Archive for July, 2012

There are several ongoing conversations about things ranging from serious to frivolous; I have been both observer and participant in these conversations and have had to resist the impulse to write my opinions outloud. In most cases I’ve already stated my opinions and as they haven’t changed I don’t see why I need to perpetuate the circle-jerk of conversation that the “discussions” have turned into. How many ways and days to we have to keep saying the same thought over and over?

As I asked myself that question I realised that my basic answer to a lot of these problems can be boiled down to one thing. I am different. I have always been different. Not in that “my own special snowflake” way that everyone is a bit different, but in that wander-in-the-desert-eating-bugs way where people look askance at you regularly.

God made me this way and put me in this body for any number of reasons I haven’t quite figured out. When God fashioned me to be of particular use, it was with the knowledge that I would need to serve a function different from what many others are called to. That’s why I’m frankly bemused at a lot of the discussions which call for me to do like everyone else. You see, I’m not like everyone else. But please rest assured that I am in communication with God on a constant basis and am going where I’m told and doing what I’m asked.

Read Full Post »

The C Word

My main life goal for the past 20 years has been to die without regrets. When I come to the end of the line I don’t want to be mourning something I did do or didn’t do. Pretty much every decision I’ve made since then can be filed under the “I will die without regrets” heading.

I have had, in that time, to overcome one very large regret.

I spent most of the decade of my 20s, and a couple years into my 30s, letting the present rush by in a haze while I always focused on the next thing coming. I married young, so I wasn’t telling myself life would be better “once I got a man.” But I did have a sort of Rosary Of Nexts on which I’d click of beads of desire. I told myself, I told my husband, I told God that everything would be fine “once”. Once: I had a house, a dog, a better job, a better car, a baby, a promotion, a hammock, a nicer tv, a better microwave. Everything I did became leapfrogged for the next thing, because whenever I got a “Once” item that bead fell off the string and was usually replaced by another bead. Or two. Because as soon as I got a Once item, I realised that the key to my happiness hadn’t been the house or the dog or the better job. Surely it must be the baby or the piano!

I’m so grateful that God dragged me kicking and screaming through those valleys in my early 30s. Because as horrible as those times were I learned one solid truth: the greatest gift you can give yourself is contentment. Being happy with what you have, being thankful with who you are and where you are at and the people in your life right now makes for a lot sunnier a life.

I still don’t have the baby, and I most likely won’t. I have some of the Onces and some of the others I either tired of or gave up along the way. But I wish I had the words to describe the peace of living in contentment with where I am right now. I wish I could explain what it is to watch your husband come home from work, kiss you lovingly and toss a hedgehog for the dog and know deep down that all is right in the midst of the little wrongnesses. I could list the imperfections that skulk around the borders of my life like drooling zombies, ready to eat the part of my brain that understands the peace. There are a lot of those gloom zombies out there. But that’s not the point. The point is that being content means that I can stop and look out the window at the grass drinking in the rain and think “what a peaceful morning!” instead of “how awful…I hope it’s sunny tomorrow.”

My thoughts are very disjointed right now, and I feel like my writing shows it. The drugs and the night of little sleep make this post a sort of brainpuddle, I know. But I am just so hoping that I can encourage you–yes, you–to find contentment because I promise it makes every day a blessing instead of a muddy stepsone forgotten in the ceaseless trampling toward a tomorrow that never gets here.

Read Full Post »

I first heard the argument when it came to cigarettes. Back then my parents both said “just wait. They’re coming for fat people next.” And so they have done, and remarkably efficiently, too. Earlier in the week my plea to be left in peace with my soda was met with the standard response such pleas receive these days.

In so far as much as the cost of treating those affected by soda and other negative dietary habits is absorbed by the society as a whole, your right to do as you please in this case directly affects my right to not have to absorb some of your health care cost. So your liberties would tread on my liberties.

It sounds good when you hear it for the first time. Why of course! We are all owned by our brethren in society and therefore must obey all marching orders designed for the greater good. And now that we have Health Insurance to pay for our illnesses–and it doesn’t matter whether said insurance is private or Universal Healthcare–we have everyone who is out three-sixteenths of a penny for our last head cold to answer to.

Does no one see the two flaws in this logic? I hope they start to because I plan and hope to live a few years yet and don’t want to be fed the same palavar for decades.

