Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Improper Poll: Superheroine

I keep thinking about something I read in my critique group last week. I hope you, Beth, will consider turning your work into a Y.A. book.

It’s well known how poorly represented women have been in literature throughout history. All Shakespeare gave us was Lady Macbeth, and we all know what that woman screwed to the sticking post. We’ve been demonized, sanctified, and objectified. Second to the devil but ranked far below men, we bite apples and offer them to innocents. We are responsible for original sin, the death of the family, and we can launch a thousand ships. We are Madonnas, whores, and jiggly dashboard decor. We are literal (but not figurative—go figure) Figureheads. We are, in contests, little more than our figures. We are storms and vehicles and various and sundry possessions.

But now here we are in the midst of an overwhelming change in societal roles, yet we’re allowing ourselves to be represented in such shallow pursuits that we’re sort of being demoralized all over again in “reality” TV that makes us go to war over dresses and tiaras. That’s not really who the true American woman is, either.

I just read something at critique group that I felt spoke in the voice of genuine American girls. I am those girls, I’ve known those girls, and I see those girls in schools every day. They are not little women in that sense (though I loved the book); they are not paragons of virtue. Even now, YA heroines are often what society tells us women should be rather than what we are. As if what we are isn’t good enough. We are not allowed to be imperfect, and we're not allowed to have the struggles that real women face. The more we “evolve,” the more society hands us. We must sacrifice all, do it all, take care of all and win it all.

Look at Katniss Everdeen. She’s a warrior, an Amazon. This teenaged girl rescues her own mother and takes on her job, sacrifices herself for her sister, feeds her family, fights her own battles, saves her man’s life by outsmarting the government, looks pretty for cameras, fights in an army and then rescues a nation and all future children in it. That girl really is on fire.

 And then there’s little Bella Swan, surviving attacks, charming her predators, loving the one who wants to consume her and accepting his arrogance and stalking, then managing to attain her goal of becoming the undead while sacrificing herself for her child and turning out to be not only the lone vampire mother in the world, but a veritable demon-Madonna who can resist eating her baby. But wait—there's more. Turns out she can also whup vampire ass while rescuing her entire family against armies.

 I did enjoy those books, but I’m ready now to read about real girls. Or aren’t real girls good enough? Why can’t we just be…people?

Who is your favorite heroine?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Catastrophic Non-Failure

Every now and then, I seem to go through a period of time where so many things break, I am sure someone out there is sticking pins into tiny replicas of my possessions.

I recently ran across a scrapped blog post from last year where I complained of having several blinds break along with my lawn mower, sump pump, coffee pot, and a drill.

The most recent rash of failures included my computer, modem, router, lawn mower (yes, again), phone, and the little plug-thingie in the bathroom sink. Also my printer died a slow and agonizing death and then came back to haunt me. When my hair dryer shorted out in my hands with a tiny explosion, once the small fire was out and the shaking in my hands had subsided somewhat, I found myself laughing at the absurdity.

I was hoping those little fireworks were the finale to this round, but it turned out that was just an introduction to some of the big stuff. My garage door broke along with a door lock, my washer and dryer gave out, leaked, and shorted out. Now my computer has another virus. In spite of thousands of dollars’ worth of preventative maintenance, my car has a light that comes on, but the little scamp goes off as soon as I take it to The Car Guy.

Regardless, I am lucky they are just things.

My ex-husband used to pretend that it took some sort of skill to do home repairs. Really I find they just take time, money, the proper tools and often some physical strength—none of which I have in abundance.

But necessity really is the mother of invention. When my son was in high school, his car happened to get a flat tire in our garage. I can never remember where the jack goes, so we looked it up on YouTube. The whole incident became quite a blessing in disguise—not just for the mother-son bonding it inspired, but because of the way that one incident seemed to spark my son’s passion for internet-taught car repair. Now he’s the person I consult first when it comes to car problems.

And I find it pays to be sort of anal. It took me hours and hours, but when I recently replaced some door hardware, I was pretty excited that I was able to use poultry sheers and art supplies to fix a previous mistake. Now the door closes considerably more smoothly than before.

Right now I am tired, sore, behind on everything (as usual), wounded all over the place from various wrench accidents, and considerably poorer. But I’m also a little stronger, I own a few more tools, and I have a few more skills under my (tool) belt. I might be girly, but it doesn’t mean I can’t figure out how to change a spark plug. I’ve met some amazing people (such as the total stranger who just repaired some electrical work for me on a Saturday, and free of charge), and these breakages have sparked some wonderful conversations—with my children, with friends, and with acquaintances. As always, I am touched and inspired by the kindness of total strangers. Funny the way these things work: what you lose in stuff, you gain in a different set of resources. I am so, so blessed.

Take that, voodoo-ers.

You live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn…. ~From “You Learn” by Glen Ballard and Alanis Morissette

Sunday, March 10, 2013

By the Facebook

Does Facebook have a rule book? Because I am truly clueless. Is it a place to meet up with old friends? Find out more about new acquaintances? Network? What?

I originally joined Facebook as a way to Network. What I found when I got on there was that the class reunion I couldn’t attend had just continued on Facebook. It was wonderful, virtually reuniting with old friends again. But if I post about a writing success, these dear people are often the ones who send all kinds of encouragement…that makes me feel like a braggart and a schmuck. I’m not comfortable tooting my own horn, anyway, though I do know sometimes tooting must occur in order to drive anywhere. So how is that handled?

I have a friend who started two Facebook pages—one personal and one professional. Now she tells me she regrets it because the difference between the two isn’t clear enough and the overlap causes much confusion. She also doesn’t like that people have to “like” her professional page in order to join it. “What if they don’t like what I do?” she asks me. I know exactly how she feels.

I also don’t get who should be friended and who shouldn’t. I’ve known people who have hundreds and even thousands of friends, and others who “friend” total strangers. I do have FB friends I may possibly not have met, even though I have no qualms about turning people down if I can’t make some kind of connection. I routinely turn down apps that people send me. Should I politely tell them why? Or just ignore them? And does it really do any good to join Facebook and then turn down people and apps with the illusion that it gives us a little security? Especially when you have a blog?

Then there’s the question of how often we should post. I know people who get annoyed at seeing what others ate for lunch. That one doesn’t bother me, but one of my pet peeves is the ones who have Facebook conversations with relatives who are in the same house. Possibly these people are in the same room, even. What is that? Breakdown in communication? Some form of peculiar exhibitionism? Phoniness? Laziness? What?

What are your Facebook rules?