Bamboozled

Bamboozle: (v) – To trick or deceive (someone)
1. To deceive by underhanded methods. (dupe, hoodwink)
2. To confuse, frustrate or throw off completely.

Banana Bamboozle: (n)
1. A ridiculously alcoholic party beverage sure to make you spew yellow before the end of the night.
2. An absolutely entertaining new novel by Becky Clark & Ted Hardwick

 

banana bamboozle

Get ready to be bamboozled.

Banana Bamboozle: A Dunne Diehl Novel (How punderful is that!) was my first read after months of nothing but teen pregnancy books. It was a welcome and much-needed vacation from serious, issues based, contemporary YA.

I hate calling it a perfect beach read, because for some reason many people take those books less seriously. That said, summer is right around the corner which means trips to the pool, the beach and hopefully some other more exotic and exciting locations requiring planes, trains and maybe even a boat or two.

This is a perfect book to bring along, wherever your summer adventure takes you.

Since I read SO MUCH young adult, I should probably mention right from the start that this book is not a YA novel. It’s *gasp* for grownups! (Not that teens wouldn’t like it, back in my day teens read all sorts of adult books…)

Last disclaimer – I encourage you all to listen to this song from the great Colorado band Cabaret Diosa while reading this review, it helps set the mood.

Banana Bamboozle begins at a neighborhood party, a party in which a particularly alcoholic, fake tropical beverage is being served.

Banana Bamboozle

Bottoms up!

Our leading lady, Cassidy, is there with the leading man, note – not her leading man, which was VERY refreshing, Dan. They’re gossiping about their fellow guests when Cassidy recognizes one of the guests as her teenaged niece. When she points the girl out to Dan he revokes her bar privileges, reminding her that her niece died as an infant in a tragic house fire 14 years ago.

Cassidy isn’t known for making the best, most rational decisions, but she is stubborn – like a raccoon with something shiny in its paw. She won’t let go of this fairy tale, even if it kills her – and her sister, who is only just beginning to recover from the loss of her child.

Dan knows he needs to get Cassidy to stop prying into this girl’s life, for all their sakes, but at the moment he has more urgent fish to fry. He’s been accused of stealing money from his favorite restaurant. He didn’t do it, but one of his limo drivers might have. It’s up to him to find out which one before Officer By The Book tosses him in jail.

Banana Bamboozle is a fast paced romp through small town life with a bit of Hollywood’s seedy underbelly thrown in for good measure.

Banana Daquiri

Keep drinking

The plot is tight and keeps you turning pages so fast you barely realize how well the other elements are woven in.

This books shines a gentle light on issues such as – what happens to kids who come out as gay to their parents and peers in places where homosexuality is still severely frowned on. It takes a look at how kids end up living on the streets, and things people can do to help them become functioning adults.

It also takes a probing look at aging in youth obsessed America. And being slightly overweight (and addicted to miniature candy bars) in a society that worships thinness.

These social issues aren’t shoved in your face, they are simply part and parcel as Cassidy and Dan live their lives on the pages.

As the stress from her search for the truth becomes too much for her, Cassidy reaches time and time again for her Earthquake Kit – an emergency stash of candies and chocolate – mostly chocolates. And each time she’s hit with a pang of guilt large enough to make her grab at least one extra. Food is both Cassidy’s comfort and curse. Her relationship with it colors her every interaction.

“So, you’re in town on business? Are you buying the gym?”
Blaze laughed. “No, but I do get some time off. And eating out three meals a day takes a toll. That’s why I’m here.” He patted his flat belly. Cassidy thought maybe she should start eating out more than she already did. Clearly it helped get rid of belly fat.

There were a couple of places where I really identified with Cassidy – her need to dress for a dinner date for example, but not in the way you think:

“This is where you drink. You eat at Dollar Bills. Or Natalie’s bakery. Or the yogurt place. Or El Pepino Picante, if you like Mexican.”
“Love Mexican. How ’bout you?”
Cassidy nodded. “But I haven’t been there in a while. I’m trying to keep my clothes on a salsa-free diet.”
“Aw, c’mon. Let’s blow this popsicle stand and get some enchiladas.”
Cassidy looked down at her white blouse. “Sorry. Not dressed for it.”

It’s a long running joke in my house that I can’t eat (or cook) most of my favorite foods without wearing them by the end of the meal. I should own stock in Shout Stain Remover.

Cassidy also offers one of the best rebuffs to a sexual advance I’ve heard in a while. It works because I think it would make anyone who heard it giggle.

“Stop it. You’ll make me untidy.”
“Untidy?” Axel chuckled and stepped away.
“Yeah. I heard it on PBS. Just trying to class up the joint.”

While I identified with a lot of Cassidy’s, erm, neuroses, I truly loved Dan.

Dan is a busy man, he and Cassidy run the local newspaper together. He also has a limo service that he runs and spends a lot of time volunteering at or running The Center for street kids. He’s a thoughtful, compassionate man with a seemingly infinite capacity for kindness. With one glaring exception. Mrs Edison.

“Why are you going to Mrs Edison’s party if you hate her so much?”
“She hated me first.”
“Not true, I bet there were lots of people who hated you before Mrs Edison did.” Cassidy linked an arm through Dan’s while they walked.
“Droll, very droll.” Dan unpeeled her arm from his.

banana bamboozle

One more for the road

Dan also loves interjecting his “fun facts” into conversations. As Cassidy’s sister asks, “Really fun, or just ‘Dan fun’?” But Dan’s desire to share his vast knowledge of random trivia with the world is part of his charm, his way of showing that he’s connected to the world.

What I enjoyed most in this book was the quick wit and snarky humor – not to mention the delicious puns. Like Cassidy’s “sex-husband” – Her ex, who she still uses regularly for sex.

Or the moment Cassidy wakes up after her night of guzzling banana bamboozles only to discover she is completely unprepared for the hangover: “Damnit! Who forgot to buy aspirin?” she yelled. “Where are my adults?” I loved this idea of a middle-aged woman shouting for her adults. I think we all have those moments where we just want someone more responsible than us to hand us some aspirin and a remote control. (Though in my day hangovers were cured with a 5am wakeup, two aspirin and a day of hard labor. That was supposed to teach me not to party so hard…)

banana bamboozle

Bananas and booze – breakfast of champions!

