Tuesday, May 31, 2011

we're all goddesses around here

I can't think of a dang thing to blog about today, so how about the archetypal feminine?  why sure, that's just what I was thinking about as I sat here drinking my pero.  Which is lousy without honey, I might add, but we are out.

One of the things I really miss in grad school this time around that we had back in the olden days is archetypal criticism.  I think there are still people who do it, but it seems to have fallen in to disrepute.  You can find the occasional reference to Northrup Frye, but Jung?  Have not heard one word about him since I started school again two years ago.

Strange, yes?  Because in the mid-80s, archetypal criticism was huge.  Or maybe I just thought so because I liked it. I read a lot of it.  Granted, most of what I read was popular stuff, not academic criticism, but it wasn't uncommon to reference Jung in the classroom.  There were Women who Run with the Wolves, The Heroine's Journey, Goddesses in Everywoman, a book-length archetypal interpretation of Sleeping Beauty (can't remember the title or author), and another book of several interpretations of Grimm's fairy tales.  It was so much fun.  I was involved in at least two or three women's groups where we read the books and then tried to retell our own lives as archetypal tales based on the underlying themes of women in western culture.

To understand it, you have to let go of the idea that masculine and feminine are about individual men and women.  According to Jung, we all have masculine and feminine elements in our psyches.  In my mind, the masculine archetype is about going out into the world and achieving something-- conquering, inventing, building, doing.  The feminine archetype is about creating community, promoting compromise and tolerance, connecting with others in a way that honors our differences, and developing an inward focus that leads to contentment with the self.  The idea is that although each of us has varying amounts of masculine and feminine within, you have to develop both to become a whole human being.

Again, this isn't about you or me or anyone in particular, and it certainly isn't about biological destiny (i.e., if you're a woman, you must find fulfillment in being a mother).  Many women achieve great things, many men value community or contemplation.  It's about learning to find the balance between the two, both within ourselves and in our culture.  Obviously our culture values the masculine over the feminine.  Even many women value achievement over all that emotional crap.  I have to admit that I do, too.  But I'm learning about this.  To value achievement only by the patriarchal standards of our culture is to discount a part of myself.  Oh, good grief.  I had no idea this was where I was going when I started this. I thought it was going to end up being a movie review (I may still get there).  damn.

One of the hardest things for me about my adult life has been my lack of achievement.  It makes me angry that I haven't had the opportunity to have the kind of career I would have liked to have had if we'd lived somewhere where I could have a legitimate job.  Sometimes it makes me very angry.  But I was ventilating about this to my younger sister about a year ago, and she reminded me that to say I haven't done anything in my adult life is to discount the very real things I have done.  the kind of things that don't count in the patriarchal mindset, that are more in line with the feminine archetype.

So indulging in this particular whine is a way to beat up my inner feminine self.  Which is unfair, because she has accomplished a lot.  I've created an environment (I hope) where my kids can thrive.  I've read and written and learned and explored my own psyche.  And there's other stuff, too, things that would sound silly written out.  These are not things that I valued in the past.  Not one time in the first 25 years of my life did I think, gee, I hope someday I will grow up to be a mother and a homemaker.

This is a tough one.  I'm having a hard time writing it even now.  Maybe I will switch tracks to the movie review.  One of my all-time favorite movies is Howl's Moving Castle, a kids' movie based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones (which I also love).  I've watched the movie at least six or eight times.  It's about a young woman, Sophie, 18-ish, who works in her family's hat shop.  Her father is dead, and the shop is run by her mother, who is the polar opposite of Sophie—flashy, gossipy, flagrantly emotional.  One night the Witch of the Waste comes in and puts a spell on Sophie, turning her into an old woman.  So Sophie leaves the shop and the life she knows, and goes off on her own adventure to find her own magic.

I watched it again last week, and it occurred to me that the reason why I love it so much is that it is about the archetypal feminine journey.  How many gazillion books and movies have there been about the archetypal male journey?  But this is the only one I can think of that manages the feminine perspective so beautifully-- the other ones that come to mind have to end in disaster or cynicism because in a patriarchal culture, what hope is there for a successful feminine journey?

Anyway.  Sophie has to leave behind her biological family—who don't understand her at all—and her boring job, which she does only out of loyalty to her dead father.  She heads out into the Waste and meets up with the Wizard Howl.  Her journey is about creating a new community with herself at the center in the role of lover, surrogate mother, and creator of order out of chaos.  And the movie does all this without turning her into Ma Ingalls, either.  Along the way, she has to come to terms with her own attractiveness/sexuality (it's a kid's movie, so this is only indirectly addressed, but I think her fear of her own sexuality is what the curse is all about).  And she has to learn to stand up to and refute inappropriate feminine archetypes, like the misuse of feminine power in the service of patriarchy (Madame Suliman), and the lecherous older woman who just wants to steal the power of younger men (the Witch of the Waste).

