Concerns about your “Modern Teenager” update (mmxv.6.24)

(Hey! I’m back. And I did, in fact, start a business, though I did not finish school or learn Latin. Nor am I married, or in college. Those are still processes for now. :-) I wanted to get a little less formal with this site- use it for more of a public journal kind of thing, and less of a billboard kind of thing. If that’s cool with you, I think I’ll get right down to it. And if you don’t mind, please pretend we’re all robots, because that’s really not that much of a stretch.)

Excuse me, sir. Excuse me? Excuse- ex- hello? Excuse me!

*yes, well, hello there young man, etc.*

Good afternoon. I’m was walking dowtown to a port to recharge, and I was in here last week, and so I thought I’d just stop by again for a quick chat. Nothing is terribly wrong, no. No crossed wires or cracked glass or anything. It’s just that, well… your teenager update hasn’t been working for me.

*what do you mean by that, our System is world class, yada yada*

No, no, I don’t think you understand. It isn’t a glitch of any sort- not a problem with your System- it just… isn’t working for me. How do I say this… I’ve realized that I don’t need it.

*!!!*

Now HOLD ON! Hoho, stop right there, because I’ve already heard the pitch a thousand times. No, two thousand. “It’s an invaluable step in the process to Maturity.” And twice that: “Teenhood will reformat your entire interface. You’ll never be the same!”

But (and I’m sorry if this sounds revolutionary, or worse, “uninformed”) what if we skipped the Modern Teenager update entirely?

*that’s absurd, what are you thinking, you are being childish, this is natural for a model of your age, step over here and let us take a look at your hard drive-*

NO! Hold on a moment and hear me out! I’m truly sorry for shouting, and I know that seems “angsty,” or whatever you call it, but sometimes that’s what it takes before you upgrades are willing to listen. Are you listening now? Are you, honestly?

1) The purpose of the update, in whichever way you set it before me, continues to stupefy me. It is a transition… from boy to man? From girl to woman? A transition? Why? We have young, and we have old. We have strong, and we have weak. Why can we not have only a child and an adult? I will tell you why, sir, and I’d appreciate a mind wide open:

We are positively racked with indecision. I’m sorry- you are. I’ve stepped out of that. (Or, “am stepping.” Grace here.) We all come off the line, you know as well as I, unsure. Cold. Wanting. Not always Having. And we all stay that way, to some degree, for all of our time until Warranty. But there is a malfunction that is paralysis for fear of choosing poorly, and thus not having what we need, and that is indecision: A step from uncertain to irresolute; that step being fearful, unstable, and ultimately fatal.

The point, you propose, is that our system cannot handle the terrible (and it is terrible) shift between youth and adulthood and thus requires a third stage, a step between. I counter, however, that that very step negates a necessary leap between the two, resulting in the straining of the former and the debilitation of the latter.

2) Secondly, the definition is faulty, being extraordinarily vague, and when (however infrequently) specific, in my eyes, utterly useless in the process of development. “It is expected that a teenager will…” Will what, exactly? You and your Society are dangerously unclear. We will be boisterous. We will be moody. We will be untrustworthy. We will be loud. We will stomp the streets, and love viciously, and breathe selfish breaths.

We will not. I will not. This I will say with a slight increase of volume that denotes EMPHASIS rather than NOISE: “I will make unintentional and childish mistakes, and I will be a growing child. I will learn from those mistakes, and I will be a better child. And eventually, with much practice, great determination, and the guidance and blessings of my father, I will know enough to make better mistakes, and I will be a man.” Love is sacrifice. Breathing, miraculous. The road, holy.

There is no pool between the shallow and the deep end. Just a rope.

3) The installation, or I guess, implementation, is, frankly, haphazard, heavy-handed, and counterintuitive. The school teaches it lazily, the church preaches it accidentally, and the market shouts it with vigor. (That many more toys to be bought off their shelves.)

*But you are not old enough to understand-*

And there, although you cannot see it, is your growing and consuming blasphemy. That you are. “Foolishness,” I’ll say quietly, and listen as well, for I sometimes stoop so low myself. It is creeping text in the heart-code: “I am old enough to understand, I am enough to understand, I AM ENOUGH.” And you see? Now we point ourselves in the face of our one incontravertible and inbuilt truth and wag our heads, snickering like naughty children.

 You have read the text. The Truth, words in white on blue. If we are anything at all, we are insufficient. That is not our flaw. That is our design.

