Monthly Archives: February 2014

One Little Joy

Sometimes it seems hard to stay positive. There are so many things each day to bring us down. However I’ve chosen to take the very difficult road of trying to look at all the good things in life and not focus on the negative. Yesterday I read a line in Ralph Marston’s Daily Motivation that I receive as an e-mail every day. It said:

Even when there’s something big that’s getting you down, you
can find something small to lift you up. Just one little joy
can change your outlook in a big way.

I recall another tidbit I read a few months back that said not every day is a good day but you can find something good in every day. THAT really struck me as something I could use.

We all have bad days but does it have to last the entire day? I bet no matter how down you are or how much negativity you’re experiencing, you can probably find something to lift you up, something to be thankful for, a thought that brings you an attitude of gratitude.

Right?

The Emotional Payoff Of Being A Good Daughter

I love to read emotionally charged stories, with characters who are shredded, then put back together. But I also love to laugh, so over time my own writing has become a blend of these two elements…just like in real life.

Water DropsOn the Personal Transformation site, the blog post author discusses the importance of having a happy emotional payoff. If you’re interested, check out the post. It’s short. I’ll wait…

Oh good, you’re back.

On Monday, my sister and I took our mom to the knee doctor, and Mom is now on the list for knee surgery. For two years now, we’ve been trying to get her on that list. The good news is, she’s finally on the list. The bad news is, she’s finally on the list.

Confused?

Mom wants the operation, badly. She’s super active, and the knee not only causes her pain, it slows her down. And truthfully, the slowing down part is probably harder on her than the pain.

Pink flowerI want to be a good daughter. In fact, I get a huge emotional payoff when I’ve done something that makes Mom happy. But a very large part of me is afraid for this 98 pound, 85 year old woman. She’s feistier than I am, may even be physically stronger than me (although I think her strength is driven by the sheer determination to win at all costs), and the operation will allow her to be independent far longer than she would be if she didn’t get it.

But to me, she’s weak and old and frail and precious, and I struggle between being the good daughter (supporting her decision to have the operation) or being the bad daughter (convincing her the operation is a baaaaaddddd idea, especially at her age).

Hmmm, now where’s the humor in all this?

Well, you have to know my mom. She is one of the most determined, hard-headed women I know. Which means that once the operation is over, she’ll be pushing to get back to her “normal” self.

But her shoes are atrocious. She inherited them from my dad or her sister or anyone else who has said, “Dora, do you have a use for these? I’m throwing them out…” We can’t get her to wear proper footwear. So I’ve told her that while she’s in the hospital, I’m sending in reinforcements to collect and throw out all of her shoes. She doesn’t believe me, but in July, I’m fully expecting to be shunted to the bad daughter doghouse.

Then there’s the vegetable garden. I’ve warned her that if she plants before she goes into the hospital, it’ll be gone when she gets out, because no way can she resist the urge to play in her garden (and by play, I mean work). Again, she doesn’t believe me, but I’ve decided that part of the emotional payoff of being a good daughter is protecting my mom from her own stubbornness, and protecting her will give me a hugely happy emotional payoff.

And seriously, I’m not really afraid of the bad daughter doghouse. After all, I’m her daughter. Isn’t there a rule that she has to love me, no matter what?

So what are your favorite emotional payoffs in real life or in fiction?

What Happens in Vegas Should Stay in Vegas

I haven’t ranted in a while, so I figure I’m due. The other night my family gathered in the den to watch a movie. My son is sixteen and he likes action/suspense movies that are typically rated R and not appropriate for our fourteen-year-old daughter. Case in point, we saw Captain Phillips (rated PG-13) in the theater and she got scared.dvds

After much debate, we found a PG-13 movie about four old men who go to Vegas. The movie seemed innocent enough for her and yet funny enough for him. Everybody was happy—until the movie started playing. Now, bear with me because I want you to imagine watching this with a fourteen-year-old girl. A somewhat naïve, very innocent fourteen-year-old girl. A girl I’d like to remain somewhat naïve and very innocent, at least for a little while longer.

At the beginning of the movie, a happily married man who is not so happy in his retirement is ambivalent about going to Vegas with his old buddies. His wife, sensing something’s off in their marriage, gives him a condom, a little blue pill, and permission to cheat on her in order for him to snap out of it so she can have her husband back. I kid you not. Not only did this probably confuse my daughter about what is and is not appropriate about marriage, but I had to tell my husband that at no time and under no circumstances would that scenario ever come to pass.

So this guy skips though Vegas searching for a young hottie to bed. It’s his entire mission despite the fact that his other friend is getting married that weekend and his friend is marrying the wrong woman. The only thing that matters is finding some booty since his wife has granted him a mulligan. When he finally stumbles across someone drunk enough to take him up on it, he realizes he can’t cheat on his wife, but suggests a blowjob instead. Nice. Very nice.

What is wrong with Hollywood? It was gross enough watching old men slobber after women young enough to be their granddaughters, but to suggest a movie all about sex is appropriate for a PG-13 audience is just sad. I feel sorry for today’s youth because the messages are so confusing and impossible to ignore. Needless to say, I’m done being as innocent and naïve as my daughter. From now on I’ll assume all movies rated PG-13 should be rated R. Or maybe I’ll cross movies off our list of things to do and suggest a board game instead.

Am I overreacting or just watching the wrong kind of movies?

photo credit: Frenkieb via photopin cc

It’s Game On in Sochi

sochiThe winter Olympics are finally here!  I’m not sure how I feel about these games.  For months, we’ve heard nothing but horror stories about corruption—Russia spent over $50 billion to put on the winter Olympics, the largest price tag for an Olympics ever—to threats of terrorism,  to Russian president Putin’s stance on gays, and this week, the less than luxury living conditions for the media, the athletes and the fans.  And don’t get me started on the story about all the stray dogs in Sochi being rounded up and killed.  Barbaric.

But tonight, the games will officially open.  Of course, events have been taking place for the past two days. Was there a reason the opening ceremonies had to be delayed?  Matt Lauer has been there all week. (Savannah, I hope you packed an extra large Purell for him because I’m sure he’s out by now!) Is it just me or do things feel a little mixed up and jumbled?  Showcasing only fifteen sports, the winter games are supposed to be smaller, more intimate and laid back than the summer Olympiads, and yet it seems these games have begun on a more chaotic note.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to settling in each night to watch, I just hope the side show doesn’t detract from the real story:  the performance of the athletes.  

Yesterday, I blogged on www.romancingthejock about my favorite winter Olympic sport.  Stop on over to see what it is.  Hint:  special shoes and crazy pants are required.  I’m also looking forward to two of the twelve new events: women’s ski jumping (it’s about time!)

Jessica Jerome

Jessica Jerome

and the mixed figure-skating team event (although after last night, I’m not so sure.)  And, of course, there’s hockey.  I love hockey players—I mean hockey.

I was inspired when the USOC announced the flag bearer for the team USA.  It’s Todd Lodwick, a 37-year-old Nordic combined skier.  Voted on by the entire 230 member delegation, Lodwick definitely represents the Olympic spirit because this is his sixth winter Olympic games, making him the first US Olympic athlete to compete in six different games. (Surely, his first Olympics was when he was in middle school??) The father of two, Lodwick is a world champion in the Nordic combined who won silver in Vancouver in the team event. 

shaun whiteAnd how about Shaun White, the Flying Tomato.  Can we still call him that now that his luscious locks have been shorn?  At twenty-seven, he looks all grown up and dare I say sexy?  He’s also the richest athlete competing in the games.  LoLo Jones is making history by competing on the track in London and now in Sochi as a member of the U.S. women’s bobsled team. 

Any way you look at it, these games are guaranteed to keep us all watching and talking.  I just hope it’s about the sporting contests and not something else.

What sports are you most excited about watching during the winter Olympics?  Is there an athlete you think will be a break out star?

Women’s Fiction: Genre, Not Gender

Women blowing bubblesAs president of the Women’s Fiction chapter of the Romance Writers of America, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the term women’s fiction means, both to me personally and within the industry—and just as importantly, what it doesn’t mean.

An article in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago perpetuated the ongoing misconception about women’s fiction. Author Yael Goldstein Love was dismayed that some readers at her literary website were complaining that the women’s fiction category had been removed during a redesign. If women’s fiction has its own category, she argued, it suggests that other books are not for women—“that literature is male by default.”

I understand the confusion that the name engenders. However, women’s fiction no more refers to fiction by, for, and about women than science fiction refers to fiction by, for, and about scientists.

Women’s fiction is a genre, also called book club fiction. The novels tend to follow the feminine journey structure rather than Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. But a protagonist doesn’t have to be female to follow a feminine journey, just as a protagonist doesn’t have to be male to follow a hero’s journey.

In short, women’s fiction is a type of story. It’s about community rather than a lone individual making her way in the world. It’s the opposite of The Old Man and the Sea and most everything else Ernest Hemingway wrote.

Women’s fiction portrays a perspective of the world rooted in the values of home and hearth rather than the exigencies of conflict. And yes, to some degree, that means it’s drawn from feminine values rather than masculine ones. For instance, in an article on my website, I summarize some of the differences in perspective reflected in how men and women communicate:

How Men Communicate

According to marriage counselor Lesli Doares, male communication focuses on problem-solving, jockeying for position, and creating boundaries to establish independence. Testosterone makes men sensitive to angry faces. Anger gives men energy: it increases competition and calls them to action. But this sensitivity to anger also teaches men to resist showing emotion. They tend to avoid eye contact, because it can be seen as threatening. As a result, they may misinterpret signs of distress—such as frustration, confusion, or worry—as anger. Moreover, men’s ability to empathize with others is diminished when they’re agitated. Under stress, they often pull away.

How Women Communicate

Women, by contrast, communicate to make connections, build consensus, and minimize differences. Oxytocin leads them to focus on bonding activities. They chat to look for common ground and to establish a sense of community. Women are good at reading subtle emotions. They find competition and conflict to be threatening. They tend to soften directive statements by phrasing them in the form of a question—“Can you take out the trash?”—even though they expect compliance. Under stress, their ability to empathize deepens.

Women’s fiction aligns with this feminine communication style and the goals it seeks to achieve: better marriages, happier children, stronger families, and healthier communities.

Comedian Mark Gungor offers a humorous take on the difference between men’s brains and women’s brains in this video.

Because it reflects a more feminine perspective, the genre tends to focus on relationships rather than identity, cooperation rather than competition, connectedness rather than disconnectedness, and belonging rather than alienation.

However, I’m no apologist for the term women’s fiction. I hate the idea that the name might suggest that the novels I write aren’t intended for men. I also don’t agree that the protagonist has to be female for the novel to be women’s fiction (although I seem to be in the minority). Devan Sipher’s romantic comedy The Wedding Beat and even Alex Kidwell’s gay romance After the End are essentially women’s fiction stories told in a male voice.

For all the reasons that Yael Goldstein Love outlined in her article, maybe it’s time for the term women’s fiction to die a hard death the way chick lit did a few years ago. No one would be happier to see the label change to book club fiction than me. But please don’t blame the genre because you don’t like the name. It contains gorgeous, heartfelt stories that range from literary to commercial, from comedy to tragedy, from classic to present day. Stories that deserve a place on your bookshelf.

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