Flaw Number One: We Are Entropic Creatures

Every man, woman, and child on this planet began dying the moment they first drew breath. Life is but a march toward the grave, and so many things we encounter in that march contribute to speeding us along our way. If we plan to object to smoking and soda drinking and general icky fatness on the grounds that such things cost insurers money then we should look to the top cost first for elimination. Stop having babies, of course, because that whole thing is just frought with expense. There’s the pregnancy and delivery and then there’s the tubes in the ears and the vaccines and the vaccine side effects and the legs broken when your little six year old walking Bill To Society falls off the monkey bars. In fact, every baby represents a lifetime of health care bills. So stop now! After all, you belong to me because you cost me. While you aren’t having babies you need to also not drive a car or take vacations or run marathons. All of those have high associated healthcare expenses.

Flaw Number Two: Godwin and Aktion T4

I truly apologize in advance for bringing the Nazis into this. I know it is a weak way to make an argument. But unlike Soylent Green–which makes the same argument–this really did happen less than 100 years ago. Once society starts determining that the cost of individuals’ treatment is to negative benefit of the group’s pocketbook, it becomes very easy to “mercy kill” the sick, the old, the infants with birth defects. After all, why should I pay for your Downs’ Syndrome child? I mean, really! The nerve of you! The nerve of you to ask ME to put my precious money on the line for your Alzheimer’s-ridden grandmother…she should just be done away with too. After all, isn’t a lethal injection a lot cheaper than paying for two decades of a nursing home or a lifetime of physical therapy for that spina bifida baby?

This is where reducing everything to dollars and cents gets us. We are so busy worried about currency we aren’t paying any attention to the cost to our humanity. By turning every “choice” into an accounting question we cheapen ourselves. Yes, I want to be left alone to drink soda in peace. But, selfishly, I also don’t want society deciding when I’m 67 that my various ailments make me a net liability and therefore sacrificial. People are more than the sum total of what they cost one another.

Read Full Post »

Today’s post was going to be a 500 word examination of the ‘Sherlock’ version of Mycroft Holmes and how they’ve ruined that fabulous character for the sake of cheap laughs.

That may happen tomorrow. Instead, today seems to be invaded by a mass of swirling thoughts and emotions I can’t pin down.

There is rain here. Actual rain, steadily falling and soaking into the ground. Green is starting to slowly seep back into our graass and the trees have stopped looking so forlorn. It’s wonderful. I can’t complain about the pain because I honestly don’t mind it. I’ll hurt like this if it means these things that I love–this lawn, these plants, these trees–can stay alive. And of course my mind then instantly went to God–as it often does. I swear I’d be the worst atheist ever because I would have nothing to think about. In a conversation with an atheist last week I mentioned the term “faith bias” and s/he had never heard it before. (It makes one wonder, frankly, about the education system.) I am clearly a walking case of faith bias in that most of my thoughts lead back to God one way or another.

I do sometimes pity God and I wonder if that isn’t a sort of blasphemy. It shouldn’t be, because pity is not the “look down upon” emotion that our culture has made it over to be. At least I don’t think so. Not always. But now that I look out the window and watch the rain going to ground I think how excited I am about the grass turning green again. And then I wonder how it would be if I loved each and every blade of grass in all the lawns as if they were my children. My heart couldn’t sustain that burden. I know. I have enough of a hardship loving one man and two dogs. I can’t imagine loving stalks of lawn to that degree. Poor God, you know?

But yeah, I’ll put up with the crippling pain and nausea if it means the plants can drink. I get God tolerating crucifixion.

Now that I say that, though, I need to say something else. Tolerating pain isn’t noble. It doesn’t make you special or tough or extra wonderful. I keep reading books where heroes accept pain without comment and are admired by the crowd. That’s just stupid. Pain hurts, and it hurts badly–nevermind what Dalton said. To withhold pain medication from others because of the fear of addiction is barbaric. To withhold pain medication from others because of the desire to experience closeness with God is, frankly, demonic. It’s evil. People should make their own choices about pain management–those choices shouldn’t be made for them by bureaucrats or nuns.

