Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pain Meds

A few weeks ago, I posted about the horrendous side effects I was experiencing with my pain meds. Since then, I've had my gall bladder removed, and am now on a different set of meds (thank my wonderful husband for remembering to tell the surgeon about those side effects so I could get a different prescription!)

This new medicine comes with its own side effects, of course. However, instead of paranoia, insomnia and hallucinations, these meds make me a little silly.

Luckily, they also make me sleepy. Which means I have really silly dreams. For instance:

- I am walking down the street in a 1940's sailor girl outfit, drinking vinegar from a bottle with a twisty straw.

- I spend a good amount of time arguing with Alec Baldwin about whether or not the word "Auntie" starts with the letter "M" (turns out, he's right- it does not start with "M"... who knew?)

- I adopt a pair of baby polar bears. The reason for this should be obvious. They have perfectly white coats, which I successfully tie-dye.

- I invent a new color. It is awesome. Sadly, I cannot prove it to you, because I am the only one who can see it.

- I sit Clary and Jace (of Mortal Instruments fame) down and give them a serious talking to. Actually, this one isn't so silly, but it is ridiculous, because everybody knows that those two will never listen to reason.

- I watch the State of the Union address, and in it, President Obama sings "Be Prepared" from the Lion King, and sounds a whole lot better than Jeremy Irons did. No hyenas were present, sadly, but he was accompanied by several African tribesmen in authentic garb and headdresses.

If I had to pick one set of side effects over the other, I choose the silly dreams. Plus, I'm on these meds for at least four more days, so who knows what else I will come up with! Have you ever had awesomely silly dreams? Or awesome side effects from pain meds? Do share!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

This is what "old" feels like.

Guys. I'm gonna be 30 this year. Which really isn't that old, and I've never thought I would freak out about turning 30. I still don't think it's a big deal (yes, it's seven months away, but still, I'm not worried).

But, I think it might be time to admit that I'm old.

I've collected a couple of anecdotes that prove my oldness.

First, I was talking to a girl at church. This "girl" is an adult, by all definitions of the word. She doesn't know who David Spade is. She's never seen Tommy Boy, though she did ask, "Is he the big fat guy?" when I mentioned Chris Farley. So there's that.

But the clincher? The way I really know I'm old?

My babysitter doesn't know that Gwen Stefani used to be in a band. 

So, how did you know you were old?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lists of Ideas

You ever read those blog posts that are just lists full of AMAZING ideas?

I'm sure you know which ones I'm talking about:

57 Ways to Save Money!
23 Ways to Save Money at Disneyland!
46 Great Ideas to Make Road Trips Easier!
103 Ways to Make Moving a Snap!
400 Ways to Show Your Kids You Love Them!

I always click on them, thinking, "Yes! I so need to know this!"

So, I read. And I read. And I read. And I think, "Huh. I already do all of this."

Admittedly, my budget has been super-small since we are nearing the end of grad-school days. You want to know the best way to Not Spend Money? Have No Money. It's pretty easy. So, maybe my perspective on budgeting is a little skewed.

But what about the other stuff?

For instance, I saw a blog post all about How to Make Road Tripping with Kids Easy. Since I am going to be driving 39 hours across the country with my three little ones in a few weeks, I thought this sounded like a good use of my time. Her tips? Have a portable device for them to watch movies. Have snacks on hand, preferably in a box or cooler. Stop every once in awhile to let them run around, maybe at a playplace or a playground.

Well. Gee. When you put it that way...


I don't mean to be all superior and obnoxious and stuff... (hey, stop laughing!) but, isn't this really common sense?

I'm really not sure if I'm brilliant to already be doing this stuff (doubtful) or if the bloggers in question are just putting numbers in front of a bunch of stuff that is common knowledge (likely, and lame).

Seen any good tips lately?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Oops. Is my nerdiness showing?

I spoke on the phone with an old friend recently. You might know that this is a big deal, because I hate phones. That means I must really love talking to this person if I can handle talking to her on the phone.

We have known each other for more than ten years, but haven't seen each other regularly in three (I've been living on the other side of the country).

During the course of the conversation, we talked a bit about how it annoys us when people are super late for important things (weddings), and we discussed how there are some events for which it is acceptable to be not-punctual (birthday parties). I, of course, said the following:

"Sometimes, I plan to show up late, just so I'm not all awkward-early for a party or something. I'm like a wizard, you know? I always arrive precisely when I mean to."

My friend had no clue what I was talking about, so I told her, "It's from Lord of the Rings. Gandalf says, 'A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.' That's me."

And she laughs and says, "I cannot believe you just quoted Lord of the Rings!!!"


I guess I let my nerd-flag fly a little high that day, guys.

Has this ever happened to you? Please tell me I'm not the only one to let my too-cool-for-school exterior slip.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why You're Wrong About YA

There have been several high-profile editorials and blogs posted lately that are slamming YA fiction. I'm not going to link to them because I think each of those writers A) gets more than enough traffic, B) has received more than a sufficient number of ego-strokes, and C) aren't really worthy of your time anyway.

Oh, I'm sorry, was that mean?

That's what they're saying about YA, at any rate: it isn't worthy of your time. They're saying that YA books are bad, YA authors are substandard and you just shouldn't bother with any of it.

They're wrong.

First of all, YA isn't a genre. It's a category. Within the YA category, every genre conceivable exists, just as it does in Adult fiction. YA includes science fiction, fantasy, dystopia, romance, paranormal, contemporary, horror, crime, drama, western (though these, admittedly are not particularly popular right now... which, by the way, why not? who doesn't love cowboys?), action, adventure, mystery and anything else you could possibly think of.

The YA category as we know it today has been around for centuries. Literally, hundreds of years. The first time a book was written with a teen-aged person in mind, the YA category was born. (That was in 1802, by the way.) Young adults are whole, valid, and important people. Why should they be ignored? Why should that portion of the human experience be skimmed over or treated as inferior?

It shouldn't. It's as simple as that.

There are a lot of arguments about what makes a book a YA book, and I think all of them are simultaneously valid and invalid.

"It's YA if the main character is a teenager!"
Valid: We tend to see ourselves as the protagonist, and somebody who is in the same phase of life as us is easiest to relate to.
Invalid: Not all teens are in the same place in life, and not all teens see themselves reflected in fictionalized teenagers. Plus, there are many who argue content and theme is more important in categorizing a novel.

"It's YA if the protagonist is trying to figure out how they fit into the world or what they want out of life!"
Valid: This is what most teens are going through and speaks to their personal issues. Questions of "Who am I?" or "What do I stand for?" or "Where am I going?" all speak to the young adult experience.
Invalid: These themes are not unique to teenagers. Especially in our culture's protracted version of childhood (do you know any recent grad school graduates who are living at home with their parents?), these questions reflect a human experience, not just a teen experience.

"It can't be YA if it's dirty/violent/political/otherwise edgy."
Valid: Teens are still, in a very real sense, children. Do they need to read all the filth that this world has to offer? No. Is some of that filth irredeemable? Yes. Some of it is just garbage: filth for filth's sake.
Invalid: Teens live in the real world, and learning how to navigate the real world and all its difficulties is imperative. Some of what gets labeled as "filth" is not only redeemable, but it offers excellent opportunities for discussion and introspection. I mean, really, would you kill twenty-three of your peers if it meant your family and community would no longer be on the brink of starvation and would have access to medicines they need? Would you turn around and sacrifice that relative safety in pursuit of national freedom?

The category is broad and blurry around the edges. The line between "YA Fiction" and "Fiction" is indistinct and subjective. But the bottom line is this: Anytime a book is aimed at or is about a person who has started down the path to adulthood but not yet completed that path, it is a YA book, at least in some respects. This means that a great deal of highly-acclaimed literary fiction is actually also YA fiction.

Catcher in the Rye
Lord of the Flies
The Chronicles of Narnia
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.
Call it Sleep
The Death of the Heart
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

All YA books, and each one is listed as one of the 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century by outlets from the Modern American Library to TIME Magazine.

Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, The Giver, His Dark Materials, The Book Thief, A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terabithia, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Charlotte's Web, The Outsiders, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tuck Everlasting, and Ender's Game are all YA novels or series that have won major critical acclaim and literary awards. I don't think one book on that list could be disputed as quality work, and most people would label each of them as classics (or classics in the making, in the case of the newest titles).

In the early days of marketing and labeling YA (looooooong after the first true YA novels were actually written), publishers and critics declared five novels to be the "fab five" of YA fiction. These five novels were published in 1970s and gave clout to the YA category, helping critics and the public to take YA seriously. What are those five novels, you ask?

The Friends
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The Bell Jar
Bless the Beasts and Children

Hardly what any respectable critic today would refer to as fluff, yet they were all written with a teenaged audience in mind. They were- and are- YA novels.

Even something like Pride and Prejudice would likely be marketed as a YA novel today; 20 year old Lizzie Bennet and her teenaged sisters flounce from one party to the next, hunting for boys. Actually, something like Pride and Prejudice wouldn't be published at all today. It's full of "adult" themes: pursuit of marriage, statutory rape and observations on society. It's a "YA" character: 20 years old with no real life experiences, trying to figure out what she wants in life and how she fits in the world. It's a marketing nightmare.

And make no mistake about it: The YA label is a marketing tactic, nothing more, nothing less. Many YA books appeal to a broad audience, including well-educated adults, and many teens enjoy reading books that are not labeled as YA. Frankly, that's how it should be. I read what I want to read, regardless of what some publisher's marketing team has decided is appropriate for me to read.

Let me repeat: I READ WHAT I WANT TO READ. Sometimes that's YA, sometimes it's not. It isn't up to a pretentious columnist on the internet to tell me what my tastes are, or that they are somehow something to be ashamed of because they are not the same as his.

Yes, some YA sucks. This seems to be the thrust of the anti-YA campaign, and there's a teensy-tiny grain of truth to it. Because YA has absolutely exploded over the last decade or so, the floodgates have been opened, and some substandard work has been released. But guess what? Some adult fiction sucks. Some children's books suck. But in every category, there is brilliance. There are plenty of YA authors out there creating wonderful stories, full of deep characters, rich settings and thought-provoking themes. There are lots of funny, articulate, educated and talented people writing YA fiction. YA doesn't shy away from the grittiest human experiences, nor does it ignore the most beautiful aspects of our lives.

Let's encourage everybody to read, period. Let's encourage authors to write quality work, period. Let's encourage both authors and readers to stretch their limits, find new characters, new places and new situations. Let's challenge beliefs, give readers something to think about.

And above all, let's enjoy ourselves. Because let's face it: Reading is a leisure activity, and it's meant to be enjoyable.

TL;DR Version: First of all, isn't it a little ironic that you couldn't even read a 1300 word blog post, but you're complaining about other people reading "stupid" YA books? Second, YA is a broad category, with a lot of well-written books, touching on every theme and genre available. Last, it's not your job to tell me what I like.

Do you love YA fiction? Tell me in the comments why. Or, if you'd rather, tell me some of your favorite YA books or authors. I'm always looking for a good recommendation :)