Dick and Jane and…Vampires?

Browsing through the stacks in the children’s department of our local library, my eyes are drawn to a book displayed on a stand on the top of a shelf. My kids are learning to read, so my mom-radar (momdar?) is specifically tuned to finding early reader books for them. The momdar goes off when I spot the familiar, old-fashioned faces of sweet little Dick and his blond sister Jane running happily through the yard. You remember Dick and Jane. We all grew up learning how to read their bland, monotonous, friendly stories.

Dick-Jane-VampiresBut this is not your mother’s Dick and Jane book. This one is copyright 2010.

Here, little Dickie and Janie, wearing gleeful smiles on their cherubic faces, are being chased. By a fanged, cape-clad, gray-faced vampire.

Are you kidding me?

I pluck the book from its stand and flip through it, incredulous.
“Run, Dick. Run, Mother. Run away! No, Sally! Do not go outside. There is something outside. Run, Sally, run! Run away! Run away and come inside.” Illustrated in the same style as the original artwork, pale vampire hands reach for Sally’s back as she runs for the the door.

In another chapter, Dick and Jane approach a man in a chair reading a newspaper. “Look, Jane, look. There is Father. Hello, Father.” On the next page, vampire lowers the newspaper. “Oh, oh, oh. That is not our father. Run, Jane! Run, Dick!” Dick and Jane get the heck out of there.

Vampire, shy at first, harrasses the children in his attempt to “play.” He hides under their beds and in the bushes. (Isn’t that cute?) He follows mother to the grocery store and then disguises himself as the cashier. But eventually, he endears himself to the whole family, hiding in closets upside-down to avoid his chores, allowing the children to push him around in a baby buggy, and even donning a frilly yellow bonnet and blue dress sewed for him by mother. The smiling milkman, making his delivery to the family, thoughtfully includes one jug of red liquid for them. “Look here,” says Sally. “One is for Dick. One is for Jane. One is for vampire.” And of course, a vampire is nothing without a love interest, even in a children’s book, so in the end, Dick and Jane drag vampire by his cape to a park bench to introduce him to their new friend…a pasty-faced hot chick in a black dress.

“Happy, happy vampire.”

How nice. And disturbing.

I am not anti-vampire stories for grown-ups, even though they have multiplied ad nauseum in recent years. I have seen the Twilight movies. I kind of like them. I even used to watch re-runs of Dark Shadows years ago. They are fairy tales, not much more than that. But it is undeniable that there is more darkness in bookstores now, which I mean in both the literal and the spiritual sense of the word. There are whole sections for both young and older adults that are full of dark-hued covers. Vampire books and the like. It is obvious when you’ve stumbled into the creepy section of your Books-a-Million. All of it is ultimately thanks to Edward Cullen, the fictional vampire character whose existence in the literary world has spawned zillions of copycats, and whose smoldering gaze and glittering skin have caused an entire generation of teenage girls to swoon.

More notably, he and his copycats have caused those girls to fork over their money. Vampires equal lots of money these days.

But even though the market for vampire-related products is exploding, when did it become a good idea to insert a sinister, cross-dressing monster into a book for preschoolers who need regular convincing that there are no monsters under their beds? If the target market for this bizarre thing is moms who read Twilight, or the swooning teenagers who get the tongue-in-cheek humor, then market it to them. Display the book next to the dark-hued covers at Books-a-Million. But please don’t pretend like it’s for kids. Don’t recommend it for ages 5 and up. I guarantee that my almost 5-year-old would not find the fang-faced man funny. Frankly, he would find him terrifying. If you have to explain to a kid why a scary thing is funny, then that means it is not funny to them.

Let the vampires stay in their world, and let Dick and Jane stay in theirs. Let grown-ups stay in their world, and let kids stay in theirs. The mixing of the two, in this instance, is just too weird.


The Great NKOTBSB Caper

Where I come from, you plan. You plan well in advance. You put things on the calendar and watch as the days tick by until the planned-upon date arrives. This is how I was raised, and I like it that way.

Dare I say, I want it that way? (Cue Backstreet Boys beat.)

For months, I was aware of the fact that the newly-formed mega-boyband NKOTBSB, New Kids on the Block plus Backstreet Boys, would be playing Phillips Arena in Atlanta on June 22. And for months, I dutifully shunned a ticket purchase. Surely I could pass on an Atlanta concert coming right on the heels of my NKOTB cruise. No way would I do that, so soon afterwards. I mean, come on. (Some of you…you know who you are…cannot comprehend why I would deny myself. Others of you…you know who you are…think I am weird for even having this dilemma. I can’t win).

My chosen course of action, whatever fallout may come, was to pass on the NKOTBSB show.

Up until June 22.

On that morning, like a bug drawn to a fluorescent zapper, my mouse somehow clicked on Stubhub.com, and my brain mechanically noted that there were some good deals on tickets the day of the show, and my mouth told my hubby that I changed my mind, and my ears heard him say that he fully expected me to, and my fingers robotically dialed the number of my friend Maggie, who I thought might drop everything to come with me. I was right. The trigger was pulled on the tickets at 2 p.m. That’s 4.5 hours before showtime. We live almost 2 hours away.

Madness! What happened to buying tickets nine months in advance? What happened to the calendar? What happened to…I just did this last month? Zapped.

maggie and meI may have prepared a fabulous crockpot meal in record time for the fam. I may have scrambled to get the house and kids cleaned up before our ETD of 4 p.m. I may have climbed into the swagger wagon with Maggie and trekked it to Atlanta, laughing and chatting all the way. We may have awkwardly navigated our way to the Stubhub ticket pickup office near the arena, and run in to get our orange envelope like a Mission Impossible team. We may have been swept along in a sea of humanity on our way in to the arena. And we may have settled into our surprisingly good seats with 15 minutes to spare, quite proud of our efficiency.

Or it may have all been a dream. I am still trying to decide.

At any rate, Maggie and I happily be-bopped and sang through the whole show, in the midst of a crowd of 20,000 women and (true to form) about 4 guys. The New Kids and the BSB’s traded up the spotlight for most of the show but came together on a few numbers. As an NKOTB purist, I was admittedly skeptical of the marriage between the two groups from the outset. But I witnessed that night why the uniting of both “families” was actually a pretty smart move. The atmosphere was electric. Out of respect for the row of six younger BSB fans behind us, we cheered along with them, and laughed in amusement at their shrieking hysterics whenever Backstreet Boy Nick Carter ran over to side of the stage closest to our section. (Of course, our shrieking hysterics have evolved over time into much more controlled behavior. We are certainly the epitome of maturity, as evidenced by our presence at such a distinguished event.)

I was delighted to be reunited with my cruise buddy Jessa, who was seated down on the floor in front of me where I could spot her. All night long, she craned her neck to turn, smile and wave at me up in the stands, presumably to make sure that I was still breathing at various moments, like when Jordan Knight’s falsetto soared up to the high note of “I’ll Be Loving You Forever.” Returning the favor, I looked down there to check on her during Joey McIntyre’s melodramatic run to the end of the catwalk, where he fell to his knees, and shamelessly milked the end of “Please Don’t Go Girl” a capella, as if everyone there wanted the song to last all night. And they did.

On one final note, it is difficult to describe what a crowd of 20,000 females chanting “Oh oh oh oh oh…the right stuff!” an octave higher than the original key sounds like. It’s almost like yelping. The visual memory of 20,000 fists pumping the air, synchronized to each “OH,” and the auditory memory of deafening yelp-singing is forever seared in a special place in my brain reserved for awesomeness.

Maggie and I made it home by midnight, right under the fairy godmother’s deadline. Thankfully, the swagger wagon did not turn into a pumpkin somewhere on I-85. The next morning, I was back in Cinderella mode…bleary-eyed, making breakfast, trucking the kids to swimming lessons and haircut appointments, but all things considered, not too much worse for the wear.

Every now and then, being spontaneous is super-duper fun.



step by step

phillips arena


The Idea Garden

garden When the wheels start turning, and ideas start bubbling over so fast that they tumble over one another, and your cheeks start to get a bit flushed because you can’t wait to create…

That’s inspiration.

It’s a happy thing. It provides a goal, a direction, something to pursue. When I’ve got it, I know it. And when I don’t have it, I’m kind of mopey. Blah. I want to feel inspired.

My daughter is her mother’s daughter, one who has been wired with a love for inspiration. After watching Disney’s Tangled the other night, she was brushing her teeth and wondering aloud what it would be like if she had hair as long as Rapunzel’s. I told her she should write a story about that, and she proceeded to bounce around the house as if I had just suggested we go to Disneyworld. “That’s the best idea ever!” (Really? I think I’ve had better, but evidently she disagreed.) I discouraged her from launching into it that night before bed, but I knew she was lying in there, eyes wide open, chomping at the bit to get started on the project.

This week, we had a “magic show” for the neighborhood kids at our house. Inspired by a real magic show that we saw at the library, she checked out a book, learned some tricks to perform, and then begged me to let her friends come over and watch. She went full-throttle, making individual invitations for each friend. It was very Little Rascals.

“For my next trick, I will pop a grape on my head and make it come out my mouth.”

“Now I am going to push this glass through the table. May I have a volunteer? Please wave the wand and say ‘Abracadabra’.”

Alfalfa, Spanky, Darla, and the gang were amazed. Then we had cookies and juice. A good time was had by all. And it all began with a little idea-seed.

I remember when my now-husband asked me to marry him and gave me a diamond engagement ring. My mom’s comment on the ring was this: “Anytime you need a little bit of inspiration, you can just look at that.” A sweet observation. But it’s true in a way, how the purity of the diamond’s colors and intricate facets sparkle when the light hits it just right. I take it for granted because it has been on my hand for 13 years.

I forget that there is something beautiful and inspiring right under my nose. Not just in a diamond ring. There is plenty of inspiration to be found if I remember to look for it, seeing in technicolor and not just black and white.

Sometimes the idea-seed garden is rather sparse, and other times it’s way overgrown. Sometimes it needs watering and MiracleGro, and sometimes it needs weeding and sorting. But either condition that the garden is in requires work of some sort. Otherwise, the ideas just bubble up from the garden, float off, and are forgotten…like helium balloons against the blue sky.

I want to catch them right when they bloom, when they are at their zenith. I want to pick freshly-bloomed ideas from the garden while I can, and do something with them.

Or else they will get away.


A Farris Wheel Blogiversary

I just observed my one-year blogiversary. It’s time for a look back. Some Farris Wheel maintenance and evaluation, if you will.

I began writing regularly in May of last year, with the goal of trying to get something up here at least once a week, if not more. Considering that this is my 74th post, I’m pleased to see that I stuck to it fairly well, with the exception of a few off-weeks.

In the beginning, I was amazed to discover that about 52 gazillion other people just like me were doing the same thing I was. Blogs everywhere! A veritable blog explosion on the Internet! All the cool kids were doing it! So the idea of anybody actually reading what I write here was amazing to me, even if it was just 5 friends and my mom.

So last summer I went crazy trying to reach out to other bloggers, commenting on other blogs like a maniac, because that’s what they say you’re supposed to do. The Farris Wheel was spinning round and round at a rapid clip. It was like splatter paint. BAM! I’m everywhere! No method to my madness! You’ve got a blog? Then I’ve got something to say about what you said! Some of the splatter paint stuck, like I had hoped, and other bloggers found me, too. But I think some of it just…dripped. In ineffective streaks.

I knew I didn’t have a niche. I didn’t have a target. I didn’t have a gimmick or a sponsor. All I really wanted to do was write, whether it was a reason for my faith, or a reason why the “elf on a shelf” creeps me out. I just wanted the freedom to have a place of my own to express my thoughts, and I hoped that some of it might be meaningful (or sometimes, just entertaining) to someone out there. That’s the barebones mission statement here.

Below is the original photograph I used on the blog. I took it a couple of years ago at the traveling carnival that always stops in my town, as we were perched precariously at the top of the rusty ferris wheel. I liked the not-very-subtle, in-your-face black letters, imploring us (politely) to refrain from being idiotic. Not rocking the seat should really go without saying, it would seem. Thankfully, I have not had to deal with any pesky seat-rockers here. Everyone has been cordial to one another. Even the elf-on-a-shelf proponents were kind in their presentation of the opposing viewpoint. Let’s keep it that way, shall we?


Here we are, a year later, and the Farris Wheel is now spinning at a more comfortable pace. If you’re still here, and you haven’t fallen off yet, then that’s good. I think I might have a few more visitors than 5 plus my mom, but I never really know. So I’d like to take this moment to wave to my favorite readers who don’t comment. (Hi Cade! Hi Dad! Hi Debbie! And you girls from twitter!) And I would also like to thank those of you who interact with me here. I always appreciate everything you say.

Coming up with bloggable ideas is always the biggest challenge, but as long as they keep coming, I plan to continue. This has been extremely enjoyable for me, and I hope it has been for you, too.

I’ll keep writing the Farris Wheel if you lovely readers will keep riding it. (Oh, how I do love that pun.) Thanks for sticking with me. And speaking of sticking…here, have some cotton candy.


Cruising with the New Kids: Part 2

It’s time for another cruise post.

Part 1 was a recap of the entire experience. Part 2 shall now zero in on a particular episode that I just remembered. It might be the most frivolous post ever. You 4 or 5 males who read this blog will probably not relate at all. But female readers will understand the reasons for the anxiety that I am about to report.

(Parts 3 and following may still be yet to come. No one knows for sure.)

the boat croppedIt is the morning of our photo-op with NKOTB on the cruise. A slow morning, to be sure, after 3 nights at sea. The dawn of our last day on the boat. My two roommates and I take our sweet time rolling out of our beds and enjoying the late breakfast delivered by room service, savoring luxury’s waning moments.
All too quickly, we realize that our scheduled photo-op time is upon us, and we begin jumping around our tiny cabin like monkeys – getting showers, tripping over each other’s luggage, and having last-minute wardrobe consultations. Ten minutes to go, and my hair is still dripping wet. Not to worry. I can cover a lot of ground in ten minutes.

Little do I know, my getting-ready skills are about to be tested like never before, when the worst thing that could ever happen…happens.

The hairdryer goes out.

Nooooo! Seriously? I am meeting the New Kids on the Block in ten minutes, and I look like a drowned rat, with no hope of salvaging myself.

When it comes to hair, some people can rock the wet look. They can air-dry and look like a Pantene commercial. Others of us can air-dry and look like our finger and a light socket just had some type of unfortunate contact. The hairdryer and the round brush are to us what butter and sour cream are to a baked potato. So you see, the lack of hairdryer at this juncture is particularly distressing.

But wait! Our friends down on deck 1! Surely they have a hairdryer in working ordcorridorer. Alas, their cabin is located at the opposite end of the ship, five floors down. The Carnival Destiny is almost a quarter-mile, from end-to-end. The hallways stretch endlessly, like a funhouse. But at this point, the hairdryer is the holy grail. I must obtain it at all costs.

A warning bell in my head tells me not to pursue this folly. It can only end in sweaty underarms and streaky makeup. Nevertheless, I take off like a rocket. The theme from Rocky resounds in my ears. To the elevator, down down down, then more running.

I pass some acquaintances in the deck 1 corridor. “Don’t mind me!” I call out over my shoulder, as I fly by in a streak of pink dress, “I’m just out for my morning jog!”

“Are you serious?” they call after me. No time to explain.

I make it to what I think is the right cabin.

It’s not the right cabin. Nooooo!

Back up to deck 6 I gallop, to get clarification from my roommates on the correct room. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

In my head, The Rocky song re-starts and then morphs into Chariots of Fire in a bizarre mash-up, and I’m off again to deck 1, where the hairdyer is successfully handed off to me like a perfectly executed play in the Superbowl.

I am in the home stretch now, my 4th lap of the length of the ship. She’s at the 30! The 20! The 10! She’s back to her cabin! She plugs it in! Wait. Apparently, the problem was not a broken hairdyer, after all.

All of the electrical outlets in our cabin are out. All two of them.

I hang my head.

My roommate and I gather up our things in defeat and head down to deck 1 (my 5th lap), where we finish getting ready…the course of action we obviously should have chosen to begin with.

By the time we claim our spot in what is now the ridiculously long photo-op line, all I can do is seek out a little corner of floor to plop down on…and pant…and wait. But we made it. Because I was not about to allow something as boring as electrical failure to mess this up:

Meet and Greet NKOTB cropped

We’ll be back shortly to our regularly-scheduled, thought-provoking posts. To the 4 or 5 guys who read this stuff: maybe it will be safe for you to come back then.
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