Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Naughty Bad Thoughts

Don't get your hopes up. Or anything else for that matter. There is nothing erotic about what I'm going to say. However, if there was, I would probably be exceedingly more popular.

Even if they aren't sexy, there are still naughty bad thoughts:
1. Are we doing too much? I mean the crazy business, and the texting and the jobs and the house and the family? And all the simplify-your-life magazines just tell you more things to BUY. When my daughter grabs her jacket, she says, "hurry." She thinks her jacket is called "hurry." Ouch.
2. Shouldn't somebody stay at home? It doesn't have to be mother, but wouldn't it be nice if it was someone? Keeping the home fires burning? It's not a non-job, it's a calling, the sacred hearth keeper. At least it was, in days of 'yore.
3. Are there more bloggers than people?

I'm just asking.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Things that Aren't

Hey, want to know a funny thing I did the other day?

I googled "feminist stay-at-home mother."

What I got? A whole lot of articles about how feminism ruined the family.

Now somebody please help me. I know there are more feminist mothers ought there. I know I'm not the only radical mommy on the internet. Well, no one wants to call themselves feminists anymore. On top of that, no one wants to stay home with their kids. I mean, who wants a title that requires three hyphens!!! Please. M.D. doesn't need a hyphen. Neither does Esq.

I'm worried I'm going Conservative. I'm going to read Laura Schlesinger's book "In Praise of Stay-at-Home Mothers," because she's the only one who's got anything nice to say about it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go dust some furniture and fix my husband's dinner.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm back with another one of the gorgeous women from the GCC blog network. Hank Phillippi Ryan's third Charlotte McNally mystery has just been published.

This is Hank.

This is her latest detective novel.

And this is what she has to say:

You have won 26 Emmys and 10 Edward R. Murrow Awards. Tell us about the stories that won a couple of these distinguished awards for you.

Here’s a list! We proved the state’s 911 system was sending emergency responders to the wrong addresses. We found there was not one person of color on the federal jury pools in parts of Massachusetts. We discovered why thousand of people were never called for jury duty. We found there were thousands of warrants for peoples’ arrests that were never served . We found people convicted of drunk driving who were still on the road. We found unsafe big rig trucks on the highways and found they were illegally ignoring the weight limits on the state’s bridges, thereby causing expensive and dangerous damage. We found school buses with massive mechanical problems. We found the unit pricing in stores was completely incorrect. We found unscrupulous mortgage companies luring people into foreclosure. At least four—maybe five?—laws have changed as a result of our stories and people have gotten literally millions in refunds and restitution.

(Um. Wow. Speechless. Did I fail to mention that in addition to being a novelist, Hank is a investigative TV reporter. That's just so cool! And she's been doing it for 30 years!)

Your job sounds very demanding. How (and when) do you find the time to write? Do you ever take a vacation, and, if so, what do you do with your time off?

Short answer—no. I don’t take vacations anymore. We used to! We love Nevis, a tiny island in the Caribbean with empty white beaches and nothing to do. We love to go to western Massachusetts, to Tanglewood, to go to plays and the symphony and museums. We love to go to Cape Cod, to Truro, to sit on the beach with pals and read, then go out to wonderful dinners. All in the past. Now, I write. And Jonathan lounges in the back yard. Luckily, we have a lovely yard, with a pool and beautiful gardens.

What do you wish readers knew about you?

I’m a pretty good cook! I love arranging flowers. I’m…nice. I have such a tough persona on TV—I’m always confronting someone, asking tough questions, being just a tad pushy—so people are always surprised to see me smile. I think I’m pretty funny, too . . . but that may be just me.

Here's a tiny plot summary for AIR TIME: Charlie enters the glamorous and high-stakes world of high fashion—and soon discovers when the purses are fake, the danger is real. Carrying a hidden camera and dressing to deceive, Charlie's not the only one disguising her identity. In her high-risk job and in her suddenly steamy love life, how can she tell the real thing?

Delicious reading for the fall!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Try This

So I was imagining what it would be like to hire someone to do my job for the morning. I made a list:

