Right then the song became a soundtrack for that place and time

The summer of 2003, the summer between my second and third years of college, I spent some time in Austin, TX. If you have ever been to Austin, you know one of the Things to do is visit Waterloo records on Lamar (or, at least, it was a thing…I assume Waterloo is still going strong, but I have not been back to the town in years). The day I went in was a gorgeous sunny day in early summer. It also happened to be the day Reckless Kelly did a release party in the store for their album Under the Table and Above the Sun. I sort of knew about the band, more by name than by music, so I had no idea the event was happening. I liked the music playing on the store speakers enough to ask what it was, and that’s when the clerk told me they’d be playing in about 5 minutes. So I picked up a copy of the CD (and the shotglass that came with it) and hung out. I don’t know that the set was memorable, other than as a general experience, but the album (or, at least, the first half of it) became a favorite.

All of that is backstory to the point of the post, which is about the first time I heard “Vancouver,” my favorite track on the album and an all-time favorite song in general. I was driving back to my quarters from Waterloo; the sun was white and hot, but the air was fine because it was still early summer, so I had my windows down and my sunglasses on, and it was fabulous just to drive north on Lamar. Naturally, I put on the CD I had just bought and fast forward through the songs I remembered hearing over the store PA. And the first new song was track 6. And it was one of the best damn break-up songs I had ever heard, and still is; this recognized at a time I was newly in love (with my husband, but of course that was years in the future) and spending the summer apart from him. The break-up aspect was not relevant to us, but the longing in the song for the time of togetherness was.

When the sun went down
You were sittin’
Under someone else’s sunset
And I wasn’t around
And you were wishin’
That I was the guy that you’d just met

And I was probably stumblin’ down some back street alley in Amsterdam
While you were makin’ excuses and breakin’ another heart
Or maybe I was drinkin’ wine with the pigeons in a square in Venice
And I was wonderin’ what you’re doin’ and wonderin’ where you are…

It’s still a great song – one that never leaves my iPod, because I always listen to it when it pops up in a playlist or on shuffle. And every time I hear it, I am pulled back to that sunny summer day, driving around Austin, happy and carefree and missing my man. It’s amazing to me how indelibly moments can be etched into one’s mind, such that no other iteration of that song, in all the thousand or so times I have heard it, can overcome that very first listen.

2 Comments

Filed under Muse Music

The INTJ Birth Class

Or, The Social Aspects of an INTJ in Late Pregnancy

The (very awesome) friend who is going to be my “birth partner” at the hospital when I go to deliver and I decided that we ought to learn about the stages of labor and practical measures for coping with them. You know, like a responsible pair of birth partners. Rather than buying books we wouldn’t make time to read, we paid to take a class with a birth educator since money up front = something we’ll show up for. We opted for the weekend class because, seriously, who the hell has time to do a class a week for 12 weeks?! We walked into the meeting room laughing about how we were going to look like the cutest pregnant lesbian couple ever…only to get into the room and find the actual cutest pregnant lesbian couple already there! The room ended up being an interesting mix of people between the 7 couples attending – a lot of the women expressed that their goal was an unmedicated birth, but some of them seemed like they just wanted to have more information on birth either from ignorance of the process or fear of it – and ran the gamut from hippies to yuppies to suburbanites to trailer park libertarians. (I leave it to you to decide where I fit. :) )

We enjoyed the class and got out of it what we hoped for – what the different processes of labor entail and some great suggestions for getting through it. One of the  most interesting aspects of it to me was an exercise we did with different coping mechanisms to try and figure out what works for us, which amounted to a “how well do you know yourself?” quiz. I, as I expected, know myself quite well. The instructor had us hold ice for the length of contractions and do various things – walking, partner massage, humming, visualization, breathing, etc., to try and make our perception of the time seem shorter. The things that worked for me were exactly what I expected to work for me based on what worked for me back in high school when I was a long-distance runner (focusing on the discomfort until it becomes unrecognizable as discomfort, the same way a curve becomes a straight line if you zoom in close enough to it; music (the humming was insufferable until I made it a melody and then it worked pretty well); distraction via a stronger physical sensation than the discomfort…I don’t expect that one will actually work against a labor contraction, though!). The variance of reactions to each type of coping strategy was fascinating. No two people had the same set of likes/dislikes, and different people seemed to like and dislike (or at least be indifferent to) each exercise. I was the only woman in the room who liked the focusing one, but several of the men did. INTJ in action (because we “think like men”), or an introvert/extrovert thing? (Or just a coincidence?)

