Keeps Flowing Like a River (On and On)

My life has been a little strange since I switched jobs at the end of July.

My title is Curriculum Specialist, but that’s sort of a bureaucratic catchall title that means whatever the supervisor says it means. In this case, I’m doing an assortment of computer-related tasks, beginning with a revamped website for the program I work in (continuing education) but also stuff like flyers and proofreading. That’s eighteen hours a week, most of which I get done with in two days. I don’t clock all the hours, of course, but I’m sort of banking the over-hours for some time in the future when I’m short a few hours. I could almost take two weeks of vacation right now, based on how many hours I’ve put in outside the regulation.

To make up the income shortfall the shortened hours bring, I’m ramping up my work for RMA, starting with doubling my article output to two per week. This work is pretty challenging and I enjoy it, but I get paid for the product only, which lies in a realm outside my expertise. This means I spend a lot of uncompensated time (and money) reading books on subjects like work-life balance and working with Millennials. By the time you factor in the time I spend in cafes (since I still can’t work at home), it’s about a break-even proposition. Which I’m okay with for now.

The major challenge has been carving up my days so that I do what both pursuits need in reasonable and responsible amounts of time, and then making time for the other things, like swimming at the beach, taking walks, listening to music, personal reading, and writing. Oh, and sleeping. Sleep is a constant issue for me lately and I’m still figuring out the best way to get enough.

I want to take advantage of the flexibility of the hours to pursue the other things, not just the stuff I’ve listed, but a few of the other things I’ve put aside because teaching simply didn’t allow much of it. I want to continue to write puzzles (I just got a cool crossword puzzle one-off job that I’ll write about later) and I haven’t made any wine in a very long time. And certain web projects have stagnated in hiatus while I try to find sections of my life where there’s room to fit that stuff.

I’m not even sure how to begin organizing my thoughts and priorities as I try to make time for the things I need and the things I want, which is why I’m writing this here. I suppose I should start with the essentials, which are the two paying jobs plus the health and wellness stuff. Maybe once I find a schedule that works for them, I’ll know where the other stuff goes.

One of my problems is that the swimming involves my getting out of bed at 4:00 in the morning. This makes working late at night prohibitive, except that I work really well late at night. The result has been working late, getting three hours of sleep, then going for a swim, then doing a little bit of work with breakfast, then taking naps that last far too long, then trying to cram the two jobs in with the remainder of the day. It’s been inefficient to say the least.

This is so boring. I’m actually boring myself as I try to sort through this.

I think I’ve convinced myself to schedule the work hours and the sleep and exercise, and then see where in my day I have space for the other stuff.

But it’s 8:42 in the evening now and I guess I should get home and take care of my evening chores. That’s one routine I’ve managed to establish, something that lets me go to bed pretty satisfied that I got some personal stuff done.

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Haole to You, Too!

A text conversation a couple of weekends ago had @aipohaku and me challenging each other to create lists of our ten favorite movies set in Hawaii. I, of course, am late by a full week.

Note that I’m going for movies set in the Aloha State, not merely filmed here, so Jurrassic Park and The Karate Kid II are out.

10. Pearl Harbor (2001)
kateOkay, forget about the hype surrounding Pearl Harbor, the Josh Hartnett, Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale pic that followed in the wake of Titanic as some kind of love story set against awful, historic events, and just look at is as an entertainment, and you’ll find some good stuff here, including a great recreation of the attack. I realize this is no masterpiece, but there’s some excellent Hawaii period footage like you don’t really see anymore.

9. From Here to Eternity (1953)
kerrThere’s that famous kissing scene on the beach, which I suppose is pretty good, even if it doesn’t live up to its iconic status. The real value in this movie are in seeing the streets of downtown Honolulu in its still-rough, WWII days, before it was cleaned up in the 1990s and before it was the sleaze-pit it became in the 1970s and 1980s, and in seeing this great cast when the actors were vibrant, young, exciting. It’s a great cast while not being a great movie, and it’s entertaining enough to keep you interested on one of those bad-weather play-hooky days, which I think are the conditions under which I first saw this when I was a teenager.

