Are you happy?: A book review

I just finished reading a book that I just HAD to tell you about.  I was browsing the library shelves when I saw Happy Housewives by Darla Shine.  The front of the book says “I was a whining, miserable. desperate Housewife- But I Finally Snapped Out of It . . . You Can, Too!”  See, why I had to get it?  I would read it, report back, and then we would all have fun making fun of it.  Brilliant.

Except half way though I realized, except for one of two things, she actually made some sense.  Well, that went that post.

You know me.  I’m not miserable.  Usually.  Unless I’m puking and peeing at the same time because I’ve been poisoned by proestrogen.  Unless I’m sick.  Unless the boys decide to try to cage fight; while I’m too tired to care and busy trying to get dinner on.  But on the whole, I’m a happy . . . homemaker?  Really, I don’t know if there’s a title I like. 

As I read Shine, I realized she wasn’t really talking to me at first.  She started talking to the upper-class moms who stay at home with the kids but have a nanny and/or cleaning lady.  We’ve all heard about them, and we’ve all heard about their complaining.  Really, Shine tells them to fire the help and do it themselves.  My grandma would say these women were just too bored and needed to work to stop whining.

But as the book went on, I realized she was talking to all moms.  She talked about enjoying your house because that’s where you stay all day, making it a place you want to be.  Shine wrote about how moms need to take care of themselves, feel good about themselves, encouraging our kids through our example of being healthy adults.  She encouraged moms to have a social life, to have hobbies, to have some me time.  Really, that’s what so many stay-at-home moms need, a balance between mom, wife and woman.  And I agreed with her and stopped making fun of when she wrote about fixing your lipstick before your husband comes home.

While at first, I couldn’t stand her writing style of breaking out of “character” to tell me she needed to do something for one of the kids.  I’m a trained writer, so I saw it as poor writing skills, but I then realized she was just being a mom, showing her street cred, if you will.  How many times are we talking to someone on the phone and have to ask for a minute to deal with a kid issue?  My only problem became that she dropped this style three-fourths into the book.  She should have taken it through to the end.

Since I can’t leave it all rainbows and sunshine, I will criticize some of her suggestions.  Like throwing out all your clothes that are older than a year, so that you always have a fresh wardrobe.  That must be nice when you’re rich, but most of us can’t do that.  Or the fact that she says that all houses should have a playroom with a door, so you can shut the door on the mess.  At one point, I could I hide the toys in a kiddie corner, hidden by the couch, but now in my itty, bitty house, the toys are taking over.  (Send reinforcements if I ever miss three days in a row because it means a regime change of the toys.)

But the best part, that I actually tossed the book down so I could call my BFF and howl with laughter with someone, is when Shine talked about her healthy eating.  Talking about Susan Powter’s books, Shine writes, “She gives oatmeal as one example.  She says everyone thinks oatmeal is a healthy food, but have you ever heard of an oat tree?”  Well, no, I haven’t, but that’s because oats grow on grasses like wheat.

So if you’re browsing and in the mood for some light reading to encourage you through your path of stay-at-home motherhood, I suggest you pick up Darla Shine’s Happy Housewives.  Just take some of it with a grain of salt.

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Book Quiz

Thanks to Ink at Inktopia and Robin at Passions and Soapboxes.  I decided to take this quiz.  And look at this.  I always new I was a bit schizophrenic.  I guess it’s time I read this book because I’ve been meaning to for years.


You’re The Poisonwood Bible!

by Barbara Kingsolver

Deeply rooted in a religious background, you have since become both
isolated and schizophrenic. You were naively sure that your actions would help people,
but of course they were resistant to your message and ultimately disaster ensued. Since
you can see so many sides of the same issue, you are both wise beyond your years and
tied to worthless perspectives. If you were a type of waffle, it would be
Belgian.


Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!

Evan: Mommy, are you ever certain there’s a ghair on your chair?

 

Me: (washing dishes without looking up) Sometimes.

 

Evan: Mommy, is there a ghair on your chair?

 

Me: (looking up to see Evan draped on the top of my wing-backed chair) Why, I do believe there is a ghair on my chair.

 

*an hour later*

The boys are watching TV, and I read my book.

 

Evan: Is there a ghair on your chair?

 

Me: (looking up, smiling) Yes, there is a ghair on the chair.

 

Evan: Is that a bofa on the sofa?

 

Me: (Realizing I’m the only one on the sofa) Yes, I’m the bofa on the sofa.

 

Evan: Do you ever get the feeling there’s a B.T. watching T.V?

 

Me: (Looking at Sean, standing, mesmerized by Kai-Lan) Yes, I do have the feeling there’s a B.T. watching TV.

 

*a few days later and several more ghairs on the chairs*

 

Evan: Mommy.  There’s a sick ghair on your chair.

 

Me: I know, big guy, and he’ll be well soon.

 

 

 

“I don’t care

If you believe it.

That’s the kind of house

I live in.

And I hope

We never leave it.”

-Dr. Seuss

 

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Moving the Library

According to iBooks, I own 253 books.  That does not include the reference books, like Thesauruses, Dictionaries, parenting books, and palmistry books.  It also does not include the dozen or so of cookbooks or the text books I plan to read one day.  (Ink: In my defense, I only dropped lit crit because the original professor, who believed you can only understand it through doing it in one massive paper, grew very ill and had to drop teaching, only to be replaced by a pompous ass, but I swear I’ll read the book.)  Nor does it include several titles that the system says does not exist. (Honestly does any one not read graphic novels!) This does not include the fifty or so books that belong to my husband, who will NOT reread his texts books.  It does not include the large amount of children’s books that I haven’t gotten around to counting yet. 

 

But this large library, and counting, does make it difficult to move, especially when the owner realizes she might not need every title in the next year.  So the night after The Decision, I began to fill small boxes with as many books as I could back.  As I packed the books, I typed out the title of each book, making a list to tape to the top of the box.  And the system worked well until I ran out of boxes, and you just wouldn’t believe how hard it is to dumpster dive with two little ones.  They tend to want to bring home unsavory objects or cut themselves on syringes.  (Kidding.  Kidding.  You throw them in to fetch.)

 

Without boxes, I began to worry about the horrible mess of letting someone just heap books into boxes and not being able to find my very favorites when I needed them.  I did what any good wife would do; I nagged my husband.  During the times he didn’t tune me out, he suggested I get rid of some books.  I am, thank you very much, and I do, but I keep everything I will read again, and I do.  Then he would rant about how I had too many, and I would remind him why I have so many.  Soon I wished he had ignored me like usual.

 

There is a reason for the large library other than my intense love for the written word.  Years ago when my husband and I were just shacking up, we combined our moneys early because we were engaged.  As the honeymoon was over, my husband would leave to hang out with his buddies, which wasn’t a big deal, except I was young, bored, and had few friends that stayed in the area after they graduated.  After several stupid arguments, I came up with a brilliant plan.  Believing that a lot of my grief was because I was a saver and he was a spender, I decided that every time he went out drinking, I would go to the bookstore.  At first, he was against the plan, saying “You’re never going to read those books again; it’s a waste of money.”  “Well, you’re never going to drink those beers again; at least I have something to show for spending the money.”  Then I went to the bookstore.

 

In the end, I had to give up writing all the titles on the boxes and move on to just writing the type of books, like religious or parenting.  I had one box marked with my favorites.  Written on top of the box was “Favorite books; lose this box and I own your soul.”  They were in the office waiting for me when I arrived and were the first ones on the book shelves.  Of course, there’s a huge possibility that I’m going to have to move the bookcase.  Damn.

 

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Books I Want My Kids to Read One Day

Here’s a list of ten books I want my boys to read and hopefully enjoy.  I hope everyone does their own list and lets me know because I would love suggestions.  When my husband was a boy, his father read to him every night, starting with picture books and going into books like The Hobbit.  So everyone find some time to do the list (looking at you, Outside Voice), and no cheating by putting The Bible, The Torah, The Qur’an because we ALL want our kids to read our religious texts.  That goes for homework too. ( I like to say for the record that when ever I publish this post, WordPress helpfully removes all the italics and bullet points.)
 

Hungry, Hungry Sharks by Joanne Cole.  Ok, I’m a bit sentimental with this book because it was the first book I read by myself.  I would like my kids to read it so they’re not scared of sharks and know that you can find all the answers in books

 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  I hated reading when I was growing up; it was this book that made me change my mind.  It was a great story and theme, and if they like this one, they’ll want to finish the series.

 

Greek myths (or The Iliad or The Odyssey by Homer) I loved reading mythology growing up.  Reading the Greek myths especially will give my kids a frame work to understanding Western literature, art, music, and even thought.

 

Dracula by Bram Stoker (or Frankenstein’s Monster by Mary Shelley {or Little Women by Louisa May Alcott or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë if I have a girl})  Since I wasn’t a reader, I was completely against the thought of reading the classics, but luckily I had a teacher who was determined to make us readers.  The whole idea is if you can get them to like a classic, you can get them to read more in search for another good book.

 

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.  This book is always on the top ten banned list.  It is a moving diary of a teenage female drug addict.  It scared me straight.  I’m a firm believer that the truth is more powerful than threats or fantasy.

 

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  This is a great story about Nazi Denmark and the heroism of the people of Denmark to spirit away the Jewish population.  Since it is told through the eyes of children, it is very easy to relate.

 

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg.  Another hard hitting novel.  This one is about a teenage girl’s journey through mental illness; it taught me not to take for granted my life.

 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  I like this book, even though a lot of people I know didn’t, but it showed me that sometimes the hero is not a hero and that we all have to strive to be better than ourselves.

 

The Stand by Stephen King.  I would like to say this is his greatest work, but I haven’t read it all yet.  After reading this, I knew King would go down as a brilliant writer.  I thought this was a great story illustrating the goodness and evil in humankind.

 

The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman.  This book teaches people that we all show love in different ways and that to love someone you have to “speak” it in their language. 

 
Now I am sure there are dozens more, but those are my top ten.  My husband has his own list including Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls and The Fellowship of the Ring series by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Director

Sean is insistent.  He’s persistent.  He’s down right stubborn.  And he likes to be read to.

 

Sean will find a book that he wants read to him, and he then tottles over to his Mommy or Daddy with a sweet, “Peeease!”  Now if said person isn’t paying attention, Sean will take his/her hand and jam the book into it with a sweet but persistent, “Peeease!”

 

After the parent is finished reading the book, Sean opens the book, saying “Peeease!”  After the thirtieth reading, the parent tries to do something else, like watch TV or have an adult conversation, but Sean will take the parent’s hand again, jamming the book back into the hand with a very insistent “Peeease!” 

 

Now let’s just say that about the forty-third time, I’m not reading it with as much enthusiasm as the little director would like.  Sean will yank the book out of my hand and read it allowed to me.  “Mawaweey.  Kuamuama.  Twany.”  Then he will hand it back, expecting more feeling, and amazingly he’ll get it. 

 

 

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Get Unserious if you want to critique Twilight

So I’ve been thinking a lot about Twilight and the rest of the series, and since I was doing the dishes, I composed this post with hopes to minimize the complete tediousness of the chore.  I read a lot of reviews about the books and the movies, but I always find bad reviews more interesting because, after all, it’s only one person’s opinion.

 

First: To those who hate the books.  I read a post the other day about how horrible the books were.  That they were tripe, and the blogger read them all in a weekend and that (THAT!) must be proof on how horrible they are.  Well, let me abuse anyone of the notion that this is fine literature.  These are books written for teenagers, so they aren’t going to be complex as, I don’t know, James Joyce or J.D. Salenger.  Oh, wait I read the Dubliners in a weekend, and I read Nine Stories and Catcher in the Rye in 24 hours.  The blogger went on to bemoan the happy ending and the fact that you can’t have sexy vampires without sex.  Again this was a book written for teenagers, and they LOVE happy endings.  And I, for one, think that it’s nice to have something in pop culture that isn’t about sex.  Aren’t teenagers inundated with too much of it as it is?

 

I can’t stress enough on how these books and movie were made for the target audience of teen girls.  I find it amusing that all these adults find the movies immature.  Well, gee, when Harry Potter really hit it big, I knew they weren’t the books for me because I wanted something with a little meat in it.  (Note: I plan on reading them soon.)  I read Stephanie Meyers’ books because I wanted an easy read, I love vampire books, and I knew it was really a romance book.  Yup, it’s a romance novel about soul mates.  Any vampire teenage girl book is ultimately about soul mates exist and love conquers all.   It gives them hope that maybe that special some one isn’t in the same high school but he’s out there somewhere looking for you.  Remember what they did with Dracula when the made Bram Stroker’s Dracula.  There was nothing about soul mates in that book.

 

Second: to all who hated the films.  Yes, it was made strictly for the fans.  Now, granted the director and screenwriter left out some helpful knowledge like why the Cullens don’t drink human blood and hey, vampire saliva is poisonous.  But it really was a decent movie.  I’m sorry it didn’t have enough gore and blood in it for some people, but they must have been oblivious to the fact this was made for teenage girls, not boys.  Then there’s the critic who was upset that Meyers took some liberties with her vampires, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the same critic who hated Underworld because it was just another typical vampire movie.  (Duh, that’s why I’m going to see it.  But how good is it: Interview with a Vampire good or Vampire in Brooklyn horrible?)  Of course, Meyers had to do something different with vampires; look at how many other vampire books are out there.

 

The other biggest problem for critical viewers was the giggling audience.  These critics believed the giggles were because of the poor acting and the poor script.  Well, I just saw the movie for a second time with friends who are big fans of the series, and we giggled a lot too and probably at inappropriate times.  I paid attention to what set it off.  It was because the actors acted like teenagers.  They talked like teenagers.  Edward getting tongue-tied and trying to make Bella believe some stupid lie.  The painful look of a newly-converted-to-animal-blood-diet vampire when he’s around humans made perfect comical sense.  The awkwardness of Bella reminded me of how awkward I was around my high school crush.  We laughed because we saw ourselves, and some of us saw are younger selves.

 

I’m just saying don’t go to this movie or read these books if you’re going to take them seriously.  When I want to read something serious, I read nonfiction because anything else could be made fun of; remember The DaVinci Code or Little Women.  They should be taken with a grain of salt because they’re fiction.  We read these books and see these movies because we want an escape.  It’s why I read fantasy novels and my mom reads romance.  It’s why I went several times to see Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.  (Which by the way must have the world’s worst romance scenes.  Talk about creepy, Anakin does it way better than Edward.  The lines in Star Wars were so corny AND melancholy.  You just wanted to commit suicide just to get out of watching it.)

 

So tip of the day: If you’re reading or watching something made for teenage girls, lighten up.

Emerging Bookworms

The silence that descended on the house is deafening.  It truly is the most terrifying sound for young mothers because you just know the children are up to something or, worse yet, in trouble.  As this is not the first time I have lost my children in my house (yeah, I was surprised I could lose them in the house, too), I have a system.  I run around the downstairs, checking the bathrooms, the locks on the doors, and the corners as I call the boys.  I race then upstairs to the master suite to make sure they are not in my make-up and jewelry, not in the bathroom, or suffocating in one of the dry cleaner bags my husband refuses to throw out.  I run down the hallway to check the other bathroom and the guestroom, and I find them in the corner of the nursery, the one you can’t see from a quick glance as you run by, quietly flipping through the books.  They look up to give me the look that I can only imagine Jesus gave his parents when they found Him in the Temple.  “Where’d you think I’d be?”   Um, right here, of course, not drowning in a toilet, not running down the street naked, not coloring the walls with my various shades of eyeliner, not ordering new toys online with my credit card.  You both would be sitting nicely, not trying to wrestle, reading the nursery books.

 

It’s a shock to me to have both boys so interested in books, and I live with the constant worry, one of many, that one day they will decide it was all a phase.  My brothers and I despised reading as young children, and only I developed a strong desire to read in my pre-teens.  But I think life would be much easier for the child, the parents, and the teachers, if the child enjoys reading.  I have done everything I could to foster this love.  When I was four months pregnant with Evan, I would sit and read picture books out loud, believing that he was swimming around learning about fairy tales and warrior women before he even took his first breath.  Before every naptime and bedtime, we read a book, sometimes two.  Then there are the wonderful moments when they bring me a book to read instead of watching TV.

 

We have books every where in the house.  Not only do I have an ever growing library in the office (and no, I don’t plan on downsizing that any time soon), both boys have a book case, which are ever expanding as well.  Of course, I do not recommend letting your child just pick a book at the bookstore because Evan always picks the most expensive and then doesn’t want to read it when he gets home.  (Why are there $20 picture books?  Really?)  Then downstairs in the family room is a large basket filled with the more stimulating educational books, which would just make story time twice as long if I kept them upstairs.  (Let me touch it.  Let me see it.  Where’s the purple flower?  Is it there?  No.  Is it here?  Is it in this general direction?  Evan, you know that’s not a flower; it’s a sheep.  Now stop being silly; you were suppose to be a sleep an hour ago.)  But these are the ones that Sean pulls out and hands me, saying “peeeaaase.”  If they are the feel and touch and Mommy is trying just to entertain him while she is talking on the phone or perhaps vainly trying to watch the news or even Oprah, he pushes the book harder in my hand to let me know that he knows there is more to the book than touching, there’s an actual story with words Mommy is suppose to be saying. 

 

In hopes to cure Evan’s fear of my appetizing nature to whales, I checked out a couple of whale books.  And bless my soul, the boy took to them, asking to be read the books several times a day.  Not only am I please that he wants to read so much, I am excited that he has chosen a subject that I can be interested and excited about too.  Not to mention, I can share my own knowledge on the subject.  I have visions of Sea World and whale watching museums and trips.

 

Last night after assuring Evan for the third time that he did not have spider web sheets but dinosaur sheets, I went downstairs, only to hear the pitter-patter of little feet running into the hall as soon as I took my first step off the stairs.  Great.  I wait to listen for the tiny “Mommy,” which will be followed by “can I have some water please” or “my bed’s too hot.”  Instead I heard, “WOW!  Look at this!”  I went upstairs to find Evan lying on his stomach in the hall, using the light to look at the whale book.

 

“Look, Mommy!  That’s a blue whale!  That’s baleen!  That’s so cool!  Do you know how whales eat?  They open their mouths like this!  And swallow fish!  Isn’t that cool?”

 

Instead of showing my excitement, I place my Supernanny face on and told Evan it was time for bed and to put the book away for tomorrow.

 

This morning I was woken by Sean making a different “aaahh” noise.  As I entered the room, he saw me and pointed to the floor of the nursery, repeating over and over “Uh-oh, peeeaaaase!”  So I picked him up, and he squirmed out of my arms to the floor, where he raced over to the books.  Picking one up, he said “peeeeaaase!” and handed it to me.  It was a Halloween book were one could raise the mask and spy a different baby Looney Tunes character.  I sat down; Sean sat down next to me, scooting closer than the five inches his seating action caused him.  When I finish reading the book, Sean forced it back into my hand, saying “peeeaaase!”  When I finished reading it again, he handed back the book, saying “peeeaaase!”  When I finished it yet again, he handed back the book and said “peeeaaase!”  After the sixth time, when I couldn’t hear my own voice over the sound of my stomach, I kissed Sean on the head and ran before I could succumb to the magic word of “peeeaaase.”

 

When I was in high school, my mom forbade me to read anything outside the assigned reading material, as my A’s were starting to drop to  (hold on your hats, folks) to B-‘s.  Of course, it didn’t help that I was in trouble for reading in class instead of paying attention to the teacher.  But now I wonder as I check on Evan’s nap, who is reading yet another whale book, that maybe I created a monster.  Well, I guess it’s better than video games. 

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Flanagan vs working moms and housewives

The problem with Caitlin Flanagan’s The Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing your Inner Housewife is Flanagan demonizes both working and stay-at-home mothers.  She wants to be considered fulfilled and important by being a working mother, but she also wants to create a home atmosphere where she stays to cook dinners and be there for her family.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have it all.  The problem lies that she holds working mothers in contempt because they miss that close bond with their children and believes stay-at-home moms are selfishly demanding me-time from their families, not caring to do the housework or even the mother work.  She believes in a simpler time when housewives were competent, content women who knew how to make a house a home.  This time never existed.

 

Her first look at the culture of marriage is through the bridal magazines, and she sees a world of inflated dreams crushing the very union of marriage.  She’s right.  But she tends to blame feminism for killing the wedding ceremony, leaving the American culture without any understanding of what the ceremony actually means.  Feminism did not kill weddings.  Materialism did.  Watch just one episode of Bridezilla, and you’ll understand that there is something very wrong with the institute of marriage.  Flip through a bridal magazine, and it will whisper of elegant dresses, extravagant dishes, and exotic locals.  The wedding industry cajoles, seduces, pushes weddings to be ever bigger because that is their business, to make weddings a significant occasion with a very significant price tag.  It is the savvy marketing that appeals to the very selfish, self-centered, greedy part of our society.  It is the dream that every girl is a princess, and every bride should have her dream.  Flanagan is right is laughable to see these women walk down the aisle in white dresses, forgetting that this is to symbolize virginity, but Flanagan forgets the white wedding dress only came to popularity with Queen Victoria’s wedding, when before any beautiful dress would do.  We are losing our bridal rituals, but we aren’t losing it to feminism.

 

While I have already discussed Flanagan’s views on the sexless marriage, I will just touch on them briefly.  Flanagan believes women are refusing sex in a passive aggressive way because they are doing all the work.  Because it’s the women’s fault for doing all the work, it is her problem to fix and mend.  I don’t agree at all. I think it’s a two person problem; therefore, it should be fixed by two people.  Another problem with this chapter is her first mention that if men started doing the housework like we women would like (cleaning up the crumbs after the dishes, putting notes in with the kid’s lunches, ironing curtains), men would be demasculinized in our eyes.  Ha.  I know plenty of men that help out with the housework, and they are still very much men.  I would almost bet they are getting more sex than the men I know who don’t help around the house.  Not only can we not keep our men satisfies, we apparently can’t keep a clean, orderly house either.

 

While Flanagan assumed stay-at-home moms could satisfy their men more than working mothers, she believes both women fail miserably when it comes to making a house a home.  Working mothers just pass on these chores to cleaning women, and so does the average stay-at-home mom.  Well, that was news to me.  I can’t even think of another stay-at-home mom that hired a cleaning person (well, except me, for three months after Tornado E’s birth at the insistence of my husband and his administrative assistant.  I fired her as soon as I could figure out how to run the household with a baby).  It is here that I realized the Flanagan is not an average stay-at-home mom, but that she had the means to do more and that she didn’t actually understand the plight of ordinary women.  According the Flanagan, stay-at-home moms go to the movies, the spa, to book clubs, leaving the house work to others, not even knowing the price of milk.  I am certain that most women, especially those who stay at home, do their own house cleaning, do the shopping with a budget, mend shirts, and all the other day to day things that Flanagan loves but never does.  She doesn’t understand the tedium of housework because she never did it.  She NEVER did it.  At this point, Flanagan should be fired as a sage for housewives.

 

Then Flanagan moves on to discussing child rearing.  After a chapter discussing the use of nannies in Victorian England, she then has a chapter about her nanny hired to take care of her sons because all the other stay-at-home moms have one.  Really?  Another interesting fact.  From the look of the blogs out there, most of us can’t find a decent sitter for a measly night out with or without a husband much less another set of hands to take care of the children five days a week.  In this chapter she talks about how inadequate she feels with her babies, and thank god her nanny is so good.  The rest of us mothers out there have felt our moments of inadequacy deep to the soul, and we dealt with it and moved on.  We were the ones that took care of the sick child, changing the sheets, bathing the child, calming the child, not someone else.  Flanagan also mentions how she wanted someone in the house to make it loving and warm, like her mother used to do.  That’s your job now, Mrs. Housewife.  We all miss our mothers taking care of us.  We make the bed so that we can return to it feeling warm and clean.  We cook cookies to eat the dough and have the smell run through the house because it reminds us of home.  Flanagan does not understand the desperate act of mothering. 

 

 

Flanagan is looking for a reason why she feels incompetent.  She finds it in the fact the feminism robbed women of home ec and the knowledge that we would be homemakers, important and loved.  She sees that mothers run after their children, taking them to every activity that can be crammed into their children’s lives, paying homage to the domestic goddess of Martha Stewart, and becoming addicted to organizing and decluttering.  Again I see these as symptoms of materialism and advertising.  Nothing can sell a parent better than the threat that their children may not be using their full potential; hence why many kids have several activities on their plate.  But this has been happening for some time.  My brothers and I were in scouts, volleyball, basketball, softball or baseball, swimming lessons.  If we could have afforded it we would have had music lessons.  My father and his siblings all took various music lessons and did various sports.  The fact that Americans have raised this to a new level of fanaticism is just yet another marketing scheme, trying to take money from parents who are trying to make prodigies or at least make them well-rounded enough to get into a good college.  As long as these activities are done to moderation, then why not schlep a kid around because we are yearning for a better life for that child. 

 

As for Martha Stewart and organization, I feel that Flanagan is right to believe this is a call for a simpler time.  Martha Stewart shows off peace and beauty as unattainable as that is in a house full of kids.  We yearn for a more organized home that runs efficiently leaving us time to redecorate, bake, or just plain relax.  It just makes sense that a busy mother would want this.  But I doubt that every household in those bygone days looked like the Cleaver’s or the Nelson’s.  Kids back then were much like kids today, tornadoes.  I think we set the bar too high to expect a perfectly manicured house while raising sweet, smart, clean kids.  Even my grandma didn’t believe in keeping an immaculate house unless company demands it.  Really Flanagan is living in a different world than what the rest of us live in, one with hired help.

 

The vary essence of this book is Caitlin Flanagan not realizing that housewives back then felt the same way as stay-at-home mothers today.  She even quotes Erma Bombeck as saying she went to see Betty Friedan just to get out of the day’s house work, but Flanagan fails to realize what Bombeck said.  To get out of the house work.  In Flanagan’s mind those fifties and sixties were a time where women were competent and confident in their roles of housewife, not minding the tediousness of the chores that had to be done and redone every day.  Flanagan is looking to understand why she isn’t like that, and because she lost her mother before her boys were older than five, Flanagan never had the same talks that I had with my mom, where my mom admits to being just as confused and anxious as I am.  Flanagan wants to be like her mom but fails because she doesn’t understand her “inner housewife.”  Maybe she doesn’t understand it because she’s never done it.  She instead vilifies all women in what they are trying to do, encouraging them to give up on their dreams of having it all and sending their children to private universities.  I guess Susan Jane Gilman is right.  We’re all the fashion police.

 

Books I LOVE and Don’t Care if Anyone Else Does

Books I LOVE and Don’t Care if Anyone Else Does

(Or you can have my copy of these books when I’m cold and six feet under, if I don’t have them buried with me.)

 

Sometimes I think books-I-love lists are more about showcasing the books we should read.  This list is just books I love and why, and I won’t expect you to read them because they just might not be your style.  We all have guilty pleasures of reading.  If my best friend and I need a laugh, we read a Cosmo, snickering over the sex obsessed lines.  If I’m tired of read long complicated adult books, I pick up a teen fiction book.  (Careful, some of these can be quite complicated and obsessive.)  If I want something to cheer me up (especially in that first trimester), I go to my trusted stand bys on this list.  So what are your absolute favorites?  Are they Harlequins or cheap mysteries or stand by classics?

 

In no particular order, the books I love and read over and over:

 

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  I swear I can’t read any other Arthurian literature because Bradley did such a great job.  She humanized all the characters.  You can’t help but love Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar.  At the end you realize they did the best they could, and humans just have a way of hurting each other and messing everything up.  The writing is superb.  I read this in high school at the snickers of my swim teammates, who couldn’t believe I would read a book so thick that wasn’t assigned.  Jocks.  I have read it several more times and made the mistake of lending it out twice.  I’m on my third copy.

