The Two-by-Four Argument


I’m guessing my nephew is the only child who ever intentionally gave himself a speech impediment to win an argument.

He was a bright little kid, and ornery as the dickens. He loved teasing his mom and would go to great lengths to out-argue her. And, because he was so dang cute about it, we let him get away with almost everything.

IMG_0012.jpgSo, about a month before his 4th birthday, his mom started telling him it was time for some changes. She said that when he turned 4, he had to start sleeping in his own bed. He had to get fully dressed every day instead of running around in his underwear. And, by the way, he also had to wear everything correctly. (He liked to wear his Underoos backward so he could see the Superhero characters. You’ve gotta be skinny to pull off that move!)

The boy was having none of it. He told her a flat no to all her requests.

She held firm and told him that all 4-year-olds wear pants. It was the law.

This is where the kid put his imagination to work. He announced to everyone that he wasn’t turning four. He was turning two-two.

We thought this was going to be short-lived, but he kept to it the entire year. He even refused to say the word four, and replaced it with two wherever possible.

What’s important to know is that he wasn’t reading & writing at this age, so he had no idea what homophones were. He replaced everything that sounded like four, to interesting results:IMG_0006.jpg

  • Instead of “I got this for you,” he would say, “I got this to you.”
  • Forward became two-ward (not t’wards, like we say in the Midwest, but toowards)
  • A forest was a two-est
  • When evil scientists on his cartoons talked about their evil formula,  he repeated back to the t.v., “evil two-mula.”

The amazing thing was that he never sat down to work all this out – it just came naturally out of his mouth. And it all worked so well in context that we adults just accepted the language shift and moved on.

He grew out of all of this, as kids do.

But I hope I’m around when that kid turns forty. I’m curious whether he’ll spend a year being twenty-twenty.


Fantasy series you’ve probably missed

dirk-gently.jpgBBC America recently made a t.v. series out of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” Though most people my age have heard of Douglas Adams’s more popular “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” it surprises me how few people know Dirk Gently. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a series, since there were only 2 books and the sequel was far better, but I got the impression that Adams intended it as a series. Either way, it had a few quirky, one-of-a-kind scenes that have always stayed with me. If ever a streetlight blinks out as I drive beneath it, I think of old Norse gods and their peculiarities.

I have a few other pet favorite fantasy series that never really went mainstream. It may take some work to find them in print, but seize them if you get the chance.

Moira J. Moore’s “Heroes” Series51ZzUO3P-6L._SX300_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Her publishers lost faith in the series before the end, so to read the final book you actually have to write to the author and have her e-mail you the PDF. It’s crazy, but worth it.

Dunleavy has trained her entire life for a specific kind of sorcery, knowing that her graduation entails being paired for life with a sorcerer from the opposite academy. Together they’ll be saving the world again and again, heroes to all.

Unfortunately, she gets paired with the infamous Lord Karish, a beautiful – and impossible to ignore – aristocrat. He’s as egotistical as she is naive. Oh, and did I mention that bonded pairs are forbidden from falling in love?

Book 1 of the series, “Resenting the Hero” was released in paperback and is still easy to get your hands on.


Nicole Peeler’s “Tempest” Series

Ah, Jane True, how I miss your strange fighting skills and your High-Top Sneakers. This love story between the daughter of a Selkie (half-seal, half woman), a vampire, and a Barghast (half-dog, half man) is spread over 5 books, each more involved than the last. The first one is a riot, interspersed with heavy sex scenes. After that, Peeler gets more interested in character development and action, action, action.

You have to start with Book 1, though. Look for “Tempest Rising” in paperback.


 For more book recommendations, see my “Books I Can’t Stop Talking About” series

Grandpa’s Navigation

When I was little, I thought my grandpa had installed an advanced navigational system in his car. This was crazy, as it was the 70’s. Not only did we not have computers, we didn’t even have LED screens. Heck, even the radio was a twist-dial that only got AM!

Nevertheless, when GPS was developed a couple decades later, I was more surprised than anyone else. I had never realized that this sort of system didn’t exist until suddenly everyone was talking about it.