8. The Castaway Cowboy (1974)
I seem to be the only one of my friends who remembers this Disney film with James Garner, and based on reviews I’ve seen online, I may be the only person anywhere who remembers it fondly. Garner is rescued after being kidnapped from San Francisco and then tossed overboard in Hawaii. He sticks around to help his rescuing family with its farm. There is a memorable scene where the cattle are lashed by the horns to the sides of boats and then guided, while they swim, to some new location. I’m afraid to see this one again for fear of its being not nearly as good as I remember.

7. Goodbye, Paradise (1991)
goodbye paradiseLong-time Hawaii news anchor Joe Moore stars in this film set in an old neighborhood bar that’s about to be shut down. Part nostalgia trip longing for the way things used to be, and part let’s-see-if-we-can-make-Joe-Moore a movie star, Goodbye, Paradise is not remembered fondly by those few of us who saw it, but I liked it. There’s a little bit of double nostalgia with memories of this film because it’s the last thing I saw at the old Marina Theater, which many years ago became Hawaii’s only Red Lobster restaurant. The theater by that time was as much a run-down dump as the bar in the movie, but I remember both fondly.

6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
milaBias alert: I love Kristen Bell. I expected very little from Forgetting Sarah Marshall even though I admire the Apatow team for its effort if not usually for its product, but what really makes this film memorable is Mila Kunis, who for the first time kind of emerges as a possible star. She’s the rare non-local who manages to be convincing as kind of a local, and she’s really the highlight of a so-so movie.

5. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
To say I had low expectations of Lilo & Stitch, whose animation style I found boring and whose plot didn’t sound like the stuff of a Disney classic, would be a gross understatement. I went in determined not to like it. And I couldn’t help myself: I was charmed. The title characters, despite having every reason not to, won me over, and I left with renewed hope in Disney. I have known young men and women, cynics to the core, people who find something to dislike in anything conventional, who admitted the same thing.

4. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
emily and adamPunch-Drunk Love, with Adam Sandler and Emily Watson, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is set in Hawaii about the way Say Anything is set on a jet to Paris, which is to say not really setin Hawaii at all. However, it would appear that I haven’t seen as many films truly set in Hawaii as I once thought, and I only have the faintest memory of some of them, so I had to loosen my restriction just a little and include this in the list. Sandler and Watson are excellent in a movie whose main character resonates more with me than any other, except Paul Giamatti’s Miles role in Sideways.

3. 50 First Dates (2004)
There are about fifty stupid things in this movie, things that should offend me as a resident of Hawaii, where 50 First Dates is set. And in almost any other movie, I suppose they would, but Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are just too good together, and there is a scene about midway through the film where we see Sean Astin and Blake Clark, as Barrymore’s brother and father, going to great, amazing, and genuinely touching lengths to make her amnesia.-like condition less traumatic. Sandler, at his most sincere and most earnest, does the rest, convincing us that he loves this happy girl in the saddest way. What’s good about the movie far, far outweighs what’s bad about it.

2. The Descendants (2011)
george and shaileneGeorge Clooney and Shailene Woodley are excellent in The Descendants, a movie that looks like Hawaii the way only people who live here can testify to. The story’s got some weird holes (which, it has been explained to me, are omissions from the source novel); however, they are easily overlooked when the rest of the film is so well done. This movie looks and feels like Hawaii better than any other, and that by itself should make it #1 on this list. Yet:

1. North Shore (1987)
niaFor about twenty hyper-subjective reasons, North Shore, for all its badness, is my favorite movie set in Hawaii (I actually like Punch-Drunk Love better, but it’s not set enough in Hawaii to count). For high-school crushes, Nia Peeples is only rivaled by Pat Benatar and Paulina Porizkova for duration and depth. For its many, many quotable bits of dialogue. For being in theaters the summer after my high-school graduation. For cameos by Makaha Sons of Niihau and surfers I actually recognize (because there aren’t many). I can’t help it. My head says a million things but my heart says, “You come back to the North Shore,” and then a second later, “Here on the North Shore, we treat our friends more better!”


I had Ride the Wild Surf on this list before I remembered to include Goodbye, Paradise, so that would be my number 11 if there were a number 11. I would also like to re-see Aloha Summer and Goin’ Cocoanuts (the Donnie and Marie movie set in Hawaii) to see if they somehow could crack this list.

