• Writing

    Wednesday Words: authenticity

    I will write about you.

    To be specific, I will write about how my experiences with you influenced me as a person.

    Same goes for dragons. If one showed up in my back yard it would be a safe bet that I’d be writing about dragons.

    Experiences with humans and dragons – both great things to write about.

    •    •    •    •    •

    I enjoy reading the author bio on the inside of a book jacket where it gives a few interesting facts about the author. Often the setting of the book is near or where the author lives.

    The streets they drive on, the coffee shop they stop at, the people they know –  all parts of their story. So why would it not influence their work?

    If they have found their authentic writing voice, you can count on an author drawing from their life experiences to tell their own story.

    In our home, we talk a good deal about our stories. Everyone has a story to tell and they own that story – no one else. For example, I will never write about a family member’s struggle with depression.

    But I will write about what it’s like to parent in that situation. That is my perspective and unique experience.

    •    •    •    •    •

    Lately, I have struggled with writing. In an attempt to suppress feelings and experiences so that they did not make an appearance in my words, I lost the authenticity that makes the words flow onto a page.

    But as I write this, I am moving past that obstacle. If someone chooses to take my writing and make the words about them, perhaps they need to make an appointment with their conscience.

    Their guilt is calling.

    There is also a good chance that I’m not writing about a specific situation or person but rather a collective pile of emotions. I am not willing to give a single person that kind of power over my life or my writing. Unless you’re a dragon, of course.

    And if so, let’s talk.

    I write for myself and for the shared experiences of others. If one person reads and feels less alone, acknowledged, encouraged, or amused then my writing has fulfilled my intent.

    So I will write about you – for the sake of authenticity.

    Until the dragon shows up. Then everyone will be off the hook because it will be all dragons all the time.

  • Book Reviews,  Feminism,  Writing

    Shrill: a loud book review

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    Three years ago I sat in my car, in my driveway, listening to an old This American Life podcast. It was featuring a young woman working for an online publication who confronted her boss via email after his rant/article was published about fat women and the obesity epidemic. He never responded so she posted her own article.

    Listening to her read her writing brought tears to my eyes. I am not a crier but there I was because I felt her exhaustion from the endless pursuit to measure up to what men, women, society, the media, and internet trolls believe you should look like. People are cruel but unlike me, this young woman put herself out there online – it was her job.

    •     •     •     •

    I purchased Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman because I had seen several people talking about the book on Instagram. After a few hilarious pages in, I realized that Lindy West was the young woman from the podcast that brought me to tears.

    First, the hilarity:

    Why is, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ the go-to small talk we make with children? ‘Hello, child. As I have run out of compliments to pay you on your doodling, can you tell me what sort of niche you plan to carve out for yourself in the howling existential morass of uncertainty known as the future? … The answer was ballerina, or, for a minute, veterinarian, as I had been erroneously led to believe that ‘veterinarian’ was the grown-up term for ‘professional animal-petter’. I would later learn, crestfallen and appalled, that it’s more a term for ‘touching poo all the time featuring intermittent cat murder,’ so the plan was abandoned. (The fact that ANY kid wants to be a veterinarian is bananas, – by the way, whoever does veterinary medicine’s PR amoung preschool aged children should be working in the fucking White House.) Lindy West, Shrill

    But soon after that, West takes a hard right and tackles some of the toughest issues facing women today. Abortion, rape culture, fat-shaming, bullying, discrimination, misogyny, death, and grief – just to name more than a few.

    Her writing is raw, angry, and vulgar, but with touches of fantastic humor along the way. I stopped a few times wondering if these extremes were necessary, mainly because I was  hoping to let my 14-year-old daughter, Chaney, read this book. Spoiler: I’m not going to let her but I’ll be sharing passages with her.

    But back to the necessity – yes, it is necessary. Our culture and the world we are raising our daughters and sons in is that toxic. When our president is spewing taunts via Twitter at the suffering people of California in the midst of historic and horrific wildfires – yes, it is that toxic and necessary.

    •     •     •     •

    Necessary. I thought about our advice to Chaney in January after being assaulted at school. The old advice of kick them in the balls goes out the window when you are a tiny 14 year old girl and you are cornered, out of view, with no way out, and there is over a foot in height and 100 lb differential between him and her.

    Our advice to her if any other situation where she felt threatened should happen: SCREAM AND SCREAM PROFANITIES OVER AND OVER UNTIL YOU GET AWAY, HE BACKS DOWN, OR HELP ARRIVES. AND THEN SCREAM SOME MORE. Why would we, fairly typical parents, tell our daughter to curse loudly in public?

    Because people pay attention when a small, young woman is screaming profanity.

    Why? Because we are expected to be sweet, ladylike, compliant, quiet, and non confrontational, all with a smile. That is the gender norm. Something has to be wrong if she’s spewing profanity. So pay attention when you hear women like Lindy West.

    •     •     •     •

    When West is crass and profane, I don’t mind. Because it gets people’s attention. It is outside the norm of expected female behavior and whether you like it or you don’t, she grabs your attention to address issues that are that toxic.

    A recurrent theme throughout the book is Lindy living life as what the world would call “fat”. She’s in good health, she is smart, funny, and beautiful but that doesn’t matter to some – especially the internet trolls who have been absolutely relentless in their bullying of her. Death threats, rape threats, and the worst – a troll impersonating her father who had passed away. They were all means of harrassment. I honestly don’t know how she has endured so much of the vileness that the internet, and even some celebrities, have to offer.

    Lindy is an excellent writer and there wasn’t a part of this book that I did not enjoy. One of my favorite parts was when she took on comedy and comedians and their perpetuation of rape culture by making rape “jokes” a regular part of their comedy routines. I can’t believe I even had to type that.

    Her honesty is refreshing and we need more books like this one and Meaty. I truly hope that the paradigm begins to shift with this next generation but until then, I’ll be over here not being afraid to be shrill.

  • Lists,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: the thankful edition

    Thanksgiving is the low pressure holiday: you cook, get together with people you enjoy being around, eat, watch football, and contemplate what you are thankful for. Easy stuff.

    I know I’m in the minority but it’s my favorite holiday.

    Today’s Top Ten is simple – what I’m thankful for. There are so many more than just ten and these are not necessarily my top ten because this list is fluid. I.E. my dogs may not make today’s list because they have been super naughty lately but ask me again next week and they might be at the top of the list.

    Here goes!

    1. My family – We have gone through so much this year and we have come out on the other side closer, more understanding, and we grew as humans together.
    2. HealthMental health in particular. There were days that I honestly didn’t know how we were going to make it to the next. Trauma is tricky thing but here we are, stronger and healthier.
    3. Resources – We are gainfully employed and have what we need; including books to read.
    4. Writing – Having a place here to write has been particularly helpful. I’m thankful that I found writing again and that it became a new way to express myself.
    5. Little things – One day I’ll tell you about what Chaney told me she used to think the library street sign was. It was hilarious and as I found myself laughing with her this past Saturday, I was keenly aware of how great it was to laugh at something small and silly.
    6. Hobbies – I obviously love to read. I also enjoy knitting. I had to give up quilting due to space several years ago but that’s about to change. I’m thankful to have artistic and creative outlets that I enjoy. Ten years ago I would have told you that I wasn’t creative at all.
    7. Time – The time I get to spend with my family is precious. Maybe it’s just because our kids are getting older but that has a way of making you acutely aware of how fast time flies. I’m grateful for the time we have to spend together and with our extended families.
    8. Change – For those who know me, they are probably laughing. But this year has been a year of change and I am grateful. It hasn’t always been easy and I know the changes aren’t finished but for the first time, I’m finding myself able to embrace change and look forward to the future – even when there are unknowns.
    9. Steve – My husband is my rock. He makes me laugh, he listens, he loves, and he’s my biggest supporter. Our family would not be where we are without him. Even when I lose my shit, he’s a pretty cool guy.
    10. Ok fine, my dogs – Buddy and Gus are old (11 & 12) but they act like puppies. That’s challenging because every day we think that they might start acting their ages. But no, every day they prove us wrong by doing something funny, ridiculous, sweet, mischievous, or crazy.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving and don’t forget to check out the rest of Top Ten Tuesday on Artsy Reader Girl!

  • Book Reviews,  Writing

    Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – a book review

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    Have you ever read a book and felt like you were reading a letter from a friend? Or listened to an audiobook and it seemed like a long conversation with a friend who moved away?

    That is what a book by Anne Lamott feels like. A letter from an old friend.

    I had been living under a rock because it took Amazon suggesting this book, after loading other books in my cart, for me to figure out who Anne was. Sure, I had seen some of her quotes floating around the interwebs but I didn’t realize she wrote books – really good books.

    November is probably my toughest month depression-wise. Everything is dying around me and even though fall comes every single year, it takes it’s bite out of me before winter comes. Couple that with some some other stressful situations completely out of my control and you get this super-fun November 2018.

    I try a lot of different things to feel better, most of them healthy, and I’m thankful that I started this blog a few months ago because writing for it has been one of the things to keep me afloat this month.

    I wrote last week about NaNoWriMo and that is going well so there’s another bright spot in the Month of Dead Leaves. In my preparation for it, I bought a few books on writing because let’s face it – I’m a numbers person with a degree in economics & finance. I sure sound super fun and interesting.

    Anne has very unique writing voice which is what made it feel conversational for me.

    Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and your shitty first draft. … Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

    Girl, I know. About the the perfectionism and people from California (like my husband).

    See what I mean?

    This book was about the writing process but wove in life, hard lessons, family, friends, and even religion. I appreciated her take on writing because it felt like a manual on writing for people who have a million things going on besides waking up, making coffee, and sitting down for the day to write: see yesterday’s post as exhibit 562.

    Her methods of observing life and capturing those moments have become a part of my daily thoughts and it’s made these tough weeks a little more fun and interesting.

    The last chapter was my favorite and I had my husband pausing a football game so I could read to him. He really loved it. No really, he did.

    The basics were this: avoid libel by changing details in your writing with the last detail being a tiny appendage. No one is coming forward claiming it was written about them if they have to admit to that last little part.

    I enjoyed this book immensely and I have since read another one of her books, Stitches, which I’ll review soon. Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who is interested in writing and would enjoy a perspective from an author who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

    And that tiny appendage part? Since I read it to him, my husband and I have laughed multiple times about that and who I could write about.

    See, I told you that he loved it.

  • Writing

    Wednesday Words: the Karen edition

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    Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

    You know the old advice of wearing clean underwear just in case you’re in an accident? It’s next level when you just throw a sweatshirt on over your pajama shirt and leave the house.

    It starts off like any other day. Coffee and taking Chaney to school.

    Except it isn’t. I have precisely two days a year that everyone in my house goes to school or work but I’m off for a bank holiday. This is one of those rare days so I am wearing my pajamas for school drop off. I have big dreams of writing at home in my PJ’s all day. Alone.

    I make it home unscathed and celebrate by finishing a book. I’ll spare you all the details but while I was making breakfast my dogs managed to tear into a fifty pound Amazon box that contained their food. It was sitting in our study; the place I was going to write in peace all day.

    Dog food everywhere and a box that I cannot move means that my day is changing. I clean up the food and get ready to go out in public. Yes, this time I put a on a bra AND lip gloss.

    I head to Barnes & Noble and set myself up at a table. I order my coffee and decide writing here isn’t going to be so bad.

    Now someone is talking. We’ll call her Jane. She’s asking me if I can move because her group always sits at the table I’m currently occupying.

    Um sure, Jane.

    I certainly don’t want to start something at my local B&N. And maybe it’s a book club. That would make sense. They’re retired. It’s their routine.

    I move one table over and unpack again. By this time Jane, Cathy, and Sue have gathered and ordered their coffee.

    Karen is late. Jane finds this strange because Karen is never late but what a way to start their meeting – with one of them late.

    Definitely a book club. I wonder what book they will be discussing? This could be fun.

    Late Karen shows up. She explains that she was cooking a turkey and had to carve it.

    What?

    Jane, Cathy, and Sue share my confusion. Thanksgiving is 10 days away.

    All eyes are on Karen now as she explains that yes, she cooked and sliced the turkey today. It’s sitting out and cooling while she’s at this “meeting”. Once room temperature, she freezes the meat and then defrosts it Thanksgiving morning; her family has never noticed.

    KAREN.

    I fully admit to looking over at Karen with disdain. I am not alone in my outrage because, food safety. I take a moment to silently judge while her trio of friends all start talking at once.

    They are loud and hen pecking comes to mind.

    I stop writing and start reading a book. It’s easier to eavesdrop while reading the same page over and over.

    The scolding of Karen finally stops when her coffee is ready and she jumps when her name is called to pick it up. The conversation shifts to their Facebook feeds and did you see what so and so posted?

    Sue likes Facebook for finding recipes and now they are talking about recipes for Thanksgiving.

    Two things: I did not give up my table for a book club. And this recipe discussion is not going to go well for Karen.

    Sue tells everyone about a sweet potato dish that she made last year. Jane comments that it sounds wonderful and probably freezes well.

    JANE.

    I almost spit out my coffee and I know it’s time to go. As I’m packing up Jane thanks me for moving.

    Oh, I’m so glad I did and I’m so happy that I put on a bra for this.

    I smile and wish them a happy Thanksgiving.

    And good luck to you and your family, Karen. Because Jane is putting this shit on Facebook.

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