a little longer? Can I keep this new onslot of imaginary friends silent for a few months or weeks longer? Or am I going to go home tonight and bang out the first three chapters of my second novel and simply accept the idea that I’m no longer myself. That this chick named Emily is going to enhabit the majority of my mind for the next couple of months until I finish telling her story.

Am I completely insane? Or is my life just really boaring and I’m attempting to keep myself entertained?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Favorite Books

Lately I have been spending a lot of time reading (and listening) to books. The novel I have been writing for the past year is fairly polished right now, so most of my writing time is going towards my memoir. Writing memoir doesn’t take as much preperation as fiction though – I already know the story, since it already happened to me. So I’m back to reading/listening to two or three books a week. This has lead me to think about what my favorite books are. Here are what I consider my five all-time favorite books.

“The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell – I tend to use this book as a litmas test for potentail friendship. If you don’t like this book, really I don’t want to talk to you anymore. I never read SciFi, but this book is just way to good to pass up. I once went to a reading by Mary Doria Russell where she described this book as “Jesuits in Space”, and that is really exactly what this book is about. The Catholic mission to meet God’s other children after life is discovered on another planet. The cultural misunderstandings that unfold are the best picture of humanity I’ve ever read – even if they are about aliens.

I have decided to only list one book by any one author on this list, but I feel the need to mension Mary Doria Russell’s other books too, because “A Thread of Grace” (historical fiction about Jewish refugees in northern Italy during WW2) is probably my second favorite book of all time. She also wrote “Children of God” (sequil to The Sparrow) and “Dreamers of the Day” (historical fiction about post WW1 division of middle east, staring Lawarance of Arabia and Winston Churchill).

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon – Perhaps it’s just because I am learning disabled myself, but I enjoy stories about abnormal thinkers. I don’t think another book exists that does a better job of putting the reader into the mind of an autistic child. This murder mystery told from the point of view of a ten year old autistic boy should be on everyones must read list. It is funny, engaging, and thought provoking all at the same time.

“Virgin Blue” by Tracy Chevalier – I tend to really enjoy historical fiction. I like learning things when I read, and historical fiction does a better job of entertaining while teaching than reading straight non-fiction histories. Tracy Chevalier is best known for “Girl with a Pearl Earring” but I enjoyed “Virgin Blue” a lot more. It has a catchy mistery element as it uncovers the rolls wemon played in the middle ages. Tracy Chevalier’s other books are “Falling Angels”, “The Lady and the Unicorn” and “Burning Bright”.

“Harry Potter Series” by J.K. Rowling – I don’t need to describe this story. I assume anyone able to find this blog has already heard of the unstoppable force known as Harry. But Harry actually holds a unique place in my reading development. Technically I learned how to read in elementry school (enduring nearly 400 hours of private tutoring), but I never got to the point where my reading skills matched my thinking skills and as a result I spent most of my time listening. I was a senior in college when book four of Harry Potter came out and the Harry craze made it out of the elementry schools and started swarming through college dorms too. I attempted to order the books from RFB&D where I got all of my audio books at the time. I was told that there was a six month wait for the extreamly popular books. So I decided to read them instead. Amazingly, it was easy and fun. I read all four books in less than two weeks and loved every second of it. Harry Potter didn’t teach me how to read – but he did prove to me that it was something I knew how to do.

“A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving – I am listing this book as the fifth book in my greatest books ever list, because for many years it was number one on my list. I first listened to this book when I was in junior high school. I then relistened to it again in high school and loved it even more. It’s an entertaining coming of age story about a very pecular little boy. Maybe I related to Owen Meany as a kid because I too have always been a bit peculiar. What ever the reason, this was my favorite book as a kid, and one that will always stay high on my list of favorite books. The movie “Simon Birch” is a horrible adeptation of the novel.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

When Did You Learn How to Read?

At what point in time can a person be considred literate? Most people would likely claim that they learned how to read in kindergarten or first grade. But if handed a copy of War and Peace most first graders would be very overwelmed. Gaining the ability to read is more of an on-going processes than a one time event. A first grader may be able to read a number of simple words and as a result feel a connection to the literary world, but they aren’t ready to take on The Brother’s Karamozof yet. The good thing for most first graders, is that nobody expects them to tackle classic literature, instead young readers are praised for their new found abilities at every step in their learning process.

