Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh, My Edward!

For those of you who are not Twi-hards and who would not know, the phrase OME has long dominated the Twilight fan sites as an appropriate substitution for OMG.  Yes, feel fee to roll your eyes (I do.) Though Breaking Dawn managed to permanently quell my obsession, far be it from me to pass up the opportunity to post, now that Summit has released the film.

Yes, I stayed up until midnight with other fans to be one of the first to get my hands on Breaking Dawn, but I did not do the same for the movie.  I do have plans to see it soon, but this time, I can wait. This decision has nothing to do with that wet blanket, that rain on my pseudo-teenage thrill parade,  Breaking Dawn; it has much more to do with my own innate nerdiness.

As is true of nerdom, I usually prefer books to movies.  And, what red-blooded female can deny that the interest fueled by the Twilight series is generated by none other than superlover Edward Cullen? Edward, as a character, manages to be the every(dream)man to everywoman.  So how did Stephenie Meyer manage to create a character that women of all ages and from all walks of life find so finger-lickin' good? (Thus begins my doctoral dissertation)

I'm going to start out by setting aside the obvious Edward assets: the hair, the wealth, the six-pack, the hot taste in cars, the great clothes.  (At this point, I could be describing Jack-the-Ripper and I'd already be in love.)  But no, the character of Edward does not stop there. Part of what really hooks the womenfolk are his deeper qualities (guys, take note).  Edward always makes Bella feel beautiful, even if she's wearing holey sweats and has spinach lodged in her front teeth.  He always places Bella's well-being at the top of his priorities.  He would never forget Bella's birthday.  He is chivalrous, traditional, and respectful.  He is intellectual and talented.  He has smooth lines, smoother moves, and a crooked smile to boot. However,  I submit that even those traits are not the core of Edward Cullen's appeal.

What makes Edward truly irresistable (and where my problem with the movie lies) is found in what the readers do not know about him.  While developing the character of Edward, Meyer merely throws readers bits and pieces to hint at his past.  She leaves him just enough of a tabula rosa that readers can make of Edward Cullen, anything they want.  He is mysterious and just dangerous enough.  The beauty of reading a character like Edward is that the reader can assign to him any preference in music, any taste in clothes, any daring past she desires.  (My Edward was somrthiing of an unrequieted lover.)  In short, the reader can mold him into her custom lover (something we have been trying, with little headway, to do to our husbands for years.)

I do not want to suggest that Rob Pattinson was not a ideal actor to play Edward or that I would cast anyone else in his stead.  The difficulty is that he is mortal and, as such, has defined personality traits and physical qualities. The only analogy I can use to describe my hang up with Twilight in  movie form relates to Plato's Allegory of the Cave in which Plato describes the "form" and the "thing."  The "form" is god's perfect idea; the "thing" is mankind's removed, imperfect interpretation. In the case of Edward, Meyer has created the "form" and Rob Pattinson, I fear,  is the "thing."  (My apologies, Rob.)

And so, on that note, I can wait to see, but cannot completely resist, the movie.  I will save myself the throngs of teenage girls and the long wait in line until I have time to decide whether or not Rob Pattinson is my dream man.  I could have taught him in high school, so that's one strike right there (one I was able to overlook while reading Twilight.)  

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mothers' Unofficial Day

Mothers are the guiltiest people in the world.  We blame ourselves for practically everything.  If our child has a cold, it's because we didn't bundle him tightly enough or give him enough multi-vitamins last week.  If our child has a milk allergy, it must be because we fed her dairy at too young an age or because we ate too much ice cream when we were pregnant.  It's true; there is no end to the amount of blame mothers heap upon themselves for everything that goes wrong. It's ludicrous when you think about it.

The irony is that everybody lets us take the blame.  Modern psychology dictates that people are the physiological and psychogical product of their parents. Criminals and sociopaths are more than happy to twist that logic and shift the blame to their upbringing.  Time and again they sing the song of neglect and abuse as an excuse for their excerable behavior.

Not to be misunderstood, I don't want to diminish the role of the mother or to underplay the importance of her impact in the lives of her children.  It's just that so often mothers live an existance of paranoia and guilt.  It seems to me that the very best mothers are those who feel the worst about the way that they have raised their children.  They forever lament, "If only I  had.  .  .  my child might be happier/ more secure/ more productive."  How ironic that the truly negligent mothers are those who never feel guilty about and are constantly defensive of their parenting.

OK, so maybe you fed your kids mini-donuts before sending them to school today, and maybe one your son's socks was navy and the other was black, but it's time to let that go.  I assert that for the rest of the day all of the good mothers who know they try their hardest but fall short of perfection sit back,  take a much-needed deep breath and just for a moment, let go of the guilt and fear.  Don't focus on your three-year-old who still has accidents, or your son who bloodied another kid's nose on the playground last week.  Think about those great and simple moments when you didn't even have to remind your son to share his toy with his younger brother or when your daughter thought to have you help her bake cookies for a sick neighbor. You gave them that, too.  

For one moment think of all that has gone right and pat yourself on the back.  You deserve it!  Please share some great motherly moments.  What better way to celebrate?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Sexiest Words in the English Language

My AP biology teacher always told her students how she thought "plasmodesmata" was the sexiest sounding word in the English language.  Of course, if you are into biology and know what plasmodesmata actually are, then you know her opinion was based on the sound of the word alone.

Pulitzer prize winning poet and novelist, Sylvia Plath, maintained that the most euphonic word in the English language is "syphilis."  Plath, too,  was obviously basing her opinion on sound alone.  Repeat it outloud a few times and you will see where she was coming from  (if you can ignore the connotation and if your significant other isn't within earshot).  I don't think syphilis counts,  however, because "euphonic" and "sexy" may or may not be synonyms depending on personal taste.

I submit that the sexiest words in the English language are officially, "You take it easy tonight, Hon.  I'll put the kids to bed."  I have a big smile on my face right now just thinking about them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reconsidering Poetry

I know I have been remiss in posting anything other than a couple of twinkies for well over a month now. It is not for lack of ambition or lack of ideas, but more for lack of time. It is very difficult to find the time, not so much for the writing, but for the amount of editing I do! I am obsessed with punctuation which is simultaneously a curse and a blessing. In short, forgive my flaky blogging and I promise I will continue to post when I can slide it in.

For those who are familiar with my blog, you know that I write a lot on the topic of teaching English and about the literature taught in English courses. I love to talk about it and currently, have very little outlet except for you, dear reader. So, I beg your pardon, while I indulge myself, once again.

In October, National Poetry Day came and went. I was happy to find that Peterman posted about it and I considered posting about it myself though other obligations took precedence. Suffice it to say, I'm pretty sure that National Talk Like a Pirate Day recieved more attention than National Poetry Day. Not to diminish Talk Like a Pirate Day in any way, but I wish the American public would reconsider poetry.

I think poetry recieves a generally bad reputation for a couple of reasons. The first, the people who supposedly "read" it and "write" it. OK, I admit I went through a really pretentious stage in college when I would go to the "Dog and Duck" (the local coffee shop) and listen to the owner of the place read Shakespeare. He read with a goofy inflection and, as pretentious as I was then, even I knew that the girl wearing the black lace gloves and velvet cloak wasn't really as close to swooning in ecstacy as her ardent sighs might lead one to believe.

Though Shakespeare's words are lovely, that particular reading was hideous though instrumental in giving me a much needed slap before I, too, donned a pair of lace gloves. Yes, it was crap and, as such, very detestable (not to mention, my tolerance for it was probably 95% higher than the average non-nerd's).

I can't blame people for steering clear of these kind of scenes. But, I submit, not all poetry is as old as Shakespeare and, for certain, none of it should be mangled by the sort of linguistic stylings I witnessed that night.

Despite the beatniks and wierdos who have given poetry a negative stereotype, I think it is time for the public to reconsider poetry. Many modern poets, like former Utah Poet Laureat, David Lee, embrace the vernacular and culture of common people while dealing with themes every bit as poignant as Shakespeare or Milton.

Which brings me to the next major barrier the general public has with poetry: they just don't "get it." Poetry, like most worthwhile pursuits, demands some knowledge and some exertion to befully appreciated. How many students have been required to read and comment on a poem in a text book? (If you took high school English you should be probably be raising your hand right now.) Don't get me wrong, I love many of the poems included in high school anthologies: e.e. cummings, "in just," Shakespeare's, "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?" Dylan Thomas', "Fern Hill," and Elizabeth Bishop's, "The Fish." All are wonderful poetic specimens and I am glad to know they are still taught in the classroom. But are they really? Do the students silently read poetry to themselves instead of out loud as it is intended? Does the teacher share the relish of the the words, . . ."when the world is mud-luscious and the little lame balloonman whistles far and wee. . ."? Or do the students just answer, in complete sentences, canned questions about why the balloonman is lame?"

Assignments like that are lame (but still not as bad as the teacher who chooses to gloss over the whole unit by playing an Alanis Morrisette song and talking about its "literary merit") and I think largely responsible for volume of detestation people associate with poetry. I will concede; very few high school teachers do poetry justice (mostly because they "don't get it" either- but that's a secret.)

Poetry is an ancient and increaslingly rare form of art. You don't think so? Try to conjur the name of one living poet. Try to consider one poem you have read that was written in the last decade. IF you can do so, you are certainly in the minority.

Monarchs and statesmen have long known the power of the poem. Shakepeare's most famous patron was Queen Elizabeth. Even in our modern world, the United States always has a congressional poet on hand to write when the occassion requires it, so, for all of its value why is it a dying form of art?

I think the answer lies in the question so many of my students have asked me, "Why do we have to learn about _____________ (poetry/ Shakespeare/ sentence diagrams. . . you get the idea)? I'm never going to use it. I'm going to be a ____________( porn star/ computer game programmer/ mechanic. . ." It seems to me that the entire educational system is setup to try to appease this question. The emphasis of public education is no longer simply to open doors and horizons of knowledge. It has turned into a way to make a person lucrative; a financial asset.

While it is very valuable to produce a trained and highly efficient work force, I think that sometimes we lose focus on the most significant role of education: to make us better, more compassionate people; to help us find commonality and value in our human experience. As the focus of education shifts to standarized testing and proficiency testing, we are losing that which is most vauable of all: our humanity and individuality. Perhaps, it is time to realize what the monarchs and statesmen have long known: people need poetry.

e.e. cummings said it best:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.
Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hoe and then) they
said their nevers and they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt for forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Thank you, Mr. Cummings. My sentiments exactly!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm it!

I'm it!
Apparently, I have been tagged by the writer of this blog which I think is really great. I really admire Amanda Beth's ambition and commitment to style. Spend some time perusing!

I think being tagged means that I share random facts about myself and tag other people so they, too, can share. Here are the actual rules:

The Rules:
Link to your tagger and list the rules.
List 7 random facts about yourself.
Tag 7 people (and make sure you check back and see what they say).
If you're tagged, play along and pass it on!

1) Even though I can't sing, I once landed the lead in the musical "South Pacific." I lived in a very small town at the time so I think I got the part due to demographic default: I was the only one around who might possibly look like Nellie Forbush. After my brief career on stage, I retired permanently from musical theater.

2) By marriage, I am related to David Miller, star of "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." (He is my cousin's husband.)

3) The colon (:) and semicolon (;) are my favorite punctuation marks; they are definately underrated.

4) I think Danny Elfman is underrated.

5) I considered dropping out of college to see if I could get hired to work on the set of "Wishbone." (I guess it's a good thing I stayed in school.)

6) I'm not a big fan of modern day celebrities. I prefer James Stewart, James Dean, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Grace Kelly.

7) I prefer the old, curmudgeonly Martha Stewart to the post-prison kinder, gentler, friend-to-the-stars she has become.

I tag the following people:
OK, peeps. Inspire us!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Coping With H.I.D.

In Utah, where I was raised, I was considered an old bride- almost an old maid. There was a collective sigh of relief from friends and family when my husband finally took me "off the market." I made it the first 27 years of my life single and unfettered. I have to admit, during those years, I often felt lonely and maybe even a bit jealous of my married friends. As happy as I am now to be a wife and a mother, I don't regret those single years. I had to accept that while many people are ready for marriage in their early twenties, I just wasn't. There was part of me that had to experience life on my own and learn to feel secure in myself before I could belong to anyone else.

During those single years, I bought my first car, rented several apartmets, dated and cried over break-ups, bought a dog, and established a career in teaching. Living alone in places where I started out knowing no one, I had to learn to depend on myself. There wasn't much I thought I couldn't do. I washed my own car, hung my own pictures (yes, usually on a trim nail driven into the sheet-rock with a high heel shoe), bought and assembled cheap furniture, painted walls, drove long stretches of lonely highway with only the dog and my stereo for company, and navigated my way (fumbling) through unfamiliar city streets.

I knew that when I met the right guy, he would love me for being established, secure, decisive, and independant. He wouldn't care if I was older than the average Utah bride, he would realize that my assests far out-weighed my age.

Now that I have been married six years, I wonder where that girl has gone. Not that I have lost my sense of self. Motherhood has convinced me more than anything I do have superhuman powers and a capacity to meet any challenge. However, I seem to be suffering from a terrible case of H.I.D. (husband induced dependancy). I no longer feel the need to be as intrepid as I once was. Where I used to do everything for myself, now I rely, very often, on my husband. Obviously, I can no longer so much as find the mailbox for myself. Brett is quite the handyman, so he doesn't even want me to attempt home improvement projects (he does them so much better.) His perfectionistic tendencies would never be OK with me missing the stud in the wall or with my shoddy painting skills. Am I insulted by this? Not in the least!

Most of all, I have lost all sense of direction while driving. I never was good at finding my way around, but I had to at least try. My H.I.D. has become so severe and acute that I am more than happy to let Brett drive while I sit shotgun and read a book. I no longer haul heavy objects, take out the trash, or open difficult jars. I will definately NEVER assemble furniture again. Sometimes, I miss the intrepid, independant girl I was, but I would never trade my present to have her back again.

Suffering from H.I.D.? Do share!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Re: Social Experiment

As promised, I am going to follow up on my checklist and provide my usual amusing (to myself only) commentary about my week without my husband. He returned bearing fudge so I decided to keep him. I was going to complete my report yesterday, but I was up grading papers until 2:00 AM the night before so I decided that if I tried to blog on that much sleep, more than my participles would be dangling. So, life without Brett:

I have to admit, it was nice to cut footloose for a few days. Overall, I did more shopping than usual (I had to fill those empty hours with something) and suprisingly, I found that some of my personal habits seemed to regress back to single life- not my pre-Brett single life, more like the single life of a bachelor. For instance, the day after he got back, Brett went out to the check the mailbox. He was met with an entire week's worth of mail that I forgot to pick up because he always picks up the mail. The idea that mail would still be accumulating in the mailbox even during Brett's abscence never crossed my mind. Also, I noticed that my dietary habits really took a dive without another adult to cook meals for. My kids ate an inordinant amount of pizza (frozen and otherwise). Meals were impromptu at best. Let's see what shall I serve the kids tonight? How about leftover pizza. What should I eat? Oh, vanilla wafers covered in left over frosting. Perfect.

Here is the run down of my week-without-Brett checklist.

1. Hit the Clinique counter at Dillards. CHECK!
I even ventured in with two two-year-olds. The toddlers were good just long enough for me to select my products and pick up my bonus days gift. We made it out of the store before we were asked to leave. I have my makeup and Dillards is still standing so, I would say I successfully completed that part of my to-do list.

2. Go grocery shopping with kids. CHECK!
Slightly less tricky than Dillards, but the same time bomb effect: shop as quickly and efficiently as possible and rush out the door before you can see anyone else's dirty looks because your three-year-old was rolling pumpkins across the floor of the produce section.

3. Make a giant shoe cake. CHECK!
Thus the leftover frosting. I wanted to provide a picture, but I don't have one just yet.

4. Find and hang new kitchen curtains. CHECK!
OK, I deserve very little credit for this one. My sister, Miriam, visited this weekend, so I saved this one for her. I am a cheapskate so I had to settle for some curtains from K-Mart's Martha Stewart line. What that means is they needed a bit of customizing. I am a notoriuosly awful seamstress so Miriam took over in the alterations department. Except, there was one panel that I thought I wouldn't need and them ended up needing later. Miriam had already left for home, but I had to have the project finished before Brett got home. Yikes! I had to sew!

Let me preface this part of my narrative by describing an existing snapshot of myself. There exists a picture of me sewing. (I am not going to share it because I am pregnant in it and I have really bad hair.) Anyway, in this picture it looks like I am hunched over the sewing machine with a cigarette in my mouth. I have so much anxiety about sewing no one would be surprised if it caused me to take up smoking. In fact, it is not a cigarette. It is a stitch-ripper kept handy because I end up spending more time using that than I do actually using the machine.

So I had to hem a curtain and I was literally in a cold sweat. My seam came out not nearly as nice as Miriam's or those done by nimble Chinese fingers, but I decided no one would look that closely at it anyway.

After I had my father-in-law hung the rods, the curtains were prepared to meet Brett upon his arrival home. I think Brett was pleased that I chose kitchen curtains with no apples or pictures of tea kettles on them.

5) Clean(ish) the house. CHECK(ish)

6) Organize the home office. Ha! ha! ha! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

7) Fill the van with gas. I used just enough gas that the gas light turned on the morning after Brett arrived home. That worked out nicely.

So, I did accomplish most of what I had set out to do, but it really was more difficult especially since my two-year-old was despondant in the abscence of daddy and about day 6 my five-year-old asked me when things would go back to normal with tears streaming down her cheeks. My final analysis: Next time I'm going with him and leaving the kids with grandma! Perfect.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Kind of Mom I'm Not or Please Pass the Milk, Please

I know that in my profile I mention that one of my three jobs is counseling breastfeeding moms. Between jobs, I have also been doing quite a bit of nonproductive blog surfing as a response to my post "Blogging about Blogging." I decided that if I ever want to gain a following as a blogger, I should probably be doing a bit more following of my own. Where to start? How about women whose interests are similar to mine? So, I searched profiles that mentioned breastfeeding. Inevitably, almost every mom who stated an interest in breastfeeding also incorporated buzzwords like "attachment parenting," "baby wearing," and "veganism." This is the part where I interrupt my current stream of thought for a disclaimer: please do not stone me for what I am about to say. I think these are great, altruistic mothers. They are clearly very involved and concerned parents. I do not relate to them.

I have heard the phrase "attachment parenting" before, but I have never really investigated what all "attachment parenting" entails. If it means having a two-year-old who has to touch you all night and drink a sippy cup while you're sleeping, count me in. If it means that you have to like it and admit that it stems from anything other than your parental apathy, count me out. My two-year-old still sleeps with me because I'm too darn lazy to get up in the night and deal with his tantrums. Period. End of story.

My kids don't eat organic foods and I have to admit there are some nights when they have had Pringles and fruit snacks for dinner. They eat a lot of candy on Halloween, too. They like McDonald's chicken nuggets. I guess I'm not in the "organic foods/ vegan" mom category, as so many breastfeeding moms seem to be.

I'm not sure about the term "baby-wearing" either. I am assuming it has something to do with slings. I used one once: when I took my 6 week old to Disneyland. (By the way, did you know, the "It's a Small World" ride is a great place to breastfeed? But I digress). I think I might be into baby wearing, but not in the sling sense. There is generally a baby attached to my arm, and often another trying to climb my leg. Once again, not my favorite situation.

I don't reuse plastic grocery bags, bake wholegrain bread, or knit. I probably won't storm a business rumored to have employed someone who gave a breastfeeding mom a dirty look. I am comfortable breastfeeding in public, but I wasn't at first. I do own a Shu Uemura eyelash curler (which I use daily); I love how I look in heels. I would carry a Coach bag. I am even guilty of reading BabyWise (don't gasp. Once again, I was much too apathetic for Ezzo-ism).

Sterotypes aside, I think sometimes women choose not to breastfeed because they feel they don't fit "the mold." In my line of work, I hear all too often, "I'm afraid to breastfeed; I'm just a teenage mom." Or, "I'm not sure I can breastfeed; no one in my family could." Breastfeeding extends beyond stereotypes and race. For me, it's not about politics. It is about uniting mother with child and mother with mother. I am a woman and a mom, so I breastfeed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Social Experiment: While the Cat's Away

For the first time in our six year marriage, my husband is going to be gone for an entire week. Not that I won't miss him; I'm sure I will. However, I'm wondering how life will be different while I'm alone. In my mind, I'm imagining how perfect everything will be when he first steps into the house after his travels: the laundry all neatly folded and put away, the floors freshly mopped, the children peacefully reposing in their beds and the intoxicating scent of chocolate chip cookies with notes of pinesol wafting out to greet him as he opens the door. A simultaneous display of love and my independence. Yeah, right!

The reality is I am further behind than ever. He'll be lucky if the acrid smell of dirty laundry and stale bacon doesn't knock him out when he arrives home. Because the real question is, how will I be able to get anything done with just me and these kids? But hey, I'm up for the adventure; this test of my independence. So to prove my own daring, I have arranged a checklist of things I am going to attempt while he is gone just to prove that I can make it on my own:

1) Hit the Clinique counter at Dillard's for Clinque Bonus Days with whatever kids are in tow. (I'm not sure what this proves except that I know how to use the debit card. But, he probably already knows that.)

2) Go grocery shopping with the kids by myself (gulp.)

3) Make a giant shoe cake.

4) Find and hang new kitchen curtains. (OK. I might have to find someone else to hang them. It doesn't matter, I just want them hanging there when he walks in.)

5) Clean(ish) the house. (I have three kids under the age of six so yes, this is a goal . Besides, it will show off the new curtains better.)

6) Organize the home office (this is very low priority. Dillard's or home office cleaning? See what I mean?)

7) Learn how to open the gas tank on our minivan.

Hey, it could be worse, right? He could come home to find our bedroom made over to look like Forks, Washington or that new Coach handbag I've been coveting hanging on the doorknob. So, I think he's getting off rather easy.

I'll report back on the completion of my check list one a week from now.

