The Monday Book: THE BAR CODE TATTOO by Susanne Weyn

First, apologies for last week, when dental surgery knocked me out of the world for a few days. I read Tattoo as escapism – somebody was having a worse time than me.

Weyn’s premise is interesting: everyone gets the bar code tattoo, encrypting all the data about them, on their seventeenth birthday. It isn’t mandatory, but it’s encouraged. Except it’s becoming mandatory. And as this takes hold, more and more people are getting the raw end of this deal, because the government knows everything about them. Promotions, health care, educational access: it’s not an open system  now that people are open books.

What’s interesting is that only one small dialogue in the book is devoted to the Christian take on what is essentially the Mark of the Beast plan. Weyn concentrates instead on the rebellion of teens and the growing awareness among people that the tattoo is ruining instead of assisting their lives.

While the writing is what I’d consider lumpy and the characters pretty thin, I liked reading it because I’m fascinated by dystopian lit, and YA fiction. And Biblical retellings, although this one ignored the religious angle. Her second and third book take up that piece a wee bit more, but overall this is more teen thriller based on futurism than any form of religious fiction.

It’s not the kind of thing I would read every day, but when you’re in the mood for frenzied, freaky, and futuristic, you couldn’t do better than the Tattoo series. (Weyn’s next books are Barcode Rebellion and Barcode Prophecy.)

 

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My Nightmare – –

Heck – it’s Thursday so it must be time for Jack’s Wednesday guest post!

I suffer (although that’s not really the appropriate word) from a condition called NPS (Nail Patella Syndrome). It’s a hereditary condition and other members of my family group really do ‘suffer’ much more than me. For me it’s just a weird thing that affects my bone structure – strange knee and elbow configurations , malformed finger and toe nails and very soft teeth with twisted roots. I was even the subject of a dissertation and I have a copy of it!

None of this much affected me too much growing up except for the teeth thing.

Back in the 1950s when dentistry was much less sophisticated than now and (certainly in Scotland) you were expected to just accept the pain as part of the general Calvinist approach to life, I went through a never ending Hell. In fact – maybe that’s what Hell is, and not fires at all – just a permanent dentist’s chair with a foot operated drill and a pair of pliers!

I finally, at the age of 25, had them all out – every one of them. Despite that, I still have nightmares fairly regularly involving that iconic dentist’s chair – and the mask – and the metallic smell of the gas – and the ghostly voices.

Wendy also has dental issues, but of a quite different kind, and she always has dealt with them in a much more straightforward American way (I’ve never understood the US fashion to put every teenage kid into teeth braces!).

Unlike me, Wendy has managed to keep hold of the teeth she was born with, but that has involved all sorts of procedures that never existed in Scotland when I was growing up. Things like crowns and implants.

But on Monday past (which explains the dearth of blog posts) she went into an excellent facility in Knoxville for the difficult extraction of a twisted rear tooth ahead of an implant. Suddenly I was transported back many years because she would require general anesthetic and I would need to drive her afterwards. When I was called to collect her I found her in a state of complete drunkenness with an IV in her arm, and asking me to sing for her. So I did. Then I had to leave her for 45 minutes sitting in the car while I waited for eight CVS employees to fill her pain meds scrip. However I did manage to get her  a cold milk shake much more quickly at a drive-thru!

Everything’s fine – honest it is!

But I’m frightened to go to sleep now , in case – – –

 

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Baby Wins the Internet this Month

Sometimes the Internet gets it right. Watch this, y’all.

This is Baby. She was owner surrendered at age 18 to our local shelter. Amy, an independent cat rescuer, sent a picture of her out on FB and asked for help. Appalachian Feline Friends (the rescue I work with) said to pull her the next day and we’d take her. All accomplished with ease and grace.

The next day, Erin from AFF posted in a closed cat group online that while she understood sometimes cat parents had no good choices, she was incensed at Baby being taken to the shelter so late in life. Several people agreed.*

One of those who agreed was a lady named Laura, who used to live in this area but since moved to Raleigh, NC. Laura got on her own FB timeline and shared a video of Baby exploring her temporary digs at our bookstore, and again railed against an 18-year-old cat ending up at a shelter.

Meanwhile, Appalachian Feline Friends posted Baby’s video and attracted the attention of the lovely Jeff and Christina, also residents of Raleigh. Christina and Jeff adore eldercats and had just lost two of their own. They messaged to ask about Baby, and within the week AFF volunteer Maria Jane was meeting Christina in Boone to deliver Baby to her new furrever home.

All very nice, but wait for the denouement. Laura had meanwhile decided she was going to tell friends of hers about Baby, since they had recently lost their cats. She showed up at Christina and Jeff’s for a pre-arranged dinner, sat down on the sofa and started to tell the story….

