Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Cat's Away...

My husband went camping on Mount Diablo last weekend. He took along his son, son-in-law and two grandsons, for a short "boy's weekend out" in preparation for the longer "father and sons trip" coming up in June.

Did I feel left out as he packed up his clothes (a grocery bag filled with two T-shirts and one pair of shorts -- no underwear, pajamas, etc.), gathered the ingredients for the campfire dinner (hot dogs, mac salad and chips -- no healthy foods whatsoever) and jumped into his beat-up Volkswagen camper/van to set out on his adventure?

Was I jealous that he would be spending the night under the VW rooftop, wrapped only in a spare sheet and tattered old blanket, listening to the Boy Scout troops next-door sing "The Worms Crawl In" late into the night?


Perhaps in the past, when we were first married, I would have moped around, tried to make him feel guilty for leaving me and tossed and turned all night until he returned. Back then I even resented that his job took him away from me for eight hours a day. Why couldn't he just stay home and hang out with me?

Well, that was then, and this is 40 years later. Truthfully, I couldn't wait to hear that old sputtering engine rev up and head down the driveway, taking my husband with it for the next 24 hours.

Don't get me wrong -- I still love the guy. But when the cat's away, the wife gets to do all kinds of unsupervised and unreported things she might not
ordinarily do.

During that first hour, I felt like a woman at a shoe sale. The possibilities were endless. What would I do first? Rent a horror movie that my husband refuses to see? Eat the rest of the Sees candy I got for Mother's Day and not save any for him? Turn up the music he can't stand and pretend I'm on "Glee?"

All of the above, which only took about an hour total. After that, I had trouble figuring out what a mouse without a cat would do for the rest of the day.

I could go shopping, but I can do that anytime. I could go to the movies, but it's more fun sharing popcorn with my husband. I could go out to dinner by myself, but everyone would stare at me.

By the time my husband arrived home, I hadn't done much of anything. I didn't clean the house (cluttered with grandkids' toys). I didn't buy a new outfit (not at this weight). I didn't work on my college grades (already overdue.)

Instead I woke up late and lay in bed reading the newspaper from front page headlines to last page Public Announcements. I ate leftovers. I watched "House" reruns. I caught up on my email (dating back to January). I took a two-hour nap.

OK, I'll admit it. Wife's weekend alone wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be.

I missed my husband's witty repartee, his homemade lattes, his gourmet cooking, his ability to fix broken stuff, his enjoyment of "Mythbusters." I'm going to have to do better planning next time he goes away for a weekend.

Like join a singles group ....


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Letters from Readers - and why I write for kids

Kid readingI write a column for a newspaper in my spare time and once got a cranky letter from “anonymous” who didn’t understand my sense of humor. I wish I could write “just kidding” at the end of every column, but my editor won’t let me. My editor said to “blow it off. People only write when they don’t like some, but rarely when they do.”

I’ve only received one negative letter about my Connor Westphal mystery series. The reader chastised me because she felt the dog in the series was neglected. “Connor never feeds the dog, walks the dog, grooms the dog…”

Now that I’m writing The Code Busters Club, a mystery series for kids, I get tons of letters! What a difference! I thought I’d share some of their wonderful comments with you today. Some are heartfelt, some hilarious. Watch may want to write for kids yourself when you’re finished reading them…

Kid writingDear Penny Warner,
Thank you for showing us how to do the secret codes and it was very cool to learn about. I’m really going to miss you. PS. You are a great athor. Love Nami

Dear, Mrs. Warner,
Thanks for coming into our classroom personally to teach us about codes. My favorite code is the “semaphore” code (flags) because I can see it be used in sports and it is really cool to understand what the refs were doing. Sorry for not buying your books but I am not the biggest fan of books. Viln, Xozbtlm  (in code)

Dear Mrs. Warner,
Thank you for coming to Mr. B's class. But what i really want to talk about are those AWESOME  codes. I learned how to say, "Hi my name is Leah." And I'm going to buy Code Busters #1 from your series. Sincerely, Leah 

Dear Mrs.Warner
This is Destiny Santiago. I learned so much just from you. Once again thank you email me back. I'll be doing the same. I'll be showing people this book for now and forever.

 Dear Mrs. Warner
     Hello, My name is Natalie from Greenbrook/ When you taught us about sign language I fell in love with it because it was so fun, and now I do it daily and I am getting really good at it. I hope you come back to my school again, BYE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  From Natalie

 Thank You Mrs. Penny Warner for coming to our class. It was amazing to learn about codes that i never knew about! I have never met an author and i think its amazing that i had met an author, an amazing author, you. Thank you for your time.  Brianna

Dear Miss. Warner,
My name is Julia and I want to thank you for the amazing presentation you gave my class and I. I think Code Busters sound like a really great book and I already asked my parents if I could get it! My mom and I have a question though, what kind of people use  semaphore code? Would be blind or def people? Love,  Julia

Dear Mrs.Warner
Thank you for coming into to our class and telling all of us about your new book called Code Breaker. I am taking the slip home and getting your new, awesome book.     From,  Casey

 Dear Mrs. Warner,                                           
I am super elated to get the book and i went on your website about a million times! From, Amelia

Dear Ms.Penny Warner,
    Thank you for the presentation. I hope your next book will be about dragon mysteries - I love reading about them  . PS:  I love your book. It has so much good description.  Hope I learn to write like that.     From Christopher           

Dear Mrs. Warner,
Thank you for your kindness of coming to our school and taking time from your own imperative life. By the way, the free, super-awesome gadgets you gave us are AWESOME. I really liked the origami pocket storage. Thank you for personally signing the books. Sincerely, Yusuke.

Dear Mrs. Warner,
Thank you for the cool codes—they rock!!! I love the invisible pen. You can draw on anything but only on things your aloud to draw on of coucse and know one can see it. I wish I had brought money for the book. It was so cool to meat an author. I love to read. Fondly, Laura

Thank-you Mrs. Warner,
Thank you for the evidence. I use it every day to crack the codes, like chapter 12, the food fight. I read that yesterday. Thank you for all the work you put into your presentation.  From Michael

Dear Mrs. Warner,
I am writing to thank you for taking your personal time to fold the origami pockets. They are fun to play with when my mom is ouside watering the garden. I am using my code marker and putting notes under my mom’s pillow.  Love, Kendall.

Dear Penny Warner,
Thank you so much for coming to the library. It was awesome. I love the gadgets cause now I can trick my brother. It was very fun.  Sincerrly, Paulina

Dear Mrs. Warner,
I love your book Code Busters. Please make more books!  Your fan, Gabriella

Dear Mrs. Warner,
You recently came to the San Leandro Library to do a Code Busters Club "meeting".  Attached to this e-mail is my review for your new book Code Busters Club book 1 the search for the Skeleton Key.  I'm sorry for the weird signs at the beginning, our computer has been broken and we just go it fixed.  I hope that my review was helpful. – Tyler

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Who else wanted to be Annie Oakley?

I recently asked some kids who visited my child development class what they want to be when they grow up. The answers were standard—the younger girls wanted to be princesses and the younger boys wanted to be super heroes. The older girls wanted to be veterinarians and the older boys wanted to be pro athletes.

Little did they know that by the time they get to high school, they’d have more choices than they can imagine. When I was in high school, the choices were more limited—if you were a female. I was encouraged to choose from the following: airline stewardess (I get air sick), secretary (I didn’t want to type all day), nurse (I hated the thought of giving shots), or teacher (short days, long vacations—that was for me!)

    Some adult friends recently shared their “What I wanted to be when I grew up” stories, and I found their answers interesting.

    “I wanted to be a dolphin trainer until my mother reminded me I would need to be good at science.” – Lori (now in insurance business)

    “My guidance counselor suggested I become a secretary because it would be a waste of my parent's money to send me to college, only to have me get married and quit work to raise children.”  – Denise (degree in psychology)

    “I wanted to be an astronaut and a trapeze artist and Batgirl. All involved flying through the air, which is something I only do now on vacation.” – Julie (nurse)

“At first I wanted to be an Olympic skater but then became a cop. I was in such good shape from skating, I had no problem passing the police academy physical, where I had to drag 160-pound dummy, run  200 yards and jump over a six-foot wall, complete an obstacle course, jump back over the wall, run 200 yards back within a set time frame.” – Robin (cop)

“I wanted to be a lion tamer. I used to make my dogs jump through hoops.” -  Janet (writer)

“I made a list of princes to see if they'd still be eligible by the time I was old enough to marry. Then I realized that the occupation of princess was very limited.” - Nancy (mom)

“I wanted to major in English, but was told by my father that such a major was worthless.” – Linda (writer)

“I wanted to be Annie Oakley, then a biochemist, then an oceanographer, then an ecologist, then a lawyer, then a historian, then a filmmaker. It was a really long list.” – Jan (writer)

“I wanted to be a bride in a gorgeous gown. I didn't want to get married. I only wanted the gown. I also wanted to be a princess and a ballerina and an Ice Capades dancer, mainly because of the beautiful costumes.”  –Diane (crafts woman)

“All I wanted to be was a pin setter in a bowling alley.  I thought it was the most glamorous job in the world.” – Pat (writer)

As for me, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I suppose I should make a decision, but there are so many great careers available today, I don’t want to miss out on any. Of course, being a writer, I can be anything I want—at least in my imagination.