22 September 2012

Today's poem

My friend Nancy assigned a poem, due on Monday, that needed to start with the line she provided. I love it when Nancy gives assignments, because without them, I tend to not write creatively as much as I ought. I don't have a title yet: forgive me. This is the first draft, fresh from my journal this morning.

I come from a long line
of tree climbers
We skinned-knee girls
of uncombed hair
and laughs too loud.
We taste the sky
and smell of dirt and still water.

We grow up to be teachers, mostly,
our booming voices
bouncing through classrooms
where we teach, as we climbed,
with our whole hearts.

16 September 2012

Fifty Shades of Feminism

I admit it. I've read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I realize this is not groundbreaking: over 25 million copies have been sold in the US alone (holy crap!). But I blushed when I bought the first book, even though I made sure the check out person was a woman. Perhaps it was because she grinned and said "Hey...I'm reading this too..." (wink wink nudge nudge). She totally winked and nudged. Awkward.

Yesterday there was an article in our local paper on the subject, Well, more on how the subject is having an impact on the area's light bondage and sex-toy businesses. Which is great for those businesses (go economy go) and for those people who needed a nudge to explore new territories in their own lives. Sales of grey ties, for example, are waaay up.

What you've heard is true, largely. The books are all poorly written, though the third is much better than the first. They're repetitive, with simple, sometimes moronic sentence structures. It was all I could do to not write in the margins and suggest better phrasing/word choices/character development, ala grad school. It reads, to me, very much like an undergraduate creative writing essay. If it were to come across my desk from a student, I would encourage her to buy a thesaurus and use more sensory detail, and would probably think it had potential, given a lot of work. Shows what I know, right? 25 million copies later, I'm sure the author finds my criticism bitter indeed.

Apparently, they began as Twilight fan fiction, and though I've not read the series, I can see it, in some ways. Though I would wager the characters are far from recognizable in this form: for one thing (spoiler alert), there are no vampires in this book. In fact, there's not all that much unusual about this book, except for the naughtier bits. But we'll get to those in a minute.

It's a straightforward broken-man-meets-young-woman-who-helps-him-become-whole-again-while learning-who-she-is-in-the-meantime kind of book. Christian, the aforementioned broken fellow, also happens to be gorgeous, thoughtful, intense, and kind of pouty. You know, like most smutty romance leading men. In addition, he's filthy rich (making "$100,000 an hour," he says at one point). One of my theories is that his wealth alone makes these books best sellers, in this day and age: finding a partner, no matter how broken he is, who has more money than god, strikes me as a world-wide fantasy right now. Plus Christian's brokenness manifests itself in heal-able ways, and he is devoted to Anastasia from the moment he meets her.

Which is part of what I don't get. It's billed in the media as "mommy porn" and seems scandalous whenever it's discussed in public, which is why I blushed when I bought the first book. I'm telling you, people, maybe I'm jaded or sexier than most, or perhaps, as one of my friends put it, "Maybe my moral compass is just broken," but it's really not shocking. It's about a completely monogamous couple who fall head over heels in lust, and eventually love, and have sex approximately 6 times a day, on average (I stopped counting. It really does get repetitive). They encounter external troubles along the way, often related to Mr. Pouty Billionaire's wealth and past, which gives us something to read about besides the incessant sex. And they have internal troubles, with Anastasia being a virgin upon their meeting and Mr. Grey being, um, not. They're an adventurous couple, he's got serious problems that he manages through bondage/punishment of his partner (I'm sure the real-life BDSM community is so pleased with this novel's main message: of COURSE he's crazy. why else would he want to spank her?) This behavior is actually contraindicated by research into BDSM behaviors, and to be honest, I think the books could've done a much better job separating Christian's damaging life experience from his sexual preferences. Because instead it ties his kinkiness, as it were, directly to his brokenness, and I don't think that's a healthy point of view for anyone to have. Yes, some people develop fetishes or kinkiness or brokenness in their sexuality because of awful life experiences. And a lot more people might enjoy some fetishy-kinky stuff if they weren't so damn uptight about sex (another kind of awful life experience, really). In this way, Fifty Shades does a disservice.

But they are lovely, quick little reads, and for women who've never thought to ask for something different, I imagine they could be quite eye-opening. Some critics have argued that it's a sign of anti-feminism, that such a series could sell so very many copies, when the main point of the story is that Christian sweeps Anastasia off her feet and takes care of her, and she allows it to happen, as though she's a piece of furniture. But those critics haven't read the books, and so I dismiss them. Anastasia is actually very independent, and refuses to let Christian dominate her (heh heh) in the way in which he is accustomed. It's the major cause of tension between them, and the fact that she doesn't back down makes her, in my reading, a very strong feminist indeed. Some critics suggest that the very pressure feminism puts on women to seek equality is what makes Anastasia such an attractive heroine: she does not have to worry about finances, or of making decisions in the bedroom. For much of the series, she doesn't even have to buy her own clothing. Women who constantly have to take care of everything may find the idea of being completely taken care of more than just a little appealing. I disagree with these critics because, by my reading of her character, that oppressive care-giving is part of what turns her off of Christian. In several important ways, she is stronger and smarter than Christian, and it saves her life, literally and figuratively. She saves her own self.

Whew. I said all that to say this: if you're even remotely interested, go ahead and read the books. That is, if you're into stories of true love between beautiful straight people who also happen to have all kinds of very mildly kinky sex.  I mean, I read all three of them: I liked them a lot, and I found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn't reading them. But the book does not really tell a new story, nor does it tell an old story especially well. It just adds much, much, much more sex to the average romance novel. So, really, what's not to like?

Hardly working...

I'm working on a major post, people. I really am. I even set this evening as my personal deadline. But I'm struggling with it, because, well, I'm out of practice, and when you're the boss of yourself and you miss a deadline, it's not like you can get fired from being yourself. I try to do things like insist I can't have ice cream until the post is done, but then I just sit and stare at the computer and think "ice cream. ice cream. ice cream." and then I go get a bowl, and halfway through I remember I wasn't supposed to have any until the post I haven't started yet was completed. And I can't just let it melt, because that would be wasteful. 

And by "major post" I don't mean to make you feel like I have any big news, because I don't. It's a book review of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. There. Now I've told you, so you won't get all hot and bothered wondering what I'll write.

Or perhaps now you'll get more hot and bothered. I can't be responsible for what makes y'all hot and bothered. 

I just said "hot and bothered" three times in a row. How fun.

For productive procrastination, I vacuumed the TV room, did five loads of laundry, and bathed the girl. And it's not even suppertime yet. 

Meanwhile, enjoy this self-portraits, as I am trying to create a photo of myself for my profile picture here that isn't too lame. Since no one takes pictures of me but me, These are as good as they get. So far. Please offer your suggestions. Should I wear my hair down? Lose the orange shirt? (I mean change shirts, not go topless. This is a family blog). Or are you happy to look at one of these for the next six months?
 Teachery. With my Johnson nose extra-prominent (I love my family features, I do. It's just that this photo over-emphasizes it for me. And I also look like I'm about to burst into tears).

Or this one, wherein I played with the color balance to give the illusion of liver failure and intensely blotchy skin. Here I think I'm more angry than tearful, though. 

As always, I welcome your comments, positive or not, and your ads for Viagra. Now leave me be. I have a book review to write.

13 September 2012

First Day of First Grade

 I'm a bit late, though this photo did make it to the Facebook on the day itself:

A few notes: the pose and the outfit were her idea. She has never cared much about the clothes I buy for her, or how they are paired, but I had set out a totally different shirt and she switched it out for this trio of owls. And the knee socks? All her. Seriously.