I promised myself I wouldn’t look at @aipohaku’s list until mine was done, so it’s time now for me to go do it. You are encouraged to do the same!

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Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Meme

Bunch of memes to end the weekend.

Sunday Stealing:

One Thing …..
that makes you smile:

that makes you cry:
Expressions of kindness.

that you love to do on the weekends:
Sleep in.

that you do for only yourself:
I’m going with swimming at the beach, even though I haven’t done much of that since the end of January.

that you have in your underwear drawer that’s NOT underwear:
Cobwebs. I don’t put my clothes in my dresser anymore; it’s only got clothes in it that I haven’t worn in years, plus a few spiders.

that you do before going to sleep:
Set the alarm.

that you do within the first 15 minutes after waking:
Check my phone for messages and notifications.

that’s in your purse:
I don’t have a purse, but in my backpack there is a phone charger, among a few other things.

that you actually LIKE to clean:
I like washing my hair after a swim.

that you DETEST cleaning:
Ah. Windows.

that other people would find odd about you:
I hate getting food on my hands, so I eat potato chips from the bag in a peculiar way: usually with chopsticks.

that you would buy if I handed you a $100 bill:
Food first, since this has been a Weekend of Extreme Frugality.

that you feel you HAVE to do before you die:
There’s one thing that leaps to mind but I think it’s inappropriate for this space, so I’m going with publish a novel.

I changed my mind. I feel like writing, but the memes don’t really interest me right now, and there isn’t anything on my mind worth jotting down here. Maybe I’ll just type whatever I’m thinking for a few moments.

My former boss gave me Season 1 of The Newsroom for Christmas and I finally got around to watching the first six episodes (of ten). It’s quite good. I’d seen Alison Pill in a few things before, but I had no idea she had this in her. She’s the frenetic center of a great cast, including Jeff Daniels and a surprising Sam Waterson. Looking forward to finishing the season, then watching it again with the commentaries. Then probably getting myself Season 2.

The new Yes album was scheduled to be released July 8, but Wikipedia says July 16, and Amazon says July 22. So darn. I’m really looking forward to it. The last album was great, one of my favorites, and this one’s got a new singer. Sometimes a thing like that is what a band of old guys like Yes needs in order to jolt it into something fresh.

I’ve had the same two Netflix DVDs in my possession since the middle of March. I decided, when I rejoined the service a couple of years ago, that I wasn’t going to stress about getting my money’s worth, because that’s what ruined the experience for me the first time. I don’t want this concept of getting my money’s worth to dictate what I will watch or when I will watch it. Just having access to the service is worth the few bucks per month it costs me, the way you pay for the availability of cable television even when you don’t watch it. Still, four months is kind of ridiculous. I finally just ripped both movies (Tiger Eyes and About Time) to my laptop and I’ll watch them sometime this week (then delete them, of course). Time to get past this stasis and get something new in my mailbox. Satisfaction (with Justine Bateman) and Winter’s Bone (Jennifer Lawrence) are up next.

I recently finished John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (I read Looking for Alaska a couple of months ago) and look forward to Shailene Woodley in the main character’s role in the film. Green is a good writer, but boy is his style ostentatious. I’m re-reading Lynne Rae Perkins’s Criss Cross, one of my favorite books, and it is reminding me of what I want to accomplish as a writer. It’s funny, because my writing partner made me read Looking for Alaska, so I made her read Criss Cross. Neither of us likes the other’s book nearly as much as the one we each recommended.

Almost 1:00 in the morning and the laundry is finally done. About to hit the sack. Here’s to a good week.

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I Like to Smash the Noodles Up, Then Pour the Hot Water over Them in a Big Mug

Man, it’s been an exhausting few weeks. I expect the madness to continue for one more, and then I expect a sudden, dramatic silence. Three days a week, I teach these courses and it’s all I have the mental and physical energy to do, despite a four-hour break between classes. I had grand visions for how I’d be using that time, but I was way, way off.

