rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
As you may know, depending on how closely you follow me on other platforms or know me in real life, we recently took a trip to DISNEY WORLD (*ahem* didn’t mean to shout that, that’s just the sort of thing you can’t help shouting, so, anyway). Here is a little of that if you missed it. My parents went too, but were taking the autotrain, and they took the kids down with them because TRAIN! But Jason is always more comfortable in control of his own vehicle, even if he’s insanely in control of his own vehicle (don’t ride the Teacups with him with your eyes open), so the two of us drove down to meet them.

This, strangers out there in the wide internet world, means we took about a thousand miles of Interstate south from Southwestern Pennsylvania, the heart of Stillers Country, to Central Floria, Theme Park Capital of the World. Straight through the Deep South of America.

A lot has been said about the homogenization of America, even the world. We’re all chain establishments on big parking lots on huge highways, all over. But maybe it’s not that clear-cut. Maybe the similarities just make the differences stand out more. If the US and UK are two countries separated by a common language, the Mid-Atlantic and Southern States are two cultures separated by a common national government. Heck, Western and Eastern PA are different enough. We hadn’t left the country and it still felt totally foreign.

Little things, beyond the accents, would remind us we were somewhere else. Our stopover hotel in South Carolina had packets of Quaker Grits on the breakfast buffet instead of Quaker Oatmeal. Not even both! Just plenty of grits and no oatmeal in sight! Then, oh lord, the radio stations. We had some audiobooks but sometimes we’d search for radio stations and WHY IS IT SO FRIGGIN’ HARD TO FIND A DANG ROCK STATION IN THE SOUTH?! HOW MANY COUNTRY AND CONSERVATIVE TALK WITH THE OCCASIONAL POP STATION THROWN IN STATIONS DOES ANY AREA REALLY NEED. That may be just me.

But speaking of the radio, that brought it home (that we were AWAY from home) even more. There were commercials for gun stores— we have loads of gun stores in SW PA, I should know since I’d probably sent a resume on behalf of my dyslexic husband to all of them, but you just don’t hear them advertised on the radio. One of the ads boasted a collection of full-auto rifles they called their “Wall of Freedom,” which cracked us both up. “We need to move to the South!” he’d exclaim every time it would come on. “We absolutely do not!” I’d say back. It’s like the South took every stereotype about Conservative Americans and FLAUNTED it. It came out in the word choices of their radio personalities and the content of their billboards. My conservative husband was genuine about his wanting to move there (in theory at least)— he felt comfortable, like he belonged. I on the other hand did NOT. The commonality of billboards demanding that I meet Jesus were even more alienating to me than they were to my agnostic hubs, because I could tell by their very nature they’d been posted by people who genuinely believe I HAVEN’T met Jesus, that I’m an un-Christian idolator with my Roman Catholic ways. I gave him that Southern states with higher Hispanic populations, like Texas— or Florida, although Florida is different enough from the rest of the South in other ways too (like, you CAN find a decent selection of rock stations)— MIGHT be okay in that respect because there’d be a higher Catholic population than in this freaky Evangelical Southern Baptist Wonderland. Still, I'd still be a liberal in this area and I could already tell it would be weird. Where we are, in somewhat-rural-somewhat-suburban PA, ideology is pretty well-mixed— the chance that either of us is going to feel like the ideological weirdo in any group is a toss-up. What if you ALWAYS felt like the weirdo?

My biggest take-away from this: NO WONDER PEOPLE CAN’T COMMUNICATE ON THE INTERNET.

Yeah I know. Maybe that was a leap. But the day before we left I’d had an internet conversation with a person who was offended by the use of the word “spade” in a TV show. “I know it’s not meant to be derogatory in context, but because it’s a loaded word in other contexts you’d think they’d think twice about using it.” “Ummm,” people responded, “why would anyone’s brain GO there in this context though? A spade is a kind of shovel.” “Yes, but that’s an archaic term!” the first person continued. “It’s like using ‘gay’ to mean ‘happy’!” I finally commented, “’Spade’ as a gardening tool is not remotely archaic, I just used one this morning (and yes there’s a definite difference between ‘spade’, ‘shovel’, and ‘trowel,’ they’re not interchangeable). On the other hand I have never heard ‘spade’ used in a derogatory fashion at all and am not even clear what it’s meant to refer to, so I surely wouldn’t have thought twice about using it.” For a moment I rolled my eyes at myself for making the comment anyway— why bring that on myself? I’d just look like a clueless white girl to this person who would now find ME offensive. But the person responded thoughtfully, “Maybe it’s an East Coast vs. West Coast thing. Or rural vs. urban: no one I know would have any opportunity to use any gardening tools.” I kind of blinked at this. Sure, I grew up in a school district known for its outstanding Ag-Hort department, but you don’t have to live on a farm to stop by Home Depot to grab a few tools to deal with your yar…OH. I guess it IS theoretically possible, if you grew up in a big enough city and still lived there, that everyone you know MIGHT actually not even have a yard.

Huh.

Made me think of British and Irish people and the way they swear. There are words they say that they don’t think twice about— or if they do, it’s in the way somebody here might think “Should I say ‘damn’? There are children present.” And yet Americans are like “I can’t believe they said that on TV. Oh, and I can’t believe they said THAT one at all! Don’t they know how OFFENSIVE AND HATEFUL THAT IS?!” And said other-side-of-the-pond-er is like, “What? Why are Americans so prudish?” And then the quite-progressive-thank-you-very-much American is like “PRUDISH? No, YOU’RE being MISOGYNISTIC/RACIST/HOMOPHOBIC/WHATEVERTHATWORDAPPLIESTO by using that word!” And the Brit/Irish person blinks in bewilderment, then turns around and wonders how on earth Ron Weasley got away with using “bloody” so much in the movies.

So on the internet you find these people all over the world that have SO MUCH IN COMMON WITH YOU AND YOU’RE ALL EXCITED and then you end up getting into an argument over terminology or ideology that you think is OBVIOUSLY one way and so you’re shocked that these people you THOUGHT you had so much in common with could POSSIBLY subscribe to such abhorrent ways of thinking, when they’ve simply grown up in a culture with different connotations and weights for things!

I write about this sort of thing a lot on here, I know. I’m either preaching to the choir or you just don’t care and never will. But I do. I see so much strife and anger and hatred in the world that just comes out of MISCOMMUNICATION. Of people not realizing they’re coming from totally different places, whether physically or philosophically, and so they ASSUME things about each other and react according to those assumptions. “EVERYONE knows that’s offensive” isn’t true when you leave the culture where your “everyone” happened to be. Likewise “EVERYONE would know I didn’t mean it that way,” every bit. Both speaker and listener need to be aware that sometimes there’s going to be a disconnect, or the disconnect is just going to get wider as each person attempts to defend their own worldview to someone who doesn’t even realize the worldviews are different, and thinks the other is only being obstinate or oversensitive.

I was going to get into how this also applies to political memes, but I don’t feel like it though. It’s not a whole other kettle of fish, though, it’s actually the same kettle of fish. My husband and I have very different understandings of the concept of “socialism” for example. Sure, he knows Donald Trump is a narcissistic jerkfaced megalomaniac, but Bernie Sanders is, gasp, A SOCIALIST WHICH IS A MILLION TIMES WORSE. So what I think is a given good vs. evil-wise politically, he thinks is a completely different given (though I personally find it telling that I’d be fine with any of the current Democratic candidates, and he DOESN’T like any of the current Republican candidates, and yet he’d still vote for one of them before he’d vote for A SOCIALIST OR THAT EVIL EVIL CRIMINAL CLINTON. I don’t know, I think I’ve got the better stand here, don’t you? When HE doesn’t even like his own guys?)

So what I mean is, when people post political memes, they’re usually talking in a shorthand that only people who agree with them politically ALREADY will get. No one else is going to be convinced by it, they’re just going to be offended, because with THEIR understanding of the situation, whatever the dang meme says DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. And we end up bitterly hating people who, in real life, we’d probably like quite a lot. Or be married to, in some cases. Yeah, the hubs and I have tried to have political arguments but it just doesn’t work. Partly because he’s much better at verbalizing than I am so tends to dominate an argument which is JUST NOT FAIR, but also because our own ideas of what government is for are completely unaligned. In our own heads we are right and the other is wrong and nothing we say will make any difference because of that FUNDAMENTAL DISCONNECT.

So I guess I did get into that here. Anyway.

Day to day life is not about politics. We can agree to disagree about politics. Much more troubling is our disagreement on the best kinds of dietary changes we should make to our diet-that-definitely-needs-to-be-healthier-SOMEHOW (I am all for less meat and more salads, he’s all HECK NO but let’s snack less and avoid junk food and I’m like BUT SNACKS ARE HAPPINESS)--it’s much harder to agree-to-disagree on something that actually immediately affects your lives. But the POINT IS, the things people get all riled up about on the internet are probably not as big a deal as they seem. They’re probably just people speaking different versions of what they thought was the same language.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
I'm sure I've mentioned that the reason I actually started WRITING stories as a child (instead of just playing make-believe-- I was plenty enough good at THAT sort of storytelling without any other prompting) was that I kept having awesome narrative dreams that needed to be written down and shared. In my teen years I actually came up with tons of stories that WEREN'T inspired by dreams, then in adulthood I mostly concentrated on rewriting old stuff in an attempt to make them publishable, then I had kids and lost control of my mental capacities.

Nowadays I never think of fictional story ideas during my waking hours. I'm just like, "I have no ideas. There's nothing I need to write about." Occasionally I think of things to BLOG about, and to be honest probably the only reason I allow myself this is that blogging is easier and it's so much more immediate than fiction.

Because my subconscious still ADORES writing fiction. I really do have epic, marvelously story-like dreams. I even work on revising and otherwise shaping the story to make it better while I'm dreaming it.

And then I wake up.

Anyway, here's what I dreamed last night. I was in a pet supply store. There was a sense of survivalism among the shoppers, and a couple of girls in front of me in line begging for leeway with their payments because they only had SOME of the money now but they couldn't wait because there's no time, "the DNA shift is messing everything up!" The "DNA Shift" was apparently affecting masses of people, changing their genetic makeup just enough to slightly alter the way they experienced the world. It had apparently happened to prepare humanity for a pending apocalypse. Only the shift affected everyone differently apparently depending on their moral values and choices, and only SOME of the shifting would actually result in survival, only nobody knew exactly how. And I was given a brochure about a holiday CALLED "Ramadan" but celebrated by Celtic Neo-Druids in early February and based on spring cleaning, both actual and symbolic-- and then I was in the midst of such a celebration, which was kind of fun and involved candy feather dusters and a video game about vacuuming up evil spirits. But they were still actually prepping for the pending apocalypse, and there was a gas that caused the DNA Shift that was incorporated into the celebrations, but because not everyone had been exposed to the gas/experienced the Shift yet, some powerful executives tried to exploit Celtic Ramadan to withhold the gas for only those they deemed Most Worthy (ie, those who had the money to pay), so now there was a whole thing about who could and who could not undergo the Shift, and rogues going out intentionally exposing people and other rogues going out trying to stop them, and... and...

I woke up. And immediately I think, "Gotta write this one!" and then almost immediately another part of me thinks, "It's TERRIGEN MIST, you were totally just stealing Terrigen Mist because you're a Marvel TV addict with no ideas of your own. And the fact that the survival-likelihood of your DNA shift is based on moral values has a weird religious tinge to it, what exactly are you trying to insinuate? And is Celtic Ramadan more offensive to Muslims or Neo-Druids? Why does your subconscious have to have such messed-up cultural appropriations? WHY CAN'T YOU GET ANY USEFUL STORY IDEAS?"

And THAT is why I can't write fiction with my conscious brain. BECAUSE IT WON'T SHUT UP AND LET ME.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I touched on my personal problems with Lit Analysis in my last post (which, by the way, I have edited to include thoughts on Agent Carter's season finale, if you care), and as I continue to read a wide variety of opinions-expressed-as-truth about shows and books and etc, I thought it might make a good GeekMom post. So I pulled up something I'd written before about Lit Analysis to see if I could pull any of it for a new piece.

This had been one of a series of "memoirs" I'd written about my first years of college during my last year of college. Yeah. Kind of stretching the word "memoir" here but whatnot. As I read it I both laughed and cried. The bits and pieces I might use in an article would need a lot of reshaping to sound like a proper article, but I kind of want to share the whole thing as-is right now.

(I think I shared the one I wrote about my birthday once a long time ago, too. I'm going to go look for that! Oh, it was friends-locked because I used real names. I've un-friends-locked it due to like three people actually ever reading this while logged in on LiveJournal anymore. If anybody is called out by name in this who would not like to be, let me know!)

I'm not going to change or remove names in this one, either. Just shout at me if you think that should change. I've added a few notes and edits to clarify things for people who didn't know me in college, and taken out some chunks that are completely off-topic, but otherwise, I'm leaving it. I want to get other stuff done today!

And so I present to you "April 1997: The Trouble with Lit Analysis":

As written by me about 15 years ago! Not editing at all! So don't judge current me! Unless in a good way! )
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
So two of my favorite TV shows have been airing their miniseries this month-- one of which always HAS been a miniseries and is technically having its second season, the other of which is a miniseries for the first time and is back after over a decade. I was going to do a wrap-up review of both AFTER they'd both completely finished airing, but I'm exceedingly worried about the fate of the one that still has one episode to go so I'm hoping, perhaps, I can get all my multitudes of readers to marathon it and watch the last ep live in the next week so as to singlehandedly save the ratings situation. Every little bit helps, right?

(Any specific spoilers will be noted, but this will be more of a general review of things for the most part)(If you're reading this in Feedly which apparently several people do, I don't know whether the LiveJournal spoiler cuts will transfer over, so proceed with caution. I'm vague about the bigger bombshells, and the specifics aren't huge surprises or anything, so it shouldn't hurt TOO badly).

So, let's discuss the completed (HAH HAH) miniseries first. I only watched The X-Files sporadically back in the day when it was regularly on TV, then Jason and I marathoned it 9 years back or so and my love was more solidified (admittedly, not as HUGE of a fan as a lot of people I know-- not to obsession level-- but LOVE? I do love it). A miniseries seemed like an excellent idea for a revival-- many of my favorite shows ARE recurring miniseries, and I've mentioned what I love about that format before. I wasn't going to go into that all again, but one point is very relevant here: miniseries tend to be tighter, more consistently high-quality than regular television. Unfortunately, THAT was not the case with THIS miniseries-- "wildly inconsistent" would be my two-word review.

But, enjoyable as it was, the original X-Files was also scattered through with clunkers-and-the-entire-ninth-season. I still loved it. But when you have a six-episode miniseries (what's UP with that? Fargo has ten-episode seasons and that should be the final word. Granted, Sherlock has 3-episode seasons, but each episode is longer so that counts for...something?--it occurs to me I could probably write up the Holiday Special of that one, here, too. I might. I think it might happen organically) it sticks out more when half of them are clunkers. In this case, episodes 1, 5, and 6 were the clunkers. And 5 was one of those nonsensical-what-the-hey-did-I-just-watch clunkers that the series has a-plenty. 1 and 6-- possibly not coincidentally, the two parts of a two-parter-- were the two that just didn't sit right with me at all.

I figured out why as soon as I saw the previews for episode 2 at the end of episode one. In just a few clips, I felt like I was watching X-Files again, more than I had in the entire episode that had just ended. And it felt rather cruel of me, if I wasn't talking about a fictional character, but I realized the problem with that first ep (and again with the last) was depressed Mulder. I mean, storywise he had every right to be depressed in the first episode, and he spent most of the last gravely ill and injured and also-- this may be key-- separated from Scully. But that wasn't what I loved about the X-Files.

In the end I realized that it was THESE TWO SPECIFIC CHARACTERS that made this show for me. The X-Files has spawned so much great TV SciFi since. I can find conspiracies and crazy monsters and mysterious phenomena LOADS of places on TV-- Agents of SHIELD's got all that, if a little less scary-and-or-gory. But no other show has Mulder and Scully, these very complex and fully-alive characters with their perfect banter and chemistry. Many shows have tried to replicate that banter and chemistry but the fact is it's not going to be Mulder and Scully unless it actually IS Mulder and Scully. And in those moments of the episode 2 preview, I saw them again. The two of them, out Truth-seeking again, in their element. In episode 1 you had a kind of somber, slower, softer Scully, and even more glaringly, you had depressed, hopeless, disillusioned Mulder. Dangit the POINT of Mulder is his readiness to believe! I missed playful, determined, obsessed, and loving-every-minute-of-it Mulder. His JOY in discovering paranormal phenomena is what buoys this show along! In one moment of episode 1-- when he sees a replica of an alien spacecraft in action-- that old Mulder cracked through to the surface. But he was back to himself consistently for episodes 2-5, as was (possibly because of his being himself again?) Scully. And in those episodes I could sit through great writing (episode 3-- I know my online friend/biggest X-Files expert of them all, @easyqueenie, didn't like that one so much, but I thought it was brilliant) and terrible writing (ep 5, as mentioned), because I was hanging out with these two characters whom I loved so much I even managed to write a small and ridiculous piece of fanfiction about. I could roll with it. Whatever weirdness happened, they were still my two favorite FBI agents and I always enjoy their company. 1 and 6 just didn't feel that way, and that was the only time I really felt dissatisfied.

Feeling a little dissatisfied with the episode already probably made the ridiculous cliffhanger at the end of episode 6-- the LAST episode, remember-- a little easier to take. I'd never witnessed such a blatantly trolling move by a TV show before. Or, I thought, such a gutsy bid for another season: "You WILL give us more episodes or you will NEVER KNOW HOW THIS ALL WRAPS UP!" And the thing is, despite the unevenness of the writing and the expense and hard-to-get-hold-of-ness of the stars, they probably will. Because it's a big deal, dangit. It's the first thing that shows up when you go to the catch-up-on-TV Comcast page. And people watch it.

But meanwhile, over at ABC, it seems like nobody's watching television's greatest gift to humanity, Agent Carter, or more appropriately AGENT!CARTER! because I tend to get excited. And those who are-- well, I suppose most of us ARE just peachy with it, but there's a small contingency of reviewers and folks who are SO DISAPPOINTED with various aspects of this season that they keep writing "THIS IS WHY AGENT CARTER ISN'T WORKING" articles (two such from GeekMom people!). Never mind that this season has improved on many aspects of last season (and THAT season was amazing!), and blows The X-Files out of the water quality-wise (not just the new miniseries, but the bulk of the original episodes as well). It deserves way more positive attention than it's getting. I honestly cannot comprehend how low the ratings supposedly are. I said the same thing last year, but it bears repeating: if Agents of SHIELD can get decent ratings, why shouldn't Agent Carter get MORE? I LOVE Agents of SHIELD, it's my favorite current non-miniseries TV show, but it doesn't hold a candle to Agent Carter. Carter is clever, funny, and suspenseful all at once; it's got a premise even non-MCU fans like my mother can appreciate; it's gorgeous to look at both in the cinematography and the period costume/prop/set design (OMG I am still pining for Whitney Frost's purple coat/dress combo from the other night), and relatively universally cast-wise as well; and it's JUST GENERALLY AWESOME I'm out of specifics that fit in this sentence.

It's simply an awful lot of fun. When you get down to it, I just enjoy watching it. Much like those X-Files episodes where the leads AREN'T painfully depressing to watch, I'd follow it in whatever weird directions it might want to go. Which is why I really don't understand the criticisms. They tend to be minor nitpicks and personal preferences blown up into THIS IS GOING ALL DOWNHILL fatalism. It makes me wonder if people have gotten so used to looking for things to complain about in their media so they can write a Proper Critique of it online, that they've forgotten how to just ENJOY a show.

I mean, I'm not trying to claim that it's perfect. My biggest gripe with this season (though, remember, there's one episode left, it could blow up in my face then! But I doubt it) was that Jarvis was being used far too exclusively as comic relief in the first half of the season, which not only does a disservice to his character, but becomes extra jarring in the second half when he goes through a period of intense worry and anger which is just beautifully acted, but it would have been nicer if he hadn't been made a fool of too many times earlier in the season.

Otherwise there were moments here and there where I thought "well THAT was stupid" or winced from something that wasn't nice to see (that would be Whitney's Zero Matter mostly-- but obviously that's not a bad choice on the part of the creators, that's just gross), or where I really wasn't sure if I would like a direction the story was going in, but I went along for the ride, and always ended the evening satisfied-- okay, maybe "satisfied" is the wrong word when most of the time I found myself more and more anxious for the next Tuesday to arrive. And yeah, I was pretty freaked out for the week after episode seven, but that's just suspense. That's what a cliffhanger is SUPPOSED to feel like (and only last a week!).

I don't know if people are ALLOWING themselves to go along for the ride. Take, for example, your random musical dream sequence. (That spoiler title is actually longer than the spoiler it's hiding). It seems very much a matter of personal taste. But the reactions I've seen are either "That was the greatest scene ever and it elevated the rest of the episode, which was meh" or "That was an utter flop and totally wrong and it ruined the whole episode, nay, the whole SEASON." Seriously? There's no middle ground here? I was dubious about it, and storywise I think it was pretty pointless, but I, like I said, went along for the ride and enjoyed it for what it was, and in the end I WAS HAVING FUN AND THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS.

People are also very opinionated about the romantic angles. Last year I said outright that the LACK of romance was one of my favorite things about the show. Yeah, it was. And apparently lots of other people felt the same way, because this year there IS a romantic subplot and suddenly people are all "YUCK GROSS WHY, YOU'VE RUINED IT, PEGGY DOESN'T NEED A MAN!" (with the occasional addition of "...unless it's Angie who isn't a man anyway"). And I'm sitting here gaping agog at these comments, wondering where this vitriol is coming from. I don't like (hot and heavy) romance! I loved last year's lack thereof! I might have chalked it up to my demisexuality, except that most of these people are far more sexual than I am, and yet I have no problem with this season's romantic subplot! Okay, ALMOST no problem, I'll get to that in a bit, but....
1. First of all, it's a subplot. SUBplot. It never overpowers the story proper. It never tries to be more important than SUPERVILLAINS PLOTTING WORLD DOMINATION. It reads, to me, as mere social entanglements that give the characterizations a little flavor, that's all. Nothing to make or break the show.
2. Second, I think personal bias about certain tropes has colored a lot of opinions. The mere existence of a LOVE TRIANGLE UGH causes people to rant about how awful that trope is and how it automatically brings the show down. LOOK, OKAY, maybe certain tropes are overused and often used poorly, but I've seen next to nothing of the faults that plague badly-shoehorned love triangles in this show, in practice. Peggy is SO NOT MOONING over two men, helplessly pondering which one might be her One True Love. In fact she's doing her darned best to IGNORE the situation, only rather angrily (although yes quite confused) discussing it once Jarvis pesters her into discussing it, and it takes being outright knocked out for her even to ponder it to herself subconsciously. Plus it's not a triangle. I wouldn't even call it a quadrilateral, even though it is, because that connotes, like, STRUCTURE. THIS is not a geometric shape, it's a long series of miscommunications and bad timings!
3. I also think people's own shipping preferences might have something to do with it? Note the "unless it's Angie"s. Or, whomever. I called it last year, I'm a Peg/Sousa shipper, and my ship is prominent among these entanglements-- in fact that oddly might be my only problem with the romantic subplot, because this year it's a LOT MORE OBVIOUS that Sousa IS the romantic endgame here, which perversely makes people who DON'T ship it angry that the showrunners are trying too hard to FORCE him on Peg, which makes me miss the days when I could say "See that guy? He's perfect for Peggy. I bet he's the one she eventually married," and it was a theory based on good judgment of character, not because THE WRITERS ARE TRYING TO SET IT UP AND UGH, THEY'RE WRONG. Which, no, YOU are wrong, Louise* Sousa-haters, HE IS SO PERFECT FOR HER, I think I explained why last year, not to mention gorgeous and apparently a very good singer. Anyway so I'm happy with the chances for my team, but other people like other matches better and suddenly it's the SHOW'S fault if the show doesn't agree?
4. Nobody's saying Peggy NEEDS a man. PEGGY sure isn't saying she needs a man. But it's already canon that she eventually does marry one, because she mentions him in Winter Soldier. So it's not like she's going to stay single forever, either. She's totally over Steve now, she can date whomever whenever she wants, and it will IN NO WAY WEAKEN HER FROM THE AWESOME CHARACTER THAT SHE IS.

Returning to the subject of tropes. OMG TROPES. These come up frequently in online critical discussion, but it's never about "How was this trope incorporated?" It's instead "THAT trope showed up. And THERE's an example of THAT trope. This show keeps using all these tired tropes!" GUYS, STOP. Stop trying to name tropes. Tropes are not automatically cliches that should be eliminated. Tropes are basic storytelling threads that show up again and again through the WHOLE COURSE OF HUMAN HISTORY (certain technological details excepted). It does not matter if a certain trope can be identified-- does it fit, organically, with this story? HOW does it fit? What do the writers, or actors, or set designers do to claim it as their own? What makes this piece of storytelling unique? Tell me that. Don't tell me it happens to HAVE a trope you don't like on principle.

It's like people are reviewing shows against an imaginary ideal in their head and getting mad when it doesn't meet those expectations.

To be honest, I realized my personal problem with this kind of criticism just about a year ago, when I read an article that pointed out that this grew out of lazy academic criticism. FLASH BACK to my second semester at college, when I went to my first English-major specific class, Literary Analysis. Guys, I SUCKED at it. Sure, I LOVE analyzing literature! I can do it nonstop! But apparently I was doing it WRONG. Lit Analysis was about looking at works through SPECIFIC LENSES, going in with a premade set of things to look for, and coming up with how that set matches up with the work, and then judging the entire work based only on those criteria. IT MADE NO SENSE to me. Why were we intentionally biasing what we said about a work in this way? Why couldn't the WORK ITSELF instead work on us, and then we could say how it managed what it did? These Lit Analysis methods seemed altogether BACKWARDS-- like telling a work "How well do you follow MY RULES?" instead of saying "Okay, art, what are you here to offer me?" My professor kept rolling her eyes at my idiocy and repeating the same seemingly nonsensical things over and over, certain that if she just said it again with MORE EMPHASIS I'd get it. But instead, I decided it was hogwash and changed my major to elementary ed, where our analysis of literature revolved around how well it worked for kids of various ages and abilities, which is much more the way I preferred to do it.

--anyway my point is, there's probably nothing wrong with the way other people critique shows, it just happens to be a way I find painfully antithetical to my own way. I AM SORRY, OTHER REVIEWERS. IT REALLY ISN'T YOUR FAULT. IT'S A WORLD VIEW PROBLEM. I cannot experience art by chopping it up and going at the pieces with a checklist. I don't like when the people who CAN AND DO insinuate that I'm wrong, so, defensively, I've been trying to turn the tables. Hypocritical, no?

But in defense of MY way, I think I get to enjoy myself more. I can experience the forest without harping on about how some of the trees are shaped. Remember my allusion up above to the Sherlock holiday special? MAN, that thing was WEIRD, and it had bits that weren't to my taste. But I utterly enjoyed watching it, 'cause I rolled with it. I decided to accept it as is and see what I got out of it, and I got a pleasant evening out of it that happened to include Martin Freeman doing narration, which is something I will always adore (not to mention, Martin Freeman as a WHOLE, but his doing narration is a thing that always sticks out for me). I'm not always going to enjoy myself with the roll-with-it technique. There will always be shows that turn out to have nothing good to offer me in the end. But at least I didn't go in with a checklist.

Okay, some final Agent Carter reactions: Speaking of rolling with it, when I heard Mrs. Jarvis would actually be IN THE PICTURE this season, I wasn't sure what to think. It was sort of a running gag that you never saw her before. But hey, roll with it, and of course she's wonderful. And what's up with all these villains you can't help but sort of root for? Dottie is so much fun in her sociopathic way, and Whitney Frost, I don't know, but I find I'm loving her more, too, the more horrible she gets. Shout out to the minor characters who are awesome, like Rose, or awesomely annoying, like Samberley. OH GOSH SAMBERLEY-- it's kind of fun having someone who is neither evil nor just a typical bigoted 40s white guy who is nonetheless completely unlikeable. And just because I'm a Sousa fangirl doesn't mean I dislike Jason Wilkes, he's quite charming when he isn't being completely messed up by Dark Matter. Actually the only bad thing about him is that, whenever anyone calls him "Jason," MY Jason ALWAYS feels the need to say "Yes?" and that does get irritating after awhile. And Jack Thompson. Dude. Why do I get the feeling you're going to be part of the reason Hydra ends up building itself into SHIELD from the beginning? I'm onto you and your ambitious ways, Thompson!

EDIT! I need to include my thoughts post-finale! The only part of what I said before that has been really changed by the last episode was, of course, JACK. OMG. The guy's a jerk, but he can't end this way! WHICH FURTHER NECESSITATES A THIRD SEASON! I need either closure or reprieve. Granted, I've seen at least one of the showrunners, in at least two different places, stress the ambiguity of his fate, just short of yelling "HE'S NOT DEAD!" at us. If he IS dead, I guess he doesn't have any hand in the Hydra infiltration. If he's not, the possibility still stands. But I'm glad he really does seem to respect Peggy now. The scene with the dinner orders was just THE BEST. And kind of heartrending in retrospect-- it's kind of foreshadowing, because his relationship with Peggy came so beautifully full-circle, it's like, should have known that'd be the end of him, we just totally closed an arc there! But it was awesome.
Also, I want Whitney's purple dress in THAT episode, too.
Also, I am so gloating about my ship, guys. Look, it's not even that I was THAT PASSIONATE a shipper. My favorite ship of the MCU is still the ill-fated half-season-long Coulson/Rosalind deal because I'm just weird that way. But there are still so many people that DO NOT APPRECIATE SOUSA PROPERLY that I just feel compelled to be all fist-pumpy in-yo'-face about that freakin' intense kissin' they had going on there. I CALLED IT GUYS AND IT'S CANON WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT.
ANYHOO. GIVE ME SEASON THREE OR I WON'T BE ABLE TO LIVE. Well, perfectly happily anyway.

In short, DO AS PEGGY SAYS. Or, support Agent Carter because it's way too good to get brushed away.

I think that's all I have to say. If not, question me about my omissions in the comments and I'll expound upon them there.

*Teasing. I'm only name-checking the one Sousa-...-disliker I can argue with in complete confidence that it's all friendly on both sides!
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
The Internet is very emotional today, which has made it hard to focus. Sure, I like both David Bowie and Alan Rickman a whole lot (and the former was JUST singing on my computer again a few minutes ago). But they don't hit a nerve quite as much as this NEW Star-Wars-Intersecting-With-My-Personal-Life post I wrote that just went up on GeekMom today,* and even that one hit the emotional wayside when I read my dearest friend Angie's post reflecting on the bullying she suffered in high school and how it's affected her since, because, I mean I can't remotely claim that her being bullied hurt me just as much, but it DID make me ragingly angry and determined to be an anti-bully a billion times more strongly than my OWN having-been-bullied had made me. If that sentence construction makes any sense whatsoever. So I've been like PEOPLE EVERYBODY JUST READ ANGIE'S POST and all emotionally-charged all day.

But basically it's been distracting me from something that's been bugging me for...months, really. I first thought I'd write about it, and my misgivings, last summer, but never got around to it. Then in the fall, I wanted to write about it again, but other topics got in the way. But now, while other topics are still getting in the way, I keep seeing reminders, and I know I've got to get it off my chest through more than just a long comment on The Mary Sue.

I don't know if you know this... no, I'm pretty sure you know it-- Exhibit A, B, and the number 3, as well as this blatant one: it's been my lifelong dream to work on Sesame Street? Okay, by "lifelong" I mean "since 11th grade," since before then I was actually kind of scared of Sesame Street. Don't ask.

But no, when I was far out of the target audience, I became obsessed with this show. It started with a research paper. When I was trying to come up with a topic for my next paper in my high school research writing class, a vision of Cookie Monster flashed through my head, and I wondered what I could do with the topic of Sesame Street. "What effects, if any, did Sesame Street have on early childhood education?" was the question I finally went with.

And boy, were there answers. I didn't know that kindergarten didn't used to be mandatory, and that what kindergarten classes existed were more like day cares. Kindergarten and preschool curricula directly changed as a result of kids learning from Sesame Street, and more and more preschools opened. Here, if you're curious, I've found and scanned my whole report-- it seems to be a next-to-last draft, with some editing notes and a couple unrelated reminders written in the margins-- and keep in mind it's written by a(n admittedly advanced) seventeen-year-old, but it's still full of interesting information and anyone who wants to double-check the facts can find even more in the "Works Cited" section. So if you want the nitty-gritty details, there you go and I'll get on with this post.

So, as other adults who didn't even watch the show complained that it "wasn't what it used to be," I rolled my eyes. No, Cookie Monster did NOT turn into a Veggie Monster. Yes, Elmo is annoying, but he wasn't the whole show: he co-opted the last twenty minutes for "Elmo's World" which was deliberately targeted at a younger audience than the rest of the show, because the heavy research indicated that the preschool-and-up audience tended to wander away by then and only the toddlers kept watching. I knew the show only made changes that they'd thoroughly researched, and I trusted it. And when my own kids started watching I was not disappointed. There was just that one falter, when Kevin Clash broke my heart, and I didn't blame the show for that, just him, like, DUDE, I totally dreamed of working for you, how could you?!

And then, last summer, they're handed off to HBO. "It's fine!" they assured us. "This gives us the funding to continue doing what we do! The new episodes will FIRST be aired on HBO, but after a 9-month hold, PBS will get them, too!"

Okay then. I'm willing to reserve judgement, because as long as the same people are putting it together and as long as PBS still gets the episodes EVENTUALLY (it's not like there's much of a timeliness issue involved), everything should be just fine! Except it just FELT wrong. The show was founded SPECIFICALLY to give a leg up to underprivileged kids. That wasn't an afterthought, or some kind of politically-correct posturing; that was the BASIC MISSION of the show. I was reading Street Gang at the time, and that point was made over and over. It was for underprivileged kids. Other kids could benefit from it, too, but that wasn't the point. So to have the show belong exclusively--even if only for 9 months-- to a premium cable channel that, heck, my family doesn't even have, let alone underprivileged kids? Just seemed... off.

But then, within a month, two of the most involved and longest-running writer-performers on the show, Joey Mazzarino (head writer behind the scenes, Murray and Baby Bear and a slew of other Muppets, um, UNDER the scenes) and Sonia Manzano (writer behind the scenes since the 80s, Maria on the Street since 1971) announced they were leaving. Could have been coincidence. Manzano is not only technically "retirement age," but her writing career has been taking off in the past couple of years so she's got plenty to occupy herself. Still, the timing felt... ominous. It didn't help when I found out one of my fellow new GeekMom writers had been a producer on Sesame Street until relatively recently. I was like "SQUEEEEEE HOW DID YOU NOT MENTION THAT OUTRIGHT, HOW WERE YOU NOT BRAGGING THAT EVERY CHANCE YOU GOT?!" but she seemed hesitant to talk about it...and that made me worry....

So now Sesame Street's first episode on HBO is Saturday. The New York Times covered the changes you'll see pretty objectively. The Mary Sue read it and had a few more questions. Vulture just jumped right into digging up the dirt, revealing, sadly, that Joey Mazzarino's departure was, indeed, not a coincidence (though apparently I'm a bad fan because I didn't follow him on Facebook so as to know this already. Hey, I DO follow Sonia Manzano on Twitter though and during the last Olympics we totally had a conversation about the gymnasts. I TOTALLY DID HAVE A TWITTER CONVERSATION WITH MARIA GUYS IT WAS AWESOME. *ahem*). And I managed to piece my thoughts together on the subject at last.

I don't like it. MAYBE it'll be fine, sure, MOST of the creative team is the same, and they're still relying on research, but it feels like they've relied on that research to sanitize it, make it safe for middle-class America, just like every other preschool show, instead of being that one safe-yet-familiar haven for lower-class kids. It's not like middle-class kids COULDN'T enjoy the show, even if its imperfect setting might have made them, God forbid, uncomfortable. But middle-class kids have ALL the shows, and THIS show was DESIGNED FROM THE START to be FOR the poor kids. It's like YA literature-- it's FOR TEENS. Lots of adults love it too and that's fine, I'm one of them, but it's FOR teens. Start writing it for the adults who love it instead of for the teens, and is it really YA anymore?

I think the real test is, though, not so much what the show is now, but what Sesame Workshop continues to do BESIDES the show. Will they continue to produce the show in other countries, countries where literacy definitely could use a boost? Will they continue to address just the right issues specific to each of those places? More importantly, will they continue to reach out to the underprivileged here in the U.S. with auxiliary programs like the ones they have for children with parents in the military or in prison? Will they serve the non-HBO-accessing kids through their outreach? Will they remember why this organization was created in the first place?

I wanted to work for them not just because the show is clever and has Muppets. I wanted to work for them because they made a real positive difference in the world. They weren't just any old preschool show.

But I realized recently that, whatever some TV-based organization in NYC is doing, I'm actually addressing the same goals right here, in my own little part of the world. I'm bringing literacy to underprivileged kids all the time. I bring them worlds in bags of books. I'm a public children's librarian and I'm proud of my job. Maybe I don't need to work for Sesame Street to be inspired to take up its original cause.

---
*Relatedly, every year I react to the Youth Media Awards on this blog (one year it was even on video), and no one ever seems to care one way or another. Well, THIS year I posted my reaction post on GeekMom, and still no one cares, but on the off-chance you ARE wondering where my reaction post has gone this year, here it is.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
This format worked really nicely last year, so I'll stick to something of the same:
Long and Full of Pictures )

When I was talking about the GeekMom thing with some relatives on Christmas Eve, I said kind of bashfully that I shouldn't let my writing confidence be affected so much by how many people read and respond, because writers write even if only for themselves, but a couple of them said, No, it makes sense, because while that might be so, a written work technically isn't complete until it has an audience, because it TAKES A READER. So please, indulge me, and chime in in the comments with your opinions on any or all of the things discussed here, because I like being heard!
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
A year ago tonight I was standing in my parents' kitchen, crushed between a cousin and a neighbor or two, trying to hear and be heard over seven separate conversations, when I thought, "I am so happy right now, it's ridiculous." It was ridiculous in more than one way-- ridiculously happy (whatever that means-- why is it so ridiculous to be happy, anyway?), and ridiculous because large crowds of people talking loudly over each other in a tight space is pretty much MY PERSONAL HELLSCAPE. I laughed out loud and said so to my companions, and they just laughed and agreed with me. Christmas Eve at my parents' house is the one event all year that such an environment builds me up instead of wearing me down.

I wonder why that is? The technically-bantered definition of introversion is Drawing Energy From Being Alone and Finding Other People to be Draining, whereas extroversion is the opposite. And when I look at it that way, I think I know why Christmas Eve is my exception.

