Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letting Family and Friends Read Those Sex Scenes

Last year, in this space, an interesting discussion took place on the topic of writing sex scenes. (Fifty Shades of Red) It evolved out of an earlier discussion on the Fifty Shades phenomenon. Many readers agreed that we might be fifty shades of GREEN with envy at the success the author is enjoying, but we would be fifty shades of RED at the thought of our mothers, or sisters, etc. reading explicit sex scenes we might write. I had to admit I was on the side of embarrassment at the thought of one of my sisters reading anything sexually explicit that I had written.

Fast forward a year. Confession and full disclosure time. I wrote a book. It is the book formally known on this blog as ‘the practice novel.’ As a fledgling writer I had no illusions of it ever being published, so the fact that it contained some sex scenes didn’t worry me. But it is being published. (THE VAMPIRE’S PASSION, Soul Mate Publishing, Spring 2014) Of course I’m thrilled. Very thrilled. Of course all my friends and family want to read it. All of it. Even the sex scenes.

My oldest sister, Nancy, didn’t want to wait until it came out—she wanted to read it now. So, with the caveat that it hadn’t been professionally edited, I sent her a PDF copy. Now, Nancy holds a very special place in my heart and in my life, because she has dual roles: sister and godmother—she’s eighteen years older than me. When our mother passed away thirteen years ago Nancy also filled the space of ‘mother’ in many ways. So handing my manuscript over to her was like handing it to my mom, AND my sister.

What was she going to think? At first, all I was worried about was what she’d think of the book, my writing. Nancy is the perfect ‘beta family reader’ because, while she’ll be kind, she will also give it to you straight. I kind of forgot about the sex scenes when I hit the send button. As she lives 1,000 miles away we rarely get to see one another, but recently we were together and she had just finished the book. She gave me one of THOSE looks and said, “We need to talk about your book. Later. Not right now.” (There were a lot of other family members around at the time.) Oh my god—what was she going to say? About the book? About the sex? Yikes!

She was impressed! Not her genre, but thought it was good. She even told our cousin, who does read this genre, that she would LOVE it, and needs to read it! Yes, she was surprised that her ‘little’ sister had written about ‘such’ things, but she conceded that the sex scenes weren’t as graphic as some that are being written these days. Phew! All in all, an excellent outcome.

And a big step for the fledgling writer. I’m ready to let people who aren’t total strangers read my book, including the sex scenes. Well, most people. There may be two or three still on the Don’t Get to Read It list. But, maybe someday…

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Musing On Parenting Part II

When I posted my 'little rant' regarding my concern about the disappearance of imagination in today's children, it prompted many discussions both here and with friends and family. Today I'm posting the second half of my guest blogger's thoughts on parenting today. If you missed the first half please scroll down and catch up on Bridget's and her husband's common sense approach to parenting. I must tell you, I taught all of their children, and their parenting is producing wonderful young people who also happen to have imaginations. Today's post is all about the Family Rules. For more of Bridget's amusing anecdotes on family life you may visit her blog at:

Part II:
We made up the rules as we went along:

One sport a season once they were of age to play team sports.  We decided not to do year-round anything, both for our sanity and the kids.  They don’t know what they want and why do we, the adults, torture ourselves arguing and cajoling them to go to practice and play when they are tired, cranky and hungry?  They spend the whole day keeping it together at school and just when they are primed and ready for a colossal melt down between 4:30 and 6:00 we want them to go out and give their best effort at a sport.  Really?  How many of us are anxious to go out and run a 5 or 10K after 8 to 10 hours at work?  Any volunteers?

If you forget your lunch, you will be good and hungry for dinner.  The kids are mostly all right with this one.  It is a pretty direct cause and effect situation.  It is the adults at school that have a problem.  No one in this family is going to starve to death because they forgot their lunch. (They started making them for themselves in kindergarten, by the way.) I have had to have a serious discussion with our lunchroom people every year regarding this family rule.  The kids only forget once though.

If you forget your backpack at home with all your homework you have worked so hard on you will be handing it in late the next day.  After I drop you off at school, I have a full schedule and things to do to keep this house and family running smoothly and running back and forth bringing you things you have forgotten is not on the list any day.  Everyone gets one save a school year.  They choose wisely now.

If you are being taken to school and picked up from school by me, as well as every other activity you’re involved in, you do not need a phone of your own.  When you are in a situation where you will be arranging for your own transportation, taking a bus, or walking/riding your bike home you will have a phone to notify me when you’re leaving and when you get home if I am not there.

