Monday, January 28, 2008

Boy Books and Girl Books

(cross-posted from the other blog...)

This month I remember my past, and look at my son's future...

When I was in the tenth grade our English class took on "coming of age" novels. We read The Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, and (one of my favorite, though still under-read, boarding school novels) Good Times/Bad Times. All three are set in single-sex boys' boarding schools, and there are few women or girls in them. My (male) teacher, I remember, told us we should be able to "identify" with these characters because they were teenagers like us.

Did I mention that this was an all-girl class? Did I even notice, at the time, that we had read not one novel about a girl?

This column may not actually go in the direction you expect it...let me know what you think!

How'd I do?

Caution: Not very interesting post about my life, ahead...

Since I noted below on the random things meme all the things I'd be doing this past weekend, I thought I should see how I did.

Not too well.

I did get the laundry done. And I did some knitting and watching sports (boring Mavericks game, alas). And I did actually get the PTSA newsletter out, too, despite receiving a last-minute update from one of my student correspondents after I'd already sent it on to the tech guy to post on the web. But the financial aid and tax forms? I didn't touch them. Didn't touch my ChLA reading, either, though I have a book and a half to finish by Thursday.

The really good news of the weekend, though, was that I seem to have dodged Nick's cold. He spent both Friday and today home from school with it, and didn't leave the house all weekend, but so far (fingers crossed) no one else is sick. We are all, however, sick of Sponge Bob. Me especially.

Today I got back to the financial aid forms and they will be done tomorrow. And I think I have some more reading to do, now.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Random things meme

I got this from Susan--thanks!

1. Spell my name as it sounds: um, Libby

2. Am I a worrier? Yes. I worry much more than I regret. I like to think of it as insurance--if I worry, it won't happen. (This does not always work, btw.)

3. What’s my favorite CD? Right now I'm listening a lot to James Taylor's "One Man Band," but I always come back to Hem's "Rabbit Songs."

4. Favorite colour(s)? Anything in the red-purple-pink family.

5. Does my home have an attic? Yes. It's Mariah's room.

6. Have I ever been to Canada? Yes, several times. I spent part of my honeymoon there (waves to Susan!).

7. Have I ever gone fishing? As a kid at fish farms.

8. Have I ever seen a celebrity? Yes.

9. Have I ever been on a motorcycle? Yes, but when I tried to drive it myself I dumped it in the first thirty seconds and gave up.

10. How much money do I have on me right now? I'm in my pajamas right now, so nothing. But there's $70 and change in my wallet. (Soon to be depleted by Saturday allowances...)

11. How many cars have I owned? Seven. (Only one on my own--all the rest co-owned.)

12. How many jobs have I had? Six since graduating from college. Lots more before.

13. How tall am I? 5'7" and a bit.

14. Last person to call me: sigh. The Democratic Party of Virginia. Last one I talked to? Mariah.

15. Last thing I yelled out loud: "Supper's Ready!"

16. Last person I was in a car with: Nick and Mariah.

17. Last time I ate at McDonald’s: I can't remember.

18. Last thing I bought: Snacks for the kids at Starbucks.

19. Last person I saw: Nick.

20. Last time I cried: Last weekend, in frustration.

21. Last time I laughed: This morning at something Nick showed me.

22. What is the temperature outside? 34F.

23. What time of the day did I get married? Morning--around 10:30. (I don't like to wait.)

24. What did I do two nights ago? Choir rehearsal.

25. Who’s birthday is coming up next? Mine!

26. What time did I go to bed last night? Around 10pm--nice and early.

27. What was the first thing I thought this morning? I hope I haven't gotten Nick's cold.

28. What are my plans for this weekend? Read for the ChLA book award. Send out the PTSA newsletter. Finish the taxes and the financial aid forms. Laundry. Watch sports and knit.

29. Lemonade or iced tea? Lemonade.

30. What do I dislike at this moment? The mess on my dining room table which represents the unfinished financial aid forms.

31. What did I dream about last night? I don't remember.

32. What’s the last TV show I watched? Do sports count? The end of a boring game between the Orlando Magic and the Detroit Pistons.

33. What is my favorite piece of jewelry? Wedding ring.

34. Am I a dancer? Um, no.

35. Have I ever cut my own hair? Just my bangs.

36. What is my favorite treat? Time. And very dark chocolate. Red wine is ok, too.

37. How many piercings/tattoos do I have? My ears are pierced, with two holes on one side and one on the other. That's it.

38. Where’s my favorite place to be? It depends on my mood. The beach is always good, though.

39. Is there someone I haven’t seen in a while and miss? Yes, several! Mostly friends from college and grad school.

40. Who was the last text I sent to? Mariah.

41. Do I care what strangers think about me? More than I should, probably.

42. Last person I talked to on Instant Messenger: Sorry, I'm a dinosaur.

43. Last person to make me cry: That would be me.

44. Who can I tell anything to? Myself. That's what writing's for.

45. What am I doing tomorrow? Same as today--see #28.

46. Do I have alcohol in my home? A few bottles of wine, some bourbon, random liqueurs, sherry and brandy.

47. Do I like ketchup? On burgers and fries.

48. Do I think I will be on a vacation this summer? Yes! For at least a week--in France.

49. What colour is my master bathroom? Blue-green.

50. Do I wear a bikini at the beach? No, no, no.

51. Have I ever been to the Grand Canyon? I'm saying no here because I can't remember, and surely I would remember?

52. What is my favorite fruit? Fresh peaches in season--I'll eat one every day until they're out of season again. Really good pears when I can get them, which is not often enough.

53. What did I really want to do today? Sleep in. Breakfast in bed. Read something I don't have to.

54. Am I always cold? In the winter in my house, yes. I'm usually the wrong temperature, too hot in summer, too cold in winter.

55. Does it annoy me when someone says they’ll call or text, but don’t? Yes. A lot.

If you have a blog, feel free to do this one--or answer in the comments if you don't!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

In lieu of content

I've been too busy reading lately to do much new writing, and the blog is suffering. So, in lieu of new words, I give you pictures! When I can't read any more, I find I can still knit--so I have been doing plenty of knitting the past few months. Here are a few new(ish) finished objects.

First, the Christmas knitting. Much less than last year, but still a reasonable amount. Over there somewhere (I am fighting this layout and it is winning), a cabled neckwarmer for Mariah. Below (or somewhere else), slippers for my sister (blue and cream) and brother (red and gray).

Then I knitted these (those, you know, over there) mittens for Mark (like the slippers, they are felted to make them extra-sturdy and warm). Then Christmas was over, and I did a little knitting for myself: the blue ladder shawl (which I just finished last night, and wore today), and the lovely party lace scarf, my first venture into beaded knitting. (That one took me almost a year, but I didn't work on it from about last February until the end of December.) I've just started another shawl (again with the shawls!) tonight.

Thank goodness for knitting.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mother Talk Blog Tour: Body Drama

I don't read a lot of self-help books. (Even if I did, Jennifer Niesslein could probably cure me of it.) But every now and then a book comes along that seems to transcend the genre. For my generation, it was probably Our Bodies, Ourselves, the feminist women's health bible that covered topics many of us were too embarrassed (or, frankly, too clueless) to ask our mothers or our doctors. But I remember coming upon OBOS when I was a teenager and finding it a little daunting--it went into too much detail about things I wasn't ready for, and assumed a maturity and experience level that I hadn't yet reached. Yet as a teenager I had a lot of questions that a book like OBOS could have addressed, and I wasn't sure where to get the answers.

Fast forward many years. I hate to admit how long it's been since I was a teenager, but suffice it to say my own daughter is only two years away from leaving her teens. So when I got a copy of Body Drama from the MotherTalk folks, I actually handed it over to her first. She was enthusiastic, if unspecific--she thought it was great, particularly for girls a little younger than her (I'd guess the target age group is 13-16 or so, though some might think it's a bit higher). She liked the way it focused on all kinds of bodies and all kinds of experiences. So consider that an endorsement. I'm going to give the book back to her when I'm done, because I think it could still be a useful reference book as she heads off to college in the fall. (How to select a piercer or tattoo artist comes to mind. Sigh.)

As I read through the book this morning I was struck especially by its accessible voice. Nancy Redd, with a Harvard degree in Women's Studies and beauty pageant success behind her, speaks directly and accessibly to girls and young women. Without condescending, she addresses a wide range of concerns--broad ones, from "should this smell like that?" to "do other people look like this?" and narrower ones, from "are mouth piercings safe?" to "what is a callus?" There are explicit pictures (none of those somewhat romanticized pencil drawings or anatomical diagrams), quotations from real women, and "confessions" from Nancy herself, scattered throughout the book.

In a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental tone, the book covers everything from halitosis to sexual abuse. Some may find the range a bit off-putting: can you really cover sexual abuse in two pages? No, you can't--and Redd knows it. The reference-book format gives brief suggestions, tips, and (always) suggestions for further information, phone numbers and websites for relevant experts, and (again, always) plenty of reassurance that, whatever the issue, there is help and you aren't the first to deal with it. I like that tone: so often a teenager will feel as if she's the only person ever to have felt the way she feels, ever to have faced the problem she faces, and if Redd's book convinces even one girl that she can be helped, that she's not alone, it's done its job.

Still, I think my favorite part of the book is right at the end. A spread from page 240 to 243 demonstrates how air-brushing makes everyone "perfect" in a way that no one can be, and another one from 246 to 247 shows a variety of "imperfect" women, all nude, all perfect in their own way. Those pictures reinforce what feminist mothers have been telling their daughters for years: no one looks like those magazine pictures, and you're beautiful the way you are. Brava to Nancy Redd and Body Drama for putting it so compellingly.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ring in the New

(Image borrowed from "Virginia's Rivers")

Mark, Nick, and I spent the first day of the year out on the James River, whitewater rafting. This was only my second time rafting (the first was earlier in the year, on our anniversary trip to Asheville), and my first time on our own hometown river. It's hard for me to believe, with all the time Mark spends on the river, that I have lived here fourteen (going on fifteen) years and have never gone on a single river trip. When Mark was guiding (working as a raft guide) he wanted to take me down the river, and I wanted to go, but we never found the time. So on New Year's Eve we were at a party with some former and current guides, and they invited us to join them on the first trip of the year.

It was a blast. It was an arctic, icy blast that nearly froze us--Nick was pretty close to a popsicle by the time we took a lunch break--but it was also really, really fun. And we were with a big enough group that there were plenty of people with extra gear. It was really heartening--and, again, a great way to start the year--to see how generous people were. People we had never met before were offering us food, warm clothing, hot chocolate, and good advice ("take those wet socks off him and give him these!" "here, rub him down with this before you put the next dry thing on"). It was such a generous and warm outpouring, it made the discomfort almost worthwhile. And the rapids, and the scenery, did, too.

We're lucky to live in a place where you can have an outdoor adventure without leaving town, and where the people who make outdoor adventures happen are so kind and open-hearted. It was the perfect way to start the year.