Because Christmas Eve at my parents' is all about LOVE. Everyone there is full of love and sharing and happiness to be together. Those feeling less social usually end up watching the A Christmas Story marathon and are still plenty happy. It's not as draining as most social occasions are to me because EVERYONE is giving off positive energy. No one is sucking it away! It's all just building up and bouncing around!

I'm really sensitive to negative energy. That sounds very New-Agey, but seriously. The problem with people usually is that negative energy is always around sucking my positive energy away. I'M SERIOUS. Think of it metaphorically at least. But no, really. If I am, say, at a small social occasion of half a dozen people and it's relatively quiet, but the atmosphere is full of passive-aggressive guilt-tripping and the sense that anyone could make the wrong move (and does) at any moment... not that I go to any such events on Christmas or anything... well that's a MILLION times more draining than the packed house the night before where everyone's happy to be there and everyone's welcome just the way they are and everyone's far more concerned with everyone else being happy than with how perfect anything is. Which makes it, in the end, far more perfect in its allowing imperfection.

So anyway, maybe that's why I love Christmas. I love that feeling, that wave of positive energy I can only get this one night of the year. And so I try to send it out to you, too.

I rehashed last year's A Christmas Together post over at GeekMom this year. But I didn't get to post the full lyrics to "A Christmas Wish" there, so, as usual, for you all here, my wish to you:

I don’t know if you believe in Christmas,
or if you have presents underneath the Christmas tree.
But if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for you to come and celebrate with me.

For I have held the precious gift that love brings
even though I never saw a Christmas star.
I know there is a light, I have felt it burn inside,
and I can see it shining from afar.

Christmas is a time to come together, a time to put all differences aside.
And I reach out my hand to the family of man
to share the joy I feel at Christmas time.

For the truth that binds us all together, I would like to say a simple prayer.
That at this special time, you will have true peace of mind
and love to last throughout the coming year.

And if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for peace to last throughout the coming year.
And peace on earth will last throughout the year.

by Danny Wheetman, as sung by Kermit the Frog


MERRY CHRISTMAS!
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
For as far back as I can remember, my dad has made a big pot of New England Clam Chowder every Thanksgiving. Sure we have the turkey and stuffing and the rest of it, but the clam chowder is his particular contribution to our large extended-family feast. He always said it was more likely to have been eaten at Plymouth Rock* than turkey and stuffing, anyway.

Some years we'd show up and there'd be no other appetizers out, and we'd skipped lunch BECAUSE, and I'd be SOOOOO STARVING because I was a kid and had no sense of LATER, but clam chowder was gross. GROSS. Still, every once in awhile I'd get desperate enough for a few spoonfuls and a lot of oyster crackers. And over the years it grew on me and my tastes matured and the spoonfuls got bigger and the oyster crackers got less.

Today when I tasted it, "gross" it was not. It wasn't even soup I tasted. I tasted a cozy festive space that blocked the cold outside. I tasted a house crowded with love and laughter. I tasted football games blaring out of every TV even though no one particularly CARED who was winning (unless the Steelers were playing). I tasted the anticipation of a feast and a vast table of desserts and even of the Christmas season itself.

I had seconds of the clam chowder that tasted like so much more than clam chowder. Turkey and stuffing, well, anybody can have turkey and stuffing, any feast day. But New England clam chowder actually tastes like THANKSGIVING now.

So I give thanks for clam chowder, for the family that shares it, and for the man who makes it every year, whose birthday, coincidentally, is also today. Happy Birthday, Dad, and Happy Chowder Day, Everyone!

--


*Although, please people, can we stop with that association already? It's an offensive association, but that doesn't mean THANKSGIVING should go the way of offensive (unlike, say, Columbus Day. WHO CELEBRATES COLUMBUS DAY?!). We don't need to drag Thanksgiving down with it. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, and that never goes out of style.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Just a short bit so that my last entry isn't the first entry you see when you come here, because it's been put to the lie this weekend. I mean, sort of. I mean, my latest GeekMom article went up Saturday, on wordless picture books, and it got lots of raves and shares and by the end of the day as I was scrolling down Feedly, I spotted a "100+" beside it in the column where the "popularity" of posts are noted, and I kind of gaped. When I look up and down that list, most of the blogs I really respect and think of as children's-librarian-blogosphere-must-reads don't get near 100. The Bloggess gets lots of "500+"s, and she's definitely the outlier. GeekMom in general has a lot of 100+s and 200+s, but that is not by any means on ALL the posts there.

And, yeah, by this morning-- or actually yesterday-- the number beside mine had gone up to "200+."

But this isn't about the numbers so much as it was EYE-OPENING. All those posts, whines, frets, things I've said about feeling like there was nothing anyone needed to hear from me, that my voice has been done a thousand times, that I have nothing to contribute-- I hope you realize that I wasn't just looking for sympathy or fishing for compliments. I HONESTLY BELIEVED I had nothing unique to say. It was kind of a shock to be snapped out of it, by seeing so much wide-spread love by strangers over something I'd written. It forced me to look fresh at what I'd written. Sure, other people write about picture books. They even write about wordless picture books. But it's not like I'm NOT more knowledgeable on the subject than the average person. And even among the other people who write on the topic, I've never seen nearly enough gushing over Barbara Lehman the way I do. Maybe I really have added to the discussion, made a little bit of a difference, by drawing more attention to her work.

With my eyes open, I even caught a bit of a Twitter discussion, a We Need Diverse Books discussion, about how much stories about kids who practice religion incidentally, where it's not an extreme example of the religion, are needed, and I realized, Oh right, I'm a Bad Catholic, and there aren't nearly enough voices of Bad Catholics out there, showing how someone may not strictly follow every tenet of their religion and may even strongly disagree with aspects of it, but they still believe and they still get something out of it. I mean I AM constantly seeing that disconnect, that two-extremes way of looking at it, and I'm like, you stupid white middle-class cishet American woman, THIS IS YOU ACTUALLY BEING DIVERSE and you knew it all along, you KNEW that voice needed to be heard and you still denied that it was yours!

Speaking of which, current events make me feel it's really important to relink to a post I posted earlier this year. Right, that was me saying something important, something that needed to be heard, and needs to be heard even more now. Why have I doubted my voice for so long.

Anyway, I've got a lot of other stuff to work on today, so I will sign off now. I just needed to get this on the record, if only to remind myself when I forget again.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
NOTE: I'm kind of unsure about my personal blog, now that I write on a MUCH LARGER PLATFORM over at GeekMom. I could kind of count on being mostly ignored here on my little corner of the internet, just talking to the few people who knew I was here, so I could just WHINE STUPIDLY to the universe every so often and no one would care. So I apologize. This is one of those whiny depressing unhelpful-to-anyone-else posts so if you're looking for something professional from me, this isn't it.

Well then, if you're still here, let's begin:

I couldn't figure out why I was getting depressed sitting at my desk in the library. I LOVE the library. I LOVE my job. Sure I have depression issues but I'm managing them and anyway it's just something about this desk that's weird. It's not all the time. It's not when I'm working on programs or booklists or specific orders or helping patrons (unless I'm already depressed, then my INTROVERSION kicks in). It's days like today, when I have to catch up with review reading and updating my Massive Spreadsheet Of New Books.

Right now I've got 1317 books on that list. 1317 books published for children through teens by a traditional publisher in the past two years that I HAVEN'T BOUGHT for the library yet, and considering I have just $37 dollars left in my teen budget for the year (at least I still have a thousand in children's) it's a good bet most of them WON'T get bought. But I'm thinking, "SO MANY BOOKS! WHY CAN'T WE HAVE ALL THE BOOKS?" And then I think how I'll never get around to reading most of the books I HAVE bought, let alone all the books from the past I haven't read, and all the ADULT books (as in, not children's or YA, not, like, "Adult"), period (disclaimer, I'm reading an adult book right now, the Bloggess's latest, Furiously Happy. But that's because I love her desperately and so have made the exception), and you add in self-published books and magazines and blogs and fanfiction, it's like SO MANY BOOKS! SO MANY WORDS! INFORMATION OVERLOAD! TOO MUCH TO READ!

And the blogs and other review sources I use, they've got me on the We Need Diverse Books train. Because we do. But we always hear how putting diverse characters in books is good and all, but when people who aren't that minority do it they usually do it wrong even when they're trying, so what we really need is diverse AUTHORS, and I'm as un-diverse as can be. Books have been full of mirrors for me FOREVER. Maybe that's why I got into books. A white straight American mainstream-Christian able-bodied cis-girl who dreams and reads in her happy middle-class home with both parents, OH GAH THAT'S LIKE EVERY CHILDRENS-YA BOOK IN HISTORY. Well, some writers will reassure me, you can't please everyone so just do the best you can adding diverse characters and accept that somebody might say "Hey, you portrayed that wrong!"

But it doesn't MATTER, because it will take a huge effort to get myself writing fiction again, and how can I ever feel like I can start when I see ALL THE BOOKS and I know IT'S NOT MY VOICE that people need?

It doesn't MATTER, because I have so much to fill my time as it is. I share books with children, maybe that's my part, I can connect all sorts of books with all sorts of children and I will give them the windows and mirrors they need to grow and THAT'S ALL I'M NEEDED FOR in the world of story. I write BLOGS occasionally, ARTICLES, and now I have an even bigger platform for my articles. I have my journal, where I can do the writing I need to do to keep my head on straight, just for me, which when people say "writers can't stop writing," THAT'S the thing I can't stop writing, just my journals. I don't have any STORIES I need to tell. And I have two children and a husband who feel I never give them enough attention, and a house that I KNOW I don't give enough attention, and I have my sewing projects, which have been my major outlet of creativity lately after library programming which is probably my BIGGEST outlet of creativity, to be honest.

I just DON'T NEED to write fiction. I have no stories pouring out of me, and nobody would need to hear them even if I did. There are too many books, and my voice isn't needed.

So why does this continual realization of basic fact make me so depressed.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
My kids' school has a "Don't send in edible treats" policy, and last year I posted a rant against the unintended side effects of this policy. Namely, GARBAGE. Junk FOOD is one thing-- you eat it and it's gone (usually. If you have a child's metabolism). Junk TOYS are something else entirely. They make messes. They eventually only get thrown out. But to be serious about it for a minute, I have a real problem with that much waste. I don't like to throw things out, not because I want them, but because WHY ARE WE DOING THIS TO OUR PLANET, IT'S JUST MAKING ANOTHER MESS IN SOME OVERSTUFFED LANDFILL IF IT'S NOT MAKING A MESS IN MY HOUSE. Not to mention all the waste that goes into manufacturing the crappy things. But if I'm honest with myself, I'm not really taking this stance out of noble environmental concern.* In the immediate present, my reaction is just a selfish "great, more clutter."

So anyway, the thing is, the school's policy is "Don't send in edible treats," not "Send in nonedible treats," so I'm just that grinchy parent who doesn't send in anything, BECAUSE WE WEREN'T ACTUALLY ASKED TO SEND IN ANYTHING, AND NOTHING IS BETTER THAN GARBAGE.** "But what about the CHILDREN?" you ask. And I say, they're at school, they're playing games, they're with their friends, they don't NEED treats there. They will come home and go proper trick or treating later, and then they will have PLENTY OF EDIBLE AND THEREFORE EXPENDABLE TREATS.

So I relinked to that post yesterday when my kids came home from school with a pile of plastic goody bags, and many people agreed BUT.

Of COURSE there are exceptions. Of COURSE there's a reason for the school's policy. So through further discussion I've decided to spell out the RIGHT and WRONG way to deal with what basically comes down to offering non-allergenic options.

First of all, the problem came from school parties, not from trick-or-treating proper. So number one, if there is no policy instructing you to AVOID edible items, here's how you can handle it:

RIGHT:
Offer options. In my house we are serious peanut butter cup fans, so we always offer peanut butter cups so we have leftovers. BUT peanut butter and chocolate are both big allergy problems, so we offer the choice: peanut butter cups OR Skittles.*** You could in fact offer candy OR a non-edible item, but please see below for further guidelines.

Granted, if you have more than one option, a lot of kids will immediately grab one of EACH, so if you're not okay with that you'll have to be immediately clear with your guidelines.

WRONG:
Deciding FOR your visitors. Offering only one type of treat increases the chance that really won't be a treat for someone after all (whether that's because the kid can't eat it, the kid doesn't LIKE it, or the mom doesn't want it in her house). But worse is forcing your ideals on everyone who comes-- if you're against sugar, don't put your porch light on during trick-or-treating at all, and don't you even THINK about doing what that one lady did last year and pass out notes telling kids they're too fat for candy. And you should also probably not use trick-or-treating as an opportunity to, as Kim Aippersbach suggested (jokingly!) in the comments of last year's post, pass out little cards explaining that, instead of spending money on Halloween treats this year, you bought a goat for a family in Africa and I'm sure everyone understands!

Okay, that's trick-or-treating. But what if you ARE under a no-edible-treats policy and you still want to offer treats? Here are some options that, the other people I've talked about it and I agree, do not suck:

RIGHT: Art supplies. Pencils, pens, crayons, markers, paints, coloring books, tablets. I personally would even be okay with Play-doh, but there are probably more parents that would hate you forever for that one, so I might grudgingly put that on the "WRONG" list instead, since I AM trying to give actual advice here.

WRONG: Pencils that don't sharpen. Crayons made out of way more wax than pigment. Teeny stampers. Small plastic stencils that are barely useable. Tiny tablets with approximately five pages in them. Coloring booklets that look like they were drawn by someone who is stuck in the 1950s.

I am undecided about stickers. Nope, I am decided about stickers. It's just stickers are in that nebulous category that kids WILL enjoy and use thoroughly, but probably in ways that parents would rather they not.

RIGHT: GOOD reading materials. My friend Megan recommends the Scholastic sales where you get five paperbacks for five dollars or whatever. It's probably just as expensive as all the junky toys in the long run. Samantha Fisher from the crew at GeekMom (which I am also writing for now, in case you missed it) also suggests bookmarks, and really, it's ridiculous, you'd think you'd eventually own too many bookmarks, but how come you can never find one when you NEED it?

WRONG: Buying dollar books at the dollar STORE. You really can NOT get quality literature there, and you may be of the opinion that the KIDS don't care, but either a kid WILL care, and throw it aside, or a kid WON'T care and will force an adult to read terrible, terrible prose or verses that don't scan right OVER and OVER again and THEY WILL CURSE YOU. Please, check out the Scholastic discount sales, instead!

RIGHT: Consumable toys. Obviously not in the EATING sense. More like bubbles, glow sticks, and balloons. These ARE all things that will be thrown away eventually, but they're only MEANT to be enjoyed for a short period of time, and IN that period of time, they will be enjoyed THOROUGHLY. My daughter actually just said, about a balloon she got yesterday, "This balloon makes me so happy, I love it so much." Personally I think balloons are a bit MORE fun if they're punching balloons, at least.

WRONG: Toys that are consumable only in the sense that they're so poorly made they don't last, not toys that are MEANT to be used up.

RIGHT: My friend Mandy gave out Lego Mixels as a party treat recently. There are other small building kits that are actually decent that you can buy in bulk around, too.

WRONG: Cheapo building sets that don't fit together, foam airplanes that break when you TRY to put them together, things that come in many tiny pieces but are stored in a thin cardboard box that never shuts again once the shrink wrap comes off. This includes tiny little puzzles. Tiny little puzzles SEEM like they'd be a cool treat, but usually you just end up losing pieces immediately because of the crappy box. Also, the puzzles themselves aren't much sturdier, so the pieces tend to warp and stop fitting, anyway.

WRONG WRONG WRONG: Plastic spider rings. WHO WEARS THOSE, anyway? And even those who DO, WHO WEARS AS MANY OF THEM AS GET ACCUMULATED EVERY HALLOWEEN?

Also wrong: gift bags. I mean if you stick with one DECENT nonedible treat, instead of several crappy ones, you won't need a gift bag, anyway!

If we all follow these guidelines, it's possible that EVERYONE, candy lovers and people with food issues and underpaid factory workers in third world countries and parents that just have to clean up, will have a Happy Halloween.****
----

*Though if I'm REALLY honest, that IS part of the reason I appear to be something of a hoarder. I really DON'T like throwing things out. Waste really DOES disgust me.

**In the sense of "#1 Good Stuff, #2 Nothing, #3 Garbage," of course, not in the sense of "Garbage is the undefeated #1."

***And yes, there are some poor souls who can't eat EITHER, but this is extremely rare and I'm pretty sure those souls will just avoid trick-or-treating period.

****We're not going to please the people who don't celebrate Halloween out of the conviction that traditions started to scare away demons are actually about worshipping demons, but there's nothing you can do about that. Except call it a Harvest Party. I do outreach at a super-conservative-fundamentalist school that was originally scheduled for an outreach yesterday, and I was like, "Oh, good, at least I know THEY won't cancel on me to make room for a Halloween party," but NO, they cancelled on me for their HARVEST PARTY instead. But as it turned out a couple of coworkers had called off so they needed me on desk at the library anyway, so I guess it's all for the best.

Side Arms

Oct. 1st, 2015 08:04 pm
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I have a friend from college, [livejournal.com profile] vovat, who's a pretty opinionated guy. But here's the thing: he likes to DISCUSS issues. He doesn't just pound his own opinion into his readers, he likes to listen to counterarguments and debate them rationally and thoughtfully. I don't always agree with him, but I know that when I don't I can safely tell him so and he'll respond with respect and often a really interesting argument.

Gosh that's rare on the Internet. And it's apparently nonexistent in modern-day politics (which is ironic-- doesn't the word "politics" technically mean "dealing rationally with other people"?). And too often I find myself stuck in the middle of parties shouting at each other and watching them get farther and farther from a solution instead of closer to one.

GUNS are a particularly thorny issue for me. See, I used to be pretty anti-gun, and then I met the man who would be my husband, who is a literally certified gun nut. (SMITH, I mean. He's LITERALLY a CERTIFIED gunSMITH). Talking to him, I came to see his point of view. It's a valid hobby. He's safe and responsible. I'm not like "But why do people even NEED guns?" any more. No gun banning for me. But I'm still a peacenik, and I still see problems with the current gun climate. So I'm not on either SIDE, and apparently that's not possible on the Internet.

So every time there's a shooting, the SIDES start screaming at each other, and I feel depressed because I'm stuck in the middle.

In July Nathan posted about gun issues, and I commented on it, and it was REFRESHING. It was SO refreshing because he HAS that safe space to argue on his blog, and when yet another shooting happened in August and the Internet started yelling at each other again, I went back to find this post, and my comment, just to get back in that safe space. I added a new comment:
"Hey, people on both sides are yelling on social media again and it just reminded me of commenting on this post. Because on social media there’s no point saying anything, it’s always on the defensive, either defending gun owners to GunsREvil folks or defending security-tightening to the SlipperySlope folks. And I remembered writing this comment, and what struck me about the memory was that I actually wrote MY thoughts on the subject. I wasn’t defending any position in relation to anybody else, and trying to tread lightly, I just called it like I saw it and felt totally safe to do so."

So people are yelling on the Internet again, and again I thought of my comment on this post, what a relief it was to SPEAK MY MIND instead of feeling like I needed to argue against two extremes. So anyway, this is the comment in question:

"As a hippie peacenik married to a gun nut, I feel I’ve got a pretty good view of “both” sides of the issue, and the fact that there ARE two extreme sides is probably the most frustrating thing about it. Well, that the sides are extreme, that is. Because if anyone should suggest a moderate compromising solution, ie a GOOD solution, it gets immediately shut down. Every time I’ve got to renew the guy’s NRA membership I just groan, ugh, THEM? They need more of your money to keep spreading their agenda of panic? (Then there’s the lesser-known Gun Owners of America, which J claims is even MORE extreme in their politics. I’m not even sure I want to know. Actually, I think THEY may be the ones responsible for the “MORE GUNS MEANS LESS CRIME” rhetoric). If only they would STOP panicking long enough to accept that regulation is not the same as banning, but they just start screaming “SLIPPERY SLOPE! SLIPPERY SLOPE!” I think people should be required to test for licenses the way they are in order to drive a car, but if you suggest that the NRA starts comparing it to, like, Mutant Registration, or for the less-geeky among them the registration of minorities by tyrannies. BUT HOW IS HAVING A DRIVER’S LICENSE LIKE THAT. You have to earn the right to handle a potentially deadly machine, and then you have proof that you’ve earned that right. It’s not the same as being registered just for BEING.

But then every time there’s a mass shooting I have to listen to people crying that this is why we shouldn’t have guns! No guns! Guns kill people! And I’m like, “People, there’s an arsenal in my basement. I struggle with mental illness. AND GUESS WHAT, I’ve never been tempted to go on a shooting spree.” HATE kills people. HATE is the problem. HATE is the thing we REALLY need less of. But that’s hard to quantify, so we demonize the weapons instead. Which in turn makes the Enneatype 6s in the NRA panic further about their security blankets* being taken away from them, making them even less likely to listen to reason. :P

I’m so sick of it. Literally, this unresolvable quarrelling turns my stomach.

*J likens it to wearing a seat belt, himself."


And that's what I have to say on the matter. Now whenever I find myself lost in the shouting matches again, I can come right back to this post, secure that I DO have my own opinion and it's not anybody else's. We don't have to keep perpetuating the cycle of people just getting more extreme to counteract the people they disagree with. That's not the way we solve problems.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
Yeah, I know, I just posted two days ago, but the second reading at church got me fired up and I have to follow it, by, you know, DOING.

This was the second reading, James 2:14-18 (I'm linking to one translation and copying another-- I THINK this one I copied is the one in our missalette, but either way, you can compare translations and see I'm not making it up):
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.


Conservative Christianity apparently likes to ignore this passage, and that's a very big problem. Why is the "Christianity" we so often see in the news linked to people who talk up their faith all the time but only ever USE that faith to HURT others? Why is it linked to people who DON'T welcome immigrants and refugees, who DON'T comfort and/or defend the imprisoned, who DON'T feed and clothe the poor? Who, in fact, talk about how the poor just aren't working hard enough and if they'd only just pull themselves up by their metaphorical bootstraps they'd be fine? Yeah, exactly, Just go in peace and be warm and filled. JUST DO IT and if you can't that's obviously your own fault.

I used to be a lot more patient with conservatism. In many ways I still am conservative. But here's the problem with conservatism: what it IS, by definition, is saying "The way things have always been is the way things ought to be. CHANGE will only bring problems." This doesn't automatically make a conservative attitude BAD, because sometimes this is true. But it's not ALWAYS true: sometimes, MANY times, The Way Things Have Always Been is only how it ought to be for YOU and the people you know and love. Your privilege blinds you to the PROBLEMS with the way things are.

One of my favorite songs is "Dialogue pts 1 & 2" by Chicago. Here's the lyrics, because there's a lot of them and it's too long to copy into this post. Anyway, when I was younger I identified a lot with Peter Cetera's character there. I thought it was nice of the guy for pointing out that things really weren't SO bad. I'm an optimist, you know? And I'M doing okay.

And it was only the other day that I was listening to this song and it finally clicked. He's not being optimistic, he's BLINDED BY PRIVILEGE. He "always thought that everything was fine," and throughout the eponymous dialogue he keeps trying to hang onto that, onto his feelings of comfort and security that the questions of his friend are threatening to pop. It's a FORCED optimism. EVERYTHING IS FINE JUST THE WAY IT IS LALALALALALALA.

Except it's not, and by the end he realizes he's been "numb," even as his friend takes comfort from his apparent optimism. But that's GREAT. Because all that privilege and optimism can come in handy for FIXING the problems. That's why everyone starts singing that "we can make it happen" at the end. The privileged guy is needed. He has resources. He just needed to WAKE UP and accept that his own little bubble of reality isn't ALL of reality.

See, the only reason Christianity and Conservatism are linked in this country is because Christianity has been the dominant religion in this country for most of its (the country's, not Christianity's) existence. So if you are a Christian BECAUSE you are conservative, you're not really challenging yourself. It's just a dogma you talk about, a label you accept, because it's the way things have always been in your world. That is not what Christianity IS though. It's not about upholding the status quo. It's about ACTION.

The Gospel reading today further highlighted this notion of Just-because-it's-always-been-this-way-doesn't-mean-it's-good. "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do...For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."

This is what it means! We privileged folks have to let go of our comfortable denial of the problems among our fellow human beings! We have to wake up and reach out and BE Christ in the world, Christ who absolutely did NOT use "that's the way it's always been" as an excuse to not heal just because it was the Sabbath, to exclude women from his teaching, to stone sinners to death. The way it's always been does not trump the way it ought to BE. We can't pound the Bible and go on about what good Christians we are and what sinners everyone else is if we're not truly LIVING as Christ for others, and that means mercy, acceptance, generosity, hospitality.

I'm sick of Christianity being co-opted by hypocrites. In some situations the conservative way IS the Christian way, but not here, not now. Here and now Christians need to step up and make sure our fellow human beings actually HAVE food and clothing, that they actually HAVE the ability to go in peace.

Time to show the world that Christianity IS a liberal religion, by showing our faith through ACTION.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
I've felt a bit of a fraud for a long while. I'm a children's librarian, you know. Part of my job description is "Encourage parents to read to their children because this will improve literacy, empathy, family dynamics, and their entire childhood!" There's a poster on the Youth Services office door of a Mafia-looking baby demanding "Read to me 20 minutes a day or I'll tell the librarians on you!" And reading aloud is one of my personal favorite things to do.

So why is it so hard to do with MY OWN KIDS?

I get jealous, reading online, other parents discussing all the chapter books they're reading as a family. Sometimes I think people DO go too far. When they're like "I'm going to read Harry Potter to my 4 year old now!" I'm like "NO. STOP. You're wasting it. Start with My Father's Dragon. Build UP for crying out loud! Sometimes age appropriateness has a point!" Besideswhich, people give up on picture books too fast. There are brilliant picture books that can really only be appreciated by school-aged kids instead of preschoolers, but everyone's in such a hurry to get to the chapter books that these get lost.

