Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Week of the Jack-al

As I was thinking about what to write about today, I realized that I didn't have a lot of inspiration on the brain.  Perhaps that's because for the past six days, it has been pretty much all Jack, all the time.  Due to a rather unfortunate confluence of events (John in California training, Sarah in Mongolia filming, a holiday weekend that drove many friends out of town, and a heatwave that is making me seriously reconsider moving to Russia - oh, and a rash that has now migrated from my torso onto my arms and legs, making it impossible for me to wear the shorts and tank tops this weather necessitates), I have been stuck mostly indoors alone with Jack since Thursday.  Thank goodness for the brief respite provided by one LNRB, who spent all day with me on Sunday.  And for a fun dinner date with Erin on Friday night, which was almost canceled due to babysitter flakiness (The six words no mother wants to hear from a babysitter ten minutes after she was supposed to be at your house: "Was I supposed to babysit tonight?") and a freak thunder storm. 

Actually, I can't complain too much.  Jack has been a very good boy since we returned from California.  I just tend to go a little bit crazy when I'm on constant Jack-watch and there isn't anything to do that doesn't require spending money, which I'm really trying to avoid.  But when it's 95 degrees out (and feels like it's well over 100 with the humidity) the only feasible places to go outside the home are indoors.  And since I had no friends to impose myself on, I was forced (Forced, I tell you!) to go shopping on Saturday.  I only bought things for Jack, though, so it doesn't count, right?

On the writing front, the week actually wasn't a complete bust.  I came up with a new idea for a Young Adult Paranormal novel, which I just started today after brainstorming all weekend.  Is it a good idea?  That remains to be seen.  But it's got me excited about writing again, which is always a good thing.  The Blue Dog Cafe will be written one day (It was the first novel I ever started, actually, and so far it's been the hardest to write.) but perhaps I just need a break from adult fiction for the moment.

And speaking of breaks, have I mentioned how thrilled I am that John will be coming home tonight??  I foresee a girls night out in my future...

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Amazing Husband (Part 8?)

I know I write a lot about how amazing my husband is.  But the thing is, he really is THAT amazing!  And I keep learning more amazing things about him all the time.  We've been together for over ten years now, and I still don't know everything about his life pre-Mara.

This poster has absolutely nothing to do with anything.  I just think it's cool.

For example: the other night we were watching the recent 60 Minutes episode about Lance Armstrong's alleged drug use, as told by his former teammate Tyler Hamilton.  Some of you may know that John was a professional cyclist in a past life, but you might not have known he actually raced with Tyler Hamilton back when he was 17 or 18.  I remember several conversations over the years in which friends asked John if he thought Lance had used drugs, and John, always diplomatic, would say that he didn't know for sure, but he suspected it.  After all, one of the reasons John left cycling and went to college was because he was being pressured to use EPO.  (He also had the foresight, even then, to know that a professional cycling career could only last so long.)

This is also irrelevant.  But aren't vintage bike posters awesome?

While we were watching the show, poor John had to keep pausing it so I could ask him a million questions about cycling and his own experiences.  I had no idea his first race ever was the Junior National Championships when he was 14.  He placed around 20th with his "not-at-all-fancy aluminum Cannondale road bike with clip-on aero bars."  His second race ever was also his first mass-start race.  He placed first out of 100.  He went on to win the California State Championship in 1995 and got 5th place at the Junior National Championship.  In 1996 he placed 3rd at Junior Nationals and was selected for the Junior National Team.
After training and racing for a year, John was in a bad cycling accident in April of 1998.  He lost his four front teeth and a lot of his face (thank goodness for dental implants and plastic surgery!).  During that time John was under a lot of pressure to use EPO (they actually wanted him to get it from his dad, who had access as a veterinarian).  He later got 5th at National Championships and went on to join the "real" U.S. Cycling Team.  I'm going to quote the next part because it's pretty funny:
"July - more pro-circuit racing in Wisconsin. This is the month that Derek and I floated from hotel to hotel (including the one with the crack pipe between the sheets)."
In 1999 John started college at Davis, did one race, and hasn't raced since.  I would be sad at the waste of talent, except if he hadn't given up cycling, I never would have met him!  Besides, he's not exactly retired as an athlete.