But when someone, like me, fails to meet the various steps of literacy at the expected times, the result is a more critical annalysis of the learning process. This is why, I have at times told people that I didn’t learn how to read until I was 20. Because that’s when I became a compotent enough reader to actually sit down and read the classics.

I was diacnosed with dyslexia when I was eight years old. At the time I had difficulty identifiying the twenty six letters in the alphabet and could only read a small handful of extreamly simple words. I read about as well as the standard four year old. For several years after that I told people “I didn’t learn how to read until I was eight”.

Once I was identified as dyslexic I began meeting with a private tutor three times a week, where I was taught to read using the Orton-Gillingham method. After almost 400 hours of instruction, I graduated from tutoring at the age of twelve. At that time, I understood all the rules of English phonics and could carefully sound out most words. My site vocabulary remained quite small and my reading level was similar to that of the average second or third grader. After graduating from tutoring, I began telling people that I didn’t learn how to read until I was twelve.

The problem was that most junior high and high school students read more complicated books than the average second grader. So reading remained extreamly challenging for me. I could read – I just couldn’t read well. It wasn’t until I was a senior in college that got to the point where I could comfortably read the text I was interested in. If I had spent as much time practicing reading as a teenager as I spent learning to read as a child, I may have reached that point more quickly. But listening to audio books was so much easier, I put very little effort towards becoming a proficient reader. For many years I thought of myself as “functionally illiterate” and honestly believed that I would never advance beyond a forth or fifth grade reading level.

Interestingly, it was my desire to write that finally taught me how to read. My site vocabulary grew slowly, and my poor spelling in this blog is evidence of its continuing holes. Because I almost esclusively listened to literature, the only time I ever saw new words was when I wrote them down. In college I gave myself a challenging enough schedule so ensure I wrote numerous papers. I always strived to make my writing reflect my spoken voice, and I often spent up to fifteen minutes figuring out how to spell a word that I said on a regular basis. Putting that much effort into my writing didn’t ensure that I would correctly spell these challenging words the next time I needed to write them, but the next time I had to read them the sounding out process was far less difficult.

By the time I graduated from college, I had read enough of my own writing to gain the confodence to attempt reading actual books. Amazingly, the task wasn’t painful but enjoyable. So when do you think I learned how to read? Was it at the age of eight when I finally learned the alphabet? Or was it at the age of twelve when I learned how to properly sound words out? Or was it at age twenty-one when I first discovered that pleasure reading can in fact be pleasurable? I have taken to telling people I learned how to read when I was twenty. Even if I didn’t start reading for fun on a regular basis until I was twenty-one, I was reading a lot of my own papers at age twenty and probably could have handled a book or two if I’d set down my audio books long enough to read one.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What is Dyslexia?

A friend of mine recently asked me “What is Dyslexia?" That is acutally a very difficult question to answer. Webster defines dyslexia as a disturbance in the ability to read. Sounds pretty simple right? Oddly, it never feels simple.

Samuel Torrey Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist at Columbia University did a great deal of early research on dyslexia in the early 1900’s. By the 1920’s he had a fairly good understanding of how the dyslexic mind did/or didn’t work. In the 1930’s he teamed up with educator Anna Gillingham and developed the Orton-Gillingham Method of Multisensory education. In the 1980’s when I was diacnosed with dyslexia, I was taught using this method.

Orton determined that while dyslexics are able to see and hear, they are not able to comprehend symbolic representation of sound. So while a dyslexic child can see the letter c on a page, and can hear the sound ka, they can’t make the connection that the letter and the sound are the same thing. In order to teach dyslexic children to read, the brain has to be tricked into making the connection through another sence.

So when I was a kid, I got to write the letter c in a tray of rice hundreds upon hundreds of times while simoltaniously saying “c, ka, ka, cat”. The idea was that if I saw the letter and felt the letter at the same time as I heard the sound and felt the sound, eventually my mind would figure out that I was seeing a sound.

In recent decades other methods of teaching dyslexic children have been developed. But I believe Samuel Orton had a pretty good idea of what he was dealing with back in the 1920’s and 30’s. Simply claiming that dyslexia is an inability to comprehend symbolic representation of sound is probably a very good definition.

Many nerological researchers are now attempting to learn more about the dyslexic brain by using various brain scan technics. I have never done any of this reasearch myself, and cannot claim any expertise on this subject. But I am interested enough in the working of my own mind to have read enough articles about recent technilogical break thoughs to give a brief summary.

This new research all tends to back up the hypothoses posed by Orton nearly 100 years ago. Research has shown that two different parts of the brain that are used while reading. One section of the brain is used very heavely by young readers and seems to be associated with sounding out words – literally decoding the symbolic representation of sound. Another part of the brain is used by more proficiant readers who are able to read more quickly without having to carefully sound out each letter.

The part of the brain used by young readers does not seem to work in dyslexics. In other words dyslexics can’t sound things out. They can’t comprehend the symbolic representation of sound. Instead nearly the entire brain of young dyslexics lights up (except the part they should be using) when attempting and failing to read. Young dyslexic minds struggle to comprehend the uncomprehensable by using other parts of their mind that are normally not involved in reading.

With enough effort the dyslexic mind can often narrow its path and teach itself how to read. Using tectile connections such as those developed by Orton and Gillingham in the 1930’s is one stratagy that seems to work in redirecting the mind. But the end result is the part that is important. Remember, when normal adults read, they don’t sound things out. They just read – using an entirely different part of the brain that that used by normal children. This section of the brain does work in dyslexics. When a literate dyslexic adult reads their brain behaves in almost exactly the same way as a literate non-dyslexic. All the problems with the dyslexic mind appear to be centered on the sounding out part of the brain, not the reading part of the brain.

So how do people get this odd brain damage linked to the symbolic representation of sound? Personal experience alone tells me that it’s an inharited trait – my brother, father, uncle, and grandfather have all been diacnosed with dyslexia. There are also hints of the disorter in a few of my other more distant relatives. Less personal and more scientific research has also lead people to accept the idea of dyslexia as a genetic trait. The exact gene associated with the dissorder has not yet been identified. Who knows, perhaps by the time my grandchildren are born they will be able to recieve a blood test at birth and then begin their multisensory education long before they have a chance to fall behind in school.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Becoming an Adult

Today is my thirtieth birthday. My body hasn’t fallen apart, my hair hasn’t turned gray, and physically I feel exactly the same today as I did yesterday when I was a strapping young twenty-nine year old. But I do feel older. I really didn’t think that turning thirty would mean this much to me.

Back when I was twenty-two, I heard the statement “Thirty is the new eighteen”. At the time I was living with my parents, had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, and generally felt young and imature. So I fully agreed with the idea of adulthood not beginning until the age of thirty. Twenty somethings tend to be a fairly imature lot, and in today’s society as people often live into their nineties adolecents does extend well into the twenties.

I do think of myself as an adult, and appreciate the idea of entering adulthood now that I am entering my thirties. I have multiple degrees, an engineering career, a loving husband, and a completed novel. The only things missing from my life are an agent, a publisher, 2.5 kids, and a dog. I’m allegic to dogs, but fully expect the other items to appear in my life sometime in the next decade.

I tend to be on the young side among my friends. Having my birthday in August ment that I was always one of the youngest kids in my class at school. Once I got out of school and entered the working world, I was again younger than most of the people living in the land of adulthood. I have made a few younger friends over the past few years, but the majority of my current friends are between five and ten years older than me. This means that I was just meeting my husband at the time that all my other friends were getting married. I managed to go this entire summer without attending a single wedding. Instead I’ve come to the age where I’m constantly running off to baby showers.

So why should I be freaking out about turning thirty? I’m an adult. I’ve been an adult for a good three or four years now. I should be able to handle being a thirty-something instead of a twenty-something. The problem is that I’m still imature. I tend to think like a teenager. When I first attempted to write fiction, I was a teenager and logically wrote YA. When I started writing slightly more seriously in my early twenties I still wrote YA, because I really didn’t have any adult experiences to pull from yet. As I entered adulthood, I fully expected that I would start writing stuff for adults. I’ve had lots of ideas for adult books, but I haven’t written any of them because they just feel hard.

But while 28 and 29, I was able to write what I believe is a good YA novel with absolutely no difficulty. Thinking like a teenager is both fun and easy for me. Talking like a teenager feels natural, and writing from a teenager’s point of view is equally comfortable. Now that I’m turning thirty I feel a bit more like a poser. I’m spending all my time living in the heads of my sixteen year old imaginary friends – and now I’m almost twice their age. Where is this Peter Pan syndrome coming from? Why am I so reluctant to grow up?

I’m trying not to let it bother me. I really like writing YA, and have given up on thinking my writing is going to grow up with my body. Most of the time, I am very adult and can handle being a thirty year old. If in my mind, I’m forever sixteen. I know I can’t always be young, but who says I can’t always be imature.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Being an Illiterate Author

This weekend I have been attending the Willamette Writers Confrence. Obviously, I am having a fabulous time. There is something inharently entertaining about hanging out with 900 writers. When you put that many story tellers in the same room it really is magical. In many ways I feel like I belong there. I recently finished writing a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set at a high school summer camp - so clearly my future as a best selling author is right around the corner. Basically all the other confrence attendies are just fighting over who gets to sit next to me at meals so that they can all clame they knew me when.

But something that the legendary Chelsea Cain said tonight made me realize how different I am from most people that call themselves writers. That difference is of course that I don't know how to read. Chelsea was the keynote speaker at tonights dinner. As she talked about the path she took to come to literary fame and fortune, she mensioned that she used to hide Nancy Drew books under her desk at school and read while her teachers attempted to explain long division. The body language of the other people at my table lead me to believe this was a fairly common activity for would be writers to do.

I have never read a book during a long division lesson. Partly because I liked long division as a child, but more notabley because I didn't know how to read. I do know how to read now, and have even been known to read books from time to time, but I never read anything else. And I still occationally say to people "I don't read" as an explanation for why I'm unable to recongize words when they cross my path.

Somehow my late onset literacy has enabled me to pass the threshold of seeing words. If letters randomly appear in front of me, it doesn't even cross my mind to decode the words they represent. I never read signs - which may be why I get lost so easily when driving. I never read the writing on the screne during TV comercials. I never read words on T-shirts, or billboards. And I have never read an entire news paper in my life. Most of the people at the confrence became fans of Chelsea Cain long before she started getting paid millions of dollars to write thrillers, because she wrote a collomn in the Oregonian. I have never read the Oregonian, even though I've lived in Oregon my whole life. So I hadn't even heard of Chelsa Cain until she started getting notariaty as Oregon's most recent block busting author.

The funniest thing is that I honestly believe the number one reason why I write is because I can't read. When I was a kid I was constantly making up stories. Why? Because I couldn't read them. If I'd had the luxury of simply curling up with the fiction derived by some clever adult, I probably would have been much less imaginative. But I had know idea what was written in any of those books, so the only option available to me was to make up my own. The first time I sat down and attempted to write a novel, I was sixteen. I didn't learn how to spell my middle name until I was seventeen. Clearly my desire to write wasn't thwarted by my inability to read.

I guess I'm just continuing to not fit in boxes. My biggest piece of advice to anyone with a learning disability is to accept your ability to think outside the box - cause it really doesn't matter how hard you try, you're never going to find your way inside the box. So here I am, the bell of the writing ball. I have lots of writing friends and feel a natural connection to every author I meet, but I don't belong in their box either. I may be a writer - but I'm still not a reader. I'm just an illiterate author. Fortunately, I'm not entirely alone in this world. Agetha Christy, F. Scott Fitchgerald, and Hans Christian Anderson were all dyslexic too. Sometimes thinking outside the box can be a very good thing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Firey Eyes

I have always had a bit of a paronoya about my eyes. I shutter at the mear thought of touching them. I wear glasses and have never even considered getting contacts. The idea of intentionally putting something in my eyes is enough to give me heart palpatations. I wont even wear eye make-up, because I'm worried about getting some of it in my eye on accedent. But I have now lit my eyes on fire twice.