I have to admit that, except for the six hours three days a week I’m teaching class, the summer’s been a bit of a slog. My spirits are down because I’ve been stuck on these last couple of financial things I’m trying to take care of, and the situation at work isn’t helping.

I’m having one of those instant-ramen-for-breakfasts-and-lunches weeks, which I mostly don’t mind: I like instant ramen, and before this week, it had been quite a while since I’d had any. This realization was a neat thing, because I suddenly felt kind of blessed. It’s been more than two years since I had to have a week THIS frugal, and believe me, it’s not because I was rolling in cash. Somehow, I’ve managed to avoid hitting the lower tiers of my famine menus. It really gave me a good attitude, one that I’m still feeling today, a couple of days in.

You hear that sound? That’s me taking a deep breath and just sucking it up.

Friday 5 from here.

  1. What’s your favorite tomato thing?
    Grape tomatoes in a fresh salad with papaya-seed dressing. Number two is probably canned whole tomatoes.
  2. What’s your favorite celery thing?
    I do not like celery, but in very small amounts, it’s pretty good in tuna salad.
  3. What’s your favorite broccoli thing?
    Just plain, blanched broccoli alongside cheesy mashed potatoes. Broccoli is one of my two or three favorite foods.
  4. What’s your favorite eggplant thing?
    I really like it in roasted veggie dishes, like with cauliflower, zucchini, and squash. I think, however, I like even better this stuffed eggplant dish they have at the Chinese restaurant near my house. Yummy.
  5. What’s your favorite spinach thing?
  6. It’s tough to beat spinach artichoke dip! I also really like this Japanese preparation for which you blanche the spinach, then put it in the fridge, then chop it up and mix it with goma ae no moto, a powdery sesame-seed mixture. Oh man, it’s delicious.

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Ten Questions on Being Creative or Whatever

One of the best things about returning to NaNoWriMo last year was getting to meet a lot of new people in (and here’s the catch!) an environment where I didn’t feel awkward and out of place. The annual event draws all sorts, despite its rather specific mission, and someday I will catalogue them beyond just “impressive” and “unimpressive,” but that day is not today, because the point of this paragraph is to say that one of the impressive people I have gotten to know was asked these ten questions about creativity, and she tagged me on FB for my responses. It flatters me to be asked questions like this, as if to affirm that my floundering around for something to say and some way to say it has convinced one person that I am a creative person.

1. What is the first creative moment you remember?

It was probably that Sunday morning in first-grade Sunday school when, instead of cutting out tree trunks and leaves to illustrate the Zacchaeus story, I put swirls of white glue down on a piece of construction paper and let the glue dry, a tale I first told in this space here. As I said then: I was dismayed to learn the following Sunday that glue dries clear. Alas.

2. What is the best idea you’ve ever had? What made it great in your mind?

I’m going to consider myself a copout if I can’t think of something to write here, but this is a really, really challenging question. I think I’m going to answer these within the framework of creating art, not merely being creative, because otherwise my answers are all going to have to do with something I thought of to use in my classroom, which, while definitely a channel for expressing myself and while certainly a place for creativity, isn’t art and maybe isn’t really creating. So:

When I was in college, I struggled for a little while with the possibility that I might have low-grade clinical depression. One of my professors was convinced of it, and she suggested I see a doctor and perhaps receive medication for those times when my tendencies made schoolwork impossible (as they did every so often). I never did, but while I was tossing the idea around in my head for a few weeks, I wrote a poem called “Prozac,” in which I describe a pill bottle as something like a reverse cell, with tranluscent, amber-colored walls and an opaque window on whose opposite side is typed my name. You know, as a comparison to a regular room where the walls are opaque and the windows transparent. Later in that same poem, I describe how, when you open the medicine cabinet, you first see a reflection of yourself and then that reflection is pushed aside so you can get to the medicine behind it, a bizarre kind of putting on one’s face. The last line of that stanza is, “This is how long it takes you / to put on your face.” I’m not sure where those ideas came from, but I think they are pretty great because they are familiar imagery that work practically and symbolically to serve the poem. If not for the very, very last line of that poem, which I have never been able to settle on, it would be the work I’m most proud of.

3. What is the dumbest idea?

One of them (outside the context of creating) was probably making mashed potatoes with vanilla-flavored soy milk. Within the context of creating, I once wrote a poem where the persona compares trying to hang onto a dream after waking with trying to keep a firm grip on a handful of Jell-O. I would like to say on behalf of the witness, your honor, that he was twelve years old at the time. But yeah: he still should have seen how stupid that was.

4. What is your creative ambition?

Across all media and in every realm, my creative ambition is to get other creative people to ask, “How did you do that?”

5. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?

This question actually came up today while I met with my writers group. I’m not sure, but I think one way is to take a look at the work of writers who inspired me to ask, “How did she do that?” In this case we were talking about a woman writer, so I’ll stick with that pronoun for now. I do not know if this will help me achieve this ambition. It may have the opposite effect. For now, I think I need to go there just to feel it, so I can kind of get a sense of what I want my audience to feel.

6. Describe your first successful creative act.

When I was in fourth grade, my classmates and I were assigned to write a story. It was earlier that year that I (inspired by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume) declared to anyone who cared that my new goal was someday to be a writer of novels. So this assignment was my first real try at my new chosen profession. We were supposed to illustrate them and fit them all on one page. I took the comic-strip approach, making six panels and writing a story called “The Adventures of Sir Charles the Tuna” (yeah, after Charlie the Tuna in the stupid Starkist commercials). Charles was kind of the bad guy. The good guy was Myron the Dogfish, and I don’t remember exactly what happened in the story, but I was proud of both illustrations and narrative, and my classmates loved it as well. I held onto that piece of paper for kind of a long time. It has since vanished. But I can still draw Sir Charles and Myron.

7. Describe your second successful act. How does it compare to the first?

I don’t know how to write about this without it sounding like a humble-brag, so I’m just going to state the facts and avoid having to confront certain terms by using their (just as well-known, I guess) abbreviations. In fifth grade, we wrote a lot of poetry in my GT classes, and when we came back from our Maui trip, one of our assignments was to write a poem about one of the sights we’d anticipated seeing and then to include the reality of seeing it (or something like that). I wrote about the Seven Sacred Pools of Hana, which started out kind of wordy and awkward, but as I worked with my teacher on revisions, the poem became more and more poem-like. It was one of my first lessons in saying more with less, and the finished product was only about twelve lines. There was one line, the final line in the poem, that I had written as “because you disappointed me,” and my teacher suggested “for you have disappointed me.” That one word-change made a world of difference to me, and it became my first lesson in poetic language. We later included that poem in our class anthology, and it was one of my favorite creations for a long time after.

8. Which artists do you admire most and why? What do you have in common?

Of current artists, I’m going with Lynne Rae Perkins, author of Criss Cross because she repeatedly causes me to ask, “How did she do that?” She does some ridiculously audacious things with her writing, and they all work because…well, if I knew why they worked, I might not be asking how she does it. One thing we have in common is our target audience: thoughtful young readers who pay attention to more than just a sequence of events. Other than that, I would be amazed if we had anything in common.

9. What is your greatest fear?

Daree (sorry; how do you make that accented E?) answered this with “losing inspiration,” and my answer is similar but different: running out of ideas. I think I will always be inspired to create, and in fact maybe inspiration is not something I care much about. As Madeline L’Engle, my favorite writer, said, “Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.” If I can stay disciplined in my work, I have hope that inspiration will come. But ideas? I feel like most of my really good ideas were some kind of luck anyway. The ability to come up with them seems not to be a skill I possess. I have spoken with some VERY creative people, people who make their livings on their creativity, and they say they don’t worry about it, that there is so much stuff out there for the generation of good ideas that all you have to do is be open to them. This tells me that (a) I know some very, very talented people and (b) maybe creativity is just a game I play around at, not something I truly am.

10. What is your idea of mastery?

I guess I’ve said this twice already, but if I can get a thoughtful reader to ask, “How did you do that?” I will consider myself to have mastered, if nothing else, whatever that is.

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Review: Delivery Man

Delivery Man (2013)
Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders, Chris Pratt, Bobby Moynihan. Directed by Ken Scott.

deYou could tell from the trailer for Delivery Man that this was going to be a silly, sweet, sentimental, possibly manipulative movie, and it is all of those things. And I bought pretty much every machination, every plot device, every hug, every tear, and every cliche. Sometimes, in order to enjoy a movie, all you need to be is the film’s intended audience, and for some reason I had no problem being that audience.

