Life As A Hedgepig
 
Tuesday, 20. June 2006
Bookworm

I spent most of my childhood with my nose in some book or other--a habit that actually hasn't changed much over the years. I don't know that all this reading has helped me understand life better. Most of those years, I was using books as an escape from real life.

Looking back on what I was reading, I can certainly see how the books I read shaped how I looked at the world, and helped shape what I want out of life.

Most of what I read -- and if I liked something, I read it repeatedly -- had either a historical setting, or a fantasy setting. Fantasy settings tend to be pseudo-medieval in flavor (just another era in history).

I guess I spent a lot of time when I wasn't reading trying out the things I read about. If I'd had a river to raft down, or caves to explore, I would have been in trouble: "Tom Sawyer" was one of my favorite books!

There was a river in town (now that I think about it); I guess I couldn't figure out how to manage the raft. I did build a rather impressive lean-to one day (don't know if that came from Tom Sawyer or something else). Later I found out there were caves outside of town, too, and my friends and I did a little spelunking. The caves weren't as big or as impressive as Tom's were. And we fortunately managed not to get lost!

I read books about Indians and tried to make a bow and arrows. More books about boys in the 1800s (especially John Fitzgerald's "Great Brain" books) and I tried to make a slingshot and learned how to play marbles. Tom Sawyer and the rest had also convinced me that boys had more fun.

I couldn't quite manage to become a boy, but I did manage to look like one for quite a while, with my hair cut short and always wearing jeans and sneakers. I figured the term "tomboy" had been made up for me -- after all, all my favorite characters were named Tom.

Eventually, I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder, and found out that girls could have fun and adventures, too. So I grew my hair long enough to wear in braids and demanded my mom make me what I believe we called "a granny dress." And a matching sun bonnet. Most of Laura's adventures were out of my reach, but I did get to try churning butter. And Laura is always in the back of my mind when I am researching my pioneer ancestors.

Greek mythology showed me that God had many faces and many names and that he might even be a she. Roman and Egyptian and Norse mythology reinforced those lessons. I still believe that God is too big to be caught in a building or trapped between the covers of any one book.

In high school, I discovered a book called "Illusions" by Richard Bach. I stumbled across it during a lunch time stop in the school library -- I devoured books more frequently than lunches. I had read "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" when it was the "big thing." I'm sure I thought it was quite profound; "Illusions" was profounder (if that's a word). I was spellbound from the first page. I know I went to my classes that afternoon, but I have no idea what happened in any of them. I was reading. I should read it again; I don't remember too many of the details now, just that it was startling and illuminating and beautiful. The only "lessons" that stick in my mind from it now are, paraphrasing, "any thing is possible" and "how to tell if your mission on earth is finished: if you're still alive, it isn't."

In high school, I also discovered historical romances, although I disdained the formulaic "Harlequin" type novels. I also disdained any book where the heroine traveled to made up kingdoms and married fake royalty, successfully masqueraded as a boy for more than about five minutes, or ended up in a harem. I had some standards! But I did fall in love with the Middle Ages. I knew the genealogy of the British royal family (or families) before I knew my own. In fact, the royal genealogy probably helped prompt me to study my own.

I knew that the romances were pure fiction, and didn't expect to find my soul mate, but I was really surprised when I made it to college and found the Middle Ages! The Society for Creative Anachronism, "a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to re-creating the Middle Ages, not as they were, but as they should have been," had a branch on my college campus. After all those historical romances and all those fantasies (Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Lloyd Alexander and the like) finding the SCA was like coming home. I did find my true love there, as well, although it didn't work out quite the way it does in the stories, and I found out that made up kingdoms and fake royalty can be very real and not necessarily a cause for disdain.

These days, I have lowered my standards even farther and found that Harlequin romances can be acceptable fare. But I am heavily into escapism these days; I still think that the romances are bigger fantasies than the fantasies! But I kind of missed my own happy ending with my first "true love," so I read the romances and enjoy those happy endings instead.

As for finding out what I want to do with my life? I want to be a librarian, of course! What better career for a dedicated book worm?

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Saturday, 11. June 2005
Trains

A Random Collection of Memories of Some of the Trains in My Life
(illustrated with a random collection of photos of recent trains & tracks in my life)

Train engine stopped in Aberdeen, Washington

I've loved trains since I was little. I remember being in a crib at Grandma & Grandpa's house in Eastern Oregon and listening to the trains go by--I must have been 3 or 4 at the oldest. I still love the sound of train whistles. They lived on a farm, and there was a certain part of the fence where I would go climb up and stand there to watch the trains, and wave at the engineers, though they were generally too far away to notice.

When I was nine, my mom, my brother, our cousin & I, all rode the train from Klamath Falls, Oregon, to our cousin's home in San Diego. I remember sitting on my suitcase for what seemed like hours waiting for the train to arrive in K. Falls, and then riding for what seemed like forever to get to San Diego. What a fun trip! I'd love to do it again some day.

There is nothing so poetic as a train track, stretching off into the distance, rife with possibilities...

Around age 13 or so, some of my friends and I used to fool around in the freight yard in Bend. Climbed all over and around and through and between the cars on the sidings there. Goodness knows how we managed to escape being either caught or killed! I never did hop a freight train, although we came close once. There were a bunch of dubious looking men in the open car we spotted, though, and we had the sense to realize that to them we might just look like play toys, and we probably wouldn't enjoy their games.

Train bridge over the Wishkah River

As a mother of sons (Caitlin never really caught the train bug), I've had trains underfoot (sometimes literally) since Jamie was old enough to put together tracks and zoom Thomas along them--around age 2 or 3, I guess. Colin followed in his (train) tracks, and now Alex plays with the whole collection, though maybe not quite as obsessively as his brothers did.

Some of the boys' collection of toy trains

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Saturday, 14. May 2005
Exchange At Burger King

I don't go to fast food restaurants very often. That doesn't really have much to do with the fact that the people who work there are stupid, although so many of them seem to be. (My father and I were constantly amazed at the incredible stupidity of the workers at the Poulsbo KFC, who were dense to the point of not being able to understand the phrase "two extra biscuits, please"--but that's another story.)

The latest example of stupidity--or at least senselessness--in the fast food industry was yesterday at Burger King. I had a rare burst of energy after the kids left for school so I decided to go down to the river to take pictures, and pick up some breakfast at the Meat Monarch on the way. Perusing the menu, I noticed it said "Value Meal includes hash browns and a medium coffee." Caffeine and deep fried starches are always a favourite of mine, so I ordered the Sausage Croissanwich Value Meal.

"And what drink would you like with that?"

"Uh...coffee." (Doesn't it say right there that it comes with coffee?)

"Would you like cream with that?"

"Yes, please."

She entered the various codes into the cash register, handed me my change and my receipt, and then slapped an empty cup down on the counter!

Now, I can understand that they ask what drink you want, so they can give you the right kind of cup. Although since it says on the menu that the meal I ordered comes with a medium coffee I would have thought that it was obvious that I wanted coffee. If, in fact, the meal comes with a choice of drink, why doesn't the menu simply say that?

But what I really can't figure out is why on earth--since the drinks (and coffee pollutants) are self serve--why did she ask if I wanted cream with it? I wasn't charged for it; it was self serve so she didn't have to hand it over if I wanted it; there was no mention on the receipt that the question had been asked and answered so they didn't seem to be taking a survey to see if, for example, more people take their coffee with cream or not. Was she just nosy?

It doesn't matter, of course. In the grand scheme of things pondering the reason for the question is about as pointless as the question itself. It just bugged me. And it's just one more example of the stupidity of fast food workers.

The food wasn't bad, though. And the coffee was okay.

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