The first time I got fire in my eyes was January 31st, 1999. I opted to ring in the new melenium in the middle of nowhere - more spacifically at my college roommates ranch in eastern Montana. At midnight we decided to head out to one of the fields and spell out 2000 in sparklers left over from the prievious years 4th of July. The wind picked up as I circled my sparkler through the air. A spark was carried through the wind and lodged into my eye.

The ember was the size of a beebee and hurt like hell as it burt into my eyeball. I was raced back to the ranch house and my eyes were washed out in the bathtube. The next day I endured an hour drive into the nearest town so have a doctor put chemicals into my eye to make sure I hadn't burt the cornia. The ember hadn't had any negative effects on my vission and after a few days the event felt more like a humorous story than a painful memory.

Then last night, I caught my eye on fire again. This time the burning wasn't from a flaming ember, but instead from a hot chilli pepper. I chopped the peppers for last nights dinner before I started on the onions. When the onions caused me to cry, I didn't think about the lingering chilli oil on my fingers before wiping my eyes. The burning was sudden and overwellming. I screamed in pain before rushing to the bathroom and attempting to flush out my eye the way they always teach in chemestry lab.

The water only made it burn more, so my husband started reading up on the internet about how to deminish the pain from chilli's in the eye. The gave me a baking soda solution and told me to try and wash my eye with that. It stung even worse, so then my husband gave me vinigar to rinse my eye. Eventually I stopped accepting the home remedies he came up with and settled on tears as the best solution. After two hours of crying the fire had been estiguished and I was able to see again.

My eye is still a little itchy today, but like the fireworks, I don't think the chilli's had any perminate effect on my vission. Still I feel the need to give a public service announcement. Make sure you always wash your hands after cutting chilli's and never ever wipe your eyes with your fingers while cooking no mater how pungent the onions are!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Steam Heat

I spent the last two weekends at The Great Oregon Steam-Up, which takes place at Antique Powerland just north of Salem, Oregon. Antique Powerland is a living history museum that as its name implies is a celebration of antique power tools. The Steam-Up is Powerland’s big event each year where there are lots of deminstrations of outdated power tools at work. Given my husbands obsession with all forms of rusty metal, he loves it at Powerland and has worked his way to the top of the Steam Feind totem pole.

During the Steam-Up my husband’s primary responsibility was helping to run the steam powered threshing demonstrations. He also took part in the organization of the traditional tractor pull (where people step onto the sled as it moves by to add a progressive weight). The only official job I have at the Steam-Up is helping to run the kid’s peddle pull (where kids ride a peddle tractor attached to a progressive sled and win prizes for peddling the farthest). I tend to like kids a lot more than manual labor.

The Steam-Up is fairly entertaining for an couple hours, but there aren’t very many people who feel the need to camp out all weekend for two weekends in a row. Only the true die hards reach that level of insanity. Somehow, I’ve made my way into that circle of steam powered fanatics. The question I can’t help asking myself is how did I get there? I tend to shy away from all forms of manual labor. Learning how to opporate a steam powered sawmill is not something on my to do list.

To make things even more unpleasent, it has been really hot in Oregon lately. Last week it made it up to 106 degrees. This makes the idea of pitching hay bails sound even less appealing. In order to escape the heat, I opted to head into Salem and watched the latest Harry Potter movie during the first Saturday of the show. When I got back, I also got a lot of crap from the hardened farm boys and steam enthusiests I left behind.

I tried to reason with them. Nobody was making them stand next to fire boxes and run steam powered machinery on a 100 degree day. That was something they chose to do. Something they wanted to do. I on the other hand, wanted to sit in an air conditioned movie theater. So that is what I chose to do. This reasoning did not decrease my biratement.

Then I made the comment that, “I really don’t like the activities down here. I just like all of you people.” When I said “you people” I meant it more as a gender nutural version of “you guys” but it launched a new discussion on how all these antique power tool fanatics had become a “you people”.

Some of them had been born into the “you people” and others had chosen to be members of the group. I on the other hand married into it. I do like the people who waist all their time climbing around on 100 year old farm equipment – a lot. I don’t have a problem with my husband being one of them. I just don’t want to join them myself. When the activity at hand is manual labor, I’m just never going to be a “you people”. I’m way to lazy for that sort of thing. I am glad that I was born at the end of the 20th century, and I enjoy things like air conditioned movie theaters.