Update: So far my husband been gone 2 nights and the most fun I've had was staying up till 1:00 AM laughing hysterically by myself over cake wrecks. I'm not complaining; that really is my idea of a good time. What would you do if your husband were away?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Blogging about Blogging

I once edited a literary magazine. It was a small production so my staff and I couldn't afford to be too choosy about which submissions we would accept. Because our magazine considered submissions from all literary genres; we did have to be somewhat discriminating. Anyone who has ever worked on staff for a college literary publication knows all that post entails: occassionally striking gold with some refreshing, unexpected submission, but more often than not, slogging through manuscript after manuscript of overwritten, cliche. . . crap.

Poetry is definately the greatest culprit for crap contribution in the annals of rejected college submissions. Some of my college chums and I have a running joke about our most hated poetic theme: dead babies. There are a surprising amount of dead baby poems submitted to college literary magazines for some unknown reason. (Though I must defend Elizabeth Bishop whose "First Death in Nova Scotia," I am quite fond of. There are, as we know, always exceptions). Dead babies aside, our second most hated poetic theme was writing about writing (which actually William Carlos Williams pulled off with aplomb; also an exception, but hey, it's William Carlos Williams, so are we surprised?)

So even though I know I am breaking my own rules, I am going to blog about blogging because I ate hotwings last night (a big mistake) and, as a result, am not sleeping. Instead, I am obsessing which is something I am prone to do in the wee hours. So like all new bloggers, I ask, "Where is everybody?" "Is anyone actually reading this?"

Admittedly, I perused several popular blogs during my nocturnal foray on the internet. I discovered that some of them are better than mine. Some are not. Some are, as Tracy, my blogging consultant, pointed out nothing better than really bad reality television. So I ask myself, is there a place for me in blogging? Can I build a fan base beyond my own friends and family? (and by the way Mom, could you please disguise your name with something like Annie Dillard or Edward Gorey or Carolyn Keen so people don't know that I have to recruit family members to leave comments?) Anyway, whether there is or not, I have staked my claim on this little slice of cyberspace and, like all squatters, I am not going anywhere without putting up a good fight. Ignore me if you will. See if I care.

Having voiced my blog insecurities, I now realize why people HATE reading poems about writer's block and I now present the final quesion "publish or delete?" "publish or delete?"

Friday, September 19, 2008

Re(inventing) the Wheel

I have always been guilty of making my life far more difficult than necessary. This is largely due to a tendency to hold myself to impossible standards. In some ways this has served as a motivator, however, more often than not, my conviction has landed me in a few overwhelming messes.

I think my problem is that I keep trying to reinvent the wheel. For instance, in college, my professors, trying to encourage their pupils' sprouting creativity, would assign essays with a list of topics or, inevitably, the wild card (make up your own.) For some reason, it made perfect since for me to make up my own. There was always the clause attached to this option that our topics had to recieve instructor approval before we wrote on. My professors never shut me down (though I wish they would have). Professor Aton let me go ahead and try that essay in which I compared Huck Finn's narrative voice to Daisy Miller's. It wasn't an easy topic and what he failed to mention was that it was plain stupid. Once again, Professor Cook let me take on my great topic, "The Invention of Childhood" as if I would actually do the months of obvious research this would entail and write a mini Masters' thesis. I ended up dumping the topic altogether and scrambling to write anything on Jane Eyre the night before the paper was due.

Obvious failures aside, maturity (what little I have) has taught me a few skills (which is only fair because I have paid dearly for them.) I have finally learned what 99.9% of all the other students I attended school with already figured out: you can write a darn good essay on teacher-assigned topics. There is nothing wrong with exploring irony in Huck Finn, again. There's always something new to say or at the very least a fresh light in which to cast it. It may even be worth risking cliche in order to save oneself the punishment of reinventing the wheel.

Perhaps the trick is learning to accept one's own limitations. I no longer feel let down by all that I can't do; instead I feel liberated by knowing that I probably shouldn't even go there.

Friday, September 12, 2008

For the Love!

You know you are seriously a nerd when you are previewing the curriculum for a high school English class you will be teaching and you find yourself having a really enjoyable time doing so. Great literature has always been like that for me; it's my idea of a good time. I suppose that is why it more than a hobby for me; I have made it my sustenance. Trite, huh?
During my teaching experience, I have learned a couple of truths about what makes literature great, great. The first, I heard about from my senior high school English teacher, Mrs. Peterson . Our class was just finishing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when "Ms. P" told us that we should read that book at least 3 times at different stages in our lives (presumably during our youth, middle-age, and old age) and that, each time, it would take on not only greater significance, but that it would be a different novel.

Later, when I landed my first teaching contract and taught Huck Finn to my students, I remember loving it more than ever. It was suddenly the funniest book I had ever read. How had I missed the irony in its tone, before? How had I overlooked the hilarity of the King and the Duke? More importantly, I had just graduated from college and had learned how to approach a book in a whole new way. As I was trying to come up with a gimick for engaging my junior Honors English class in Huck's misadventures down the Mississippi, the book fell into astounding clarity and I realized that Twain had written an epic and that Huck, like Odysseus, was on the hero's adventure. Nerd that I am, I was so excited about my discovery that I lost sleep over it that night. My junior class, as it turns out, was not nearly as taken with my approach to Huck Finn as I was and it is possible that they are still sniggering at my unfettered enthusiasm.

The next truth I learned about great literature also comes from my experience with teaching. Simply put, to teach literature is to become enamoured with literature. To this day, my favorite Shakespeare play is Romeo and Juliet. I know that isn't the most erudite selection from Shakespeare's canon, but I love it the most because I probably taught that play 15 times during my career as a Sophomore English teacher. It feels familiar, yet I am still amazed to discover each time just how eloquent and flawless the language is. It has, on me, the effect that all timeless literature does. Instead of getting fatigued with R and J, my enthusiasm for it increases with each new reading and, in turn, with each new teaching.

Just this week, I read a Browning sonnet. Sonnets have never been exactly my favorite poetry. They are so structured and so preoccupied with unrequited love that I suppose I have found them to be a bit um. . .well. . . corny. However, I gained new appreciation for Elizabeth Barrett Browning as, her Sonnet XLII, took on shape and focus when, after a couple of readings, her words became more than pretty fluff. Oh, don't get me wrong, it was STILL all about true love, but I feel better for figuring that out and I feel like myself again, having read it.

Ahhh, won't it be great to be 55 and reading Huckleberry Finn all over again for the first time?

Friday, September 5, 2008

I'm such a "pun"k

My favorite college professor, David Lee, talked about puns with affection. I remember he told his Milton class that Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia listed the pun as the lowest form of humor. As far as we English scholars were concerned that (and the fact that Funk and Wagnalls Volumes A-J were available for 10 cents to a $1.88 at the local grocery store) discredited them entirely in our eyes.

If you tend to be in the Funk and Wagnalls camp, consider this, the brillance of Shakespeare was largely his use of the pun as a literary device. For instance, the character Mercutio, from Romeo and Juliet, jokester until the end. Who didn't love the moment when on his death bed he states, "tomorrow you shall find me a grave man."

So, why puns? I woke up this morning to find this amazing article on the "Peterman's Eye" blog. Please read. There's nothing so great as waking up to something that makes you laugh tremendously hanging out in your e-mail inbox on a Friday morning. I can tell this will be a great day unequalled in jocularity.

I consider myself quite the punster on occassion- some deliberate, some accidental. Here are some highlights from my life.
My husband and I have a running joke. Occassionally, he will come into the kitchen and commences the following dialogue,
Brett: Hun, You know what I'm craving?
Me: No, What would you like?
Brett: I could really go for a nice tall Metamucil right now.

Once my sister, Miriam was visiting and witnessed the nature of our discourse.
Brett: (to Miriam) I like to think of Metamucil as a delicious orange smoothy.
Me: Only I prefer to call it an orange roughy.

Here's another great one. As I have stated in previous entries, I babysit for a living. One day my daughter, Katie, rather suddenly and inexplicably hit, Allan, one of or daily "guests" over the head with a battery. Thankfully his mother, Sarah, is a dear friend of mine.
Me: I'm sorry about the bruise on Allan's forehead. Katie, for some reason, decided to hit him with a battery of all things.
Sarah: Was it a little one like a double A or did she go in for a big one? Like a D?
Me: Oh no, she went in for a big one. She got him with a D. You might say she committed assault and battery.

Finally, and I swear this was an accident, back when I was teaching Junior English, I made my class read, Arthur Miller's, The Crucible. In The Crucible, Miller inerrupts the action of the play a few times with running editorials. In one of these, he makes the point that the puritanical rejection of sexuality and diabolism only serves to those "forbidden" topics even more curious and interesting. I was trying to figure out how to present this idea tactfully to a room full of 16 year olds.

Me: So you see, even in the time of the Puritans people were still interested in topics of sexuality even though they were forbidden. (I'm feeling like this is going pretty well so I start getting into it.) You know, sex sells! Just like in our modern world. (I should have stopped there!) I mean, look at television commercials and the images of sexulaity advertisers use. (Nope, I'm still talking- fool that I am) You know, if you show it, they will come. (Oh, dear!)

OK, so I'm no Shakespeare.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In Defense of Stephenie

This post is a bit late since Little and Brown released Breaking Dawn nearly a month ago. Like the girls in prom dresses and the emo, fanged boys, I gathered for the local midnight release party on August 2nd. I actually stayed up until 3:00 A.M. to read about Edward and Bella's nuptials. When I went to bed that night, I had the vague, unsettling sense that this book was headed in a bad direction, but that there still might be hope. 600 pages later, I discovered that my first insticts were correct. The series that I dearly loved and had followed ardently had boarded a flight into the Bermuda triangle. The crash was of staggering proportions; its remains unrecognizable after the resulting conflagration. No, I didn't burn the book. I wasn't THAT into it, however I did find my faith in The Twilight Saga entirely decimated.

From out of those ashes, one can hear the collective moans of the disappointed fans. As a result, a new and grisly fandom has emerged: those who are equally obsessed with all of the miserable reviews. Those of us who, on the fansites and message boards, have assembled ourselves to stand back and watch it burn with a new found, morbid facination. What Breaking Dawn itself never established in visceral conflict, the reviews have compensated for. I have to admit I am rather like a morose spectator who can't take my eyes off the morbid spectacle in front of me. I am, admitedly, more taken with the bad reviews than I ever was the much anticipated novel. In short, it is a breathtaking failure.

In the wake of failure, there have been various attacks of against Stephenie herself. She has been accused of everything from being a racist/sexist to penning overly graphic sex scenes. I do not agree with this criticism from her once adoring fans. Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse, the books embraced by millions, had [nearly]as much over-protective Edward, insecure Bella, and their unapologetic sexual tension as ever. So what made the difference with Breaking Dawn? Why is Stephenie now under fire for creating a bad role model for teen girls? Simply because Breaking Dawn was so poorly written. Honestly, Stephenie's writing is not any more sexy or sexist than it ever was. It's just that Breaking Dawn side stepped the entire series and came into existance as a concentrated accumulation of the stumbling tripe that would occassionally crop up in its companions. The only difference was that we were compelled by the plot and empathetic with the characters in the first three books so we were willing to overlook all the cliche and the poorly used adverbial clauses.

I will not join the legion of Steph haters. I agree that she was full of herself to think that the publication of Breaking Dawn would recieve the same acclaim as her other books. It is well known that her publishers tried to warn her about some of its egregious flaws prior to publication and that she thought her judgement was so infallible she couldn't possibly go wrong. So why should I, a stay-at-home mom struggling to make ends meet by working three jobs, defend Stephenie in all her prosperity? Because, I, like many LDS moms relate to her plight. Her personal story is one of epic success. Because of Stephenie and the Twilight Saga, I started doing something miraculous: I took time for myself to sit down and read, something I had not done in nearly five years. I loved her for her sometimes awkward prose. As an aspiring writer myself, it was great to read a book that I wanted to edit myself. It gave me hope that someday, maybe I too, could sit down and write a New York Times bestselling novel. She gave me something to wish for and think about in the days numbering the count down to Breaking Dawn. So the outcome of the great rise and the epic defeat: we have The Host which had the ending The Twilight Saga should have and, for that, I will always love Stephenie Meyer.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tut! Tut! Looks like Rain.

The infamous monsoon season is upon us. Here in Havasu, we haven't had rain, but today is overcast and muggy. Today is also a small landmark: my oldest child's first day of kindergarten.

Like all parents, I anticipated this day and have done everything I can think of to create as smooth a transition as possible for my daughter. I have stayed at home with her the first 5 years of her life and now she will be gone the entire day. OK, I know it's not a big deal for many kids, but Katie is sensitive by nature. Sometimes, when we're just visitng a city park her face will cloud up.
"Katie," I ask, "why are you crying?"
"Mom, I'm tired. I want to go home."

You can see why the thought crosses my mind that today might be a little difficult.

My friend and a veteran mother herself, LouAnn, told me, "You'll drop your daughter off at kindergarten. She may or may not cry; but you'll cry."

Not me! I have always prided myself for my lack of sentiment. I didn't cry at my high school graduation! My friend, Michelle, and I even made up alternate words complete with hand gestures to "Pomp and Circumstance." I have to admit, however, there is something about motherhood that, for me, kicked in when I first held Katie in the hospital. There's this extra sappiness (I blame hormonal changes) that instills itself in the heart of each mother. For some, it happens as soon as they find out they are carrying a child, for others of us it takes something as momentous as childbirth to catalyize its onset. You know, its the kind of setimentality that allows you to use maudlin phrases like"the heart of the mother," and that makes you tear up over reality television programs about multiples being born. It's sort of disgusting, but it is an unstoppable force.

My daughter tries out her new morning routine. I mark large black x's in the chart I made to help her easily move through each task. She's dressed in comfortable (though adorable) pink capris. She has donned her new backpack that is teeming with school supplies I meticulously packed the night before (mostly to give the teacher the impression that there is a concerned and attentive parent attached to this child.)

My husband walks Katie out to the front porch for pictures. "Smile. Say cheese."
Katie never says "cheese" or smiles for pictures; she tends to shy away from cameras. To appease us, she strikes a pose and smirks at the ground.
I try to make her laugh so we can get something more natural looking. Katie is a huge Pooh bear fan. "Say Tut! Tut! It looks like rain." I tell her.
Now, a smile.

Brett loads her in the minivan and off we go to school. The parking lot is packed, so we find a spot down the street. I pull her across the crosswalk; the crossing guard greets Katie. In her traditional manner, she looks at the ground and says nothing.
"Hello." I explain, "She's a little shy."
"We'll take care of that here," he says.

We hear a whistle blow beckoning the kids to leave the playground and line up for their teachers. I drag Katie by the hand and dash toward the school yard so she won't be late. I line her up with the other kindergartners. The teacher is hovering over her new students and reading their name tags. Parents stand and watch like spectators as the kids get ready to walk into their classroom.