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Seth Skogerboe’s Ultimate Reading List of the Ages (Ages 10 and up, that is.)

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” – Erasmus

Morzog Lord of Destruction_Justin Gerard
Epic New Print on My Wall // Justin Gerard

People keep asking me for good stories to read – especially for their kiddos to really get into – so I wrote up this list. There are other awesome books I could add, but I tried to keep it in the 10 years and up age range. I have a lot of words for books like these, but I think I’ll let them speak for themselves. :-) These are the best stories I’ve ever read.

THE BEST STORIES I’VE EVER READ:

Narnia* by C. S. Lewis

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Charlie Bone* by Jenny Nimmo

Harry Potter* by J.K. Rowling

The Tapestry* by Henry Neff

The Mysterious Benedict Society* by Trenton Lee Stewart

A Series of Unfortunate Events* by Lemony Snicket

The Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff* by Jason Lethcoe

Airman by Eoin Colfer

The Olympians* by Rick Riordan

Anything by Brian Jacques, Edward Eager, or Shel Silverstein

The Hunger Games* and Gregor the Overlander* by Suzanne Collins

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

The Door Within* by Wayne Thomas Batson

Ranger’s Apprentice* by Jon Flanagan

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Fablehaven* by Brandon Mull

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Peter and the Starcatchers* by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Am I missing anything? What books would you add to this list?
p.s. * stands for series. So look into those babies.


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NaNoWriMo 2014 // Last Words // The author loses his mind

The Emperors New NaNo_mephonix-deviantart-com

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, an event where thousands of writers write 50,000 words (or more) in one month. A novel. Or a good start, anyways. I’m participating this year. And so, in actuality, I don’t really have time to be writing this post. But I am. Because you (Yes, you.) are the best. And because you (Yes, you.) are just that great. Here I shall log my daily “last sentence,” beginning, as today is the second, with yesterday’s. (All these, by the by, are my own personal intellectual property, and thus… do not steal them.) *Note: Intellectual may occasionally be a stretch… I end most writing days at late o’clock at night, when my brain is on the fritz. So, please, just… bear with me.

10.01 “This was how Minerva found him then: shivering slightly from the cold and covered in grime in a spotless attic, pouring over Hephaestus the Grumbler by the light of a dying candle.”

10.02 “Never was a roof more quickly thatched, nor a shed mucked more thoroughly, than on that morning in the cold, with the promise of breakfast, and a story to make it whole.”

10.03 “What is going on?” [Appropriate, I think, for my feelings on the third day of NaNo.]

 10.04  “’Thank you,’ he said, quietly, and fled from the room.”

10.05 “Hating the weight of the money in his hand.”

10.07 [<< note: yikes.] “Then the valley opened up once again, and he was overwhelmed by a cloak of heady joy.” [<< note: ROUGH draft. So swallow your snort and hop on off that there seat of scoffers, Ricky.]

10.08 “To see a person as they are is less alarming than believing in their deception.”

10.10 [<< note: O_o] “And then five more words, like bells ringing in his ears: ‘You must not forget again.'”

10.11 “The street was far less frenzied in the evening, the press of bodies having thinned to a more comfortable crowdedness.” [“I am stinking beat. I have a writing headache. This is bad. This is very bad. I feel like I’m shaking a dry paint brush over a canvas, trying to get something to splatter off and look awesome. Today’s sentence was cherry picked out of the last paragraph I wrote. Everything that came after it was garbage. AUGH! AU-UH-AU-OO-AUGH! *chest-thump* *chews pencil* *eats pencil* I’m going to have to do something drastic.” End of transmission.]

10.12 “But the smithy raised a heavy hand for quiet, and when at last it came, spake softly, ‘No longer.'”

10.13 “Thus, despite the predicament you may be finding yourself in, I ask that you wait just a moment more, and allow me to sufficiently elaborate.” [Ha. Story of my (writing) life. p.s. This one was pulled out of the middle of the text too, but only because, well… the last line is stinking awesome, and I want to save it for when you READ THE BOOK. Woot. :-]

12.7 …. Hm. Two things I’m realizing here. For one, November is the eleventh month of the year…. *headdesk* *homeschool* *so, no desk* *just head* Secondly, that did not go at all as planned.