1. Get the children dressed and don't forget to dress yourself. Moisturize so you won't look older than you are, even if you look as old as you are.
2. Feed everyone. Feed yourself. It must be nutritious, contain whole grain, and have some protein.
3. While you are fixing/eating breakfast, unstack the dishwasher, empty the dish drainer, clean whatever is left in the sink. Make a grocery list. Look in the cookbook for a few interesting child friendly recipes. Make sure to eat your breakfast. Drink your tea before it gets cold. Go to the bathroom. Don't let the children harm the furniture.
4. Take the preschooler to preschool. Be nice to the other mothers. Act friendly and open. Smile at everyone. Don't wonder whether you remembered to brush your hair.
5. Go to the hardware store with the baby. Get a roller to finish painting the cupboards. Get storage bins for summer clothes.
6. Go to the grocery store. Buy what's on your list. Think: healthy, protein, not too expensive. Pay attention to everything you buy and it's nutritional value. Keep talking to the baby. Make it fun for her. Race the car through the parking lot just to be a "fun" kind of mom.
7. Go home. Take the groceries in. Unpack the groceries. Change the baby's diaper. Give her a snack.
8. Take a walk. Walk quickly. Remember if you only exercise a few times a week, it better really count. Point everything out to the baby so she doesn't feel neglected. Think uplifting thoughts.
9. Play with the baby outside. Give her fresh air. Don't think about anything but her. Give her total, one-on-one your older brother is at school time.
10. Change her diaper. Look at the mail. Sort it. Recycle envelopes.
11. Pick up the preschooler. Make new friends. Let the kids play.
12. Take them home. Change the baby's diaper. Put the toddler on the potty. Wash every one's hands. Feed them a healthy, empowering kind of lunch. Eat yours while sitting down for at least three minutes.
13. Keep everyone happy. Speak gently. Enjoy every minute of it. Be grateful. Go to the bathroom.
14. Put each one on the potty. Wipe bums. Smile.

Now that ought to be worth at least $8 an hour, wouldn't you say?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Who's Sexy?

Whether or not it's a sign of some kind, I don't know, but I did find myself, over the weekend, test driving a minivan (yes, the very kind of car I have insulted like a philandering ex), and also, hanging out with a guy we'll call James. Not just any guy, of course. James was the salesman. He wasn't hanging out with me because he liked me, he just wanted to sell me a car.

So James and I are cruising around the block in this totally awesome vehicle with leather interior (DVD included!!!--would be even cooler if my children watched TV, which they don't), when I say to him, "Minivans are so not sexy." He laughs. "Not that I need to be sexy." He laughs. "No one looks sexy in a minivan. Not even a sexy person."

Needless to say, this was something of a redundant, asinine sort of one-way conversation, the type you make when you don't have anything to say. ("Wow. Cool turn signal." Where can you go from there?) And certainly it didn't dawn on me, not once, that it could be awkward for this man to hear me ramble on about sexiness. And why would it? I don't identify people any longer as male and female. Either you pick up toys or you don't. Those are the two types of people in the world.

Only later, when I saw him walking down the hall, a great, tall, strong, figure, did it occur to me that he was a man. Thankfully, I am certain that he didn't perceive me as a woman.

Which is all to say, that despite my protestations, I got out of that navy blue used family van feeling like a million bucks. That thing has bucket seats! I felt like the Queen of England. I can fit 25 children in there AND luggage. Cup holders next to the third row of seats? God, what genius thinks of this stuff?

Never mind sexy. Family-friendly is the new black.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Crossing Washington Square

You can think of me as an internet blog sieve. Only holding the good stuff.

Today that good stuff is Joanne Rendell, who besides homeschooling her six year old (amazing and cool, see what she has to say about it below), writes novels. And, they're really good too. So, see, you can have it all.

This is Joanne. (Love the pic.)

Her new book is CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE. (Love the cover!)

Here's some advance praise: “Rendell’s second novel is thoughtful and open, with plenty of interesting academic debate for truly bookish readers.” Booklist

"For every reader who has ever wondered why nineteenth century novels about women are called ‘the canon’, but contemporary novels about women are called ‘chick-lit’ comes a charming, witty and cerebral novel about Rachel Grey, an Austen-worth heroine fighting for love and respect in the academic shark tank." Nicola Kraus, New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Nanny Diaries (I for one have wondered.)

And here's what the lady herself has to say.

What was your inspiration behind your latest novel?

The idea for Crossing Washington Square evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I’m married to a professor at NYU), I’ve always loved books about the university – novels like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, Richard Russo’s The Straight Man, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Francine Prose’s Blue Angel. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith’s novels focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting – instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!

(Um, Joanne, are you saying we shouldn't like drunk, despondent and sexually preoccupied women?)

Is writing your main job?

When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my six year old son who is homeschooled. Although, “homeschool” is somewhat of a misnomer as we spend a relatively small amount of time schooling at “home.” We live in New York so are lucky enough to have an amazing array of fun and educational places on our doorstep. Benny and I, together with his homeschooled friends, are always out on trips to the Met, the Natural History Museum, aquariums, zoos, galleries, libraries, and parks. When we’re not out and about, Benny and I love to read – either together or separately. I’m so thankful he loves books like I do! Also I’m learning so much as a writer through Benny’s books and his homeschool experiences in general. Inspired by another homeschool family, we recently started a loose history curriculum in which we’ve studied dinosaurs, early man, Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt followed by Ancient Greece and Rome. We’ve combined relevant story and picture books, with many trips to museums. Benny has learnt a lot, but it’s amazing how much I’ve learned too about Greek myths and Egyptian gods, ancient texts and lost civilizations. I feel my mind – and my writing – expanding because of these studies. Homeschooling isn’t just for six year olds, apparently!

For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?

Settling down to write. Once I get going, I love it. But there’s just that hurdle of getting going which is so hard -- especially these days when there are so many demands on authors to go online and promote our books. It is wonderful to meet people and connect and learn through the internet, but the web is also a huge procrastination vortex! I sometimes kid myself I’m doing promo work, but really I’m just wasting time snooping around on Facebook or reading other people’s tweets about what they ate for breakfast!

(Well, if you end up writing a novel about tweeting, it will have all been worthwhile.)

Do mothers play any role in your novel?

The two main characters in my novel are female professors, but they’re not (also) mothers. The only mom we see in the book is the wife of an assistant professor.
There are, of course, plenty of professors who are moms. But it is a big challenge to do both and I hugely admire the women who pull it off (my best friend is one of them). Motherhood is a 24/7 job so to add writing lectures, grading papers, going to faculty meetings, writing journal articles etc. on top is just a very hard thing to do. It clearly involves a lot of juggling, scheduling, toughness, and support.

(Any prof. moms out there want to add anything?)

Joanne Rendell was born and raised in the UK. After completing her PhD in English Literature, she moved to the States to be with her husband, a professor at NYU. She now lives in faculty housing in New York City with her family.

I can't wait to read it, Joanne!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Random but Relevant

Two things. One. I'm on the phone last night with Charter, our internet and cable company, but essentially the source of pure evil in the world. After talking to the robotic woman for a half-hour, I'm transferred to a human, in the Philippines, who hangs up on me. When I call back, I ask the robotic woman about the state of her vagina which (write this down) got me immediately transferred to an actual woman, this time in the US.

But anyway. I can't stand this company. If I were the head of this monopoly of total F-grade customer service where most of the people you talk to can't speak your language well enough to argue with you (and why would you call except to argue?), I would feel so bad. I wouldn't be able to hold my head up at the grocery store. How could you live with yourself? Sure, you'd be rich, but what good would that do you on your death bed? (Of coures the sheets would be really high thread count....)

And, yes, I'm completely over it. I LOVE using my precious time talking to Stepford Customer SATISFACTION (hahahahahaha) Technicians, and hey, what's an hour worth anyway. It's just this little birdie wake up call that reminds me what I already know. Technology is NOT bringing us closer. Sorry virtual world. You have to reach out and at least hear someone, if not see them. Moreover, it's not making life FASTER. It's making us angrier.

Which brings me to the relevant part. What kind of world do I want my children to inherit? I know, I'm getting all Michael Jackson on everyone. Sorry. But, we ARE the world. How about paying real people real money to talk to other real people whose business you value instead of getting rich on being a total TERD-whole and outsourcing to India, because frankly, every time I talk to those Indian guys now, I'm all SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and that makes me sad. It does not make me want to buy more services. It makes me want to adopt orphans.

So, please, reach out and touch a real live person today. Do it for your children. Do it for me. Turn off your computer. Turn off your TV. The sun is shinning. Somebody's looking at you. Life isn't what we have, it's what we DO. And if you own Charter, man, oh man, I feel bad for you.

Second thing. Maybe next time. I can't remember what it is anymore.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I am a fan of myself

So the other night I visited my first book club. (More to come.) I didn't know what to expect. Really. I wasn't even imagining a bunch of women in glasses with their legs primly crossed at the ankle. I literally, typically, did not have a single preconception. I think I've officially become too tired to preconceive. On account of all my conceiving, I suppose.

Anyway, I loved these women. And not just because they loved my book. But really, how could you not love a bunch of people sitting around talking about your novel like it's some kind of real book with things like "plot" and "character development." It blew my mind. And, they were funny.

And deep. The motherhood vibe was very strong in the room and I can say, without any hesitation, that I love mothers, strange though we may be in large playground settings. My people, my people, my people of poop, my people of sleeplessness, droopiness, worry and neurotic love, my people of Baby Toy minutia, of Feeding Kids Sucks, my people who do not mind seeing the word vagina on the first page. My people who are glad vagina has made it to the front page. You all make me proud.