Monday, June 30, 2014

Your Experience Doesn't Invalidate Mine

Lately, I've been having this issue. It has to do with being wrong. Or not being wrong, more specifically. Let me give you an example.

I'm in a book club. My book club read a book. It was supposed to be funny. I didn't think it was. For one thing, the story revolved around a broken marriage and a stillborn son. And I am all about finding the funny, but you've got to work pretty hard to make dead babies funny to me. That's all I'm saying.

For another, it was just... crass? I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it wasn't my brand of humor. I didn't mind the profanity, the sex, the innappropriateness... It just wasn't funny. It was all cheap shots and shock value. And you know what? That's okay. I don't have to love every book I read. I mean, I'd like to, but I'll live. And it was a good enough story, more or less, it just wasn't funny to me. I'm sure it was to other people. In fact, if my book club is to be believed, it's funny to everyone everywhere but me.

And that's where this issue came into play. Most everyone there listened to my point of view and accepted it. Sorry you didn't like it, yadda yadda. Fine, fine. But one woman flat out informed me that I was wrong. "It is funny," she said, "even if you didn't get it."

Now let me make something clear here, "getting it" isn't my problem. I get it. Really, there's not much to get. It's not like it's some sort of deep, philosophical kind of humor. I just didn't think it was funny.

And it's a little thing. Really it is. I'm over it. It's just that it's brought home something that has been bothering me in the grander scheme for a while now. I read the book. I had an experience. My experience was that it wasn't funny. It doesn't matter how funny you think it is, that doesn't change my experience. And me dragging my way through 350 pages without even cracking a smile doesn't change your experience. You can think it's funny. That's allowed.

This whole #yesallwomen and "Not all Men" thing speaks to that, too. People want to say "Well, I've never catcalled a woman, so that just doesn't happen anymore," or "I don't personally know anyone who talks about being raped, so that's not really a problem," or "I don't think women are treated any differently than men." Your experience does not invalidate mine (or the statistical facts, in this case). And then the pendulum swings, "All men are pigs," or "Guys can't understand what it's like to be sexually abused," or "Men just aren't victimized like that." And that's wrong, too. For the exact same reason.

Look, I get it. You've never been anyone else. You don't know what it's like to be a different nationality, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic class. All you have is your own perspective and that makes it hard to see that other people are experiencing things differently. But for the love of pants, accept that.

Don't tell people they are wrong unless it's a verifiable fact and you have evidence. It's okay to say, "No, gravity is what holds us to the Earth, not sticky glue on our shoes." It's not okay to tell someone that they have not really experienced what they say they have experienced. So much in our world is a matter of opinion and perspective.

Next time someone says something you want to argue about, instead of jumping in with all the ways in which they are wrong, why not try listening. You might just find that understanding other people's experiences changes yours.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Injured in the Line of Motherhood

Last week, I switched the girls' bedrooms. I did this while they were away, hanging with their dad and that side of their family. It was a long and arduous project. First, I packed up their rooms. I culled their toys, their clothes, their stuff. I learned how very much stuff my children have. I cleaned up and organized. I sorted and threw away. Thus endeth phase one.

For phase two, I moved all the furniture out of Maren's room and stacked everything she owns in the living room and dining room. I tried to allow myself points of exit for running away from home purposes.

Then, I painted it for Brynna. Here's the thing with painting, I don't mind it. I kinda like to paint, except I don't like to do it by myself. I like to take the brush and do all the edgework and have someone else come along and do the stupid, stupid, boring rolling. I hate rolling. But I did it.

Then, I swept and mopped. Then, I moved Brynna's stuff in. Except Brynna has a few too many pieces of furniture, so some had to be taken to the basement and her furniture is bigger, so I had to have help so some of it stayed right where it was.

Then, I painted that room for Maren. Only, the paint that I bought on clearance a couple of months ago was pure and utter crap. Like watery, miserable, runny, wrong color crap. So, I had to stop, clean up all my materials and go buy more paint.

Then, I painted. Then, I cleaned. Then, I moved Maren's stuff in. Then, I switched their closets which was a couple hours of work all by itself.

Except I'm still not done. Maren doesn't have a dresser in her room right now. And Brynna has a bunch of stuff just stacked in a corner of her room. Both of them are missing most of what goes on their walls, primarily because I haven't made it yet. There is clean laundry stacked up even with the couch in my living room and a bunch of board games stacked in the hallway. My dining room is currently home to a giant spring horse and a bedside table as well as both girls' TV's.

But, I survived and I did most of it. I will get this done and the worst is over. And I weathered the storm pretty well, surviving a week of hard labor with nary an injury.

Then, yesterday, my darlings came home. I missed them, really. We had a really nice evening and went home late and fell into our respective beds. For a while. After about an hour, Brynna came in and said her book was too scary and she needed to sleep with me. I shoved over. About three hours after that, Maren came in, looked at Brynna and said, "Where am I supposed to sleep?"

I shoved over more. Then, I fought them the whole night over the blanket and them squishing me into the wall. I twisted and turned and envied the dog, who was basking in the cavernous space under the bed.

Today, I can barely move. My back is completely wrenched, my shoulder is killing me and I can barely turn my head.

That's right, sleeping with my children is harder on my back than moving furniture without them. It's amazing parents live past forty.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day One

My kids are gone this week. For the next week, I have the house to myself and they are spending quality time with the other half of their family.

Summer is weird for me. On the one hand, not that much changes. I work, the kids are gone all day, yadda-yadda. On the other hand, I get to sleep later and sometimes the kids are gone all night too.

This year, Brynna is going to sleep away camp. Twice. For two solid weeks, we is going to mean me and Maren.

And then there's this week, where we means me and the dog. We are having a great week, so far, by the way. We've slept late, worked in the house and been amazed at how quiet things are. We miss the kids, but not desperately. Not yet.

What I am doing, though, is over scheduling. Which is what it's like to be me. I look at any opportunity and I think, "Wow, that's the perfect time to do x, y, z." And then ten minutes later, I think, "I should really do a, b, and c." And then that morning, I wake up and think, "Oooh, q! I've wanted to do q for so long."

I am a glutton for punishment. You'd think that just sitting and enjoying would be enough. But then, I might have to miss the little birdies. And you know, can't have that.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Five Things on Friday: YA Edition

This week in the news: some terribly upset woman wants us all to know how disappointed she is in us because we are reading below our level. Never mind the fact that I thought I left reading levels behind when I graduated high school, or at the very least when I received my degree in English Pantsing Literature.

In "Against YA," Ruth Graham goes into great detail about why "grown-ups" shouldn't read YA. I, as you may have guessed, think she is completely wrong. For a few reasons. First of all, my love, my passion has always been in genre. I started reading horror novels when I was about nine. I read my first SciFi novel in the third grade and I grew up on fantasy. The thing about reading genre is that there will always be a bunch of morons that think that genre writing isn't serious writing. Unless it's in the non-segmented "Literature" or "Fiction" section of the bookstore, it's useless prattle and not worth of your time.

Of course, they ignore that some of our greatest works of literature are "genre." Frankenstein is science fiction. Dracula is horror. Pride and Prejudice is romance.

The thing with YA, is that you can't even really compare it to genre. Because it's not a genre. A genre is topic area and YA contains within it's boundaries romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, horror and yes, literature. YA is not about how a book is written, but how a book is marketed. So, why shouldn't we read outside our market share? If they make an edition of Pride and Prejudice with a sparkly pink cover and give it a huge poster in the YA section of Barnes and Noble, are the words inside going to hold any less value?

So, for those of you who don't like being told what to read, I have compiled a brief list of:

5 Young Adult Books You Should Read Right Now

1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - Literature - That's right, I'm going there. To Kill a Mockingbird may be one the most universally beloved books in American literature. And it's widely considered to be YA. Why? Because the main characters, including the narrator are children and it deals with (among other things) the trauma of realizing the world is not as fair as you thought it would be. This book is as good at 35 as it is 15 and I don't think I'll ever "outgrow" Lee's haunting and perfect story.

2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs - Fantasy - Although this book wasn't what I was anticipating, it was so much more. This is a story, at its heart, about finding yourself and your tribe. The only way I can really describe this book is to say that it is delicious. I savored every word of it and was genuinely sad when it ended. That may not be what Ms. Graham is looking for in a book, but for me, a story that sucks you in, keeps you reading and leaves you feeling bereft is enough.

3. The Giver - Lois Lowry - Science Fiction - I would argue that The Giver is the book that started the dystopian craze. As well it should. Because not only is it a riveting cautionary tale about the future, but it contains a deeper story. It actually contains quite a few different stories, and if you don't believe me, you should read all the different interpretations in the Goodreads comments. But for me, this is a story about the effects of our constant desire to shut out the negative. Not as children, by the way, because children intrinsically know that they should feel what they feel. It's adults that need this lesson.

4. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman - Fantasy - In a story that mirrors in both style and concept, The Jungle Book, Gaiman manages to craft a character and a story that is even more compelling. The main character, Bod, grows up more or less adopted by a pair of ghosts and a vampire caregiver. He is surrounded by a graveyard full of otherworldly "family." It's a quick read, but one that says everything that is needed to know about the family you are given and the family you build, about growing up and moving out and about facing the world outside.

5. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury - Science Fiction - I especially included this, because though I'm sure that Ms. Graham would never deign to read my little corner of the web, I think this is especially a book she should read. Yes, this is the story of future where all books are outlawed. And I suppose that's not exactly what she's getting at. But I'm not sure how far off it really is. If we are to believe that she has the authority to tell us what lacks value in literature, how far off is that from saying that no literature holds value?

So, as for me and my house, we'll read whatever we damn well please. And in the immortal words of my very favorite YA author: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” 
― Madeleine L'Engle

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Wittle Brynna Edition

This is from last week:

This feels like it is from last week:

There is something so very wrong about that.