I Explain a Few Things

i explain a few things

I Explain a Few Things is a collection by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. I read a collection of his love poems earlier in the year (or was it last year?) and I liked it okay—but I felt like I might like him a little more if he were being a little less romantic and more matter-of-fact. So I picked this one up, hoping it would be a collection of non-love poems.

Here’s my impression: Pablo Neruda really liked Federico García Lorca. I figured this out because he wrote an ode to Lorca. (I’m clever, aren’t I?) But in addition to writing about Lorca, he also writes a lot like him.

I read Lorca’s collected works a while ago for my world-reading challenge. Lorca is a well-known Spanish poet, who wrote some brilliant lines and then buried them in a mountain of absolute garbage. Forgive me. But I really didn’t like Lorca. He just didn’t make any sense.

The good news is this: Neruda made sense. He still used a lot of the unexpected word combinations that Lorca inspired. And Neruda still wrote sentences that didn’t make any sense. But when you look at the poem on the whole, you at least get a full picture of the mood, the idea that Neruda was trying to convey. A few poems lost me, but most of them were fairly easy to follow; I could even follow a few of them in Spanish. (This is a bilingual edition.)

So if you want some good poetry dripping with metaphor, pick up Neruda. And if you want something even less mundane, go ahead and try Lorca. ♦



¡No bájes al sótano!


Okay, guys. I’m learning Spanish. And I’m reading books in Spanish to help. But I’m kind of new at writing in Spanish, so here goes.

¡No bajes al sótano! es un libro de R.L. Stine, el autor de la serie Escalofríos. Son libros muy buenos para niños que les gustan libros de horror, y los leía cuando era niña. Ahora, estoy estudiando español, y leí este libro en español para practicar.

El libro cuenta de una niña, Margaret, y su hermano Charlie. El padre de ellos es un científico, y durante la mayor parte del día, está en el sótano. Pero cosas extrañas comienzan, y el padre de ellos comienza a cambiar…

Para un niño, es terrorífico. Para un adulto, es aburrido. Para un estudiante de español, es buena práctica. ♦

The Best Fruit Snacks

John and I were at the grocery store last night, stocking up. He was helping me make decisions, like what flavor of yogurt he wanted (strawberry and raspberry), and he was in charge of holding the shopping list (which he dropped several times before it finally ended up in his pocket.) And, since he’s the primary eater of fruit snacks in the household, I asked him what kind he wanted.

I parked the cart in front of the fruit snacks and he looked them over, then said “peecha!”

That didn’t sound familiar, so I asked again, and he pointed. “Peek-choo!” Pikachu fruit snacks. That’s what he was pointing at. And they were 3/$6, which is more than I usually spend.

I looked at the $1 options again and told him, “No, let’s get Curious George, or fishies, or Snoopy, okay?”


“Great. We’ll get Snoopies.” I put them in the cart, and then realized he would eat his way through that box in a matter of hours if I let him. “Let’s get another box, okay? What kind do you want?”

He didn’t beg or whine. He just kind of sat there, looking at me, looking at the Pikachu box, and then back at me; he had this look on his face that said, “I want those ones, but you already said no, so…..”

And then it hit me. I had $80 worth of food in the cart, and I was arguing with a 2-year-old about one dollar.

We got the Pikachu fruit snacks. And—added bonus—they also have Squirtle, Charmander, and Bulbasoar shapes in there. And Gengar, for some reason. I guess they needed something purple for the grape flavor. Anyways. They’re the best fruit snacks I’ve ever bought. ♥

Fullmetal Alchemist

fullmetal alchemist


So back in high school, my friend Latecia kept telling me I needed to watch Fullmetal Alchemist. Something about how it was awesome. And a lot more about how the main character reminded her of me. Apparently he was really short and flew into a rage if you mentioned his height.

This usually just made me fly into a rage about my height, and I never got around to watching the show. I wasn’t really into anime, anyway.