If you misplace, lose or forget your phone, you will have to purchase the next one.  When you get a phone, we have a contract that you will sign and abide by.  These are all leading up to the situations and consequences of the independent adult world.  We are allowing them to make these errors now when there is still some sort of safety net, but the gravity of the situation is not completely lost.

Electronic devices are fun and cool and a luxury item.  We have Amish days at our house.  Sometimes these come about as a punishment for misuse/overuse of electronic devices; sometimes they are scheduled so we can all remember what else we can do with our brains.  As you may have guessed Amish days are pretty simple.  The only electrical things that you can use are lights, stove, oven, toaster, dishwasher, curling iron, washing machine, dryer, vacuum and the land line in the kitchen.  All other electrical or battery operated devices will not be used.  They will be secured in Mom and Dad’s room.

Although there is always much grumbling on Amish days—sometimes from the kids’ friends who have to actually CALL and TALK to them on a land line- oh the horror—by the end of the day they have read, played board games, cleaned their rooms, walked the dog, gone for a bike ride, played at the park, and gotten along together.  During the long school breaks we plan one or two Amish days per week, just to keep everyone pleasant.  It does work.

We don’t take the kids out of school for vacations.  We take our trips when school is out.  That is your opportunity.  Not the week before, not during the middle of the year because that is the off-season at Disneyland.  This never made us real popular with our kids, but oh-well…

You get one all class birthday party.  These were usually bowling or one of those inflatable jumping places, where the money hungry teenager that works there corrals the children for you.  This occurs in kindergarten because you are going to be moving through the K-8 school together for the next 8 years.  It’s good to get to know people.  After that, birthdays are a one to three friend situation, and sometimes it’s just family.

We have made it very clear to all of our kids that school is their job. All other activities are extra and subject to cancellation at the discretion of their parents.  We also say that once you are on a team you are committed for the duration of that season.  It can be a fine line to instill the responsibility of being on a team, but also the impermanence of extracurriculars.  They are earned at our house and not to be expected.  We had our oldest boy call his basketball coach in 4th grade to let him know he would not be able to play in the tournament because he had gotten a C in some subject.  He did wear nice clothes and sat on the bench to support his team though.  It was a hard lesson, but I’d rather he learn it at the age of 9 than 19.

We received some praise for that consequence, but I know others thought it was harsh.  Again –Oh, well…  You may be noticing a theme here.  We repeatedly tell the kids, and have since they were 5 or so, we are trying to raise you to be kind, happy productive members of society.  We are not your friends. We are your parents.  It is our job to embarrass you, call attention to inappropriate behaviors, and remind you, sometimes repeatedly that you have chores/homework/responsibilities of all sorts.  We hope to be friends one day when you are independent adults with college educations, jobs and your own places to live.  Until then it doesn’t really matter if you think we are fair, or things don’t make sense or you think we are in the wrong.  It is not up for discussion.

If the kids sincerely think they have been misjudged or maligned in some way, they can come to us with facts and evidence to plead their case.  This supporting evidence may not include, ‘It’s not fair,’ ‘I didn’t do anything,’ ‘He/She started it!’ ‘I don’t know what happened,’ or ‘That just doesn’t make sense.’ To reiterate, we are the parents.  If these are the only things you can come up with you probably should just keep it to yourself.  When the young politicians have brought appropriate extenuating circumstances there have been reversal of judgments.  The moral of this situation is, if it’s worth fighting for you better bring your A game.  I believe this is a lifelong lesson and skill to be learned.

The fact of the matter is you are not alone out there, and almost everyone else has had some version of the experiences you are having.  All of these interactions with your kids, and all the advice you receive solicited or not are points on a spectrum. You are creating an environment that you want to live in with these individuals you have brought into the world.  It does not matter what anyone who is not a member of your family, meaning they do not live under your roof, has to say.  If they don’t live in the house, they don’t get a vote.  Hold tight to your convictions, and be sure of yourself.  We all have the power, the knowledge and the skill to raise people we will enjoy spending time with someday.

Thank you Bridget!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Musing On Parenting

My recent post on the disappearance of imagination in today’s children and the concern it gives me as an educator led to many interesting conversations both online and with friends and family. One conversation with a good friend whose parenting skills I admire led me to ask her to write a guest post on the joys and frustrations of parenthood in today’s demanding world. Always the trooper Bridget said ‘yes’ and today’s post is the first of two parts from her. The second half will run in a few days. Bridget writes about family life on her blog “Family Truths: you just can’t make this stuff up…”

Bridget always tells it how it is, and I’ve never gotten together with her when tears of laughter didn’t flow at some point.

Here is the first half of Bridget’s wisdom:

My husband and I both grew up in working middle class families.  We were always fed and clothed.  We went to school, church, the dentist, the doctor, and the eye doctor.  We sat in the car without the benefit of electronics when we ran errands with our parents. Sometimes we had a book to read, but mostly we sat and waited. We played sports, rode bikes, had roller skates, skate boards and BB guns.  We always had skinned knees, elbows, and palms. We were outside all day long in the summer and after school until dinner during the rest of the year.  There were no designer clothes or name brand shoes.  There wasn’t money for that.  My mom made a lot of my clothes.  We did not miss school unless we were sick.  There were no family vacations to Hawaii, Mexico or Disneyland.  We did drive, to visit family around the holidays, anywhere from 3 to 12 hours depending on whom we went to see.  If you have not experienced the 12-hour family trip in a car or station wagon you have not truly lived.  Birthdays were spent as a family.  There was no trampoline jumping, pizza eating, out of control birthday extravaganzas. Maybe there was a sleep over in the middle to high school years. 

I know it’s different now.  I’m not saying stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s 1975, but there are things you can do to live simply and maybe raise kids so that they grow up to have patience, imagination and kind hearts.

Parenting is a very nebulous endeavor.  It’s like The Coyote grasping at those few spindly weeds as he’s falling from the crumbling cliff.  I once found a pin at one of those funky little book stores that said, ‘raising children is like being pecked to death by chickens.’  I think maybe you’ll be getting the idea now that there is no rule book, no instruction manual, no operating instructions, they just let you strap those little creatures into their car seats and send you on your way.  All the while you are wondering, ‘Oh my gosh! What have we done?!’

And so it begins from the moment you bring them home to start your new little family.  There are billions of choices to be made everyday all day long and where ever you are getting your information from you have to make the best decision for you and this new family you have built.  Cloth or disposable? Breast or bottle or maybe both? Family bed or not.  When do you start solids? Should they have shoes?  Do they need a hat?  When to toilet train? TV? Computers? Do you need to have a schedule? Daycare or nanny?  Should I go back to work? When? No wonder new parents are sleep deprived, and confused wandering around like zombies.  Not only are they trying to figure out what this tiny person wants and needs, they are making a million decisions a minute and hoping that the next one does not irreversibly scar the child or become the subject of years of future therapy.

Fast forward one to three years. Not only are you approaching the whole preschool, sports, extra curricular activities dilemma, but you may have talked yourself into one or two more of these tiny, messy, germ ridden house mates.

I’d like to repeat that you are trying to make the best decisions for you and your family.  This is really where the hard part begins.  As they are growing you continue to get more and more input about what you are doing and how.  It’s not just books, blogs, playgroups and websites anymore.  It’s in the locker room at the pool for Mommy and me swimming, in the cry room at church, waiting in line at the grocery store.  Anyone who has had kids or currently has kids feels more than free to tell you exactly what they think you should do in any given situation.

I try to restrain myself when I get the urge to give advice to strangers unless they look completely desperate. Like when the 2 year old is having a screaming fit in the middle of Target or someone is trying to shop with 3 kids in tow.  These people need some encouragement.  I usually tell them it will only be a short time and they too will be able to shop alone.  Sometimes I see them take a deep breath and forge on, slightly fortified for the next round.  Occasionally I just say, ‘Stay strong, you’re doing a good job.’

When our first child started school it was game on.  All of a sudden our small still evolving family was assailed from all sides.  Will he play soccer, - it seemed like everyone did.  T-ball?  Flag football? Basketball? Lacrosse? Swimming lessons? I was big on the swimming lessons, more from a safety point of view than a sports point of view.  We tried to keep it simple. Swimming lessons twice a year, maybe a 6-week class at the rec center here or there.  None of my kids expressed any particular interest in any one sport. Thank goodness for me because I didn’t relish driving all over creation during the little free time I had to watch a bunch of 6 year olds running around like a pack of sheep dogs after the ball. (This analogy applies to all sports until around the age of 9.)

That was just the tip of the iceberg.  How do you survive as parents in the world today with all the STUFF you’re expected to do? But expected by whom?  That’s really the crux of the matter isn’t it? Why do we feel pressured by others to push and push and go and go driving around children with mountains of equipment and clothing that they will need for every activity under the sun?  Here’s were the fun begins.

We made up the rules as we went along.    

The second half of Bridget's wisdom will be posted in a few days. Thank you Bridget!!