Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Recommendations, Anyone?

I have ideas on new directions for The Jane Austen Experiment, but first things first: I need to read Persuasion and Mansfield Park, and that is my plan for the holiday break.

However, that is not enough fun for two weeks.

Any recommendations for some light reading?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wuv, Troo Wuv

Last night Eric brought me a sheet of notebook paper that he, my thoroughly male, camo & cars & sticks & grubby hands child, who loathes writing with a passion, had created all by himself. It had two small stick figures with large heads holding hands and was titled "EricKaiet", which turned out to be his attempt at spelling "Eric and Katie."

He only went to bed after I promised that I would find an envelope for his love letter before morning.

This morning a 5-year old boy-child climbed on me around 6am.

"MOM!!! MOOOOOMMMMM!!!! Did you get the envelope?"

I pointed to the table where his declaration of love was wrapped securely in an envelope.

"Well, could you help me write some more in it before school?"

So, when Eric trotted off to kindergarten, he was carrying the letter as described, with the addition of "Dear Katie, I love you. You're cute. And I like your yellow hair. Love, Eric."

When we got home I asked how his romancing had gone.

"UGGGHHHH!!!! I didn't give it to her!"

Was she at school today? Did you see her?

"Yes, but I just didn't give it to her."

Why?

"Because I was so embarrassed!!!! She's too cute and I was embarrassed. She's BLOND, mom."

Huge 5-year old sigh.

"I hope she'll marry me. I love yellow hair."

You'll have to get brave and give her the letter if you're thinking marriage, son.

"But she's BLOND!!! I'm scared!!!!!"

So many things I want to say to that....

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Swinging Single Life

When I was going through my divorce, and occasionally since then, well-intentioned friends have commented that the silver lining to it all is "getting" to experience dating again. They'd wax rhapsodic about the excitement and giddiness of going through those initial falling-in-like moments that come in the early stages of a relationship.

I didn't know what to say at the time. I thought they were nuts, but that didn't seem very polite. Plus, I was the newly-divorced one--what did I know about relationships?

Well, it's been a couple years and counting, and I would like to say what I've been wanting to say all along:

Dating sucks.

Marriage is way better. Dating is a necessary evil to get to that point. It has its enjoyable moments. Yes, the thrill of early 'falling-in-like' is fun. But marriage is so much better.

It's like shopping for the perfect couch. For most of us, the perfect couch isn't going to just fall into our laps. We've got to do the work--research the options, get out and visit the stores and try them out, carefully think through what we want most and how much we're willing to pay. But the entire purpose to it all is that at SOME point, we choose one, pay the price, and take it home. And that's when the real fun begins. That's when we start enjoying the couch.

Yes, dating as shopping is a very flawed metaphor. I only use it to make a point.

Maybe I should just say exactly what I want to say, which is this: those of you who are fortunate enough to have nice, normal, relatively happy marriages are BLESSED. If you don't get those little butterflies when he walks into the room anymore, well, I can think of worse things. Things like missing your kids like crazy because they are spending the weekend with their dad again and the house is far too quiet. Things like making up one more chore to do so you don't have to face an empty bed for as long. Facing every home repair--every clogged toilet and broken sink and non-functioning heater--alone. Giving up on cooking because there's no one to cook for. The swinging single life is a lonely life.

I'm not saying this to bring on a pity party. I firmly believe that living happily single is preferable to living miserably married. I love how full and rich my life is, how blessed with good friends and wonderful kids and busy things to do, it is. I don't look back with regrets.

I just want to set the record straight.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Advice

Men, if you are going to join an online dating service--and actually WANT to find a woman, maybe put a tiny bit of thought into your user name. 'Cause "gamerfanatic" is a good way to get zero hits on your profile. Just sayin.'

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Right at the Center (Pit) of Things

Grace: I want you to marry ******.

Mom: Why???

Grace: Because he has armpit hair.

No response. Mommy can't respond for a full 7.8 minutes because she's laughing so hard.

Grace: It's not THAT funny! And stop laughing at me!

Mom: Um, all grown up men have armpit hair. That's the deal.

Grace: Well, he has the most of anybody.

More laughing.

Mom: How exactly do you know that, Gracie?

Grace: I don't. I just think that he does, so that means he's a MAN, and you should marry him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Acting Romantic

Over the weekend I gobbled three super fun books, one of which was Shannon Hale's "The Actor and the Housewife." The central question of the book was whether a happily married woman can have a close, purely-platonic friendship with a man, especially a man who is the personification of female fantasy. To put it in terms more relatable to me, IF I were happily married to a great guy, could I also have a charming & platonic friendship with Hugh Jackman?

I don't have an answer to either of those, the question as posed in the book or the question as related to me.

I appreciated how the book pushed me to think about it in different ways and in far greater detail than I expected. The ensuing mental foray was intellectually and emotionally engaging, and I really like writers who challenge me. Not saying this was Sartre or Beckett or Seamus Haney, but still.

What caught me off guard was that I didn't really want Mr. Romantic Movie-Star-Guy. At all. The guy every woman in the world was supposed to be lusting over did nothing for me. I was insanely jealous of Becky, the protagonist, because she had such a perfect guy sitting at home. Fictional, yes. Perfect...seemed that way to me. Oh wait--her almost-perfect husband liked hunting, so I guess he wasn't perfect. Just close.

What I learned (because this blog is, after all, my attempt to make sense of male-female relationships via fiction):

you can have your flowery speeches and sweep-you-off-your-feet guys in tuxedos and private jets to private islands and cameras flashing on the red carpet.

A guy who loved you well before you loved him back, who waited patiently for you--and still does--, who rubs your back and cleans up your vomit through morning sickness and starts doing dishes when he walks in the door, who loves your family even when they're crazy and loves you even when you're crazy, who never looked at another woman since you, who moves out of his comfort zone to do things that matter to you.... Yeah, that's what I want.

The world can have the Felix Callihans; I flipped head over heels for Mike Jack.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Keeping the Faith

I think I may have mentioned before that commitment to God is a "must" in any potential Future Guy. I think I may have rambled on about the merits of a shared dedication to a higher cause (maybe even quoted Hugh Jackman...).

For whatever reason, I feel like teasing this one out a little. Lucky you guys.

Here's one big ol' huge reason:

Relationships are scary. Dang scary. Going through a divorce was possibly the roughest thing I've ever done, and that's saying something. I hope I don't ever go through it again. Losing someone you love is horrid. Feeling betrayed is rotten. Tearing apart two lives that were stuck together hurts. Entering into a relationship, especially once you involve "commitment" and vows made, opens the door for all kinds of possible hurt. One of the reasons we place so much social convention and restriction on marriage is to underscore the seriousness of the act, and the potential destruction that ensues when the commitment isn't taken seriously.

An acquaintance of mine lived through a house fire that seriously injured both her and her young daughter. She became nearly fanatical about fire safety, pointing out hazards that most would scoff at. She has been dedicated to saving her friends and family from the pain she endured.

Fire does tend to make one cautious.

However, rough as divorce--and the lousiness that preceeded it--were, I'm still here. That I've survived with any modicum of sanity and humor intact is due solely to fabulous friends, hefty catharting, and a God big enough to rule the universe and good enough to hold me close through rocky times. Since He provides the friends and bears the catharting, I'd have to say the ultimate credit for pulling me through goes pretty much completely to Him.

I've learned, in a more intense way than I wanted, that the sting of disappointment, loss, and brokenness can all be swallowed up in His love. Learned it not just in a theoretical way, but in a deep-down-in-the-marrow kind of way.

Trusting Him takes the scary out of trying relationships again. Well, almost. I won't be walking into it on my own, squeezing my eyes shut and hoping for the best, feeling that I'm turning over heart, soul, and everything in me to another person's safekeeping, risking everything on hopeful trust in another flawed human being. Of course I'll be doing that to some extent--that's what love is. Someone once said that becoming a mother is to forever have your heart walking around outside of your body. Choosing to love someone is to acknowledge the possibility that you might get hurt. Your love could be the sweetest, most trustworthy person on the planet and still be smashed by a bus two blocks from home, and you could still suffer. That's the nature of love. But trusting God first means the peace to let go of paranoia, cynicism, and doubt--all hardcore relationship killers. Trusting God means relaxing, allowing space for love and trust to grow between two mortals. Trusting God means there is something bigger than myself, and I can turn over all the negative baggage and move on unencumbered. Knowing God's with me gives me the freedom to let someone else be with me, too.

God is my rock and my foundation. If I'm ever going to build a marriage, it's got to be on that Rock, my sure foundation. It would logically follow that Mr. Future Guy's got to have that same appreciation for solid grounding in Him.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Do Have a Romance Bone--I Do, I Do, I Do!







I have always, always wanted to visit Prince Edward Island. Since the first time I read Anne-with-an-E-Shirley, since the first time I watched those lovely Kevin Sullivan PBS movies (and all the hundreds of times since), since my friend Melanee's husband took her there for their honeymoon eons ago and I was green with envy--someday I've got to go to Prince Edward Island.

The other day I surfed around, checking out travel options and packages, just window-shopping a bit. Before I even knew it, I was swooning. Swooning, I tell you! Beaches, lighthouses, quaint little paths, beautiful old farmhouses, elegant resorts, long green lawns, colorful boats lined up the pier, dunes overlooking the sea... I'm not sure, but I may have drooled on my sleeve just a little bit.

Midst the sighing and swooning, I distinctly heard myself breathe out, "Oh, it's just so ROMANTIC!"

No idea why, not sure if this feeling translates to anything literary (other than the whole Anne of Green Gables thing that started this fascination, and you already know how I feel about that), but ladies & gentlemen:

Apparently I do have a romance bone after all.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Love Life Advice



For pretty much all of first grade, which is practically an eternity in the life of a soon-to-be 7-year old, Grace has been in love with a classmate named Jonathan. This love is apparently returned. I asked Grace how she knew that Jonathan liked her back, and she cupped my cheeks in her hands and said, "because he does this to my face, and I do back to him, so I know he loves me." Makes sense.

Last week Grace spent an hour begging me to come to class the next day and play out a little script she developed. It went something like this:

Mommy comes to the classroom door.

Mommy: "Which one of you is Jonathan? Would Jonathan please raise his hand?"

When the poor boy raises his hand Mommy responds:

Mommy: "Jonathan, would you come out in the hall with me for a minute?"

Jonathan follows Mommy into the hall.

Mommy: "Jonathan, would you please marry Grace when she grows up?"

After answering this one simple question, Jonathan is free to return to the classroom and Mommy reports back to Gracie with her marital fate.

Needless to say, the reason this discussion went on for an hour is because Mommy, party pooper that she is, balked at doing Grace's proposing for her. Couldn't Grace do it herself? No, because that would be too embarrassing. Because having your mother propose for you isn't embarrassing at all. Don't you think Jonathan might be a little bit embarrassed to have Grace's mom ask him this question? Well, maybe, but that's better than if BOTH Grace and Jonathan are embarrassed, which is what will happen if Grace asks. Hmmm. What if the teacher doesn't like the class being interrupted for such a silly reason? It's not silly, and she won't mind, because she wants Grace to marry Jonathan. Uh, how do you know Mrs. K supports this? Because she loves me and she wants me to be happy, and I will be happy if I marry Jonathan. Oy.

We compromised. Grace agreed to write a letter asking the all-important question. While I put the twins to bed she wrote the rough draft, seen above, because Mommy is sneaky & saved it from the garbage. After the twins were safely slumbering, she requested pretty pink paper to write the REAL love letter, and Mommy's help correcting the spelling.

The actual letter read, "Dear Jonathan, Can you marry me? You are cute. Love, Grace."

After I tucked the girls into bed we snuggled and chatted for a little while, thankfully about non-romance related topics. Conversationally, I told the girls that I was going to take a couple of classes this summer, and we could do homework together after dinner. Almost as an aside, I mentioned that I was taking one of the classes with someone they know, who for some freaky-weird reason they have pegged as one of their top-candidates for stepdaddydom.

Mia bolted up in bed. "Oh YAY," she enthused. "Now you will fall in love!"

Grace snuggled into the covers and sighed. "That's perfect, Mom," she said. "You'll take the class together and you will smooch and then you'll get married."

I moved quickly to disabuse them. "Sorry, not gonna happen, girls."

Mia indignantly asked why; Grace gave me a long-suffering look--the one she gives me when I'm being particularly dumb.

"Because that's not the way it works," I responded to Mia's question. "You don't just take a class with somebody and decide to marry him. That's not how you find a husband." I silently applauded myself for ending this discussion with such finality.

Grace looked at me with pity.

"Yes, it does," she stated firmly. "It worked for me and Jonathan."

I have no response to that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Signs of Life

Months and months ago--okay, probably more like over a year--my friend Pat brought me a book that she thought I'd enjoy. I looked at it & nodded, put it on my desk where it promptly got covered with piles of Very Important Stuff, and never actually got around to reading it.

Until now.

I stayed up two nights in a row last week to read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society," and if I had known it was THIS good I would have read it much, much sooner.

Not that it's perfect--there were a few small flaws in the writing that were mildly irritating, but it was far more charming than irritating, and in a strange kind of way, some of the amatuerisms just made it more charming.

I wouldn't classify it as a romance, exactly, though I have to admit, the romance worked for me. Not sure why--it just did. Maybe because it was kind of an improbable personality meld, and both romantic partners had been through so much--real life so much, not goofy teenage vampire angst so much--, and the romance came about so quietly and normally and *real*-ly, against the backdrop of just living their lives....I can believe in that kind of romance.

Here's a point from the very last page:

"All my life I thought that the story was over when the hero and heroine were safely engaged--after all, what's good enough for Jane Austen ought to be good enough for anyone. But it's a lie. The story is about to begin, and every day will be a new piece of the plot. Perhaps my next book will be about a fascinating married couple and all the things they learn about one another over time."

Amen, sister. That's a book I'd read.

Until it's written, it's encouraging to know there are signs of life in this romance-less literary heart of mine.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Salon, JA, Percy Jackson...

I've got a hankering to salon with ya'll. It dawned on me that we've never actually discussed JA in a salon--wanna do it? You know you do.

I'm thinking March 20 or 27. I'll make sure I see Percy Jackson in all his big-screen glory beforehand so we can talk book vs. movie, too.

Whaddya think?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Baby Steps...

I'm inching closer to reaching my New Year's resolution of having at least one great makeout session in 2010.

This morning the orthodontist removed the most sharp & obnoxious, pokey & painful brackets from my teeth. Even better, he put new wires on my braces and told me they were probably my LAST SET OF WIRES!!! Ever!!!

This is very good because, unlike most of my teenage peers, I never had the slightest desire to find out what it was like to kiss someone with braces, and I definitely don't want to find out what it's like to kiss someone with my own mouth full of braces, wires, and rubber bands. Most of the time I don't like having my own tongue in this metal torture chamber--why would I subject someone else's to it?

Yes, I realize this could be a moot point, as I'm not into the NCMO (non-committal makeout) thing, and most of the time I seem to be lightyears away from a committed, invested relationship. But still.

Baby steps...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

One More Bites the Dust!

I finally finished Northanger Abbey!!!! It would have happened soooooo much sooner, as I actually have enjoyed this book more than any of the other Austen tomes, but reading time--ANY reading time--has been in short supply.

What can I say--this is definitely my favorite Jane Austen. This should be a surprise to exactly no one, as it's JA at her sly, witty, ironic, nearly-snarky best. Yet she does it so gently that even the most obnoxious characters are still somewhat redeemed, or at the least, rendered inconsequential.

This book doesn't really qualify as a romance, in my humble opinion, so I'm not sure exactly where it falls in my quest to understand romance through the lens of JA. As an entertaining bedtime read, though, it earns two thumbs up.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dissecting the Romance/Men Issue

I'm breaking this up so that my fingers don't get tired of typing, and your eyes don't get tired of reading. Our whiteboard discussion of romance actually took place in two stages, the first involving long lists and the second utilizing a small chart. Today's post is The List. For clarity's sake the feminine perspective (me) is presented in a rather feminine italicized script, and the masculine perspective (President Precious) is presented in a masculine, blocky, bold font.

*Becky, you'll be glad to know that the very first thing we did was define romance so we could stay at least somewhat on the same page.

THE DEFINITION
Romance: an emotion, a feeling of closeness to someone, affection, excitement

Yeah, it's pretty basic, but it works.

THE LIST

Romance for Women Is:
  • flowers, especially for no reason
  • love notes or little gifts
  • affection/cuddling
  • BIG gifts
  • favors (acts of kindness)
  • time--making you a priority
  • footrubs--EWWW!--okay, neckrubs, shoulder rubs, etc.
  • cooking for her
  • crying on his shoulder
  • listening!! letting you cry on his shoulder
  • invitations
  • being touched
  • public affection, not necessarily physical, just being public with your feelings
  • saying hello instead of hi
  • being pursued
  • being goofy
  • quoting Ghandi (which means that women just like arbitrary & random things, so you find out those things and do them) I agree with this because it goes back to the whole "it's-so-romantic-if-he-takes-the-time-to-really-know-me" thing.
  • reading to them
  • everything a guy does (in your dreams, maybe)
  • influencing him/winning an argument
  • chivalry

Romance for Men Is:

  • Who knows? I don't
  • making out. + Sex. + other things that we don't talk about
  • having fun, playing around
  • being physical
  • no public affection--it's really, REALLY annoying, awkward, and embarrassing, especially when your 80-year old neighbor sees you
  • playful affection
  • paying attention, caring (or sharing) interests, listening--sometimes, but this could be annoying
  • to feel really, genuinely needed (as long as it's not cheesy)
  • playful disagreements
  • giving backrubs & stuff (you mean men really like to GIVE backrubs??? Yes. Wow.)

I know this probably seems like a pretty straightforward & simple list, but it took us about two hours, multiple arguments, several tangential stories, and an occasional erase-job to hash this out. As a duty to mankind, though, we felt it was worth it.

You're welcome.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Romance, Part Two (Or Three...Or Whatever)

So, after my post about what romance is and is not, I started wondering if romance is a female-only domain. I mean, you don't really ever hear men chatting about something and one says to another, "I mean, gosh, Fred, it was just soooooo romantic." Is this because only women actually experience romance and men don't? And if so, is it because for men, romance = sex, and it's just that simplistic, or is that a sexist oversimplification? I couldn't figure it out, so I sought outside opinions from Brain Drain & President Precious.

When I grilled--I mean, interviewed--Brain Pain, I hadn't quite put it into these terms yet, so the conversation went something like this:

Me: What is attractive to you in your relationship w/the Divine Miss B? I mean, aside from the obvious physical attraction--what else do guys look for in a relationship?

BP: Well, now, don't discount the importance of physical attraction--

Me: Noted. But aside from that--

BP: Well, I'd have to say it's really nice being with someone intelligent, who's well-read and stays up on current events, and has something to say...Someone who actually gets my jokes, especially when they are urbane & witty, as they so often are--

Me: Oh yes. You're known across the state for your brilliant wit.

BP: Thank you. It's nice to have fans in my hometown.

Me: Sarcasm, Stevie. It's beautiful thing.

BP: I don't get it.

Me: Moving on... So, what speaks love to you? How do you feel loved or have those ooh-la-la moments--and I don't mean sex, because that's just a given and I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOU & DIVINE MISS B!

BP: Hmm...well, don't discount the importance of sex--

Me: LALALALA, I'm not hearing this!!!

BP: Okay, besides that, it's nice when she does little things for me, just things to make my life easier or just because she knows I like it.

Me: Good. This is good. Taking notes now...

BP: But don't underestimate the importance of sex to men--

Me: Okay, we're done now. The end. Bye-bye.

The useful part of this conversation was the reassurance that there were some romantic type things that seemed to work for the male gender as well as the female gender. Good to know.

The discussion with President Precious ended up becoming extremely involved and required charting out on a massive whiteboard, so I'll post that a bit from now, after I download pictures of the whiteboard so you can be duly impressed by how thoroughly we interrogated this question of what constitutes romance to men.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Everything I Need to Know About Relationships I Learned From Netflix

I spent a wee bit of time over the holidays catching up on movies--which for me means I watched two actual movies, and supervised the kids watching five-hundred or so kiddie movies. That, combined with discovering "Cougartown" on abc.com, have persuaded me that apparently I still have much to learn in the romance realm.

What Hollywood has taught me about love:

  • Having immediate sex is the path to true love. Before sharing anything about oneself, developing any kind of trust, or exchanging names, you should first jump straight in the sack.
  • Mind-blowingly great sex = eternal relationship bliss.
  • Sex--even mediocre sex--will solve all relationship problems.
  • If you happen to become preggers as a result of all this sex, the man--whether you are still a couple or not--will rush to your side & fully support you and the child for the rest of eternity. Pregnancy will make him realize how much he loves you and needs you.
  • If you happen to contract a disease as the result of all this sex--oh wait, that never happens. Ever.
  • The only way to know who you want to make a lifetime committment to is to sleep with as many people as possible so you can be sure.
  • Once you've decided on one person you should probably remain at least somewhat faithful to that person, unless A.) you meet someone hotter, B.) you meet someone better in bed, or C.) your partner isn't perpetually horny 24/7.
  • Making sexually suggestive comments to other people is not being unfaithful. Neither is watching other people get naked and/or have sex. Phone or internet sex is not infidelity. Depending on the situation, other forms of sexual activity with someone other than your partner may or may not be considered cheating.
  • Bottom line, l-o-v-e = s-e-x.

The end.