Random Thoughts: The Friday RPM Rants Saturday Edition

Bodies have been on my mind lately.

I’m still thinking about Coates book The Difference Between the World and Me. In a letter to his son, he talks about the great shame of this nation, that it was built on the backs of black bodies — and that the building continues today. Given the current prison industrial complex, and the sacrifices exemplified in the Flint water crisis, and the number of black boys killed by police, it’s hard to say that he’s wrong.

And I don’t know what to do about it.

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Of course, one of the most famous bodies in the world is that of Barbie. A recent Time magazine cover asks, “Can We Stop Talking About My Body Now?” and the short answer of course is, No. No we can’t apparently.

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Ultimately, though, it’s not the way we talk about Barbie’s body that is the problem though: it’s the way we talk about women’s bodies in general that is the problem.

It’s about how women talk about their own bodies.
It’s about how we talk about our daughter’s bodies.
It’s the way other people, especially men, talk about women’s bodies.

We have a problem — again, possibly very specific to this nation — about treating women’s bodies like objects, like there aren’t people living inside of them. We can’t seem to stop judging the shapes and sizes and functions of these bodies — our bodies! — as if the size, and shape, and function of these bodies are the end-all-be-all of personhood.

Instead of constructing conversations about strength and health and joy. I am trying to do this with my own daughters, my own children, but man, it’s hard. I’m fighting an uphill battle against dress codes and a shallow lifestyle media and people who talk about dessert as if it’s a crime.

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Which of course brings me to the CDC guidelines on women and alcohol, and leads me down a path to nearly incoherent rage.

The choice of whether or not to drink alcohol and how much should be left up to each individual woman. For no reason. For any reason.

The idea that a woman has to over think — or think at all — about her alcohol consumption misses the point.

I mean, sure, if you’ve had difficulty conceiving, and your healthcare provider suggests that cutting back on how many drinks you have in a week, it’s probably worth a try.

But to put out a blanket statement that young women who are not on birth control shouldn’t drink or drink very much is just… just unfreakingbelievable.

If you believe the helpful infographic they released to clarify the statement… well, alcohol is responsible for miscarriages, stillbirths, violence, STDs, and unplanned pregnancies.

Wait a… that’s not how that works! To paraphrase this writer, they are missing a step. You should read her article. I can’t write about this without descending into blithering anger. Women aren’t children. We aren’t incubators.

We aren’t just bodies.

We are people.

The Death of Romance

Until this weekend, I was sure that I was the only person who hadn’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Turns out that is not quite the case. Lots of people still have not seen it, and some of them are not going to see it.

If you haven’t seen it, but still want to, I have a spoiler alert a little ways down.

But first: A few facts about me and my Star Wars history:

A grew up with the original trilogy. Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope was the first movie I saw in a movie theater. My dad took my brother and me; I was 6. I think my dad may have been more excited than I was.

Until the movie started.

I won’t claim any kind of Star Wars nerd-dom. But I saw all three of the original trilogy films in the theater. I remember not liking The Empire Strikes Back; it was too dark, I thought. (The irony is not lost on me.) I enjoyed Return of the Jedi, Ewoks and all.

And Princess Leia, guys. She was the princess of my childhood, not those Disney floozies.

When the prequels rolled around, I was excited. I was curious about the origins of Darth Vader, and what had happened to the Jedi.

Needless to say, I was, along with the rest of the Star Wars fans in the world, disappointed, to put it mildly. The CGI was over the top and distracting, the acting was wooden (Ewon McGregor being the exception), and, frankly, the whole reason for Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vadar was unbelievable to me. I just didn’t buy that a broken heart could cause such evil.

So when the franchise was making a comeback last year, I was very MEH. Fool me once, and all that.

However…

J.J. Abrams was at the helm.
Reviews were positive.
People were excited again.
My husband went to see it on opening weekend, and was excited. He wanted us to see it together.

Here’s that ** SPOILER ALERT**.

We went to see it yesterday, a 3D matinee, as part of my birthday weekend. Six weeks after opening weekend, and the theater was still crowded.

Those opening words scrolled up the screen, and I was transported to my 6-year-old self, and the magic of movies again. Albeit with 3D glasses.

Guys, I gasped when the Millennium Falcon was shown on the screen. GASPED. And cheered.

I pretty much went along in that vein for the entire movie. I was completely engaged, cheering, laughing, even tearing up on occasion.

When Leia and Han — she, now a general; he, still a scoundrel — faced each other for the first time in the film, I cried.

And when Han Solo died, I sobbed. SOBBED, people. I think I alarmed the guy next to me — and my husband. (I’m a little emotional writing about this, to be honest.) I knew something bad was going to happen; I was actually expecting Chewbacca to die in some heroic sacrifice when they were placing explosives.

Nice head fake, Abrams.

Han Solo was my first movie crush. The chemistry between Leia and Han was my first romance! (Which probably explains a few of my later relationships.) And here he was, back in the movie, same old cynical Han, swindling his way across the known galaxy, returning reluctantly to service of the rebels/republic.

So when Han tried to talk his son away from the Dark Side, when he tried to do what his son’s mother and his former lover asked — “Bring him home” — and that same son put a light saber through his heart, I lost it.

I’m talking UGLY CRYING, PEOPLE.

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It was rough. A day later, I am still feeling the effects. I guess I was more invested in those Star Wars films and characters than I thought.

I’m probably not alone.

I’m probably not alone.

Anyhoo, I have to hand it to J. J. Abrams. He truly made a movie that not only reinvigorated my faith in the franchise, but he made me curious as to what came next.

He also made me want to indoctrinate my children. I may have lost Flora — she’s already quite a critic — and Kate may be on the fence. But I can get the 5-year-old, I bet. He’s got some buddies into it (yay for positive peer pressure), and he’s enjoyed the original movies with his daddy and me.

What movie franchise are you overly emotionally invested in?

The Middle

If today were going to mark my middle age, then I would live to be 90 years old.

That’s pretty good.

If I can stay in good health (*knocks on wood*), physically and mentally, I don’t mind the idea of being 90 years old.

Middle age, so far, has not been horrible. Here’s a little secret out there for you 20- and 30-somethings: you don’t die when you turn 40. Your life is far from over.

40 doesn’t mean that one’s creative or sexual life is over. I can’t speak to every 40-year-old, of course, but I know for me, these first five years of my fourth decade have seen a creative and a sexual resurgence. The latter I was not expecting, and I am pleasantly delighted. As to the former, I think I wrote more in the last year than I ever wrote in any year in my 20s.

I have also experienced many new things since turning 40, and none of them are anything to complain about. My 45th year finds me stronger as a mother, as a wife, as a writer, as a Catholic, and as a person. And I truly believe that even better things are yet to come for me.

This is the face of 45... in good lighting, anyway. :-)
This is the face of 45… in good lighting, anyway. :-)

Thanks for all the well-wishes, my friends. It’s going to continue to be an adventure.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Because what’s a good FB meme if you can’t turn it into a blog post?

Without ANY prompting, ask your children these questions. It’s a great way to see what they think. My thoughts/responses in italics.

Flora, age 11

What is something I always say to you?
No.

What makes me happy?
Reading.

What makes me sad?
When we don’t do what you ask.

How do I make you laugh?
By imitating us in funny ways.

What was I like as a child?
Smart. I love her.

How old am I?
44

How tall am I?
I have no idea.

What is my favorite thing to do?
Read.

What do I do when you’re not around?
Read.

What am I really good at?
Reading.

What is something I’m not good at?
Drawing. This is true.

What do I do for a job?
You write articles and put them on the Internet.

What is my favorite food?
*gusty sigh* No clue.

What do you enjoy doing with me?
Going out. Like, running errands and stuff.

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Kate, age 9

What is something I always say to you?
No. I’m sensing a theme.

What makes me happy?
Me. True.

Kate
Eating powdered donut holes and making me happy.

What makes me sad?
Me. Also occasionally true.

How do I make you laugh?
By being you.

What was I like as a child?
Beautiful. I love her, too.

How old am I?
44

How tall am I?
Oh, I don’t know this. I’ll guess 5 foot 7. Pretty close, 5’9”.

What is my favorite thing to do?
Work. Not even close.

What do I do when you’re not around?
Watch TV.

What am I really good at?
Working. She’s not wrong.

What is something I’m not good at?
Cooking dinner. *laughs wildly* Just kidding. You’re bad at paying bills. WHAT? Am not.

What do I do for a job?
You work for [company name]. You’re a writer.

What is my favorite food?
Strawberries?

What do you enjoy doing with me?
Roller skating.

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Michael, age 5

What is something I always say to you?
Yes. Hm. This actually surprises me to hear.

What makes me happy?
Cooking.

What makes me sad?
Me. Also sometimes true.

How do I make you laugh?
By telling me a joke.

What was I like as a child?
You were like beans.
Me: I was like beans?
Michael: Yeah, you smelled like beans all the time.

How old am I?
42? I love him.

How tall am I?
66 meters.

What is my favorite thing to do?
Look at people on Facebook.

What do I do when you’re not around?
You’re at work.

What am I really good at?
Work.

What is something I’m not good at?
Cooking. Now he’s just being silly.

What do I do for a job?
Recycle paper.

What is my favorite food?
Broccoli.

What do you enjoy doing with me?
Playing.

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Re: My favorite food — I don’t know what my favorite food is, frankly. I eat a lot of different things, so I’m not surprised that the children don’t know this one either. I do like strawberries and broccoli.

What would your children say you are good at?

Happy Birthday (Week) to Me

My mother always says the day I was born was the happiest day of her life.

My father always points out that she was pretty drugged up at the time.

Generally speaking, I make my birthday a one- or two-day affair. On the day of, I try to do something nice for myself, by myself; and, of course, have cake.

This year, my birthday got an earlier than usual kick-off, and I am not complaining. My parents had called a couple of weeks ago and asked me to schedule a nice dinner out for Dan, me, and my brother and SIL. Unfortunately, that was hard to do (what with babysitters, Dr. Bro and SIL had a prior commitment, and so on). So the plan became family game night at our place with Nonna, Pap-pap, Dan and our children, and the two younger nephews, and then dinner out.

But then, we got a bunch of snow, so events were canceled, and game night and dinner became a big event with six adults and seven children.

I loved it.

Everyone arrived around 3 p.m. on Saturday, and we played Kerfluffle, and then Wit and Wager (which, please note, *ahem* Dan, I would love to get for my actual birthday, along with another pair of yoga pants and a yoga block), and then we all went to P.F. Chang’s. The children were fantastic, the food and drink were delicious, and the company just beat all.

After dinner, we went back to the house, and served out the homemade chocolate cake my mother brought from Erie with her, and which she had the children help her frost, plus gelato from the Market District. And then we played Boggle, at which it turns out, I am very bad. I guess I’m only good when words go one way.

Chocolate Cake
My mom is ridiculous, in the best way.

On Sunday, I drove a friend to the LTYM auditions, and then we visited awhile at our place. Dan and I vegged out on Star Wars movies (Episodes IV, V, and VI) throughout the day, and we cooked and served dinner for his parents.

It’s nice to do nice things for people.

Also please note, because of the snow storm, our lovely producers opened another day of auditions. Check out the details here, and go tell your story! See your name on this year’s poster!

ltym poster
Your Name Here.

For dinner, I had thrown meat in the slow cooker before I left to play taxi. Fortunately, it turned out well. I also made this lentil salad from smitten kitchen, which I loved, and the other adults liked well enough, but the children wouldn’t try (Flora thought I ruined lentil soup; Kate thought I ruined potatoes).

So it was a lovely weekend, and a fun way to mark my birthday with my parents before they started their annual snowbird tour.

Now I can’t wait for my actual birthday weekend!

How long to you like to celebrate your birthday?

Random Thoughts: The Not One Word Edition

I didn’t post here once this week before today.

It’s usually poetry day, but I haven’t been good about that, either.

Mostly, it’s because of time and technical difficulties.

1. The books I am reading — currently Toni Morrison’s Home, previously… oh, just check my Goodreads account — have me thinking about bodies, and the way certain bodies are uniquely vulnerable in the society we live in. The default representation in our culture is the white male body.

And everyone else is expendable.

I will attempt to expand on this when I get a chance. Between the World and Me pretty much is based on this entire premise. He’s not wrong.

2. Uh. Yeah. Lots of this going on. I get started on a thought, and I don’t have time to sit with it — through my own choices, my own scheduling.

Plus, we’re currently snowed in, and Dan just started the original Star Wars (Episode IV, A New Hope) for the children. So I’m a little distracted. As per.

3. I am finally getting around to setting limits with the children and their Christmas tablets. Those things really took over their lives — when they are at home, it’s all they want to do. I waited until family dinner last night to put the boundaries in place so Dan and I would be on the same page. Weeknights: one half hour after chores and when I am home; one half hour after dinner. Presumably, they are doing their homework at Bella’s when they arrive home, and if that stops happening they lose the tablet for a day. They are not allowed to watch them after bedtime in their room — this has been a limit from the get-go, but they still try to get away with it. Weekends: two hours, tops.

We’ll see how it goes from here.

4. I may take further advantage of being snowed in by plugging myself into my music, and into my borrowed laptop, AND WRITE SOME MORE OF MY NOVEL. Sheesh. I just gotta get it done already.

Happy snow day! What are you up to?

Snowy backyard sunrise.
Backyard sunrise. It’s not not pretty, but I prefer not driving in it!

My Powerball Fantasy

Question Mark
Image source: quka

We all have one. As a matter of fact, Dan and I have always wanted to write a book of psychological profiles around lottery fantasies. We would have plenty of material if we started now!

I don’t think my fantasy is anything extraordinary.

I have to say, I would give my employer notice — I wouldn’t quit on the spot. As satisfying as it sounds to think about marching into work and saying, “I quit!”, I wouldn’t do that to my team. I would give some notice, tell them I’d work until they found a replacement, even train that person if they wanted. I’d set a deadline, for sure, maybe even ask to work part-time while they looked for a new person.

Also, I don’t think I would completely stop working. I’d pursue freelance writing and editing opportunities; I would definitely spend time on my own writing and publishing. Again, in theory, the idea of never working again sounds appealing, but honestly, I’d be bored after a while. Winning loads of money would give me freedom to make my own career, not to stop working altogether.

As far as the money: first, I would pay off all our debt, including the mortgages on our two properties. I’d pay off my car, and we’d buy Dan a car free and clear. I would create savings and college accounts for the children so we could stop worrying about that. Dan and I would decide on our investments and retirement accounts as well.

Once we didn’t have to worry about money anymore, it’s true, we would start spending again. We’d probably send the children back to Catholic school, and invest for high school as well.

We’d tear down and rebuild our house. Start from scratch. I think I’d stay where we are; we live in a good district; we have access to the city; and it’s a nice parcel of land. But I’d make our house much bigger, first of all. A five bedroom house — actually, I’d give Dan and me a separate wing, practically. Two bedrooms, a big master bath, two walk-in closets, maybe our own little sitting room.

The children would each get their own room. This would be hardest for Kate, and I suspect we’d still find her sharing a bed in the middle of the night with whomever wouldn’t kick her out. They would have their own full bath; maybe I’d give Flora her own half bath for morning/evening privacy. Their rooms would be big enough for a bed, dresser, nightstand, closet, and desk. Although, maybe what we should do is give Michael a half bathroom with standup shower, and a vanity in the full bath for the girls.

We’d keep the full compliment of rooms that we have downstairs: a half bath, or powder room as we call it; dining room; eat-in kitchen, fully renovated; a family room; and an office. I’d like to install a mud room in the back. Possibly, we would have an attached two car garage, with the office above it. We’d have a finished basement complete with children’s room, laundry room, wine cellar, and workshop for Dan’s tools. Outside: new shed, paved driveway, a full deck/patio, covered. We’d renovate Dan’s office, as well.

I’d have a budget to have someone clean all this house. And I’d make the children responsible for their own laundry. And we’d cover the back hillside with solar panels for power.

We’d travel, of course, and we’d be able to fly places we’ve driven in the past (Chicago, Wilmington). We would tithe to the church, and we’d give to charities, although I expect we’d have to discuss which ones. We’d eat out more, do more cultural stuff, volunteer.

Through donations and volunteering, we’d find ways to assist others. We each have causes that are important to us — mental illness, cancer research, women’s issues — and we’d look into how we could make a difference for organizations.

And I’d finally let the children get a dog.

Oscar at window.
Good doggie!

What is one big thing you’d spend money on if you won the Powerball?

Random Thoughts: The Practice Creation Edition

So far in 2016:

1. I’ve somewhat accidentally created a yoga practice for myself.

I’ve toyed with yoga on and off for the past three years. I’m not a fan of meditative yoga — the new agey language and tone made me restless. But I have found a couple of fitness yoga practices I like to use; my go-to is Fitness Blender on YouTube, and I do enjoy Jillian Michaels’ yoga workouts. Via a Twitter discussion, I became curious about Yoga with Adriene.

On Jan. 2, I tuned into her 30 Days of Yoga, and due to her spunky, grounded method, I got hooked after Day 2. I haven’t managed to do it every day; it’s Jan. 11, and I’m only up to day 8, but I like her style. I’m going to go through the 30 day sessions and see what’s next.

What I do like about yoga is the combination of stretching and strength it imparts. What I like about Adriene is that each workout is different and challenges different areas in different ways. What I am happy to discover is that since I started working out regularly again three years ago is that I can actually do a lot of these moves. I’m not flexible — I’ve never been able to even touch my toes — but I am definitely strong enough to hold the poses and move through the practice.

And I feel good afterward.

2. I’m still working on the writing practice, not just for myself, but with my children. Credit to Kim Dale (again) who wrote about these Q & A journals she does with her children. I got each of my children one as well, and we are working on them nearly every day. Due to the weekend schedule, I think we missed yesterday. We do them at dinner instead of bedtime, and it’s fun to see what they are thinking about. Plus, it gets the children off the tablets and at the kitchen table for conversation.

My Mac crashed, and is being repaired. I have my novel backed up elsewhere, but since I don’t have my own laptop, my desktop computer is where I write, and I haven’t been able to do that for a few days now. I am using my favorite Christmas gift, which came from Flora, a book of 300 writing prompts, to continue to flex that creative muscle.

3. I am creating a reading list for myself this year. The criteria is straightforward: authors and/or protagonists need to be non-white. That’s it.

So far, I have finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me (another Christmas gift, this time from Dan). It’s a stunning work, beautifully written and thought-provoking. I’ll probably review it here.

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Persepolis 2 cover

I’ve started Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi, and next on deck is Toni Morrison’s Home. I’m on Goodreads, user name red-pen-mama, if you’d like to follow along.

If you have suggestions for non-white authors, leave them in the comments! I need some new perspectives.

My Favorite Things about Kate

Dear Kate,

It’s your birthday. You are 9 today! Here are my nine favorite things about you.

1. For your birthday, you asked for a Thanksgiving dinner, as one does, but due to my work schedule, and Bella being occupied with Tadone’s health care, you have graciously agreed to a chicken dinner instead, plus mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green beans. And gravy. The gravy is very important.

2. You asked for an ice cream cake. Who asks for an ice cream cake in January? Kate, that’s who.

3. You are stunningly creative. The way your brain works continually surprises me. You are a font of ideas, and you think around problems all the time. You have reinvented the self-driving car and cured cancer with elephant genes. In your head at least.

4. You like to make people laugh. You are silly, goofy, and a little rambunctious.

5. You are kind and thoughtful. You soothe your brother when he’s upset; you help out around the house; you are quick to see and solve (or try to solve) a problem.

6. Although you claim fear in many situations, you are actually quite adventurous and happy to try new things. You’ve overcome your fear of the uneven bars, and are enjoying your gymnastics classes again. You regularly try new foods. You venture out into the world with a clear-eyed curiosity that will benefit you for years.

Kate and a pet.
My fearless girl lizard hunting — and catching — in North Carolina.

7. You are spirited and enthusiastic. When you embrace something or someone, you, literally if possible, wrap your arms all the way around it and squeeze the heck out of it.

8. You instantly make friends, and they are all your best friends. I have actually lost track of all of your school friends’ names.

9. You and I are getting along better than ever. We have discovered a groove with each other. I do a lot of deep breathing — your enthusiasm and energy can cross over to impulsiveness — and I give you some quiet, positive attention, and even when you get worked up and frustrated, you find a way to meet me eventually. Sometimes we need a cooling off period; sometime we just need yoga side-by-side. But we get there, where we can hear each other.

Happy birthday, my feisty, fiery Capricorn girl. I love you to the moon and back.

Mommy

2016 Word of the Year: Create

Recently, Flora talked about putting together some New Year’s resolutions. I asked if she wanted to talk about it, if she had any ideas. She said she didn’t want to talk about it yet.

In passing, I mentioned to her that I needed to pick a word of the year for 2016.

“Is it going to be ‘no’?” she asked. It made me laugh, although I am not 100 percent convinced she was joking.

I also bandied with some people online about what my word for 2016 should be. “Finish” and “organize” were two that came up. I did toy with the idea of calling 2016 The Year of Finishing Shit — because that is what I need to do.

But instead of calling it that, I decided it will be the Year of Creation. I am going to build on my writing momentum of 2015, and keep moving forward creatively. I am going to create space in my house for work and for play. I am going to create time for my family.

Looking back at my uber list for 2015, I was only partially successful (as per usual).

The different bedtimes worked out okay, and by May I did have Michael falling asleep on his own. He’s relapsed recently, and Dan tends to indulge his desire for someone to snuggle with. But I think we will get back to where we need to be in short order.

Failed in the office, and on the hallway project. Failed to get a professional family photo. I need to make that happen.

I did audition for LTYM, and I MADE IT, and this year, I am encouraging others to create and audition.

I refocused at work, and my production was solid. I still want a new job, though.

I did not apply to grad school. I wrote (most of) a novel, though! (This is where Finishing Shit is vital. I’ve written the ending of my book so many times in my head. Need to ACTUALLY WRITE ENDING.)

Pottery wheel.
Let’s make something! Image from 123RF, by lizard.

Do you have a word for 2016? Let’s hear it!