Feeds:
Posts
Comments

What Is A Home?

My parents are moving from the home they’ve lived in since I was 16. This is the big house in the country with the swimming pool and the creek and the acres of land and the fieldstone fireplace. It was their dream house.

I had referred to this house as “home” for a very long time–long past the time when I moved to Tennessee and established residences with my own family. I left my home physically but didn’t leave it mentally and emotionally. Of course I can’t blame myself entirely. I was young and I moved to a city where the only people I knew were my husband and a bipolar guy who had been his friend at university. I spent years fantasizing about moving back.

I don’t know exactly when the shift occurred, in fact I suspect it was a gradual thing. We bought OUR dream house and got our first two dogs. I started working at jobs I enjoyed. We began meeting people here. I think the biggest shift happened because of two things. I started blogging and I met people who were like me–bookish nerds who lived for words. Before that I became absorbed in Harry Potter, and that gave me another home to go to.

I’ve had a lot of conversations with women over the years about leaving home. It many cases it’s the hardest thing we do emotionally, and we have different ways of coping. Some call their mothers every day. Some romanticize the life at their childhood home by remembering the good times in the golden haze of nostalgia and shoving all the arguments and tension into a shadowy corner of their minds. Some throw themselves into creative things like scrapbooking and quilting–as though creating works of beauty can recreate the sense of peace conferred by the idea of Home. Some women just never leave. I know a great many women who live in the bosom of their childhood families.

I coped in several ways–crafts and nostalgia and frequent visits to the home seven hours northward that I had turned into the platonic ideal.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Once you realise that you are the key to Shalom Bayis–peace in the home–and it is up to you to make a peaceful sanctuary for those you love it is one of the most freeing experiences you’ll ever have. You’ll come to realise that your home is not a place. Your home is people*. Dream houses are just that. They’re houses. They are edifices of stone and glass and wood–hard things meant to stand between the people you love and the world outside.

If I have any advice at all for other women, especially the young women who are going through the heart struggle that I lived with for so long, it is this. Stop trying to _go_ home and start trying to _make_ home where you are.

—-
*I owe this phrase to Aral Vorkosigan. This is your daily reminder to read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga.

Scaling The Summit

I’ve never really understood the appeal to mountaineering. I’m afraid of heights to begin with, and then throughout my adulthood there seems to have been a Grave Disaster reported out of the Himalayas every 7 years or so. (I didn’t even realise until Sunday that there had been another horrific catastrophe on Everest earlier this year. That’s how commonplace news of these have gotten. They aren’t even NEWS anymore.) In the past I’ve had thoughts along the lines of “what an irresponsible waste of money and effort and lives, not in that order.”

As I grow older, though, I realise more and more that if I can’t see any sense at all in something I don’t understand then perhaps I truly DON’T understand it and it’s time to take a closer look. So I did what I always do in this circumstance. I asked people who did it–none of whom answered because why would you bother, really, with someone who seems hostile–and then I checked book after book out of the library. I’m now on my third book and while I still am at a loss to understand how a man could leave his pregnant wife or young children to do it, I do understand the appeal overall. There’s a mindset of detail and determination and a will to overcome that drives people to conquer difficulty.

Eerily, though, as I read I began to notice something. Climbers–hailed on every inhabited continent as heroes and humans of exceptional character and fortitude–had something in common with me. With me and many of the people I’ve come to know in the last ten years.

Read a climber discussing the problems of living at high altitude and you’ll see painful joints, wracking cough, insomnia, loss of appetite, lack of coordination, severe body aches. Read a climber talking about the dangers of the Death Zone–where oxygen is so limited above 26,000 feet that your brain turns stupid and your blood to sludge–and you see the exact description of someone suffering from anemia.

People who climb mountains are heroes. They are hailed for accomplishment and given corporate endorsements. Yet there are roughly 10 million people in America alone who live with chronic pain from various disorders. We are labeled “Hypochondriacs”, “Narcissists”, “drama queens”, “Malingerers”. One doctor friend always wonders why people show up in his office and are disappointed when they have no serious diagnosis. How do I explain that when you’re climbing a mountain no one else sees you’d at least like someone to admit that you are scaling something other than air.

It’s been interesting to me to see myself through the lens of the climber. They do what they do for a few months and go home. I do this until I die. I probably won’t get on a Wheaties box in this lifetime. But I’m going to give both the climbers AND my fellow sufferers of chronic pain a bit of a pass. We keep climbing. Because it’s there.

Yesterday I listened to a little bit over an hour of a notable personality whom I’ve always liked speaking on a podcast. It was not fun; in between long and pompous announcements about how he was an “open-handed moderate” unlike “right-wing” “fascists” I got to hear about how he was so much smarter than religious people. This fact–the stupidity of religious people–was a frequent spice to the conversation, adding a little-needed extra dose of pomposity. About 45 minutes into this we were told that he does what he does because he “just enjoys people.” At that point my main thought was “do you LISTEN to yourself? You enjoy half the people, at most.”

A bit later on I was looking something up–truth be told I was looking up opinions on this person–and ended up at a website I rarely visit. This collective blog aimed at conservatives is a popular place for sharp-tongued articles that repeatedly use “liberal” and “leftist” and “Hollywood” as demeaning and dismissive adjectives. I realised it was a nice picture of two sides of the same coin.

I’m not sure when it started, but I know during the last 24 years of my lifetime it has been de rigeur to mock and belittle the people you disagree with–not only the points on which you disagree, but also everything else about the person. I’m fairly sure we didn’t invent this method of discourse but I’m also pretty sure it’s gained an obscene amount of traction via the things we did invent–Twitter, FaceBook, blogs.

If you page back through this blog a few years you will likely find things I wrote that have that same sort of equally-disdainful acid dripping from them. I’m not proud of that but I’m glad they’re here because it’s proof that people can grow out of that, can grow in Christ and learn to practice faith proactively.

There’s a very popular Christian blogger whose blog I do not give attention or press, so I’m not going to link it here. But he’s popular largely because he takes this same tactic. If someone does something he doesn’t like or agree with he not only has to tell you what he disagrees with he has to call names, say inconsiderate things and generally practice cruelty. This happens a lot because people tell themselves “anybody who does this stupid thing doesn’t deserve respect.” But I’ll say right now that if we are practicing Christianity we need to take First Corinthians 13 very seriously. If we don’t speak with love we are only putting more discordant noise into the air. Snark is funny. Snark gets hits. Snark goes viral. But like real virii, it infects the cell it attaches to, turns that cell into a septic destroyer of the body and then rages from cell to cell, growing in poison.

Well, first and foremost I’m working on blogging again. Quinn’s last six months of life were a sort of tour de force. When we got back from Florida at the end of September, 2013, I had all these grand plans for beta reading, handcrafting and novel-writing. Then the longer we were back the more it sank in that a large portion of my good hours were going to be spent taking care of him. I think back on it and I wonder if it was stupid to spend so much energy caring for a dog at the end of his life and then I realise that love and commitment are love and commitment. You don’t kill ones you love simply because it would make your life easier. He wasn’t suffering and we had a good long last year together. Thing was, I didn’t realise until he was gone just how much of my time (and more critically, energy) was spent on him. I feel like my days have doubled in length as I come out of the more intense grieving and I look around to see all the stuff I left behind. Like blogging. And so I’m back to blogging tentatively but eagerly nonetheless. And a good start to it is to answer this four-question writers’ survey put to Jay DiNitto by Jill Domschot.

1.WHAT NOVEL AM I WORKING ON?

My current work today is a fake celebrity biography. (A book about a famous person who doesn’t really exist.) I’m always tinkering with my Big book too…the one about the Welsh and the history of medicine. But that one continually morphs. It’s sort of like my Pillars Of The Earth; I’m not ready to tell it yet, but it’s there in my head. In between I work on these “little” books. General women’s fiction type things that are about the various kinds of love that women have in their lives.

2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?

I’m writing it. Really, there’s so much out there in the women’s fiction/aga saga/bonkbuster category that the only difference is that this one is told with my voice, with my humour, with my worldview. It’s a story that I mean to make others happy.

3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I agree with Jay that this is poorly-worded. I am assuming they mean “why do I choose to write this type of work as opposed to the many other types of work out there?” The answer to that is that these are the stories that bring me comfort. I write to connect with others and I’d like for my books to bring them a comfortable escape that also gives them little nuggets to think about. (My heroes in this type of writing are Lois McMaster Bujold and Maeve Binchy.) People have hard lives. Everyone. I want to write books that make people feel like they’ve given over however many hours of their life in exchange for a bit of happiness.

4. HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

The characters are in my head already. I take them through dialogues while I exercise and do housework. The process of inventing dialogue (talking to myself, but not really–it’s the characters talking to each other) moves the story in the directions it needs to go, usually. Then I sit down and write when I am able. The rest of the time I make notes and sketches in my iphone or ipad if something strikes me while I’m about something else.

A Note Of Thanks

During this week I’ve watched a lot of conversations about Robin Williams’ death. Many of them have been unfortunate.

That got me to thinking of how long I’ve been blogging (9 or 10 years) and how I was when I started versus how I am now.

And I have readers to thank for that. Readers who have become friends or enemies, readers who have yelled at me or gently corrected me or argued with me or laughed with me or all of the above. I’ve grown over the years and I’m still growing. But the whole reason I wanted to write, to be A Writer, was to connect with other humans. Those who have connected with me through my non-fiction (this blog, facebook, countless emails) have taught me how to be a better person.

