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Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Reading: Literature vs. Pedigree-Free Books

In Books, Writing on December 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm
Magical Children's Books...

Magical Children’s Books…

I firmly believe that readers are born the minute they are gifted with a book that speaks to them. As a child, I remember being captivated by books about mermaids, kids who lived ‘alone’ (Pippi Longstocking), heartbreaking Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales (The Little Match Girl) and anything with animals who wore clothes, furnished the hollow insides of trees and spoke.

Once I escaped  into a good book, and deduced there were thousands more out there- as yet unread- I knew I’d found the key that would unlock doors to worlds I would otherwise never experience. As I grew older, I remained a voracious reader, and am, to this day, rarely without a book (or ten!) Truth be told, I don’t know how people who don’t read even get through life!

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I’ve always had what I call a ‘book sense’- I can sniff out a book I’d like from a mile away. The cover art, the blurbs, the whole ‘feel’ of a book, all add up to an inkling that is usually on target. This isn’t to say that I stay within my comfort zone all of the time. As David Foster Wallace was so fond of saying ‘good reading is sometimes hard reading’ and I do flex my reading and vocabulary skills to keep them sharp. Sometimes I read four or five pages of my thesaurus, which is helpful for both reading and writing. I sometimes read to learn about a particular subject. The thought of a reading list is ludicrous to me- who could ever run out of books to read, and who (good lord!) needs Oprah to tell them what to read? I can steer my own ship, thankyouverymuch! (And Oprah, just because you stand next to a book, or read it, you shouldn’t get credit for the author’s precious ideas!)

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I often wonder how many potential readers were turned off to reading by the books they were assigned in school. I loved a lot of the  reading we did- ‘The Cricket In Times Square’, ‘Charlottes Web’,”Black Beauty’, ‘Aesop’s Fables’ in elementary school, ‘Go Ask Alice’,  ‘The Outsiders’,’Watership Down’ and ‘Catcher In The Rye’ in middle school.  But there were others- the so-called ‘literature’ that turned me off- that somehow turned reading into a chore, especially in high school.  The Greek tragedies, the Romans.. Chaucer, Moby Dick…Don’t get me wrong. I get it (good reading isn’t always easy) but to me- if I wasn’t engaged, what was the point?

I just didn’t feel anything for these people and their (often) privileged angst and formal manner. The assignments that went along with these books were a constant interrogation- endless discussions and tests which graded my interpretation (there was always a ‘right’ answer for how I should have  ‘thought’ about these stories and writers. My thoughts and takeaways aren’t governed by mimeographed test sheets) If I could be turned off to reading (my favorite ‘sport’) by these books, god help the kids that didn’t like to read in the first place.

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Who decides what worthy reading is? Who were the reading connoisseurs who decided what is good for us all? Schools believe we have to ‘prove’ we can ingest these works, but what makes them superior to other (more relevant) writing? It seems if writing is complicated and difficult, and reading a particular book is a chore, then one is rewarded with the gold star of having gotten through it. As though they survived a battle. Which they did, in my humble opinion. Why would it be such a crime to tailor reading to what someone might actually enjoy, a book that would set them on a reading path that may eventually lead them to the classics willingly, up for the challenge?

So much ‘snooty’ literature- that which are discussed over the finest of wines and moldiest of cheese, are tales of morality and woe -are lessons, if you will. Tales of those who had it ‘all’ (superficially) and one day gave into their human desires- be it lust, greed, cruelty, gluttony….People who wear masks for so long, the sweat drips down their faces, the elastic binds their skulls until -whoosh!-they snap! And (usually) reveal their ‘human-ness after all! (shocker!) -as if anyone believed for a second that they were anything but.

These books are being read at all of the ‘good schools’, by the children of inherited wealth, as they were read by their parents, and their parents before them. Books, filled with warnings and red flags, leather-bound books that line their private libraries (first editions!) Yet-somehow- no one sees themselves on the page. For people who consider themselves to be educated (though one must point out: never confuse education with intelligence) it is an amazing oversight. These stories present the foibles of man, but seem to speak to no one man in particular in these dens of the upper class.

The very people who brag about ‘literature’ they’ve read, are often committing the very same morality crimes themselves- for money or pleasure. They still fall on the same swords themselves, ne’er the wiser! Obviously, there is a disconnect between the reader and what they read! I want to scream: these are not instruction manuals! If they speak so deeply, why does no one seem to listen? Or better yet: did they really read them?

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I like to think of the books that I have read and enjoyed, and the things I’ve (happily) learned from them. To look below the surface of a person, that our experiences are often universal, that humor is gold, that you should treat others as you want to be treated, that war is a horrible tragedy and never works, that animals and nature are fascinating, that introverts often have the loudest minds, that love is the only thing of real value, and that to be happy is the real lottery win. And the truth is-  I’d put an understated Anne Tyler novel up against a Greek tragedy any day of the week.

GIve Me a Break: Gisele Bundchen Rebrands Breastfeeding | Parenting – Yahoo Shine

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on December 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm
If nothing else, this photo captures a reality we are all too familiar with. Am I right?

If nothing else, this photo captures a reality we are all too familiar with. I mean- what mom hasn’t been here?

Gisele Bundchen Rebrands Breastfeeding | Parenting – Yahoo Shine.

All hail the public outcry over the above photo of model-slash-mom Gisele Bundchen breastfeeding the Golden Child (daughter Vivian Lake, who already has mastered advanced yoga as an infant, as seen in a photo on Twitter) the child she created  with her All-Star Quarterback husband, Tom Brady. And I’m here to tell you, I agree: the photo of Gisele nursing makes me crazy and outraged. Here’s why:

Years ago, after having my first (and only) child, the subject of breast-feeding was considered but I knew it was not for me. I didn’t even have to think twice. My breasts were mine (and my husband’s from time to time) thankyouverymuch.  I knew inherently that I didn’t have the temperament for being a human milk dispenser. Hell- I was in my mid twenties and barely knew how to hack all the other stuff that being a new mom and wife would entail, let alone dealing with leaking, cracking nips. Plus, my breasts were sexual in nature to me at that age. You don’t have to tell me it’s because of society! but I felt that way, regardless.

Do not take this as an apology or excuse. I’m so not sorry, words can’t even do it justice. After giving birth to a 9.7 lb. healthy baby boy, (I had an epidural as well, and not only am I fine with that- but during one contraction I screamed at the doctor to ‘crank it to eleven’ because I suspected we hadn’t hit the pain-relief dispensing ceiling yet) I don’t measure my womanly worth by how much physical pain I can sustain, and don’t understand women who do. What’s the connection? (and what sadist came up with it? Aren’t high heels enough?)

Here’s the thing about decisions: as adults they are ours to make- which means that mine are my business and literally none of yours! The reason there are so many debates , arguments and hate-fueled tirades between people on different sides of an issue is because  someone on either side of the issue is apologetic. The key to standing up for yourself (and I’m still having to work at this) is to stop apologizing for your position. Among things I am in favor of:  Freedom of choice, healthcare, equal pay, anti-racist everything, peace, and the freedom to breastfeed or not! And in the immortal words of my mother: “If you don’t like it, you can lump it, buster!’

Would I have made a different decision had I been older and more mature? Of course! But I wasn’t and I didn’t.

As soon as I checked into the hospital to give birth, I was visited by the La Leche Gang. (Yes- I know the proper term is’La Leche League’ but trust me, Tony Soprano could learn a little something about strong-arming from these women!) I made it clear I would not be breast-feeding which of course set off the ‘bad mom’ alert, and caused a swarm of milk maids to infiltrate my room. They swathed me in  pamphlets and guilt, and melodic southern accents (this was a hospital in Virginia) while trying unsuccessfully to bully me into nursing my still unborn child.

The minute my son was born (and possibly as he crowned- I’m not sure, I was on drugs) they went into code red: cutting out the small talk and actually using phrases like ‘endangering the health of your child’ and ‘selfish’. Smartly, they remained just out of the range of my arm-span, or someone may have been the recipient of some unsportsman-like conduct.

“BAD MOM! BAD MOM!”

I was exhausted after I pushed out my almost ten pounder. After not smoking or having a single drink in almost a year (it felt like more, so much more!) the first thing I wanted was a Newport and a vodka-grapefruit, wait-make it a double!. There was little chance I could muster up the discipline to abstain . (Wisely, I did quit smoking shortly after, I shouldn’t have to tell you that but I feel compelled)

Still, the La Leche Organization sent in high-ranking members from their local charter to try and wear me down. I finally got rid of them on the second day by lighting tea-lights and placing complimentary canisters of  Similac and rubber nipples around the room like voodoo dolls. I asked one of the women if they would go halfsies on my co-pay if I compromised  and nursed out of one side. I never saw them again.

One of my favorite exchanges about breastfeeding is courtesy of the show Scrubs, in season 6, when Jordan Sullivan has an exchange with a waitress in a local dive bar, where she was enjoying a drink with her co-workers:

'I DARE you to mess with me!' says Jordan Sullivan

Waitress: (to Jordan) “I haven’t seen you in awhile”

Elliot: “Oh, she just had a baby”

Waitress: “Well then, how can you be drinking? Aren’t you breastfeeding?”

Jordan: “I haven’t decided. Were you breastfed?”

Waitress: “Of course I was”

Jordan: “That is so interesting. Cuz you’re a slaggy buttinski who ended up becoming a waitress for a living. Maybe breastfeeding isn’t the answer.”

Boo-ya! (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a waitress, in fact: how do you do that? Dealing with so many critical,  ungrateful idiots each day?-no- it’s the ‘buttinski’ thing I can’t stand!)

Let’s face it: there’s a lot of truth in that exchange. There are more kids being breastfed than ever these days (and in the last few decades) but does the world seem to be getting smarter? Reality tv, the Kardashians, kids having to be entertained by television at all times in the mini-van and literally having to be coerced by celebrities and athletes to move for a measley 60 minutes a day?  You don’t hear the phrase ‘smart kids’ a tenth as much as the phrase ‘Smart Phones’. (It’s almost like our kid’s brains are somehow outside of their adorable little heads, firmly encased in little metal and glass objects courtesy of Apple and Samsung!)

And who can tell the breast-fed from the bottle brigade? I implore you to go ahead and try.

I did a private study of my own, asking friends if they were or weren’t nursed. Guess what? Some of the smartest weren’t, and some of the duller knives were! How do you explain this other than maybe breastfeeding isn’t the answer! (And if I asked you, no doubt you were in the smart group)

I’m not even convinced that breast milk is superior nutrition, because I don’t understand how the negative proponents of our environment aren’t inside our bodies. Unless you are eating completely clean-(and even the soil we grow things in is not) how is breast milk pristine? Fast food, pollution, food additives, prescription and OTC medicines. Aren’t some of these in all of our bodies, and thus, our milk?

Which brings me to Gisele and my outrage. She claims that breast-feeding is the only way to go, and formula is akin to abuse.  First off, sweetie-you don’t get to ‘re-brand’ my boobs or anyone else’s for that matter. At least not without a contract and an air-tight monetary guarantee. You don’t speak for me or any other woman.  But the real reason I am angry about this photo is because I believe that every woman who DOES breastfeed should get a massage, make-over and blow-out while doing so, just like Giselle. And this goes for us bottle feeders as well.

I also think we should be blessed (make it a law) with Gisele’s genes for two years post-baby (imagine how fast people would stop complaining about breast-feeders in public, if they all looked like Victoria Secret models! In fact, I can picture a ‘Breastfeed in Public For 60 Minutes A Day’ campaign forming  instantly! And just picture that logo!)

I also resent braggers and rub-it-inners who seemingly ‘have-it-all’: stop trying to make regular women jealous, Gisele. I know you’re cranky from your three raisins and one tic-tac  a day diet, but don’t take it out on other new moms! We know you want us to think you have it made (and you do) but if you keep flaunting it, you might get a dose of Karma you won’t like and we’ll all revel in witnessing it.

Posting air-brushed photos of yourself breastfeeding is akin to those annoying people who post their meals on Facebook.  In fact it’s even worse than that: if I don’t want to see what you’re eating (and I assure you I do not!) I definitely don’t want to see what your baby is eating. So stop it, Gisele. Go say a prayer of gratitude  for your charmed life, head on down to Shutty-town and stay there, because the kids are alright. Ours included.

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