….and Baby sauntered past.

Recognizing her from the video, Laura sat, mouth agape, as Christina said, “Go on, what cat?”

By the time the friends had sorted out what happened, Baby had walked back through, given Laura the once-over, and declared she could stay. It’s Baby’s house now. Here she is with a food flight, sampling so Christina and Jeff can record her preferences. Her new housekeeping staff are eager to make sure Baby’s final years are golden ones.

*The lady who surrendered Baby has been in touch to scream about the family getting dragged through the mud on Facebook. I don’t think that happened, but if it did, AFF didn’t do it. Actions have consequences. We recognize that sometimes people can’t help the tough choices they have to make and we’ve seen too much of poverty mixed with love to ever judge someone for that. We’ve also seen plenty of times when someone chose convenience over caring and then got embarrassed for it. We’re not saying which one this looks like, just saying Baby won the Internet this month.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

A Tale of Three Kitties

It’s Thursday, so it must be time for Jack’s Wednesday guest blog –

This is the story of three cats – Fang, Hillary and Delight.

Fang came to us by mistake, because we don’t take in ferals (it’s a long story), and she immediately disappeared into the bowels of the bookstore. We eventually discovered her hiding under the sink unit in our bathroom, only coming out at night to eat and drink – and the other thing, which she did fastidiously in the correct place, for all her feralness.

Hillary was another mistake and even more of a hermit – we hardly ever saw her.

Delight was not a feral, but she hated people from the minute she laid eyes on one, so after adopting out her adorable brothers and sisters, we gave up.

So they all got sent out to the garage where they immediately became their own gang: The Feral Sorority.

I went out every morning with their breakfast treats of individual little bowls of wet cat food and for the longest time only ever saw Delight. After some weeks of this, to my amazement, Fang appeared looking very suspicious and hanging way back. Over the next few weeks she began to approach close enough for me to give her a head scratch. After that she would wait behind the door with Delight each morning for me to deliver breakfast.

Soon both Delight and Fang were waiting for me each morning and getting pretty enthusiastic for head scratches and back rubs. Fang was also loudly calling if I were later than she expected. But Hillary was still nowhere to be seen – – –

Until –

The morning that she appeared after many weeks of nothing, and hung back watching the usual stuff with Fang and Delight. Hhmm she thought – that looks a bit interesting.

And that was pretty much that. Now they all welcome me (or maybe just the wet cat food) and shout loudly at me each morning. They all come for head and back scratches and Fang asks, even insists, to be lifted up onto my knee.

I suppose they might stay – – – after all, they’re not doing any harm out there in the garage….

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The Monday Book: NIGHT JOURNEY by Kathryn Lasky

It stands to reason that, having cleaned out the children’s room, I would have picked up a book or two to read for fun.

What’s really cool is when you start reading, and suddenly you remember a line from the book just before you read it, and you quote it as you read along. Which is how I found out I’d read this book a long, long time ago.

I picked up The Night Journey not because I remembered reading it, but mostly because it had a Samovar on front, and because Trina Schart Hyman illustrated it. She’s one of my two most favorite children’s book illustrators. LOVE her work.

Journey describes a great-grandmother and grandchild reconstructing the elder woman’s escape from pogrom-filled Russia when she was the age of the child to whom she is now telling the story. Filled with finely-drawn characters like Aunt Ghisa (a little bitterness from the unmarried sister who still loves her niece) and Wolf, the tormented loner who escaped an earlier Cossack raid at a cost higher than life. When Rache is first told her great-grandmother’s story, so intense is Wolf’s part in it that she writes it in a letter to be opened on Rache’s eighteenth birthday. The letter being opened is the culmination of the story, and it is intensely bittersweet.

Children’s books aren’t so layered and deep these day, methinks. The dismantling of the Samovar so the family can sneak it out with then, and the protection of the gold coins the family carries, run through the larger historic story like gold threads. It is a very satisfying read.

And fast. Which is fun sometimes, when you just want to spend two nights living someone else’s life from the safety of your pillow.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing, YA fiction

The Things You Learn Tidying the Children’s Room

messSo I spent last weekend tidying our children’s book room – something every bookstore owner lives for the opportunity to do. It’s so much fun to rediscover old classics, things you loved as a child. That’s why it takes so long to do a kids room reset; you have to allow twenty minutes of every hour for reading favorite bits.

It was pretty bad. Every Halloween we give out books at the annual afternoon merchant’s trick or treat, and you can imagine what 300 kids traipsing through the place in the space of 3 hours does. And no, it hadn’t been tidied since then. Don’t judge. We’re busy.

There was nothing for it but to start to the left of the door and work my way ’round. (That or a flamethrower, Jack said.) So I separated the Math from the English homeschooling books, Animals Fiction from Animals Non-fiction, and America from All the Other Countries, back into their appropriate shelf bins.

This is where the problems began. One doesn’t want to be part of the problems America is experiencing right now, and I found myself suddenly stymied, standing stock still (heh, get it, stock? Never mind) in the middle of the children’s room, holding a book of Native American folktales in my hand, looking to the right at the All About America shelf, to the left at the Read To Me section……

It was the beginning of the slippery slope. Did The Story of Martin Luther King go in Biography or America? Did Intelligent Design go in Science or Christian Homeschool? Suddenly, I was making political decisions left and right. All I wanted to do was tidy up……

The dangers grew worse. The Natural World was a big book lying in a dusty corner; when I picked it up, one spider sitting astride it was just finishing off another. I guess she’d had enough of his empty promises about watching the egg sac. (I took them outside so she could finish her meal in peace, and then set up housekeeping elsewhere. It’s good to move in the Spring.)

Dead ladybugs from the November invasion (they come every year), a plant that had grown through one of the windows where it hadn’t sealed properly, books wedged behind shelves where they’d fallen–on and on I went, shelf by shelf until by the afternoon Day 2 I had reached Adventure Fiction.

Smack in the middle of the adventure books were two self-published erotic fantasy novels.

Good thing not many kids read adventure these days. I sent the strays back to their home turf with a stern warning not to return, and congratulated myself on avoiding a lawsuit. It’s not like they were illustrated or anything, but can you imagine some kid coming out of the room saying, “Mommy, what does e-j-a-c…” It wasn’t going to end well.

By the end of day two, the books stood upright in their correct locations; I had abandoned the idea that a child’s world could be split into a Christian versus general worldview and had put the All Other Countries Besides America books in Social Studies. This means a board book of Minnie Mouse in Spanish is next to Learning about Others Grade 4, but hey, they look happy together.

The final piece was labeling everything. After some consideration, we created a tag called Parental Guilt for all the “You’re doing it wrong” titles about how to make your kid smarter, stronger, faster, safer than s/he is now. Someday I’m going to snap and divide Parental Guilt into “Need to Know” (Ridlin and ADHD, Autism assistance, etc.) and “Don’t Be Ridiculous” (teach your pre-schooler to get straight A’s etc.)

And so it goes. The room will stay clean for a few weeks, and I have blocked all the places where ladybugs, spiders, and Triffids – ehm, plants – can get in. It smells good, looks good, and is well-organized according to my brain.

Heh heh heh. Yeah. C’mon down. We got the Erotica out.

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– – You don’t know what you’ve got ’til – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest blog post –

I consider myself lucky for having had a comfortable and relatively untroubled life. A happy childhood unmarred by any obvious parental disputes, although I’m sure there were some. An adolescence troubled by the usual small matters of growing into oneself and not getting anyone pregnant, but nothing more.

Wendy’s latest book ‘Fall or Fly’ is about fostering and adoption in Appalachia and got me to thinking about the contrast between my life, growing up, and the stories she unearthed during her many interviews that informed the final draft. As usual I was her initial ‘reviewer’ and I have to admit I was by turns shocked and inspired.

There’s a real problem around here with prescription drugs and that’s mainly down to one company that makes a painkiller they swore wasn’t habit-forming but is now proven so. It is also widely available both above and below the counter. Big profits for them of course – – –

I never had any exposure to drugs growing up and never had any interest in them. Once I tried marijuana but it had no effect whatsoever. I even listened carefully to the lyrics of ‘Mellow Yellow’ and like many others tried everything with bananas—which I loathed then and loath now–to no effect!

So, I think of myself as one of these balls that drops down through a game machine and just keeps going in the right direction, although I’ve little doubt there’s always the equal chance it can go the other way (I once studied probability factors).

I’m telling you this on behalf of the young people we come across who haven’t been as lucky as me or maybe even you. One of them is close to breaking my heart right now, and I don’t know if I can do anything for the child.

So, what can I say? This lovely young person, so intelligent, so competent, so lost. What to do, how to help, where the line between enabling and assistance?

Who to blame for taking away what never got used? The drug companies, the high school seller, the “friend” at the party who said, “C’mon, just try it?”

What to say, what to do? With other friends, we make sure the Temporarily Misplaced Youth has enough to eat, and eventually the wherewithal to see through the fog to the Light. And we pray, and we wait and, perhaps, sometimes, we weep.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch