Tag Archives: society

You might not like my books if…

When being published was a mere hopeful dream somewhere on the distant horizon, I hung on every word authors and editors said at panels. One of the things they mentioned was not discussing controversial topics. For the most part I have followed that advice. My FB writer page is only about writing and I don’t invite fans to my private page. On Twitter though, I have shared news events, because I can only think of so many 140 character ways to say “BUY MY BOOK!” without actually saying “buy my books”.

It occurred to me as I was once again pointlessly debating a current event on FB that when did I ever keep my mouth shut about what I think?

Never.

So, while I’m sometimes pressed to describe what sort of audience would like my books (Lots of people apparently isn’t specific enough), I can definitively tell you who won’t like them.

  1. People who don’t think females should be lead characters.
  2. People who do not accept gender equality in all its forms and who want to police the love lives of others.
  3. People who think where you’re from or the color of your skin means you are lesser or deserve to be treated differently.
  4. People who think they have the right to tell a woman what to do with her body.
  5. People who are uncomfortable questioning the basis of their beliefs and our perception of the divine.

I write science fiction and fantasy. Not every story touches on all of these things, but science fiction won my heart because it tackled these questions. It made me look at the world and question it. It convinced me that we could change our reality if only we tried.

So, if you want to mess with someone who meets any of the above criteria, I suggest you buy one of my books and give it to them.

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The Age of WTF

There’s a computer game called “Age of Empires.” Well, technically there’s the original and eleven sequels and/or spin-offs. It’s a real-time strategy game, and it sucked me in. I could play that thing for hours, over and over. The premise is that you are the leader of a civilization, and you must advance your people out of the stone age through various eras, such as the bronze age, Medieval, etc.

In real life, we are supposedly in the technological age. I propose we redefine our current era as the “Age of WTF?!”

Why? So glad you asked. You didn’t? Eh, well, I’ll tell you anyway.

Ignoring the inanity of our obsession with movie stars and sports players, and the overall lack of common sense (as noted by the number of videos out there depicting people of all ages doing dumbass stuff), let’s take a look at education.

  • In my own little corner of the world less than half of the schools met standards, so they made their own standards, referred to as “adequate yearly progress”.

Translation: We suck, but so that you don’t feel bad about it, we’ll instead show you that we suck a little less than we sucked last year.

  • If not for a computer screw-up and Memphis City schools giving up and dumping all of it’s schools in the lap of the county school board, there would be no grades.
  • On the radio this morning I heard that a school in Canada was ending the honor roll program. I searched for the news story and found this. The author says just about everything I could, but without the sarcasm I would drip into every word. I’m a parent of three kids, and they are not carbon copies of each other. One is uber smart, but inconsistent. So, sometimes he makes honor roll, and sometimes not. Another has yet to pull all A’s, but she generally succeeds in earning all As and B’s. She’s proud of that, as she deserves to be. Little Miss Drama is a bundle of energy and brains, wrapped in hilarity, and boxed in randomizer….if randomizers existed outside of the internet. She’s smart, but getting all of those neurons to focus on such mundane stuff as spelling can be a task.

Is she or Mr. Smarty-Pants any less of person for NOT making the Honor Roll? Of course not! I very rarely made the A honor roll. I managed now and again, but I was more like Miss Diva. Still, having something to work toward gives them a goal with a tangible reward.

Instead of teaching kids to learn what they are capable of doing, to learn that they can’t be best at everything, so find what they are good at, and rewarding them, no let’s just make them toil for 13 years with no reward. Yep, that will definitely be good for their self-esteem.

  • Schools have sucked most of the fun stuff out. No tag, or running, and PE is a joke. Don’t climb on the monkey bars, you might fall and break something. Half the goofing around and antics my friends and I did in school, and note, we were the “good” kids, would now get us suspended or expelled.

Two of my friends favorite way to mess with me was to sneak up behind me and goose me. It didn’t matter how often they did it, my reaction was always a high-pitched screech. Yes, I still have that reaction, much to my son’s amusement. He claims I sound like a pterodactyl.