The introduction of characters let us get to know them quickly, and again, with humor and wit. – “I know,” Aunt Lu explained. “That’s why I’m asking Dan to be your co-owner. He’s smart He’s got skillz.”
She actually heard her aunt put the ‘z’ on the end. Lu was 82 years old and 43 percent thug. She never missed an opportunity to confront people who mistreated children or animals – often employing punctuating finger jabs; she demanded immediate and heartfelt apologies from anyone who called her “Hon”; and she sported a mysterious ankle tattoo of a scorpion that she refused to explain.

It’s hard to get to know a character in just a sentence or two, but Becky and Ted manage to pull it off: Ramses’ tobacco fortified voice resonated like the low notes on a cello. I love that phrase – tobacco fortified voice. I suspect we all have a crotchety elder in our lives who fits that description. They usually also have tobacco and weather fortified leathery skin and an emotional hide that would intimidate a rhino.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, humorous romp through these modern days, with just enough mystery to keep the pages turning – Banana Bamboozle is a good pick. It’s the perfect airplane, long train journey, lounge around the pool (or beach) book. The best part – it even tells you how to make yourself a thermos of Banana Bamboozle, the drink that starts it all!

banana bamboozle shooters

Banana Bamboozle for a party

This is rumored to be the first in a series. Here’s hoping we get a new drink recipe with each installment…

 

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Taking my own advice

Ever have a hard time taking your own advice?

Today is one of those days for me, so I’m going to repeat the advice I gave to my daughter last night and hope that in the process I will remember that it applies to me too.

Every person has their own path to walk, their own life hurdles to overcome, their own choices to make.

fork in the road

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

It is our job as friends, lovers and family to support our people when they fall on hard times or find themselves teetering on the edge of a cliff – but it is NOT our job to go over the cliff with them!

All we can do is love them without judgement and give them information and tools that may help. What they do with that information and those tools however is up to them.

You may think they need crampons to climb back up out of their pit. They may use them as a make-shift pick to dig their hole deeper – that is not your fault, that is their choice.

Some people need to dig all the way to the bottom – all the way to the other side of the world – before they can see clearly enough to catch a jetliner home. Some of them never stop digging. That is their path to walk, it is not your responsibility to walk it with them, you have your own path.

Your job is to throw down a flashlight. Point out other options. Ask open-ended questions that encourage them to ask questions of themselves.

Sometimes your job is to walk away.

Remember – not everyone wants help. Even the ones thrashing around, sending up signal flares, screaming that they are dying – sometimes they just want an audience. You are not obligated to give them an audience. In fact, you owe it to yourself to walk away. You don’t need to adopt their damage or their baggage. It is not yours to carry.

If they spend more time batting away life rafts and using crampons as digging tools than they do trying to get out of their hole, they might not be ready yet. That’s okay. Give them a single use flare gun, tell them to fire it when they are serious about getting help, and walk away knowing that you have done everything you can, everything you need. When they decide to use the flare, as hard as it may be, trust it. Go back, ask them what they need and LISTEN. If you can help them without risking yourself, do so. If you need backup to help them, get it. If they need something that you can’t give, be honest and loving when you tell them no.

But above all, when they ask for help – believe that they mean it.

Learning to ask for help is often one of the hardest lessons we have to learn in this life. It takes many of us a few tries before we get it right.

Self care is important.

Love yourself, trust yourself, be true to yourself, take care of yourself. Forgive yourself – you’re not perfect either.

You can’t help anyone if you are depleted. You can’t help anyone if you fall over the edge of the cliff too. It’s much better to lower a rope than to jump in with someone.

This is life-guarding 101. Throw in a life raft before you risk jumping in to save a drowning person, because drowning people are often panicking and without meaning to, they will often pull you under with them.

Emergency first-aid 101 reminds us that the first step is to CHECK THE SCENE and make sure it is safe for us to help. If it isn’t safe for you – call for backup.

Recognize that some things are bigger than you.

ask for help

Impossible tasks become possible with help.

Know when to ask for help on behalf of your friend, family member – or yourself. Remember – their burdens and challenges are not yours to carry or to overcome. That is their path. You can help them, but you are not a stepping stone, a doormat, a ladder or a guide. You can be a resource. You can be a source of emotional support and encouragement – a cheerleader on the sidelines. But win or lose, it is their game to play. If they’re playing a game you don’t understand – find someone who does and enlist their help. I can’t help someone playing chess because it’s not my game, but I can introduce them to a chess master.

Remember that winning and losing are subjective.

What looks like a loss to you might feel like a win to them. Don’t judge their choices, they are making them to the best of their ability using the tools, information, belief systems and history that they have. Their box of tools is different from yours, therefore their choices will be different. Their goals are different from yours, therefore their choices will be different.

Different does not mean wrong.

They are on their own path, they have their own lessons to learn and their own victories to claim. Let them. Help them. Encourage them.

But… don’t get so wrapped up in their story that you lose sight of your own. Don’t get so wrapped up in their challenges that you forget to tackle your own.

If you find yourself spending more time on their path with them than on your own path, it’s okay to tell them you have to step away.

You can do this with love.

Remind them you are still available, but that you have a life that needs living too. Think of it this way – your friend is on an adventure, a journey. You’ve just realized that somehow you got roped into going with them, but suddenly your life calls. It needs you back. You and your friend can still send letters, but you can’t travel with them anymore.

They have their own journey – and so do you.

single track life

This bridge is not for everyone.

Stepping off their path and back onto your own can often be more helpful than walking with them. It shows them that there are other options, other choices available. It expands their view.

Imagine you’re walking through a dark forest. You can barely make out the path. Brambles are snagging you, slowing you down. Branches keep smacking you in the face. Everything feels unfriendly and prickly and scary. You don’t want to stop, so you keep going forward. It seems like the only option.

But then, your friend turns and says, “Hey, I’m going to go over there, into that clearing in the sun. I’m going to stretch my arms, flex my toes and see if there’s a path or a road.”

Suddenly the world opens up – head down through the brambles ISN’T the only option anymore.

Remember that fear makes it harder to see the big picture – it narrows our focus to fight or flight. Black and white. By staying calm, and staying outside of other people’s fear, you can help draw them out of it so they can see that there are more options, more choices, more paths available than the one that leads over the cliff.

But… That doesn’t mean they won’t still choose to go over the cliff.

Some people have to go over the edge before they can really believe that it is there.

That’s okay. That’s their choice, their path, their lesson.

Don’t go over with them, because… They might need someone to throw them a rope. Or a set of crampons.

Don’t go over with them because… They might have a wingsuit hidden under their clothes and it’ll save them, but it’s not designed to save two…

Don’t go over with them because… You have your own path to walk. Your own edge to explore. Your own appetite for wonders to fulfill.

In the end, remember the wise words of W. Edwards Deming – “Learning is not compulsory, but then, neither is survival.”

 

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The Big Long Young Adult Pregnancy Post

I spent Saturday at perhaps my favorite event of the year – the Colorado Teen Literature Conference in Denver.

This was my fourth year attending and my third year as a presenter.

I was honored this year to be asked to present two discussions, one on gender representation in Young Adult fiction and another on pregnancy and abortion in YA.

In the discussion on teen pregnancy, I realized I wanted to bring the conversation to a larger audience. This is a big topic and it deserves a bigger light.

Because the conclusion that I came to – after MONTHS of reading very little outside of YA fiction about teen pregnancy and teen parenting is that:

WE NEED MORE STORIES.

The vast majority of books covering this topic that I found covered it from a white Christian perspective. Those weren’t the only stories, but if you took all the books covering teen pregnancy and put them on one set of shelves, covered your eyes and pulled a random book off the shelf, you’d have about an 85% chance of grabbing a book written from a white christian point of view.

Because of this, there were some troubling common themes throughout the majority of the books I read. (Note not all of these themes are Christian, or Caucasian – but seem to reflect a larger cultural zeitgeist. One which does not include a great many people or their stories.)

They include such tired ideas as: “It’s all her fault.” No matter that there was a dude involved – only stupid girls, or very manipulative conniving girls, get pregnant.

Things like – Even though it’s all her fault, and she is the one who will have to carry the physical, mental, emotional (and at least half of the financial) burden of whatever comes next, the guy should have final say in what she does. (Though this theme came up many times, I am happy to say that by the end of these books, the girls almost always made their own choices. But doing so almost always resulted in a loss of support from the guy, from her parents, from her school, etc. The majority of these books implied that there were no good choices available to girls who got pregnant, only varying degrees of bad choices. The guys by comparison all got off pretty easy, even the one who chose to parent the child without the mother had to sacrifice very little to do so.)

One of the books, Detour for Emily by Marilyn Reynolds summed up the overall message best, “I think once you let yourself get pregnant, you have a lot to feel bad about, whether you keep the baby, or have an abortion, or put it up for adoption, you’re left with some bad feelings.”

This is problematic on a couple of levels – one, “let yourself get pregnant”… Most of the couples in these books were using some form of birth control. There were a couple of instances of “heat of the moment” unprotected sex, but overall, I wouldn’t say these girls “let themselves” do anything but have sex. Which leads back to another common theme – pregnancy as punishment for having sex out-of-wedlock. As if a wedding ring has magical powers to make it so you only get pregnant on purpose.

wedding birth control

“With this ring, God shall protect you from unwanted pregnancy…”

Second – while I agree that unplanned pregnancies are a challenge for most people, I disagree that the choice people make has to be riddled with guilt. It reminds me of the time I applied for a job with an organization working to end sexual assault. In order to interview I had to read and agree to a list of beliefs about sexual violence one of which was, “All forms of sexual violence are equally devastating.”

Reading through my own lens I read that as, “You must be devastated by your rape.” Which I wasn’t, and which I refused to be. I brought up their wording in my interview suggesting they make a small change, instead of stating unequivocally that all sexual assault IS devastating, why not say, “can be” which leaves more room for survivors to navigate and accept their own process.

I didn’t get the job, and they didn’t change their mission statement, but the lesson in language stayed with me – language matters. Word choice matters. Messages matter. And the messages we send teens matter a lot.

Which brings me to another disturbing theme in these books. The first question out of every male mouth when the girl first tells them, whether it’s the girl’s sexual partner, his best friend (in the instances where the partner died before the girl learned she was pregnant) or her father.

“Are you sure? How do you know it’s mine/his?”

Because… The very first reaction to a girl becoming pregnant in most of these books was to label her a slut. No matter if she got pregnant the first time she had sex, with the only person she had ever had sex with, or after a string of sexual partners – girls who get pregnant are clearly sluts in the eyes of their peers, and often in the eyes of their parents.

 

good girls get pregnant too

This is NOT a helpful message.

This reaction from the men in these girls’ lives ended up making them highly unsympathetic. Also, from a teen reader point of view, if I was in that vulnerable state and reading books to try to get help deciding what I should do – the message that was repeated over and over was – don’t go to any of the men in your life for help or support! That is a VERY harmful and dangerous message to be giving young women.

Mom’s in these books had at least a 50/50 shot at responding in a helpful manner. Best female friends seemed to be the best bet though.

The final major theme showed that most girls who choose abortion won’t go through with it because they will get to the clinic and suddenly realize that abortion is wrong! ACK! I’m not saying that there aren’t people who believe this – but most wouldn’t make it as far as the clinic to begin with. According to statistics, most women and teens who choose abortion follow through with that choice – whether that means that they must attend multiple counseling sessions, listen to their doctor read them a script filled with false and scary misinformation about abortion, wait three days, view an ultrasound, travel hundreds of miles, raise the money on their own, use unapproved and unsafe methods to self abort… Women who know they can’t have a child right now, know they can’t have a child and they will do what they need to do to not continue their pregnancy.

So after two months of reading, sighing a lot, reading, screaming, reading, throwing books across the room, reading, remembering and reading some more… I have come up with a partial list of stories that are not being told, that need to be told, that deserve to be told. Partial because, clearly I can’t think of all of the stories. There are approximately 3.4 million unintended pregnancies in the USA each year according to the CDC. Of those, 840,000 are teens. That means that each year 840,000 new young adult pregnancy stories are being lived.

Here are just a few that were missing or severely under represented in the YA books that I studied:

Islamic stories. Jewish stories. Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon and Catholic stories. Animist stories. Pagan stories. Agnostic and Atheist stories.

Latina/Hispanic stories. African American, Asian American, Indian American and Native American stories. Stories from all the many ethnicities, racial identities and cultural backgrounds that exist in this melting pot.

Immigrant stories. What about the stories of undocumented teens for whom accessing medical care is already tricksy. Now they must also deal with this. What about documented immigrants, still new, still struggling with language barriers, additional cultural barriers and uncertainty of their place.

What about the teens who don’t have health insurance? While that number is going down – those people still exist and pregnancy, prenatal care and birth all are ridiculously expensive in this country. Or what about the ones who are insured, but whose PRIVATE insurance isn’t allowed to cover abortion care?

Stories about girls who get pregnant as the result of rape. What about girls who get pregnant via rape in one of the 31 states where rapists are granted legal parental rights? How does that change her choices? Her options? What does that mean in practical terms?

Stories about girls who live in states which require parental consent for an abortion – and for whom that is not a safe option. How does a vulnerable teen navigate the court system in time? How does she afford an attorney to represent her case and convince the judge that asking her parents for permission is unsafe? What does that story look like?

Stories about girls who choose to keep their baby only to discover that their pregnancy is killing them – or that their fetus has complications that are not compatible with life – but only after she is 20 weeks along, when getting an abortion in her state is no longer a legal option. What happens to those girls?

Stories about pregnant teens for whom abortion is not an option – not because they believe it is wrong, but because where they live, there is no access to abortion. This is an increasingly common true story in America. It is one that I have witnessed.  There are many ways this story can go, they are all deserving of their place on the shelf if for no other reason than to remind people that there is nothing “pro-life” about letting women and girls suffer or die because they cannot access medical care.

How about telling a broader range of adoption stories, including girls being pressured and coerced into putting their children up for adoption. Or the girls who choose adoption and then give birth and change their minds? It’s not a common story, but it’s at least as common as girls who choose abortion and then change their minds – and that story was told in many of the books I read, so why not choosing to keep the child after previously agreeing to give it up for adoption? And what are the legal and social ramifications of that?

What of the kin-adoptions, which is the most common form of voluntary adoption, where a close relative adopts the baby? How does that play out? How does it feel to interact with the child you birthed while it is being parented by someone else? What if you don’t like the way they parent?

What about miscarriage and still birth? Or are those seen as taking the “easy way out” because they don’t force her to choose and then live with her choice? But what if she did choose and then, just like with a planned pregnancy that act of nature undoes her choice?

What about the planned teen pregnancy? Yes – they happen. What goes into making that choice? What does that process look like? Is the outcome any different than the teens who become pregnant on accident? Do these teens have parental support for their choice? Financial support?

What about the trans* teen who becomes pregnant? What do that person’s options look like? How are they treated?

Where are the stories about disabled teens who get pregnant – what do those stories look like? How does it change if the father is the one who is disabled, how does that change the conversation?

What about the girls who don’t choose abortion, or adoption, or parenting – what about the girls who find another option, a hidden option…

There was one book which talked about “Option D” for an unplanned pregnancy – infanticide. A book called After by Amy Efaw peeled back the curtain on the teen mother who throws her newborn infant into a dumpster. We tend to call these women monsters, this book helps make them human again.

We need more stories that are compassionate toward pregnant teens and teen parents – whatever road they end up walking.

Also – There are a ton of contemporary YA books dealing with teen pregnancy, but where is the fantasy, the sci-fi, the horror? Where is the genre fiction that deals with, touches on or explores teen pregnancy and teen parenting? We have Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Twilight or whatever the last book was called. Thumped and Bumped by Megan McCafferty, which I haven’t read but seem to be The Handmaid’s Tale but humorous and written specifically for teens.

What of high fantasy dealing with teen pregnancy? Or teen pregnancy in a space opera? Or the Rosemary’s Baby of teen pregnancy books?

And, because it isn’t all bad – what about the stories of teens who get pregnant and aren’t destroyed by it?

What about a story of a girl living her life, reaching for her goals, who gets pregnant and makes her choice and is able to continue with the rest of her journey? What about a story where a teen pregnancy is a part of the story, but it isn’t THE WHOLE story?

What about a story where a teen gets pregnant and makes her choice and feels good about it, and gets support for it from her sexual partner, from her family, from her friends and school. What about a story where a teen gets pregnant and it’s not a crisis?

How about a story about a teen who gets pregnant and is not required to give up her dreams and goals because of it? Nor even to delay them. One of the books I read, No More Saturday Nights by Norma Klein, followed a boy who sued his pregnant ex-girlfriend for custody of the child when he found out she was giving it up for adoption. He was then allowed to keep his scholarship to Columbia, move to New York City with a 5 week old infant, find housing and child care – which he could afford – go to class, maintain his required GPA to keep his scholarship, etc. Not a single book about a pregnant girl gave her this option to “have it all”. In part, that is because none of the books I read offered any of the girls the level of privilege and support that this boy received. So many people were willing to help this boy, give him a chance, offer him support that all he had to give up was wild Saturday nights and a little sleep.

There are so very many stories out there to choose from. Even something as simple as changing the point of view changes the story completely.

One of the books I loved most out of the mix was Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan. Things I Can’t Forget follows a teen girl who was raised in a strict fundamentalist Christian home and church. She is grappling with herself and her relationship with God after helping her best friend obtain an abortion – something she believes with all her heart to be sinful and wrong. She is struggling to reconcile what she did, and why she did it with her beliefs about her God. It is a very compassionate and caring book. If it had been told from the POV of the girl who had the abortion, it would have been a completely different story.

Miranda’s acknowledgements sum it up nicely,

“When I left Middle Tennessee and moved to Washington, D.C., I found that my beliefs began to change. To this day, I don’t really know what I believe, but that’s okay. With this story, I want to show you (teenagers) that your beliefs matter – no matter who you are or where you come from. Your opinions matter. You matter.

“To me nothing was scarier than understanding that my truth wasn’t everyone else’s truth. It took a while, but I discovered that’s okay – it’s better if I do the things I want to do and believe what I want to believe. I hope you find your truth.”

Ultimately, that is the take home from my months and months of reading non-stop pregnant and parenting teen books – there are many stories, many truths. They are all equally valid. They all deserve to be told. And they all come together to help others understand that their story is not the only story, their truth is not the only truth.

We are all here on this marble just doing our best, trying to get by the best we can with the tools we have. And we could all, regardless of our circumstance, regardless of our choices, use a little compassion, a little understanding.

A little less “Are you sure?” and a little more “How can I help?”

And one of the ways we can all help is by expanding the story to let more people in.

 

 

 

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Random questions

My 8-year-old woke up with a list of questions. An actual list, that she wrote down last night while she was reading and before she could fall asleep – she didn’t want to risk forgetting them.

We had so much fun with them this morning, I decided to share them with you – with her permission of course. And some commentary, of course.

She’d love it if you left your answers to any of the ones that tickle your brain in the comments.

And now – Random questions from AJ -

1. Why do dogs howl at the moon?
Pork!

wolf howling

Hoooowl!!

2. How do bunnies communicate?
Pork!

3. Why don’t wolves hibernate?
Pork!

4. Why are wolves scared of each other?
42

5. Why is it “The Man” on the moon and not “The Woman” or “The Person” on the moon?
42

Also, patriarchy? Discuss.

man on the moon

Man? on the moon.

6. Why are Native Americans so naked?
42

My husband’s answer – “Do you know what Europeans brought to America? Small pox and shame.”
I think that sums it up nicely, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

7. Will mermaids really die when they get dry?
Pork!

8. Why do sirens drown people?
42

Here there be monsters! We decided that the real underlying question is – why do people create monsters?

9. Why are unicorns and fairies always girls?
Pork!

Perhaps the real question is – why do we tend to write fairies and unicorns as female? Why don’t we write more of them as male? I mean, surely they’re reproducing somehow… Also, reader bias, after all as Gimli says there are plenty of female dwarves, we just fail to recognize them. (I hear it’s the beards!)

unicorn with fairy escort

Are the three small fairies boys or girls? Does it matter?

10. What are stars?
Pork!

11. In the original version – why couldn’t Ariel (the little mermaid) kill the prince?
42

12. Why is it that (in movies) when a boy sees a girl they fall in love?
Pork!

Yes – please discuss this. What is up with the love at first sight BS in kid’s movies!?!

13. Why are weddings white?
Pork!

14. Is it “true” that each time someone laughs a fairy is born?
42

Clearly! Except perhaps not every time a person laughs. Certainly though fairies must be born from those pure, bright, true laughs of children. You know the ones where just being near it warms you up and tickles you too.

Bonus Question – Why is the answer always either “Pork!” or “42″?

Please, feel free to play along in the comments! With thanks from AJ.

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Filed under Kids, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Things that work

And the Sun Stood Still

On Sunday night my husband and I had a date night! It’s spring break for our kids, so we shipped them off to grandma & grandpa’s house for a couple of days and ended up with some adult time.

Thursday I was listening to Colorado Public Radio on the way to supervise my youngest kid’s field trip and heard an interview with Dava Sobel about her newest work – her very first play, And the Sun Stood Still about Copernicus and not only his “discovery” that the Earth moves around the Sun – but also about his decision to finally publish his research and conclusions. How that decision was made – and the consequences it had.

dava sobel

And the Sun Stood Still

All of my many, many little geek tendrils flared up listening to the interview. History – check. Science – check. The “battle” and balance between knowledge and faith – check.

I was excited, but also sad because I assumed that the play was opening in New York or somewhere… big.

But I kept listening because I was fascinated by the story behind the story. The story of how the play came to be.

And then, I was rewarded. It turns out the world premiere of the play was being put on by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company at the Dairy Center for the Arts – an affordable venue right next door to my town!

I quick emailed the hubby and asked if I could take him. He said, “Make it so.”

And I did.

We caught the 4pm show on Sunday evening. It was my first trip to the Dairy Center for the Arts. The theater is small, maybe 80 seats. So it’s intimate and cozy. There are no bad seats in the house, which is good since all shows are general admission (so do arrive a little early if you’re picky about seating!)

The stage was also… compact. But the set design for this particular play was wonderful. Simple, yet… telling.

It consisted of three small round towers. The church. Copernicus’ home. Copernicus’ lab.

Each tower rotated, which held great symbolic significance and was used to good effect throughout the play.

The play had a small cast – just five players. Copernicus, of course. His house keeper/harlot/assistant/lover (depending on which other character was describing her and in what context! The historical sociologist and feminist in me was riveted!) Two bishops. (Did you know that Copernicus was a canon lawyer – that is to say a Catholic lawyer!! He was also the head physician to the clergy and the personal physician of the bishops!) And last, a Lutheran mathematician, Georg Joachim Rheticus.

The politics at play on the stage were phenomenal. We were reminded of the threat of Protestantism in general and Lutheranism in particular. The head bishop was convinced that the Lutherans were trying to kill him and that his predecessor had been smited by God for not smiting the Lutherans.

Thus, when a Lutheran lands at Copernicus’ doorstep, letters of recommendation in hand, begging for a chance to help Copernicus finish his research and publish it, Copernicus rightly sees the danger and risk for both of them.

As luck would have it though, the other Bishop of a neighboring diocese sees the value in Copernicus’ work to put Poland on the map as a modern force for progress.

Until, that is, the Lutheran – Rheticus – realizes that Copernicus is serious. He isn’t floating a mathematical theory to help make astrological predictions more accurate, and increase the accuracy of putting Easter on the calendar. He really, truly believes that Earth is moving. In space. Both spinning at 1,000 miles per hour AND rotating around the sun at even greater speeds than they could imagine at the time!

“But, that’s impossible. We’re standing on the earth right now. We’re not moving!”

We hear all of the rational arguments (as opposed to the Biblical ones, which are dismissed earlier and with great, weary sighs from Copernicus) – the wind, we would feel the wind! Copernicus explains that it’s, “all of a piece” moving together. He has even built a contraption that can give people the feeling of the skies moving, when it is in fact they who are in motion.

Still, it is too much for the mathematician to take in. He collapses under the weight of this new knowledge. It changes everything.

Everything.

And yet – despite the terror he feels at suddenly standing atop a rapidly moving world… he does not fly off. And we see, suddenly that knowledge at once changes everything – and at the same time, changes nothing.

Knowing that the world is moving does not change how our bodies respond to it. Knowing we are spinning does not create winds to tear us from the surface and send us hurling into space. BUT – the knowledge of how the earth moves in space does change how we perceive the universe and how we calculate our place in it, how we calculate the calendar (the point which ultimately convinced the bishop that Copernicus MUST publish his findings, as it allowed for a more accurate way to place Easter on the calendar!)

Scientific truth allows us greater agency without diminishing our lived truths.

While I understand all of this on an intellectual level – watching this play, so soon after watching Bill Nye debate Ken Ham, made me wish that I could purchase tickets for every religious fundamentalist of every faith who denies basic science like evolution in the name of Biblical/Koranical/Torrahnical literalism. Watching the internal debate of Copernicus – seeing him try to balance his knowledge with the repercussions of sharing that knowledge is fascinating. As is seeing that for him, assimilating this new knowledge did not shake his faith in the slightest. Did it mean that the Bible was not a scientific text – surely, but he already knew that.

To Copernicus, and to his Lutheran student, mathematics was a religious calling – a way of delving deeper into understanding the workings of God and his greatness. Seeing that God could move the very earth did not impugn God – it made him vastly greater! Imagine, a God who could not only create the Earth and all life on it, but also a universe of stars and planets – all of them, every one, in motion!

THAT is a great and powerful God indeed!

Watching certain religious fundamentalists in our own country working to enact laws that would allow the teaching of Biblical creationism in SCIENCE class, or scrambling to enact Biblical law on women’s reproductive medicine, or deny climate change based on biblical passages that claim the world was created perfect and immutable by God in seven days and therefore we cannot be responsible for climate change…

Makes me wonder what the benefit of putting our heads in the sand is, versus the benefits of reconciling science with God.

When evangelicals come to my door and want to discuss my relationship with their God they almost inevitably come around to, “But what if you’re wrong?” Which to me is the hallmark of defeat. If I’m wrong, I’ll still have lived a good and moral life because I don’t need your God for that.

But when it comes to things like climate change… There really are actual consequences for all of us, and our children, if the climate change denialists are wrong and they stop us from enacting changes that could mitigate the damage we’ve inflicted. Because science is true – whether we believe it or not. And there are consequences to ignoring science – whether it is as minor as mis-dating Easter, or as major as rising sea levels, massive drought and resulting food and water scarcity.

We’re seeing some of those changes now, and yet instead of studying them and seeing what those pieces mean, certain members of our society are instead working to enact “head in the sand” laws that would prevent us from even studying the effects of climate change, the causes, and the possible cures.

When the bishops saw that Copernicus’ theory had real, genuine benefits to society – and to the church – they helped him publish it. They even put aside their hatred and distrust of Lutherans just long enough to see the book printed. They understood that the benefits of his calculations outweighed the benefits of Biblical literalism.

Ultimately, the Catholics of Copernicus’ age were wise enough to see that if God really was as great as they claimed, a little truth wasn’t going to knock Him off His game.

And the Sun Stood Still is playing in Boulder at the Dairy Center for the Arts through April 20th. Whether you’re a science geek, history geek, religious scholar, or just like a good play – it’s more than worth the ticket price for a night on the town, some deep thoughts and good conversation.

 

 

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Wading into the vaccine “debate”

I put debate in quotes up there because lately it’s more of an ugly shouting match with both sides screaming that the other side is evil, stupid, ignorant, deliberately and knowingly hurting children, oh, and evil.

I’m going to open by stating that I am not a doctor. I am not an infectious disease specialist. I have no medical training and the last biology class I took was in high school. I have basic working knowledge of germ theory. I know how vaccines work – the vast majority of them involve putting a weakened, mutated, dead or disabled version of the virus into your blood to create an immune response and “teach” your body how to fight off the real thing without actually infecting you with the disease and making you sick.

I have, however, done a lot of independent research into the issue of vaccines, because I have two kids and I am a pretty conscientious parent. My husband and I read a number of books – both pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine – and talked with a number of doctors and other experts before reaching any decisions about vaccines. We continue to talk, research and pay attention because there are still choices to be made.

For us, it was never an “all or nothing” one time only choice. We understood from the beginning that there was wiggle room to say yes to some, no to others and always to change our minds and say yes later, or say no to boosters if there were in fact adverse effects.

Here’s a brief summary of what we learned on our journey:

Most vaccines in themselves are relatively safe. That said, not all vaccines are safe for all people. Some people are born with underlying conditions that make it unsafe for them to get certain vaccines. Some of these conditions are easily identifiable at a well baby exam, some of them aren’t obvious/can’t be known until after a child has had their first shot and has a serious reaction. When that happens, future booster shots are contraindicated and withheld. Of course by then the damage is often done, and trying to get compensated for any harm done to the child is nearly impossible, despite the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which was put in place less to compensate harmed children and more to protect vaccine manufacturers and maintain a reliable and consistent supply of vaccines.

We further learned that for the vaccines with the highest reaction rates, those reaction rates decreased significantly if the vaccines were delayed from the CDC ideal schedule by 6 months to a year depending on the vaccine.

Now, as far as we could tell, both of our kids were born healthy. Both my husband and myself were/are fully vaccinated (minus the new seasonal flu crap and other recent “fad” vaccines.) That said, when our first child was born they wanted to start vaccinating her before she even left the hospital. Before she was even a full day old. That seemed overly ridiculous to both of us.

Everything we had read about infant development told us that she didn’t even have an immune system to activate at that early stage, so at best the shot was being wasted, at worst we were shooting our brand new baby up with aluminum salts, formaldehyde, neomycin and sulfa drugs (which my husband IS allergic to!) which are all present in every shot of every vaccine.

We passed.

We were told that we had just signed the death warrant for our child, that we were evil, stupid and uncaring parents. We were also told that we deserved to watch her die a horrible death and that maybe we would vaccinate our next child, but that in the doctor’s opinion we shouldn’t even be allowed to have another child as we were clearly unfit parents.

All because we didn’t want her to get her first vaccine on the day of her birth.

I have to say – to those of you who want to clobber the anti-vaxxers, saying shit like that will not help win anyone over to your side of the fence. In fact, it will push people further away and make them much more reluctant to come to you for information, support or help should they reconsider.

As for us, we had planned out our child’s vaccine schedule before we gave birth to her. We are not anti-vaxxers, we are middle of the road, considered, thoughtful, informed… partial vaxxers? Is that a word? Because again, in this debate all I ever hear is for or against. But there is room for nuance.

In our research the thing we kept coming back to was that – by and large, for most people – vaccines do work. BUT there is a risk involved. That risk can be significantly lessened by postponing the start of vaccines and by spreading them out over time.

See, aside from wanting to stick the first needle into a baby on their first day out of the womb – at the second appointment, the CDC would like doctors to stick them with 6 NEEDLES containing a whopping 8 vaccines. And this is when your child is only 2 months old.

CDC vaccine schedule

CDC Vaccine Schedule, including some for mom!

During this time in an infant’s development – their immune system is at its weakest! Seriously. Up until then infants immune systems are relying on their mothers – first by using the limited antibodies that passed through the placenta, and then – IF the child is being breastfed, through the antibodies passed through the breastmilk. This is called “passive immunity” because the infant is not creating their own antibodies or immune responses, they are passively receiving them from their mom.

At two to three months, the level of antibodies being passed from the mom via breastmilk decreases dramatically as the infant begins, slowly, to create their own. So, during this two-three month age, an infant’s immune system is at its weakest while it shifts from its mom’s passed on immunity to its own brand new immune system. And this is when the doctors would like to hit them with 8 brand new viruses all at once! Weakened, disabled, mutated viruses – yes – but still – that’s a hell of a load for a brand new system just starting to get online. And if it’s flu season, cold season, whatever season – this brand new immune system is already working to figure out how to deal with those active illnesses.

It’s really not a huge wonder that vaccine reactions are higher with this schedule than if parents wait until their child is 6 months old to being immunization. See, at 6 months old – healthy babies have fully functioning “mature” immune systems. And unhealthy kids, who maybe shouldn’t be getting immunized to begin with – well, it’s more apparent by that age that immunization isn’t a good idea and severe, life changing reactions can also be reduced.

I remember talking to our daughter’s pediatrician the first time they met. I asked her about this research that we had done and the conclusion that we came to. For the record, our doctor was VERY pro-vaccine, but she was also pro-informed consent. She said it was her understanding that the CDC had set the vaccine schedule up the way they had because parents were already bringing their children in for well child exams, so it reduced patient visits and increased the chances of parents fully immunizing their children. If they waited to get started at 6 months, and spread the shots out over more visits, they lost parents. It became more expensive (every office visit costs, remember), parents became more selective about which vaccines they wanted and total vaccine rates dropped.

However, if you started vaccinating the infant at birth and gave them a shot, or 6, at every well baby visit – it kept the parents coming back and made the parents feel like something had been done for their child at the visit.

(Like when otherwise intelligent doctors prescribe antibiotics for viral illnesses. The antibiotics won’t help, but the patient wants the doctor to DO SOMETHING. So, they do, even though they know the consequences of that action are ultimately worse for society than the consequences of inaction.)

Thus even if the first batch of vaccines was effectively wasted, the end goal of having fully vaccinated children was achieved. No harm no foul. Except of course for those few kids who had severe reactions. But, you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet and all that.

This rationale for the CDC’s immunization schedule has been repeated to us by several pediatric doctors as we moved across the country with our kids and struggled to find a good doctor in our new home state. (We’re still looking.)

So – the schedule that is in place is not there because it is the most effective, risk free way to treat children, but because it is the most convenient for doctors and the most effective at keeping parents in line. In other words – it’s a political schedule, not a medical one.

My husband and I have believed all along that the immunization debate is, at heart, about mitigating risk. Weighing the risk of the disease – from catching it to living through it or with it – against the risk of the vaccine and living through – or with – any possible adverse reaction.

In doing our research we learned that not all vaccines are created equal. They do not all come with equal risk/benefit ratios. So, we broke them down one by one and created our own vaccine schedule for our children, starting when they were 9 months old. We also agreed they would never, never get more than two shots at a time. And that was assuming that each shot contained only one vaccine. If it was a combo shot – then it was one at a time, spaced at least a month apart. MMR would not happen until our children were two when the risk of severe reaction dropped to negligible levels in healthy kids. There were also a couple of vaccines that we decided to postpone indefinitely, believing that we could get them later if we needed to.

Because of this amended and drawn out schedule, our kids were not quite fully immunized to CDC standards when we packed them up and moved them across the country. We still had a couple of doses of a couple of vaccines to go.

When we landed in our new state, it took us a while to find a doctor who was willing to work with us to complete the schedule on our terms. Unfortunately, when I lost my corporate job, and my corporate insurance, she was no longer available to see us.

I have tried several times to get my kids their last round of shots. But only that last round. Nothing added. No seasonal flu shot. No extra doses of this or that.

Each and every time I have made the appointment (At three different doctor’s offices including one trip to the public health department because they claim they want children vaccinated.) I have been yelled at, shamed, told I was a terrible parent, threatened, told social services should take my children away from me (sometimes this was said in front of my children, who were already freaked out about getting shots and became quite scared that they would be taken from me.) all because I had DELAYED getting them fully vaccinated.

In each case, rather than using the appointment time to actually VACCINATE my children like I was asking them to do, they chose instead to use it to berate, shame and threaten me. And in each case I ended up leaving the office at the end of my hour with my still not fully vaccinated children in tow, angry tears streaming down my face, promising my children we would eventually find a doctor willing to work with us again. We haven’t. I hate even thinking about trying again. I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Now – imagine I was a true anti-vaxxer. Imagine I truly believed that vaccinating my children put them at more risk than not vaccinating them. Imagine then that something changed my mind, that something made me decide to get my kids vaccinated – whether for the full spectrum of childhood threats or for only a few. (Such as my friend who planned to take her child to a developing nation with high rates of a few diseases. She was hoping to get her son vaccinated for just those threats. Note the word hoping. Last I heard she was given the choice between all or nothing.)

Being treated in this way would likely remind me of all the reasons I distrusted the medical profession and big pharma in the first place. It would likely push me right back out of the office. After all, these are people who are already there reluctantly, quite likely looking for an excuse to back out. Why give them one?

If someone who actually WANTS to finish vaccinating their children can be bullied out of the office in tears by people who claim to want to vaccinate said children, imagine what it must be like for someone who is truly on the fence, or who came in for information hoping that the doctor would tip the scales for them one way or the other. Or someone who is rebelling against their community of fellow anti-vaxxers and is already feeling scared and vulnerable. Being shamed, lectured, threatened and yelled at is most likely going to push them back to their supportive, nurturing community, tail between their legs – another horror story to add to the list and validation in their hearts for refusing to see “those doctors.”

When I read tweets or articles yelling at anti-vaxxers, calling them monsters or evil, saying they shouldn’t be allowed to have children – I get really upset, because all of those things have been said about me. All because I did my research and made my own informed decisions about what was best for my children.

I don’t get mad at parents who choose to follow the CDC schedule. I don’t shame them or ridicule them. They are doing what I did – making the best possible choice for their children and their family using the information they had available to them. I do not fault any parent for taking care of their children to the best of their ability.

I don’t get mad at parents who reject all vaccinations either. They too are making the best choice they can for their family with the information they have. If they ask me for information or an opinion, as some have – I tell them what I learned in my research, on my quest. But I don’t try to convince them that my answers are the right answers. They were simply MY answers.

