Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tell me your story - Biographies on Audiobook

I've been listening to a lot of books. Right now I'm in the middle of Grant. This book, written by Ron Chernow, the author of Alexander Hamilton, is an in-depth look at the man, the soldier, and the president.  I'm only about eight hours into this 48 hour behemoth of an audiobook but I'm finding time to do things so I can listen.

It is fascinating.

After I finish the book I'll do an in-depth review of it. However I was musing about how some of the audiobooks I have liked the best have been biographies. I've listened to four biographies that I had not read previously and sometimes it is like listening to someone wise tell me about how someone I looked up to (Steve Jobs) might have been a bit of an asshole. Sometimes it is showing me history (Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin) and teaching me that the founding fathers weren't gods. They were just as human as you or I.

The art of listening to biographies is different than listening to fiction. One, you listen and think, oh, this famous and accomplished person did thus and so, and I do thus and so. My best example of this was when I listened to the book of John Adams and I heard how he would pack books first before any trip and often kept a book in his pocket--just in case. I do that as well and miss the abundance of mass market books that I often kept in my purse.

Sometimes I hear parts of a person's life thinking "I don't know how they're going to get out of this one!" This was prevalent when I listened to the Steve Jobs biography. I knew he became successful, but it was the how of the journey that took me by surprise.

But most important about listening to these biographies is the sense that I'm not alone. It is a voice, quite literally, reaching out from my computer or smartphone telling me that even though I am struggling through difficult times, I'm not alone. These people struggled too. They survived. They thrived, and it gives me the strength to go on.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A little more about that me too - Microblog Monday

I had to ask my husband if what I thought was sexual harassment was--before I wrote my Me Too tweet and Facebook page.

And yet the one huge sexual harassment incident in my life, I didn't ask about. I try not to think about it. Yet, yeah I have been thinking about it off and on for the last few months. I'm writing out most of it here, but I'm trying to keep some of the details to myself. Mainly because---well, because.

On my seventeenth birthday my crush and his best friend gave me a novelty item. It was sexual in nature. They gave it to me in front of an assembled group of kids at my locker. It was in a wrapped box, like you'd imagine long-stemmed roses come in. I opened that box to find another wrapped box. When I opened the second wrapped box I heard a giggle. My first real clue that whatever this box contained, was not something I wanted.  Then, when I peeled the wrapping paper back on the second box I saw what it was. Everyone around me--my girlfriends too--started to laugh. I tried to meet my crush's eyes. I was so naive at this point I didn't know what this was, much less what it was for. When some of the assembled people made crude gestures, I got the idea. When I think of my 17th birthday I think of people I barely spoke to coming up to me and making crude gestures.

So, if this happened today it would be all over youtube. The kids in question might get arrested or something. Every time someone did a google search it would come up. I really don't know. But that would be the wrong thing to happen. 

You see, I still consider the crush one of my oldest and dearest friends. 

"You forgave him?" I can almost hear the horror. 

Yes. I did. I do. 

Understand that by the end of that day, he realized what he had done was not just wrong, it was heinous. He sent me yellow roses--two dozen of them. For those who don't know the language of flowers, those mean "forgive me." The next day when someone made a crude gesture, he shut it down and shut it down hard. By the end of that week, maybe even that month,  I would say that he became someone who could never do that again. 

That's the difference between him and say a Harvey Weinstein. He learned from his mistake. He felt horrible remorse. When I allude to this, he cringes as much, if not more, than I do. He hates the 17 year old boy that he was that did that to me. I see that and I forgive that 17 year old boy because the man he became is a good and kind one.  He is not entitled. He is respectful of everyone, women, men, everyone. 

He had to learn by making that horrible mistake in judgement. 

People can change. They have to want to. They have to have empathy enough to realize that what they were doing was wrong. My crush did. The current occupant of the White House doesn't. Now the big problem is when do we stop giving people a chance to change? 


Monday, October 9, 2017

Parenting by Peopling - Microblog Monday

I asked my father a question this weekend. I asked him about the times I saw him send checks back--even when they were in his favor.

I asked him if he did it because it was right or because he knew I was watching. He looked at me as if trying to see if I was kidding or not and then he sighed. "Both." He said. "I did the right thing because it was right and because I knew you were watching. You're our third kid and by the time we got to you we knew that if we do something, good or bad, you'd see it and think about it. I wanted to try to be the person I wanted you to be."

I remember little things about my mom. I remembered a Valentine's day when I was in 9th grade. I had done my duty and given my valentines out and I didn't receive a one. Not one. I remember slamming in the house. I remember not telling my mom anything about the day. I remember slamming into my bedroom to be alone  because that's all I would be. I sat sulking and probably crying on my bed. My mom knocked twice and then came into my room--it had been the devil to get her to knock at all! She told me she had to make brownies for something or other and asked if I wanted to help. I did the typical teenage shrug but I remembered eventually going down and making brownies with her. I didn't tell her about my day. She asked and I was monosyllabic. But it is hard to sulk when you're sharing just-baked brownies and milk.

Mom was gone when I thought about this and realized that she probably didn't need to bake brownies that day. I never thanked her for the gift of simple companionship.

Today Belle had no school and I had been scrambling to find out what to do with her. We went grocery shopping. We bought more halloween candy than we should have. But Belle read me things off the list--words like Banana and Milk. Other words she found when I made the sounds for it. We tasted yummy things and had a good time. I get what my father said now. I want to be the kind of person I want my daughter to turn into.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Who shall attain the measure of mans days and who shall not attain it -- Microblog Monday

Today, once more, The United States is reeling from another mass shooting.
Only the places change.

I'm sick about it.

But I was reeling for long before I heard of it.

Social Media, you see. It got me back in touch with people I thought passed out of my life long ago. Years ago I got back in touch with my very first crush. I'll call him E.  I still remember the day we held hands and climbed the monkey bars together. He was always good to me. In second grade I decided I wanted to marry him. I didn't, but we became kind of friends. He never bullied me and often put a stop to bullying when he saw it happening to me. When I finally got onto Facebook he welcomed me and we corresponded when we saw each other.

He was a good, kind, funny, fun, man.

He was.

Yesterday I saw people leaving memorials for E on social media. This must be a joke. I thought.  He's my age. He wasn't sick. He can't be dead.

Of course it was true. That smiling boy who took my hand in second grade,  went to sleep last night and never woke up. He had (that we know at this time) no underlying health problems. He had no drug problems. He did not die of pancreatic cancer like the valedictorian of my high school class. No one knows why or what happened. We only know that the people who knew him have a darkness in their lives where his light was.

I'm now asking the same questions the family and friends of those killed in Las Vegas are asking. I'm grieving. I always meant to send a text to him that maybe we could meet and hang out. I always thought that there was time. I always thought that there would still be time. Why wasn't there time?

On one of the memorials someone quoted the title quote. It is from the Yom Kippur liturgy. I wondered if E sat in a synagogue on Yom Kippur and listened to it on his last day.

There are times where this whole life thing doesn't make sense. It is up to us to try to make some degree of sense. The week before I went out to see my high school crush/best friend for the first time in years. Both our families had a great time and I plan to see more of each other. I don't know how much time we have.

What would you do if you knew that you didn't have much time? What is stopping you?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Microblog Monday - Going into the New Year

First of all.
If you haven't donated to Puerto Rico. Click Here.

They are Americans. They need our help and they sure as f**k aren't getting it from the Federal Government.

If you can't donate money, find a Salvation Army or a drop off point and drop off stuff. Again. They need help.


On 60 Minutes yesterday Oprah hosted a roundtable discussion about how divided we are. She invited people from across the political spectrum. It was interesting. It is what we should be doing, sitting and talking about what is going on.

The thing that scared me though, is that they mentioned civil war.

I am so scared about that. I was so scared that I was filled with anxiety when my daughter came and played with me. I worried that her countrymen and women would see her as other and take her from me. I held her so tight and I started to cry. I tried to pass them off as happy tears but the five year old wasn't buying it.

One of my friends who is of the same political bent as I am got annoyed with me because I say that we have to start people to people who don't agree with us. He's happy in his echo chamber. He pastes the most far-left memes on his Facebook page so people who agree with him already can nod their heads. He has happily un-friended all the people who don't agree with him.

I won't.

I have unfollowed people when I don't want hate to clog my feed, but I make sure they see what I can post. Maybe they will like the picture of my daughter with the colander on her head.

It's the ten days of repentance and I repent of a lot. I want to change in small and big ways.

I need to acknowledge that my pre-diabetes has turned to type 2 instead of burrowing my head in the sand. I need to take steps to take far better care of my health.

I need to exercise. I will be joining the Y or Health Center.

I need to go on social media fasts. I might do that in a way to honor the sabbath. I don't know. Still thinking about it.

I need to forgive.

Yom Kippur is coming up and I need to forgive.

I need to forgive the people who voted for Donald Trump. Some of them are my friends. Some of them are horrified with their decision. I need to forgive my fellow countrymen who are both elated by their choice and horrified at what they have done with their precious votes.

I need to forgive Trump and the current administration. Please understand by forgive I do not mean acquiescing to all that they suggest and do. I mean that I need to stop letting it eat at me. I need to stop giving into the hate and fury that it causes in myself. I need to let go of that hate and channel the anger into fighting the actions--not the people.

I have no illusions as to how difficult that it will be, but the hate and the fury they cause me is eating me up. It is not helping me or our nation.

If we fall into civil war I don't want to say that there was nothing I could do to stop it. There IS something I can do. I can be the change I need to see. I can be better than I have been. That is what Yom Kippur is about. Trying, always trying to be better.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year and all who celebrate an easy fast.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The new movie IT has monsters--and they don't all wear clown makeup

I first saw IT as a miniseries. Tim Curry scared the shit out of me as Pennywise. I fell for the losers both as adults and pre-teens.

I then read the book and fell for them all over again. IT is one of my top five Stephen King novels and I love the characters. So when my husband got two days off for Rosh Hashanah and my daughter only got one day off I knew that we were going to go see the movie IT.

I am very familiar with the book.
I reread IT every so often and I just finished listening to it on audio. I highly recommend this version. Steven Weber does such a wonderful job it feels like I am listening to someone telling stories by a campfire.

And then I saw the movie today









For those who have never seen IT and don't mind spoilers. Here's a decent synopsis of the book.

I was going to oppose most if not all screenplay choices that were different than the book, I knew that going in. But I didn't expect to find myself disgusted with the tokenism and sexism displayed in the movie. They stripped down the characters of both the sole person of color and the female member of the losers club and made both of them practically unrecognizable.

Mike Hanlon.

The only black member of the Losers Club in the book and in the 1990 miniseries is intelligent and the person who is dedicated to the history of Derry.

In this movie he was the muscle who had the gun. In this movie he was homeschooled--heaven forbid he go to school with the rest of the kids. In this movie his parents were killed in a fire for no reason I could understand.

Why would someone change a nuanced black character into a non- nuanced one?  Why make him less? It sure as hell wasn't because Chosen Jacobs didn't have the acting chops. The actor did wonderfully with what he had, but wasn't given anything to shine with. All the history geeking went to the character of Ben, a white character.

Worst of all, in this EW article, they want to change Mike Hanlon's adult character to a drug addict.  To quote one of the comments to the article, "heavens forfend that he gets through each day with his own grit and forcefulness."  I hope they don't change Mike like this. If, when the next movie comes out, that does seem to be the case, I will not be in the audience.

Beverly Marsh

The movie takes away Bev's choices. Again, the only female member of the Losers Club and it rips the choices she made in the book away from her.

In the book, Bev was the markswoman. She threw the rocks better than anyone. She used a slingshot and she hit what she aimed at.  When the Losers follow IT into the sewers she is there because she chose to be there.

In this movie she is taken from her home after nearly being raped by her father. She spends the last act of the movie catatonically floating. She is the damsel in distress, not a member of the team and that's not what Mr. King wrote.

Monsters are a staple of movies. But with the sexism and tokenism--I have to wish that they had just stuck to Pennywise.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Pages

Since the beginning of September, something has been happening.

It's happened before, since my mom passed, but then it stops. I'm hoping this time that it will keep happening.

I'm reading again. I mean reading again. I mean since September began I have read 5 new books and listened to a new on on audio. The really amazing thing I have to say about these books is that two of them are what I call five-star (Thanks goodreads) books. Two. When I have gone almost two years without any book that was that superlative.

And all of them, even the four and one three star books have been good books. Books that played in my head when I had to put them down. So without further ado... here are the books and small reviews.

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

I read one book by Beverly Jenkins before, and it was good but not great. Forbidden was amazing. Forbidden was so amazing I went to Barnes and Noble and bought two more of her books and put others on reserve in the library.

Forbidden is a historical novel set in the old west. The hero and heroine are people of color. Well the heroine is. And the hero is, but he is passing. There is so much I enjoy about this book it is difficult to know where to start. Scorching chemistry- Check. Characters I care about- check. A historical setting so real that I look at an electric light and I hardly know what to do with it. What I loved especially is that the heroine is courted by two men (one being the hero) but the other one was lovely and kind.

If you like historical romance novels and you think that there isn't anything really creative out there, pick up this book and find your cynical little heart growing three sizes.

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

This has been on my bookshelf for about two years. I have been told by so many people who I trust that I should read this book. I started it and put it down. It wasn't the right time. Then I picked it up and had a hard time putting it down. I jumped into the reality and loved it. To all my friend who told me I would love it were right right right.

I can't talk too much about it without giving it away. Just saying that if you like Eighties cinema. If you like video games. If you like a fantastic adventure read this amazing book.

Come Home by Lisa Scottoline

I was privileged enough to attend Writers Digest Conference 2017 where  Lisa Scottoline's magnificent key note speech inspired me to pick up one of her books. I hadn't done so in a while. I won't wait so long to read another one.

Come Home showcases love. Love that doesn't adhere to definitive roles. The main character's stepdaughter comes to her and tells her that her ex-husband is dead. Moreover she believes that her ex-husband has been murdered. When is it okay to mourn someone who hurt you? When a second marriage breaks up, what about the kids for whom you were their step mother?  Love doesn't fall into neat little categories and neither does my emotions for this book. This is an excellent read.

Hold Me by Courtney Milan

If you like romance, get this book. If you like New Adult fiction, get this book. If you like characters that you can empathize with, love, and want to swat, get this book. The last time I had such a reading frenzy, I read Trade Me by Courtney Milan, the first in the series. Now Hold Me does what I didn't think it could do--I liked it better.

Hold Me is Shop Around The Corner updated to the geeky halls of university, texting, and blogging. The characters are amazing. The dialogue makes me laugh, and the sex scenes are so wonderful they require the AC on full blast. Now I've got to read her historical romances.

I also read another book but as I am only reviewing the ones that I think others should read now--I'll come back to that another time. It engaged me enough to finish it but I didn't like it enough to recommend.

So, to sum up.

Five star books

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Hold Me by Courtney Milan.

The others are four stars and highly recommended.