Thursday, September 18, 2014

Writer's Block


So a weird thing that's never happened to me before happened just the other day.  Writer's block.  But, it's not what you may think.  This doesn't involve the novel that I'm currently writing that I really don't know how to write.  Cause that's going okay.  Slow, but okay.  This was a travel article.  A TRAVEL ARTICLE I SAID.  How weird is that?  Because if there's anything I know (how to screw up) it's travel.  I mean I'm intimately familiar with travel.  I have a million things I could write about it.  And that's part of the problem.

After hours of considering what to write, I did finally come up with something that I was happy with. But the whole experience of not knowing which direction to go in was unnerving.  So, I did what I always do.  Over analyzed the situation.  And after hours of questioning why a little travel article would put me in an existential crisis, I had my answer.

I never write with the market in mind.  

I don't mean to offend you, but never has it ever occurred to me what readers want to read.  Sorry, how negligent of me.  I've always just written whatever I feel like at the time.  Although, I do consider my family and my friends and I try not to trample toes of my loved ones, which from time to time might cause me to nix an idea here or there. 

Maybe I've been doing this all wrong from the beginning.  Maybe I should be writing with a target market.  I could write a hilarious taxidermy blog that would be so popular.  Wait.  I guess that's already taken.  Hold on, maybe my novel should be zombie porn.  After all, they are the two most popular genres at the moment, why not combine them?  But that's not how I write.

I write because I have to write.  
I write what I'm passionate about.  
I write with my heart. 

Thank god my heart, and the rest of me, is passionate about travel.  So, after a lot of work, I'm pleased with my article Traveling with Kids:  A Manifesto.  And so was the purchaser.  Yes, someone BOUGHT IT, like for real money, not Monopoly money.  First time ever.  I think I like this.  And I already have an idea for another article now that we finally told the kids we're going to Thailand...




Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekend Warriors


The weekends used to be so different when the kids were little.  My husband and I would have our agenda set.  Not too many activities to be overbooked, not too little that they'd be bored.  Hikes, museums, visiting family friends and trips to the zoo were among our top plans any given Saturday.

But, now that three of our kids are teenagers and our youngest is positive she's one too, they make the agenda. Birthday parties, sleepovers, work, school dances and going to the mall with friends. So guess what gives?  Family time.  They leave no open slots for family time because they don't want to spend time with us anymore.  So,  my husband and I have to fight for it, like the weekend warriors we've become.

Let me be honest, our kids don't take well to mandatory family fun time (MFF).  It comes with moans, groans and constant complaints.  Not to mention fighting.  Which makes it much less family fun time and much more family fight time.  Leaving me questioning,  Why the hell are we doing this in the first place?

One of the last MFF (feel free to fill in the f's with any words of your choosing), I forced my family to go to the zoo.  Ok, not all of my family, because my husband was working Saturday morning clinic and one of the kids was at a sleepover, but I think forcing 3/4 of my family to do an activity they don't want to still totally counts as MFF.)

Our annual pass to the zoo was expiring the very next day.  I'd tried to coax them into going for the whole summer, to no avail.  It was a beautiful day and dammit, I wanted to go to the freakin' fun zoo for god's sake!  I mean what kind of sick, cruel person doesn't want to go gawk at cute, caged animals pacing back and forth?

My kids weren't having it.  So I resorted to bargaining.  Ok, so we don't have to see the whole zoo, we'll each pick our favorite animal and just stop at those.  They were silent.  I was on to something.  Then after the zoo, we can stop at Culver's for lunch.  I had them at Culver's.  Why didn't I think of this two years ago?  Oh, because it's expensive and I wasn't ready to give up cheap picnic lunches yet.  And they didn't eat that much back then when they were small.

The thing is, family time is not only more work, it's also increasingly expensive.  

Gone are the days of my kids being young enough to get in free to museums.  Gone are the days of me being able to pack enough food to satiate them on a day trip.  And gone are the days when my kids are smaller than me, not to mention compliant.

But, before you know it, they'll be gone and the weekends and weekdays will be much too quiet.
The cost of this MFF time?  Well, it's well worth fighting for.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Double Standards

T-shirt sold at zazzle.com
If you don't already know, I grew up in a large strict Catholic family consisting of 3 boys, 3 girls and 2 parents.  Oh, and a whole lot of double standards.  It's not that we weren't generally all treated the same, because we were for the most part.  It's just that we girls were always monitored more closely than my brothers were.  And I hated it. But, now that I'm a parent, of 2 boys and 2 girls (3 of which are teenagers), I too have double standards.  

