Tuesday, July 23, 2013

20 Facts About Teenagers

By Kristy McCaffrey

I currently live in a household with 4 teenagers, ranging in age from 13 to 19, both boys and girls. This doesn’t make me an expert. It does mean I’ve done bloody verbal battle over the most vexing subjects, such as why they must pay their own cell phone bill, or why they no longer like anything I make for dinner, or how I know nothing about dress codes. I love being told in a snide voice that of course they can wear super-short, strappy sundresses to school. So-and-so does it all the time. Gawd!

But here are a few things I do know, at least during the summer months.


1. Will claim they aren’t lazy; they’re simply satisfied with the world around them. “My dirty room doesn’t bother me.”

2. Will rationalize not getting a job by admitting they just don’t have time. Waking up at noon really eats up the hours.

3. Believe electricity is free and should therefore be used 24 hours a day.

4.  Are leaving Facebook for Twitter because they’ve learned that their parents can’t stand cryptic one-liners covered in hashtags and therefore won’t creep on them in this confusing social media venue.

5. Are responsible for the heavy use of Netflix. Why watch all nine seasons of “The Office" if you can’t watch them again. And again. And again. (I feel Jim, Pam, Dwight, etc. are now some of my best friends.)

6. Will plot and scheme to get the next cell phone upgrade, even if it’s not theirs. Later, they will accuse their mom of stabbing them in the back when, because she hasn’t had a new phone in 5 years, innocently takes the next upgrade.

7. Will never admit that their disgust of you is equally measured by their need for you.

8. Will trap you in a conversation. Enter any discussion with a teenager with caution. Before you can blink, you’ll be accused of terrible, terrible things, such as being a racist or hating them or being obsessed with them succeeding at school. All because you asked if they’d be home for dinner.

9. Have seen any cute puppy photo or viral kid video months before you tell them about it.

10. Sleep more than newborns.

11. Are trapped in teenage logic—a most blissful state. In this world, fender benders are someone else’s fault, the airline will surely mail that cell phone left on the plane (so there’s no reason to rush back and try to retrieve it), and their parents will never find those 5 empty beer bottles hidden in their room.

12. Base their life views on “Family Guy,” their work views on “The Office” and their medieval views (and should I add sexual???) on “Game of Thrones.” The reach and impact of television should never be underestimated.

13. Are unable to see dog vomit.

14. Have no idea what a garbage can is.

15. Are far smarter than we give them credit—dealing with drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, social media, bullying, and parents who know nothing.

16. Are more naive and ignorant than they know—requiring firm and loving guidance, not just from parents but any adult in their life.

17. Have a schedule in their head that precludes any request you make of them, such as taking out the garbage or unloading the dishwasher. (The schedule generally looks like this: watch 6 episodes of “The Walking Dead” on Netflix, play 6 hours of Minecraft, eat 3 microwavable lean cuisine entrees and an entire bag of potato chips—leave trash for maid (mom) to clean up.) They’re so busy.

18. Will tell you they’re better off on their own.

19. View the hamper in their room as eye candy and not something functional.

20. Require that you pay attention, despite every effort to push you away. As young adults they’re making magic. If you don’t look, you’ll miss the magnificent and wonderful people they’re turning into. From wildly inventive photos on Instagram to building their own computers to studying physics because it’s so interesting, they’re becoming human beings that will one day change the world, big and small.

My teens before they were teens.
And this is why we resist eating our young, or at the very least sitting on them until they exhibit some common sense (which I saw a lion mom accomplish without an ounce of remorse on one of those cute animal videos).

With the whole world before them.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Grand Canyon

Post by Kristy McCaffrey     

            The amazing spectacle that is Grand Canyon, located in northern Arizona, has long defied description. And yet, there’s no shortage of writers who’ve attempted to convey the vast contours and depth of its landscape. Arizona author Leo W. Banks says, “All the descriptions written over the decades land with a dull thud next to the real thing. It’s because the Canyon is overwhelming. It is so personal, yet a beauty beyond us—a far world, unknown, and unknowable.”
            The first written accounts of the canyon date back to the 1500’s when the Spaniards entered Arizona and New Mexico in search of treasure. Garcia Lopez de C├árdenas, with the help of Hopi guides from the nearby mesas, became the first European to see Grand Canyon. Unable to cross the impassable void, however, he left frustrated.
Native American tribes have long occupied the area in and around the canyon, including the Anasazi (the early ancestors of the Hopi), as well as the Hualapai and Havasupai tribes, which occupy reservations in the western canyon. On the North Rim Paiutes worked closely with the Mormons who colonized southern Utah and the Arizona Strip in the 1850’s. The last American Indians to arrive at Grand Canyon were the Navajo, or the Dine (Athabascan people related to the Apache), who moved there from the Northwest around 1400 A.D.
            In 1857, Lieutenant Joseph Ives explored the area as part of a U.S. Army survey party, stating pessimistically that “the region is of course altogether valueless. Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality.” Ives was soon proved wrong.
John Wesley Powell
In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell, a Civil War veteran with only one arm, and nine companions became the first men to journey 1,000 miles on the Colorado River, part of it through Grand Canyon. They braved rapids, heat, plummeting morale, and the loss of three men. Powell’s account of this expedition, Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries, made him a national hero as well as brought the canyon to the attention of the country. The Paiutes called the plateau that the canyon cuts through “Kaibab” or “Mountain Lying Down,” but it was Powell who first consistently used and published the name “Grand Canyon” in the 1870’s.
El Tovar Hotel
            Mining soon became popular but proved unprofitable due to the difficulty of extracting and transporting ore from the canyon to the rim. A more lucrative, and less dangerous, option presented itself in the form of tourism. In 1905 the famous El Tovar Hotel opened on the South Rim. In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt declared Grand Canyon a national monument.
            Many stories and legends, some true, some exaggerated, have been told of Grand Canyon and the people who’ve entered its depths. Poet, wanderer, and writer Everett Ruess disappeared in the canyon at the age of 20 in 1934. He’s still searched for today and sung about by medicine men. His legacy is his writings: “I descended alone to the depths, to submerge myself in the steep silence, to be overcome by the fearful immensity, and to drown everything in the deafening roar of the Colorado, watching its snaking writhings and fire-tongued leapings until I was entranced.”

My mom, my daughter Katy and I on the South Rim.
My book The Sparrow takes place in Grand Canyon in 1877. Texas Ranger Nathan Blackmore accompanies Emma Hart in a wooden dory down the Colorado River.