The set-up is predictable. David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is kind of a screw-up delivery truck driver for his family’s butchery business. His brothers and father do most of the hard work, saying David has “the easiest job in the company,” but David still manages to let everyone down despite what seem like the best of intentions. His girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) is pregant with his child, but she is reluctant to let David be more than just the birth coach, unconvinced as she is of David’s reliability as a father.

liveryIt turns out that David’s family and girlfriend don’t know the half of it: David owes $80,000 to some shady men, and he finds out that a sperm bank he made over six hundred contributions to while in college kind of screwed things up, and he is the biological father of 533 young men and women, 142 of whom have filed a class-action lawsuit against the sperm bank to learn who their father is despite a confidentiality agreement between David and the bank.

The bank’s lawyer gives David a manila envelope with individual profiles of the 142 complainants. Curious, David spies on a few of them to find out who they are, and in the process finds himself intentionally and unintentionally a part of their lives, the truth of his identity still unknown to his children. In the process, of course, he discovers some of the joys and heartbreaks of being a parent.

manVaughn is cast perfectly in this, conveying his usual fratboy mischievousness but adding a very believable fratboy enthusiasm and joy. While most of the family dynamic is something we’ve seen a hundred times, there are manipulative scenes of family love, too, and every actor plays these scenes with utmost sincerity, and that sincerity is contagious. I was moved to tears a few times, a response amplified by David’s kids’ seeming inheritance of all the good things in David’s heart. The 142 complainants are brought together by an unbelievable circumstance, but their response to it, individually and collectively, is believable as heck, and their response to David, even before they know who he is, is believable, and when the plot asked me to laugh or cry along with them in this bizarre situation, I was nothing but eager to oblige.

There are twenty-five things the writer and director could have done better with Delivery Man, but they are so outnumbered by the strength of a good cast (including Chris Pratt as David’s lawyer and Bobby Moynihan as one of his brothers) that I almost don’t remember what they are. Vaughn the actor kind of accomplishes what David the character accomplishes, and all we’re left with at the end is a good feeling. There are worse things to say about a film.


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The Sun Shall Not Smite Thee by Day

I’m behind on everything because I’ve had a cold all week. I’m almost better so more deep thoughts by me are just around the corner.

It’s time for the annual Friday 5 Scattergories-inspired questions.

What random letter was generated by the online random-letter generator (this doesn’t really count as one of your five questions)?
I rolled a V. Just great.

  1. What article of clothing, whose name begins with the letter, have you never worn?
    I can’t say for absolute certain that I have never worn a veil, but I honestly can’t think of a time when I would have. So veil.
  2. What book, whose title begins with the letter, are you looking forward to reading?
    Oh, this one is easy. I have so far read only up through T is for Trespass in Sue Grafton’s alphabet murder series featuring Kinsey Milhone. The books have been a great escape for me over the years, and I look forward, when I get there, to V is for Vengeance.
  3. What mode of transportation, whose name begins with the letter, seems like it would be fun?
    My first thought is velocipede, since there are many I have never ridden, but I have ridden bicycles, which are velocipedes, so I guess I can’t really claim that I haven’t ridden one. Oh, you know what? I have never been in a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia and I really want to own one someday.
  4. What form of exercise, whose name begins with the letter, have you recently engaged in?
    How about vigorous housecleaning? Sorry, it’s the best I can offer. But you know, I’m talking about don’t-slow-down, dedicated housecleaning. It’s a workout.
  5. What fictional character, whose name begins with the letter, would be good company on a long trip?
    I’m going way, way off the board here and taking Vicky Austin, the main character of four books by my favorite writer, Madeleine L’Engle. She’s smart, she’s pretty, and she’s the sort of girl I’ve been looking for my whole life. Interestingly (or not), the plot of her second book, The Moon by Night (my favorite in the series), involves a cross-country family car trip, so I already know I’d enjoy spending the time with her because I sort of already have. About twenty times.
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