Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reading beyond your comfort zone

I’m a big fan of children’s stories. Funny picture books? Oh, yeah. Middle grade fun and adventures? Lovely. Teen angst, romance, and struggles? Definitely! But fantasy of any persuasion? No way!

As a reviewer for childrenslit.com, I receive five books every few weeks and I don’t get to choose which ones. In other words, I’ve been forced to expand my horizon. And that’s a good thing. Strictly a fiction reader in my previous life, I now read nonfiction and biographies as well; as a result, I’ve discovered some pretty interesting facts about people, places, and animals. I’ve also developed a better appreciation of historical fiction. Of course, not all of the books deserve good reviews, and I’ve had to grit my teeth to get through some of them.

To tell you the truth, I had low hopes for my recent shipment. Regardless of my newfound appreciation of books I wouldn’t normally read, did I really want to review two dystopian novels and a book about warring angels? Really? The mere idea made me groan, and I resisted reading them as long as possible.

And then I re-discovered the joys of reading great writing, no matter what genre. All three of the previously frowned-upon collection of unusual-for-me reads struck a chord. But the one that sliced me to the quick with its angel sword was Angelfall by Susan Ee. Ee had me perched on the edge of my seat with room for my wings to expand, hoping to save the day if Penryn couldn’t. Believe me, the mere mortal has her work cut out for her. Raffe, despite his lack of wings, is quite a feathery handful. The schizophrenic mother, with her cattle prod at play, doesn’t help matters. And you don’t even want to know what happens to Penryn's little sister Paige! Ugh! Does Ee tie Angelfall up in a nice, little package? No Way! Fortunately, the ending begs for Book 2!

So now, thanks to my highly paid position as a reviewer—what more could an avid reader want than to be paid in books?—I’m a fan of warring angels and interspecies love.

And to think I never knew such romance existed!

Monday, September 10, 2012

I'm seeing things. Again.

But they aren't mice. And they aren't real.

First, there were a few lightning bolts. I blinked. It was storming outside, after all. But then I went into our dark bedroom and continued to see the bolts. I hit the sack, hoping that the streaks would disappear and not return.

The next morning, they were there, but remained fleeting. And then another issue came to the forefront. I biked around the block. As my feet pumped and my face caught the wind, I spotted a web of branches in the corner of my left eye--disconcerting, to say the least. I couldn't help but shake my head in reflex. The web remained.

I called the eye doctor. The message I received: Don't mess with this; come in immediately.

After a brief exam and a photo of confirmation, the verdict was straightforward. I have a floater, and it's not floating anywhere.

I liked my doctor's explanation. The eye, made up of collagen, vitreous, and water, usually acts as plastic wrap. It's nice and taut and can be easily seen through. But, once in awhile, plastic wrap wrinkles. And once the wrinkle's there, good luck on getting it out.

No one tells you about this aspect of aging. When my doctor asked my age, she nodded sagely. Sixty-one? You have a sixty-one percent chance of this happening, and you probably haven't seen the last of it. Lightning bolts? Common. Webs or branches? Also common. This floater is part of you now, and you'll get used to it after a month or two. If you start seeing jellyfish, though, worry.

She also pressed home the fact that eye issues shouldn't go unaddressed. If a retina becomes detached, the longer you wait to see the doc, the harder it becomes to correct.

So the way I'm going to look at this is . . . I'm still growing and changing.

That can't be all bad, can it?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I'm seeing things. Really.

A rapid-fire movement caught the corner of my eye. I turned, dreading the approach of the all-too-often-sighted, southern-bred cockroach; instead, something even larger sped toward me! I screamed, scaring the critter into a hidey-hole, or so he thought, being only slightly camouflaged by the tangle of computer wires underneath my desk.

As I caught my breath after a couple of more screams, I began to talk to him: “You are so cute! You are SO cute, but you are a mouse.” And just in case he didn’t know it, I screamed, “YOU ARE A MOUSE!”

If only I had had a camera trained on me, I would be winning big-time on America’s Funniest Videos (or maybe not—no one would have been harmed in the making of this film, and that seems to be a requirement). Yelling at him to stay put, I ran to the kitchen, scrambled for a cracker, slathered PB on it, grabbed a large paper bag with handles, and tore off toward the den.

Shoving the cracker in the bag, I propped it open and urged the mouse toward the trap. He didn’t fall for the ruse.

I ran to the kitchen again to get my yardstick. Using it, I tried to herd the mouse into the bag. He started a mad dash around the perimeter of the room with me in hot pursuit. When he got close to the door, I shut it, thinking that the quarter inch at the bottom could not possibly allow exit. Ha! With me screaming, “Don’t! Don’t! DON’T YOU DARE!” that mouse wiggled through so fast, he made my head spin. I quickly opened the door. As he tried to hide underneath a corner table nearby, I handled that trusty yardstick with finesse. Luckily for me, his tiny feet had to shake off dust bunnies; they slowed him down, enough for me to successfully herd him back into the self-contained den.

So then the little devil re-started the perimeter run. Ending up where he started—behind the computer wires—I once again yelled, “Don’t you move!” and dashed toward the kitchen to grab the broom. Running past the front door on my way back, I opened it wide.

A determined woman, I pinned the terrified, little mouse underneath the broom, dragged him through the den, and swept him out the door in one big swoosh. He landed in a bush about five feet away. I imagine it dazed him for a short time.

I shut the door, locked it, and did a victory dance.

The next day, I found a mouse on the road. He was tiny. He was cute. He was dead. He was gray. My mouse had been brown.

While minding his own business the next day, my husband heard a sound. He yelled to me, “I think our mouse returned!” I joined him, only to hear what sounded like a beaver gnawing on a large hunk of wood. My husband slowly opened the drawer underneath the oven. Movement. He removed the drawer and crouched, spotting a cowering mouse. But we weren’t quick enough. The mouse sped here, there, and dashed underneath the dishwasher. At one point, he fishtailed around the corner with his tail high in the air, mimicking a cartoon critter.

We can’t have a mouse in the house, no matter how cute. Project Extermination was launched.

My husband set three traps with peanut butter; two of them were licked clean. He reset them, adding a fourth, and adding attic locations.

Bye-bye, mouse.

Hello, mouse family!