I know, I know.  But it has a greyhound AND a bike!

This weekend John is off in California, doing some ridiculous training exercise with his coach.  John is sponsored by Vespa, which some of you have probably heard me describe as "wasp extract." I'm a little skeptical of the whole thing, but as my dear husband pointed out last week, "Wasps have been eating it for thousands of years." 'Twere John a wasp, I'm sure I would be much relieved.  He's going to be running 52 miles Saturday, 19 Sunday, and 38 Monday, for a total of a whole lot of miles. Western States is in three weeks (eek!) so hopefully John survives his training and doesn't come home to me even skinner than he already is.
So, to sum up, I just wanted to say (yet again) how proud I am of my amazing husband.  Thank you all for bearing with me.

(Come on, the bike posters made it all worth it, didn't they?)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weekly Inspiration: The War of Art

A small white book has been making the rounds lately, starting with Dave, who passed it on to Sarah, who last week passed it on to yours truly.  The book is called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, and it was written in 2002 by Steven Pressfield, who is known for his historical fiction and for writing The Legend of Bagger Vance.

To be honest, I didn't really want to read the book.  Sarah had been pestering me with quotes about "resistance" and how the fact that I didn't feel like working on my new novel meant it was probably the thing I most needed to be doing.  Personally, I didn't really feel like I had any issues with resistance.  I'm not a procrastinator; I'm disciplined; I write despite the fact that I have been thus far woefully unsuccessful.  Not reading the book, however, would have fed right into the resistance theory, and so I decided to give it a shot while riding the metro home from the movies last week.

The War of Art is broken up into three parts:
Book One: Resistance; Defining the Enemy
Book Two: Combating Resistance; Turning Pro
Book Three: Beyond Resistance; Higher Realm

While I still maintain that I'm not a total slave to resistance, I did enjoy the book (and it's a quick read - I got the book on a Thursday night and finished it Friday).  There were a few parts that really resonated with me, particularly Pressfield's analogy of the artist and the Marine under the heading "How to Be Miserable."
Pressfield writes:
Marines love to be miserable.  Marines derive a perverse satisfaction in having colder chow, crappier equipment, and higher casualty rates than any outfit of dogfaces, swab jockeys, or flyboys, all of whom they despise.  Why?  Because these candy-asses don't know how to be miserable.
The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not.  He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.
The artist must be like that Marine.  He has to know how to be miserable.  He has to love being miserable.  He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier or swabbie or jet jockey.  Because this is war, baby.  And war is hell.

I love that, partly because it reminds me of John (I asked him early on in our relationship why he'd joined the Marine Corps to become a fighter pilot instead of the Air Force or the Navy.  "Because," he answered, "the Marine Corps is more challenging."  That should have clued me in to John's love of misery right away.  Is it really surprising that he enjoys running 100 mile races?) and partly because it reminds me of me.
In my family, it seems like none of us take the easy route.  After I sent my manuscript to the author who tried to help me with my last book, and she passed it on personally to her agent, I really thought I had it made.  When the agent rejected it, I immediately started in on one of my (many) pity parties.  John, who tries to be sympathetic but really just plain sucks at it, said, "You knew this was never going to be easy."
"Why the heck not?!" I shouted.  "Why couldn't this be easy?  Why couldn't it have just worked out?"
John probably answered with something to the effect of: "Because things just don't happen that way for us."
At which point I probably told him where he could stick it and left the room in tears.  But the truth is, the misery is really part of the process.  If Sarah had just strode into Nat Geo wearing a name tag that said "That's DOCTOR Sarah to you" and immediately become an associate producer, I doubt she would appreciate where she's at now nearly as much as she does.  If John could just hop on a trail and run 100 miles without months and months of training, I doubt crossing the finish line would be nearly as thrilling.  And some day (I tell myself repeatedly, generally to no avail) I'll look back at all this and be grateful for the struggle.
As Pressfield says:
The professional endures adversity.  He lets the birdshit splash down on his slicker, remembering that it comes clean with a heavy-duty hosing.  He himself, his creative center, cannot be buried, even beneath a mountain of guano.  His core is bulletproof.  Nothing can touch it unless he lets it...The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not on the hole.  He reminds himself it's better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.

And on that note, it's time to drag myself back into the arena for another pummeling.  Just as soon as I work out and eat lunch.  And maybe do a little laundry and light dusting.  Isn't the second-to-last-ever episode of Oprah on today?
Resistance?  What resistance?

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Writing Update

Ironic that this is supposed to be a blog about writing and I haven't mentioned my book in ages, no?
Well, that's because there has been nothing to tell of late, I'm sorry to say. I have two outstanding query letters, and besides those and the three agents I'm waiting to hear from, I haven't really done much with the book lately.   I was feeling very uninspired with the new book before we went to California, so I decided to take another gander at my last novel, How the Other Half Lives, which I haven't so much as glanced at in at least a year.
I was pleasantly surprised to find it's better than I remembered.
There is definitely room for improvement, however, so I had started doing a little editing before everything went up in flames two weeks ago.  I also went to see Something Borrowed last night with Sarah and LNRB (who I'm proud to say didn't hide behind her hair once), based on the novel (dare I call it "chick lit?") by Emily Giffin.  The movie was pretty cute, actually, although the only truly likable character in the film was John Krasinski's Ethan.  Well, Colin Egglesfield wasn't completely unlikeable, but that has more to do with the fact that he's incredibly attractive...

This one's for you, Sarah... Alright, it's for me, too.
Wait, where was I?

Oh yes.  Writing.  When Patti showed me the hand-written chapters of Hap's unfinished book last week, I decided to pick up the well-known veterinary memoir, All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (pen-name of author James Alfred Wight).  As I suspected, Hap's book could be a great modern-day rendition of a young vet just starting out.  He had dozens of wonderful stories, some of which he wrote down, others which Patti and John can probably relay.  I have no idea if there's a market for a book like that, but it would be a fun project at any rate, as well as a good way to compile everything and get it typed up, so we can hang on to it for future generations.

Realizing that my book has kind of come to a stand-still, I emailed an author and blogger I've mentioned in previous posts, Anne Mini.  Her blog, Author! Author!, is full of incredibly useful and detailed information about everything a writer could wish to learn.  She has always been fabulous at answering any questions I've posted, and since she offers her editing services to a select number of clients, I figured it was worth a shot to see if she would be willing to help out little old me.
I don't know if it's practical to pay for editing services right now, but whatever happens, Anne gave me some great tips and also mentioned something I've actually been thinking about a lot lately - that my "voice" (as in writing style) would lend itself well to Young Adult fiction.
Alas, I know nothing about YA novels!  I have considered attempting to write a YA book before, but a writer should generally know something about their chosen genre, and since I rarely read YA, I would have to do quite a bit of research before I could even attempt to write a young adult manuscript.  I'm also far from in tune with today's teenagers (unless watching The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars counts?).  Despite the fact that I still feel like a teenager much of the time, I am always reminded of my age when I talk to Jack's teenage babysitters.  I try to act like I'm cool and "with it," sharing my own stories of SAT hell and college application nightmares, but still they insist on calling me Mrs. R!  "Call me Mara," I want to tell them.  But then I think how I would have felt if one of the parents I'd babysat for had asked me to call them by their first name, and I realize they'd probably find me pathetic, or worse, creepy.

Perhaps it's time to own up to my age.
Perhaps it's time to write characters who act their age, too.

In the meantime, I have two episodes of The Vampire Diaries to catch up on.  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Weekly Inspiration: Ellie Goulding's "Lights"; and Sarah

The cover of Ellie Goulding's new album, "Lights."
Anyone who says nothing good happens on Regis and Kelly (I've taken some flak for admitting that I love Kelly Rippa; I think she has the best style of any petite woman on television) clearly didn't see Tuesday's episode, when Ellie Goulding sang "Lights," the first track on her album of the same name.  It's always a good sign when a live performance manages to pique my interest.
Somehow I've never heard of Goulding, but I haven't been this excited about music since I purchased Florence and the Machine's "Lungs" last spring.  I purchased Goulding's entire album on iTunes and am making my way through it as I type.  I have a feeling it's going to get better the more I listen to it, the way the best albums do.
Goulding also has seriously awesome hair.

Almost makes me want to shave my sideburns.  Almost.
My second inspiration this week is my sister, Sarah.
As many of you probably know, Sarah has worked her way up from lowly intern to associate producer at National Geographic in just two years.  She started what we all thought was going to be her dream job late last year, working on a new series about predators.  Unfortunately, our dreams don't always turn out as we hope they will.  Sarah has had more bad luck while attempting to plan her shoot in Mongolia than I would have thought possible.  Seriously, what are the odds that one of the wolves she was planning on filming would die just weeks before her trip?  If Sarah had had any idea how difficult this shoot would turn out to be, I'm pretty sure she would never have suggested it.  But Sarah has been wanting to go to Mongolia for ages, and despite the fact that it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing, I just KNOW that if she can hang in there one more week, it will all have been worth it (well, maybe not all of it...but most of it anyway).  In the face of freak blizzards, camera-shy Pallas' cats, surprise wolf pregnancies, and a "difficult" boss, Sarah has continued to work day and night on this shoot.  If that's not a lesson in persistence, I don't know what is.

Me and my beautiful sis.

Could this posting possibly be a passive aggressive means of telling Sarah I don't give her permission to throw in the towel?  Perhaps.  Regardless, Sarah has always been an inspiration to me, and her ability to claw her way through whatever challenges life throws at her is one of the things I admire most about her.
I love you babe, and I know you can do this!

And everyone - please keep your fingers crossed for agreeable animals, fair weather, friendly Mongolians and no sudden dips in a certain person's Serotonin levels.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Week (or Two) In Review

Hello all.  As I mentioned in my last post, things have been rough the past couple of weeks.  John's father's passing was completely unexpected and left us all in a state of shock.  I don't think anyone is ever prepared to lose a parent, but you certainly don't expect it when you're 31 years old and your father is only 61.  John and his father were very close, which makes the loss that much more unbearable.  I hope I conveyed in my last post how much Hap will be missed, but I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my own experiences over the past week, as someone who has never really dealt with death firsthand. 

In my 31 years of existence, I am extremely lucky to have only lost one grandparent and one great-grandparent (at 98 and 99 respectively).  Up until last week I had never even been to a funeral or memorial service.  The closest I have come to death was when I had to put our greyhound, Mattie, to sleep, and as horrible as that was, it was nothing compared to this.  I never gave much thought to the logistics of death, and I never considered what it would be like to mourn the loss of a loved one while simultaneously trying to be strong for your family.  Writing Hap's obituary was important to me, in part because it felt like it was one small thing I could actually do to help.  It was also incredibly difficult - how do you condense a man's life into 250 words?  I hope I did Hap some justice in two short paragraphs.  It's not an easy thing to do, I assure you.

Of course, John and I had to fly to California on incredibly short notice.  John's mom called us at 11:30 PM on Thursday, May 5.  We were on a plane by 7 AM on Friday.  Jack was a trooper, but throwing off a toddler's schedule is hard under any circumstances; thrusting him into a strange (un-baby proofed) environment with dozens of new faces added several more layers of stress.  Jack got sick on the plane, which meant John and I were both sick within two days.  And, because (as I've said before) when it rains it pours, I acquired a strange rash on my torso that I initially thought was bedbugs (thanks to a well-meaning cousin).  Turns out it's a viral infection that will go away in eight weeks.  Joy.  In the meantime I'm covered in itchy welts that will continue to spread for several more weeks.  I'm praying summer holds off a bit longer, because there are no tank-tops in my future.

There is little good that can be said about death, except perhaps that it brings people together.  John is so lucky to have an amazingly supportive family, loyal friends, and the kindest neighbors you've ever met.  People flew in from around the country to be there for John's mother and lend a hand in whatever way possible.  John and I are also blessed with wonderful friends - thank you to all of you who sent your condolences, cards, flowers, and especially Mike and Alexis, who held down our fort in our absence and fed us upon our return.  And a big thanks to Toni and Rob Fox, who got us a hotel room at the Ritz Carlton for an absolute steal.  I only wish it had been under different circumstances.
I'd heard that funerals and food go hand in hand, but I wasn't prepared for the sheer volume of delicacies that flooded our house.  Hap, who liked to eat the way skinny girls only wish they could (in large quantities and without any guilt whatsoever; I once saw him polish off a bowl of ice cream, several cookies, and a handful of truffles in a single sitting), would have been proud.  There were donuts, pies, pavlovas, casseroles, enough cheese to smother a small village and more cookies than I dared count.  Of course I found every excuse possible to avoid exercise while we were in California, aside from one short run and a daily walk.  John, on the other hand, didn't miss a single workout (during one of his highest mileage weeks of the year).  What can I say?  Some people reflect while they run; others drown their sorrow in Toni's gruyere potatoes au gratin.  To each their own.

Despite the fact that Jack caused me mountains of stress (I spent most of my time chasing him up and down hallways, watching him continuously roll off the step into the sunken living room, and trying to keep him off sleeping dogs' tails and paws), I know he was one small ray of joy during an otherwise bleak time.  Even the animals were depressed, but Jack was his usual cheery self, charming people with his toothy grin and a steady stream of no's.
The other piece of good news was that John finished his Master's degree, receiving an "A" on his thesis (for a 3.99 GPA) and high praise from his advisor.  He graduates on Friday, and I'm so happy that his mom will be here to witness it. 

One more small moment of happiness was Jack's first trip to the beach - he apparently loved the sand between his toes and wasn't remotely afraid of the waves.  John even dipped Jack's feet into the ocean for good measure.  We are looking forward to returning to Half Moon Bay (one of my favorite places on earth - and certainly worth visiting if you've never been) in June for John's next 100-miler.

Jack and Mom take in the ocean air.

For now, it's good to be back home, with Jack napping comfortably in his own crib.  Speaking of which, we're still trying to adjust to East Coast time, so I'd better wake up the little jet-setter.  Until next time...

Monday, May 16, 2011

In Loving Memory: Dr. John J. Rutherford III

As most of you probably know, John's father passed away very suddenly a week and a half ago.  We flew out to California immediately and the past ten days have been a whirlwind.  I plan on doing a separate blog post about our week, but first I wanted to do a special tribute to my father-in-law, one of the kindest, gentlest men I've had the honor of knowing.

I only knew John's father, Hap, (short for "Happy") for ten years, but in that time I like to think we became close.  We shared a mutual love of reading and, as I learned last week, writing (Hap was working on a book about his experiences as a veterinarian, which I hope to type up very soon).  Hap didn't say much, but he always gave me a giant bear-hug when he saw me, and his few words always included "I love you."
I've often thought that you can truly judge a man's character by how he treats animals.  The Rutherford men, including John and his brother Michael, love animals beyond words (to the point where I have often thought they prefer animals to people much of the time). Where Hap was generally quiet and reserved around people, he came alive in the presence of animals.  The mangiest, most unfortunate-looking creatures on earth were as loved by Hap as his own pets.  Hap would get down on his knees and look into an animal's eyes, petting them gently while he examined them, and in that glance and touch were more compassion and love than most people are lucky enough to receive.  As a veterinarian, Hap cared for our dog, Mattie, as well as Sarah's dog, Minky, and was always willing to pass on his knowledge or give an opinion.  When Mattie died (a whole saga in and of itself), Hap went above and beyond to try to find out what had happened to her.  He truly cared for animals more than anyone I've ever met.
Hap was also the proudest father I've ever known.  While John and Michael were growing up, Hap (and Patti - let's not forget the world's proudest mother!) supported every crazy scheme or whim his sons had.  When John decided he wanted to race bikes, Hap drove cross-country to countless events, many in the middle of nowhere.  John has so many wonderful memories of those races and the crazy situations he and Hap got into.  And Michael, who has dabbled in more than his share of extreme sports (from wake boarding to dirt-bike racing to extreme trampolining), always had his father's unwavering support.  I admit I doubted many of Michael's ambitious endeavors.  Hap never did.  The weekend before he passed away, Hap took Michael to Monterey and stayed in a hostel with him so Michael could get SCUBA certified. 
When John was writing his eulogy, he asked me if it was unique to have a father who was not only loving and supportive, but who also expressed that love regularly.  Yes, I told him.  It was unique.  During his eulogy, John told the story of a time he and his father were on their way to a ranch call, and Hap turned to John and told him no little boy had ever been more loved by his father.  Those words stayed with John his entire life, and the security and support John felt from his dad growing up gave him the self-confidence to pursue anything he put his mind to.  I truly believe that no man has ever loved their son more than John loves Jack, and I know I have Hap to thank for that.

Jack and Grandpa Hap, Thanksgiving 2010
Hap was also a wonderful grandfather, and his sisters insist Jack looks just like Hap did when he was little.  After watching Jack with Dasher, Capone, and Mewsley (the Rutherford animals) last week, I like to think he has more than looks in common with his grandpa.
On our last day in Half Moon Bay, John and I were driving back to his parents' house, talking about his dad and how much he'll be missed, when I noticed a rainbow shining through a break in the clouds.  Hap's favorite book was The Wizard of Oz, and I like to think that rainbow had a little something to do with him. 
Hap, I will miss you so much.  But I know you are with Mattie and Katie, Audi and Jingle, and all the other animals you loved and who loved you over the years, taking care of them now just as you always have.  I love you. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Weekly Inspiration: Our Mom, the Style Icon

In honor of Mother's Day, I've decided to do a post dedicated to someone who is not only an incredible mother (she managed to raise triplets while married to a doctor, before anyone had invented the Nose Frieda or video monitors, and without the convenience of disposable diapers), but also a photographer, a former body builder, a horse-back rider, an avid reader, a supportive wife, a proud grandmother, a loyal friend, and, even now, a rather stylish woman.
I'm sure a lot of you have heard of the blog "My Mom, the Style Icon."  It was recently turned into a column in Lucky Magazine as well, where you can send in a photo of your mom in all her retro glory for possible publication.  Sarah and I decided to send in some photos of our mom quite a few months back, and since I never heard from Lucky, I'm assuming we are not going to be included in the magazine.  However, our mom is so fabulously stylish that I think it's worth posting here, for the rest of the world (or, more realistically, the few dozen people who look at my blog regularly) to appreciate.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  We love you so much!

Our Mom, the Style Icon:
Our mother, Nancy, grew up as the quintessential California girl in the suburbs of Manhattan Beach. Photos from her childhood and teenage years reveal a bright-eyed blond sporting perfectly coordinated ensembles. As we grew up, our mother would occasionally recall in vivid detail an outfit or article of clothing from her youth - often handmade by our grandmother.  After casually mentioning her black motorcycle jacket or plaid hot pants, our eager questions about their present day whereabouts were usually met with an offhanded explanation that she'd given them away years ago.

Over the years, our mother managed to remain current without being trendy. She is always put together, no matter the occasion; even a trip to the barn warrants the right pair of earrings. Looking back, certainly no one would have ever guessed that she was the busy mother of not one or two children, but triplets.

In this photo, taken some time in the early 1970s (when our mom was in her early twenties), she was spending the day with our uncle and a friend. She is wearing a cream turtleneck sweater under a denim shirt and tan suede coat, a brown leather belt with a large silver buckle, and silver earrings. Her jeans are rolled up to mid-calf over a pair of dark brown leather boots. She is the epitome of California cool.
We just wish she'd kept the outfit.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Writing Like a Reader

As you probably know (since I did such a thorough job of bombarding everyone with the news) I recently did a guest post for the Veterans Administration blog.  I haven't done much editorial writing for public forums in the past, so there hasn't been a whole lot of room for hate mail from readers.  I was a little worried I'd get some negative comments on my post, because if you've ever read a blog post about anything other than cute puppies or giggling babies, you know that someone will somehow find a way to take offense (sometimes even cute puppies and giggling babies can piss people off; it's a mad, mad world).  To my relief, no one had anything nasty to say about my post on the VA blog (I've received one whole comment, and I'm happy to say it was positive).  I was in the clear. Whew!

At least, I thought that was the case, until yesterday when I happened to see that my friend Emily had re-posted the article to her Facebook page.  There, to my horror, was a string of rather rude comments about my post, all made by one woman who apparently decided my article was about how women can't be independent and intelligent unless they have a career.  Here are her exact words:
"I resent her implication that you can't be a homemaker AND be educated, intelligent, and independent. Sounds like a brainwashed feminist to me."

Of all the things I've been called or expect to be called in my life, I can't say "brainwashed feminist" is one of them.  My friend Emily was kind enough to stick up for me and said that the woman was taking the line out of context, but this woman insisted that I was "contrasting not only the adjectives but homemaker vs women with careers."  I admit, I could have phrased the sentence differently.  I could have changed "These were educated, intelligent, independent women with careers of their own" to "These were educated, intelligent, independent women, MANY with careers of their own."  But the truth is, it never crossed my mind that an article about how proud I am to be a military wife would somehow generate the notion that I'm anti-homemaker, especially considering I'm a stay-at-home mom myself.  I wanted to tell the woman that if she spent as much time examining her own insecurities as she did scrutinizing my sentence structure, perhaps she would get to the root of why she was so fixated on one sentence of a 700-word article, an article that clearly explains that my preconceived notions of military wives were incorrect.  I do say in the article that there have been moments during my seven years as a Marine wife that felt straight out of 1950s.  This, I'm sorry to say, is one of those moments.
However, I held my tongue (for the most part) and didn't tell the woman what I really thought of her.  Facebook isn't the place for that, clearly (That's what blogs are for.  Duh).

But I did learn a lesson from all of this.  Lately, Jack has taken to retrieving my writing books from the book shelf and delivering them to me.  For some reason, these books fascinate him more than any of the others (I refuse to buy into the possibility that the universe is trying to tell me something about my writing via my toddler, although he has also been bringing me my little red birthday book several times a day; a not so subtle hint that his birthday is coming up in eight short months, perhaps?).  One of these books is called "Reading Like a Writer," and it explains how "quality reading informs great writing" (to quote the Publishers Weekly review).

In this case, I think the real lesson for me is that I need to learn how to write like a reader.

For some reason, the Internet makes people feel like they are entitled to share their incredibly negative opinions with no regard to the feelings of others.  Gone are the days of "if you don't have anything nice to say..."  And I'm pretty sure that if this woman knew I was a friend of Emily's, she wouldn't have written that comment.  But, if I'm going to continue to write non-fiction (not my dream, obviously, but a good way to build a platform as an author), I need to realize that anything that can be misconstrued, will be.  That's not to say I plan on curbing everything I write to placate the potential angry reader (for one thing, it's impossible; for another, it makes for really boring reading), but I do need to make sure that every sentence I write conveys exactly what I intend it to.  Is it possible this woman would have found fault no matter what I wrote?  Of course.  But I could have done better?  Absolutely.
Lesson learned.

Monday, May 2, 2011

VA Blog Post

For those of you who aren't a Facebook friend (I know, all three of you) please check out my recent guest post for VAntage Point, the VA blog: