Reading is bad for you.

Shockingly, it’s not.

Reading is a waste of time. Hazards of reading. Drawbacks of reading.

I  Googled these phrases and many others, trying to see prove reading is a bad thing. I’ve been feeling guilty lately about how much time I spend reading, and writing stuff to read, and reading about people reading, and reading about people writing . . .

(Fortunately I have an internal switch that goes off at 4:30pm and says, “Where are your children? Have you thought about dinner?” And I momentarily think, Wait—I have other responsibilities? That switch also goes off at about 11:30pm telling me to go to bed. Sometimes I get it confused with the buzzing sound my keyboard makes when I’m drooling on it.)

But I couldn’t find anything serious or thoughtful that warned against reading.

So you know what that means? There’s nothing guilty about the “guilty pleasure” of being stuck in a book!

I stumbled across this wonderful piece by former BYU professor Richard H. Cracroft, giving all of us book-nerds more reasons to be anti-social. He lists 5 blessings that come from reading, so the next time you feel guilty about reading or writing, remember—you’re just getting blessings.

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cracroft 5

There’s no job too tedious that can’t turn terrifying when a toddler tries to help.

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Nothing is as frightening as a toddler running with a pair of scissors . . . unless he’s running with a wet toilet plunger. And you know why it’s wet.

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I’ve come to realize that toddlers are the true terrors of the world. Sweet, hilarious, and darling, they can turn any ordinary event into something unpredictable, and anything somewhat challenging into a true trial. (Think: tents and campfires and forests and Yellowstone National Park and . . . toddlers. My heart rate’s already up, and we’re not going until August.)

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I call my current toddler “The Motivator.” If any of my older children are slow to get a job done, I release The Motivator. He can find the butcher knife in the open dishwasher in two seconds flat, can dump a laundry basket in three seconds, and what he’s able to accomplish with an overflowing garbage can in four seconds is Al Qaida worthy. When my kids see him coming, they know they better work FAST.

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I should rent him out to those who think their lives are dull. After half an hour, they’ll be cured.

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Do you find replacing bathroom plumbing boring? I have a remedy for that. Painting a bedroom? Fixing the starter motor in your car? Reorganizing a cabinet? Simply sweeping the floor? Oh, I have the motivation to make all of those jobs far more exciting.

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And if you have a kitty litter box, you’ll really wished you didn’t.

And if you have a sewing box, you won’t much longer.

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I write a bit about toddlers in my book, and I visited memories of my own nine children as toddlers (my last is 18 months old) for realism, because as Utah’s Poet Laureate Lance E. Larsen has said, “Writing is often more a matter of collecting and eavesdropping than inventing.”  I discovered there’s no way I could “invent” toddlers. They’re just far too inexplicable.

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I adore toddlers. They’re the most exciting, terrifying, adorable, terrifying, kissable, terrifying creatures on earth. That’s why I’ve taken so many pictures of them over the years, and why I say a prayer of thanks each time they drop off to sleep.

“Just tell them that underneath it all, despite what they may see, the sky really is blue and they can count upon that fact.”

There’s no creature quite so arrogant and simultaneously so insecure as an 11-year-old. I learned this many years ago when I was asked to drive a group of 11-year-olds for a church group because I owned a station wagon. (Yes, I owned a station wagon at age 25, and was proud of it! I also owned one at 16, but that’s another post.)

So, with a carload of boys I didn’t know, I set off to deliver the group. Soon one very loud, very authoritative kid with unruly hair and far too many freckles announced, “Hey—here’s a riddle. What color is the sky?”

001Obedient, and bored, the other boys looked outside—

“HA!” shouted Hairy Freckles, “Got ya! Everyone knows the sky is blue! Suckers . . .” He added that last part with the same disdain I’d heard from his 14-year-old brother, who likely pulled the same trick on Hairy Freckles.

The other boys embarrassedly looked down at their hands. But I glared in the rearview mirror.

029“That’s not true,” I said plainly. “That bit—right there? That’s white.”

Hairy Freckles scowled and looked out the window, which he hadn’t done since he’d entered the car. “That’s a cloud!”

“And it’s not blue,” I nodded.

A couple of the boys, previously shamed, now hesitantly smiled.

006“That doesn’t count!” Hairy Freckles declared and gave me a look that said, If you were my mother, I’d have you put into a home.

“And that, right there,” I pointed out the window, ignoring him, “that gray bit with some red? Also not blue.”

“That’s a plane!”

“And it’s in the sky, part of it, and it’s not blue,” I said.

005Now all of the boys were smirking at their friend. Nothing’s worse than being put into your place by a know-it-all 25-year-old college student. Who’s female.

“Now, when the sun sets, ooh—definitely not blue,” I continued.

019 (3)“And what about night?!” another boy finally felt brave enough to contribute. “There’s definitely no blue then!”

The rest of the boys howled as if that was the funniest joke in the world, while Hairy Freckles glared at me through the rearview mirror.

“And then there’s that big bright ball of white,” I went on.

002“That’s the sun!” Hairy Freckles pointed out. “And it’s yellow!”

“No, it’s not,” I said easily. “It’s white. They just make you use yellow crayons in school to color it because your paper is already white.”

None of the boys knew what to do with that, even though they peered at it to make sure, then blinked away the fact that they just scorched their retinas.

“Hey, I just got Donkey Kong—” and just like that, the conversation turned. Because hey, these were 11-year-olds.

I’ve always been obsessed with clouds and sunsets, and since then I’ve taken dozens of pictures as evidence that they sky is NOT only blue. Yet I never cease to be amazed at the amount of children’s books, TV shows, movies, and even textbooks that simplify the complexity of the sky to declare, “The sky is blue . . .” when anyone  can tell that it’s much, much more.

011 (2)We do this with so many things, just like the middle school textbook my oldest daughter had in science one year that said, “Ocean water is made up of two things—salt, and water.”

“Rubbish!” my 13-year-old had declared, and asked to be homeschooled.

And I wonder, why? Why do we oversimplify the world, even to the point of telling lies about it—if you want to get that direct—to our children and ourselves? Why do we ignore the multiple colors and shapes in the sky and insist that it’s one color, especially when that color is actually just an optical illusion, produced by the sun’s light rays bouncing back blue?

More importantly, what do we miss when we assume we already know the nature of something, and don’t even look out the window to see if our assumptions are correct?

I suspect we miss the true nature of the entire world.