"Goodbye," I tell Katie and give her a hug and kiss. "I'll come back soon."
I turn to leave and look back one last time. Tears are streaming down Katie's cheeks.
I want to turn around and hold her and talk to her until she is OK with the arrangement.

Her teacher's voice sounds over the din of the other parents. "OK, Kindergartners, I will be your mom for the next few hours."

I ignore my impulse to comfort Katie. My years of experience as a babysitter have taught me that trying to talk her through it will only make matters worse. I blink my eyes a few times and turn to walk away a little faster. Tut! Tut! Looks like rain!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

To my Loyal Fans (all three of them)

I have been in training for my new job as a WIC peer counselor all week which is why I haven't been screwing around on-line. I'm sure there will be an audible sigh of relief now you realize that I have not given up on blogging and that, next week I will be back to providing my normal wit, warmth, and wisdom.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lamest News Ever

There have been several recent news articles that caught my attention over the last couple of days. You have probably read them too so there isn't much of a point for me to go on about them and do a big rehash. Besides that, they are quite self explanatory. However, these are my votes for top three news items of the week.

1) Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii

2) The kid from the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind Album

3) Shayne Lamas dumps the guy from "The Bachelor"

Why these articles? Well, the Talula one is just funny and, as someone who taught high School English for five years, I can tell you I have seen my share of unusual names; just nothing that unusual. Besides that, I am very entertained by discussing unusual names in general- so, I hope, like me, you get a kick out of that one.

As for the "Nevermind" album, I can't believe the naked baby from the cover is 17! I was starting college when that album was popular. I definately remember the collective mourning from the direction of the boys' dorms the day Kirk Cobain was found dead a few years later.

As for the third article, I must preface this by saying celeb gossip is of no interest to me. I don't even subscribe to cable television so only explorers in antartica could be less connected to the goings on of the Hollywood jet set. You're safe in assuming I do not watch reality television and I have never even watched one episode of "The Bachelor". This article caught my eye, however, when I saw the name "Shayne Lamas." As soon as I saw that, I thought, "Shayne Lamas, you mean the one who used to sit in the back of my English classroom giggling with her friends and applying copious lip gloss, Shayne Lamas?" Now I shouldn't be surprised, I knew even then that her father, Lorenzo, was some hot shot soap opera star. There's just something funny about seeing a kid's name at the top of a Romeo and Juliet essay one time and seeing it in the news headlines the next.

With this article as well as with the Nirvana one, the single thought that reverberates is, I am that old? Yes, I am old enough to have taught Shayne Lamas as a high school freshman (not even a senior) and my friend, Julie, taught Shayne's older brother A.J. just down the hall. (He dated Lindsey who?)

So yes, as lame as I think celebrity gossip is, the lamest news of all is that I am that old and aging. Oh well, with any luck maybe those celeb kids will be this age some day, too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Great Escape

I don't think there is a mother out there who can't relate to the idea of retreating to the bathroom. Sometimes it's the one unhassled moment of the day. Fortunately, for me, my husband installed a very powerful, therefore very loud fan. In addition to providing superior air circulation, it also serves as a very effective sound barrier. I can switch on the fan, lock the door and block out the outside world for as long as my kids let me get away.

I have found that the best way to spend my 3.5 minute retreat is perusing the J. Peterman Company Owner's Manual (yes, J. Peterman is real, not just a made-up Seinfeld thing and yes, they are still manufacturing fine clothes and fine reading material even after declaring bankruptcy a few years ago.) There are many ingratiating aspects to the J. Peterman catalogue. The first of these: instead of showing models sporting the latest fashions, the clothes are beautifully illustrated giving the reader a sense of antiquity and practicality. There is something about seeing the garments as an artist's rendering that says, "Our clothes fit real people; we don't need to show you how Giselle Budchen looks in them because you, youself are going to look that good."

Illustrations aside, it is the narrative that accompanies each garment that is Peterman's crowning achievement. The product description trancends not only that of a typical catalogue, it transcends all present surroundings. It goes far beyond size, cut, and color. Instead, the writing assumes that the reader is literate, smart , and worldly. By commiting the English teachers' cardinal sin of narrating in second person, it sweeps its readers off to other times and places; each more exciting and exotic than the last. It whispers of more prosperous, simpler times when men were men and women dressed with the primary purpose of looking good. And with each narrative there is always the accompanying unspoken promise: wear these clothes and you too will. . .

Admitedly, I own exactly zero J. Peterman clothing mostly because I am a stay-at-home mom and rarely in need of fine apparel, but as soon as I re-enter the professional world, if you need me, just find the Grace Kelly look-alike.

Additional Thoughts:

1) I cannot write about J. Peterman without mentioning Tracy, my friend who introduced me to it in college. In my attempt to look Peterman chic, I came out wearing a second-hand argyle sweater and some cords. Tracy told me I looked like a PTA mom (in her completely unoffensive, honest way). Tracy was right. She is a true friend.

2) The best part about the J. Peterman catalogue: it is simultaneously free and priceless. Click here to sign up for yours.

3) This is not a paid advertisement- though I'm starting to think it should be.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Diary of a Technophobe

I am a technophobe. This is a fact I can usually keep secret, but there are times when it is difficult to hide my shyness around doo-hickies and new-fangled contraptions. Today, for example, I attended a long training session for my online teaching job. The program I work for has partnered up with a much larger, more substantial national corporation. The result is a highly competitive, higher-tech teaching environment. In short, all the latest technology at the teacher's fingertips as soon as we learn how to use it. As I'm watching software demonstrations projected on a screen in the computer lab, there is a part of me that feels like a deer caught in the NASDAQ headlights- the corporate bus is headed right for me, duck and cover!

Someone reading this might respond, but you are blogging and teaching online and you're not 60 years old. What's the big deal? OK so I'm not 60, but I am thirty-something which means I can remember life before personal computers. Believe it or not, we still survived somehow. I also remember the excitement of my family's first PC purchase. It was a TI (which stands for Texas Instrument, in case you're too young to know that.) My dad read the information about its word processing capabilities and my siblings and I were all so excited to try it out. We were sure it would revolutionize the way we did our homework. It turns out the TI in our house was used for one purpose and one purpose only: gaming (think generic ATARI.) The point here is, I was not raised on the high-tech computers of today like my children will be. There was no internet until I was half-way through college. When I first saw e-mail, I thought it was something so complicated it was consigned to the world of the geeks. Perhaps the source of my technophobia is that my students can do more on their cell phones than I can with all of the interface, gigs of RAM, and spread sheets in the world.

For me, navigating my way around cyberspace is a matter of comfort zones. I have a really hard time taking technological leaps. I have to get used to the temperature of the shallow water before I can dive in. In the meantime, the rest of the world has moved on to Guitar Hero and I'm still hunting the Wumpus.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fear and Loathing in Havasu

This weekend, my family vacationed in Sacramento where summer is the finest time of year. The world is a proliferation of green. The trees have burst into floral abundance; the lawns are bright and lush. There are tall maples, shorter flowering trees, fruit trees, weeping willows, tall coniferous wind breakers: more trees than a desert dweller like myself can even imagine. My girls look out the car windows, "Mom, look at all those purple flowers." "Mom, look they have roses in their yard." "Mom, can we pick flowers?"

Sacramento summer days can be hot, but the the nights are mild with soft, fragrant breezes. It's weather that compels a person to sit at on the back porch at dusk and listen to the drowsy chirp of cicadas.

In contrast, summer in Lake Havasu, my home town, is god-forsaken. The months of June, July, and August are so hot and withering few living creatures survive and the ones that do wish they could die. In fact, Havasu claims the distinction of being the hottest city in the 48 contiguous states rivaled only by Death Valley for its overall heat records. Needless to say, instead of lush, green lawns and flowering trees, Havasuvians landscape with gravel. My husband and I have started calling the popular landscaping of the area, "the Havasu lump." This refers to the fact that all yards here consist of the same basic plan: a base layer of neutral colored gravel raked out to cover the entire yard that is then spotted with occassional "lumps" of gravel in a contrasting color. Any variety of objects might be sticking out of/sitting on top of these mounds. It could be a cluster of short palm trees, or a rusty farm implement, or a crafty lawn (or should I say gravel) ornament, or a wooden fence post. . .the possibilities are endless. Strangely enough, due to the overall lack of water and the triple digit temperatures all summer long, people in Havasu do not generally have lawns.

When temperatures reach 115-125 degrees, it is hard for me to not feel slightly envious of my Sacramento relatives. When I see children running through sprinklers on the concrete in their parents' driveways, I do ocassionally question why on god's green earth do I live here? When I describe Havasu to someone who has never visited before, this is how it generally goes, "Havasu is a place with a history that dates back as far as the invention of central air conditioning and then to give the town an air of history and antiquity, they imported the London Bridge."

Despite Havasu's peculiarities, there is a stark beauty to the rugged desert terrain. The land is so unembellished that the beauty of the desert is found in shape and contrast rather than in rich, rolling earth. The lake itself is scintillating in the sunlight and, in the heat of the afternoon, looks vast, deep, bejeweled, and luxuriant. Perhaps the beauty of Havasu can be found in what we don't have. Only in this landscape could the thorny ocotillo or the stately seguaro be considered beautiful.

My relationship with this town is like that of a mother and her ugly child. She can point out his lopsided ears or his too big nose, but if anyone else criticizes, the fight is on.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Me and Steph: twins from different mothers

As many of you know, I have been fixated with the Twilight series since I started reading it in February. With the upcoming release of Breaking Dawn, the final book in the series, now is a great time to be a Twilight fan. The forums and fansites are rife with conjecture: to bite or not to bite. But I have to admit I was reluctant to even pick up these books.

I first heard of Twilight from my mom. Fiction is not her genre so she hadn't read them, but she knew I might be interested.

Mom: "You have so much in common with the author, you should really read these books. They have gained quite a following."

Me: "Really, what are they about."

Mom: "They're about vampires who use their free agency to not suck people's blood."

Me: "Huh, I doubt I'll ever get around to reading that."

Yes, I was more than a little biased. There were several strikes against it right there.

1) Vampire literature- I hate Anne Rice! Blech. Lestat did not seduce me.

2) Youth literature- no real author writes for adolescents, only the ones who can't make it as adult authors, right? (but there was always Harry Potter)

3) (the biggest strike of all) Written by an LDS woman.- Yes, I am active LDS myself, but have you ever read Jack Weyland? *gagging* That's what I think of when I think LDS youth literature.

I was slightly more interested when my friend Tracy (a fellow English major) sent me an e-mail to the effect of, "So I guess teenage girls don't read Anne of Green Gables anymore. They prefer vampire books. Let's read Twilight together so we can laugh at it chapter by chapter." That sounded a bit more intriguing. I ordered my copy from Amazon right away. When Twilight arrived, I read the back cover and laughed hysterically. It sat in my house for 3 months, untouched. In the meantime, Tracy read it on her own twice with no input from me.

Finally, my friend Jessica came to visit and saw Twilight sitting out. "You have Twilight? I haven't read it, but my mom did and she said it was so good."

So I thought maybe I should see what the hype was about and I finally read Twilight. Four days later, I read the next installment, New Moon. Four days after that, I read Eclipse. OK, I'm hooked and I admit to having hooked many others. Jessica read them (though clearly, I can't quite take credit for that one) but I did talk Mary, Miriam, Jodi, Stephanie, Flo, Sarah, Carl, and Norma Jean all into reading the series. I, myself, have read them multiple times and I even have two complete sets (one to loan and one to keep) so I spent about 6 weeks schlepping the books back and forth from church.

I have joined forums and met new friends on-line all because of Twilight. I even flew from Arizona to Salt Lake City to attend a Stephenie Meyer signing. I was hoping to get a really awesome picture of the two of us, but with an audience of 1,000 people with 5,000 books to be signed things like pictures aren't permitted. I tried to tell Stephenie that we were meant to be bosom buddies in the 5.5 seconds I had to speak with her at the signing. I think I came off sounding like every other fanatic dork.

Anyway, part of my obsession is how much Stephenie and I have in common. Stephenie makes fame seem so effortless. It turns out mother was right, after all. So here is a list of the similarities I share with Stephenie Meyer.

1) We both have our Bachelor's in English from Utah universities

2) We both have 3 children

3) We both live in Arizona

4) We are both LDS

5) We are less than a year apart in age

6) She has written three #1 New York Times Bestsellers and has a following of millions. I have written this blog and have a following of three.

7) Both Twilight and the title for this blog were inspired by dreams.

So there you have it. Stephenie and I are practically twins. If only she knew. . .
Have a Twilight addiction story? Please share!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My New Year's Resolution

I know this is a strange time of year to write about a thing like a New Year's resolution, but in some ways it is the best time of year to do so. That means at least the resolution is still hanging around, nagging at me in the back of my mind. It didn't disappear two weeks after the stroke of midnight like so many of my past resolutions have.

Before I launch into a discussion of my resolution or how well I have or haven't kept it; I want to mention a few points about my resolution philosophy.
1) I believe that a person should not choose more than one New Year's resolution if one plans to be successful in her resolve. I think sometimes we set our sights too high on impossible resolutions that fizzle before they are tried, let alone practiced and incorporated as habits.
2) The resolution should not be out of character. It should reflect an improvement, but it should not demand a complete character 180. For instance, I have never been big on getting regular exercise. For me to commit myself to exercising 5 times weekly for 1/2 hr, a day would probably result in total defeat.
3) A resolution should be something that requires small effort, but that makes a big impact. I believe in change, but I also believe that change happens in increments and very slowly. Improvements for the better should occur in small encouraging steps, not impossible Olympian leaps.
4)A goal should be very specific. No one ever keeps a resolution like, "I will be more organized." There needs to be some definite perimeters. "I will be more organized by filing my mail daily," is a much more specific, therefore, attainable resolution.

So, back to my resolution and its conception. Finding a goal that fits my criteria was not exactly easy. It requires reflection and absolute honesty. (Besides, when you're almost perfect it's very difficult to improve on anything. snort!) I decided on my resolution on New Year's Eve as my family and I were ferrying across Lake Havasu to dine at an Indian Casino. The water was very choppy and some of the other passengers commented that they were feeling motion sick. How did I fare? Very well. I don't remember what else happened because, despite the turbulent conditions, I had dozed off. I woke up just in time to walk up the launch ramp to the casino and enjoy my dinner.

On the ride back to Havasu, I came up with the ideal resolution for this year. I think my body was trying to tell me something like, "You are sleep deprived. Please just GO TO BED!" Viola! The perfect resolution. I resolved at that moment that I would get more sleep. I would stop trying to compensate for my overly busy schedule by staying up until midnight or later night after night. I decided that bed time for me was 10:30 since I have to get up every morning by 6:30.