That's all true. But my kids could barely sit still for picture books, let alone chapter books. I DID start with My Father's Dragon, several years ago, when the girl was just a baby and so didn't get nearly as much out of it as her brother. We enjoyed that one. But the boy wasn't much into stories, really. He's a nonfiction reader-- give him a book about trains or Lego or Minecraft and he'll read for hours-- anything else, he's not interested. His sister enjoys stories more, but the same ones about her favorite characters over and over, and even more often she'd rather read what SHE calls "picture books," which are what I call photo albums. And that's great, too, she learns about her extended family and their history and her own past and it's every bit literacy-development.

But a CHAPTER BOOK? When there wasn't a picture on every page? How could they pay attention to that? They jumped around and talked through it so I couldn't read, and we'd try to pick up again a few nights later (a consistent reading schedule is hard, too, when I work until their bedtime several evenings a week) and neither could remember a thing that had happened before then.

When I said "hyperactive" in the title of this post, it wasn't hyperbole. They literally both have ADHD. They literally both CANNOT focus on one thing without interrupting with an unrelated thought, they both CANNOT sit still unless for some reason they're using my Nook and suddenly they're psychically shackled into place for hours without outside intervention. Maybe I was crazy to even THINK they could sit and listen to a long-form story.

So they're 8 1/2 and 6 1/2 now, and in the course of their lives we have completed only four short chapter books together: My Father's Dragon as previously mentioned, and Beverly Cleary's Mouse and the Motorcycle books. The last three I managed by reading during their bath, but since then they've been taking separate showers instead. And we've started and stopped several other Cleary books, and Lois Lowry's All About Sam because obviously, and my Internet friend Kate Coombs' very fun Runaway Princess books, and a lot of Disney fairy easy chapter books my daughter was REALLY EXCITED to check out of the library, but a few chapters in and we'd get distracted and not work our way back until the books were overdue or we'd entirely forgotten what happened and had to start again.

I was FAILING at this family read-aloud thing. How would I ever introduce them to my favorite childhood classics the way my mom had done for me? How would they DEVELOP PROPERLY without them?

But last week I was sorting a box of old paperbacks my parents had found in their house that hadn't managed to travel with me when I moved out because apparently my siblings felt they had a right to read them or something like that, and Maddie became fascinated with the cover of Edward Eager's Half Magic. "Can we read this one sometime?" she asked, and I said, "sure" in that offhand way that meant "Yes in that theoretical SOMETIME in which we read ANYTHING." But she kept asking, again while I was shelving the new-old books, and again when it WASN'T EVEN IN SIGHT. That's the most interested I've EVER seen her in a book that wasn't about Disney characters or My Little Pony. Somehow Katharine in half a suit of armor was nearly as good as a fancy princess!

So I grabbed it down and I sat deliberately in the room where her brother was playing, and we started to read, and by the end of the first chapter they were both asking questions. For the second chapter they both actually sat beside me for awhile, though there was bouncing involved and I occasionally had to stop reading to scold them down from walking behind me on the back edge of the couch. But that's all right-- they can't sit still, okay, but they WERE listening. When they interrupted, it was to DISCUSS THE STORY. If they were going to go off track, it was only to share what THEY would wish if they had a magic nickel. And that was the most I've EVER heard them engage with a chapter book.

Soon Maddie was coming up with all kinds of predictions and other theories, including the rather mind blowing observation that if she wished for two more magic nickels she'd get one more, or two total, and then if she wished BOTH coins would grant half the wish WHICH WOULD MAKE ONE WHOLE so she'd only need to make regular wishes from then on. And Sam? Sam was asking me to read to him.

HE NEVER ASKS ME TO READ TO HIM.

He'd rush to get ready in the morning so we'd have time to read before school! He'd get ready for bed without complaint to we could get on with reading! He'd even FOREGO MINECRAFT to read! What sorcery IS this?

Half magic, apparently.

They both started asking for a sequel even before we finished. Half Magic's the only one I have, in both my personal AND public libraries, but I got on the system's OPAC and ordered Knight's Castle from the next library over and it showed up the next day (that being today). Maybe this is the start of something. Maybe I WILL read them Harry Potter in a year or so and The Secret Garden next spring (that one has to be read in the spring), I'll read them Dahl now and try Cleary again, and eventually in a few more years we WILL sit down for a few months of Lord of the Rings so I can finally show Sam WHY he's named Sam, and THEN I will have succeeded at motherhood.

I hope.

But at least this was fun while it lasted.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
Time and again I've mentioned how far away I've gotten from my two #1 childhood-- and adolescent and early adulthood and basically PRE-MOTHERHOOD-- hobbies, reading and writing. I guess I keep moaning about it because it gives me an identity crisis, that's how tightly BOOKS have been tied to WHO I AM my whole life. People STILL associate me with books. I'm always getting Facebook-tagged for something book-related, or someone reads/hears/sees something bookish and is like "I was thinking of you today." The tie is so strong that even POST-(the-beginning-of)-motherhood, at least six years post, my daughter was being tested on basic vocabulary in preschool, had to identify a book, and allegedly immediately volunteered "my mommy knows a lot about those," as soon as she had. Well, okay, I am a librarian, and people do associate librarians with books even if there's so much more to it than that. But beyond the library tie-in, when people say to me "YOU! You're the one who loves BOOKS!" part of me kind of blinks and feels like a fraud, because... maybe I really don't?

It's not true, though, that I don't. It's more like I avoid reading and writing because I'm a little terrified of them. Maybe it's BECAUSE they're so tied up in my identity. Maybe cause and effect is backward, and I'm terrified of reading and writing because I've been having an identity crisis. MAYBE IT'S ALL A GIANT COLE SLAW OF CAUSES AND EFFECTS CAUSING PSYCHIC INDIGESTION.

READING is a bit less traumatic. Okay, I used to read approximately one novel a day; whereas now I've managed to complete two novels in the past three months or so.* I still get excited when a new book by an author I love is coming out (which both those books naturally were), but whether I get around to READING them is something else. But it's not because I don't LIKE it anymore. I'm just afraid to start because it always happens: if I love it (and why bother if I don't?) I will eventually NOT PUT IT DOWN. I will not be able to manage being a Responsible Grownup while reading. Everything else will be shunted aside. It's my fatal flaw Inertia rearing its head again: if I start, I can't stop; if I stop, I can't start.

But once I stop, it's easy to trick myself into forgetting the magic. I'll read the internet for awhile-- quickly written bits and pieces of essays and opinions and comments, so my brain is swarming with words and ideas and opinions thrust on me by the masses and I'm like "JUST BE QUIET FOR A LITTLE BIT, WORDS! I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF WORDS TODAY!" But when I DO get sucked in to a REAL BOOK, a work of fiction, one that's been finely crafted by a master (because again, anymore I'm likely to only bother picking it up if it IS by someone I know is a master), I remember WHY, WHY I would bother to suck so many of these down in a sitting. THESE are words that unlock the imagination, let you experience a true alternate reality in the comfort of home.

So yesterday morning I woke up, having gotten to bed late because I'd gotten into the climax of that last book and couldn't stop until I finished, and my brain was telling stories to itself. Basically that's WHY people write, isn't it, because their brains won't stop telling stories. Anymore my brain does all its storytelling late at night when my inhibitions are turned off and I'm securely dreaming, but reading had apparently reminded my brain that I don't HAVE to stop dreaming when I wake up. But I'd already written this story. This was one of my former Works In Progress. I'm not sure when they officially STOPPED being Works in Progress, somewhere between 3 and 5 years back, but if you've been around long enough you might remember me blabbering about Ian Schafer-- or more likely, his superhero best friend Billy 'Arrison. Loved those kids. In the back of my head I always thought, "when am I finally going to give them a book worthy of them?" I got pretty far. I drafted a whole book during a correspondence course, and the instructor thought it had genuine promise. Still needed work. Rewrote the first few chapters a few times. Had one of those initial chapter rewrites critiqued by Bruce Coville at an SCBWI conference and he didn't hate it, which made my entire life for awhile. Decided to rewrite the whole thing from scratch with an entirely different opening chapter, which I wrote and then... I stopped. It just wasn't happening. I just wasn't happening.

But yesterday I woke up smiling as I watched the final showdown with the big bad playing out in my head again, and thought, "That was fun. I want to read that book again. Just as a reader." So I did.

Yeah, still needs work, if it is to be Publication-worthy, but I'm not sure it CAN be fixed. Maybe I've never been able to wrestle the plot into submission because it's not MEANT to be wrestled into submission. Maybe its technological confusion over whether it's the present day or the 1990s, or its insistence on being a middle-grade story with a 17-year-old protagonist, is just PART of it. Maybe it's all just silly fun. Maybe it's time to leave it be and move on. It was a great practice novel.

And I feel okay about that. I can let it be. I'll always have Billy and Ian and Hannie and Ashlynn even if nobody else does.

That said, it was also way better than I've given myself credit for. I mean I ENJOYED it as a reader, reading it now several years later when I haven't been thinking about it. I fell in love with those stupid teenagers and their awkward chemistry all over again. There was a lot of REALLY GOOD STUFF THERE. When I left it I only saw its insurmountable problems that would never find it a home with a publisher. But I haven't been trying to get it published for years. I haven't been trying to publish ANYTHING for years. I've just been trying to WRITE again.

...or BELIEVE in myself enough to even ATTEMPT to write again...

So this time I still saw the flaws, but I saw the good stuff too, and it was GREAT stuff. It Wasn't Half Bad. I did that. I wrote an entire book and the characters made me laugh and cry and the plot took some neat twists and there's these lovely little character-building details you'd almost miss and there's Overarching Themes and STUFF.

Oh, and here's the best part. I also found an even earlier draft. That, too, had some good stuff, but the latest draft was SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER. That means I can learn.

So I'm still too terrified to attempt to write something. I'm still swirling through this identity crisis thing. But-- there's one rope for me to hang onto, at least.

*BOOK REVIEWS HERE, for the interested:
The other month I read Elizabeth Wein's most recent of her books about young pilots in WWII, Black Dove White Raven. This one was not quite as devastating as the other two, but considering this one included a detailed mustard gas attack on a Red Cross hospital camp, that really just tells you something about how devastating the others were. The most interesting thing about this one is it takes place in Ethiopia, which, seriously, I know We Need Diverse Books makes me feel worthless as a writer, but as a READER, I'm like, DARN YOU Colonial Europe with your stories of Savages in Darkest Africa, why did you hide all this FASCINATING HISTORY from us?! Everytime I read a book set in Africa that is not starring animals or happening in Ancient Egypt, I feel this way, this TELL ME MORE, TELL ME ALL THIS STUFF NOBODY TOLD ME EXISTED! Specifically in this book, among other things, did you know Ethiopia had its own branch of Christianity dating back to the beginning, not through some colonial missionaries? Didn't you, like me, just think ALL the early Christian sects eventually were united under the Roman Empire, and then didn't separate again until the Orthodox churches broke off? NO DUDES, there was a completely DIFFERENT sect down in Ethiopia all along, and they have a big part in this book! How COOL is that? I DIDN'T KNOW THAT AND NOW I WANT TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS!

*AHEM*

The book I finished the other night was Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song. I never adored her Mosca Mye books as much as a lot of people, but The Lost Conspiracy blew my mind, so it was on the strength of that I decided to read this one. It was slow going for the first chapter or two, to be honest: our protagonist is very confused and has a lot of blanks in her memory, so it was a little hard to grab onto for a currently-sort-of-reading-averse person like me. But then I got through a whole bunch of chapters at one sitting that involved a lot of waiting, and then I couldn't wait to get back, and got more and more SUCKED IN as I went along. This is a very creepy book, creepiest at the beginning when you're not sure what's going on-- a well-read adult will figure out what basically had happened to our heroine long before she does, but it's still creepy, and it's twisty and full of delicious details and there are enough moments of triumph throughout that you're not bogged down by the horror, and, as in Hardinge's other books, the characters are all so layered that everyone spends some time feeling like a good guy OR a bad guy, except maybe the Very Big Bad, I don't remember him having ANY Good Guy time (okay, EDIT: I'll give him that his motives are extremely noble from a certain standpoint. He's just pretty awful how he goes about things).

Anyway, so me finishing a book is in-and-of-itself a thumbs-up from me (me write negative reviews? I would, but I DON'T FINISH THOSE BOOKS), but now you know that these two passed the test.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Checking in.

Still not writing much. Just jotting down my dreams most mornings. I do actively write stories in my sleep, while I'm dreaming, but of course I can never remember the details that REALLY MADE it once I wake up. Like last night's was about these two schools next door to each other (one was a middle school, one a high school?) one of which had a random pet goat and the other of which had Tony Stark as a teacher, only it turned out the pet goat was actually Tony Stark's illegitimate kid-no-pun-intended who had the ability to shapeshift into a goat and was also a cyborg, and then his (the cyborg-goat-kid's) long lost twin sister, now a social worker, showed up looking for him, and there was a happy family reunion, and this was ACTUALLY RELATIVELY AWESOME while it was happening but I have no idea what I was thinking now.

