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February 2009

The Hour I First Believed

Overall, I think our book club liked the book. It wasn't one of our favorites. I like Wally Lamb - She's Come Undone, I Know This Much is True. And there was much I enjoyed about The Hour I First Believed, but I didn't like the ending. I was afraid from the beginning that's where the title was going. I was right to be afraid. For a writer that I view as being very real, very raw, this ending was way too contrite.

I appreciated the real life events that were written into the novel - Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, traumatized soldiers, Bush. There have been a number of catastrophes in our recent past. We watched the news coverage, but eventually the media frenzy begins to wane and it's easy when you're removed from what happened, to forget. It's easy not to think about how many people, families are still suffering from their experience at Columbine. It's easy to forget how many people are still displaced, still dealing with losing their homes, everything they had, years after Hurricane Katrina. I think Lamb did a great job of interweaving fiction and nonfiction, particularly with Columbine. It's important for us to remember the shootings, to honor the memories of those who lost their lives.

What I liked most about the novel was the way the tragedies of the characters were paired with Greek myths. I've always had a thing for Greek mythology, for Ancient Greece in general. The birth place of democracy and philosophy. A culture that knew everything about food, theater, battle, catharsis, and sex. A beautiful place, on the ocean, the breath taking architecture, smell of olive trees. Yes, I really want to go to Greece some day. * sigh* I've read and taught many of the plays and myths. From Oedipus and Medea to the Iliad and the Odyssey. I wrote a really illuminating paper once comparing Moses to Odysseus, I think it was. I can't quite remember, but I'm sure it was ground breaking. I think the Greeks had the whole concept of culture nailed much better than the Hebrews. And while much of our Christian brethren may like to associate us more with the Hebrews, there are many, much more colorful, much more honest, comparisons to be drawn between modern American culture and Ancient Greece.

In Lamb's novels, the characters are always broken. And not just slightly broken, but seriously, tragically, f@#&d up. And not just one character, but a very large percentage of the characters. Pretty much anyone who plays a pivotal role in the story has some serious issues. It is, perhaps, a little over the top, a bit more than is realistic. Yet, I do appreciate it. These people struggle. They are not one-dimensional, cookie-cutter, hero and villain caricatures. His characters are vivid, dealing with very real events and the consequences of their actions. Life is not always pretty. It's appropriate that he brings in Greek literature, since his own novels are so very tragic, so very dramatic. And while Shakespeare got tragedy down pretty well himself, in my opinion, nobody did it better than the Greeks. Oedipus killing his father, marrying his mother and gouging out his own eyes? Medea murdering her own children as revenge against her husband? Hercules murdering his wife and children in crazed rage induced by Hera? Nobody did tragedy quite as often, or quite on par with the Greeks, and Lamb certainly seems to have a thing for tragedy.

Definitely a must read if you feel you need reminding of how blessed you are. Even with your financial problems, job security worries, illness, stress, insomnia, no matter what your deal, I promise you'll find at least a dozen characters who have it way worse than you. You'll feel a little better when you're done. And just in case you haven't spent years studying and teaching literature, that is the definition of catharsis, people.


Why February Rocks

  1. My kids are off to friends houses and grandparents houses for February vacation. Hurray!
  2. The Boy Scout over night. Another night w/out the kids.
  3. I got a new washing machine to replace the one that's not draining, tripping the outlet, and not getting the clothes clean.
  4. I've learned that they now make soft light environmentally friendly light bulbs that don't make you feel like they're burning your eyes out of your head.
  5. We had a contractor come and saw an inch and a half of the book case under the stairs, so the hallway in the basement is now large enough to accommodate a new washing machine.
  6. Some days, it already smells like spring.
  7. I dragged my husband to see He's Just Not that Into You.
  8. I have now officially been with Blackstone for 16 years. We started dating in February.
  9. I think we may even go out for dinner tomorrow night.
  10. The working out is starting to pay off. I still hurt from new Aerobics Instructor/Drill Sergent Lady on Sunday, but the rolls are diminishing.
  11. Blackstone seems to have decided there is life after you crash your hard drive and lose 300 gigs of data that for some reason he thought was safe enough on an external hard drive that they didn't need to be backed up. (FYI - external hard drives are notorious for crashing. You should back up everything. I had no idea he wasn't.)
  12. Vacation in April is looking close enough to taste.


The Woman of the House

I don't like to rely on my husband for much of anything. Not that he isn't reliable, I just hate not being able to handle things by myself. I pity those women who came generations before me, who hadn't the slightest clue how to manage the financial aspects of their lives if and when they were widowed. If one of us were to die tomorrow (god forbid) chances are he'd be much more lost than me. I just don't think it's even within me to hand over that much control over my life to someone, anyone, else.

I feel this way in my parenting as well. I made a deal with myself eight years ago. I would NEVER be the mother to say to my kids, "Just wait until your father gets home!"

Maybe you're one of these women. I don't mean any disrespect. But for me, some how it just signals to your kids that they've won. Mom's given in, she's not the boss. And how often does dad actually DO anything when he gets home? Oh, there may be a bit of yelling, but seriously, whatever. I remember thinking that as a kid too. Well, if that's all you got, that's really lame. My respect just dropped ten points. Maybe we're in negative numbers now. We're probably inventing new, imaginary negative numbers. Actually, forget the numbers. It's probably better represented by a formula where the limit is approaching negative infinity. The punishment was always way worse when mom inflicted it herself. Those times she was just too tired, or just didn't have the energy, those were the times she'd resort to the old standby. And I'd climb the stairs, rolling my eyes, thinking, "Yeah, I know. Just wait. I'm in for it now." I'd have to physically restrain the snickering.

So when I gave into the idea of being a mother, I promised myself that those words would never cross my lips. And in eight years, they never have. Blackstone likes to jump in every now and then when he feels one of the kids is disrespecting me in front of him. I have seriously conflicting feelings about this, though I've never discussed it with him. I appreciate he wants the kids to respect me, I also know that he's not doing me any favors by trying to demand they respect me. There's only one person who can make them respect me, and that's me. I don't really feel he's doing me any harm though, so I just let him. The boys know how it is when we're mono e mono. They know who the boss is, and they don't need dad there to coax them on who it is.

Not that the boys and I don't have our moments. Believe me. We HAVE our moments. I don't call them Trouble for nothing. But I always face them head on. No cop outs. No excuses. No giving in. They lose their allowance. They have friends sent home. They get punished with extra chores. They get time outs. They sit on my office floor while I work. They, on occasion, get spanked. They have their treats taken away. They have video games and TV taken away. I can get real creative. When I'm at a serious loss, I'll take a moment, breathe deeply, and channel Bree Van de Kamp. Go ahead and laugh. It keeps me strong, I swear. And not once have I ever backed down. They WILL listen to ME. They will not have to have their father tell them do it. They will do it because I demand it of them.

Does this make a good parent? Who the hell knows. I'm sure I'm giving them my own personal brand of dysfunction. There's never any way around that. But I will get through this parenting thing, do my damndest to look in the mirror at the end of every day, and know that I stayed true to myself, did the best I possibly could by them and by me.


Life By Automation

I'm finding more and more, I want things in my life automated. Maybe it has something to do with my profession and the way so many of the procedures I write are scheduled to run automatically. Obviously, it has quite a bit to do with how technology is always improving and there are more opportunities for doing this. Regardless, the more of my mundane, repeating, monotonous chores I can arrange to happen without my having to do anything, the better.

I spend a great deal of time online. I work online, so it's all day at work already, but I also take advantage of many of the ways doing things online can save you time and errands. I've done my banking online for years. I have the large majority of my bills scheduled to be paid automatically so I don't have to do it myself. I develop my photos online. I do my grocery shopping online. I do a good chunk of my other shopping online too. I've never been a great fan of actually shopping. I don't have much patience for it. The trying on clothes. All the people. The parking. And if i have to bring my kids, forget it. Chances are I don't want or need it that bad. I purchase my music online, reserve and renew my library books. Hell with my Kindle, I don't even have to get on the computer. I can have a new book at my fingertips in minutes without even getting out of bed. Technology rocks.

It doesn't just end with the computer though. Is there anything better than direct deposit? And a coffee pot you program to start brewing before you get out of bed in the morning? And the programmable thermostats, so you can have the heat go down after you go to bed, and come on and warm up the house before you get up in the morning? And exactly how did we live before the DVR? I'm in love with my automatic garage door openers right about now. I have the weather forecast delivered to my phone every morning. I know it's not just me enjoying how technology can make your life a little more pleasant. Hell, a lot more pleasant.

Christmas, for me, is a prime example of where technology and automation reign supreme. I enjoy the spirit of the holidays, the decorations, the food. Most of the time I don't feel it's worth the hastle, though. To that end, I try to make the process as painless as possible for myself. I have a fake prelit tree. I generally end up putting up the tree and almost every last, blessed decoration myself. If I'm not going to be a raving bitch by the time I'm done, it better not be anymore taxing than it absolutely has to be. Even then, I'm going to resemble the Grinch much more closely than Martha Stuart by the time I'm done. I like it to be done, I just HATE the doing. I wish I was one of those moms with the cocoa, Christmas music, smiling away in blissful euphoria while I was at it. Nah, scratch that. I don't even want to be like that. I just want to sit and drink the cocoa, preferable spiked, and listen to the music while someone else does the dirty work. And is dirty freaking work. Digging out those dusty totes. Battling the dust bunnies while plugging everything in. The endless pine needles. The horrible, itchy scratches on your hands from putting up the tree. Yeah, Christmas joy my ass.

The Christmas decorating in it's entirety generally takes me one full day. It's all I'm wiling to devote to it. I know, some of you space the whole thing out. Tree one day, wreaths and candles another, etc. I don't have the patience for that. I need it done and over with, and all the crap put away. And once I'm done, I want to be done and not have to think about it anymore. So a couple of years ago I bought light sensored candles for the windows. This way I don't have to worry about turning them on and off every day. Small tasks like that drive me insane. Only problem is one window that gets too much light from inside and doesn't go on when the lamp is on. I'm thinking next year I'll move the lamp. This year, I put my Christmas tree on a timer. Also fabulous. Genius concept that I don't have to crawl under the tree every night to turn it on. Some inventions are worth their weight in gold.