an artsy coming-of-age film about artsy kids coming of age

Holy cow! It’s been way too long since I posted. So much has changed!

By which I mean: I am now eighteen.
By which I also mean: Nothing really changed all that much.
By which I really mean: It did change, but it was already changing, because change is gradual and everybody ought to know that.

Well, I like being 18 so far. It’s interesting and ironic because I’m numerically both a teenager and an adult. (Non-numerically, I’m still just Pen.) But I will say, I was kind of sad to see 17 go. Ah, how can I explain the spectacular fabulousness of that age? Oh, I know…

A Summary of Ages and the Expectations Attached
by Pen

Age 16: You are now supposed to 1) look suddenly gorgeous, or at least like you’re 20; 2) drive a car; 3) have a boyfriend, and 4) basically live inside an 80’s movie. [Sadly, I saw a pair of flowered, tapered jeans the other day, so this last one is more attainable than originally thought.]

Age 17:

Age 18: Um, buy lottery tickets? Oh, and voting. Riiiight. 

See, age seventeen is “a perfect and absolute blank”, as Lewis Carroll would say. Which means that anything you do is automatically awesome and imbued with a sense of youth/joy/freedom. Oh, also, you can pretend “I Saw Her Standing There” is about yourself.

But I wouldn’t say I’m bummed to be 18, either. Not at all. I am quite pleased. The only downside is, if anyone thinks I am ages twelve to fourteen ever again from here on out, I will promptly explode. Also, I may shoot flames out of my eyes at the first random person who makes a snippy remark about “welcome to the real world/adulthood” any time I say something is hard.  So stand clear. You were warned.

Anyway, enough about aging. And more about… ummmmmm….

See?!? SEE?!?! This is why I didn’t blog for such a long time! I am starved for material! My family hasn’t done anything weird or of particular note lately, nor have I read anything of great interest (except I am working through The Screwtape Letters, which I highly recommend because even though I knew they were supposed to be about serious stuff– they are, sometimes it gets a little cerebral– they’re also funny). I did have some wonderful birthday-related adventures, which involved snow, great food, some of my favorite people, the best hot chocolate of my life, games (SPOONS with Poncho flying across the table), fluffy tissue-paper flowers (which are still hanging up because I think we are all unsure of what to do with them now– they’re so pretty, how can we throw them away? Maybe I’ll give one of the really good turquoise ones to Bug, if she wants it), a winter hike, and more.

Oh, and for my birthday, Poncho’s incredibly generous gift to me was for me to watch him play on Minecraft. I didn’t expect it, but that turned out to be extremely fun, because he would do anything I asked him to. Like when I asked, “Can you set yourself on fire in this game?” His response was, “Hang on, let me go stand by some water.” And then he proceeded to set his guy on fire, and jump into a lake. He also fought zombies for me, put up with my pretending to be the voices of the villagers, and merely sighed when a chunk of his house got blown up and I laughed.

Now that all the holidays and celebrations are over, I am hoping to get cracking on some projects like the literary magazine Bug and I have been wanting to create. Plus I need a new knitting project. Plus I would really like to have some kind of outdoor-ish project to work on, but I can’t think what. Maybe it’s the gardening urge beginning to stir… I ordered my seeds yesterday! All on my own, thank you adulthood.

Oh, and speaking of being an adult…
Dad: “Well, Pen, from this day forward, if you get in trouble, you’re going to big person jail.”
Me: “Thanks.”



Prince Albert, Blackberries, and my Grandpa

Grandpa was telling us stories about his childhood when we were eating dinner with him on Memorial Day. He told us about many of his mischievous escapades, such as:

Calling the drugstore that stocked a kind of tobacco called Prince Albert.
Grandpa: “Hey, do you have Prince Albert in a can?”
Drugstore Person: “Yes, we do.”
Grandpa: “Then you’d better let him out! AHAHAHAHA!!!”

“We used to do that every day!” he said at the end of the story.

So, the predecessor to “is your refridgerator running” was Prince Albert in a Can. Interesting.

Then Grandpa also told us about how he used to go into the woods to pick blackberries, and sell them door-to-door. The funny thing was, I had just brought over a blackberry plant for the garden in his backyard! So, he was happy and promised to help me eat all the berries.

He’s awesome. <3


Tonight, as we rode home from a New Year’s Eve party, I asked my family why the new year was a big deal. Personally I don’t like cut-offs; in real life, one thing flows into another smoothly, slowly, constantly. But anyway. Dad replied, in his usual manner
“It’s just another excuse to get drunk and have a party. Of course it’s really supposed to be a celebration, you know, new beginnings and a new start, new year, whatever. People make resolutions they never keep…”
Me: “I never make resolutions. First of all because I will change my habits whenever I feel like it. Second of all… I never make plans for the new year because it never turns out quite like I expect it to.”

And that is my philosophy. I mean, I never could have predicted or planned for what happened in my life in 2010.

I think I did a lot of growing up this year, a lot of changing and becoming my own person. I learned a lot and tried a lot of new things. Maybe I even took a few risks. I can’t even remember what happened in 2010, or exactly when certain changes began, because my brain doesn’t work in sudden cut-offs like January First, but I know that there was so much that happened to me and around me this year that I wouldn’t have time or space to mention it all. There is no resolution that could prepare for or be better than everything that happened to me over the course of 2010… and now, 2011.

The new year… shapeless in my mind right now. It does not feel different, or particularly promising, even. But I like it that way. Changes don’t come suddenly at the stroke of midnight. They come slowly, one by one, maybe starting so small that you don’t even notice them at first, can’t trace their origins after they are realized.

I am so happy, as I turn over 2010 in my mind… And now 2011 has come… 

The earth has turned all the way round, and it isn’t stopping yet. 

Good night, and happy New Year!

Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbir– jay.

I am still dying for Mockingjay. We (Dad and I) are number 19 of 61 holds (I check at least once a day). For the Large Print edition. The regular edition has over 400 holds… Sigh. At least we’re moving up on the list, steadily. But slowly. Ag.

 I have not read anything in about a week. This is not good news for my mental state.
[Maybe it’s even what’s been causing my EXTREMELY PAINFUL writer’s block, which is not really a block but–
Curse you, Prefrontoral Cortex!
Is that even the right part of the brain? Hmm? It’s the only one I know. That and the hippocampus, because the word hippocampus makes me think of hippos camping, or going to college maybe… SEE what’s happening? I’m going off the deep end here!]


Yeah. So, I have been trying to find an alternative thing to read. There is pretty much nothing. This is the part of the show where I would usually go off on a tangent about the inexcusable idiocy of my library, and the suckiness of vampires (heh), etcetera. However, I am determined, despite my deteriorating mental standpoint, to write about something besides that which I have already mentioned, and mentioned numerous times before.


I hereby propose that the literary world needs to re-configure its non-adult genres.
Firstly, there needs to be a separate genre for readers between the ages of, oh, 12-14. You see, when a good reader (ie, me) reaches the age of twelve, they walk into the library and there is. Nothing. To. Read.
They’ve already read all the good Middle Grade books (there aren’t that many…), and they are too advanced and intelligent for the rest of the MG books. But they’re too young for the Teen/YA books. So what is there to read?
Now, all the adults like to complain that teens don’t read. Well, you wanna know why? It’s because by the time they were 12-13, there was nothing TO read. They end up going weeks, months, maybe a year without really reading much of anything, and so they lose their appetite for reading. They might try to come back to it when they’re 14 or so, but they’re instantly put off their feed again by the flagrant use of the word “puberty” in all those lovely Teen books. Like, if you want to keep kids away from something, like sugary drinks, just put “puberty” really big on the label. Believe me, they will be repulsed.
So anyway, by the time these young teens are old enough to actually read YA, they don’t care for reading anymore and therefore miss out. Only the handful of kids (myself included) who make it through those 3 or so years of literary starvation did so by reading the classics, or settling for absolute crap. I did a bit of both, sad to say. I discovered Alice in Wonderland, but I also read stupid stuff that was an insult to my intellect.

My second idea is to draw the line, a very clear, very dark line, between the genres of Teen and YA.
You see, Teen books somehow don’t have the same oomph as one I would call YA. Frankie Landau-Banks is YA. Curse of the Zombie Prom Date is Teen. See the difference? How the YA one is not pop-culture trend-following, not insulting to my intelligence, not bad writing with a lot of cliche and crap and words like puberty? Because Teen books are the ones that are about “growing up” “finding yourself” “the changes that come with becoming a teenager”, blah blah blah. YA is sort of about that stuff… I mean, Frankie Landau-Banks is sort of about how she “finds herself” or whatever, but it’s more than that. It’s more real. It’s not trying to be about that, you know? It’s really a book about an awesome girl with an incredible mind and what happens her sophomore year. Its underlying themes are just that– underlying themes. Not Morals to the Fake-O Story.
Teen books are the ones that try to be funny, and say stuff about bras, and boys, and being unpopular, and being insecure.
YA books are the ones that make you laugh out loud in public, and quote the characters, and actually use your brain, and think about them long after you’ve finished them.
Teen books are the ones that have cheesy titles, and white on the covers like they think they’re Seventeen magazine or something, and follow book trends, and were clearly written by some lady who thinks she must be super hip, but really she’s just a teacher with some kind of stupid degree that says she knows what youth are thinking and what they’re like.
YA books are the ones that have interesting titles, and use a wider vocabulary, and stand alone from the culture so that if your kids read it years from now they wouldn’t think it was lame, and you don’t even think about who wrote it because it seems like it wasn’t written, it was spoken or lived or told to you and only you, for the whole time you’re reading the book, until you finish it and immediately want to talk to someone else about it, and think about it with them, and so you suggest it to all your friends or your dad or your mom’s book club and then you talk about it with them for two hours straight.
See the difference? See? YA doesn’t belong under Teen. YA should have its own shelf, heck, it’s own library– it’s in a whole other league. If YA and Teen were spearate, I wouldn’t have to pick through a million crap books before finding the one that was worth it all.

That’s my proposition.

You know, everyone makes a big deal out of writing books for teens, books that all teens will want to read and not just the ones like me who are voracious readers. So they dumb stuff down. Well guess what? You’re just losing more readers, because most of the teens reading are NOT your every-teen, they are the reading teens, which means they stuck it out through 3 or so years of wasteland, and now what happens? More puberty talk? Stupid cliches? Bras and vampires?
This is not what young readers want. Yeah, the culture wants it, but the real readers who are there with a book day in and day out, who may not make you as rich as Stephanie Meyer but who are true and loyal and valiant and smart, do not want crap Teen books.
We demand YA!!!!!


It was nice to finally get that out of my system. All the exclamation points were building up pressure.

Yours till the Teen books don’t suck
(or in summary, Forever Yours),

When You’re Sixteen

I’ve debated that the American “Sweet Sixteen” is an empty tradition.

I recant.

You see, I thought it was empty because, really, what is Sweet Sixteen about? You can drive a car. Yippee. You can drive a car when you’re 15 if you lie (coughcough, Grandpa). It’s not like you’re given any rights, not like you’re suddenly treated as if you have a brain. You don’t become an adult, don’t have a special Mass like they do for Quinceaneras. Basically it’s like a regular birthday, right?

Uh, wrong.

When you’re sixteen, you can get a job easier. (Up till now, I didn’t want a job, but now I really badly want to work at a cool indie bakery.) You can get a GED and graduate from high school. You can drive yourself anywhere you want. 

Now, 18. That’s the empty age. So you gain the right to vote. So what? Not like there’ll ever be any politician I want to vote for. Oh, and you can sign up for the military. But if you’re finishing high school, you still have to ask permission to go to the bathroom. Whatever. Plus you’re still a teen, which makes you still stupid apparently, and allows people to still treat you like you are.

While we’re on the topic of rights and getting treated unfairly… I think I’m going to write a really epic essay on adultism. So everyone go look up the definiteion of the word right now so you’ll know what I’m talking about in a few days when I finish the EE (Epic Essay). Hm, wait, it’ll probably not be written until next week because this weekend I have the writer’s conference!!! So happy!! I get to bake cookies. And be the registration person. And spend time with my favorite non-adultists, Skyline Writers. See, it all ties in.

Well. Going to find something to eat. Wish me luck, hahaha.


PS: Did you see my cool new sidebar thing? With the song that gave me my name? Shockingly I never knew I could put that there before… For being a blogger, I totally have no clue how to use the internet.

A Short Musing

Today I thought to myself: “Isn’t it strange, how nearly no one thinks you [a youth] a particularly smart person for having a well-thought-out, well-explained, well-argued opinion. No, they don’t think you’re smart for having that! Especially if they disagree with you! But oh, if you can blurt out square roots and mathematical formulas, you are considered some kind of prodigy– even though all you are really doing is spitting back information that you’ve heard before. It may not mean anything at all to you but they think you’re so smart. But you can’t teach someone to form opinions well. That is something that takes real intelligence and thought. So why doesn’t anyone realize that?”

Maybe it’s because many of the times someone young has an opinion, adults think they’re parroting that, too.
Something to think about.
But I can’t, because it’s frustrating, so you’ll have to do the thinking for me… You will let me know what you think in your thinking, I should think.