I shorted out. 14,000 words, near as many cups of chai, hours of sitting at a desk, or in a chair, or on the floor. By the end, there were a handful of times when I would sit down to write for two or three hours, and at the end of it, I’d end up with a couple hundred words. A pittance. Ugh. I had a weekend (around the 13th) (of November…) (11.13) where I literally had no time to write for 2 days. And I was… exhilarated. “And at last I see the light” kind of thing. I felt like someone lifted a barbell off my chest.

So rest was what killed me. But I will keep writing, now, and tomorrow, and the next time I hit a block. And the next time I’m disappointed. And so forth. A tortoise, running a better race in the long run. So… onward. :-)

Tortoise. courtesy of Disney
Tortoise. courtesy of Disney

The Sympathetic Flu

Image Credit // Charles Schulz
Image Credit // Charles Schulz

Ooh! This is bad. Aah! This won’t do.

You say your nose is dripping goo?

Your throat and tongue are turning blue?

Your foot’s too swelled to fit your shoe?

Can’t even stomach water stew?

You’ve put on weight, like old Aunt Sue?

And now you’ve begun to hallu-

Cinate that you live in a zoo,

Dodging flying monkey poo?

You feel like all that you can do

Is eat and sleep and moan and SPEW?

You feel a doctor’s visit’s due?

Before you go, it’s best you knew

You’ve got the Sympathetic Flu.

I feel ya, man – I’ve got it too.

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Expounding on the Hero Heart

“The Nerd” // Khoa Ho

There’s this feeling that we talked about in our training for Brazil (back in July) that you can get when you go on mission trips. Everybody has it, at least a little bit, and it takes a lot of praying, and intentional un-thinking, and a multitude of derogatory comments from spiteful people like Jon Nelson before you can shake it out of your system. (I’m just kidding on that last one; Jon, you’re great. I’d even go so far as to say that I think you’re pretty neat.)

The feeling is like this: Here I am, back pack / suitcase in my hand / on my back, 2 preparatory missions books read, tickets purchased… the time has come. I am going to save the world. And you can look at that and say, “Ridiculous! No one would be so inane,” but I am saying, You would. I would. And we do. It might seem ridiculous to feel that urge, to raise our hands to the sky and shout to the world, “I can save you!” Because it is ridiculous. But so are people.  And I think we do this with living, too.

To demonstrate the point, see
a) most Disney movies,
b) bed time stories you were told as a kid,
c) or any good adventure book written for little boys and girls, pretty much EVER. (Which I find, somehow, are still the only ones that really excite me. But, ah well. I am a 7 year old at heart, and a Shaq in approximate longitude.)
We raise our children up to be “world-changers.” We tell them they can do anything. Meanwhile, the cape and tights are holy attire, and the women swoon at the thought of a “knight in shining armor.” Why? (And why tights? I don’t know.) Ours is a hero culture, and I’m betting you can feel that.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Thus spake Uncle Ben, father figure to Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spiderman. (If you haven’t heard of HIM… Shame. Shame, shame.) I remember hearing those words for the first time, back when I was runty and impressionable. Wow. That was… there was a story worth living. Kids, best of all, understand bigness. And they do not question the fact that they will someday be something more than they are already. Some people will tell you that youth is unreservedly, and almost stupidly, optimistic. I agree – but  I call it “faith.”

And then I suppose there’s the question, if you take two steps further, as to whether or not you really ought to be a hero anyways, or oughtn’t that be someone more… crucified. I think, as is the case with most human metaphors, you could make a case for or against with equal gravity. Could it be true that “when I am weak, then I am strong,” (II Cor. 2:10) but in that same moment, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline”?  (II Tim. 1:7) It must be. They’re both in there. :-)

So my own question isn’t so much whether or not, but why, or rather, for whom? Maybe it isn’t possible to save the whole world, but there’s plenty of grannies who could use help carrying the groceries in. The cape and tights may be a stretch (Yikes. No pun intended), but hey, mom could use some help with the laundry. And as a matter  of fact, yes – there are damsels in distress out there. (I’m just sayin, gents… Just. Sayin.) And there are real, honest to goodness wars to be fought. That’s something we all need to take seriously. When you, in your mind, put on that cape, and those stretchy pants (as, a famed Mexican wrestler assures us, all men do) – who are you out to impress? Or save? Or, actually, empower?

Say you’re a hero. You might as well – you claimed it pretty early on, and now everyone knows. Who are you a hero for?

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