Truth is I've been having mental health issues lately but mostly they've all been me holding everything in and giving myself stomachaches and pretending everything is fine, like I do, so when, for example, my FBI fingerprinting clearance FINALLY showed up the other day, making me legal to work with children again, I was SO RELIEVED that I suddenly only then REALIZED the stress it had been causing me, because my stomach stopped hurting. Also I've got a muscle spasm in my shoulder that's put me on a weird cocktail of medications. Oh, also, the muscle spasm was partially caused by me for some reason HOLDING A GREAT DEAL OF TENSION IN MY MUSCLES. I also was not aware I was doing that. So right, I haven't been quite so well, which means I may have appeared to have fallen off the face of the earth there.

(If you are worried, I do have an appointment with a proper psychiatrist coming up to try to get myself back in order again. In late August. Because that's how soon people can get first appointments with psychiatrists. And I'm so grateful that I have experience, and a general support system, and am already on meds, because if I had to wait that long while I was truly at rock bottom and didn't know what to do or if there was hope? HOW MANY PEOPLE does that apply to. Please, support making mental health help easier for anyone who needs it to get, wherever possible in your life).

Also I've been having a hard time reclaiming my internet access from my children lately. It's been raining a lot here. Constantly. No just sending them outside. And at some point, I do not know how (WHO TAUGHT THEM THIS YOU WILL PAY) they discovered Toy Unboxing videos on YouTube. Sam watches people play with Thomas Trackmaster sets over and over. Maddie watches cutsie little toy animal plays by people who try WAY too hard to do cute voices. They both keep ASKING for new toys. And the other day they even discovered the existence of Kinder Surprise Eggs this way and DARN YOU FOREIGNERS. OR US CUSTOMS REGULATIONS. OR WHATEVER. Anyway, you'd think it'd be easier to pull them away from this steady diet of amateur infomercials but it's NOT. Today I figured out exactly WHAT was so sickening about this habit though. "STOP WATCHING OTHER PEOPLE PLAY!" I told them. "YOU go PLAY something YOURSELF!" :P

Meanwhile I finished a new dress today. It's kind of a fancy party dress, but definitely needs some poofy petticoat action to go for the full effect. I think I'll wear it to work tomorrow anyway.

Maddie told me the other day that I'm like Rarity the My Little Pony because I love to make dresses. Now, I am very LITTLE like Rarity, who is highly vain and image-conscious, I'm really much more of a cross between Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle (which has also been pointed out by my children), but I kind of Huh-ed when she said that, because it's TRUE. I DO love to make dresses, don't I? I always associated fashion design with, well, characters like Rarity, girls who were much more interested in being cool and following trends than I. I just like pretty dresses and flowy sleeves and my own hippie-and-occasionally-mod-if-I-feel-like-cleaning-up-a-bit (the one I finished today is definitely more Mod than Hippie. I'm pretty sure they sell something just like it at ModCloth) style. NOT trendy.* NOT caring what's cool. But I DO love it just for me, and I think being a grownup who's allowed to like whatever I like no matter what CLIQUE it might be associated with is wonderfully freeing that way. So yeah, I DO. I DO love to make pretty dresses.

At work-- now that I can legally do so-- I've been busy with Outreach programs. I still do readings at day cares-- which is a change this summer, previously I only did it during the school year; but earlier this spring I started bringing my Library Explorers program to the activity center in the low income housing plan. This gets a little wild but is quite fun, and I'm thrilled that I have so many regulars showing for it. The only IN-house program I get that much reaction to is Lego Club, and that's not so much me as, you know, LEGO.

It occurs to me I meant to run down all my spring program ideas for you several months ago, but somehow I lost that.

Collaborative Summer Reading is Every Hero Has a Story, and I have been almost ZERO involved with Summer Reading this year. But I am sticking with the theme for my Family Night storytimes, for which I consistently get the same small family every week. One kid, his baby brother, his mom. But they're enthusiastic!

Today the kids and I went blueberry picking, which was lovely. We missed strawberry picking this year, and the farm we were at was even out of its own already-PICKED local strawberries, so I was a little sad about that.

I dropped my waterbottle on my toe a few weeks ago and it STILL hurts to the touch. Luckily it's summer, because I can't wear shoes over it, only sandals.

And that's it, I think. That's my letter of update. That's what's up. How about you?

---

*Okay, ModCloth IS kind of trendy in a hipsterish way. But that's not WHY I like it, and if it stops being trendy, so what.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Ten years and one month ago today yesterday (I got busy!), this happened.*

If I'd been paying attention, I would have pointed it out last month, but I got distracted (I've READ stuff and I did a whole lot of sewing, and of course there was day to day LIFE involved). But I'd PLANNED to point it out, because people with hugely popular Official Blogs are always pointing out their five year bloggiversaries or even one or two years, and I'm like "TEN! TEN YEARS! And still no one takes me seriously!"

But of course, it wasn't a BLOG, per se. It was a LiveJournal. At that time only college students used Facebook, and as for the rest of social media... well, I'm not entirely sure the phrase "social media" even existed. LiveJournal actually WAS social media. You followed your friends. People'd post pictures, surveys, memes, short cryptic passive aggressive comments that no one besides the poster understood, links to news articles, and there were LOADS of "Communities" on every conceivable topic. Just like Facebook and Twitter, and supposedly Tumblr but I still don't understand why that's considered a community-building place and I've been there two years already (no CONVERSATION! Just reblogging and adding comments that other people may or may not even see!). So I had friends on LiveJournal, ones who would tell me I should join. I think it was my old college roommate who specifically said, "It's something I can really see YOU getting into." I don't even know if her LiveJournal still works. Let's see what happens if I put it in here. [livejournal.com profile] gloworm59 Huh, it DOES still exist. But it was last updated six years ago, which means this one has been happening over TWICE as long.

Anyway, she was right, obviously. Because here I am, still using it, if only once a month or so (and I must admit I RARELY look at my Friends Page anymore. Most people I care about there link to their posts through other social media, so I KNOW when to go look!) And I enjoyed participating in the meme-survey-quiz-things whenever they showed up-- I miss surveys, to be honest, somebody give me a survey! -- but the thing I REALLY appreciated, which flashier social media could never offer me, was the LENGTH. The opportunity to write whatever was on my mind and actually get feedback about it.

It's like in middle school, when our english teacher would ask for volunteers to share our daily journal entries with the class, my hand would always shoot right up, because finally my peers would get to hear all the stuff I was thinking about! It was my chance to TALK! It was so much easier to talk that way than to talk out loud!

So right, Tumblr does offer length, but not, like I said, an easy way to get FEEDBACK. I LIKE comments. I LIKE the discussions that come from comments. I wish I got more comments.

And at the same time, I'm glad I'm just a little LiveJournal blogger. I'm glad I'm relatively invisible. It's this weird balance between letting myself OUT THERE and having somebody else acknowledge that I have something to say, and protecting myself-- the louder your voice, the more nasty voices find you and tell you to shut up.

I mean, here's an issue I've noticed for a long time: people can be nasty on the Internet. I know, duh. But while some people are just trolls, some people are actually well-meaning. They feel they're standing up for what's right by pointing out what you've done wrong. BUT they cross the line and turn it into a huge issue, make it personal, won't drop it long after you've moved on, fill it with hate. And for a long while a lot of people I admired thought, because these people's MOTIVES were good, or because these people's voices were traditionally unheard (like when they were calling out a person of privelege), that protesting this kind of behavior was just further oppression, further silencing of the seldom-heard. So I figured I was in the wrong, because I'm a spoiled straight white girl. But lately I've been noticing more and more people acknowledging what I noticed all along, that sometimes good motives don't excuse outright mean behavior.

And I think, hey, so maybe my gut instinct was RIGHT, here. Maybe I should have believed in myself, stood up against what I could see was bullying even if it could be argued as justified. I still need to remember that even I can sometimes be RIGHT.

So the other day at the library I was scrolling down my collection development spreadsheet, just looking at all the authors' names. All these people who managed to write books and publish them in the past year! When I was a kid I thought I was special for being a writer, the ONLY ONE... well, that I KNEW. Even when I met Angie, my best friend, in high school, and discovered that she was an absolutely fabulous writer, part of me was like "No, I'M the writer! ME! She's not as MUCH of a writer!" even as the rest of me was like "Don't be an idiot, Part of Me, this story she wrote off the top of her head is hilarious and awesome and not at all what YOU would have written so it's not like there's not room for BOTH of you to be writers!" So anyway twenty-some years later I'm looking at this list of a thousand-some names of professional, paid writers, and those just the ones who've published something recently for anyone under 18 that might be worth purchasing for a public library...

...being online, blogging and following other bloggers, has really driven home how MANY writers there are in the world...

...but for some reason the other day when I looked at that list, the thing I thought was "Maybe I could write something if I changed my name to Belinda."

That wasn't just a random name I picked. Belinda was my alter-ego as a very small child. Princess Belinda of Switzerland. I actually got the name from the Ogden Nash poem about Custard the Dragon, which my mom used to recite. (Not the Princess of Switzerland part. That I made up myself). So I guess it taps into that pure, brave soul-child of mine, the one who isn't afraid to put her vast imagination Out There. I don't think I was thinking that in so many words at the moment, it was just a gut-thing: "If my name was Belinda, I could be a writer again." Like, that IS the name of my inner soul-child, and maybe it's HER who can write.

But it seems kind of funny to adopt a pseudonym now, when here I am on the internet under my real name for over a decade. NOT writing fiction, even. Writing my innermost thoughts, putting them out into the universe in hopes someone else might see them and understand. Somewhat protected by the unprofessional backdrop of LiveJournal, by the anonymity of Not Being Famous. Fully exposed, but not where anyone's looking. Well, where SOME people are looking, which helps. Because I like that validation, that if I DO speak up, somebody might listen.

So here I am. Ten years I've had a voice, a small voice, a largely drowned out voice... but a voice nonetheless. And sometimes just having the voice reminds me that sometimes I actually have something to say.

----
*Note that the userpic is set to "default" and the "Current Mood" theme has changed over the years, as neither the building in the default userpic nor the baby in the Current Mood pic actually existed at the time of that post. Also, that baby learned to ride a two-wheeler the other week.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
If you've been waiting for me to stop whining and post something more librarianish, fear not, because I'm totally going to do a Spring Programming Roundup as soon as I get back to work so as to get my planning schedule so as to remember what I actually did this Spring. Meanwhile, I'm digging around in my psyche some more instead, because something's on my mind that I still can't quite get a handle on.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I was a famous crybaby as a child. Not even as a child-- I've had my moments as an adult, too, which I've always attributed to my depression. But I've just started wondering if it's not more complicated than that. That it's my sensitivity that makes me cry, but it's my shame about it that makes me depressed. And, ironically, cry more. Except for all the times I don't. The many times I've deadened my emotions, held the tears in, taken a deep breath and kept on plugging, feeling proud of myself for growing and improving.

Except maybe I haven't actually been growing and improving. Maybe I've been turning myself in on myself, bottling myself up, filling myself with negative energy, SHAMING myself so deeply that I can't move. Maybe I've just been digging myself into this deep rut I've been despairing ever getting out of lately.

But you have to understand. It wasn't like something sad had to happen for me to cry about it. Sure I cried at sad things. I cried when I got physically hurt. I cried when I was scared. I cried when I was frustrated, when I was angry. I cried when I didn't get my way. I cried at EVERY. SINGLE. NEGATIVE. THING. that happened, or that I even just percieved as happening. Any negative feeling that arose in me, no matter how insignificant, bubbled out through my eyes.

(Ironically, it was often the REALLY sad and REALLY bad things-- the things OTHER people cry about-- that barely seemed to phase me. I could be philosophical about those. It was only IN THE MOMENT emotions that made me cry).

But I picked up on how shameful this was really young. Sometime before I was five (having moved at age 5 makes remembering whether something happened in early childhood or not much easier) I know I picked up on this message from somewhere: "Crybabies are being selfish. They're doing it to manipulate* others into giving them their way." But I'm not, I thought. I don't DECIDE to cry. It just happens. This frustrated me, this knowledge that people thought I was doing it on purpose. And being frustrated made me cry. And NOW I knew to be ashamed of it.

It alienated me from other kids-- more than my nerdy smarts, more than the physical ugliness I just assumed I had that would make people not like me, more than my different way of looking at the world, even probably more than my occasional know-it-all attitude-- it was the crying that really separated me. That was what the bullies would taunt me about. That was what my "friends" would roll their eyes about or decide they didn't want to associate with me in front of the cool kids. That was why my actual friends would be overly gentle with me, try to shelter me from things, even though I knew that's what they were doing and it just made me feel worse.

I often wondered if they ever knew that I hated my tears even worse than they did. Again in my head I was screaming, "I AM NOT DOING THIS ON PURPOSE! I AM NOT TRYING TO MANIPULATE ANYBODY! I DON'T WANT YOUR SYMPATHY! I DON'T WANT TO BE CRYING RIGHT NOW!" But of course my shame made me cry even more, which made me hate myself more, which made me cry more....

It got to the point, in high school, where-- okay, maybe I HAD "improved" about it. Maybe I took small bumps a lot more easily than I'd used to, and maybe that is a good thing. I was crying over less things, but I FELT WORSE about it. I felt like I could never shake that Crybaby label, and to some of the other kids, at least, I hadn't. I remember one girl, a friendly aquainance at least, who did a whole speech about me in our 11th grade Speech class-- never naming me outright, but referring to real situations we'd been in-- it was CLEARLY me, and I was right there in the same class listening to this speech passive-aggressively directed at me-- all about how people shouldn't cry over things, they needed to Man Up (that phrase wasn't used, but that's the general idea) and Deal and "just wipe those tears away." That one IS an exact quote, because I can still see her, hear her, concluding her speech with it, along with motions. I was SO ANGRY. I was about to boil over with rage. But what do I do when I'm boiling over? CRY. But I obviously couldn't do that, not right then, in front of her and the rest of the class who'd just listened to a speech about what a baby I was.

This is kind of a culminating incident, that I wrote about here, my closest what-you-might-say brush with suicide. Come to think of it I think it was the same girl. Maybe it was just her. Maybe she had a Thing about crying, herself, that made her uncomfortable around me. But at the time it was EVERYBODY. The whole world hated me for crying too much. Okay, maybe they didn't all HATE me, but they still thought I cried too much. So I hated me, even if it was just the "me at school" I truly hated.

Because even if she was the only kid at school who directly labelled me a crybaby, our culture in general doesn't like tears. It doesn't like crybabies. It assumes tears are either for manipulation or a sign of weakness. You'd even get the so-called "feminists" (Sure glad I've since learned what true feminism is all about) complaining about female characters that cried, that this was a stereotypical weakness. I'm such a failure to women everywhere because I cry a lot! I'm a failure as a selfless Christian good person who doesn't take things personally! I'm a failure as a writer because writers need to be able to handle criticism and rejection! I SUCK BECAUSE I HAVE OVERACTIVE TEAR DUCTS!

I think I should have taken it as a sign that these cultural attitudes were wrong, because they made me angry. Part of me knew they were unjust. But I just turned all that anger in instead.

Again, I just feel like saying to the world, You will never hate me for crying as much as I hate myself for crying. You have NO IDEA how sensitive I am to this topic. You have no idea.

And I have no idea. I'm so confused right now. Because it's only just occurred to me, yesterday in fact, that all this shame is NOT HEALTHY. That I'm NOT growing by hating my oversensitive side. AND YET I still can't help feeling ashamed about it. I mean, the times I've gotten teary when I've been corrected at work-- my current job, now, as an adult, which I love and know I am definitely not a failure at-- being corrected still makes me embarrassed, and being embarrassed makes me cry. But if I cry, will my supervisors write me off as being Unable to Take Correction? OF COURSE THEY WILL. And so I'm still ashamed of it, even though part of me KNOWS it's not that I can't TAKE correction, it's just that I've got to react to the embarrassment that way before I go fix my mistake. And since I'm ashamed of it-- I cry more.

There are so many situations where I absolutely do not want to cry, but how do I balance that out-- how do I keep a calm composure without hating myself for how hard it is for me? I feel like learning to accept my oversensitivity is a REALLY IMPORTANT PSYCHOLOGICAL THING FOR ME TO DO, but it's still so problematic.

--
*I'm not sure if I actually knew the word "manipulate" at that age-- I probably did, I was always a nerd that way-- but I understood the CONCEPT people were getting across just fine.

EDIT FOR POSTERITY, AND ALSO BECAUSE I FIND IT INTERESTING AND WONDERFUL AT LEAST: Disqus just reminded me that it was this article, particularly the description of Meg Murry, that got me thinking on this and inspired me to write this post. As you can even see from my comment on it, I felt "like I should elaborate but that's all I really have to say...." Well, this post was me elaborating! Yay, Meg Murry, I love you yet again! ...Now I don't know whether to add the Year of the Tesseract tag to this. :)
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
Tonight my second grader had his first Sacrament of Reconciliation, and I took my turn while we were there, because frankly it had been an awfully long time since my last confession. Which was as good a place to start in my run-down of sins as any, being that it's just one of the many thousands of things, big or small, in the past-- since whenever I last went to confession (not to mention all the years BEFORE that, but technically I've been absolved of those) that I've just Not Done. Sins of Omission. Sloth. You know, I've never been a BAD person. I'm marvelous at Not Doing Bad Things. I'm just pretty marvelous at Not Doing Good Things, too. Yay, Not Doing!

But I've become more aware, recently, that this Not Doing is a lot more active of a choice than I might want to believe. It's not just a letting-things-slide. It's an outright NO. I always have a choice, to Do or Not to Do. I CHOOSE the big ol' NO. No, I won't force my obnoxious kids to do the good-for-them things they're trying to get out of doing. No, I won't exercise. No, I won't take a moment to pray. No, I won't bring up That Issue with my husband or my coworker or whomever even though it needs to be done. No, I won't do the dishes. No, I won't get up from this chair.

No, I won't write.

So, step one in doing penance: sit down and blog.

------

Yeah, I've been putting off blogging, too, and that's one of the EASIER yeses I've made to writing over the past few years. You can tell I've been putting it off because when I opened up this New Entry editor it asked me if I wanted to Restore from Saved Draft, which turned out to be this:

On one hand: https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame?language=en

Not repressing criticism: http://www.bookshelvesofdoom.org/blog/2015/3/12/if-you-dont-have-anything-nice-to-say-dont-say-anything-at-all

Discussion I got into on this point: http://www.themarysue.com/anthony-mackie-representation/#comment-1939963578

Two people like me: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2015/04/02/397039952/jokes-fights-and-controversy-in-a-frictionless-void
http://haikujaguar.livejournal.com/1469271.html

What it comes down to: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2015/03/sunday-reflections-on-trying-to-be-better/


I'd gathered those links, with those "to remind me" little annotations, because I wanted to talk about how confused the Internet was making me. It's, you know, that Internet Rage thing. When people do something wrong, it seems other people either condemn or defend, and they do it passionately, and they believe with all their soul that THEY are in the right about it, even though other people believe with all their soul it's the other way around. Well, I guess that's the way of most things. I tweeted a philosophical thought I had once, that ones sense of right or wrong is often contingent on whether you value Justice or Mercy more. I was half-joking, though, because it had come from me being angry at the school bus driver for not stopping and waiting for us even though we were frantically waving and running toward the bus stop. SURE, we were in the wrong, we should have been at the stop on time, but I can't imagine being that much of a stickler for the rules that you wouldn't wait one more minute for people who were frantically waving you to stop. But the bus driver's all about Justice, making sure the rules are upheld. I'm all about Mercy, realizing that people make mistakes and doing what needs to be done in the moment, rules be damned (which is just kind of an ironic way to put it and I like it). But prompted by missing the bus or not, a lot of disagreement about ethics and morality really does come down to how much emphasis you put on one or the other. That's the argument at the heart of this Calling-People-Out-When-They're-Wrong vs. Stop-Internet-Bullying-and-Public-Shaming stuff. The former, Justice. The latter, Mercy. But they do both have their place. And as a person who naturally tends toward Mercy, I really dislike the kind of vigilante thing the internet does every time someone does or says something wrong. But maybe I'M wrong, maybe I'M not giving Justice enough import. It reminds me of the trolls who go about calling people Social Justice Warriors in a condescending way if they dare to question the status quo. I don't want to be one of those trolls. I don't think it's wrong to want Social Justice. I'm just gentler about it. Can I be a Social Mercy Warrior?

---

I started to appreciate just what a beautiful and misunderstood Sacrament Reconciliation is as my son prepped for tonight. I know a lot of people associate Confession with guilt, with sinning. The phrase "Catholic guilt" is a cliche. But it's not about guilt: it's about FORGIVENESS. Everybody screws up. But if you just acknowledge that you have, God forgives you. The weight is LIFTED! As Anne Shirley would put it, Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet!

Hense why I'd rather focus on the good people do than gasp in indignation every time they do something wrong. Because we ALL do the wrong thing, sometimes. But I hope I can be forgiven, and if I want to be forgiven, I have to forgive others, too.

I was thinking today that maybe some of us who aren't putting up a fuss at every misstep of other people AREN'T, in fact, naive about the bad in the world after all. Maybe we just expect it, so instead of pointing out all the bad, we point out the good instead.

Actually I was thinking this yesterday. Because it was Earth Day, and I was on Tumblr, and in quick succession I reblogged posts about Lady Bird Johnson's Earth Day advocacy and Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement and this quote about people who make a difference: "They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters." And I realized how refreshing it was to read those posts instead of more posts about the idiocy of climate change deniers or ... well, not just about environmental matters, but just in general. So much advocacy and calls for, well you know, Social Justice, are about all the ways things and people fail. The Not Good Enoughs.

I suppose some people are galvanized by such stuff. It's seeing the bad that goads them into action. But perhaps I'm too good at seeing the bad. I just get overwhelmed. I see this impossible standard. And that's where my gigantic NO comes in.

NO, I won't speak up, because whatever I say people will find something wrong with it. NO I won't speak up, because I'm too privileged in this world and I know nothing. NO I won't speak up, because I'll be speaking on the wrong topic. NO I won't speak up, because nothing I say will make any difference whatsoever. Why do people get outraged when other people don't get outraged about the same issue as them? There is far too much wrong in the world to feel outraged about all of it. So I have to cover my ears and eyes and rock in my mental corner chanting NO NO NO NO NO.

Don't tell me every time somebody messes up. I KNOW they mess up. Tell me what GOOD they do. Tell me when somebody makes a positive difference. TELL ME IT'S POSSIBLE. Tell me we have a point.

Okay, tell me I have a point.

Tell me I have a reason to try, a reason to say YES to Doing for a change.

---

I've been sick and it makes me groggy, and we all know I have depression issues, but it occurred to me today that I wouldn't mind being dead. It wasn't a suicidal thought. It was just nihilistic. It's scary because aren't people supposed to have some kind of Survival Drive, some Will to Live? But my brain just calmly asked why? What's the point? What'd be so bad about being dead?

I'd really like a reason to live. But when I get online sometimes my brain just fills up with all these voices chanting hopelessness at me.

--

The other week-- just last week? I forget-- the network adapter on my computer blew. This did make finishing the taxes a bit of a challenge. But otherwise, I was all right. Being away from social media was NOT making me antsy. I didn't miss it much. When I finally replaced my adapter-- five days later, I was in no particular hurry-- I didn't immediately rush back on. But eventually I got sucked back in, to the old habits of sitting and clicking and refreshing and clicking and waiting for someone to respond to the comment I just posted and wondering if somebody has responded NOW and... watching people get outraged here, watching people be hypocrites there.

But in there, among all that, are my friends, some I've never met, some I rarely get to see in person. If I just give up social media... how will I hear from my friends?

So I'm still not sure. I need to cut back on the Internet. It feeds my NO too much. But within all the NO are scattered Yeses, and I don't want to miss them.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
I got a composter for my birthday-- a big spinning bucket of a contraption you put all your compost in so you don't have to stir it, as you would a compost heap. This is a handy thing for me to have, because in the 11 years of its existence I have never once stirred the compost heap in our backyard. Freshly decomposed compost would be wonderful to put in my garden-- and there is very little that makes me as happy as gardening does-- but that heap beside the shed had become a resting place for huge branches, invasive weeds, scraps of whatever dead things I pulled out of the garden in the fall, leaves... which, at least the last bit, are all things that DO go in a compost heap, but stir it? I could hardly MOVE it. And certainly I hadn't been paying attention to "feeding" it properly.

As it's a beautiful afternoon and I have this new composter, I figured I'd go out, clear the larger branches aside, and put the soft stuff (the leaves and such) in the bin to turn into NICE USEABLE SOIL AT LAST. But guess what I found under all those leaves?

You're right! DIRT! But not just dirt-- there's dirt enough in the brown, hard mounds beside our yard right now because the neighbors are building an addition and have moved part of the hill. This was deep, black, rich, loamy SOIL. THE COMPOST HEAP HAD DONE ITS WORK ALL ALONG! WITHOUT my stirring it or regulating its composition!

IT WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I'VE EVER SEEN this month. I shoveled it into the wheelbarrow, dumped it in the garden, and felt SO HAPPY for the snap peas and carrots that will take root there in the next couple months.

And as I did I thought, maybe my soul is like a compost heap. It's just this pile of waste that I never properly tend to, but maybe, maybe SOMEDAY, when I find some more practical system for dealing with it, and I clear away the debris on top, I'll find the stuff underneath has been turning into rich, fertile soil ALL ALONG.

Which is the sort of daydream somebody very lazy who does not want to properly tend to her spiritual compost heap would harbor.

But there is one good thing about it. It's hopeful. It's saying that even if I AM crappy at tending to my life, all is not lost. There are worms and centipedes of the Holy Spirit working away down there even when I'm not doing my share. (WORMS AND CENTIPEDES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. I need to make a devotional painting on this theme now). So sure, if I never bother to clear that top layer away, it won't do anybody any good. But if I ever DO, well, I won't be working entirely from scratch.

Or, you know, compost heaps could have absolutely no bearing on the human soul and I'm being far too optimistic.

But hope's nice.

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