How did I wind up at this absurd notion? Let’s consider the evidence:

Whenever we went anywhere in his car, grandpa would insist on going out to “get it ready” at least 5-10 minutes early. Sure, in the winters we had to warm up those old cars for a good while before you put it in gear. But I naturally assumed he had a purpose to this the rest of the year, too.

As soon as we piled into the car, grandma would ask, “Now, are you sure you know where you’re going?”

Rather than a yes or no answer, grandpa would say, “Don’t worry. We’ll get there.

As a grown and married woman, I now realize this translates to, “I’ll point the car in the general direction and hope things turn out alright.”  But as a kid, I figured he had some sort of ace in the hole to help him make that statement with such certainty.

And now here’s the kicker: when we got to the next town, grandpa’s turn signal would start blinking a good quarter mile before the actual turn!

I didn’t know anything about cars in those days. I had no idea he was nudging a lever to turn the signal on because I never saw him do it. So I got the notion that the signal was telling him when to turn.

This felt true because almost every time, when grandma would say, “Your turn’s coming up – you have to slow down!” grandpa would suddenly sit up straight, looking as alarmed as anyone that he was coming up on the turn too fast. I figured he hadn’t noticed that his blinker had been going for several minutes.

Grandpa always had a confident air about finding things, the same relaxed, no-worries approach of people nowadays who are using GPS. No matter how convinced grandma was that we’d taken a wrong turn, he’d always maintain that we were fine, right on time, gonna be there in any moment. And when we finally reached it, even if the house we were visiting suddenly appeared to be on the opposite side of the street of where they’d both been looking, he’d shift into park with a flourish and and give grandma a jaunty grin.

Yes, kids, in our day we didn’t have fancy computers with accurate navigation. We got by on cockiness, patience, and luck.

Oh, and it helped that none of the passengers could pull up maps on their phones to prove we were going the wrong way.


Walk of Fame

It was my first professional job after college and I was eager to make a good impression. Gawky, self-conscious, and shy, I had been hired at a newspaper that I’d always respected. They had 100 people on staff, about half in the offices, so I assumed I was just another face in the crowd, easily forgotten.

Because I started on the swing shift, there was never a spot in the parking lot when I arrived and I had to park a block away and walk down the sloping hill to get to the office. This would have been fine except that I quickly realized that half the office faced the bank of windows which I had to walk past, and so few people used that sidewalk that any movement out there automatically drew the eye of every bored worker.


This was especially bad for me because I was so clumsy I often stumbled when I walked fast. So each morning I began my day by strolling slowly past all the people I hoped to one day impress, trying to watch my posture and not do anything embarrassing.

That aim was short-lived.

I remember it vividly, walking down the hill one clear summer day about two weeks after I took the job. An odd sensation came over me, one of impending doom. I heard a wooshing sound and sensed something coming at my head.

In one of the rare cases in my life of acting on instinct, I dropped to a squat, high heels and all, and brought my hands up in defense.

My attacker missed me and kept aiming right at the building.

It was a redwing blackbird dive-bombing my head. I had no idea that bird attacks were real outside of Hitchcock movies. Apparently the darned thing had hatchlings in a nest just a few yards beyond where I was walking and it took me for a predator.

All of this I learned later. At the time, I crouched on the sidewalk, incredulous, wondering what in the world I’d done to deserve that.

Then I realized I’d done this right in front of the office. And I still had to walk in the main doors and trudge past 3/4 of the staff to get to my desk.

I stood up tall and traipsed along as though nothing odd had just happened. Just outside the door, I took a deep breath and thought, “I hope no one noticed that.”

Yeah, right.

Two steps in, I realized that everyone in the office was talking about it. Someone had spotted the bird coming at me and called everyone’s attention to it in the split second before I reacted.

The girls at the front desk said something along the lines of, “You poor thing.” Most people grinned or chuckled and got back to work.

But this one guy in the far corner of the office shouted out, “Nice bird dodge!” and started slow-clapping me.

I scurried to the back room, not acknowledging a soul, and got right to work. I thought if I didn’t say anything, it would die. Nope. I was “the bird girl” for my first two months there.

It could have been worse. I’m not known for my reaction time, let alone avoiding disasters, so I’ve always been thankful that I managed to not get head-splatted by a nasty bird that day.

In retrospect, “Nice bird dodge!” is one of the cooler things anyone has ever shouted at me.