 

I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block.  Reading this book changed my whole outlook on writing.  It’s a teenage fiction book that I picked up because I only had a day or two left of winter break.  Block writes fiction like she writes poetry.  The first page she compares Los Angeles to a model and the San Fernando Valley as L.A.’s teenybopper little sister, a theme that is carried on through out the book.  I would place Block closer to magical realism than fantasy, but alas, we live in the U.S.

 

The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block.  I love Block so much that I’m giving her two spaces.  She rewrites some fairy tales, and the book is beautiful.  Again like poetry.  Snow White stays with the seven dwarfs because who loves a girl better her fathers who raised her and know her or some prince who got a hard on by seeing her sleeping?  Sleeping Beauty is a drug addict, hiding from child abuse and forced to throw off the habit through love.  The wolf from Little Red Riding Hood is an abusive stepdad, who Red is running away from to Grandma’s house.  All the stories are great revisions, and I love the retelling, wondering if I could do just as well.

 

The Garden by Elsie V. Aidinoff.  Yet another teen book (told you this list was filled with guilty pleasures.).  I was actually editing my own version of the tale of the Garden of Eden when I read this book; I abandoned it because Aidinoff did such a great job.  She takes a deeper look on the concept of the Fall Up (for those who don’t know, many biblical scholars point out that the fall out of Eden was actually beneficial so we could CHOOSE Grace, not just be born in it.)  The writing is beautiful, and the relationship between Eve and the Serpent is complex and wise. 

 

Tithe by Holly Black (might as well keep all the teen books together).  You might know Block through her more famous books The Spiderwick Chronicles.   This and her other books on the topic (Valiant and Ironside) are written like traditional faerie tales with the darkness and violence that accompanies them.  Block plays with the dark and the light, the fear and the strength.  It sings to the days of teenage angst with magic. 

 

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (and the rest of the saga).  It finally became clear to me that I should one day write teen books as well as adult fiction, so when I heard about Twilight, I thought it would be good research, and I loved L.J. Smith when I was a teen.  So my best friend (who is a teen youth church leader) decided to read them as well, and we were hook, calling each other every night with where are you, call me when you finish the chapter, oh my god can you believe that.  All the books are an absolute page turner, and I can be giddy about young love too.  I loved the characters and the writing style.

 

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (and the rest of the saga, especially Kushiel’s Chosen and Kushiel’s Avatar).  Let’s just say that after I finished the first book, I paced the house for a half an hour before I grabbed my keys to race to the nearest book store before it closed to buy the rest of the series.  Carey writes beautifully, creating a complex, wondrous world that rivals Tolkien’s.   The only reasons this book is classified as fantasy are because there are other religions with gods interacting at times and all of earth’s best civilizations are alive and well.  The religion Carey creates makes me want to convert.  Her characters are human, beautiful, and awe-inspiring.  I could read these books a million times and not be bored.  I love Phèdre!  In the end, the books focus on the strength and beauty of love.  Warning: a lot of explicit sex scenes, some very dark ones too.

 

Rhapsody By Elizabeth Haydon (and the rest of the saga, especially the first trilogy).  Sometimes I think writers over extend their characters in too many books, like Carey, Haydon writes so well that you don’t want it to end.  I remember thinking damn I only have a hundred pages too go.  This is true fantasy with magic, swords, and even a type of elf.  Haydon illustrates how hope and friendship comes from the most interesting places. You fall in love with the main characters, especially Rhapsody who is so sweet and optimistic, you might believe she’s naïve.   Like most of the books on this list, the main characters are reluctant heroes, just trying to do what’s right. 

 

Kiss My Tiara by Susan Jane Gilman.  I have bought a dozen copies of this book and given away everyone.  I love this book.  An answer to The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, Gilman doesn’t believe we need yet another how to trap a man book, but a book of advice for being a woman, given to her by her chocolate cake eating, gin drinking grandma.  Advice like if you can’t order desert, you can’t ask for a raise and use your p.m.s. to write and complain to elected officials.  Admitting that third generation feminism is looking narcissistic, but only because advertisers have taken it over, Gilman works to reclaim feminism and what it means to be a woman.  She’s freakin’ hilarious. 

 

So there we have it, my top books.  Please let me know if you do your own list, I would love to read it!