Well, now I’ve married an anime buff, and he keeps trying to get me into the genre. I knew nothing about anime except that the only kids who watched it were really weird (except you, Latecia, obviously.) And Ethan introduced me with Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, a show about a huge dude with a blonde Afro who fights crime(?) with his nose hairs. It didn’t go over well.

After a while, Ethan realized I might want a little more substance, and switched his tactic. After blowing all his bookstore credit on a complete set of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, he started trying to sell me on the plotline: boys use alchemy to try to bring their mother back to life and everything goes wrong. That sounded a lot better than Bobobo, and I agreed to read one.

One was interesting, so I read another.

Twenty-seven gripping volumes later, I can’t begin to tell you how good this author is at political intrigue. I don’t even know who was pulling which government strings, but I can tell I would be getting my questions answered if I read it all over again. And her world-building skills are amazing. She has specific rules to how this alchemy works, she follows those rules, and occasionally blows your mind by breaking them. And then blows your mind again by explaining exactly how she broke them, and which rules she was actually following the whole time.

If you’re not into manga, start with this one. If you’re into manga and you haven’t read this one yet, get to it. And if you’re not remotely concerned with manga but you want a fantastic story about politics, genocide, humanity, and also some middle-grade goofing around, go read it. It’s good. ♦

Virtue and Vice: A Dictionary of the Good Life

virtue and vice

I love C.S. Lewis. But his (nonfiction) writing is super dense, so I tend to pick up those little collections they print—the ones in large print, with condensed versions of his longer works. Cheating? Maybe. But I’m not in school anymore, so who’s gonna tell the teacher?

Anyways. Virtue and Vice claims to be A Dictionary of the Good Life. This is not “the good life” chilling on a yacht drinking a cold one. We’re talking “good” as opposed to evil. It’s a dictionary of basic religious words for people who want to be good people. And it wasn’t actually compiled by C.S. Lewis; he wrote all the content, but it’s a quote book collected by somebody else.

Overall, I would say this book is worth reading. It won’t take long, and it will make you think. The overall result, however, was that I ended up skimming some rather obvious stuff (and some stuff I’d already read elsewhere), and then getting to parts I liked and wishing I had the rest of the source material. If you want to know which C.S. Lewis book (or article) you’d like to pick up next, go ahead and start with this, then check out the bibliography in the back. But if you want the heavy stuff, go ahead and skip this one.

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote (that I need to look up now in the original article):

“If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

The Search for the Dream Job

We’ve been without income for a while now, while Ethan’s been looking for a teaching job. And while Ethan’s started substitute teaching, I’ve been considering getting a part-time job to help out. The primary reason I’ve been putting it off is anxiety; I quit my last job because the stress was really getting to me. And I’m afraid I’ll have to quit again. Or I’m afraid I’ll get the wrong job, or I’ll get fired, or I’ll do it wrong, or I’ll accidentally vandalize company property and get four people fired again, or what-have-you.

But I finally had a liberating thought a few weeks ago: what’s really the worst-case scenario? I mean, death and vomit come to mind, but the likely worst-case scenario is that I end up quitting or getting fired. And then—oh, no—I’m unemployed again. Whatever will I do.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to try out those jobs I’ve always wondered about, but never thought were a great career option. You know how you’ve always wanted to act in an off-Broadway show? Of course you never pursued it; you were busy following your prescribed plan to become an actuary. But let’s say for a minute that you had a good 18 years (give or take) when you wanted to be home with your kid for at least part of the day. The actuary plans are on hold. Why not try Broadway?

First of all, I have never wanted to become an actuary. And my little experience in drama class has convinced me that the actress idea was not for me, either. But here’s the list of jobs I’ve always wanted to try:

  • Grave digger
  • Flower shop
  • Breaking up dog fights (literal dog fights. Like, me vs. a rottweiler.)
  • Actress
  • Midwife
  • Witch doctor… or herbalist… or whatever you call it
  • Massage therapist
  • Bookseller (check!)
  • Selling cosmetics to men
  • Cheering up lost children at corn mazes
  • Rescue helicopter pilot
  • Special needs aide (check!)
  • Bartender
  • Diner waitress (the greasier the spoon, the better)
  • Author (check!)
  • Interior design
  • Garden center
  • Stained glass artist
  • Disaster clean-up
  • Demolition
  • Construction worker
  • Child literacy
  • Roofing
  • Taster/food critic
  • Dancer
  • Musician (check!)
  • Work with animals (nicer than the dog-fighting one)
  • ASL translator
  • Put things together
  • Taxicab driver

So, a few of these are things I’ve already done. Which is nice. And a few of these are out of my reach. The Provo Cemetery position, unfortunately, has already been filled.

But I think this has given me a good perspective—there are a lot of things I’d like to do. And some of these things are positions I still wouldn’t mind getting fired from, if my anxiety really strikes hard. I mean, I’m not planning on getting fired. But it makes the worst-case scenario a little less daunting when my long-term plans aren’t on the line.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t want the fear of failure keeping me from trying. Or having fun. And also, if you know a midwife or gravedigger who’s looking for an assistant, hook me up. ♦

This Is Why It’s Called “Fall.”

We went to a fall carnival last night, thinking it would be a great experience for all of us—especially our two-year-old. It was cold and a little rainy, but we came equipped with jackets, and fall is still going to be new and novel for a few weeks until we get used to summer being over. We were excited.

On the way in, we saw the train ride, which looked perfect for Jonathan’s age. It was one of those “trains” made up of a go-kart or tiny tractor or what-have you, followed by a bunch of hollowed-out oil barrels on wheels. The most promising part was seeing that the driver was actually excited about it. Most of the time when you see a train ride at one of these things, they’ve got some old, boring guy driving the thing in slow, loopy ovals. This chick was driving fast, snaky zig-zags. Perfect beginner’s carnival ride.

We bought some tickets and I ushered John away from the ring toss game, thinking we should make sure to start on a fun note. We waited in line, and the attendant asked if I was going to get on the ride with him. I said no, because it was the first answer that came to my mind, and I figured it was a pretty easy ride. He’d be fine. So the lady gladly lifted John into the train just behind an older boy, and they took off.

Halfway down the parking lot (I mean “train track,”) I turned to Ethan and said, “I really hope he doesn’t try to get out.” Up till then, I had only assumed he might scream. It didn’t really occur to me he might stand up or something. The train was nearing the end of the line, and we realized that was exactly what he was doing. Ethan took off running, but the train was too far away. John was standing and very carefully trying to climb out.

To his credit, he was handling it all very calmly. He wasn’t screaming or crying. He had just decided it was too scary, and he wanted to get off. Unfortunately, he decided this while the train was going full-speed, and turning around. So his brilliant idea to step out was disrupted. (Of course, the train was as tall as he was, so it’s not like it was going to go beautifully anyway.) He fell out of the train, landed face-first on the asphalt, and then got run over by the car behind him.

Spoiler alert: he’s fine. My child is alive.

But he wasn’t very happy about it. His head had a bunch of bloody scrapes and one really nasty-looking bruise full of broken blood vessels. As we cleaned him up in the nurse’s office, he slowly stopped screaming and moved more toward just crying and sniffling. The woman cleaning him up was very good with him, and offered him far more band-aids than he could possibly need. (This is when we found the tread-marks on his leg; that’s how we knew he got run over.)

So the kid is fine. He’s got a great story about “that one time when he jumped out of the carnival train and got run over,” but he’s fine. His poor cousin just broke his elbow (same day, I believe) falling on the playground, so now the family is debating whether the injury or the story is the more important bragging point.

I’m starting to forgive myself for letting him ride the train alone. And we’re emphasizing the importance of asking for help instead of jumping out of moving vehicles. And who knows? Maybe this will give him some context next time we emphasize checking for cars before crossing the street, now that he has some idea what it’s like to be run over. Right? This could be good, right?

Poor kid. ♦