Picking My Way Through the Fog

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100_0812Sheesh am I foggy-headed this morning. Maybe it’s the weather; maybe it was a night of sleep that felt like another life in another place. Maybe I’ve used up all the spark my brain has to offer.

I hope it’s not that last one.

Somewhere, inside the swaddled cotton in my head, there are words and thoughts and ideas, I’m sure of it. They’re just tired now, and my full dose of caffeine isn’t rattling their cages.

That’s not right.

I don’t keep my ideas in confinement. I fully support free-range ideas, they are given complete run of my head. If only they can find their way through the batting.

Through the batty?

Hmm. Something tells me with that kind of transition, Aunty Ida wants a word with me. Let her find me through the fuzz, then, and very good luck to her.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

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Photo Time! Skokie Lagoons

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IMG_4018Photo time again! I know it’s been a while since a photo post, but it’s also been a while since I took any photos. Today, I’m sharing pictures from the Skokie Lagoons, which is pretty poorly named, given that they aren’t actually in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, but instead spread over parts of Winnetka, Glencoe and Northfield.

Apparently you can fish there with a license, and you can rent canoes and kayaks. I did none of these things. Instead, I got a ton of mosquito bites, despite copious amounts of bug spray.

I also got some interesting shots! I saw some great birds, though not even a fraction of the species living there. I am a terrible bird spotter. But an excellent mosquito attracter.

This time, interestingly, I didn’t break out the little camera, there was just so much new stuff to capture with my real camera. Hope you enjoy your bite-free visit!
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Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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TV Talk: Real Housewives of…Everywhere

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If you follow me on Twitter (come on, I know you want to) you’ve been subjected to my barrage of Real Housewives tweets. Real Housewives of Orange County (RHOC); Real Housewives of New York (RHONY) and Real Housewives of Melbourne (RHOMelbourne) are currently on rotation. Real Housewives of Beverly Hills joins in when there are new episodes.

Recently, someone I follow (I can’t find the tweet or I’d post it, so if it was you, please let me know so I can edit this and add it) asked what I thought was a really good question: Why do women watch the Real Housewives when it depicts women so poorly?

I definitely didn’t have an immediate answer. As a feminist, it made me stop and wonder at myself. What am I getting out of these shows?

More than you’d think. And a lot of that stems from the audience watching with me.

First, though, I think it’s pretty clear that the Housewives, as a whole, don’t represent women, let alone all women. They live in a world of fantasy and casual inch-thick makeup, where real is a word that always has implied quotes.

They’re pushed together under artificial circumstances for which they’re perpetually overdressed, where glances from amused, regular guests shatter any illusion of normalcy. I’ve yet to meet someone who knows someone like a “Real” Housewife in real life. They have a job, and they do it.

There’s a reason they feel so familiar from franchise to franchise. They are meant to entertain, and they do.

Which brings me to the best part of these shows. The audience.

While the Housewives can embody the worst stereotypes about women, together we get to dismantle them in delicious, technicolor snark. Take Countess Luann, for example, who, like quick-dry crazy glue, stuck to a man who’d “dated” several of her friends, even after seeing photographic proof of him kissing another woman after their engagement.

Who does she blame? The woman who told her — who cultivates her own nest of mean girl stereotypes — and the “clutches” of the woman he kissed. Not the rather aptly-named “Tom,” who left her after an evening together to meet this other woman.

Yep.

But the beauty of it? The number of viewers, men and women alike, pointing out the ridiculousness of that route to denial. It’s the opportunity, publicly, to smash that idea of convenience that it’s man-grabbing women, and not wandering men, who deserve the scorn.

Is now a good time to mention that Luann and Tom were on dates with other people when they met? Hmm. Moving on.

And then there’s the flip side to the show, the opportunity for women who are eternally the objects of other people’s gossip to show their genuine selves, like RHOMelbourne’s Gamble Breaux (Wolfe). A woman who enjoys gilding herself in full high-glamour glitz and married to a much older man, Gamble’s been a target of all of the possible permutations of rumors.

And she’s shed them with grace and humor. She seems to be a what-you-see-is-what-you-get person, faithfully interacting on Twitter week-to-week without any negativity toward her costars. Rather than reinforcing stereotypes, she crushes ideas we might have had about “someone like her.”

Is Real Housewives harmful to the perception of women? I doubt it, frankly. I think the depictions of women as window-dressing and little more than accessories is far worse. With the Housewives, the women are entire people, some good, some kinda unbearable. But people.

And that’s all feminism is about at its most fundamental level. Women being seen and treated as people.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Failure is Always an Option

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IMG_0071Yesterday I tried to bake a cake. Not for any particular reason; just because I don’t think I’ve ever baked a layer cake before.

It did not go well.

Both layers were gently slanted, as I placed them too close to the front of the oven. When the toothpick (bamboo skewer) came out clean, I let them cool for a bit, and when it came time to turn them out on my makeshift cooling rack, one of the layers stuck to the pan, leaving a chocolate crater. I patted the hunk back into place, and hoped for the best.

