Friday, April 18, 2014

Five Things on Friday: Comfort Movie Edition

I have two types of favorite movies: the best movies ever and the movies that i just want to watch over and over again. The second category are movies that just make me happy, or calm or whatever. They are the macaroni and cheese of movies.

Which isn't to say that they're not good. I have excellent taste in movies. It's just they are not the best movies ever.

Anyway, here we go with my

Five Favorite Comfort Movies

1. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - There's something very comforting about this sweet and simple love story. It's called Kat Dennings. She is the perfect mixture of sweet and sassy, like fries and a milk shake. Plus, it's really funny. In an awkward sort of way.
Favorite quote: "I am the squire in Caroline's quest for attention."

2. Serenity - You cannot beat cowboys in space, lots of explosions, sleeper assassins and Mr. Universe. I truly love Mr. Universe. This movie was really a love letter to fans of the series Firefly and as fan, I accept, Mr. Whedon.
Favorite quote: "To hell with this, I'm gonna live."

3. John Dies at the End - This movie. I don't even know what to say about this movie, except that it is my favorite thing ever. It makes me furiously happy. The book too. There is no way I could function on a daily basis without this movie being in existence.
Favorite quote: "That's what came next, that Soy Sauce feeling. I wanted to run, to duck, to act. But the body is a slow wet mechanism of muscle and bone that crept, even as my mind flew."

4. Rent - I laugh, I cry, I love Rosario Dawson.
Favorite Quote: "I'm looking for baggage that goes with mine."

5. Steel Magnolias - This is very specifically for the days I need to cry. Because I start crying and I almost never stop. I heave great big ugly sobs while all my make-up washes down my face. My hair goes limp in sympathy for the waterworks going on here.
Favorite Quote: "You know I love you more'n my luggage."

What about you, do you have a comfort movie?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Conversations: Boys Edition

After lunch at church on Sunday, I went searching for Brynna to tell her it was almost time to go. After wandering around for a few minutes, I finally found her sitting on the steps in the back hallway with a boy.

Boy: It's not what you think!
Me: I don't think anything. Brynna, we're going in five.
Boy: Well, you think something, you have a brain.

Later that afternoon, as I was retelling this story to my mom:

Brynna: He said that to his dad, too.
Me: He did?
Brynna: Actually, he said that to every adult that walked by.

*So, how much trouble do you think I'm in, here? Nine. They are nine.

In the car, during morning car line at Brynna's school:

Maren: There's the boy from church.
Me: Oh, yeah. That's Sam (name changed to protect the innocent).
Maren: Yeah, Saa-aaam. I like him.
Me: Me too. He's sweet.
Maren: Yeah, and he's a big ole cutie-pie.

After finding out that I had a date:

Brynna: It's not that I mind, I just don't want to think about it.
Me: Okay. Well, you don't have to. It's just a date.
Brynna: I guess I think you should have snuck it up on me, like Daddy did.
Me: What do you mean, snuck it up on you?
Brynna: Well, you know, he borrowed her car and left her stuff around the house, so it wasn't a big surprise when he finally told us.
Me: Okay, well, in the future, I'll keep it a secret, but be really terrible at it.
Brynna: That's all I ask.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Which I Babble for a While About Literary Merit

I'm a sucker for lists. Almost any kind of list. I am a list maker and lists bring some sort of order to the chaos around me. One of my favorite kind of lists is the "Books Everyone Should Read," lists. There are a million. Libraries have them, newspapers have them. The BBC has one, which is sort of confounding.

I love to read these lists and tick off what I have read. 55 out of this 100, 16 out of this 100, 84 out of that 100. They all seem to have 100.

What I don't do is use them as a "to read" list. Why? Because I don't want to.

Here's the thing: I love good writing. I love literature. I love deep meaning and beautiful prose. I also love trash. And I don't read to make myself a better person or to measure up to some ideal constructed by a TV station or a newspaper. I read for two reasons: to become a better writer and to become a happier person.

Reading to become a better writer is, I think, a tricky proposition. It puts you in the corner of wanting to read things that will make you a better writer. I'm not talking about books about writing, although I do like those, but fiction. But I would posit that every word you read makes you a better writer.

The good stuff shows you how to be good and pushes you to be better, true. But sometimes it's the bad stuff that makes you really think. Think about how you could have done it better. Think about what it failed to do. Think about why it didn't work. The stuff that's similar to what you want to write can help you zero in on a voice or a character, show you what works with an audience and what doesn't. But reading something completely unlike what you write can inspire you to mix it up in a way that's never been done before, or show you a technique that would really improve what you're doing.

So, if you're trying to read to be a better writer, the best advice I* would have is to just read anything and everything. And if you are going to read anything and everything, with the understanding that even the fastest reader, reading full time wouldn't be able to keep up with current publication rates, let alone read everything that's already been written, then how do you narrow it down?

Point the second: read what makes you happy. Here is a list of what makes me happy in no particular order:

  • Magic
  • Fairies - preferably kind of mean and tricksy ones
  • Space
  • Dystopian futures
  • Plucky girl protagonists
  • Cuss words
  • Kisses - good, deep and passionate kisses
  • Zombies
  • Terrifying technological advances
  • Questions of faith in the face of an alien world
  • Characters to hate and characters to love
  • Evil
  • Totally real things that I've never heard of before and look up on Google
Now obviously, no story should have all of these things. Space fairies in the dystopian future fighting zombies while questioning their fairy-faith would be a terrible book. But these are the things that make me happy.

And I know what doesn't make me happy:
  • A bunch of characters I don't care about at all
  • Romance
  • Sappy, whiny girl protagonists
  • Too much sex
  • A lack of sex where there should clearly be sex
  • Futures that look pretty much just like the present
  • Long explanations of things that most people already understand
And I'll admit that you can't take the top list and check off a couple of things and guarantee I'll like it. I have read some truly horrible zombie books. And I have read books that would fall into the bottom list that I actually kind of liked. 

I guess what I want to get at, but am not doing a very good job of, is that a lot of people seem to look at books like food. And what you really want is a balanced diet. It's fine to read the literary equivalent of a Snickers bar once in a while, but most of your diet should come be literary brussell sprouts. 

And what I think is that's a terrible analogy. Because books are like food. And you shouldn't eat steamed broccoli just because it's good for you if you hate it. There's a whole culinary world out there and you can find the same nutrients in a way that makes you happy. Maybe you'd even like broccoli under the right circumstances. 

If you don't like a book, put it down and read something else. Read everything and anything. Read the bad, the good, the trash and the classics. Read silly things and things with great reviews. Read what's written for you and what's written for a completely different audience. Read whatever makes you tick. Because there's no sense in forcing down something you hate when there's so much out there to love. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

On Kids and Fandoms

So, Brynna is officially a geek-girl. Not that she would admit it. She's not quite there yet, but I have won. I declare victory over the powers of snobbishness and stupidity.

This weekend, we went to see Divergent. (It was wonderful and I loved it. Pretty true to the book, although the second half goes a little off the rails.) If you haven't read Divergent, I cannot recommend it enough. I also cannot recommend enough that you just stop after you read it. Insurgent is fine, but Allegiant is such a disappointment.

The best part of the movie was the previews, during which Brynna turned to me once and said, "That's The Giver. I've read that," and another time and said, "Is that a book? Am I allowed to read it?" The fact that she was more excited to read the previews than watch them says something deep and true about her.

She's reading a lot of dystopian stuff right now, which I consider SciFi. That's a victory in and of itself. And she loves fantasy. Possibly more than I do. She has no patience for romance and is pulling further and further away from fluffy pink book covers.

I think she's writing Fan Fic, too. She talks about it, but she hasn't let me read any. She's never read Fan Fic, as far as I know, but she wanted to write something about Percy Jackson and so I told her that you could do that sort of thing, you just couldn't sell it and it was called Fan Fic. That was that.

All of these are sufficiently geeky things. But it's not what she loves, but how she loves it that makes her a nerdlet. And watching her take up fandoms is a truly exciting thing for me. She loves Percy Jackson and Hunger Games and Divergent and so many other wonderful things. She wants to wear their t-shirts and jewelry, write their fan fic, live in their worlds. She jumps in head first and tries to find her own place there.

She assumes that everyone knows what she's talking about as she compares meals to local district cuisine and assigns people to factions or to god parents or to Hogwarts houses.

Watching her is like magic.

And this weekend, she was talking about Divergent and books she wanted to read and I realized that things have changed. Times, they have changed. When I was a kid, I loved things the way Brynna loves things. I loved GI Joe and A Wrinkle in Time and Narnia. I loved Eerie, Indiana and Twin Peaks*.

But I didn't feel free to do what Brynna does. I didn't feel free to wander around quoting and emulating and building my identity in terms of the things that spoke to me. I didn't get that until at least high school, and probably college. College was really when I realized that you could take a room full of people with one thing in common (The X-Files) and build a community. So, that, even though I've read A Wrinkle in Time about 20 times since I was eight years old, I still consider that group of kids packed into my dorm room to watch The X-Files to be my first fandom.

I am so amazed and proud that Brynna gets to live this life now. That she can love what she loves how she loves it and no one will stand in her way.

It's a brave, new world out there. And she doesn't even know she's a pioneer.

*Which I absolutely, positively was not supposed to be watching. Sorry, mom.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Driving Me to Distraction

So, pain.


Here's how it started: about two or three days a month, I had pain. Lots of pain. Then, those same days, instead of having lots of pain, I had soul-ripping apart pain. But nothing in between.

Then, about two months ago, I started having pain in between, but like little pain. Not so bad. Then, those days grew to be all the days and they are punctuated by the Pain Days, which are I don't know how often, but more often than two or three days out of month.

And today, my friends and colleagues is a Pain Day.

Yesterday, I was fine all day. More or less fine. I had an ache and a twinge, but manageable. Then I went home and almost as I was walking in the door, I felt my body being torn apart. Cleaved. Lacerated. Ripped asunder.

I made it through. Like parents do. I fed the kids, tucked everyone in bed and then curled up in my big red chair and pretended like nothing existed outside of the chair. The chair is the key to this working. I can't do it in bed. Or on the couch. The chair is my place when I feel bad.

I pulled a blanket over my lap and took two Benadryl, because I was out of Tylenol PM and someone once told me that it's just Tylenol and Benadryl. Eventually, I got tired enough to go to bed. But between, I couldn't do anything.

I couldn't sort laundry or read. I watched some TV, but I don't remember any of it. I'm not even 100% sure of what I watched.

And I thought I would sleep it off. But here I am. Pain Day 2.0.

And I can't concentrate on anything. Not on my work or even on writing this. You should see the spellcheck. I'll fix that before I hit publish, but I probably won't do anything else, because proofing takes concentration.

And I have miles to go before I sleep tonight. Grocery, kids, yadda-yadda.

And it's just made me think: I have had this pain for a year. It's been one year since I first started having pain days, the not so very bad ones. In less than a year, it's gone from zero to sixty on the 1-10 pain scale, and I cannot manage this mess. I mean, if I could, I'd rip my uterus out right this very second and stitch myself back together with stash yarn. And it's been a year. I know that some people have chronic pain from various things and it lasts years and years and you know...

I just want to give those people a puppy and a medal. Because how in the every-loving pants do you manage to get through one day and into the next? Let alone have a career and raise kids and write books and have people over and volunteer. How? Because right now, right this second, all I want to do is throw my head back and scream until my lungs hurt as bad as my abdomen. I want my screams to rip my throat raw and crack open the corners of my mouth.

Because then I could be distracted away from this pain, instead of by it. Because then, I could point to something and say "This is what is wrong. I am not making this up. It really hurts just as bad as it looks."

And tomorrow, I will be back to the nagging sensation of discomfort. I hope. And all this will seem so silly and I'll be glad I went to the grocery and didn't wait until the weekend. Tomorrow, I'll hold my head up and I'll laugh and everything will be fine. Just as fine as it can be.

I hope.

Because, I've seen the pain grow and I guess that one of my biggest fears is that it's just going to keep growing and someday and then tomorrow will just be another today.

*Less than 30 days until the surgery that makes this go away forever. Less than 30 days. Even if they are all like today, I can survive 30 of them, right?