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Lessons on Feminism From Four Fiesty Females

“I’m not alone ‘cause the T.V.’s on, yeah.” -Jimmy Eat World Bleed American

I was born and raised in a very nice home in a very small, very rural town in eastern North Carolina. This setting meant that there was not a whole lot to do so television was kind of a big deal for me. Luckily, I had a few neighborhood kids to play around with, but for the most part television and books were my true BFF’s. The one television show that stood out to me as the defining show of my childhood was the classic situation comedy about four older ladies living it up in Miami, The Golden Girls.

Television is still a close friend of mine. For as long as I can remember the television was on in my home, a tradition I’ve carried with me from my childhood home to many apartments across North Carolina to my newest home in Maryland. My parents would have the tube set to the news before we left for work/school each morning. Then when we arrived home Oprah would bleed into the nightly news which became Extra which became Jeopardy which became the primetime show of the night. For the majority of my childhood I believed that I was going to naturally grow up and live in Chicago because the majority of the television shows I watched were set in Chicago (Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Early Edition, ER, Kenan & Kel, Life Goes On, Married With Children, Two of a Kind… I could go on and on– seriously.) I thought that everyone eventually lived in Chicago because all of my “friends” lived in Chicago.

That’s how I referred to the characters that I watched on television, as my friends. For someone who has never really had many close friends IRL, the characters on t.v. became my pals. I knew them. They were there for me. They knew how to make me laugh, and how to cry. When they weren’t on, I missed them, and if they got canceled, I was inconsolable. I still call the shows I have on the television- sometimes watching, sometimes just having them in the room- as “my friends.” I do this in a joking way today when I’m talking to my husband, but I honestly still believe it. I am rarely in the house when the T.V. isn’t on. Mostly it’s on mute, but if I’m doing something like cooking or cleaning, I will have it on for background noise. More recently, I have been watching television and YouTube on my tablet that I can take with me from room to room, and I have discovered the joy of NPR in recent years as well. But my true best friend always will be television and my truest best friends will always be Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia.

A few weeks ago we celebrated a day which was a historic day and I am so fortunate that I was alive to see it. I am also so unfortunate that I am alive in this age and had to see a need for that day. March 8, 2017 was recognized as International Women’s Day. It was great to go online and see so many women (and men) praising the women who have inspired and motivated them. Wanting to recognize some important ladies, I knew right away that I was going to shout it out to the four fearless females who inspired my childhood. I was born in 1985, the same year that NBC birthed The Golden Girls. The show ran until I was seven years old, from 1985-1992. I have always been what people call “an old soul” and I have been told many times that I was “born old.” Always having a handkerchief and a hard candy, I have always related more to older people than my peers. Once as an undergraduate in the university parking lot, I called out to a Ph.D. candidate as “young man.” Totes embarrassing. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I found myself relating more to the four golden girls than I did to Blossom and Six. As the years have passed I have become more and more on the same page as the four Miami ladies.

I remember watching the later seasons with my mother who was a huge fan. Since it was a show about older women, and many of the older women that I knew had suffered a heart attack- or two- due to the deliciousness that is true southern cooking, my young ears thought that the theme song was “and the heart attack…” instead of “and the card attached…” Throughout the years watching the reruns was something that I shared with my mom. My mom recently passed away after being very sick for a very long time. Her illness often made it difficult to be around her. She was in a lot of pain and didn’t know how to express what she was feeling in positive ways. There were times when we would go long stretches without speaking, but the girls always had a way of reconnecting us. The last Mother’s Day that my mom was alive I sent her a card with a caricature of Dorothy that read “I hope our amazing mother/daughter relationship last forever. And if not- Shady Pines, Ma!” The card was on her nightstand when she died, and I like to think maybe she looked at it and thought of me one last time and, was pretty grateful that I never sent her to Shady Pines.

 

GG

We didn’t have cable in our home, so while we were on vacation at the beach (a place that did have cable, and that in itself was a vacay, unlimited access to cable T.V.- the ultimate staycation!) I flipped past the Lifetime channel and saw a familiar face. It was Rose Nylund!  It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade and I became obsessed with catching the reruns. Once we returned home I would go next door to my uncle’s house, a house that did have cable, to watch it. It was like revisiting a childhood friend that had moved away and was now back, and they hadn’t changed At. All. Later that summer my parents signed us up for cable at our house! Lifetime was airing reruns each night from 6-7 and then from 11-12 and I watched both blocks every night.

In 2003 I moved to Greensboro for college and television shows started coming out on DVD by season. Of course, I began collecting The Golden Girls on DVD so I could be with them anytime I wanted to. This DVD binge caused me to learn all the dialogue from so many rewatches. I was once caught in the kitchen by a roommate as I was doing the dialogue so that when I got back to my bedroom with my snack I would be caught up. Try explaining that one….

Sometimes I will take months-long breaks between my watches and it’s always so refreshing to dive back into the world of the girls. Watching them as an adult in graduate school, I first really noticed how progressive the show was, especially for the time that it aired. They were talking about things like gay rights, AIDS, and sex (and elderly women having sex- what? They can do that?!) That’s why I knew that my women who inspired me, were also my friends and so I gave them a shoutout on Instagram and stayed up until around 2 am watching episodes. The episode I recommended to my followers was season 1 episode 19 “Second Motherhood.” This episode has Dorothy and Rose tell a male plumber to beat it so that they can install a new toilet themselves. As I was revisiting my friends I got the idea for a new series on this blog in which I want to rewatch every single episode of the seven-season show and write about what impact it had on me then and now. I’m sure some people will say this is silly, and maybe it is to them, and that’s fine; they don’t have to read any further. However, if you are a friend of the girls, like I am, and are interested in revisiting them with me, then read on. If your heart is true, if you are a pal and a confidant, then let’s travel down the road and back again.

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Completed Butterfly Quilt

I just finished my third ever full-size quilt! I am scropped-20170329_090521.jpgo ridiculously proud of myself! Sure, there are a few uh-oh’s on this quilt, but finished is better than perfect and I think that for only my third ever (and my second solo) quilt, I did a pretty darn good job.

My mother-in-law is a wonderful lady who loves butterflies (and she raises monarchs from cocoon to butterfly and releases them each spring, how cool is that?!) so when I saw this amazing tutorial from Jenny at the Missouri Star Quilt Company, I knew I needed to make this quilt for her. So, just in time for the hot heat of spring and summer, I finished her warm quilt… Well, at least the colors are spring-like! She called me earlier today and loved and appreciated it very much, which is why I made it for her in the first place!

20170329_090446  20170329_090701                                            20170329_090713

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Underwhelmed.
Overrated.
Fine.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did. It was fine. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. I probably won’t remember it. I went into it blind. I didn’t read a synopsis. I wish it hadn’t been written like this.

After I received my Kindle last month I put several of the hot, new books onto my e-book holds list through my local library. When my turn with this book came up, I just opened it and started reading. I was not sure what I was in for in terms of writing or plot. The first thing that I noticed was how underdeveloped the writing was. I naturally assumed that this was a lucky debut novel. I had never heard of Blake Crouch before so I did a little Googling and was very surprised to see that Crouch actually had published several other books prior to Dark Matter, including a series and the novel that spawned the TNT show Good Behavior,starring Lady Mary Crawley! I also discovered that I have a fun fact in common with the author: he was born in Statesville, NC where I worked for five years before moving to Maryland!

Though they proved to be quite distracting, those broken sentences did serve to add a sense of urgency which fit the story very well. And while I appreciated that technique, it was way too overdone. This approach ended up being more of a distraction that took me out of the story.

The hook was great. I think if I had known what the story was about before I read it I would have been a lot more disappointed in it than I was. Having no idea what to expect, the bar wasn’t set too low or high. The literal self-vs-self theme was very well executed and really forces readers to self-reflect. It came at a good time in my life, so I appreciated it for that, on a personal level. I’m at a place right now where I often let myself get stuck in the “what if” thoughts and the regrets of past mistakes, but this book was a good little reminder for me to appreciate where I am and who I am and all of the people that I have in my life. I wouldn’t be this person living this life with those people if I had made different choices. I needed that reminder, so thanks, Blake Crouch, for that.

As is to be expected in a book with this scope, it was pretty predictable. I was able to guess all of the “twists” before they twisted. It was a pretty thrilling story that ran at a fast pace. As I read I  kept thinking it was prime to become a movie, and lo and behold it’s been optioned by Sony. Surprise, surprise. Eh, I’ll probably end up watching it.

The biggest negative for me would have to be the amount of confusion I had while reading. I’m not one to shy away from confusing science-y books. The Martian was one of my favorite books in 2014 and I was thoroughly confused about what Watney was actually doing for the majority of that book. The Martian was confusing yet still Road_to_the_multiverseenjoyable and even if I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I still could progress with the story. With Dark Matter, however, I was just super confused and didn’t follow parts of the story. OK, the multiverse, I’ve heard of it and I get its basic idea, but whaaaaat was going on with it in this book? Also, I couldn’t stop giggling because it made me think of Brian and Stewie traveling the multiverse in Family Guy. I had to ask my husband who, as an optical engineer, has a background in physics to please ELI5. He broke it down, but I was still really confused.

Overall this one is worth a few hours of your time as it really doesn’t take too long at all to read. I often forgot about it and forgot that I was in the middle of reading it, which is why it took me so long to finish it. I probably won’t remember anything about it in a few months.

musings, Uncategorized

Audio Evolution: The Future of Print Books

If I told you there was a recently released project starring Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Lena Dunham, and Ben Stiller (among many, many others) you would naturally assume it61fsqq54tol-_aa300_ was the next Hollywood blockbuster, right? Well, you’d be wrong. One hundred sixty-six narrators total make up the cast for George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo audiobook released on February 14th by Penguin Random House. This is the logical next step in the ever expanding audiobook evolution. According to Time Magazine, Penguin Random House is even applying for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for “most individual voices on a single audiobook.” This is a big deal for the publishing industry, but what does it mean for print books? The growth of the audiobook is taking readers further away from the printed word, and therefore, further away from actual books. It wasn’t that long ago there was some alarm within the book industry when the e-reader first made its appearance. There was talk about the death of print books and shutting down brick and mortar bookstores. With e-readers, though, readers could still do what readers do- we read. Audiobooks allow users to take in a story without ever seeing any text at all. With this new approach to audiobooks, is now the time when will we actually start to see the elimination of the written word in literature?

We are busy people. Between work, family, exercise, Netflix, brushing twice a day, and flossing there is just very little time left over for anything else. Many people who are pressed for time, but still want to consume novels, are turning to audiobooks. Audiobooks don’t require any extra time in our already hectic lives. Rather, they allow us to actually succeed at that magical activity we all attempt to do: multitasking. Those daily routines can actually be enhanced by listening to the latest bestseller read aloud to you. Smartphones, iPods, tablets, and laptops offer users instant access to streaming audiobooks. Gone are the days of having to go to the library and check out several CDs housed in those huge, bulky plastic cases that were scratched up from previous loans causing them to inevitably skip at a crucial juncture in the story. Apps like Audible and Overdrive make it almost effortless to have an audiobook delivered to your device in a moment’s notice without ever getting out of your PJ’s. This is an ideal method of reaching users who may not otherwise be able to take in a novel (the immobile and the blind, as well as the pressed for time) but for those of us who prefer the written word, audiobooks simply do not provide a better way of interacting with books. If a reader is multitasking, by definition- doing many tasks at once- they aren’t really giving the audiobook 100% of their concentration and are bound to miss something crucial to the plot. Can it even still be considered reading if “readers” never see a word of text?

By virtue of streaming services that allow users to watch television when and where they want we are currently living in the golden age of broadcast entertainment. With these large-scale castings and narrations of audiobooks, we are, quite possibly, entering into the golden age of publishing. Scribd seems to be the closest thing to a book streaming service currently available. However, it is not unlimited, only offering three e-books and one audiobook monthly for $8.99. This limitation does allow users access to new releases and bestsellers, including the audio version of Lincoln in the Bardo. There is also unlimited access to Scribd Select Books, which are the books you would expect to find in an unlimited category. Netflix has the market on the streaming television and film industry, but let’s be honest, its options are not the best. I only keep my subscription for the Netflix original shows. If we are in fact on the precipice of an unlimited book streaming service I sincerely hope that users will have access to quality literature and not an oversaturation the B-movie equivalent of books like what we see in the free and unlimited sections of online booksellers.

Instead of a replacement of books, I believe that we are actually beginning to see a new form of literary entertainment emerge. These theatrical castings of audiobooks will appeal to some, but not to all, which is why print books will continue to be published. The audiobook, in all its versions, will coexist right alongside print books instead of replacing them for the simple fact that they are not the same thing. Radio has evolved to include satellite radio and podcasts while television is now the best it has ever been thanks to streaming services and apps. Traditional radio stations are still on the air and television continues to exists despite the streaming services. It’s safe to assume that even if audiobooks continue to grow, expand, and develop into a whole new form of entertainment like straight-to-audio productions, we will continue to have print books for a very long time.

Truthfully, I doubt that we will ever see an end to printed books. A Slate article gives a good explains why the death of print books inevitably comes into question with the appearance of new literary technologies: “It is not by chance that the idea of the death of the book surfaces in moments of technological change. This narrative, in fact, perfectly conveys the mixture of hopes and fears that characterize our deepest reactions to technological change.” Video didn’t kill radio and e-readers didn’t kill paper books. Technological change can feel a bit treacherous when we first encounter it, but print books and audiobooks will continue to live a very complementary life together. The uncertainty I felt when the e-reader surfaced passed and I now read predominantly via Kindle. Instead of losing that really good writing, the kind that you revisit and highlight and reread over and over again, we will presumably see an entirely new and exciting medium emerge. One that lives parallel to other forms of entertainment. And if David Sedaris and Nick Offerman are on board with it, then it can’t be bad.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The Mothers
By Britt Bennett
Riverhead Books
278 pages

Nadia Turner is seventeen years old and six months out from the death of her mother to suicide. Struggling with all of the overwhelming emotions that come from a suicide of a family member, she is simultaneously grappling with her first love. Luke Sheppard is the son of the pastor of Upper Room, the Turner family church. When Nadia becomes pregnant with his child the summer before she leaves for college, she and Luke will both make choices that will haunt all of those close to them for the rest of their lives. As the title would suggest, Brit Bennett’s debut novel touches on all aspects of motherhood and the ability for individuals to assume a maternal role, however briefly. The novel explores the heartbreaking ways that the absence of a mother can affect characters and what it really means to be “unpregnant.”

Bennett writes beautiful prose. The pages are full of the quotable, stick-with-you, lyrical sentences that craft a memorable story. At the beginning of the novel, the Mothers, a Greek chorus of women from Upper Room, tell readers “all good secrets have a taste before you tell them.” Bennett allows her readers the chance to become both a mother and a Mother for the duration of the book as we watch Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey grow, develop, and navigate life, love, loss, and betrayal. The Mothers narrative ebbs and flows throughout the novel, coming back in just when the reader begins to get comfortable in the account of one of the three main characters, offering an outsider’s perspective to the inner turmoils. Having a collective voice guide the narration was a refreshing strategy. However, readers get a sometimes too heavy-handed lesson on the the power of petty gossip hiding behind good intentions. These chapters narrated by the Mothers became a bit redundant in their message. The way any true gossip makes its way around a small group, once you’ve heard something enough times, it becomes an annoyance and off-putting.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, devouring it in three sittings over two days. This was quite an impressive debut novel from such a young author and I truly admire her gift with words. The Mothers isn’t Bennett’s first piece of published writing. In 2014 she received a lot of attention, some good, some bad, for an article that she penned for Jezebel entitled “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People.” The article offers Bennett’s perspective on the current state of young Black men being killed while in police custody and how White America reacts to these ever-increasing headlines. Adding a personal layer to the article, Bennett writes on the time that her father was himself detained by police. I will also link you to a worthwhile New York Times article on Bennett and her years-long process of writing The Mothers. According to this NYT article from October 2016, fans of Bennett have something to look forward to as “Ms. Bennett is focused on her next novel, about two sisters in Louisiana who are separated.”