Also, Baby Shower

The same friend threw me a baby shower. It was fun, in part because I insisted it have booze and non-standard games (because typical baby shower games are L-A-M-E), but probably mostly because the group of various friends from various parts of my life actually clicked really well. I was honestly surprised at how many people I found to invite, who live nearby and I am genuinely fond of (not to mention extended-area friends and family!). My impending motherhood being the focus of the occasion did bring out this weird dynamic in my personality, though, which is that I hate being fussed over and made the center of attention unless I am actively engaged in exhibitionist behavior. Like…Stage Lily loves having everyone paying attention to her; real Lily finds it awkward and uncomfortable, even when the attention is an honest outpouring of good will and love. I was truly touched by the time and effort the gals put into gifts for me and my little one (seriously, I teared up afterward going back through the stuff to put it up), and I think I accepted all of it gracefully in the moment, but inside I was squirming. One of the lessons I had to learn as a younger woman was that ceremonies are often not about the person being honored but rather about everyone in attendance. Or, as the Captain likes to say, “It ain’t about you. It’s about them, and what they need.”

firefly-jaynestown-jayne-mal-about-what-they-need

If I had not done a shower on my own, one would have been done for me, at least at work, so the better solution seemed to me to be having one on my own terms. And the best part of all of it? I got a ton of adorable stuff for my kid without having to shop for any of it!

Otherwise, things have been quieter than I expected, socially speaking. I definitely made the right choice to be vague about my due date, because while I get a lot of remarks, no one is hassling me about what if I go “overdue” or anything. Only two people at work have tried to touch my belly without permission, and only one stranger has. The work people were easier to deal with, because it was just a matter of saying “Nope, you don’t know me like that, ask before you touch!” while the stranger at the grocery store was this sweet little old lady who just kept praising Jesus for the gift of life. Very hard for me to be rude to someone like that so I just smiled and thanked her for the blessing and that was that. Now pray Jesus it doesn’t happen again….

That’s the news from Lake Lilybegone.

Or, And Now We Wait

Leave a comment

Filed under Ramblings

The INTJ Pregnancy: Trimester 3

I am officially full-term in my pregnancy (the clinical definition of full-term is now 37-42 weeks gestational age) so I thought I might as well go ahead and write about trimester three. Partly because it could end essentially at any time now, and partly because I have more aggravations I need to vent.

Myths and Expectations?

I don’t know that I have any tri-3 myths to bust. Pretty much everything that I was warned about has happened:

  • my back hurts all the time no matter what I do or what position I am in.
  • I sprout cankles if I wear the wrong pants, wear the wrong shoes, or stand or sit for too long. (I thought I might be one of the lucky 30% who dodges that bullet since I got to 36 weeks without foot swelling, but no. Weirdly–OR IS IT?–the only thing that seems to make it go away is a cocktail or two. Maybe it’s coincidence, because a tittle is timed with putting my feet up at the end of the day…but putting my feet up alone doesn’t seem to work. My guess is it’s a relaxation of the blood vessels/my nerves thing, but what do I know? I’m no doctor. And the only thing the internet says on the matter is to avoid alcohol because it will dehydrate you, and dehydration makes edema worse).
  • My heartburn is out of control.
  • My stomach has hit the point of diminishing capacity, where what used to be a normal meal feels like Thanksgiving gluttony and what used to be a snack is now a meal.
  • I have started waddling rather than walking, that charming rolling step you do like you’re on the deck of a ship, only it turns out the ship is you.
  • At least the only time I feel miserably huge is getting out of bed. That’s hard and, perhaps oddly, the time I most feel the extra weight I am carrying (in the mirror I have done a good job of not putting on much weight but baby and perhaps even losing some fat, but by the scale I am 10+ pounds over what I “should” have put on at the end, much less with 2-4 weeks to go).
  • I am exhausted all the time again, almost as badly as I was during the first trimester
  • I feel nauseated on a regular basis…like the thought of eating turns my stomach, even when I’m hungry. It’s a different sort of nausea than the first trimester brought, and just feeling “off my feed” is better than feeling carsick all the time, plus this comes and goes.
  • Everything south of my waist hurts all the time. If you’ve heard about the “punched in the pussy” feeling…it’s real. Apparently it’s the pubic bone shifting apart/loosening up. I have been blessed with either progressively stronger Braxton Hicks contractions or an extended podromal labor because I’ve had what amount to period cramps for hours on end every day for the last week or more. They aren’t labor pains – I can sleep, talk, work through them, and they are neither occurring in a regular pattern nor getting worse – but they are noticeable enough to make me irritable and distracted.
  • I never thought I would be one of “those women” who talks about just being ready for pregnancy to be over, but…I am. Sleep is torture, because there are no comfortable positions, but so is being awake because I have to go about my normal life in mild pain and physical exhaustion. Yeah. Baby can come any time. I’m ready.