In today’s school: “ZOMG, he TOUCHED her! File a sexual harassment lawsuit! Put that kid in jail!”

  • Teachers get in trouble for the idiocy of other people.

Just yesterday, Mr. Smarty Pants shared with me that his science teacher felt the need to close the door, lest someone hear him teaching science and be offended. It seems in a prior year, when covering “touchy” subjects like evolution, a student berated the teacher for insinuating his ancestors came from Africa. That wasn’t the first time someone had taken exception to his teaching of science, which happened to disagree with their worldview. The poor man has to tip-toe around science. Really?

I’m sure I could go on ad nauseam.

I won’t even touch the insanity of politics.

I think I’ve presented enough evidence to support my theory. What say ye? Shall we henceforth refer to our era as the “Age of WTF”?

 

I think I failed

I think I failed. Somehow, my kids are well balanced, socially adept children. I was a wallflower nerd whose social life involved extracurricular clubs, mostly of the academic kind. All of my kids are smart, but somehow, they’ve skirted or outright avoided the social misfit status I held. Of course, for Miss Drama, it’s early yet to make that call. If she doesn’t learn that showers should be more frequent than once a week, she’ll belong to the circle of kids even I steered clear of– the smelly ones.

Miss Diva informed me she no longer liked Pokemon or anything else that might mistakenly label her as a geek. I think I died a little bit inside. Of course, I admonished her on how she shouldn’t change who she is just to fit in, but I think my words fell on deaf ears. She’s the pretty AND smart one that most of the boys secretly crush on. She knows she’s got the whole shebang, and she hasn’t even got boobs yet. There are days I think she would be the girl I’d want to be friends with, but who would likely never even notice I existed, or worse, laugh when one of her crueler friends made fun of me. Miss Diva isn’t cruel. She tries to be nice, but I’ve noticed she wants to fit in very much. I have a diminishing window of opportunity to teach her the value of standing out rather than blending in.

Mr. Smarty-pants eschews geekdom and nerdom as well….at least in public, usually. Ask him about history and he might forget his emo, nearly teen, faux angst and prattle on excitedly about some ancient historical battle. Still, his idea of a “rough day” and mine when I was his age are totally different. For me, every day was rough. I got to pick between  getting spit on by the disgusting little boy or fielding overly personal questions from another in science class.  In another class, boys would taunt me or poke fun when a story in English class made me cry. Older girls called me gay. I didn’t even know what it meant. Jealous kids called me teacher’s pet because they envied the 100 average I had in history class.

When I picked Mr. Smarty-pants up on Friday he said he’d had a rough day. “How so?” I asked.

“Ten girls wrote me notes.” He flashed one at me. Will you be my boyfriend?

Wow. Poor him. In all of middle school, high school, and college combined I didn’t achieve that number. I failed to commiserate properly. I think I snorted. He knows he doesn’t need a girlfriend and that I would go out of my way to embarrass him if he attempted to have one. I informed him I’d go on their “date” with them. He can date when he has a job to pay for it and his own transportation.

Miss Drama got up cranky, barely finished putting her shoes on before we arrived at school today, and had a minor melt-down as she proclaimed she hated school. Now that I can relate to.

 

From Tomboy to Diva

They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In this case I think I’m a cross-pollinated fruit tree then, because while Mr. Smarty-Pants is most definitely very much like me, sometimes I look at the other two and think, “How in the world???”

For starters, I was a tomboy. At Miss Diva’s age my favorite activities involved building stuff with Legos, wrestling with my brother, reading books, and playing make-believe with anything from GI Joes and trucks to dolls and stuffed animals. I wasn’t particular. While the dolls were “girly”, as were some of my romantic plot lines (yes, I crafted intricate melodramas for my cast of pretend characters even back then), on the whole, I wasn’t a girly girl. I enjoyed pretty things, but only when it was convenient.  There was a time for dresses and attempts to keep pretty bows or barrettes in my hair, and a time for kicking my little brother’s butt in wrestling, and the latter was usually far more entertaining. If he and I found some sort of experiment to conduct, like making baking soda and vinegar fizz in the sink,  even better.

Miss Diva has been fascinated by all things fashion since she was three and tried to critique my wardrobe not long after learning her colors. She’ll spend tons of time playing with her hair and takes longer than I do to dress, and she hasn’t even reached the make-up stage yet. She does her nails almost daily. I do mine once every few months for about a day, get annoyed with the nail polish that refuses to stick to my nails, cut them short again and don’t think about them again for another few months. She loves shoe shopping. I like shoes, but loathe the process of finding ones that fit.

She avoids working up a sweat if at all possible. I enjoy pretending I’m beating the crap out of bad guys while I’m practicing karate, or going for bike rides, or hiking.

Miss Diva wants to be an actress and/or model when she grows up. For a child who was once a shy little girl, that’s a BIG change, but not a surprise. I started off shy too, and agree that the stage can be an amazingly fun experience. However, my idea of a rewarding career does not involve me parading different clothes for people. Where’s the mental challenge in that?

As she nears the teen years I find it easier to relate to my son than either daughter. Miss Drama is in a league all her own. In fact, I think she often resides in her own world and only comes out to interact with us when she deigns. As for Miss Diva, in many ways, she’s polar opposite of the child I was and even the woman I’ve become. We bond over things, sure, and I find ways to connect, but sometimes the things she focuses on boggle my mind.

In a few years I can picture her shaking pom-poms and being the cheerleader that every boy really wants to date. She’ll likely have a number of friends, and achieve at least some popularity. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but I don’t see the awkward wallflower that I was. I’m glad she’s not as likely to feel as outcast as I once felt, but at the same time, I feel even more compelled to impress upon her the deeper meaning of life, beyond the shallow surface of looks.

In some ways it would be easier to relate to an awkward, insecure, misfit, but somehow I managed to instill self-confidence with equal parts intelligence and looks in each of my kids. For their sake, I’m rather glad it’s worked so well. I’m not entirely sure what I did. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Different Perspective

From my kids point of view, I was their age eons ago. There are some days it feels that way, like when a creepy little teen hits on me and I realize that teen is a tiny handful of years older than my son. Then I think, “Oh god, my kid is almost a teenager!”

It’s a good thing I’m not prone to panic attacks.

Yesterday the elder two minions were discussing classroom events. I’d like to think that education occasionally takes place at school, but sometimes I wonder. It seems Mr. Smarty-Pant’s class took a poll on which boy had the softest hair, who was most attractive, etc.

Want to guess who won?

Mr. “I’m the bomb” Smarty-pants.

Miss Diva informed us that her nickname is “Special”, and not in a derogatory sense, which I first thought. No, she’s “Special” because she’s smart and nice, and all the boys like her, and she always gets picked first for everything.

I have a sneaking suspicion I would have loathed her on principle when I was a kid.

I try to wrap my brain around these things, but at ten I was a social pariah. At twelve I had bad hair, big boobs on a yet-to-fill-out-body, and clothes a decade out of style. I had two friends. By thirteen that number began increasing, but seventh grade was a miserable year.

You know how most kids go through an awkward phase? To be honest, once I got past the adorable pre-schooler age, my childhood was one long span of awkward that didn’t end until I hit my twenties.

My kids will likely go through one, but as of yet, they aren’t there. A part of me is greatly relieved that they do not have to face the pain of being the social outcast. Another part of me is panicking. How do I keep their egos in check? How do I negate the herd mentality of the popular crowd?

By the time I reached Mr. Smarty-pants’ age I’d given up on being one of the crowd and decided the  people in the crowd were mostly all idiots. I just wanted them to leave me alone. Here’s where I watch Miss Drama’s progress with equal parts fascination and dread. She follows her own little drum. So very different from me in so many ways, and yet in this respect I feel very connected to her.

What disturbs me most about all of this is the insane level of competition in regards to looks and whether they are attractive in the eyes of the opposite sex. They aren’t even thirteen! I read a post earlier about the double standard for men and women, which was written in response to a blatantly misogynistic rant about how women are all sluts now days.

Given the number of comments on the original post calling the man out for his idiocy and women-hating, I think the double standard is fading. The bigger issue, in my perspective is the superficiality of society. Society is shouting to both males and females that your physical attractiveness is your worth. Kids want to be seen as possessing value the same as any adult, so is it any surprise that they too have picked up on the sexualiztion?

The next time one of them mentions this I think a talk on the definition of personal worth is in order. I fear their battle will be harder than mine ever was. Since I didn’t fit in, more from personality than looks, I escaped the torture of peer pressure in many respects. I didn’t know it at the time, but being an outcast had its perks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say Again?

The amount of misinformation my children bring home is at times highly disconcerting.

  • No, most fish do not have eyelids.
  • Yes, plasma IS a state of matter.
  • No, that is NOT an actual STD and it has nothing to do with math.

That’s just a sampling of teacher inspired information I’ve had to correct. More insidious and less obvious are things the children pick up from other kids. I’m lucky, in a way, that my kids have very few filters around me. They talk about anything and everything. So unlike my coworker who has no clue what goes on in her daughter’s school because her daughter says very little, I hear about the substitute teacher that threatens “bad” children by saying “God gonna git you!” or the scheduled bathroom fights which govern gang recruitment.

Fun, eh? Yeah, Memphis city schools are a shining example of ignorance, violence, and lack of actual teaching. This isn’t to say there are no good teachers. There are. However for every good teacher there’s another two or three crappy ones.

So a few days back my son precipitated some weird joke, which of course the girls parroted, that I was cheating on Soup King. I don’t recall how it started or why, but they thought it was hilarious, and I had a moment of utter embarrassment and thought, “Oh GOD! Where’s the duct tape?”  It’s not that there was a shred of truth or anything like that, but rather I flashed back to issues Soup King and I have dealt with and then even farther back to my marriage.  The subtle digs and not-so-subtle threats and about women pandering for attention, and being these needy, self-absorbed creatures that had to be kept in line with death threats. So, no I did not find the topic the least bit funny, despite my giggles of embarrassment. I derailed their train with an imperious, “ENOUGH!” I figured it was a one time thing.

I was wrong.

Last night at dinner Mr. Smarty-Pants starts in again. Before his sisters can jump on what they think is sure-fire comedic genius, I cut in.

“Why, exactly, are you saying that?”

“You’re wearing eye shadow. So, you must be trying to get a man.”

“Excuse me?”

Oh, I can see how perhaps some teacher’s comment designed to discourage young girls from primping in class could have been extrapolated, but needless to say he got a dressing down. Women, especially those long past the self-absorbed teen years, do not weigh our every clothing, make-up, and hairdo choice based upon man-trapping designs. I informed him that while some girls and women might do that, he’d best disabuse himself of that notion. Men are not the center of every decision going through a woman’s head. Topping it off by adding that it was insulting and not the least bit funny to accuse me of cheating.

He sulked a bit, but got over himself and the evening continued.

For young people not under my roof, here’s my message to you:

Hairstyles, clothes and makeup do not define you. They do not win you the guy or girl. Looking nice is about taking pride in yourself. More often than not, if you look like a slob it says, “I don’t care about myself”.  If you don’t love and respect yourself, why should others?

Life isn’t about snagging a guy or girl, but rather becoming the best person you can be and being happy with yourself.

My amazing Soup King has seen me at my utter worst. He loves me just as much when I have rumpled hair, allergy eyes, suffering intestinal issues,  and sporting hormonal zits as when I’m perfectly coiffed and stunning. I feel the same about him. Short hair or long, bearded or clean shaven, t-shirt or suit, it has nothing to do with the loving tender man that captured my heart.

Society and the media will try to sell you a different story, but do yourself a favor and don’t listen.

Fiction and Life

Once upon a time a young lady thought she found her prince. Maybe he was a bit uncouth at times, a bit too sure of himself, and rather stubborn, but not even princes were perfect. At least, that is what she told herself. She left her home to embark on her happily-ever-after with her prince, but after just a short while she realized that her story was more of the Grimm variety than the Disney. This particular young lady possessed her own stubborn streak and a deeply compassionate soul that believed everyone worthy of love. When not with others, the prince’s charming veneer vanished to reveal the ogre within. Still, she tried for a long time to teach the prince to love. As time passed, she became a mother, and in spite of the prince’s crushing rule, she discovered an inner core of strength and determination.

One day the prince raised his voice in harsh condemnation towards his daughter and the mother could no longer deny the truth. He was no prince at all, but a monster in the guise of one. She faced her fears and drove the monster from their midst…sort of.

.. And lived happily ever after?

No, not so much.

All one has to do to know that monsters exist is read the news. Well, one might have to dig a little. Celebrity gossip and sports occupy insane amounts of coverage. Little things like violence, political corruption, erosion of our Constitutional rights, and economic issues, to mention a few, are relegated to brief blurbs. We are mired in the Disney version of life. T.V. shows and other media bombard us with ridiculous petty crap and insist that who gets voted off an island is IMPORTANT. We NEED this gadget or that. The trivial and superficial rules. Life and relationships should be easy. NEWS FLASH: They are lying. Lies sell better than truth. The truth is that life does not have happily-ever-afters. We can have moments of great joy, plateaus of mediocrity, and valleys of despair, but nothing remains static. To live and breathe is to experience ongoing change.

The most difficult task I face in life is not graduate school or writing my next novel, but raising empathetic and confident children. I believe those two traits are key to a balanced individual. If one has empathy for others, one makes decisions in as kind a manner as possible. It tempers anger, fosters respect, compassion, responsibility, and understanding. Anyone who has more than one child and has refereed sibling fights can sympathize with my fear that they’ll never learn empathy. I teach by example, but trying to overshadow the numerous bad examples they see is a daunting task.

Confidence is a difficult thing to teach. I’m not entirely sure one can teach it. I can encourage, but confidence is a feeling that is earned over time. One must find it within oneself, for it can’t be given to you. It is standing up for and believing in oneself when others would dismiss us or worse. Confidence is much like a seed that I give soil, water, and light. I can provide an encouraging environment, but I can’t actually make it grow.

Children amuse us, as many of my blog posts demonstrate, but they can also frustrate a parent to no end. Perhaps that is because there isn’t a single right way to teach them, but there’re a million wrong ways as well. The don’t come equipped with handbooks, and those of us who care are terrified of screwing them up for life. Parenting is difficult enough for a unified team. Divorced parenting, in some instances, can be one of Dante’s circles of Hell.

Miss Diva read a book titled Dinosaur Divorce. I’m sure the author wrote it with the intention of comforting kids and giving families a guideline, but again, too much Disney and not enough Grimm can lead to unrealistic expectations. Miss Diva asked why her dad couldn’t be nice like the dinosaur dad. Why was our situation so much more complicated? Such questions put my heart in a vice. I WANT the happy-ever-after for her. I WANT life to treat her fairly. It infuriates me that I can do very little to accomplish either of those. The best answer I could give was that it was fiction and life is generally far more complicated. The lesson that I, as a mother, must learn is that I cannot fix everything. I can’t always make everything better.

They are harsh and difficult lessons, for both parties. I try to approach parenting with equal parts love and discipline. In my moments of panic, I recall that hugs can fix a lot of things, or at least make them bearable, and that countless generations before me managed, on the whole, to produce good people. My mother was fascinated with genealogy for many, many, many years. I can safely say that my family tree is not laden with serial killers, psychos, lazy bums, or any other of the myriad things that mothers pray their children don’t become (like circus clowns).

I ask all those parents out there, how do you cope with your fears and anxieties of screwing up your kids? How do you fight the bombardment of crap? Perhaps most importantly, how do you convince them not to make the same mistakes you did?