Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Child Who Changed My Life

As a kid I had severe, chronic asthma and, in the early 1950s, I was sent to the Stanford Convalescent Home. I recently learned it was actually called the Stanford Convalescent Home for Impoverished Children. I had never considered our family to be impoverished, but we certainly didn't have much money.

Like all new residents, I spent my first week at the home in the unit with little kids and bedridden children. One of the little ones was a girl named Gladys. She had big, blue eyes and curly hair and an impish smile.

I only knew her for that one week, but she changed my life forever.

Gladys was deaf. She was born with no fingers on one hand and was six months old when her parents discovered she was deaf. They brought her to the convalescent home and were never heard from again.

Back then schools didn't allow deaf kids to use Sign Language. The theory was they'd be motivated to speak and read lips if they couldn't sign.

But, when the teacher and nurses weren't looking, Gladys and I communicated with gestures, expressions, and body language. She was full of mischief and I enjoyed her company.

I was in another unit for five weeks before going home and never saw Gladys again.

But because of her in High School I volunteered with a program for "handicapped" children and spent a lot of time with a boy who was deaf. (He and I also secretly used gestures to communicate.)

Because of Gladys, in college when I was given an alphabet card I practiced fingerspelling until I could remember how to do it.

Because of Gladys I learned American Sign Language, worked at California School for the Deaf for years, married a Sign Language interpreter and interpreted in several churches, and raised three Deaf foster sons with Special Needs.

I would LOVE to find Gladys again (she'd be in her 60s now) and let her know how she changed my life.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Laughing Out Loud

I keep a few books made up of short things that can be read quickly. I take those with me to doctors' offices and other places where I expect to wait because I won't have to put them down in the middle of an interesting section when I'm called in for my appointment.

Recently, while waiting for a blood test, I was reading Richard Lederer's book, The Revenge of Anguished English. And I was silently laughing so much tears were running down my face and the receptionist asked if I was okay.

I was more than okay, I was having a wonderful time!

If you like slapstick or risque humor, Lederer's books probably won't strike you as funny as they do me, but I love language jokes and puns, so Lederer's books are my favorite kind of humor. The bun may be the lowest form of wheat, but I consider the pun to be the highest form of wit.

I'd read this book before, but pull it out to re-read every few years and it always makes me laugh.

And, since laughter is good medicine, maybe all doctors should keep copies of it in their waiting rooms.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Writers Together

I've attended two writers Conferences in the last few weeks and enjoyed both of them a lot.

Writing is a solitary business, but writers are communicators, so we tend to click when we get together. Many of my closest friends are people I originally met at writers conferences.

On Saturday, April 11 I'll be participating in a group book signing with other authors. While signings are on a much smaller scale than conferences and we don't have much time to share with each other, this is another way to be with other writers.

And most of the people who attend love books, so we have a lot in common with each other, too.

This signing will be in Auburn, CA at what is now called the General Gomez Art Center. That recently renovated facility at 808 Lincoln Way was previously the Placer Arts Center.

There will be a lot going on and I hope lots of people I know who live nearby will be able to join us.

It should be fun!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring Colors

Easter is always the first Sunday after the first new moon in Spring.

Tomorrow will be Easter Sunday and I'm already enjoying all the beautiful Spring colors. Trees are blossoming and flowers have been blooming for weeks here in California.

Yes, I know we desperately need rain and some is predicted for Easter Sunday. We'll celebrate if that happens.

And even if kids can't be outside for Easter egg hunts, people will be wearing lovely colors to church.

I notice colors more than most people do. 

Whenever I've had one of those eye tests for color vision where numbers and letters are mixed in with little dots I've always gotten 100% correct.

Since my color vision is so strong I probably get more pleasure from colors than most people do. And, wet or dry, feasting my eyes on the colors will be just one more thing to add to the joy of the holiday.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Water Emergency

Have you heard the latest news about the drought in California? It's the worst in recorded history!

It will soon be illegal for anyone in the state to shower or bathe more than once a week, flush the toilet more than twice a day, or water lawns or flower gardens at all. Slight exceptions will be made for plants that produce fruits or vegetables. Outer clothing will have to be worn at least twice before laundering.

Strict fines will be imposed for people not obeying these new regulations.

April Fool!

The regulations aren't nearly that strict ... at least not yet.

But except for watering plants, most of those artificial regulations are pretty much the way people lived in the past. Outhouses didn't need to be flushed, people often wore the same clothes for a week except for their "Sunday best" and, as I mentioned before, bathing once a week was the norm.

I hope we don't get to the point where we actually have regulations like the artificial ones I mentioned. And that will be less likely if everyone in our state tries to limit water usage as much as possible.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee

I'd never read anything by Barry Jonsberg before reading The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee but I'll certainly read more of his work in the future.

I loved this book!

Unlike many new books for kids, the author was able to make it different without seeming to try too hard or depending on gimmicks.

Candice, the twelve year old main character, has a complicated life with lots of problems and works hard trying to solve them.

But there's nothing maudlin  or depressing about this book. In fact it had me laughing out loud quite a few times.

Now I can't wait to read other Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction by this author.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Living Language

I've always been fascinated with the science of Linguistics, even when I was a little kid and didn't know that term.

When my brother was a toddler learning to talk I could understand him when the grown-ups couldn't, and that made me feel important. Then we moved from New Jersey to California when I was five years old and I was amazed that people out west used different words for some things than people did back east.

I took lots of electives in college on the subject,of Linguistics, too.

And I'm still fascinated by the way languages evolve over the years.

English has the largest vocabulary of any language on our planet because it has been influenced by nearly every other culture over the centuries.  Since most people reading this would find the topic boring I won't begin to list the various ones that have influenced our language over the centuries. If any of us were to time-travel to England hundreds of years ago we'd probably find it difficult to communicate, at least for a while.

English is still changing because it's a living language. Only languages no longer in use stop changing.

That's why it bugs me when I hear people complain about how others are using grammar and vocabulary that wasn't used in the past. Okay, maybe our high school English teachers would have given us bad marks for some of the modern usages, and current English teachers and professors may do the same. And in formal, academic writing those things aren't acceptable.

But centuries in the future many of them will have become standard usage - unless our culture has been destroyed and English is a dead language.

I certainly hope that doesn't happen.