I see more of them every day.  Especially this week when I had one son and one daughter enter the world of social media.  I have dreaded this event for years.  I tried to prolong it as long as I could, until I couldn't prolong it anymore.  Because social media, while fun, comes with responsibility and stress.  Lots of stress.  Who to follow, what to write, what to post, how it can be misconstrued, how to rectify it and when to sever on-line relationships and real life ones.  And everything in between.

But it's hardest on girls.
It just is.

The need to look picture perfect 24/7 because everyone has a camera nowadays and at any moment someone could take a photo of you and blast it into the cybersphere for everyone to judge.  And they will.  And they do.  It's human nature.  This of course feeds the insecurities all of us have, but especially teenagers who are just starting to figure out who they truly are.  Am I skinny/pretty/witty enough?  Why didn't someone favorite my photo?  Doesn't anyone like me?  Why?  What's wrong with me?  And which sex is more prone to over think these kinds of things more than the other?  

Girls.
It's biology. 

Last month I read the book Whipping Girl:  A Transsexual on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano.  Who can tell you the differences between what it is to be male and be a female more than a person who has been both?  The thing that really struck me in her story was not the physical transformation, but the emotional transformation that began soon after taking estrogen.  Flowers looked more beautiful and smelled more fragrant.  Not only that, she noted that she felt everything deeper, as if a veil were lifted from her emotions.  See?  We females are biologically programmed to be neurotic over thinkers.

It's not our fault! 
Blame our hormones.

Probably the worst thing you can give to a neurotic over thinker is constant access to beautifully filtered photographs of how happy other people appear to be on social media.  Because who takes ugly, unhappy looking photos and posts them?  No one.  And I'm saying all this because of course, I have social media accounts.  And I will tell you right now,  I'm guilty as charged.  And recently I have made a very concerted effort to try to reduce the amount of time I spend on them.

Because there is a direct correlation between time spent on social media and depression.  

What can we do as parents to ensure that our kids, especially our daughters, don't succumb to the low self-esteem that can occur as a result of social media?  I wish I had a step by step plan guaranteeing  we could all keep our kids safe on the internet.  But of course I can't.  And, cutting our kids off entirely isn't a realistic option in this day and age.  However, getting them involved in sports and keeping them busy with real life activities they enjoy is.   Thus, naturally reducing the amount of time  available for social media.  But, here's the pill that's probably going to be the toughest to swallow as parents, monitoring our own social media use and the signals we're really sending our own kids is also vital.
  
Not to mention all the double standards.


For more on teenagers and gender inequality here's another post I wrote, titled  Sexual Equality.

P.S.  Would it be poor timing to announce that I'm now on Instagram @misadventures_of_marie?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Narrow Minded

My husband's visual demo of my narrow-mindedness
 in the narrows at Zion last year
We were talking about music when he told me.  Just blurted it out and I was taken aback.  "You're narrow minded."  Just like that.  Whhhhhhaaaaaaaaaatttttttt?  It can't be true!  Wait.  Let me think for a second. Oh my god, it's totally true.  I'm narrow minded!  How can this be?

In my defense, I'm an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs personality test.  The fact that I judge things, well, I was just born this way.   SOOOOOOO..... IT'S NOT MY FAULT!  YOU CAN'T JUDGE ME FOR BEING NARROW MINDED!  Unless you can.  And I guess you can.  Because I don't want to be a hypocrite on top of being narrow minded.  Duhhhhhhh.

My narrow-mindedness is even narrow in scope.  It doesn't apply to society in general, as I'm extremely liberal politically.  My judgements are far more personal.  

Like the music I enjoy.  Which was the reference to my husband's original comment.  I only enjoy music that is thought provoking, intricately composed and hand crafted by artisans.  I don't enjoy crap someone spit out with stupid ass lyrics only carried by a sick beat, a bad reputation or simply because they're pretty and/or odd in some way.  In other words, I-G-G-Y spells crap in my book.  

TV is much the same.  I don't watch any fictional shows.  I'm sure there's good ones out there, but I just can't get myself to watch them.  Not when there's so many good non-fictional choices.  Like Frontline, The Daily Show, Chopped, Through the Wormhole, American Ninja Warrior and a whole glorious channel devoted to History.   HISTORY I SAID!

And stuff?  Well I like my stuff old and cheap. Kinda like me.  So thrift stores?  YEESSSSSS.  Coach purses?  NOOOOOOOO.  Unless I found the coach purse at a thrift store for say $5.  Then score!  I'd just rather save my money for experiences.

But not in Las Vegas.  Where everything I hate is one place.  Bright, flashy, up-all night, crowded, excessive, frivolous, celebrity worshipping crap.  Not that I've ever been.  Cause I haven't, nor do I want to go in order to prove myself right.  Because as a narrow minded person, I know I'm right without actually having any first hand experience.  Which is awesome because it saves both time and money.  

And I'm a big fan of time.  Time spent cooking, hiking, sleeping, alone, reading, writing, walking (in practical, comfortable shoes of course),  traveling off the beaten path, learning, ruminating, nagging my family and being in a small group of  good friends for short bursts of time.  

Oh my god, I'm a narrow minded snob!  Unless I'm Andy Rooney.  And I'm not even sure which one is worse.  I'm going to have to ruminate on that.  Maybe a walking meditation off the beaten path in comfy shoes that gets me home at a reasonable hour so I can watch 60 Minutes would be best.











Friday, September 5, 2014

Tonight We are Young

Me, trying hard not to look like I tried too hard.

I downloaded and printed out the tickets.  I'm sporting my Forever 21 jeans I scored at the thrift store.  I stuffed my driver's license in my black leather jacket, just in case.  I mean as if I'm going to get carded at an Arctic Monkeys concert.  Or anywhere else for that matter, at my advanced age.  The same advanced age that may keep me from being able to stay awake long enough to see said concert.

On the drive up to Red Rocks it started raining.  And with a naive youthful optimism that I believe is called called denial combined with comorbid unpreparedness, I commented to my husband that the rain would just blow over. It didn't.  But the lightening did.  Being wet for an outdoor concert kind of puts a damper on things.  Because damp.

But being cold and wet does keep one awake.  With all that shivering.  And numb toes.  Bonus.  So there's that.  Why did I want to come to a concert again?  With all the crowds, the late hour that would prevent me from being where I truly wanted to be, in my comfy pjs in my warm bed.....ASLEEP.  Instead, I'm inhaling second hand smoke and the eye liner and mascara I intricately applied to look rocker cool was streaming down my face.  Which did make me look kinda rockstar by the way.  So there's that.  

When the opening band started to play, even my contact second hand pot smoke high couldn't make them sound good.  Which begs the existential question:  WHY AM I HERE?  WHY AM I HERE ANYWAY?  For which there is no good answer.

Until the headliner took to the stage.  You know after a couple hours and even more rain.  And then I remembered.  How it feels to be young.  And so totally in love with a band.  With music.  With life. And to dance in the rain next to complete strangers and not have a care in the world.  For just a few moments anyway.  

The thing about youth though is it's fleeting.

So getting up this morning, with my hair smelling like smoke to a coffee pot that's on the fritz...
well, last night I was young, this morning I'm in my mid-forties and I will be in my pj's tonight (Friday night of all nights) by 6pm at the latest.   

(DISCLAIMER:  This post was written on very little sleep and a few sips of undrinkable swamp coffee. It may very well suck.  Like I'm the crappy opening band for a really awesome band or something.  I don't even care, because last night I was young.  For just a few moments anyway. )

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Chapter

Some things are best expressed through song...



...others are NOT.

And to answer all your questions:  NO.

No, I have no idea what I'm doing.

No, I do NOT have a Venn diagram of the characters.

No, I really haven't woven a plot. And I don't really have any kind plan at all of how this is gonna go.  I'm just gonna start typing.  That's it.

But, Yes, I may scrap the whole novel idea thing if it doesn't work out for PLACES I HATH SHAT:  A Really Shitty Memoir.

THE END

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Forced

Photo:  solarroadways.com

I had a completely different post lined up for today.  I spent a considerable amount of time on it too.  But, I ditched it.  Because, while it was funny, it was also forced.

I knew it from the beginning and it unsettled me.  But,  I plowed on despite my misgivings.  Investing more time.  Cultivating and tweaking, wanting to craft it into something it never was and was never capable of being.

Every step of the way I heard the voice inside my head.  And every step of the way, I disregarded it and plowed right on through to the next step. And when I was done and still wasn't comfortable with it, I contemplated publishing it anyway. For hours.  After all, I'd put so much work into it.

Why the hell would I do that?

I've learned this lesson so many times over and over again.  Or I thought I did.  Listen to your gut.  Be authentic. Forget arbitrary deadlines, meaningless statistics, stupid popularity contests and promoting sales.  Nothing, especially a cheap laugh, is worth the price of feeling disingenuous.  

Maybe, just maybe I've finally learned that now.

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