And now I’m rambling. Well, I was always rambling, but at least for awhile there the rambling looked like it might be somewhat coherent. Time to push back from the desk and struggle up the steps, where a cold Coke awaits like the promise of joy. Oh and that’s another thing. I’m going to start going off, repeatedly, on an individual basis, every time someone posts something “anti” soda. Great if you don’t drink it or let your kids drink it. But GET YOUR NOSE OUT OF MY BUSINESS. Yes, I drink soda. I enjoy soda. It’s one of the very few pleasures left to me, along with reading. Find a different culprit for your ragemania, people.

Read Full Post »

I woke up this morning to a treat in my inbox. Patrick Todoroff wrote a blog post that inspired a blog post in me. So that’s huge; a great post AND my writing idea for the day both knocked out in one fell swoop.

I’ve been a woman for a very long time, and much of that long time I’ve also been a Christian woman. That means I’ve been invited to a lot of parties. No, not actual parties with cake and punch and good times. I don’t see many of those. The parties I get invited to are to buy things. Apparently by being friends with folks I’m obligated to take a rare free evening and go to their house for a brownie and an opportunity to buy overpriced jewelry, candles, cookware, purses, scrapbooking kits and (seriously!) sex toys. You buy the stuff and then you sign up to host your OWN party wherein you genteelly force the same people to buy something. Over and over again, these home party business schemes are how a lot of women turn the pleasure of friendship into the duty to shop incestuously.

…And that’s what writers’ conferences remind me of.

I’ve sworn off writers’ conferences, albeit preemptively. I’ve never been to one of the biggies; the closest I’ve come are the free sessions offered by the Nashville Public Library. (Note the word ::free::) But the longer I stake claim to being a writer the more I tumble to the fact that there are these events where I’m supposed to drop a lot of cash to pay other writers to talk to me about writing. In fact, many working “writers” that I know make 50-85% of their income by speaking at conferences. Why they call themselves “writers” and not “talkers” is a puzzle, actually. But the general idea seems not at all dissimilar to the women’s party circuit. I pay to hear them speak in hopes that I one day will have enough cache to be paid to speak.

Conference organisers and frequent attenders have this Godfather thing going where they tell you that a Conference is where you find an agent. That’s why many people rationalise the ever-increasing costs of attending. They’re placing several thousand dollars a year on a bet that they’ll be able to buy access to getting their work noticed. Or they’re indie writers who want the opportunity to set up a table and sell their books–sell them to other writers who buy them out of morbid curiousity (“let’s see if he’s a better writer than me!”). Those writers then hope to set up a table at the same conference next year.

I am a writer. I write things. I make very little money at it for the present, and I seriously dislike the idea of turning my calling into a giant hamster wheel wherein I buy things in order to obligate people to buy things from me. So I don’t go to conferences. I also no longer buy $20 measuring cups. The sex toys I’ll stay mum about.

Read Full Post »

There are two trends in fiction right now, running almost concurrently, and both of them have me wanting to flay my own feet. Since I’m perceived by others as curmudgeonly I suppose this here post can just be written off as a curmudgeon’s reactionary outburst against a trend that just makes other people happy. Why do I want to spoil people’s fun? Why?

There isn’t much I ask of fiction, really. I’ll read pretty much anything. I still scratch my head when I come across the occasional reader who says “I only read mysteries” or “I only read Tom Clancy novels.” I find myself wondering if they only eat pie and only drink apple juice. The world is full of experiences, and there is no greater treasure than the world of books. A book lover can live a thousand lives in this short span on earth. So I love the varied reading experience that comes from being a multi-genre explorer.

What I don’t love is when any genre becomes popular. In my years as a reader I’ve lived through the first go-round of bonkbusters, Aga Sagas, series mystery, serial killers, vampires, magical orphans, vampires round 2, and now we’re in Erotica and Young Adult. There’s a lot of speculation one can make as to why the two most popular trends for adult readers are reading about teenagers and reading about lots and lots of graphic sex. Clearly the new normal of most people’s lives lacks the frisson of hope found in youth and the spark of lust found in a life less busy and worried about money.

The problem is that since both of these genres are newly popular, a lot of writers are shoehorning themselves into the trend. It’s particularly annoying in Young Adult. (For another perspective on the YA genre from a reader who reads less of it, check out Mike Duran’s post.) A really good YA title captures the mindset and experiences of a person in that phase of life where childhood is just about over and adulthood hasn’t hit yet. Writers like Judy Blume and Sarah Dessen have a true gift for taking their readers back to that point, and touring the world through the eyes of teens. Writers like, well, I won’t name names here–but there are a lot of them–who decided to write YA because “it sells well” and “it’s easy” are cranking out garbage.