I left the other in the pan longer, and it came out, a little begrudgingly, but it came out.

Ah, but that first layer. It then stuck to the rack, falling apart into boulders of, I’m honest, not terribly good cake.

For that I blame the recipe. I followed it exactly. I’m pretty sure.

I thought I could make cake pops, which I see all the time as recipe suggestions, as the frosting turned out well. And then I figured, ah, to heck with it.

Into the trash it went.

It was, in all, a rather spectacular failure. Would it have worked if I’d just made cupcakes? Probably, though I still wouldn’t have loved the cake itself.

But the point was the trying. It’s OK to fail, even if it means digging chocolate crumbs out of the burners of you stove. It’s OK to fail, even if it means laughing at yourself as you carry handfuls of broken cake across the kitchen.

It’s OK to fail.

The point is the trying.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Back to School for the Brain

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IMG_8756Well, I managed to avoid the Chicago Air & Water Show this weekend. Mostly. I heard a few planes, but with the gloomy rain on Saturday, I think they had to cut things short. And then Sunday was beautiful, but I didn’t hang around for the show.

Eh.

Now things are back to their usual, non-war-machine quiet. It’s a beautiful day, just in time for the first day of school for some kids. Others, luckily, get one more week of summer before it’s back to notebooks and pens and classrooms with chairs that scrape against the floor.

Sometimes I miss that back-to-school season.

Mostly, I suspect, for the school supplies. I love a new notebook.

But I think it ingrains in all of us that sense that it’s time to bring our focus back to this side of the window. It’s time that the lazy dreamings of summer get packed away with the shorts and tank tops, and now we don our serious thoughts like that comfortable cardigan that’s been hanging on the back of the chair.

Fall is a good time for new challenges, new horizons. We think of spring as a rebirth, but autumn is its own kind of renewal, one of pairing down, rethinking, and preparing for the seasons ahead.

But not just yet.

I think I have one more week of summer left.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Memories of Rain

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20160819_104703I used to love the rain. But that was many years ago, you see, before the skies stayed dark.

Before.

The knocking of the drops against the window wasn’t yet a constant patter, a patter we don’t even hear anymore. Well, a patter you probably don’t hear anymore, but I do, I do because I remember a time when a sunny day was just as likely as a rainy one.

Or even more so.

As I said, that was long, long ago.

There came about The Change, and though you know it, so convenient from your side of history, packaged and neat with a beginning and an end, we didn’t see it looming over us, inevitable, a hulking arbiter of what would never be again.

Maybe I’m lucky to be old. To have had my youth when there were birds and bright flowers, and the sun was as certain as your galoshes. I wonder, sometimes, if it misses us, up there, on the other side of these endless clouds.

That’s silly, isn’t it?

The sun? Missing specks like us? Because what are we but the dust of the universe, floating on all this water, awash in all this water. Around us, only the water.

I can see I’ve lost you, that look in your eye, that quick glance to your phone. And you’re right, I’m nothing but an old woman, plopped here by the one on the shift before you, left to stare at the drops rolling down. Always the drops rolling down.

If we knew, we could have stopped it, The Change. We could have handed you something else entirely. Instead we’ve given you mud and muck and gray skies.

What’s that? Oh yes, I understand, you have to finish your rounds. You’ve been very patient and kind, listening to me. You’re right, of course.

You can never miss what you never had.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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TV Talk: Guilt

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If you’ve never heard of “Guilt,” here’s all I need to say: Giles from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with an American accent. You in?

I thought so.

A summer offering from Freeform TV — once rather inappropriately known as ABC Family, given other shows like “Pretty Little Liars,” — “Guilt” is loaded with the technicolor soapy unreality that’s all Freeform. Only set in London.

In this kinda Amanda Knoxian drama, British police accuse American Grace of the murder of her Irish flatmate, Molly. As has become standard, the mystery spins its tangled tendrils over the course of the season.

And if you feel like there’s something strangely familiar about the young actress playing Grace, you should: She’s Daisy Head, Anthony Stewart Head’s daughter. I can’t help but imagine them practicing their American accents together, maybe over tea and crumpets. Because that is all that British people are allowed to eat. And tea sandwiches. That’s why they don’t have the same obesity problems. Tea sandwiches are very small.

But I digress.

One of the things I enjoy about true British television is the diversity of appearance. Everyone is not smoothed and sanded down to a uniform look; they don’t seem like they’d lined up at the plastic surgeon to be given the #7.

Apparently Freeform TV felt that needed to change, and “Guilt” has that same air as their other shows, that insistent emphasis on attractiveness, so much so that it can distract from the story line.

But I’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty good story line. I binged it OnDemand and caught up to real time pretty quickly. Given that the season finale airs next week, that’s some binging.

Will “Guilt” change your life? Unless you’re one of the characters in this glossy mystery, I’d say not. But it’s definitely makes the list of a worthwhile summer “Guilt”y (see what I did there?!) pleasures.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!