I’m pleased to say that this giddiness is shared by the good folks at Page Street Kids, who have done many wonderful things to get the word out. They’ve sponsored a capybara through the World Wildlife Fund. They’ve set me up with book signings and school visits. They’ve created book plates and buttons and other bits of capybara swag. They’ve even sent me a capybara stuffed animal. (Gotta have my stuffy!)
They’ve also created an activity packet. Included in this packet is a capybara drawing guide by Illustrator Extraordinaire Jaimie Whitbread. And I don’t care how artistically challenged you might be, Whitbread’s simple, step-by-step instructions will get you drawing a Guinea Big of your very own!
So give it a try, my friends! And by all means, feel free to share your work in the comments! Or share whatever else you want to say in the comments. I like chatting with you.
Ellen has recently discovered the joys of coloring.
This did not come as a surprise. Ellen has terrible eyesight, but she also has a great eye for color. She is not an artist, but she loves to be art-adjacent. There have been tons of news stories about how coloring in adulthood lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, and makes people feel generally groovy. Ellen likes feeling groovy. As soon as I saw the adult coloring fad take hold, I thought to myself, “My wife is gonna be all over this.”
And, about three seconds after I had this thought, Ellen, with great authority, declared, “Coloring is gonna be my New Thing!”
When Ellen decides on a New Thing, she does not go halfway. Almost instantly I found myself stumbling over thousands of gel pens. Did you know that Barnes and Noble has an entire freaking bookcase dedicated to coloring books? Almost all of them are in my house right now.
Coloring is Ellen’s evening ritual. After dinner, she adjourns to the family room, dumps out her bin of supplies, and dives right in. During these excursions she’ll also turn the TV to a cheesy basic cable cop drama but she rarely follows the story–only occasionally glancing up to watch Mariska Hargitay scowl at a child molester. Ellen’s sole focus is on the line drawing in her lap. She is In The Zone.
I can happily report that all of those news stories about the positive effects of coloring are true. Coloring relaxes Ellen. It helps her to decompress after a long day at work. And she adores the vibrant results of her efforts.
Her obsession has been good news for me, too, for a new coloring book is always the perfect gift. This past Christmas I gave Ellen a stocking stuffer coloring book of greeting cards. She loved it and announced her plans to send the soon-to-be colored cards out to all her friends and relations.
She started working on the cards the other day and I’m pleased to announce that I’m the first recipient. On my way out of the bathroom yesterday morning, I discovered this beauty waiting for me right outside the door.
And here’s what was written inside:
Long story short, my wife has gone nuts, now.
Do you have a passionate hobby? Tell me about it, why don’cha? Comment your comment in the comments!
I don’t mind the food. I never mind the food. And Mom certainly doesn’t mind handing it over without provocation. She’ll wrap up a pumpkin pie in an acre’s worth of tinfoil. She’ll hand over garbage can-sized tin of butter cookies. She’ll insist on me taking an entire sack of red potatoes. Or she’ll load up her 1970s-era Tupperware with leftover steaks. This is just the way she operates. I think Mom buys stuff just so she can tell me to “Just take it.”
And when I finally say, “Thanks, Mom, but no more. Please!” she’ll redirect her sales pitch to my son, Alex, opening negotiations with “You like Tootsie Pops?”
And milliseconds later, Alex is merrily struggling under the weight of enough pops to satisfy every sweet-tooth in, say, Cleveland.
I tease, but I do appreciate Mom’s boundless generosity. How couldn’t I?
But then there are The Something Elses. These gifts are less welcome and require a harder sell, but Mom is always ready and prepared to break down my defenses. She knows like no one else how tap into the atrophied part of my brain that says things like, “Gee, I really do need that!” or “That should be in my house right now!”
And so it was a few weeks ago when I lugged the latest Something Else into my home. Moments later, my loving wife, Ellen, scrunched her eyebrows together and began to speak in one-word sentences.
“What. Is. That?”
“It’s a statue of Don Quixote,” I said.
“And why do you have a statue of Don Quixote?” she asked.
At that moment I looked at my treasured acquisition through a fresh pair of eyes.
Huh, I thought. Why do I have a statue of Don Quixote?
I began to parrot the pro-statue arguments Mom had used on me. I explained how I used to play with the statue when I was a child (The spear is removable, you see). I explained how Don Quixote is an important character in literature and that I, being a Working Writer, am clearly the worthiest recipient. I explained that the statue was originally a gift to my father and I don’t really have any Dad things in the house, and isn’t that a shame?
But as I prattled on and on, citing one talking point after another, I came to the realization that there was only one reason why I dragged this statue of Don Quixote into my home: A crafty old lady had decided to downsize.
There may have been mischief in Mom’s actions, but there was certainly no malice. She just wanted to get rid of stuff without having to endure the unpleasant task of throwing vaguely sentimental things away.
I concluded my speech to Ellen with, “I made a mistake.”
“You sure did,” Ellen replied.
But Alex, as always the optimist, offered me a shot at redemption. “But it’s old, right?” he asked. “Maybe it’s worth something?”
My wounded pride began the healing process. (The promise of a big payday can do that.)
“Yeah!” I exclaimed. “Maybe it’s worth a pile of money!” My imagination went wild. Perhaps the resale value of good ol’ Don will keep me from feeling like a schmuck. Maybe this ugly thing was worth thousands of dollars. I watch Antiques Roadshow all the time and, by golly, old, ugly crap is often priceless!
“Nope,” Alex said. (While I was fantasizing, he was doing research on his phone.) “It’s worth 60 bucks.”
My chin fell to my chest. “I’ll keep it in my office,” I told Ellen.
“Keep it away from the door,” she advised. “I don’t wanna see it when I walk down the hall.”
So good ol’ Don is in my office (and nowhere near my office door). I keep him within my line of sight as I work. His presence keeps me humble. He also serves as reminder to refuse any and all future Something Elses from Mom.
Except for the beer steins. I’m sure they’re worth something.