Kitchen Tables

We’re all still sitting at dinner, and there is storytelling going on all around me. It’s the kind of easy storytelling among people who’ve known each other for a long time, similar to the kind grownups tell and kids eavesdrop on.

To me, it’s reminiscent of the scenes in the various Little House books where Laura and Mary are in bed in the wagon, or in their room, listening to Ma and Pa talk into the night. Especially this reminds me of all the scenes in Little House in the Big Woods when there were cousins filling the house, and people were crammed in, but still having fun.

I remember similar evenings at my grandmother’s house, with the mix of New Jersey Neapolitan and just New Jersey accents, and the softer tones of my aunt and my mother, talking laughing, and then, shocked silences at odd moments when lulls in conversation bring out the embarrassing whispers that kids aren’t supposed to hear.

I miss those summer nights. I’ve been able to experience similar moments with Fuzzy’s family, but the accents are wrong, and the stories aren’t mine.


I ate less than half of my chicken tetrazzini tonight, and I’m already stuffed. If I were Winnie the Pooh (see, I said I’d come back to him) I’d so be stuck in that door in Rabbit’s house.

Winnie the Pooh…is there any story more representative of childhood innocence than that of Christopher Robin and his honey-addicted bear of very little brain? I think not.

I’ve been reading Milne (or having his work read to me) as long as I can remember, but if Alcott was an author I shared with my mother, Milne is the author I consider to ‘belong’ to my aunt. I remember being five-and-three-quarters years old and knowing that my Aunt Patti would send me Now We Are Six for my sixth birthday. The book wasn’t at all a surprise, no book was really, because Patti is The Book Aunt (every family has one), but the personal note she always wrote in her loopy blue handwriting always was.

To this day we exchange Pooh-themed cards on major holidays.
It’s not sappy; it’s tradition.


One of the really popular books when I was in grade school was Soup and Me by Robert Newton Peck. It was more than a novel about kids, but a slice of Americana, less smarmy than the version of small-town America than that portrayed by the Andy Griffith show, but still relatively wholesome.

I mention this novel because we’re sitting in Spaghetti Warehouse in Dallas’s West End, and Fuzzy, for once did NOT order soup in high summer, though someone else in our group did, and I was desperate for a tie-in, so it’s a stretch, but I already used Harriet the Spy and I can’t think of any books that involve pasta, except…didn’t Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends have some poem about a meatball?


I’m sitting in the mostly empty CSz arena half-listening to the post-show notes, and thinking about how I nearly obliterated my Algebra II grade because I spent most of the classes either wanting to strangle a certain classmate for clicking his pen CONSTANTLY or passing notes back and forth with one of my sponsors, who shall remain nameless to protect the inno – well, because it’s polite.

Surprisingly, note passing has inspired me to write about Meg “The Princess Diaries” Cabot’s first not-just-for-young-adults novels, about two people who meet, and form a relationship based solely on email. (As I met my husband on a MUSH, I have some experience with meeting people online), but the novel was entirely in email. Sometime before that, I also read a book about a mother and daughter who communicate almost entirely via post-it notes.

While there are times that my husband and I seem to communicate only in text messages and IM, I don’t recommend this as a normal course of action. There’s something to be said for sitting down and talking face to face…even when he claims I don’t listen to him.


The red team is on stage now, playing a game called Stickerdoodles, in which each player is labelled with an endowment (fear of mermaids is one of them) and while this is funny, it’s reminding me of another kind of label, and a story that absolutely not funny.

It was in sixth grade, in Arvada, CO, when I read The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time, and as such it was my first encounter with that part of history. We weren’t given the actual book, but an abbreviated script from the Weekly Reader because Melissa Gilbert had just been cast in the title role.

But an abbreviated script wasn’t enough, so I had to read the actual diary, and I was instantly entranced, following the tale of this remarkable girl who perservered through so much. The movies don’t really show how far Anne and Peter’s relationship really developed, or the depth of her character, the strength of her spirit, or her intelligence.

It’s not a novel for bedtime reading, but it’s definitely something that should be required reading for all children everywhere.

Five Things

Five Things is a CSz signature game, and it’s almost always used to end the first half of the show. Right now, R, the ref, is asking for suggestions of mundane activities, sports, and high energy activites, in which certain key items will be replaced by items that have nothing to do with the actual activity (example, if the activity was mountain climbing, the mountain would be a marshmallow, the pitons would be fondue forks, and the rope would be spaghetti), a player who was sent out of the room has to guess the Five Things based on clues given using only mime and gibberish.

Communication is key, of course, but what if you can’t? This was a key element of the novel “The Trumpet of the Swan” which was about a young trumpeter swan who couldn’t. A boy adopts him, teaches him to use his feet to write on a slate, and eventually to play the trumpet, which is how he not only learns to communicate, but also to woo a pretty girl swan.

It’s a beautiful thing.

What’s happening on stage right now is also a beautiful thing, but in a far, far different way.

Schoolyard Insults…

…is the game currently being played on stage, and the crowd is totally into it, and J, who has led our last two workshops just nailed the clue – Oscillating Superfluous Orangutan.

Orangutan’s of course, figure in the novel that is known as the progenitor of the modern mystery, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, but my introduction to the genre happened in a far less grim tale, and starred Nancy Drew. The Hardy Boys followed soon after, but it’s Nancy Drew who really drew me in, even if her version of Girl Power was rather dated when I first read her adventures.

By the time I entered puberty Nancy was approaching reality – she was allowed to feel tingly when Ned was around, and stuff like that. (Hey, I said ‘approaching’), but really the beauty of the Nancy Drew books is that they are so innocent, so that the story comes first, not the romance.

8:00 – Pledge Break

We’re nearly to the midpoint of the ‘thon, and I’m blogging from ComedySportz DFW. The show’s about to start, and they’ve been gracious enough to let me blog from the show. The house is packed, the crowd is ready, and it’s a good time for a pledge break.

I’m doing this to help raise money for First Book, and I need you to sponsor me. Don’t feel like you have to pledge the farm, $5 buys two books. That’s two kids who get hooked on reading, and on the special pride that comes with their OWN books. (As a comparison, $5 is only slightly more than the average venti coffee drink at Starbucks, and a book lasts a lot longer than a cup of froufrou coffee.)

As an added incentive, I’m offering sponsorship gifts. At the end of the blogathon, I’ll be tossing the names of all my sponsors in a hat, and drawing some names. Three people will get copies of one of the books I talk about during this project, two people will get the a book along with a special gift box that goes with the book (details are a surprise), and one person will get the book, the gift box, and a $10 gift certificate to their choice of, Barnes and Noble, or Borders.

So, join me in supporting First Book.
Click here, and sponsor me today.

Otherwise Known As…

In addition to wanting to run my own newspaper, I was stagestruck almost from birth, so Sheila, from Judy Blume’s Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great was a character I totally identified with, even though she annoyed me to no end. I, too, wanted to be the ultimate MarySue in my own life, at least in my imagination.

In reality I’m pretty quiet and bookish, situationally shy, and extremely guarded until I’ve been around people for an extended length of time.

But you know what? Most of Judy Blume’s characters were just like me, at least to a degree, and I think this is why her books were so popular among those of us who grew up in the ’70’s and ’80’s.