I have less of a vested interest in erotica because it’s not a genre I read a lot. I’ve read some erotic titles in years past, but I realised early on that if there’s sex in a novel I usually prefer it between characters I know really well, as opposed to characters who are Sex Delivery Devices–as in so much of erotica. (A good example of my preference would be The Thorn Birds. That’s a book where the sex, when you finally get there, is really compelling just because of how well you’ve come to know the lovers and how important their consummation is to all three of you.) Now that we aren’t as tethered to bookstores, shelf space isn’t as much an issue as it used to be, so I don’t know why this trend bothers me. Well, other than the fact that people are buying and reading really poorly-written books and enjoying them not because they are books but because they are “naughty”. I guess other than being crankily tired of hearing everyone constantly talking about Fifty Shades Of Gray, I’m not AS bothered by erotica as I am by the corruption of Young Adult fiction.

Still and all, I wouldn’t mind if a new trend came along that didn’t so badly step on my favourite toes.

Read Full Post »

Literature has given me a fool-proof way for you to attract the interest of a potential spouse or conspirator.

Dig a grave by hand in front of the object of your affections. The effort and the degree of caring it exhibits seems to be the biggest literary aphrodisiac around. Of course, the biggest problem with this method of attraction is that most people don’t have spare corpses on hand at just the right time. You know how it is…you are just never ready for love when it comes along. Now, I highly advise NOT murdering the nearest coworker or annoying relative in full view of the target. Whatever points and cache you earn by interring the remains is likely negated by being all murdery. It sends really conflicting messages, too. “I’m callous!” “No! Wait, I’m Caring!”

So I’ve yet to figure out a time when one would be around BOTH sloppily-placed cadavers AND sexyfuntime hot men. Maybe at a showing of _Magic Mike_ in the theatre. “See, Channing Tatum, how desirable I am? I’m caring enough to dig a grave for this thoughtless teenager murdered by that grumpy woman in her 40s for talking on his cellphone during the previews.” Granted, this only works if Magic Mike is actually a movie like The Purple Rose of Cairo. I suspect if it were we would have heard by now. “That werewolf dude from True Blood totally took my box of Junior Mints! What a JERK!”

The only other times I can concoct what I’m calling the “Bury Bodies; Bear Your Soul” method are wartime–too dangerous, too hard on makeup–and hospice work. I didn’t say it was a perfect plan.

I first encountered this method in Harry Potter of all places. When someone close to Harry is murdered in the wars, he buries the individual in a sandy beach. (He’s a 17 year old wizard, not a geologist. He clearly doesn’t understand that sandy graves have a way of, um, undoing.) A quasivillain Harry needs to enlist in his plans views the event and decides that Harry is–different. Clearly the quasivillain isn’t a geologist either, because he thinks the actions are admirable cause to trust Harry’s Game.

Then last night I was finally–finally, finally–reading Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor. In that book one character proposes to another, saying that he knew she was the dame for him when, yep. That’s right. She dug a grave. Well, in truth, she started the grave, did a crap job and let him take over. So there is that whole “oh me oh my! Gravedigging is soooo hard! Mr. Strong Person, won’t you help me out?!” learned helplessness trick going on. I hate that. But I guess she needed to even the score because as seductive as shoveling a fellow soldier into eternal rest must be, vomiting in front of the love interest pretty much undoes all that. So you’ve got to bring out the girly big guns.

There you have it, my single friends who are looking to be coupled. Maybe you could invest in one of those Real Doll things and just cart it around with you. Hang out in the park next to it and then when a cute man walks by, ask him if he has a shovel.

Read Full Post »

The sequel is out now and the review of the sequel actually sounds interesting to me. It spends a lot of time on John Dee, who is a person I’ve always found a heck of a lot more fascinating than that drab temptress, Anne Boleyn. After all, what did she do but seduce a starry-eyed dreamer, have a baby and get foreshortened for her troubles? (And before you start telling me all about how she was the mother of Queen Elizabeth, read the entry immediately preceding this one.) Dee, on the other hand, was all kinds of well-read, philosophical, and just a little bit batcrap crazy. He was also Welsh, and the Welshwoman in me feels a kinship–as, I suppose, also does the batcrap crazy in me.

Could this be my next good read? Or should I go with my first instincts after reading the first bit of Discovery a year ago and give it up as a too-good-to-be-true experience? Guide me, people! Guide me!

Read Full Post »

A few weeks ago I was visiting with a friend who was very troubled about something her child had done. In reviewing the situation the child–actually a young woman at this point–did exactly what her mother had done two decades ago. It was the exact same life choice the parent had made, and which the parent still professes to be happy with.

Given the degree of upsetness, though, it seems that maybe there was some living-through-the-kid going on in the deep recesses.

I’ve been around a great lot of people who live through their children academically, athletically, socially. I almost wonder if it’s unavoidable when you become a parent. I don’t really know that many parents who don’t–in some way or another–view their children’s accomplishments as their own and their children’s failures as a reflection of their flaws.

I think I’m glad, personally, that i’m not in the position of waiting to see how my offspring turns out.

Read Full Post »


Right up front I want to get one thing straight. I am a Mama Lion when it comes to libraries. They are my admitted blind spot, my weakness, my true love. I strongly encourage you, dear reader, to not take anything I say here as part of that stupid “libraries are obsolete” nonsense that’s going around. While I may not believe that libraries are obsolete, I do believe they are in danger of underestimating their patronage and thereby, ultimately, transforming their patronage in ways that are not good for the society that funds the libraries.

I am a libertarian, but I’ll try not to use that word too much in this piece because I am forever mistaking it for “librarian”–and vice-versa–when skimming Facebook. As a libertarian I firmly believe that libraries are like standing armies; a crucial part of the societal agreement necessary for the protection and growth of the community. Rachel Walden, noted author of the Women’s Health News blog (and a dear friend I deeply respect), wrote an outstanding piece over the weekend about book deserts, their effect on the community, and the library as oasis.

the Nashville Public Library *does* make some services and materials available remotely. They provide OverDrive, an ebook borrowing system that is not perfect, but is certainly better than having *no* reading materials available.

It’s that Overdrive System that I’m needing to address out of a frothing frustration.

Overdrive is not run by the Nashville Public Library. They are an outside service that the NPL–or any local library system–can subscribe to in order to provide digital media (e-books, audiobooks, MP3 music, video) to the library’s subscribers. It’s not unlike going to a restaurant for dinner and finding out that the appetizers are catered by another eatery. The reason for this system–best I can tell–is that the publishers need a solution that makes them comfortable about the management of their digital rights. Instead of interacting directly with each library system to monitor DRM*, the publishers can interact with Overdrive. It’s a middleman, imposing clumsy restrictions that muck up a previously-streamlined process.

I’ve come to accept those restrictions as the price of having access to electronic materials. What I cannot accept, however, is the glaringly base and sloppy presentation of content.

This is standard fare from Overdrive, and is representative of what seems to be the bulk of the collection. (No pun intended.)

Yes, there are other things, of course. But chances are if you are not looking for a specific volume by title or author name, you’ll be browsing through several pages of Dude Nipples and soft-core clinches before finding anything that isn’t pulp fiction. Many of these titles are already offered free or deeply discounted to owners of e-readers. I strongly suspect that Overdrive has sold itself to libraries as offering an ebook collection of X number of volumes, without specifying that most of their acquisitions are from the e-book version of the discount bin. It is, quite literally, cheap smut.

As far as reading goes, I have no problem with anyone reading whatever they want to read. I’m a firm believer in that librarians’ chant “a book for every reader, a reader for every book.” Diddling The Duke is not my idea of a good read, but I don’t care one iota if you partake. I’m not your wife, mother or priest. However, I get the strong feeling from my hours of browsing the Overdrive collection that the curators of Overdrive are not too eager to spend top dollar for much content beyond the bottom line.

To that end I beg the Nashville Public Library–and all other public libraries who subscribe to Overdrive–to put due pressure on Overdrive to hire better content managers. We need true librarians overseeing the e-books available to the Public Library patrons of the United States. If we’ve all got to be stuck with this kluge of a system, at least let’s get the content up to par with the type of minds we want to develop in ourselves.

*Digital Rights Management

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts