Move Over Mary Poppins!

The real life adventures of one nanny, her husband, child, dogs, house, and whatever else crosses her path.

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Location: MA, United States

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Monday, April 26, 2010

BYOO-ah-ful Train

We live in a hotbed of suburban activity. Within five miles in every direction there are stores, malls, restaurants, schools, playgrounds, reservoirs, train tracks, MEMA, a fire station, library, hospital... and on and on.

While I might pine for someplace a little more rural, Felix, at 2 1/2, thinks we live in Paradise itself. For instance, yesterday there was a medical emergency two doors down, bringing Engine 3 and an ambulance practically into our backyard. Putting aside my disdain for rubbernecking, I pointed this out to my son, who suffered paroxysms of delight (perhaps I'm the one who suffered--oh, the shrieking!).

We also live more or less adjacent to a rail line which serves CSX. While we're not actually abbutters, you can see the trains from our backyard if you know where to look. There's also a little public playground down the street that offers great views of both the Massachusetts Turnpike and the adjacent rail line. Less than ideal if you're a parent, but divine if you're a preschool aged train enthusiast with a considerable appreciation for all motor vehicles.

When the freight trains come through going westbound, they blow their whistles before crossing a major thoroughfare nearby. If we catch it just right, we can leave our house on foot and be at the playground by the time the train passes. We've done it successfully a few times; we've even managed to get close enough to wave to the driver a few times.

This morning we heard the whistle just after getting ourselves dressed and ready to head out for errands. Felix looked up at me and said, "Let's go a-playground an' see the train." I said okay, and we walked out the front door. It was spontaneous and lovely. As we walked, I felt, rather than heard, the train getting closer, so I swung him up onto my hip, and jogged the last couple of yards in my patent leather flats.

We got there just in time, and the driver waved and blew the whistle for us.

(this is not the actual train we saw, but it's nearly identical)

On the walk back to the house, Felix said to me, "That was a BYOO-ah-ful train, Mama."


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dog Beds: My Own Personal Brand of Insanity

I grew up with dogs, always in pairs. My parents had two dogs before they had kids. Golden retrievers dominated my childhood, though my Mom had an Irish Setter while I was in high school and college, and now they have a Golden and a mixed breed shelter dog. So, you know, big dogs. With hair. And licking. And all the other stuff dogs do.

I lived in apartments until Mark and I bought the house five years ago. The bottom line? No dogs. I pined for a dog. I missed my dogs. I romanticized my parents' dogs. I conveniently forgot the pooping, peeing, vomiting, snoring, shedding, and veterinary care in my fantasy of dog ownership.

Don't get me wrong, I knew about all this stuff - first hand. I just chose not to remember it.

I wanted a Golden Retriever so badly I could smell it's chicken soupy head. Mark wanted a Pug. A Pug. Big man, little dog. Ohhhkaaaaay...

Mark and I bought the house, got married, honeymooned in Hawaii, and spent our first summer up to our necks in renovations. Come fall, I decided it was time for the dog. I went big, I arranged for our puppy to come home the day after Christmas, allowing me to hand paint a ceramic dog dish with the name he'd dreamed up for his eventual dog, and wrap it to put under the tree. I also wrapped the leash and the Monogrammed LLBean dog bed. I was AWESOME! I kept it a secret. I got my Mom and his Grandma to partially fund the pricey pup. On the SLY. Oh yes.

He opened his present with glee. We drove twelve hours round trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, on Boxing Day, in a sleet storm to bring home our bundle of canine joy. It didn't matter; we had our darling little dog.

Darling, except that he kept peeing on his bed. Long after he was housebroken, he would pee on the bed. He would also attempt to shake it to death with his tiny jaws. Eventually, he turned on it, ate the zipper, and eviscerated it. I sewed it back together once. I had a seamstress do it again, when he chewed through my stitching. Are you looking up the definition of insanity yet? After a year, however, he calmed down. I can only assume the bed conceded defeat in a private conversation with the dog.

In 2007, I decided to get my Golden. Right about the same time, I also decided to get pregnant, though the precise timing was a little more out of my control in that case. This time I arranged for my puppy to arrive in Boston via commercial airline (a mistake I will never repeat, but that's a story for another time). I brought her home, and set about establishing her in the household.

She promptly took over the dog bed, then started... wait for it... peeing on it. The bed finally met its end while the dogs were staying with my parents. The bed started out about six feet away from the puppy's crate, with our Pug sleeping on it. In the morning, it was halfway inside the crate, with its innards spewed all over the inside of the crate.

They worked together. To destroy the bed. The soft, monogrammed LLBean dog nest that I so lovingly bought for our dog baby. I could have cried. I could have throttled them.

Some months later, Mark bought a dog bed for them from Orvis, which purported to be indestructible. When the Orvis catalog arrives now, we still laugh at this adjective, since Orvis sent us two replacements, when our dogs chewed through the covers, the liners, and eventually eviscerated them, too. Indestructible, my eye. Eventually, Orvis gave up on us, and just offered us a refund. Surprisingly, they have not asked us to provide a testimonial for their excellent customer service.

"Our dogs just loved the Indestructible Bed. It tastes like chicken! But they really do stand by their product! We got three beds and a refund!"

Or not. At least that's what I'm guessing PR said.

For some months the dogs were better behaved. They seemed to grasp the basic tenets of life with humans, and since they slept on the couch (oh, god, how I hate this, but when one dog is a lap dog, it's hard to enforce no dogs on the couch), we had no need for a bed.

Until we discovered that the Golden was secretly eating the straps for Felix's high chair. You see, at two, he's just using it as a booster, so we hadn't actually buckled the straps for months. And why, pray tell, would I specifically check to see if the dog had been nibbling them?

Of course, I only discovered this when, to the tune of two thousand dollars, our vets surgically removed said buckle from her stomach and small intestine.

So, it was time to put the Golden back in her pen when we weren't watching her. Le sigh. In a rare streak of optimism I bought a dog blanket at BJ's, so she wouldn't have to sleep on bare floor in the pen. Miracle of miracles, she actually left it alone for a whole week. Then, she started fraying the edges.

Not to be outdone, our Pug, who must have been lonely in his freedom, in the span of a week, ate 9 Crayolas, and raided the pantry; he ate two thirds of a bag of dry egg noodles and about a half a cup of brown sugar out of a sealed container in the pantry.

Off with his head! Into the pen!

One night. That's all the bed lasted. Our two dogs ate their way into the bed, and reveled in the polyfil batting inside. In my head, they dance to "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang, while tossing bundles of batting by their snouts. I obviously spend too much time thinking about this.

I would have let them live with his half eaten monstrosity for an indefinite period, had it not been for waking up Thursday to the wafting scent of poo on the air.

There is no. better. way. to wake up on a Saturday morning. None.

They had hidden the pile of poo under the bed. Oh, yes, soaked and saturated and ground in to what was left of it's cloth cover. Oh, the smell! I bagged the whole mess and marched it right outside to the trash barrels.

And went to BJ's to buy another bed.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Real Life Romance Novel: Late NIght Dance

This one speaks for itself, I think.

She was researching on her computer, trying desperately to avoid procrastinating through social media. The work light over her desk cast long shadows across the kitchen. Her little dog slept near her feet, snoring a counterpoint to her breathing in the late evening stillness.

He was maybe twenty five feet away from her, engrossed in the evening news. The television volume was no more than a murmur. She glanced at the clock; in five minutes the weather would be over, and he'd get up, turn off the TV and let the dog out. She closed her laptop and slid off her stool. She stopped at the refrigerator for a swig of seltzer; straight from the bottle. Her mother might be appalled; she knew he wouldn't care. Frankly, so what if he did?

She was unsure what to do with herself. They had established a tentative routine in these early days together, and she was torn. Should she go up to their bed alone, disappointed and silent, or pretend that nothing was wrong? Should she confront him, call him out for his bad behavior, and risk the raw wounds they could no doubt inflict on one another?

