Friday, July 22, 2011

Things I Learned on My Trip to Charlotte

Patrica Williams Lessane and I went on an overnight trip to Charlotte to the Harvey Gantt Center to see Marcia Jones talk about her pieces in the Live and In Stereo(type) exhibit.  One of her images is below. I don't know if you can tell, but that's Michelle Obama's face on those million dollar bills.

Art by Marcia Jones

In any case, here's what I learned:
  • Hardee's has a fried bologna breakfast biscuit.  I didn't have one.  I'm kind of amazed that it exists at all.
  • Charlotte is a big city, with skyscrapers and everything. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I had the same reaction when I went to Cincinatti in March.  Clearly I need study up on my U.S. geography.
  • While I love being in a hotel so I can sleep in a bed without my children and my children's stuff, I still find it incredibly disorienting to wake up somewhere other than my own home.
  • You should definitely avoid hotels with a B rating.  I swear they were shooting porn in the hotel where we stayed.
  • And, finally, the other artist in the exhibit was Fahamu Pecou.  One of his images is below (it's called "Warn A Brother").  He wasn't at the talk, but I'm dying to meet him.  He may be my soulmate.  (Don't tell Brian.)
"WAB2" by Fahamu Pecou

Monday, July 18, 2011

Throwing Out the Script

There should be more stories about Cate on this blog.  Not just because Cate is amazing in all sorts of ways that still surprise me, but also because hers is a happy life and more parents with kids who have Sensory Processing Disorder probably need to be told that.

At a birthday party recently I talked to another mom whose son just got a diagnosis that's different than Cate's (she has SPD), but whose therapies are similar (OT, social stories, among other things).  I was struck in this conversation by two things.  First, she had all the same concerns and questions and feelings that I had before and after Cate's diagnosis.  I thought we had done something wrong (we didn't read enough to her in the womb, we should have put in her childcare earlier, we should have sung more songs), I didn't know whether I should tell people about her SPD, it continues to be difficult to explain to Frances why Cate has modified rules.  We had a great talk about strategies for all those things.

I was also struck, though, by how much of our conversartion was about re-writing the story we had in our heads about our kids.  We both have first daughters who are gorgeous and smart and outgoing and fabulous in all the ways you might want for your daughter.  Those first daughters have done very little to challenge our notions of what it means to be a parent or what it means to be a member of human society.  But these second kids--so many things we had planned, so many things we assumed to be true, so many things we took for granted are suddenly gone.  We are having to write this new story as we go along.

It's been more than a year since Cate got her diagnosis and I find myself loving this task of writing a new story (though it's not without its anxieties) and also realzing that Frances' life should also be lived without a script.  This mom just got her child's diagnosis and I sensed that she had a lot of grief about having to let go of her script and that it helped to find someone who understood how that felt.  And who wasn't still grief-stricken about the process.

So maybe I'll share some more stories about Cate in all her awesome-ness and about Frances, who also continues to be amazing (even if she is moody all of the time now), and how life goes on, even off-script.

Friday, July 08, 2011

5 Things I Could Live Without In Romance Novels

Before we begin: This is not an anti-romance post.  I read lots of romance novels. I adore romantic comedies. I'm doing academic work on romances.  I don't hate romance novels.  I'm only saying these things because I care.

1. Stop with the Alpha Males
I know. Strong, successful, assertive, masculine (in the most traditional sense), serious--all these things are sexy.  I tend to agree.  You know what's not sexy? Arrogant, entitled, possessive, taciturn jerks.  Romance writers, you've got to give me a reason to like the guy.  Otherwise, I'm going to hate him and think the heroine's stupid for swooning over him.

2. Passive Heroines
I don't need my heroines to be Lara Croft traipsing all over the globe for treasure or Scarlet O'Hara making dresses out of curtains.  I do need her, though, to do something other than think about the hero.  Maybe it's just me, but I think great drama can from two together people with a lot going for them being suddenly confronted with having to make space for a partner.  That kind of conflict can only happen, though, if the heroine is doing more than waiting for the hero to wander into her coffee shop.

3. Love at First Sight
Yes, it's romantic.  But when you're writing category romance and you only have a couple of hundred pages to get the guy and the girl together, love at first sight reads as rushed and unbelievable.  Maybe I've been reading too many category books lately, but I like romance that has seduction, where the two leads slowly fall, where they don't realize they're hooked until they're in too deep.  Love at first sight takes some of the romance out of romance for me.

4. Occupations that make no sense
You can not be a 27 year old college professor with tenure and three award winning books.  You just can't.  You can't be 30 with an M.D. in psychiatry and a PhD in psychology, a thriving medical practice, and a thriving career as a self-help author.  You just can't.  You can't be a successful musician who spends no time practicing.  Stop it.

5. Deep Dark Secrets That are Neither Deep nor Dark
Here is a good secret: at 17 you became pregnant with your boyfriend's baby.  You find out this information right after the two of you have a big fight and break up.  Instead of telling him about the baby, you have an abortion. After the abortion the two of you reconcile, but the weight of what you've done, the fear of how he might react if he finds out, keeps you from getting back together with him. You grow apart after the two of you go away to college.  15 years later you  meet up again and the attraction is still there, but you can't pursue it unless you tell him your secret.  You still don't how he will react, but you feel this relationship might be worth it. 

I'd read that story.

You know what else is a good secret?  The fact that you used to work as a professional escort.  I'd read that story, too.

Bad secrets:
  • you gave up a dead man's baby for adoption 16 years ago--so what?
  • your ex-fiance killed your father and now he is after you--why haven't you called the police?
  • your dead father is an alcoholic--again, so what?
In other words--good secrets have the potential to have a serious negative effect on the central relationship of the story, that of the hero and heroine.  Bad secrets are ones that would have no effect.  If you promise me a deep dark secret, romance authors, you'd better deliver.