I’m crazy thankful for that, and frankly I’m awed at your patience.

“Yay! The Supreme Court found in favour of Hobby Lobby! Woo-hoo!”

Such was the general consensus among many of my more conservative friends yesterday. They celebrated what has become a cause celebre in the right-wing allied factions within the Christian Church. The Green family–founders of the craft supply store I sometimes shop at called “Hobby Lobby”–said that they as Christians founded their company to be a reflection of their Christian values. As such they do not open to customers for business transactions on Sunday.[1] They play instrumental hymns over their store sound system, don’t sell things that promote drinking or drugs (no tacky Margaritaville signs!) and they pay their employees well. What they don’t want to do is pay for abortifacent (or alleged abortifacent) drugs under their employer-provided and government-mandated health care. There were four medicines in dispute.

Many Christians who are also pro-life (as I am) felt that this decision was a crucial stand for our freedoms. How, after all, can the government make a Christian pay for abortion?

When the decision came down on the morning of 30 June, 2014, it was celebrated as a triumph for the freedom of religion.

What got overlooked in all the yaysaying was this:

The most straightforward way of doing this would be for the Government to assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections.

[2]

And who, you may ask, is “the Government”? Well, it’s all of us. Me, you, your pro-choice neighbour. In celebrating the right of for-profit corporations to have religious freedom everyone overlooked that a big ol’ slice of their own just got bartered away. It’s the most pyrrhic of victories.

The only ones who won here were the corporations. By ducking their share of the burden they in fact burdened other Christians with it, other pro-life people who aren’t Christians are equally burdened.

Of course the income tax system has several hiccups like this. My pacifist friends have long paid taxes that buy bombs. My atheist friends often shoulder a larger tax burden because churches are tax-exempt. When it comes to the cost of living in America everyone gives a little to get a lot. At what point does the giving become too onerus and the receiving become to minimal to countenance objectionable taxation? I don’t know. Those are longer conversations. Conversations we need to have.

But before we have them I’d like us all to be honest and to face what goes on with our eyes open. Hobby Lobby sold its case to the very Christians that it has now burdened as being a win for them when it was in fact a very large loss for everyone but Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and any future corporations who get to pass off their fiscal obligation to the taxpayers.

[1] They do buy wholesale product from manufacturers whose employees work on Sunday.

[2] Burwell V. Hobby Lobby, p41, paragraph 1

The Players

Hachette Publishing

Hachette Publishing


Amazon

Amazon


The Buying Public

The Buying Public

The Plot

There is an old business that has existed for many decades and has ruled the town. They are the ones who make the product and if you want the product you get what they say you get. They’re in this to make money and they enjoy their seat at the head of the table.

Along comes another fellow who wants to make money, yes, but also wants to find a way to get people what they want at a good price. He puts together a scheme where the customers decide what to pay, where the people can invest their own work and earn a profit from shared production and cooperative exposure.

—-

A lot of words have been written about Hachette Vs. Amazon in the last couple of weeks. Hachette has been brilliant about the spin they’ve put on it. Just like Mr. Potter the Legacy Publishers have sat back and bemoaned the discontented, lazy rabble even as they put out an increasingly substandard, overpriced product. In their well-authored spin they’ve created a story whereby they are a crusader for the little guy (all us poor authors and our royalties! All those poor independent booksellers teetering on the brink of extinction!) and Amazon is the villain threatening to ruin the world with their blasted low prices and vast selection.

It’s a good story. Shame it is about as true as Mr. Potter’s love for the people of Bedford Falls.

So how exactly is Amazon the George Bailey of the story? Well, they aren’t exactly. Amazon is the Bailey Building and Loan. Amazon is the company that realised that authors needed a place to publish their works if only so they didn’t have to go crawling to Potter-er-Legacy Publishers like Hachette. Amazon provided another place for authors to get published. It provided a place where customers could find books they actually wanted instead of getting stuck with the few books the Publishing Conglomerate told them they could read.

And now that they’re finding their way of life in danger the publishers have decided to make George Bailey look like a thief and an embezzler.

Really, the parallels between the two stories are eerie. The Publisher War IS _It’s A Wonderful Life_. Think of all the independent authors–the Mr. Martinis if you will–who have a home for their work thanks to Amazon. Who got a better deal than the falling down “houses” (poor contracts) provided by Mr. Potter.

Who am I? I’m Violet Sharpe. I’m the whore for books. I’m the bad girl. The outsider. I love George Bailey and he helps me when I need a fix. Yes, I admit it. I’m on Amazon’s side in this. Hard not to be when you think about how Mr. Potter has ruined this town.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 403 other followers