She was not thrilled to go back to school. When a girl has sensory integration issues, public school presents all sorts of excitement and challenges: loads of kids packed into a small space, teachers with booming voices, and fire alarms. It turns out, though, that her teacher was her kindergarten teacher last year, just moved on up a year, and about half of her class last year has come along for the ride. This means year-old friendships get to continue, and so do some year-old heartaches (it's hard for mama. "What do you mean, you won't let my amazing hilarious daughter be in your girls club? Jerky jerk 1st grader mean girls." Only I don't say that. Yet). So far, she's hanging in there. Often literally: she looooves the monkey bars, and before last spring had blisters. She's working back up to them now. As soon as they make the monkey bars an Olympic sport, we are so all over that.

I remember my first grade, and I hope hers is at least as good. With socks like that, though, how can it not be?

09 September 2012

Just keep swimming.

She knows no greater joy than swimming.
Running the length of the dock, she doesn't even pause before leaping, now.
 The loons and ducks know the sound of her just as she knows the sound of them.
I know no greater joy than her, on days like this.

06 September 2012

Mushroom Party, 2012 edition

We've done this before, gentle readers. Many times. Many, many times. But I never get tired of them! It's the annual mushroom post, and it is happy to see you! (The captions are under each photo).
 Moist mushrooms. (I know you feel dirty for reading that, because I feel dirty for typing it).
Wee, dainty-stemmed mushroom that's almost glowing. Extra-terrestrial, if you will.
 Mushrooms breaking sod. Think about how strong these are, for plants fungus. They're under, what, 1/2 inch of soil? And they just come bursting in, all "Hey! What's goin' on up here??"
 The tiniest mushroom, for the tiniest smurf.
Some dried up, Yoda-esque mushrooms. Fungi I am. Seriously, that tall one on the left is looking at me.
Pancake/step mushrooms. I have no technical knowledge of mushrooms, you see, so I make up my own names for them. These I like for their spongy appearance and the cobwebs that cover them. And how they just go on and on.
Like the Yoda mushroom, this one scares me a little. It makes me think of that Stephen King movie, Dreamcatcher, with the ominous empty eggs. What black death has this mushroom released into our world? Who sent it to us? And why am I getting so close to it with my camera?

Here's hoping our annual mushroom party brings you sweet dreams of decay and persistence, evil weasel-like creatures, and Star Wars. Because that's why we're here.

05 September 2012


Oh, internets. I know I've been gone a long time. Not a single post in August? How is this possible? Ah. Well, I've been busy. Let's sum up, shall we? 

First, Jess and I have been working on helping Myra empty out her house. Mostly what's left is the bits and pieces of spending 38 years in one place: dust bunnies, her massive jigsaw puzzle collection, some canned goods that are too old to recognize, much less eat. 
And then there's this. A mason jar full of ammunition. This is the kind of thing the basement used to be full of, in various ways, but most of that got cleaned out after the flood of '97. So here we are, ten years since Dad died, 26 years since he used any sort of gun, with a mason jar full of bullets & shells. You can't just throw this stuff away, you know.

So we brought it to Mike, Hendrum's lone police officer. The thing I love about Hendrum is it's pretty simple. Got a jar full of live ammo? I know just the guy to give it to. When we showed up on his doorstep, offering him this odd, potentially dangerous gift, he just grinned at us and said he'd take care of it. "Some of these are still good, I think," he told us. "Have fun," we told him.

 V and I have spent as much time as we can out at the lake. Here we are playing Bingo in Nevis, wearing our "What Happens in Nevis Stays in Nevis" shirts. It was a good day.
 And we've enjoyed the company of V's cousins. Pictured below is Jake, who has decided that as a superhero, he wants to be ToiletMan. You don't want to know ToiletMan's weapon of choice. (And I can't explain why he's holding a stuffed fish, either, so don't ask). Jake is just 6 months younger than V, and hilarious and strong-willed. That may run in one or all of our families.
 In unrelated news, Shaun got a new job several weeks ago, so he's no longer working nights! It's good to have him back in the land of the living, and it's really the best job he's had in over a decade, in terms of the work & hours. Perhaps that's why he looks so dang happy.
I have other posts in mind, and though it was an unscheduled and prolonged break, I hope you'll forgive me, gentle readers. It's good to be back.