Free At Last

Yesterday was my LAST day of driving school!!! Yay!! Freedom!!!!! I passed the dumb driving school test and everything and now I don’t have to ever ever ever ever go back there and watch more drunk driving videos (which are very blood-and-gore and made me scared to drive… really helpful, driving school. Because being scared is really going to make me a great driver. Plus it was insulting how every single drunk/impaired driving video made the teen the drunk, not the person trying to avoid a drunk. So that shows what they think of me… Adultism at work. Yeah, I’m a teen so I’m the stupid one, even though my adult teacher says “car-eeming” and uses apostrophes on plural word’s like that).


Now that that’s over…. Finally, my life can go back to normal!! Waking when I want to, doing what I want to, and finally getting around to doing all the things I had to put on hold. Like Apricotpie. And the Quill Fellowship (sorry!). I think I will soon post the end of White Funeral, and hopefully no one will want to grind my bones to make their bread due to the extremely long wait. The end was hard to write! And I still have to edit. I didn’t edit any of the other parts but this one is special. I want it to end the right way, you know? and not have to add an epilogue (bleh).

Oh, by the by, I had a really weird dream in which my bonsai crassula became the size of an “actual” tree, and it was still inside the house, and I discovered that ants were boring into its trunk to drink its sap. Then I had to kill giant ants (that were the size of dogs). I think I’ve been worrying about those vampire bugs more than I thought I was. They killed all my basil despite my best attempts. I am terrified that they moved on to my beautiful tree. Oh, and Eliza, Steph, and Bug were all in my dream too. Mostly Bug (for some reason we always appear in each other’s dreams). And Bug and I got our noses pierced in the dream. (Which I assure you I would never do in real life!!)

Bizarre. But humorous.

Now I am off to have a writing and gardening day… Au revoir!

Yours till the sun flowers,

PS: Happy anniversary to Bethesda!!

in a dark, dark closet…

Once upon a time, the DHFs were watching the news, and something came up about homeschoolers. Then one of the newscasters (and this is, like, national news) says, “Homeschoolers? You mean those kids who are locked up in closets?”


Oh, how we LOL’d at that one. But I have an even better, real-life scenario:
Checkout lady: where do you  go to school?
Bug: I’m homeschooled.
Checkout lady: Ohhh… Do you have your own friends?
PoorBill: No, we borrow other people’s.

Well, I was just thinking about this today… Makes me laugh every time. ;) It’s a gorgeous day today. Sunshine, shorts weather, everything! YAY!!!! So now I’m done with schoolwork and off to play outside, and it’s only 11:30.

Yup. I’m in that closet all right.


When I was little, it seemed to me that my aunt and uncle were often on holiday, usually somewhere warm. Usually they would bring back little presents for the kids upon their return. Once, they gave me a bunch of seashells in an empty plastic Dairy Queen ice cream container. I called it my shell collection, though it wasn’t really a collection since I never collected more, considering I have never been to the ocean. However, this shell collection provided hours and hours of entertainment for me. I saw each shell as a character in a little world I created with them. The snail-like shells became a family (a rather large one at that).

This one became the Snail Family’s dog. To me, it looked like one of those shaggy mop-like dogs.

These two shells, the almost-biggest in my collection, became the Mayor and Vice Mayor. (The Mayor was corrupt. Even at a young age, I saw the truth about politicians… ;) )

These shells I thought looked like some kind of woven saddle blankets or something, so they became a tribe of what I called “Indian Blankets”. The big yellow one was their chief. I think his name was Chief Big Sun or something like that.

The oyster shells were a communtity in themselves. The biggest one was their king. His daughter was named Pearl, and she was the smallest, shiniest, pearly-est one I had. The mothers would keep their children underneath them. I had them all arranged in families, but it’s hard to tell them apart now.

This family was called the Spineys. They had a single mom.

This family was well-to-do. They were called the Spiral-Noses.

Then, surely inspired by the Island of Misfit Toys, I had a little group of “misfit” shells, ones that were too unique to fit into any of the other groups. 

You may wonder what prompted this blast from the past. Well, it was a combination of two things. One, I just went through my room and boxed up a lot of my old stuff: trophies, first communion stuff, etc. I wanted to update my shelves and kind of re-decorate without really making a drastic change. So I put some stuff away, rearranged a bit, and it looks much better now.
Secondly, the DHFs got back from their trip to Florida. And… they brought me shells!! :D

In a cool jar, too!!

So I was looking at them today, lining them up, examining their detail and simple beauty. And my brain just slipped right back into that old habit, that old way of looking at everything as a character, a creature, a group. I saw hamsters, seals, misfits, oysters, grey-clouds… It was fun, remembering the old stories and adventures I had with shells.

My new mason-jar shell collection now sits proudly on my dresser. Whenever I miss or think of the DHFs (which is often), I glance over there and see the glass jar, the varnished shells reflecting sunlight back to me. (Yes, the sun has returned to Ohio! I love the sun!) And whenever I want to, I can take the shells out, spread them across my bedroom floor, and remember that the simplest things can be the most wonderful and fun, and that I’m not too old to have seashell adventures.


home again, home again, jiggety jog

Hey! I’m back from Atwood!!! It was such a great time. The weather was amazing (except for this morning it rained and I got soaked… but it made cool fog afterward so it was totally worth it. :) ) and I felt very energized just from being outside, moving around, running through the woods and hiking for two hours on Saturday (whew!), and having snowball fights, and all that. Ironically our Wii Fit is going to scold me for not doing exercise for three days. Ha on you, Wii Fit. I probably got more exercise this past weekend than in the past three months combined! Oh well.

I decided that I love winter because it’s here and it’s gorgeous and foggy and icy… ahhhh. Lake Atwood was so pretty in the mornings and evenings, because it was frozen but the 40 degree weather was making it melt a little, so the result was fog/mist. Lovely.

Ice fishing on Lake Atwood… I wasn’t really sure what those little huts were for (porta potties?) but then this morning I realized it was to shelter them from the wind. Ohhh. ;)

Hiking the trail to the Airfield took Dad and I two hours (there and back, five miles… we did stop to talk to a rabbit hunting farmer we met though, so probably we were actually walking for a shorter time.). But the airfield is pretty nifty, and the scenes along the hike are great.

Snowball fighting (dads against daughters) was another highlight. I didn’t get hit once, but I did hit a couple of the dads. I loved ducking and throwing and running using sleds as shields. Eventually Karen, Lisa, and Sam convinced me to sled down the hill. We raced each other and I totally wiped out and got soaking wet in the melting snow. I have no pictures of it, basically because if I did not keep moving I was going to get a snowball in the face. ;)

Dinnertime Saturday we all went to the Dellroy Community Center about two miles from camp. Some ladies from the little town made us a big dinner (with mashed potatoes that were soooooo good… and amazing cookies and pie…). Afterward we had a pig race with those walking Mr Bacon pigs. Every cabin gets a pig and they decorate the jockey (a little teddy bear of some sort) and name the pig. Our jockey was dressed as an angel so we named out pig Heavenly Ham. There was also a very clever person who named their pig “Senior Pigsesses”. LOL. Anyway, Heavenly Ham made it to the final round only to lose by a centimeter! Here he is valiantly crossing the finish line in the qualifying round, and then being comforted after his eventual defeat.

Late Saturday night I roasted marhsmallows with Lisa and Sam at the fire Fireman Jim made. Then we went back to their cabin and talked until about three in the morning, and had hot chocolate. Lisa about died laughing when we were talking about our hair, and I said, “Some of my hairs are grey”. They are because my hair is a mix of different shades of bonde and brown so some look kinda grey, so I was being completely serious but we cracked up because Lisa’s laugh is hilarious. I ended up just sleeping over at their cabin.

At the end Dad and I went on a hike around the mist-shrouded, thawing-out lake Atwood to say goodbye even though it was raining. Then we hung out with Lisa and Sam for a while before leaving…. sigh. Leaving camp is always sad, but at the same time I really wanted to take a shower. The roads were all foggy and cool and there was an awesome tree by this farmhouse. There was also a field full of black cows roaming around, and since they were so dark they popped up out of the mist very suddenly and flapped their ears at us.

Of course, the best part of camp was spending time with my dad. It always is. :)

that’s all. The End. As they say at the end of the Madeline movie, Fin.

Fishy Fishy Fins!!! Wow, hyperness. Haha, it made me think of the Salamader, “It’s a fish show!” LOL.


PS did you know that haddocks are fish? I didn’t until today. So now I know what a haddock is from that poem in Through the Looking Glass, when the white knight meets Alice. “I search for haddock’s eyes/among the heather sweet/I make them into mutton pies/and sell them in the street…” sigh. That is next on my list for memorization…mwaha. ;)