Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography – Book Review

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own AutobiographyNeil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally finished this fun book. It took me a long time because sometimes I buy books and then keep them on my shelf for years before reading them. Sometimes I even wait for hours in line to have the book signed by the celebrity who wrote it, basking in my 1.5 seconds of breathing the same air as him, and STILL leave it on the shelf for years before reading it. (I don’t know why I do these things. Don’t ask.)

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It also took a long time because the choose-your-own-adventure format of this memoir is CREATIVE and HILARIOUS and AWESOME, but it’s also a little confusing. When I started the book, I considered using sticky notes to mark the pages I’d read, but ultimately rejected that OCD idea, opting for a more organic experience instead. So I sat down and read and read and read about NPH’s early years and Doogie years and exploring-his-sexuality years. And then I read, read, read some more about his TV movies and his love of magic and his wonderful husband and their emotional journey into parenting. I got to “the end” multiple times and, eventually, decided I’d mostly finished the book. It was time to start back at the beginning and read only the pages that I’d skipped the first time around. This won’t take long. I’ll just make myself a cup of coffee and sit down and finish this thing.

I made the coffee. I sat down. I read. And read and read and read. It turns out, I was over 100 pages from finishing the book! The fact that I hadn’t yet read anything about his award-show hosting or How I Met Your Mother should have been a clue. Anyway, I continued in this manner until I was really– truly– finished with the book. Which was a couple of hours ago.

The fact that this book sat on a shelf for a couple of years and then confused me into thinking I’d finished it when really I’d only read half may make you think it wasn’t that good. But you’re wrong. Neil Patrick Harris is a great actor and a great singer and a great host, but he’s also a great writer. His anecdotes and footnotes and self-deprecating humor kept me smiling the whole way through, and his clever “alternate endings” are a nice touch and an amusing nod to the choose-your-own-adventure format.

All in all, it was fun hanging out with NPH for a few hundred pages. Despite the fact that my home (and life) bears no resemblance to that of his good friend Elton John, I think we’d get along.

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Cicada Emerging and Some Poetry Updates

Greetings, friends!

Today I’d like to share a few poetry updates, and a poem.

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Poetry Updates

First, I’m proud to announce that my poem “Night Walk” was published in the most recent issue of Dreams & Nightmares. If you’re interested in obtaining your own copy, here’s how to do it, per the publisher’s blog:

Try out a pdf of any issue for $1 or a print copy for $5 (paypal to jopnquog at gmail dot com). Lifetime PDF subscription for $39 includes all back issues; $90 gets you a lifetime subscription to both print and PDF editions, including all available back issues. Search the archives of this blog for “contents” of recent issues. And right now, get pdfs of the last TWO issues for a buck. You can pay by check to David Kopaska-Merkel, 1300 Kicker Rd., Tuscaloosa, AL 35404, if you don’t use paypal.

My poem is in issue #106.

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Next, Best Austin Poetry 2015-2016 is now available at Lulu.com for only $5.32. This lovely little volume of winning verses from the Austin Poetry Society includes two poems by me: “Rooster with a Guitar” and “I Hate Those Poems.” The prizes for this year’s Austin Poetry Society Annual Awards will be announced this Saturday at the Yarborough Branch Library in Austin at 1:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public, so if you’d like to hear some award-winning poems, come join us!

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And finally, I’m happy to share that my poem “The Morning After” will be reprinted in the 2018 Texas Poetry Calendar, which is available for pre-order from Dos Gatos Press. If you order by Monday, May 22nd, you get 20% off!

And now, as promised, a poem

This poem won third place in a National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) contest in 2016, and was published in their anthology, Encore. It seems fitting to share at this time of year, when the school year is drawing to a close and students everywhere are shedding their old shells for new, more mature forms. I wish them the best of luck in their transformations.

Cicada Emerging

You perch atop your former self—
a crisp brown casing
with a family resemblance.
(It has your eyes and legs.)

Not yet ready to say goodbye,
the new you pauses—
glistening, green,
still holding on to your shell.

I get it. Change is hard.

For seventeen years you lived underground
putting one stiff leg in front of the other,
unaware that your future awaited
in the treetops.

Now, you’ve journeyed through the earth,
climbed into the open air,
broken free from your restraints,
emerged into a world abuzz with life.

As soon as your wings harden, you’ll fly.

But lurking within rebirth
is a memory
of shadowy spaces
and struggling steps.

Even when you take to the sky,
some part of you
will always remember
what it was like to crawl.

© Carie Juettner, 2016

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The Eagle Has Ringworm! And Other Things You Don’t Expect to Say at Work

 

Several years ago, at 4:10 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, I found myself running up some stairs, down a hallway, through a break room, and into an office, yelling, “THE EAGLE HAS RINGWORM!” Why? Because teaching is a really weird job that often makes you say words you never thought would come out of your mouth.

That afternoon’s strange vocalization was brought on by a case of Hindsight Hearing. Hindsight Hearing is when you realize, after the fact, that you heard something that concerns you, and it happens a lot when you’re a middle school teacher. For instance, maybe your students are working in groups. The classroom is loud, but it’s loud in that we’re-being-productive-and-learning sort of way, so you let it go. You’re wandering around the room, checking in on each group, but while you’re talking to one group, your super-teacher hearing is registering, on some subconscious level, what the group next door is saying. Later, during your conference period, while you’re taking ten deep breaths in a row and trying to convince yourself that the stack of grading on your desk won’t eat every minute of your personal time this week, you hear it—that snippet of conversation from three hours ago that lodged itself in your brain.

“If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll stay home tomorrow, because [Name] isn’t messing around.”

And suddenly, you realize there’s a fight planned for tomorrow after school. And you know you now have to spend the rest of your conference period talking to the counselor and the AP instead of making a dent in that pile of papers.

This is Hindsight Hearing. It’s kind of awesome and kind of just really annoying.

In the case of the eagle and the ringworm, it was actually two separate snippets of conversation that floated into my brain during the day and waited until just after the final bell rang to dislodge themselves and make sense.

Snippet #1:
Student A- “How is that kitten you rescued?”
Student B- “Ohmygod, it’s so cute! Oh, but it gave me ringworm…”

Snippet #2:
Student B- “Guess what? I get to wear the mascot costume at the football game today!”

Cut to me standing in my principal’s office, out of breath, telling her our soon-to-be-mascot has a highly contagious skin condition.

Seriously. You can’t make these things up.

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Other Things You Don’t Expect to Say at Work:

“Could you please ask the principal to come to the seventh grade hallway? One of the lockers is vibrating.”

[It turned out to be an electric toothbrush.]

“Emma, will you please cut Patrick’s heart out?”

[Well, he couldn’t cut his own heart out. He injured his hand.]

“Take that book out of your mouth.”

[When you work in an elementary school library, you will say this daily.]

“Please don’t stick paperclips in your eye anymore.”

[#TheMoreYouKnow]

“No, you may not Google pictures of bombs!”

[“But I just need to see how to draw one.” Still no. Watch more Bugs Bunny cartoons.]

“So, in this line of your poem, I think you meant to write ‘whitey tighties’ but what you actually wrote was ‘witty titties’.”

[Best spelling error ever.]

“Whose pants are these?”

[It remains a mystery.]

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*****

I love my job. I also love that the fact that summer is five short weeks away.