She had held her tongue all day, waiting for an apology that never came. She wasn't even sure how much to say when she finally asked for one.

She was caught up in musing about about the strange dance that was loving someone and living with them when she crashed into him. He'd come out to the kitchen on exceptionally quiet feet for so substantial a man.

He picked up her left hand, and circled her waist with his other arm, and whispered, "Listen."

She was about to ask why, but he stepped her back, in time with the music. Music? And then she listened. It was an unlikely slow dance, an old Johnny Cash tune, but it brought prickly tears to her eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"I love you," he said.

For the rest of that three minutes, they were a universe unto each other, turning to the straight four rhythm of the Man in Black.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Lost: Dear Friend. If Found, Please Return.

A few months ago, I read a poignant blog post about ended friendships. It begins with a contributor discussing a friend who has, for unknown reasons, walked away from her and what she thought was a friendship. Nothing earth shattering, but nonetheless upsetting. It rings true here in my kitchen.

I've been thinking about her, almost daily, for a few months now, and god knows I've tried to reach out, but I can't find her. The physical distance between us is so large that she might as well be on the moon, for all that I could go find her.

We were friends all through college, and then roommates our senior year, along with another woman. We kept in touch afterward, part of a larger group, but also just the two of us. We've celebrated weddings together, we've grieved the death of mutual friend together. We've sheltered each other, actually as well as metaphorically. Our husbands, both from outside the circle of friends, have gone to fetch the Chinese take-out together.

How then, can she ignore our birth announcement, my emailed pleas for her updated phone number, the Christmas card (with adorable photo of our little boy, now two), the voicemails I left before I gave up and assumed she had a new number? Did I say or do (or not say or do) something? I've wracked my brain, but I come up with nothing again and again. She was not the type to leave things unsaid. She was brave and truthful, and though contact was often few and far between, she was important to me. She still is. There was nothing we couldn't talk about. Even painful, private, fearful things. I am afraid now that I don't know who she is anymore. I am equally afraid that she might feel the same about me. Have I changed? For the worse?

The conventional wisdom is that people come into and go out of our lives for a reason, and I believe that to be true. Perhaps the time came for her to leave me, and I didn't see it. Either way, I wasn't ready, and I miss her. Another conventional wisdom is that if you love someone, let them go. If they return to you, you're meant to have them in your life. So, for now, I'm letting her go, in the hopes that someday she'll come back to me.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Real Life Romance Novel: Alone With Her Thoughts

Into every romance some tension must fall, and even once the love story is established, there are often moments of doubt, self loathing, anger... And loving someone can be a complicated business. This one went in a different direction than I'd thought when I started. far more introspective, and a little darker. Again, though the sense of reality is something I'm really trying to achieve in my fiction.

Time was crawling. In the twelve hours since he'd left with his brothers, she'd emptied the dishwasher, switched the laundry, walked the dog; she'd done a hundred tasks, and not one of them took her mind off his absence.

It wasn't that he didn't deserve a day out, a baseball game in the city with the boys. It wasn't as if she resented not being included. Did she? With twilight falling, and the cell phone sitting quiet beside her, she wasn't so sure anymore.

When had he become so necessary to her mental health? She had always prided herself on her independence, her strength. They were the perfect foil to her vivid, romantic imagination. How had this man not only taken up residence in her heart, but benevolently undermined her sense of self?

Or was she only worried because it was hours later than she'd expected to have him home beside her, warm and solid on the sofa? She wanted to lay her head on his shoulder and have him tease her about having a sharp head, digging into his collar bone. She craved the extra warmth of his arm around her, the rhythmic rise and fall of his breath.

And then she understood the black mood for what it was. He had gone off to spend the day with his brothers, and rather than come home to her as she desired him, he would, more likely than not, be exhausted, a little drunk, and oblivious to her inner turmoil. Not what she needed from him at all, and through no fault of his own. He would arrive home, later and different than she wanted, and she would be angry with him; even more so if she chose to keep the feelings to herself. She was, in short, jealous of something far more dangerous than another woman or a bad habit. She was jealous of her own secret needs.

A headache clawed at the space between her eyes, seeking to blossom into something more vicious. She inhaled against the throbbing, and got up to find some Advil.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Real Life Romance Novel: Getting Ready to Go Out

So, I almost decided not to go ahead with this. But I'm feeling stupid brave, so here you go. A short vignette of the heroine in the hours before a date night. The idea being that the best romance novels can find the romance in any situation, without pirates, Edwardian costume, torn bodices, oiled pectoral muscles. That's what I'm striving for here.

She'd spent more money on her hair than she'd meant to, but didn't the mahogany highlights make her eyes looks darker? Her freshly cut hair swung along her jawline, shiny and sleek. She offered another silent thank-you to whatever fate had directed her to her stylist. There was nothing like feeling pretty to kickstart the evening.

She had four hours to kill before their date. She decided to indulge in a Blues mix on her iPod and the psychological thriller she'd started earlier that day at the salon. The gray skies and cool April temperatures drove her under her favorite blanket for the afternoon.

When she surfaced three hours later, she felt blurry. Her overactive imagination always sucked her so far into a novel that she had a tough time disengaging. She dove into her closet to pick an outfit, and shake off the story. Tonight, especially tonight, she didn't want fiction to interrupt her real life. She'd be with him in an hour.

She chose her clothing carefully, from the new lingerie to the sexy peep-toed wedges.

She turned on the hot water, rummaging around for a shower cap to protect the new hair. Through the noise of the spray and the bathroom fan, she heard his keys in the front door lock. She'd never known exactly how to tell him that just that jingle of metal sent shivers down her spine. He'd be dirty from work, the toasty smell of sawdust and machine oil clung to him after a day on a job site. She imagined running her fingers through his sawdusty curls and smiled.

She finished in the shower and shut herself in the bedroom to dress and primp.

When she came down the stairs, he was coming out of the second bathroom, hair damp from his own shower. She leaned in and stood up on her toes to kiss him, the welcome promising and affectionate. She closed her eyes and inhaled the clean aroma of shaving cream.

"Hi," she said.

He put his arms around her and held her tight. She rested her head on his chest, and sighed, content.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Finding Meaning In the Not Knowing

Ever the follower, a few weeks ago, I read the fallout over this homeschooling post at The Pioneer Woman - Homeschooling, and the subsequent response here at The Women's Colony, and now that I've done some thinking, I feel like I have something to say.

Go read the articles, and come back. I don't want to get anything wrong in the paraphrasing.

In the seventh grade, I, too, questioned some of the finer points of Catholicism. I had a best friend who was a practicing Catholic (still is one, is raising her son one, in the same faith community in which she herself was brought up), so I spent Sunday morning at Mass if I slept at her house. Her Mom was my Girl Scout Leader, and we used the Church hall, and later a room in the rectory, for our Scouting meetings. Thanks St. Pius. I am grateful for every moment spent in that space.

But I digress. You see, I questioned the things I saw, but I never actually looked for answers, because I'm not a Catholic, and those questions didn't keep me up at night. Some of Mrs. G's readers assumed she never looked for her answers simply because she didn't mention her own search for them in her post for PW. The post was about homeschooling, and her kids. The bits about her faith choices and her husband's were just a quick establishment of context . To show that her questioning of faith began in seventh grade, with the kinds of observations that thirteen year old children make. Come on, people. To assume, as did the commenter, that this was the be all, end all of her search for meaning in her religion, is to severely demean her intelligence.

I question things all the time. I question that a single sentient creator, an anthropomorphized life force, is responsible for my particular design, decisions, and context. That said, the world is too organized and beautiful, even in chaos, for me to believe it happened by happy biological accident. Perhaps I believe in a kind of larger organizational energy, a motivated kind of evolution (not strictly Darwinian, but kind of) that steers creation along. I don't know. I really don't. But I find some meaning in the not knowing, in the searching and the reading and the listening and conversing about faith and things spiritual.

I plan to offer my son any opportunities to explore faith and science and whatever else the world offers him to figure his life out in its own context. If he wants to go to Mass with his Catholic grandparents, I will not say no. If he wants to read the Baghavad Gita (excellent reading, by the by), the Bible, or the Tao of Pooh, we'll check them out of the library. I'll read up on the earth religions with him if he wants to celebrate the the Solstices (though, as I've said, I'm more an Equinox girl, myself).

I hope to impress upon him that we humans are a complex bunch; with our amazing brains and beautiful souls we look for meaning everywhere. I'd like him to see that no one belief system is Right. I want him to understand that faith is never Wrong, save when those who practice it spread hatred and cruelty in its name.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

What Do You Guys Think?

Inspired by my recent decision to actually finish the romance novel I started at the end of last summer, I was toying with the idea of devoting a week of the blog to the Real Life Romance Novel.

For me, the best romances:

  • are well written and edited.
  • have believable and engaging characters.
  • only push the limits of real life so far. Paranormals and sci-fi have their own rules, and they're not my genre. This one goes back to believable characters, too.
  • make you fall in love with both main characters a little bit.
  • show you a glimpse of a life that could be real.
  • get you in the mood for some Real Life Romance

So, would you all run away if, for five days, I turn one scene from real life (we'll keep it G-rated, this is a *family* blog) into a scene from a contemporary romance novel? Just as an experiment. For five days. Then, I'll return to regularly scheduled programming. Like goofy toddler pictures and culinary rambling. Promise.


Friday, April 16, 2010

You Have to Break It Down

I posted this on FB, but forgot to put it up here. All better now.

I think my favorite move is the elbow one. Or the eyes. Yes, definitely the eyes!

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Life Is De Bubbles

Sebastian the crab said it better. I know.

So, here in FUNemployment Land, we are obsessed with bubbles. All three of Felix's Easter baskets contained some form of bubble stuff/wand combo, and he's hooked. He's also two, so between frequent long-format bubble blowing sessions and tantrums about it being time to end said sessions, which always tend in tears and spillage, we go through it pretty fast around here. Of course, "We don't have any more bubble stuff," is like saying, "I kicked your puppy," based on the reaction it gets, so I had to do something about the tiny bottles with their tiny volumes.

Ever the frugal FUNemployed Mama, I decided we would make our own. To this end, I turned to my old pal Internets. I found this recipe via the National Wildlife Federation - go nature! And stuff. I tweaked it a little, cause that's what I do. Can't leave well enough alone.

1/4 c. Joy liquid dish detergent (I have no data on other brands)
1/4 t. glycerin (available at pharmacies and fine cake decorating supply shops)
3/4 c. cold water

Mix all of the above and stir gently. For best results, wait a few hours or overnight. In reality, it works right out of the bowl.

I refilled my favorite bubble jar/wand combo (pictured here), and saved the day!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just Past the Vernal Tipping Point

It's fortunate I'm a New Englander, since one of the things I love best is the transition from one season to another. Weather in New England is, if nothing else, reliably transitional. In particular, I'm an equinox junkie. When spring wakes up my yard, and the days get long again, I pretty much want to roll around in the grass like my dogs. Half a year later, when the evenings get cool again, and the air has a hint of snow hidden behind the smell of dried leaves I wake up again, the heat of summer being the perfect siesta for the spirit.

So, here we are, just past the vernal tipping point, so I thought I'd share some of the things I love about spring at my house.
The ornamental plum tree we planted when we moved in. It's twelve feet tall now, and gorgeously in bloom.
This dwarf forsythia, which thrives despite our pug's compulsion to pee on it twice daily.
Lily of the valley shoots in the shade under the big maple tree.
Little boys on tricycles!
Lilac buds and blue skies.
Clever lawn ornaments.
Violets. Mark says they're weeds; I refuse to allow him to mow them.
Okay, so this one doesn't really have to do with the season, but he is awfully sweet!


Monday, April 12, 2010

(not quite) Good (enough) Housekeeping, Part One

Five half-assed housekeeping points from my weekend.

~assuming that the dishwasher has done its job, that there isn't a smear of sterilized leftovers in your favorite saute pan, and simply putting it away without checking.

~substituting sunshine and fresh air via open windows for actual cleaning, ie: vacuuming and dusting

~washing and drying the laundry on a weekly basis. folding it bi-monthly. putting it away seasonally.

~hiding that which you can't (or won't) deal with in a guest room until a later date. five years later, regretting that decision.

~leaving the dinner dishes until morning


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese alla Us

Like most things, we tweak our mac around here. I've always made macaroni and cheese like my Mom did, and I'm devoted to that recipe. It will always be my favorite, but we all know that a degree of compromise is at the heart of every great marriage, so I've made some changes to accommodate my husband's preferences.

I've never actually had his mother's macaroni and cheese, but he describes it as being distinctly tomatoey, which is something heretofore unheard of. Tomatoes! In macaroni and cheese?


I balked at first. I didn't want to mess with my childhood, y'know? In the end, I agreed to attempt a tomatoey version. Not too tomatoey. It was a great leap of faith for me to believe him; such a thing is delicious, he says. Hrm.

Well here it is, what I believe to be the perfect balance of traditional mac meets tomatoes, without corrupting the essential recipe. As an added bonus, Mark likes it!

Macaroni & Cheese Alla Us

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 medium yellow onion, diced, but not too diced
1/2 stick unsalted butter
4 T. flour
1 t. ground dry mustard
2 c. milk (pick your percentage poison, I prefer 1%)
1 pound Land O Lakes White American cheese, purchased from the deli counter, in a block, and cubed (swear to god, it matters!)
kosher salt and white pepper to taste
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes, drained

Okay, here's where it get's cheffy and stuff. Not really.

Put up a big pot of water. Bring it to a boil. Salt it generously. Add the pasta. When it comes back to a boil, knock the heat down a little, and set a timer for 6 minutes. When the time's up,drain the elbows, and rinse them so they don't get gluey while you're making the sauce.

Now, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a large, oven safe Dutch oven, saute the onions in butter over medium to medium high heat until they're soft and translucent. You don't want to brown either the onions or the butter. Add the flour and the dru mustard to the pan, and stir continually, until you have a pale golden roux (flour + butter paste). Add the milk all in a go, and scrape the bottom of the pan, then keep stirring as the mixture comes to a boil. It'll thicken like crazy, so you might want to lower the heat. Add the cheese and stir until it's all smooth and creamy. Season with salt and white pepper.

Pour in the pasta, stirring to coat the elbows well in the cheese sauce.

Add the drained stewed tomatoes, and gently fold them into the mac 'n cheese. You don't want them completely blended. You want pockets of tomatoes, and not too many pink streaks.

Cover the pan, and pop it in the oven for 2o minutes. Take the cover off, and bake for 5 more.

Enjoy the comfort with extra pepper, or some chipotle Tabasco if you're into that.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Five Things In A Salad

When I was a kid, my Mom's best friend, Kath, lived in the greater Syracuse, NY area. We made several summer pilgrimages to their house, which involved being absorbed into the large clan that lived nearby. There was plenty to see and do; the great-grandparents' house on Casenovia Lake, the grandparents' house on the golf course, the neighborhood where Kath lived . I was older than the other kids, but not a grown-up, which made these visits fun, but somewhat frustrating.

I think Kath and my Mom must have sensed this, because as I approached what we now call the 'tween years, they included me in things that the littler boys weren't a part of.

I can't tell you exactly how old I was, or what year it was, only it was before she got divorced and we stopped seeing much of them (Something I wouldn't really understand until I found myself in and out of friendships that fall apart because things in your life change.), but one summer Kath imparted to me one of the most lasting and practical pieces of wisdom in my life.

"It isn't a salad unless it has five things in it."

To this day, when I make a salad, and god help me I eat one almost every day for lunch, I think of Kath and count my "things." Today's salad, for example: greens, carrots, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, sunflower seeds and balsamic vinaigrette. Eight things! Definitely a salad!

I hope when my son and the friends he'll have are grown, some friend of his will have learned some useful thing from me, some thing I don't necessarily even remember saying. That seems like a good way to be remembered.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Thoughts On Other People's Thoughts On Fiction

The Women's Colony is abuzz today with the literature vs. popular fiction debate. Go read it there. I refuse to paraphrase the gifted writers over there. I read early, I'm sure the comments have gotten better, but a few early ones caught me:

The writer of that letter clearly doesn't know what she's talking about. If she did, she wouldn't have failed to include the REAL mean, writer, Stephanie Meyer.

Here's my letter to you in response:

Dear Professor Mary,

Fail that student.


Let's ignore the dropping for a sec. I really respect Aaryn's writing. She makes me laugh, she makes me mad, she makes me think, and her daughter is just beautiful! And I agree with her as regards sub-par writing being touted as themostamazingbookseverohmygodyouguyssparklyvampires! Here's the thing, I've read the Twilight books. I didn't pick a team, but I was entertained. I have critiques in abundance, but that's not my point today.

This commenter made an excellent point.

I just checked back to see if the course was Contemporary Literature as this would give you reason to fire Aaryn's email straight back at your student but as it was Contemporary Fiction .... well, there may be some validity in what your student says. Populist doesn't necessarily mean poor writing. Although I still shudder at Donna Tartt's 'Secret Garden' and think Zadie Smith's 'White Teeth' may be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes..
The course description didn't say Popular Fiction. It said Contemporary Fiction. This commenter summed it up nicely.

Oh, good grief. Isn't the point of education to broaden yourself? Omission from a college syllabus of contemporary writers isn't a slam on King, Rowling, et al. I personally would be pissed if I were paying for a lit course that turned out to cover books II could buy on the paperback rack at the supermarket.
So on to my stance. I read. A lot. I read magazines, blogs, a broad range of novels, even the occasional dip into nonfiction. Here's what I like. I like stories, good ones, even if I've seen the basic structure before. I like characters. If I like the characters, and the writing style isn't dumbed down (which can be a problem in a lot of "popular fiction"), I'll read it.

So, here's me, lifelong reader, self professed lover of character and story, sitting on a pricey, elitist college education, and I decided to turn my hand to writing a story of my own. Guess what? It's very likely going to be a single title contemporary romance. Hopefully, a smart one with likable characters and a literate writing style, but a paperback beach read nonetheless.

Will it ever be published? Hope so. Will it ever be on a college syllabus? Probably not. And that's okay. Let's expand our horizons and grow with Contemporary Fiction, but let's not discount Popular Fiction indiscriminately.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Portrait of Self Involvement

Blogger Dashboard: Where the Sam Hill have you been, woman?

CDG: (wondering idly where that expression came from) Uhhh... cheating on you with Wordpress?

BD harumphs and stomps out of the kitchen.

In some seriousness, I've been writing a ton, but very little for public consumption. I've been self obsessed to the point of pain, tweeting (@rubysu87), dieting, watching my 33rd birthday approach like an oncoming locomotive. The usual.

My 15th high school reunion is a month from today. I'm old.

Felix is obsessed with Lightning McQueen and the anthropomorphic automobiles of Disney/Pixar's Cars, and my positive spin is that he's at least a young fan of the late Paul Newman, bless his blue eyes. To the negative, I'm pretty sure I could recite it.

I've been spending most of my time either looking under stones for a job or engrossed in a fictional town in north central Vermont, populated by determined innkeepers, hunky carpenters, flamboyant pastry chefs, and sexy lawyers.

The men in the white coats are coming for me with huge butterfly nets.

The dishes and laundry are piling up around me. I have a knitting book overdue at the library.

For those of you not in central MA, we had June in April for a week and all my flowers came up. The ornamental plum blossomed. We have baby birds in the backyard. I've been outside a lot. Felix is also obsessed with bubbles. What I've learned from this is that I still have pretty decent lung capacity, despite the extra weight, general out-of-shapeness, and lack of voice training for ten years.

That kid had me out in the yard blowing bubbles for three hours the other day.