I have never kept a regular bedtime schedule in my life, but what a difference it has made! I have been stricter about getting my kids to bed sooner. I no longer doze off while sitting in the church pew, or while rocking my children, or while reading, or while grading papers online or. . .well, you get the idea. I feel more clear-headed, more energetic, more organized, and just happier in general. I have always been an avid reader, but since having kids and starting my nocturnal schedule I had just given up books altogether. This year, I have even started reading again.

The reason I am revisiting my resolution now is because I have recently done some backsliding and have found myself up at midnight again folding clothes. I am recommitting myself as of today. Do not disturb after 10:30.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fear of Flight

In the prologue to the immortal epic poem Paradise Lost, John Milton calls upon the muse. His request:

"Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song, That with no middle flight intends to soar. . .while it pursues Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. . ."

Did you catch that? Milton needs the help of the muse because he intends to write a poem so powerful and beautiful that it will transcend all known literature. Milton certainly started out with a lofty goal; and he lets his audience know that if they take the time to read Paradise Lost its going to knock their socks off. He's going to write the best darn thing anyone anywhere has ever [or will ever] read. But Milton was not being arrogant. If you ever have read Paradise Lost, you'll probably admit that he accomplished exactly what he set out to do. What a way to begin an artisitic endeavor! OK, Milton already had to his credit "Upon the Morning of Christ's Nativity, " "La Allegro" and "Il Penseroso" (all just Paradise Lost warm-up exercises) so he had a good idea of his own capabilities. Even so, I have always admired his gusto in those first few lines. He is the fearless, intrepid poet who pursues his art with complete and utter confidence.

My nearest and dearest know that my own grandest desire is to write; and it would be my wildest dream come true to eventually get published. I can think of nothing more satisfactory then to see my own work sitting on my own book shelf in print. My greatest fear is not being rejected by a publisher, but never even completing a novel. What if I come up with a great idea- write five good chapters, and never pick it up again? I know myself well enough. I'll have every intention of coming back to it later, but when when when does later ever come?
I have spent much of my summer reading fiction from an entirely different point of view. Instead of analysis as a reader, I have been thinking as a writer (if these were my characters and if this were my plot I would. . .) Let me tell you, if you haven't read from that angle before, you should try it. You will gain a whole new appreciation for the skill it takes to develop plot and character. You even learn to admire fine details like chapter headings and divisions. It is easy to read as the smug overweening critic, but much more daunting when one reads as a peer.

I have decided that writer's block might have more with fear than with lack of ideas. If only I could have 1/1ooth of the muse Milton did. . . Maybe it's time to put down the book and pick up the pen.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What Does One do with a BA in English?

I know this is question plauging many people and I have an answer for it. I imported this from MySpace blog so forgive me if you have read this before. I liked it so I brought it over here.

Where the Wild Things Are and the Monomyth

O.K. I'm tired and sometimes I do my best creative thinking when I'm not thinking straight. I've also been doing a lot of pondering of the monomyth a.k.a. the hero's journey (huh? which is an all-encompassing, archetypical structure for storytelling (especially if you read fantasy genre novels which I have been doing a lot lately.) If you know me, you also know I read a lot of children's literature since I have three kids. So, for some reason the stars came into alignment and I realized Maurice Sendak's timeless picture book, Where the Wild Things Are is a charming microcosm of the monomyth.

Here it is broken down for those few of you who may still be interested.

1) the call to adventure- a forest grows in Max's room and a boat comes to take him away
2) crossing the threshold- Max sails from his room to the Wild Things island
3) rebirth- Max sets afoot on the Wild Things island
4) road of trials- Max feels threatened by the Wild Things until he tames them
5) apotheosis-Max is made king of the Wild Things
6) refusal of return- Max and the Wild Things party down
7) rescue from without- Max smells good things to eat
8) crossing the threshold- Max returns home to find that his dinner is waiting for him
9) master of 2 worlds- Max is forgiven for his bad behavior at home and is the king of the Wild Things.

Don't we love Maurice Sendak?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Make Way for Nerds

I cannot lie; I am a nerd. I embrace my own nerdiness and the nerdiness of those around me. As has held true most of my life, I generally associate with nerds. If you are reading this, you are probably one of them (hi, guys).

Maybe it's because I'm 33 and my miserable junior high days are long past, but it seems that the world has become a kinder, softer place for nerds. I remember when, in junior high, I was the butt of many jokes because my English teacher complimented me publicly on my superb grammar. Even my best friend (a nerd herself) poked fun at my propensity for large words by teasing me that I wanted a dictionary for Christmas. (Later, as a college student, I did request a personal copy of the Oxford English Dictionary- which I never got, by the way). All pettiness aside, I was a nerd in junior high. I was open in my worship of L.M. Montgomery and Edgar Allan Poe; I played violin in the orchestra, and worst of all, I only wore thrift store clothing. OK I wasn't the worst of nerds, but I definately qualified.

Shortly after I graduated from high school, it became cool to wear "vintage" clothing- a trend that seems to have never completely gone away. Thanks to J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer teens of all social echelons are now reading really long books. Teens text, blog, and hang out online at fan sites and social networks. All of these activities that seem so mainstream were, at one time, considered "nerdy." It seems that because of the internet we nerds have found a favorable environment to proliferate, flourish, and diversify.

The term "nerd" itself has transcended the 1980's stereotype of the guy with the glasses and pocket protector. In fact, the term is no longer deragotory and it has come to include kids who engage in role-playing games, kids who play video games, kids who hack computers, kids who write morbid death poetry. . .the list goes on and on. What are goths, emos, and indies? Tough nerds, sensitive nerds, and nerdy nerds. It could quite possibly be that the nerds are no longer the minority. Perhaps the world is coming to recognize what we've known all along: we're more than nerds, we're avant-garde.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Bounce the Blog

I don't think I am a vivid dreamer. If I am, I don't remember come morning. Sometimes however, I'll dream up something so colorful and strange that it sticks with me later on. As the dream hangs on in my mind's periphery, I will have an epiphany about it. It's not that my dreams are profound or prophetic or that they even generally make sense at all, it's just that ocassionally, I'll put the vague shapes and images together and then, boom- I'll get it!

So here's my latest tangible dream that left its flavor lingering in my subconcious. I was visiting old colonial, industrial type buildings in New England and there was a light crust of dirty snow on the ground. I was with my husband and other faceless though familiar people; clearly we were tourists. On the front of one of the buildings (here we get surreal though snow and New England seem surreal enough during summer in Havasu) was written in gold-leafed letters the word "Bounce." However, instead of an "O" there was a peg with a large wreath hanging from it. Quite inexplicably, there was a really tall ladder reaching all the way the front of the building as if the person who had hung the wreath had forgotten to clean up after himself. I was so taken with the building's fascade that, without thinking about what I was doing, I scrambled up to the top of the very tall ladder (a common motif in the dreams I do remember) and yelled down to my husband and friends below. I'm not sure why I was so taken with this building, but I kept shouting things like, "Look at this; isn't it beautiful?" and "You guys have got to see this." Suddenly, I realized that the ladder seemed rather old and shaky and I was feeling rather insecure. My husband below was fuming and irritated that I did something so ridiculous as climb up on that ladder. Then the realization hit me that I was way up in the air and I didn't know how I was ever going to get down without falling. This is about the point when I woke up perplexed and laughing at myself for the strange way my mind works when the subconscious goes into overdrive.

It occurred to me a day and a half later that the answer to my precarious and dangerous situation was right in front of me the whole time: all I needed to do was follow the advice written in large letters that I was staring at head on. I needed to take a deep breath, close my eyes, let go, free fall and . . . It is my dream after all and I can settle it up any way I want.