It is my belief that very few parents want to deliberately hurt their children or would knowingly, deliberately put their children at risk. Looking at the debate through that lens, it’s easier to be compassionate for everyone on every side of this issue. We are all looking out for our families first. Then, if we are able, we look out for our wider communities.

Personally, I think if the pro-vaccine folk want to win more people to their side, they should perhaps stop alienating us and calling us monsters and baby killers. Just a thought.

And when one of us does walk in and ask for some vaccines, how about just saying yes? Save the lecture. We’re here, you won. You can gloat when we leave if it makes you feel better, but while we’re there – just give us the damn shot. If it doesn’t kill us, who knows, maybe we’ll come back for more.

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Still Life with a Denver Cabbie

The Asphalt Warrior by Gary Reilly came to me a few months ago. My friend Mark Stevens helped get it published, posthumously. I’ve been hearing the buzz about this book for over a year, but just hadn’t made it out to get a copy.

Finally, back in September, Mark pushed a copy into my hands and said, “just read it already.”

asphalt warrior

Still Life with a Cabbie

So, I started it. And I loved it. My sticky tabs will attest to that. It’s laugh out loud funny in places and so completely spot on in its observations of humanity as a species.

“There are few things in this world as humiliating as getting nailed by an authentic personal screw-up. I wrote the book. My book states that mankind’s greatest fear is not death, but humiliation. Some people would rather die than be laughed at.”

Gary Reilly is an astute observer of the human condition and he lays it all bare in this book. It’s raw, and real, and gets to you in places generally reserved for close friends.

This book, the first in a series, is a touching and deep look at the machinations of being human in the modern world, through the eyes of a Denver cabbie and failed writer. It is perhaps all the more poignant for knowing that Gary Reilly, like so many great artists, had to die before his work was recognized by the broader public.

Asphalt Warrior follows Brendan Murphy, “Murph”, a cabbie who wants nothing more than to do absolutely nothing. Of course, in this day and age sloth is an impossible occupation, so he takes the next best thing – being a Denver Cabbie, making his own hours, calling his own shots – working exactly enough to pay the bills and not one fare more.

“One of my dreams as a boy was to get my high school diploma, leave home, and start dawdling. That was the only dream that ever came true.”

The book begins to pick up steam when Murph breaks the first rule of driving a cab – NEVER get involved in with your fares.

But, sometimes there’s no hope for it. Sometimes your fares get involved with you, whether you want them to or not. There are those people you just can’t shake.

The plot of the story definitely takes a back seat to Murph’s observations and musings on life, the universe and everything.

“I once saw a twelve-year-old boy on TV solve the mystery of the (Rubik’s) cube in less than a minute. But I figured it was just a trick – he probably already knew how to do it. To me, knowing how to do something is like cheating.”

For me, that was where the real magic lived. In these quirky sentences that made me cock my head and look at the world from a slightly new angle.

“When someone you know makes it, you’re happy for him, even though you’re jealous. His success means there’s still hope. It’s a shame hope hinges on success. Why can’t hope hinge on failure? Think how successful everyone would be.”

This pretty much sums up Murph’s philosophy on life – that it would all be so much easier if nothing was expected of any of us. And yet, time after time, Murph goes above and beyond to deliver a favor, right a wrong and set the world back on its proper course.

He’s an unlikely hero in the best sense. Blatantly, unapologetically reluctant, he plods into the fray, head down, shoulders hunched, looking around all the while for the real hero to make an appearance and save him from having to act.

“I intensely dislike doing anything at all, such as brushing my teeth, or shaving, or even tying my Keds, since those little chores add up to wasted minutes when I could be doing nothing.”

As a Colorado native, the observations on Denver were particularly astute.

“Architects strike me as a rather egocentric horde, concerned primarily with making their reputations and getting the hell out of Denver, sort of like local rock bands.”

This is particularly bitter-sweet line. Denver has been the birth place of a number of great bands, many of whom have left us and tried to erase us from their stories as soon as the coastal city spotlights hit them. On one hand, we’re proud of our artists, on the other we feel personally rejected by them…

But then we remember that here in Colorado, we’re all rugged individualists…

“I don’t know how rugged the average cab driver is, but I have never met one who wasn’t an individualist. We’re all the same.”

And that’s just it – out here in the Wild West, we’re all so busy being different, we forget that we’re all the same…

One of the pieces that I found interesting in this books, was the way Murph approached women.

“She walked past my car bearing an anguished frown. I didn’t know how to read that. I’m good at interpreting body language, but I don’t speak woman.”

In Murph’s world – women are definitely Other. They are unknowable, unfathomable, indecipherable. They are an alien species put on earth specifically to torment and taunt Murph, to remind him there will always be things beyond his ken.

He also talks about some of the things we, as a society, fail to teach our young men.

“A fare is a fare, but I wasn’t thrilled because twenty-year-old males don’t tip. For reason’s that I’ll never understand, society has never explained tipping to young males.”

He goes on to say that all women know about tipping, and waitresses especially. He calls it Savvy, I call it Manners. Either way, we’re definitely failing our young men when we don’t teach them generosity.

One last note about this book – it is an absolutely wonderful resource for writers – first, again, because of Gary Reilly’s astute observations – something many writers could learn from, but also because it chronicles the life of a failed writer.

“My unpublished manuscripts differ somewhat from my uncompleted manuscripts. The uncompleted manuscripts are holdovers from my college days, when I had not yet found the inner fire necessary to finish three hundred pages that had no possibility whatsoever of being accepted by a publisher. I developed that skill after I started cab driving.”

Just as we are happy for people who are successful, there is some small part of us that needs to be doing better than someone else. Us flailing writers can take comfort from Murph, who is so comfortable in his writing failure, that it inspires us to surpass him. Seeing his acceptance of his lot in life reminds us how silly it is to give up, to stop trying – even this man who KNOWS he will never be published, who wants nothing more than to do NOTHING, not even brush his teeth, still writes, still finishes books, and still starts again and writes another. If he can continue on, so can we.

In fact, Murph has the writing bug so bad, he even muses about the need for a Writer’s Anonymous Group, like alcoholics anonymous, where writers can get together and support each other in their efforts to, “stop hanging around office supply stores while their children starve.”

There’s a lot in this book that I could identify with – and a lot more that showed me another side of humanity, one I am less familiar with. An underside I tend to avoid, and sometimes outright deny.

I’ve only read the first book in the series, but I’ll be adding the rest to my list. I like riding with Murph, seeing the world through his eyes. If nothing else, he reminds me just how good I’ve got it!

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