Her successful completion of the journey results not only in happiness for herself, but also the community she's created and even the entire nation in which she lives. (It's a fairy tale. It could happen).  And although she gets her man at the end, there's another man waiting in the wings.  She isn't necessarily going to spend her life as Howl's consort.  It's really brilliantly done.  I could go on and on, because there's more, but I think I'm starting to gush.

It's also beautifully made.  The artwork is stunning.  I wish I could have seen it in the theater, but I'm not sure it ever came to our town, since it is a Foreign Film.  We don't hold with any of that furrin nonsense around here.  But it's so well dubbed in English that you'd never know.

And while I'm on the subject of the feminine archetype in films, I will also mention Prince of Persia.  It was one of the big summer blockbusters last summer.  The plot is kind of dumb--the whole thing is about learning who you can trust, but then at the end, time is turned back to the start of the movie, so all that stuff they learned about trust is gone, and they end up gazing into each other's eyes and saying, You'll just have to TRUST me.  It's almost comical.

But the stunts and special effects are cool (of course) and it has Jake Gyllenhaal, which I'm not going to complain about.  But the best thing about it is that it's the only blockbuster male action hero movie I can think of ever that takes the female sidekick seriously--at the end, the Jake Gyllenhaal character even pays homage to her as ruler of her people.  I can't exactly recommend it or you might come after me for two hours of a plot that is just plain lame, but if you don't mind that, it's worth a watch.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

letter to a young migraineur

(I'm trying this as a scheduled post.  If you're reading it, it must have worked!)

I recently read the blog of a young woman who suffers from chronic headaches.  It filled me with sympathy, because I've been there.  When MadMax was around 3, I had migraines 20-25 days per month.  It was horrible. You don't really live so much as just get through it.  I wasn't ever suicidal, but I did start to wonder after awhile, why am I even alive if I'm just going to feel miserable all the time?  what is the point of this?

So I was thinking about what changed, and if there was any advice I could give her.  None of it may apply; everyone is different and everyone's triggers are different.  But I'll give it a shot anyway.  Part of my problem was having a toddler.  I was just flat out exhausted most of the time.  You hear how awful the teen years are, but to me, they were a breeze compared to the 18-month- to-4-year-old stage.  I love having a houseful of teenagers.  Having a houseful of 3-year-olds.... oh, lord, I don't even want to think about it.

But she's childless, so that's no help.  I think the biggest thing that changed for me besides my kids getting older was changing my attitude.  While it was so bad, I tried all kinds of things --drugs (amitriptyline, prozac, paxil, topamax), herbal remedies (lavender, st johns wort, a couple of special headache blends), treatments (chiropractic, acupuncture, massage), diet/allergies (I tried eliminating dairy, wheat, cheese, wine, even chocolate (briefly)).  Nothing I tried was a silver bullet, but that was what I wanted.  I wanted to find something that would cure me so that I didn't have headaches anymore.  I thought feeling 100% awesome was the baseline, the way I "should" feel, and anything less than that meant that whatever I was doing wasn't working. 

But I've gradually come to believe differently.  What I've learned to do instead is whatever little things help.  Nothing is a silver bullet.  Nothing has cured me of my headaches.  I still have them (although usually only 2-6 per month now).  You look at my extended family, and we are a headache prone bunch.  I'll always have headaches.  I've come to see being headache-prone as normal for someone with my genetic makeup.  (Headaches, the new normal.) I just have to do what I can to minimize them.

The things that have helped?  getting off caffeine has been the biggest single thing.  It took several months before I was completely off it, and after awhile I noticed that I was having way less headaches.  Not zero, but that was when I dropped from 15-25 days per month down to about 8-10.  and the ones I had were much less severe.  I've already written about that plenty, so I'll spare the details.   Going through menopause has helped.  I'm not quite there yet, but it used to be that I could guarantee having 4-6 days of migraines every month with my cycle, and I've only had one stretch of 4 days in a row since that long stretch back in January.

You see what I mean?  Rather than thinking, I've had 20 headaches since the end of January, including 4 days in a row in March, and that is bad, so I might as well go back to drinking caffeine-- I think, I've "only" had a couple individual headaches per month and one 4-day stretch, and that is so much better than it used to be.  My intent here is not to be pollyanna-ish or to sat that the glass is half-full.  It's to accept the reality that I am going to have headaches, and do whatever I can to prevent them.

there are also a few tricks I've learned.  I drink lots of water.  I wear sunglasses whenever I'm outside.  I almost always have some kind of food with me so I don't get to that shaky-starving low blood sugar stage (which almost always results in a migraine).  I can have alcohol, even wine, if I take an aspirin beforehand (even a baby aspirin). (although that doesn't work for my older sister-- wine leads directly to a headache for her, no matter what she does).  I do see a chiropractor 1-2 times per month, although she is a non-traditional practitioner and almost never "cracks" my spine. I take magnesium and Co-Q10 supplements 2-3 times a week.  Any one of these individually made little or no difference, but they seem to add up.

I guess to sum it up, I'd say I switched to being pro-active about my health.  Before, it was almost as if I was lying back and waiting for something to come along and cure me.  Instead, I started doing whatever little things I could to feel better.  It seems to be working pretty well, since nowadays I rarely have more than 2-3 headaches per month.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

and I feel fine

So, maybe you've been surprised that I haven't posted about the whole Rapture thing last weekend.  and I did have a post half-written in my head.  But I couldn't make myself sit down and do it.  partly because I've pretty much said what I had to say on that topic.  The Rapture, the moment of Christ's return when true believers will be "caught up in the sky" to be with Him, has always been a little scary to me.  And it's used that way--as a scare tactic-- by evangelists.  The people who are left behind will suffer unimaginable tribulations (in fact, this predicted time is called "The Tribulation").

So ensuring that you would be spared those trials by being whisked off to heaven can be a pretty major selling point for the Christian faith.  Let's see.... eternal bliss while being reunited with the dear departed vs. plague, famine, war and slaughter.  (I know, I know.  The choice itself, the fact that any theology would even present such a choice, is horrendous.  You don't have to tell me.  I'm just telling you what I believed, and what I thought the people around me believed.  I can't speak for anyone else, this is just the way it came across.)

Nostalgic moment for life in the 70s:  there was even an eerie, emotional, extremely popular* song about it.  "A man in wife asleep in bed, he hears a noise and turns his head. she's gone.  I wish we'd all been ready.... two men walking up a hill, one man goes and one's left standing still.  I wish we'd all been ready."  (Ha, funny-- I did that from memory, then googled the lyrics, and in the real lyrics, it's the man who goes and the wife that's left behind. telling, yes?)  Here is another good line:  "There's no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you've been left behind..."  I knew that song by heart, and we sang it pretty often.  Ah, the old days.  There was also a movie-- I don't remember the name or anything about it except that there was a shot of a kitchen with the stand mixer running on the counter and no one there.  
*popular among Evangelicals, anyway.

But this morning something entirely different occurred to me.  Rather than seeing it as an apocalyptic moment, it occurred to me that the original germ of the idea probably came from Jesus's followers who were longing for his return, the moment of being reunited with their friend and beloved leader.  After all, their last view of him was his own Ascension ("he was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight," goes the story in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles).  Maybe originally the idea was not so much a selling point so that they could convert people through fear (as it often seems to be used now), but just a longing to see him again-- and since the sky was where they watched him go, that is where they looked for his return.  They weren't concerned about escaping future horrors since they were literally in the midst of persecution right then.

which requires taking the story of Jesus' ascension literally.  Nothing is ever simple.  The ascension has always fascinated me.  I read so much science fiction when I was a kid, I couldn't help but wonder if there was a spaceship up there and it was a "beam me up" kind of thing-- which makes me laugh now, but I was entirely serious about it as a 12-year-old.  I even wrote part of a short story about it once.

anyway.  just a thought.  or several of them.  As many have pointed out, no one can predict the Rapture, even if you believe in it.  The New Testament professor I had while I was still at an evangelical school told us that anyone who tries to predict Christ's return is already wrong, because the Gospel of Matthew says that no one knows the time.  The King James translates this as "no man," automatically cuing in my head Eowyn pulling off her helmet and saying "I am no man!"

I digress. I don't really have a point.  But I'm posting this anyway because I shiver with horror at the idea of someone happening across my blog for the first time and finding a post about dieting.  I need one on top of that, and this is what I was thinking about this morning.

(and p.s., you probably knew this, but the title comes from the REM song:  It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine....)

Friday, May 27, 2011

the four letter word, part 2

(apologies ahead of time to my two male readers.  sign off now.)
(In case you missed my last post on this topic, which was written last summer, the four letter word is diet.  For some reason I can't link to that post, so if you want to read it, go over to the labels and pick 4LetterWord, then scroll past this one to get to the old one.)

So, I'm not going to diet.  I already told you that I can't.  It just doesn't work.  I start obsessing about food, and I end up eating way more than I would if I didn't do anything at all.  I hate obsessing about my weight.  I hate the way our culture eggs us on to obsess about our weight.  I hate that we even have to think about it at all.

But I'm past the age where I can just eat what I want and assume it will be fine.  Up until a few years ago, I was lucky to have a good enough metabolism that I could do that.  I haven't been really thin since before I had kids, but I've never needed to lose more than 10 lbs or so.  But then I hit my mid-40s, and my metabolism slowed to a glacial crawl, and I started adding a couple of pounds every year.  And then I went back to school.

Last summer when I posted about this, I wanted to lose ten lbs--not 10 lbs to get back to some ideal state of thin-ness, but just to get back to someplace reasonably healthy.  Oh, how lovely was that day.  Because instead of losing, last fall, during the first semester of my master's program, I gained five pounds.  And then this semester, I gained another TEN.  In three months, I gained ten pounds.  So now I'm up 25-- not from my ideal weight, just from the "reasonably healthy" weight.  None of my clothes fit.  I had already, a couple of years ago, decided that I was just going to have to live with my increasing size, bought all new clothes, got rid of my old skinny clothes, and generally adjusted.  But this is just too much.  I've crept up smack dab into the middle of the overweight section of the BMI index (27-ish).  I can't buy an entire new wardrobe again.

But I can't diet.  So what to do?  The obvious, I guess.  Exercise more, eat less.  I've been working on this since the Monday after I got done with school.  I've sort of come up with a system.  The guidelines are (I can't say "rules" since that would offend the wordless one)(cue Geoffrey Rush "the code is more what you'd call guidelines"):  only eat when hungry.  don't eat after 8 p.m.  limit sweets (although fruit is fine, and I'm not worrying about a teaspoon of honey in my pero).  and I'm also trying to keep a food journal.  That's it. The exercise part of it I already described in that last post.

It actually was working pretty well, even though I had failed a couple of times on the "don't eat after 8 p.m." part.  When I weighed myself Thursday morning, I was down 3 lbs from the Monday a week and a half before.  But the problem is that things happen, you know?  Example- last night we went out for our anniversary.  We don't get dressed up and go out to a nice restaurant very often.  There was no way I was going to have a salad and a glass of water.  I didn't have bread, and I didn't have dessert (I was too full for dessert, anyway), but otherwise I ate a normal meal, and I had a greek martini (which was yum, by the way). 

So I woke up this morning feeling guilty and depressed and fat and ugly.  But as the day has gone by, I've recovered.  I'm not doing this so I can meet some absurd cultural standard, I'm doing it because my metabolism has slowed down and I need to adjust what I eat accordingly.  This isn't about losing weight so much as it is about changing my eating habits.  I need to eat less, and I especially need to eat less empty calories (sweets and junk food).  And I did eat less than I normally would have last night, so that's a win, right?

I'll try not to post about this very often, because I know it's a boring topic.  But I thought it might help keep me accountable to the new guidelines if I said it publicly, so here 'tis.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Riffday: catching up edition

Some of you will recognize the source of a couple of these.  I missed a lot while I was buried in school.

1.  On the difference between males and females.  I have one child of each variety, which may not make me an expert, but gives me good stories to tell.  They were/are both equally loud, equally dirty, equally active.  The most obvious difference?  If you have a slumber party of six 10-year-old girls and one of them farts, they will giggle and laugh hysterically and make fart jokes for 5 minutes or so, but then they MOVE ON.  If you have a slumber party with six 10-year-old boys and one of them farts, you can come back an hour later, and they will still be making fart noises and telling stupid potty jokes and laughing like loons.  Come back in another hour?  They're still at it.  I shared this bit of wisdom once when we were with several other couples, and one of the guys said, "Well, once you've reached the pinnacle of humor, where else is there to go?"  I think one might argue that they've reached the nadir or, um, the bottom.  But I wouldn't want to contribute to the lame humor, would I?

2.  On how prayer works.  I've said before that I have no idea how prayer works.  But I'll pass on something I heard Caroline Myss say in a videotape of hers I listened to years ago.  I have no idea whether or not it's true, but I find it intriguing. She said that every time you do something generous or helpful or selfless, you build up a surplus of positive karmic energy.  Sort of like making a deposit in a savings account.  So then when you want to pray for somebody, you have this psychic bank account that you can draw on to distribute positive energy to people or situations you care about.  Interesting, yes?  There's no way to know whether or not she's right, but I like it.  Of course, once you've heard this, if you do something selfless in order to increase your psychic savings account, is it still selfless?

3.  I think I owe an apology to people who are really seriously dealing with friends and relatives who have Asperger's or OCD.  I tease about them, and I do have a few of the symptoms-- especially of Asperger's. And I do believe, based on working in the Special Services office of a school for several years and watching them diagnose kids, that when I was pre-school-ish kindergarten-ish that I would have been diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum.  I was hyperlexic, hyper-introverted, and hyper-sensitive.  But I don't seriously have to deal with it, especially not OCD.  I don't mean to make light of what is a very serious situation for those who do.

4.  I read an article once about a kid with sensory integration issues--which is fairly common among people on the autism spectrum, it has to do with difficulties in learning how to sort through all the sensory data that is thrown at us every second.  This kid was probably seven or so, and his mom related how difficult it used to be to get him dressed, because everything felt too tight and he just wanted it all off.  After working with an occupational therapist, he was able to tolerate wearing clothes because he figured out that (for example), his underwear only felt too tight at first.  If he waited a few minutes, the too-tight feeling would go away.  In other words, sometimes you can get used to your panties being too tight.  Take this bit of wisdom as you will.  I've been thinking about it quite a bit recently.

5.  Cheery-o sent me a book a couple of years ago about forgiveness.  Being a hyper-sensitive sort, it is easy for me to get offended or to get my feelings hurt over little things, and then I just don't know what to do with it.  You can't make a big thing out of a little thing, it leaves you with no friends.  The author of this book (Lewis Smedes) said (I think in the very first chapter), sometimes you don't have to forgive people.  Sometimes you can just let it go.  (silence) (insert pause here)....  (insert another pause....)  (light bulb goes on over my head)  You CAN?  REALLY?  It was news to me, a true life changing moment.  You can just let the little things go.  Who knew?  For those of you who don't have a problem with this, that probably sounds horrible.  All I can say is, I'm better about it now.  And dh is still with me, making him a candidate for sainthood.

I've told you before that I write this blog for me, and this post is proof of it.  I was really struggling with a certain issue when I sat down to type, and by the time I got to the end, I had worked it out. or at least worked out a new perspective on it. *sigh* love that.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reading Report-unplugged week

The Help - Kathryn Stockett.  This one and the next have been so widely read and reviewed that I don't know if I have much to add.  It's good.  There were some things about the writing that were interesting to me, making me wish I knew someone I could ask about creating characters.  It seemed at times that they were place holders rather than separate, distinct characters-- as if Stockett had said to herself, OK, now Hilly needs a positive character trait, so I'll show her interacting with her children.  OK, I need an employer-maid pair that really love each other, so I'll put these two in.  But it's not enough to detract from the story, or to take away from the importance of what is said.

For all of us who lived in the South and are more than 40 years old, it brings back memories of things we don't necessarily want to remember.  How wrong it was, but how entirely entrenched it was, and how scary-impossible it felt to change anything.  In case you haven't heard about it, it's the story of a number of white and African American women in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s-- the black women work for the white women, and their relationships are complex and disturbing.  The women in the book are my mother's generation, but I was old enough to see.  We didn't have a maid--we weren't in a high enough income bracket for that--but we did have a series of black women that came in and cleaned for us once a week.  They never did childcare, though, so it was a little different, but maybe not much-- maybe not as much as I wish it was. 

I started the book with a sense of dread, that I would come to love these African American women and horrible things would happen to them.  I wouldn't be able to deny the truth of it or the reality of it, but I didn't want to read about it.  But Stockett did a really nice job of showing the reality of how bad it was without dragging her characters through graphic horrors.  Even though it would have been fair for her to do it.  I'm just glad she didn't.  And I should probably be a little bit ashamed about that. Entirely worth reading, if only to bear witness.

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen.   It's good.  It's worth reading, especially for the recreation of the world of the traveling circus a hundred years ago.  She did a lot of research, and it shows in many realistic details.  But now I will proceed to gripe about it.

**Spoiler Alert** I'm not giving away anything major but if you are one of the few people who haven't read this, and you like to approach a book with a completely clean slate, skip down to the paragraph that starts with "Savvy."**  Until I took a creative writing class last spring, I had never heard that prologues in novels were a bad thing.  I've read books that had them and I never really noticed them enough to think that they were good or bad, although sometimes I skimmed impatiently through them.  Since that class, I've read several discussions of this on writing blogs, and I sort of see their point.  It can be lazy writing, a way of doing "info-dump" without having to figure out how to fit it seamlessly into the main narrative of the story.

But still prologues didn't bother me as a reader.  Until this book.  This prologue bugged me, not because it was lazy writing, but because it was manipulative writing.  The prologue in this book is foreshadowing-- a description of a murder that will occur at the end of the book.  When you get to it the second time, it is retold in more detail.  In the prologue, Gruen leads you to believe character A committed the murder, when in fact it was character B.  The changed scene is not a huge surprise-- by halfway through the novel, I was thinking to myself, well, it shouldn't be A that kills him, it should be B.  So you sort of know.  But it just struck me as a really odd choice for an author.  Why would you want to purposely mislead your readers?  It felt manipulative and insincere to me, and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  But I still think it's worth reading.  The recreation of a moment in American history is fascinating.

Savvy - Ingrid Law.  Even though my kids are too old to read kid books anymore, I still enjoy the good ones, and this is one of them.  First, what didn't work (borrowing from Lora).  The voice of the narrator, a 13-year-old girl named Mibs Beaumont, is really irritating.  I think it would have irritated me even when I was 12, but that was so long ago it's hard to say for sure.  She has a sing-songy way of speaking with internal rhymes and double words ("I felt a tad vulnerable being a jig shy of jaybird-naked in a suit that better suited someone older") that would feel more appropriate for a tall tale or a folktale than it does here.

Another part of the problem with the language is that Law makes up words for the plot that are a little cutesy.  In the Beaumont family, everyone develops some sort of special gift that displays itself for the first time on their 13th birthday.  Rocket can create sparks and electrical currents; Fish taps into the weather.  The gift is called a "savvy" and learning to control it is learning to "scumble."  So there are several conversations about scumbling your savvy that make you roll your eyes.  But I know that wouldn't have bothered me when I was 12, because think of all those science fiction books I read that had all kinds of made-up words for fancy science fiction stuff.  So I will just shut up about that.

But language aside, I loved this book. It opens on Mibs' 13th birthday, and the story of figuring out her "savvy" is the story of the book.  Her father has been in a very serious car accident and is in a coma in an ICU in another town.  She wants to get there to be with him and her mom (who is staying with him at the hospital), but also so she can help him with her new gift.  She hijacks a pink bus and gradually gathers a motley collection of friends old and new.  When her gift turns out to be something that she thinks isn't going to do him any good, she has to struggle with disappointment that she didn't get something spectacular like her brothers.

Law has many wise things to say about learning to value yourself when yourself isn't who you want to be.  She isn't subtle about it; the moral of the story practically hits you over the head at times.  But this is kid fiction, and subtlety is not necessary.  and it spoke to me as an almost-50-year-old who still has self-esteem issues at times--and if you're still working on it at this age, sometimes you need a 2x4.  This is a fun, lovely book, and better yet-- it comes with a sequel already in print.  and p.s. there is some not especially overt religious stuff in here-- the characters attend church, and the preacher's kids are two of the main characters--but it never becomes obnoxious.  I hope you know me well enough by now to know that that would be a deal breaker for me.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


well, I'm so far behind I don't know when the heck I'll catch up.  I've seen enough little hints of things on Facebook and Twitter to know I missed things and it's killing me, but ohmygosh do I have too much to do.  I don't even want to think about how much I have to do, which is why I'm sitting here instead of doing it.

So I will tell you about trap shooting.  You know, when we moved out here, we'd been living on the East coast for nine years in an ultra-liberal university town, and we were card-carrying liberals.  We still are, but we're a lot more thoughtful about it these days, because you can't live in a community of good-hearted, responsible, hard-working capital-C-with-italics Conservative people and not develop a sense of respect for their point of view. Especially when they outnumber you about 12-to-1, so you are surrounded, inundated by their opinions at every turn.

Anyway.  One of the issues I've had to change my mind about is hunting.  when we moved here, I was opposed to hunting, because most of the hunting I'd been exposed to at that point was trophy hunting-- rich guys from the city who use antlers in all of their decorating.  But now we live in Montana.  When we moved here, the median income in our county was $17K.  People hunt to fill their freezers.  I've lightened up.  This is one of many issues that is more complex than I knew when we moved here.

So when MadMax started showing a huge fascination with guns and the whole hunting scene when he was about ten, I gulped, swallowed my pride, and insisted that he take the hunter safety class before we let him anywhere near a gun (I didn't have to insist much, since dh felt the same way).  He took the class as soon as he was old enough, got his license, and now he has two seasons under his belt.  I'm not thrilled about it, and I sure as hell am not mounting any antlers over our fireplace, but there are considerably worse ways teenagers can spend their free time.  And the local hunters-- the good, responsible ones, of which there are many-- are a pretty good, decent bunch of guys.  and women, too.

But what he likes better than hunting is shooting clays, trap shooting, whatever you want to call it.  You have a spring-mounted device that hurls disks made out of clay up into the air, and you shoot at them.  MadMax is scary good at it.  Well, it's scary to me, anyway.  He was in a trap shooting league this winter, and his first time ever he was second or third best on the team. 

so yesterday, dh and MadMax asked me if I wanted to go trap shooting with them.  They've asked before, but I always had a paper to write, or hundreds of pages to read, or it was freezing (I'm definitely a fair weather outdoors person).  But yesterday none of those things were true, so off we went.  We put hearing protection in our ears (little orange spongy things), and dh and MadMax put on their shooting goggles (I am almost never outdoors without my sunglasses so i already had eye protection).  And you know what?  It was really fun.

It takes a surprisingly short amount of time to work your way through four boxes of shells and a two-thirds full case of clays.  We were only there a little over an hour, and we spent at least as much time picking up unbroken clays and spent shells as we did shooting.  I was very impressed with how careful they were about gun safety, especially with me, a complete greenhorn, around.  I took four shots and on the fourth one, I hit it.  I think my eyes were closed, so it was an entirely lucky shot, but don't tell dh that.  I'm done, I've retired with a lifetime career shooting average of 25%.  I'm thinking that's pretty sweet.

and can I just add in one little whine here that we went straight from cool, drizzly, rainy, sleety not-spring into warm, muggy, real Spring and the mosquitoes were THICK.  It's just not fair.  We should have had at least a week or two of nice weather without mosquitoes.  Really.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I am way behind on posting, and way behind on reading all my favorite blogs, but first things first.  MadMax and I are having unplugged week starting tomorrow.  So officially speaking we each get 20 minutes a day to do e-mail and whatever else needs to be done, but other than that, we are technology free.  Wish me luck.  I'm going to have to cheat some because I have to make some reservations for our trip, but I'll do my best to stick to the rules. 

I would tell you some enormously interesting, highly scintillating bit of news or wisdom or something, except that my brain is like a dead fish.  I got nothin.  I turned in my final paper yesterday afternoon about 3:30 (hour and a half to spare, you'll note), drove back home, and collapsed.  Unfortunately I was so wired last night I couldn't sleep.  I was still awake somewhere around 3.  So NOW I'm crashing.  I'm off to bed, and will become replugged sometime a week from now.  Hope y'all have a great week. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

the wordless one

Since we don't live near our families, we travel.  I love to travel.  I can't imagine a trip that I wouldn't enjoy.  But I hate to fly.  Mainly because it's a huge migraine trigger.  Get on a plane, get off with a migraine. I could tell stories here, because travel migraines often involve losing one's lunch.  But I'll spare you.  And then there's the whole dislocation thing, too-- I'm out of my usual place.  and worry about missing flights or lost luggage or misplacing a kid.  Just little things, you know.

So I get stressed before we travel.  And I'm a little OCD, as we've discussed before, so I'm a stickler for everything being packed Just. So. I mean: JUST. SO.  If you're feeling pity for my poor beleaguered spouse right now, you're right.  He has learned to just go to bed and let me do my thing.  It is taking me a really long time to get to the point here.

So once when I was probably in my early 30s, I was lying awake before we had an early flight in the morning and I could not go to sleep.  It kept getting later and later, 2:30, 3:00, and I was just lying there wide awake.  I tried all my insomnia tricks-- muscle relaxation, getting up for a bit and going back to bed, clearing my mind, meditation-- but nothing was working.  And I finally realized that what it felt like was that there was some other part of me, some part of me that had control of my physical body but that I had no conscious control of.  That part of me was terrified.  Terrified I would oversleep and miss the flight, terrified of flying, terrified of getting a migraine, terrified of being out of her comfort zone.  She was lying there, completely panicked, and there just wasn't much I could do about it.

I've come to know her a little better over the years.  I call her the wordless one.  She's almost like an animal, a small-ish beast.  I can't control her.  I can't make her do something she doesn't want to do.  She shows up most often when she/I am scared.  I'm afraid of heights, so that's one pretty reliable way of bringing her out.  My conscious brain isn't afraid of heights:  I can look up at the roof of the house and I'm quite sure it's not going to bother me.  but then I get up the ladder and look down and suddenly there she is--the wordless one.  She doesn't know how to say what she's feeling, but she is terrified, dizzy, vertiginous.

She comes out when I try to diet.  She absolutely refuses to diet.  I can manage OK if I work on healthy eating, or if I remind myself not to eat if I'm not hungry, but if I try to go on an actual, literal diet?  She is not having it.  I will suddenly find myself in front of the cabinet cramming food in my mouth, twice the amount of food I would normally eat without a diet.  There is no conscious thought behind it, no plan, it's like a compulsion.  The wordless one, my own internal beast.

I've also discovered recently that she comes into play when I'm trying to write.  She does not like the papers I've been working on for the last two weeks.  She doesn't want to participate.  I'm not sure what her role is when I'm writing, but it must be something important, because without her, I'm getting nowhere. 

The only thing that seems to help is acknowledging her presence.  I sit with her.  She doesn't speak.  I let her know she is important to me.  I'm not sure why, or how this works.  I just know if she's not happy, I'm not happy.  She wanted me to write this post.  I told you it was crazy. But I'm doing it, because I need her. 

Saturday, May 07, 2011

riffday: a break from writing papers

MadMax threw a discus 94 feet on Friday.  I still can't quite get over how far that thing goes.  He came in second among the seventh graders-- first place was over 100 feet.  On the downside, I almost froze my patootie off watching him.  The thermometer said 58, but it felt considerably colder since it was damp and breezy.  ugh.

But I should announce:  we have green grass now.  Just thought you'd want to know.  Progress is being made.  We've also had two or three more days of gorgeous weather, but today it is rainy and cool, although less windy.  There's still snow on the mountains and will be for another month or so.

Headaches are back, but only 1-2 a week.  Still a bummer, though, because I went over a month without one.  Whenever I go awhile without one, I always think I'm cured and I'll never have another one.  Every time.  But I'm always wrong, dammit.

And neatly segueing from headaches to caffeine.  I know at least a couple of you have also been trying to cut down on caffeine, so I will pass this on.  I've finally found some replacement drinks for coffee. If you're only newly-weaned from coffee, these won't cut it.  It took a year of being off coffee to be able to seriously consider other drinks.  I haven't really taken to decaf coffee or black tea, mainly because they still have caffeine in them, but also because they don't taste as good as the caffeinated versions, so I end up just being resentful that I can't have the real thing.

First of all, Twinings Pure Peppermint tea.  Bigelow's is good, too, but Twinings is the best.  It's one of the few hot drinks I've found that I can drink without added sweetener. (Also, it comes in K-cups for our Keurig.)  Secondly, Ginger Honey crystals.  I'm getting addicted to these.  I first discovered them in the little market at the student center at the school I attend.  I actually like them better than peppermint tea, but they do have a fair amount of honey in them so I try not to drink it all the time (a packet has 70 calories).  They have real ginger in them, so there's a bit of a burn, which almost makes them as interesting as coffee's bitterness, even though it's completely different.  And third, Pero.  It's not great, but with milk and a bit of honey, I can drink it.  If I just want something hot and bitter in the morning, Pero is my go-to.

The subject of whether or not to blog book reviews came up again last week on the blogs I read (Hi, Judy!), which made me realize that I never updated after my previous post on the topic.  I finally decided that I am OK with blogging my honest opinion about the books I read. First of all, it's one of the main reasons I started this blog seven years ago, so I would have someplace to talk about the books I read, since I bore everyone senseless at social occasions if I don't get it out somewhere.

Secondly, I have so few readers that I can't imagine that I'm really going to hurt anyone's feelings by posting my thoughts.  I occasionally get google search flags in the sources on my stats page, but I think that's only happened three times in the year or so since they've started providing statistics.  I figure a) I don't have enough readers for them to worry about me turning anyone off of their books, and b) if they're looking that hard, they must really want to know what people think, thus they should get my honest opinion.  Why would they want to read just another sycophantic review of how awesome their book is?  Well, OK that was a dumb question.  If it was me, I could never read enough reviews telling me how great my book is.  But maybe you get my point.

But having said that, I should also note that you never hear about-- well, I've never counted, but I'll guess that I never mention about a quarter of the books I read.  I only write up a book review if it's something I want to recommend, or if I think the negative review would be interesting to read.  I don't review a book that's just bad because it's not worth the time-- unless for some reason it is bad in a way that would be interesting to write about.  Or therapeutic, in the case of a book that really disappointed me.  And in that case, it's sort of a back-handed compliment-- either my previous experience with the author's writing has been good, or the book had so much promise that it was frustrating to have it not be as good as I wanted it to be.

OK, I think I've exhausted that topic now. Back to the papers.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

skip this one

Just a quick one to tell you that I'm sunk deep in paper writing and will be back in about ten days.  I would write the panicked post about how much I hate the end of the semester, but I've already done that enough times now that it is boring.  So.  You know the drill.  I'm panicked.  But it will all get done and then.... summer