Doctor’s Orders

The worst part about the end of pregnancy is the insufferable number of visits to the OB and, if you have any sort of “complication,” other support centers. The regular pattern is every 2 weeks from 28-34 weeks and then every week from 35 to the end of pregnancy. For me, having the “high risk” diagnosis of gestational diabetes, the added fun of twice-weekly fetal non-stress-tests (NSTs) was added around week 36. (In a way I have to count myself lucky – some OBs want NST’s done twice weekly from 32 weeks on with GD, or as soon as the condition is diagnosed. God forbid.) The NST center wanted to do an ultrasound every week, as well, which I declined. I am not comfortable having 8+ ultrasounds in one pregnancy, for no good reason (because I am already being monitored so often for fetal movements). IF the NST shows something is abnormal, then an ultrasound is medically indicated and appropriate. I don’t consider multiple precautionary ultrasounds an appropriate course of treatment…especially since they would also tell me (and the doctor) weight estimates of the baby.

The problem I have with the weight estimates is this: they are off by up to 2 pounds in BOTH directions. The u/s estimate is more or less right about a third of the time – AKA the same statistic the doctor would get if s/he were to just guess “small, regular, or big” for each baby. The reason this is problematic is that doctor’s perception of a baby’s size influences their risk assessment/decision-making process in delivery. A woman who is suspected of having a large baby (even when it turns out the baby was not large at all) is more likely to be diagnosed with failure to progress or a too-narrow pelvis and whisked off for an “emergency” c-section than a woman who is assumed to have a normal sized baby (even when it turns out the baby was very large). Since one of my goals is avoiding a section, obviously, I also want to avoid any fodder for the doctor’s fears that my baby will be macrosomic.

This avoidance stems directly from a series of appointments in which my doctor harped on the dangers of delivering big babies and stressed me out to the point of tears over it, because I felt like she was assuming that JUST because I have GD I would automatically have a big baby and that, by her emphasis on it, she would react poorly to any hiccup or stall in labor. While the reality is that I have a higher chance of a big baby because of my GD (apparently even seemingly controlled GD can result in a fat baby), it’s not a guarantee and statistically unlikely. Even with a big baby the chance of shoulder dystocia during birth is, again, statistically unlikely. I brought her a family history from my mother’s side, showing where she and her many sisters delivered all their many babies – a good third of them pushing 9 pounds – vaginally and with no complications. This was also the appointment where we went over my birth plan and I included a note about  being familiar with the maneuvers to get a baby unstuck, and after that appointment the OB hasn’t really brought up the big baby thing again. Maybe it’s because that list was a reminder that she assessed me in the beginning as having “birthing hips” (very wide pelvic opening) and that women in my family have no problems with bigger babies, maybe it’s that she is certain I understand the potential risk now, or maybe she just remembers we’ve talked about it now whereas for some of those appointments she forgot that she’d already brought it up. I do feel like, based on our conversation around my birth plan, that we are on the same page and she will not be one of those doctors who panics if the baby seems “stuck” so that is also reassuring.

Anyway, all of this stress and worry and emphasis on my GD has led me to some interesting places in terms of how I view obstetric care. Basically, it seems to me that there is a very real attempt on the part of the medical establishment to pathologize pregnancy – to take it from the realm of a natural process with countless and not-always-understood effects on the mother to a clinical chart, any deviation from which constitutes a problem that must be addressed medically.

For example: There is an interplay between anemia and gestational diabetes. Specifically, mild anemia can sometimes help keep blood sugars in check. So perhaps some explanation for the rising rates of GD is that women are now routinely given (or told to take) prenatal vitamins with iron, and prescribed extra iron if their blood iron level slips below the non-pregnant clinical definition of “normal.” Perhaps during pregnancy women are supposed to be a little bit anemic to help offset some of the effects of the placenta on insulin and blood sugar. If iron levels are artificially boosted back to non-pregnant levels, then the pregnant mother loses the protection afforded by her natural body chemistry. Therefore, treating the lowered iron level as a problem that needs to be addressed actually creates more problems by interfering in the natural bodily processes of gestation.

Obviously the above is just my own speculation, but it makes sense to me that interventions create more problems than they solve…especially when it’s not clear that what’s being “solved” is a problem in the first place. I’ve talked to my mom about when she was pregnant, and they had never HEARD of all the conditions that are routinely diagnosed now, nor was pregnancy monitored so closely, nor was any deviation from “normal” AKA non-pregnant body chemistry considered some sort of fucking crisis. How did the human race survive without all these tests? Oh, what’s that? Because it’s a natural goddamned process that even now most doctors don’t really understand all the effects and intricacies of? What needs to be observed and then treated from are normal pregnancy parameters, not pregnant vs. non-pregnant parameters.

But, hey, the doctors are doing a booming business, and so are the testing services that monitor all these “problems” and so are the pharmacology companies that sell the pills to correct the problems, so who cares if any of it’s truly necessary? If it saves one child it’s worth all the expense and stress and fear that are paid out by the mothers-to-be…right? RIGHT?

Another interesting aspect of GD I have found is who is more at risk for getting it (aside from women who already have diabetes before pregnancy): Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Eskimos, and Hispanics (presumably many/most of whom are descended from some of the native peoples of Central/South America). Basically…any ethnic group that is more closely associated with the Mongoloid subgroup of humans. The reason this is interesting to me is because of a book my husband read (and told me all about) that discussed genomic differences between population groups across the globe. One point he made was to posit that the book of Genesis wasn’t actually wrong to say that childbirth became harder for women as a result of knowledge…that changing from a hunter-gatherer wandering society to permanent establishments with farming and a grain-based diet actually changed human physiology. Many of the women who have easier labors and deliveries tend to come from the groups that did NOT experience that physical structural change – AKA all the “native” nomadic peoples like the American Indians and the Mongols, and subsequently the parts of the general populations who descend from them. My mother is from Finnish Laplander stock (basically the Finnish Eskimos) so perhaps that explains why her family make such excellent birthers. It would also put me in a category of elevated risk for GD…that is easily mitigated by ignoring the Western grain-based diet in favor of meat and plants.

I also want to touch on the ridiculous and contradictory advice that gets distributed to pregnant women by the medical establishment. The one that got to me was the weight thing. One of the most common things pregnant women are told is not to try to lose weight while pregnant. BUT when you are told that you should only put on X number of pound – a number that is sometimes lower than the actual physical weight of baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, etc., how are you NOT supposed to lose weight even if the aggregate is a gain? Or, in my case, the diabetes center told me when I was first diagnosed that based on my pre-pregnancy weight and where I was then (32 weeks) that I shouldn’t put on any more pounds for the rest of my pregnancy. You know, during the third trimester when the baby is putting on approximately 1/2 pound per week. So…how was I supposed to avoid putting on weight if I was not also losing weight off my own body to balance what my baby was putting on? How is that not contraindicated? Do you think I am innumerate? Do you think I do not know how to do math, and how to balance equations? Do you think I do not consider these things when examining the medical advice given to me? I am sure every woman gets told equally asinine things to do/not do that, in conjunction with other medical edicts, become completely contradictory. So which are you supposed to follow?

I’ve chosen to do what feels right for me, which is to continue to eat normally, for the most part avoid junk and overeating, and let my body put on what it will. I actually think I look small for 8 1/2 months based on my overall frame and how big I THOUGHT I would get, so even if the scale says I’m a fat pregnant cow, the mirror exposes the lie.

I also want to get into the social aspects of late pregnancy, but this has rambled on long enough so that will be a separate post….

2 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Rants and Storms

#HIMYM Finale: Now We See the Betrayal Inherent in a True “Twist” Ending

We’ve passed the statute of limitations on spoilers for the finale of How I Met Your Mother, right? I mean it was over a week ago – surely if you were planning to watch it, by now you have. I’m going to assume so, anyway, and spoil the crap out of the ending without bothering to point out my spoilers other than to say: if you don’t want to know how it ended, just stop reading this post.

Or, What the Hell Did I Just Watch?

Perhaps I really mean “What the hell did I watch nine seasons for?”

I was NOT pleased and delighted by the ending of my favorite sitcom. I can’t even say that I was narratively satisfied, because the way the ending came about, for me, did not draw on what had come before but felt like an ending that had been decided on a long time ago and tacked onto the story stubbornly despite the fact that it no longer fit.

See, I always assumed the actual meeting of the mother would be anti-climactic…either that we would literally get nothing beyond Ted walking up to her at the bus stop and saying “Hi, I’m Ted,” or that it would be totally lame in the sense of love at first sight perfectness. I was not going to be let down by that sort of ending, because, by the time the 9 seasons had played out, for me the real story was Robin and Barney. Therefore as long as their wedding was epic and touching and romantic, then Ted’s meeting the mother being an afterthought wasn’t going to matter. It never occurred to me that the show might actually back off Robin and Barney being happy together. Not once. They always made sense to me. They made sense to me from the second or third episode I watched (which was somewhere around episode 8 or 10 in the first season) and continued to make sense through everything that happened after. I believed in the two of them together; I believed in the changes they underwent in order to be/as a result of being together. So for the ending to tear that down in order for Ted to finally, after 25 years of trying, get Robin, was just…infuriating.

The infuriating came from several different angles. First, the logic of it was flawed. Robin *always* matched better with Barney than with Ted – more naturally and more convincingly and more touchingly. I BELIEVED it when they had moments, near misses and changing minds and then finally the decision to actually commit to one another. Ted’s obsession with her never felt like real love; it felt like obsession. Additionally, if the reason Robin & Barney didn’t work was her career and the two of them not choosing to recommit to their relationship, what evidence can we find in the narrative that she and Ted would work ANY better? The entire reason she and Ted didn’t work was wanting different things…even at the end what Robin wanted was closer to what Barney did than what Ted did.

Also, on that whole divorce front…obviously we weren’t given the whole discussion between Robin and Barney, but it seems to me that how the conversation went was “Right now, yes, I would take an exit ramp,” and that led to “Then just take it” rather than the two of them facing and choosing to fix the problems. Call me old-fashioned, but that was a petty and stupid reason for them to divorce. It boiled down to them taking the easy way out rather than putting their relationship first. It was letting fear of failure and being hurt make the decision for them, not an actual failure of the relationship. Aside from whether I think they were still in such emotionally stunted places they could not see that, it would actually make more sense, narratively speaking, to see Robin re-marry Barney when he is all settled down and being a dad and her career is no longer pulling her anywhere but New York than for her to go back to Ted.

I keep bringing up the narrative and implying that it led us to Barney and Robin, not Ted and Robin. This is, for the sake of my writing blog, the heart of the problem. The show created an expectation in the audience that it then betrayed when it changed the ending from the logical conclusion of what had come before to…something else.

Exhibit: the time spent on each narrative (Ted and Robin vs. Barney and Robin) was 3 seasons to 6. No matter how many tidbits the show tossed in about Ted or Robin still maybe having feelings for each other or how many last-second “warning signs” they tried to throw in about her and Barney, the fact is that to spend so much longer building up the red herring story creates a false expectation in the viewer and sets up a betrayal of trust. This ending (the mother dying and Ted going back to Robin for one last try) would have worked and been poignant and heartfelt if it happened at the end of season 1, 2, or 3. Possibly even season 4. Not this far in, when the bulk of the story built a different inevitability.

Exhibit: the narrative structure itself. It makes sense that the story wasn’t really about Ted meeting the mother but about Ted overcoming his obsession with Robin. The whole reason the story of how he met the mother started with him meeting Robin was that he was hung up on Robin for 8 years and therefore couldn’t actually fall in love with someone else until he let go of her – the same way the mother was hung up on the guy who died and couldn’t really fall in love with someone else until she let go of him. The show built that dynamic perfectly, including layering in how Ted’s letting go of Robin was what moved her relationship with Barney forward. Including that part of Barney’s “final play” was telling only Ted of his (fake) intention to propose to someone else, knowing that if Ted told Robin it was tantamount to permission to win her permanently. One of the best moments in the last few episodes was Ted letting Robin go and her floating away from him like his red balloon had. That was the moment. That was the point when he became available to truly love.

Exhibit: the implication of Ted going back to Robin after losing his wife is that the mother and their two children were, as Marshall accused Lily of in their last big fight, “just a consolation prize” when Ted’s first dream (Robin) became impossible. The level of insult to his relationship with the mother was on par with Jacob’s creepy imprinting on Bella’s baby and the implication that his interest in her had always been her ovaries and not her. And if your story is reaching Breaking Dawn levels of dubious sincerity, you’ve pretty much failed as a storyteller.

The “twist” ending the show gave its fans was a betrayal of viewer trust. It felt to me like the creators were clinging to an original ending in defiance of the fact that the characters grew and changed in a way they had not anticipated when they came up with that ending – one of the worst sins new writers commit. Sometimes the characters take you for a ride and you end up in a different place than where you thought you would. And that’s okay. A worse explanation (worse in the sense of more insulting) is that the ending was an intentional “switcheroo.” The reason I find that an even more insulting possibility is because a switch that poorly executed is a parlor trick, a truly juvenile piece of showmanship that fails to hold up against scrutiny. See, a real twist ending isn’t really a twist at all – when you go back and revisit the narrative, the signs and hints are all there. The illusion is that the inevitable ending appeared to be a twist when it really wasn’t. In this case, the anticipated ending had been built too well for the twist to feel natural or inevitable. No, it felt plotted and forced, shoehorned onto a story whose natural outcome was something different, not the sort of twist you walk away delighted by, because in retrospect it seems so clear that you want to kick yourself for not seeing it. That is what the creators missed, that a twist ending has to be built into the fabric of the story. Ted’s obsession was, but the failure of Barney and Robin was not.

So…if they needed to go semi-dark rather than a totally happy ending, the mother still could have died by the time Ted is telling the children the story, and that casts the whole of it into a bittersweet shade of nostalgia. If they wanted to go darker yet, then the wife left Ted and his children pick up on the fact that he is still and always has been in love with Robin (which implies that’s why his wife left him)…and he takes a walk and sadly stares into a window where Barney and Robin are celebrating their 20th anniversary or something.

The consolation of Ted getting Robin in the end did not make up for the tragedy of either the mother dying or Robin and Barney not working, as the Ted/Robin pairing is the lesser for both of them, so to pretend that it’s some happiest ending we should all clap for is ridiculous. All I can say, if this was supposed to be the real narrative, is that when Ted says the second-greatest love story ever was about Maggie, the ultimate girl next door, and her window that closed for the last time with her childhood sweetheart, then first greatest was Marshall and Lily, AKA the only demonstration of actual love in the show.

Leave a comment

Filed under Film, Ramblings, Rants and Storms

Associative Memory

I woke up this morning thinking about the night my godmother died. Her passing was the first of two events for which I have spent significant time in a hospital (not as a patient in either case), and my subconscious dredged up memories of that time probably because I am nearing the clinical definition of full-term with my pregnancy and could thus be making my own hospital stay at any point in the next 5 or so weeks.

The power of a single moment, or series of moments, to echo with what feels like near-perfect reverberation years to decades later is amazing. It unleashes the same feelings, if a muted version of what you felt in that moment.

What I woke up thinking about what the last time she woke up. She had been in a comatose state on and off for about a day and a half; her initial admission to the hospital allowed some hope that the end was not imminent but that disappeared when she slipped into the sleeping state. Her cancer was too aggressive, and she was too tired to fight. My godmother was my mother’s best friend – they had been best friends since childhood. I had my own friendship with her, and in a lot of ways at the time of her death I was closer with her than my mom was. My godmother’s husband had called my mom to drive him to and from the hospital because he was, at that point, pretty foxed. My godmother woke up the last time while my mom was in transit one way or the other (at this point I don’t remember which). It left me and here brother and nephew in the room with her. She woke up, or at least her eyes opened enough to see that she was not alone, and she simply said “I’m dying. I’m dying.” And the three of us said, in our various ways, that we know, and it’s okay, and we love you. She said “See you sometime, somewhere” and slipped back under the waves for a few more hours before passing in her sleep.

What I have never known and will never know is if, in that last moment of waking, she saw me or my mother. (I have been told my whole life that I look like my mom, and when I see pictures of us together now that I am an adult I understand why people say it.) I don’t care which of us she saw standing there; I hope it was whichever of us would have been more of a comfort to her in that moment.

It’s been a long time since I thought about that night in much detail. Probably part of what brings it up now is my impending transition to motherhood with all its tangled connections (such as the above me/my mom thing, although with my son it is more likely to be a him/my husband thing) and also just that I haven’t seen much of hospitals and that was if not my very first memory of one certainly my most formative memory of one.

2 Comments

Filed under Ramblings

Current Cover Design Trend Grievance

I pay attention to the covers of the romance novels I read (or look at) in part because, as a self-publisher, I should be aware of trends, but in all honesty mostly because I am the sort of reader who is sensitive to covers and always has been.

For example, I have always found it difficult to even examine, much less purchase, the romances that had shirtless men all over the covers. To me that cover treatment just screamed “illogical sex-fest aimed at lowest common denominator reader” AKA not the droid book I’m looking for. Even now, with ebooks that I don’t have to carry to the register, I still tend to not look at books with that cover style unless the title or author was specifically recommended to me.

The thing that is bothering me lately is women in modern formal dresses against some generic background that may or may not actually be historical on the covers of historical romances. The covers themselves aren’t explicitly an issue; it’s covers like that combined with a description that does not make clear whether the book is set in a different era or modern times. See, you can get away with a cover that doesn’t talk about what year it is or what war is looming/just finished, etc., if you have, you know, ACTUAL historical dress on the cover model. But if you are going to use a prom dress as your “mistorical fiction” denominator, then your back copy had damn well better be clear about when and where your story is set.

I’ve lost track of the number of books I’ve seen lately that have this dynamic. It’s annoying. I don’t want to sound like I am the sort of person who will ONLY read in my little niche, but at the same time–I want to know what I’m buying. I want to be sure it’s the kind of book I’m actually in the mood for. Part of branding and marketing your book correctly (by which I mean, giving it every chance to catch the eye of the right kind of reader, should they stumble across it) is to make unambiguously clear what your book actually is.

What’s even more disheartening to me is that the actual trend seems to be reserving accurate historical dress for the Amish and Christian romances – though at least most of them do a good job of self-identifying by talking about God or faith in the back copy, so I can avoid them. No offense to religion intended; I don’t mind having faith play a part in the story if it is a part of a character’s life, but I am not looking for the stories that specifically include it as a plot point, nor am I looking for all the other trappings that go along with religiously-oriented romance. I just also find it annoying that 90% of the time I click on a description because I like the cover and its actual historicalness, the book turns out to be in a subgenre I don’t want to read. And the more historical dress on the cover comes to be equated with stodgy ole religious romances, the more entrenched the stupid modern Cinderella prom dress as analog to “any period from the Enlightenment to the Edwardian” will become.

I am officially filing a pet peeve on this one.

2 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Rants and Storms, Reflections on Romance

Heroes Vs. Mentors

Just a random thought while catching up on The Voice about the established creators whom younger artists choose as mentors. Some of the time the young singers will pick their hero – I notice most of the time this happens it’s a young girl who idolizes either Shakira or Christina – but generally the people who walk in acknowledging being a huge fan of one of the coaches end up picking someone else to be their coach…often to their own surprise.

I have thought about this for a couple seasons now, and I have a theory: when you’re actually faced with your hero, do you really want them to see you in all your flaws?

This is actually something that has crossed my mind before. There is a SFF book conference that takes place in the town I went to college, which one of my all-time favorite writers – perhaps my very all-time favorite – attends almost every year and regularly participates in the writing mentor section for as one of the judges/mentors for the sessions. I attended the conference once right after I graduated and moved away, specifically to meet her (it was awesome) and considered going back the next for the writing portion. I even emailed the coordinator to ask if I could request placement in a particular mentor’s group, thinking of course I would want to be in hers. And then I thought about it some more. Did I really want my hero to be the one to tell me my work was awful? Did I want to be placed under the microscope by one of the writers I was, at the time, essentially trying to emulate, who might just think me a milquetoast impersonator? Did I really want to blur the lines between being a fan and being a colleague like that?

For me the answer was no – no, I didn’t want any of those things with my hero. I wanted her to remain my hero, and I would find a mentor elsewhere, if I needed one. (And in the end I decided not to go back and do the writing portion, because my absolute fear of writing groups was not going to be overcome by anything less compelling than a desire to form a mentoring relationship with a writer I have looked up to since I was 13.)

I think a lot of the singers who audition end up in that place. It’s gratifying to have your hero say “I want you on my team,” but in the end you can probably learn more from someone whom you can regard as a more experienced artist but immediately as a colleague/peer, because you have never put them on a pedestal, than someone you idolize.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized