Thursday, February 24, 2011

Narcissistic is the New Insightful: Cranky Book Review

OH MY GOD I'M SO SICK. On the whole I still feel better than I did on Saturday. But having turfed the inhaler that was making me nauseous, I have had a few coughing attacks that have bordered on the truly frightening -- blood vessels bursting in my eyes, feeling like my jaw is going to dislocate, unable to keep my balance. My voice sounds like this. My kids are kind of freaked out, which also means they're being very sweet and helpful (but they're freaked out. Angus passed me last night in the kitchen bent over the sink in case I coughed until I projectile-vomited again and went upstairs, and then Eve came down and said 'Angus said I shouldn't come down. He said you were coughing a lot and I should wait and see you upstairs.')

So I'm going to do a book review, because I haven't been doing enough book reviews, and I'm not sure it's fair to do it cranky, because the book already made me a little cranky, but what the hell, I've never made any pretenses to objectivity.

The book is called Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman, a pretty blonde New Yorker who found herself at loose ends after college and ended up dabbling in money laundering for a West African heroin operation. She fell into this through her lesbian affair with Nora, a woman who was higher up in the operation, and she got out of it fairly quickly. She then went on to meet and become engaged to a man and went on with her life until ten years or so later her actions caught up with her and she ended up serving thirteen months in a minimum security prison for money laundering and drug trafficking. This book is about her year (or so) behind bars.

First of all, the year thing immediately flags the book for me as one of those "my year doing (insert kooky madcap stunt that shows my whimsical, creative, one-of-a-kind nature) in order to get a book deal" books. I've read a few of these, and liked them (Not Buying it, by Judith Levine, springs to mind as a thoughtful, well-written example), but it's gotten a bit ridiculous -- living Biblically, obeying Oprah, having sex every day, etc. etc. I can't even make up one, like "I'm going to only live on what I can buy with Canadian Tire money for one year" or "for one year I'm going to do everything backwards" because I'm afraid I'll open the paper and find it there, like today when I read about a man who's going to open a fortune cookie and live by the fortune every day for... you guessed it.

It's really not fair to lump Kerman's book in with these, because presumably she would have avoided going to jail for a year if she could, and the book deal probably fell right in her lap, and I'm sure the poor woman had legal bills. But write the book she did, and clearly the title shows that neither she nor her publisher are averse to capitalizing on the trend, so have at it I will.

There were a couple ways this could have gone. If Kerman was a fantastic writer, she could have produced a vivid rendering of what it's like to have your freedom taken away, to have someone tell you when and what you get to eat, when you get to bathe and sleep. There's a little of this, but it doesn't go very deep. If she was the crusading type, she could have made it her mission to examine what happens to imprisoned women who aren't white and middle class, and see what she could do to change it. She's not the crusading type. She makes some noises about how she understands that she had it easier than most because of her colour and class and the fact that she had people outside sending her a constant stream of money and books. She is pleasantly surprised about how many of the other women are nurturing and helpful rather than out to rape and beat her, (and when one of the other women makes appreciative remarks about her breasts, Kerman finds this flattering rather than threatening), but she doesn't really seem to get the vast mantle of privilege that separates her from them, or she doesn't want to examine it too closely -- which, to be fair, is probably the exact way I would react if I was in the same situation. Kerman had a supportive fiancé, an unconditionally loving family and even a job waiting for her at the end of her sentence -- a 'generous friend' had started his own company and created a position for her. Most of the other women presumably had lives of the same poverty and lack of opportunity that drove them to commit the offences that landed them in jail in the first place waiting for them.

I'm not sure the fact that she was in a minimum security facility is emphasized enough. It wasn't a five-star resort by any means, but Kerman was adequately fed, sheltered and never feared for her health or safety -- in fact, the less-than-appetizing fare and the running track to which she had frequent access led visitors to repeatedly tell her how fantastic she looked (maybe her next book will be called The Jailhouse Diet - thirteen months to a completely reformed shape). I don't know if I was expecting Oz with women, but this was pretty tame. Not that I'm dying to go to jail or anything, but you know what they say, if you can't do the time, don't be a douche.

She doesn't follow up on any of the women she was incarcerated with. The book ends when she's released and runs into her fiancé's arms. As a jailhouse diary, it's perfectly adequate, but it doesn't amount to much more than low-level voyeurism; I was hoping for something a little more substantial.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Random Pictures of Eve Rockin' the 'Tude

Kelly at The Miller Mix was showcasing her pint-sized diva today. I'm sick and uninspired and all about being derivative:

















Tuesday, February 22, 2011

....and now less so

Have I mentioned that I love you all and you look pretty? Thank-you for saying the stuff that I knew I should be telling myself but all sounds more logical and believable coming from someone else.

Family day was good. We took the kids for a walk on the Jack Pine Trail to try to feed some chickadees. We saw squirrels, woodpeckers and yes, chickadees, but they were all overfed and ungrateful chickadees who wouldn't condescend to eat from our hands this time. We'll have to go back and steal all their feeder seeds and then see who is too good to eat off of whose mittens. Hmph. It was a nice walk anyway, sunny and cold and pretty. The frozen sap in the trees was creaking and groaning and the trees were swaying -- Angus said it sounded kind of like it did on the ship when the ocean got rough. Except this time I didn't throw up, because I finally figured out by process of elimination that it was one of my inhalers making me hurl. Funny how a few days of crippling nausea and vomiting can make simply coughing until you become incontinent seem like a vacation by comparison.

After the walk we went to the movies. To change it up, since I do a lot of things with Eve and Matt does a lot of things with Angus, we decided that Matt would take Eve to Gnomeo and Juliet and I would take Angus to I Am Number Four -- they were playing five minutes apart and only ten minutes' difference in length. We got there pretty early, and Angus and I did actually have a conversation of sorts while we were sitting in the theatre -- not about anything earth-shattering, but he spoke in sentences of more than two words, and I call that a victory. Somebody had told me they read a review that said I Am Number Four made Twilight (the movie) look like Gone With the Wind, so I was apprehensive, but it was surprisingly....bearable. And Angus enjoyed it -- even the part where he lost his tooth in a Starburst fruit chew.

It was a good day. Eve was musing on one of the girls in her class whose an only child with divorced parents -- Eve was worried about how they would decide who got her on Family Day. I felt happy and grateful to be in a family where this wasn't an issue.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sick and Sad and Scared

I don't feel well. I don't have cancer. Our friend Carlo, a nice man and great baseball coach who's been fantastic with Angus has cancer. Susan from Toddler Planet has cancer. Patti's friend Denise has cancer. I'm just having a little go-round with the frailty of the body, and discovering that 'mind over matter' is largely a wagonload of horseshit, and it's unpleasant. I've had something respiratory sucking the energy out of me since January, and now something I'm taking for that -- my inhaler or the antibiotics or the cough stuff I take at night -- is making me unable to keep any food down for the majority of the day, and unable to move without feeling dizzy and really nauseous before I throw everything up. The kids are kind of worried and freaked out and I feel guilty about the stuff I can't do with them and frustrated and a little scared because I know it's probably nothing major but it's just so weird and I can't figure out what I should stop taking, or if I should just try not eating, and I felt like I was wrecking our long p.d. day-family day weekend. And really sick people feel like this for months at a time and I can't even imagine that -- except today I can, and it's scary.

So I had breakfast, then curled up in my chair feeling miserable for a while, then threw up breakfast, then laid down. The kids came home from baseball and Eve got back into her feet pajamas and tucked herself in beside me to read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing while I dozed. She read me funny parts and patted my back when I coughed and once she giggled and said my tummy sounded funny. At the end of the book (spoiler alert) Fudge the little brother swallows Peter's (the big brother's) turtle, and everyone's really worried about Fudge and not about the turtle, and Eve was extremely indignant on behalf of Peter and the turtle. I could see her point. My husband went grocery shopping and came home and said he was broiling steaks and I couldn't stop him (because yesterday he was going to try to make hamburgers in the oven, and I stopped him). Then I got up and our next door neighbour came over to play with Eve so Matt and I watched Terminator 2 with Angus. And there was this elevator scene where the kid hands his mother a new ammo cartridge and Angus said "how sweet. The mother and son that know how to reload guns together", which was awesome because I was about to say the exact same thing.

You know where I'm going with this, right? I know -- how annoying is it that just when I'm about to work up a great load of self-pity, my kids are all charming and funny and telling me they love me every five minutes and they hope I stop barfing, especially when they can hear because that's, like, really disgusting.

How's your week-end going?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Laughter is the best medicine. Well, no, antibiotics are the best medicine. But laughter is good.

Made it to the doctor, finally. Doesn't it suck that you have to go to the doctor when you're sick? I mean, figuring out who's going to get the kids after school, fighting the downtown traffic, squeezing into the parking lot, taking off your slushy boots and figuring out whether it's better to get wet socks or put the little booties on and feel like a moron -- all of that is not fun when you're in tiptop shape. When you're sneezing/wheezing/hacking/shivery/achy it borders on cruel and unusual punishment.

So it turns out I really am sick. Aggravated airways, raging sinus infection, chest infection -- I think my eyebrows might be infected. My doctor prescribed a double round of antibiotics and told me I should go home and go to bed. Then we laughed because, as if. But still, it was nice to hear. I'm all about external validation, and if it comes in the guise of "no, you're not just lazy, you really are packed to the rafters with nasty, life-sapping bacteria", I'll take it.

There was a man in the waiting room when I got there trying to get a hold of his wife on the phone. He was saying "it's kind of an emergency. I'm at the doctor's, and my temperature's rising and she thinks I'm having an attack". He kept getting passed from person to person and repeating the story, and I felt bad for him, but more than anything I really wanted to know what kind of attack. The nurse called me before he had gotten his wife, and I could barely restrain myself from grabbing his shoulder and yelling "I'm sorry, I know it's inappropriate, but I HAVE TO KNOW" as security dragged me out. And this is why I don't ride buses very often.

Pam and I went down to Hintonburg on Friday to amble around the neighbourhood before we picked up the canvas and paintings from Eve's party. It was sunny and not too cold, and it was fun looking around the little stores full of beautiful hand-made clothing, quirky accessories and the odd collection of pornographic greeting cards. We had lunch in a little cafe that served us sandwiches on homemade bread, with cupcakes on the side, and the waitress said, I shit you not, "we're out of carrot sticks so I gave you cupcakes instead. I hope that's okay." So obviously we got up and stormed out, vowing never to return. Pam lost her mittens. We looked all over for Pam's mittens and couldn't find them. Then we got back in the car and Pam found her mittens. Why do they not make grown-up mittens with the strings that go through your coat? I would buy them. And not just for Pam.

Friday night I stumbled over a Saturday Night Live collection of their commercial parodies on Netflix. I put it on while the kids were around. This was not one of my better judgement calls. The adult diapers were bad enough, but then I tried to fast forward through one that was obviously VERY inappropriate, and managed to stop just in time for Tina Fey to say "Woomba. It cleans my business -- my lady business". Very shortly we were feeling quite nostalgic for 'Oops I crapped my pants' adults diapers. Still, every now and then it's good for the family to share in a good bout of uncontrollable, cheek-stretching, can't-catch-your-breath laughter. If it comes at the expense of responsible parenting, so be it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Naked Truth

I've done everything possible to avoid blogging for the last couple of days, from cleaning the kitchen to sorting obsessively through old photos, from sleeping eighteen hours to cutting out twenty-three paper hearts for Eve's valentines. There's a pair of boys' cargo pants sitting on the dresser by the front door that we bought at Wal-Mart before the cruise because Angus had no lightweight pants for formal night, so we went to Wal-Mart the night before we left even though I hate Wal-Mart and hate it even more now that they have groceries, and bought two pairs of pants in two different sizes so we could return the one that didn't fit, and then I washed the ones that fit before we left and left them in the dryer and forgot to pack them anyway (fuck) and now the pair that didn't fit is on top of the dresser and I keep opening the top drawer to verify that I have the receipt but I still keep not taking them back because, well, I HATE Wal-Mart, and I'm not sure the wretched Wal-Mart experience is actually worth the eleven dollars, and this just seems like a giant stupid metaphor for my life right now, because I'm just so almighty buggerfucking tired, and I sleep too much and drag myself around to get the bare minimum done, and looking at all the stuff left over after the bare minimum makes me feel horrible and guilty, which just makes me more tired..... and this is perhaps why I've been avoiding blogging, because once you uncork the sludge in my brain it's a most unsavoury stream of bleck that comes flooding out.

So I read a couple of blog posts this week about naked people. Specifically, blog posts that objected to people being unashamedly naked in the gym change room. Actually, one blog post finished up by concluding that she probably shouldn't be objecting to the naked person -- the other one was unapologetically against the naked person being naked, even though the person in question was nice and helpful. Now I'm not trying to take a stand against either of these bloggers -- one of them I really like and one I don't even know, and in any case both posts were clearly meant to be funny, not hurtful, because the people in question would be highly unlikely to see them. It's just that they reminded me of a couple of things. One was a few years ago when Jamie Lee Curtis posed in her underwear, in all her fifty-ish un-surgically-enhanced, slightly saggy glory. The other one was a picture of an old woman, about seventy, naked, taken from the side. She was not 'well-preserved', 'fantastic-looking for her age', and bore no resemblance to Sophia Loren or Catherine Deneuve. Life, childbirth and gravity had clearly taken their toll. Both of these photos generated letters that were very surprising to me in their disgust and vocal objections to having these photos printed. There were phrases like "I have no interest in seeing something like that" and "that is not something that should ever be photographed" and "oh god, my eyes, my eyes" (okay, I'm paraphrasing, but the implication was there). The comments on these posts were similar -- the tenor of the conversation was, if you MUST change clothes at the gym, then go ahead, but please spend as little time with exposed skin as possible, and for the love of god, don't go wandering around where someone else might accidentally see you and be struck blind or something.

And it sort of makes me think, what the hell? If somebody is comfortable enough in their own skin to stroll around the gym changeroom, put on makeup or skin lotion, be photographed for a magazine, and this makes you cringe, is it at all possible that you're the one with the problem, and not the naked person? There's enough talk about how our society is obsessed with looks and youth and perfection that one might think we'd be appauding someone who's clearly not too hysterically repressed to let it all hang out (in the women's changeroom, remember -- it's not like they were strolling down the median of the 417 or something).

I don't like how I look naked. I don't like how things bulge out and hang down where I'd rather they didn't. But I didn't like how I looked naked when I was younger and firmer and pre-stuffed-with-baby and all the issues that came along with that either. The female body is a freaking marvel, when you think about it. It can grow a whole other person, and withstand great pain in order to put this other person into the world. It can generate food for its young. And when people see it in its natural state, what they really want to say is "cover that thing up"?

I'm not comfortable being naked around other people. But I definitely recognize that as my hang-up. If someone else doesn't have that hang-up, more power to them.

And now, because I feel like that ending was kind of lame, I will conclude with the first thing that popped up when I googled 'naked jokes':

Sunbathing in the Buff

A man was sunbathing in the buff at the beach. For the sake of civility, and to keep it from getting sunburned, he had a hat over his private parts.

A woman walks past and says, snickering, "If you were a gentleman you'd lift your hat."

He raised an eyebrow and replied, "If you weren't so ugly it would lift itself".

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grayness. And Colour.

Everything kind of sucks. I've had one kid or another home from school at least one day a week for three weeks now, I thought I was better but it turns out my cough from hell was just giving me a three or four day lull so it would be doubly dispiriting when it showed up, it's cold, my house is a mess and no matter how much I stare at the mess with hatred and disgust it refuses to melt away either from shame or in helpless acquiescence to my focused mental power. So much for my focused mental power - guess I should stop exposing it to bad medical dramas. Today we found out that one of my husband's really good friends from baseball coaching is going for brain surgery tomorrow, after he collapsed last week and they found several growths in his brain. So now I feel awful for him and his family, and a little extra self-loathing for my petty crap, and yet I still don't feel especially inspired or suddenly un-petty.

I'm going to show you the pictures of Eve's birthday party because it was a wonderful party and she deserves to be celebrated. I have yet again not written a letter to her on her birthday, although this year I actually did think about it on the actual right day. Then I decided it just didn't feel like me. I could not be happier or more grateful to have her in my life. She's like a package of music and colour and wisdom and goofiness and hilarity that I get to open every single day. Last night she whipped her dress over her head while getting ready for bed and said 'ya wanna kiss my eight-year-old tummy?' I totally did.

This is where we went for her birthday (and where I'm pretty sure I now want to go for my birthday). The minute I mentioned the words 'paint splatter party' to her a few months ago, it was never going to be anywhere but here:



This is Eve's face when she got a look at the splatter room:



They threw paint at the walls:



They threw paint at the floor:



They were under strict orders not to throw paint at each other, but, well...



Then the paint-filled balloons came out, and Eve lost the power of speech for a few seconds:



I got this just from standing in the doorway:



Then we broke for snacks, and these...



...and the total kitchen carnage they generated...



...were a big hit...



...so that was nice...



I'm pretty sure paint splattering is an unsuspected and underused cure for most, if not all, of the world's ills. I might call and see if they can fit me in tomorrow morning.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thoughts upon watching too much tv on a Friday Night

Is there really any doubt that a company called Massive Dynamic is going to be evil and soulless and perform horrible experiments that pervert the human form and fly in the face of nature?

Is there anyone in this doctor's office who hasn't slept with any available partner of the opposite sex? And given the fact that one member of the staff has died after a car accident shortly after losing his wife in a meth lab explosion, one was attacked and had her baby slashed out of her and one was beaten up in her office, why in hell do people keep applying to work there? And how do they have time to treat any damned patients in between humping each other in closets, sewing each other up and helping each other through their various traumas?

This was freakin' hilarious. No complaints there.

I want to shoot the mini-pop kids.

You know when you're watching a show about doctors and then you fast-forward through the commercials and then there's a commercial that's about doctors and it makes you think the show is back on so you press play and then it's a commercial? I hate that.

Sometimes when I'm watching a show and someone takes a video of someone and then plays it, I think "wow, she looks so much better than I do in video", and then I realize well, yeah, the whole thing is a video so I already knew that.

I should have just read a book.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Helping With Hair















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