Tome Club: Don Quixote

640px-Don_Quijote_and_Sancho_Panza

So, a few days ago, I asked people on Facebook if they’d be willing to join with me in my annual tackling of the classics and a few of you seemed like you hate yourselves enough to join in, so here we are.

Just some background: for the past few years, I’ve been going back and reading/re-reading some classic books that I pretend I’ve read, but never actually have gotten through. So far, I’ve conquered The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Mis, Great Expectations, Middlemarch (this was a reread) and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was thinking of reading Moby Dick, but I guess no one has that much self-loathing. (Whatever, you are all just prolonging my misery. I will read about white men and their large, beastly, hungry, phallic symbols and you can’t stop me.)

A lot of you wanted Jane Eyre (like I believe you haven’t read it before, please, it’s your Bible, I know you!). My friend Matt, who has known me since I was in 6th grade, so he knows my weaknesses, suggested instead we read Don Quixote and I was intrigued (Low blow, Matt!). It’s a low blow, because Milan Kundera is one of my favorite authors. In his book The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, he wrote, “When Don Quixote went out into the world, that world turned into a mystery before his eyes. That is the legacy of the first European novel to the entire subsequent history of the novel. The novel teaches us to comprehend the world as a question. There is wisdom and tolerance in that attitude.”

He calls Cervantes the writer that all novelists must grapple with. In an essay titled “The Depreciated Legacy of Cervantes,” Kundera argues that the landscape of the novel is turning from adventure inward to the adventure of the soul. Which is kind of a dick thing to complain about. Especially since, I think this is a complaint leveled against traditionally “female” novels and “female” themes. That they are involved in “small worlds.” I think when we fold inward we find a universe entire of itself, just as rich and complicated as the adventures of Don Quixote. But it wouldn’t be fair to delineate that entire essay into that one point, because his bigger fight is against the kitsch of easy answers and easy morals.

He wrote in the essay: “The novel’s spirit is the spirit of complexity.  Every novel says to the reader:  ‘Things are not as simple as you think.’  That is the novel’s eternal truth, but it grows steadily harder to hear amid the din of easy, quick answers that come faster than the question and block it off.  In the spirit of our time, it’s either Anna or Karenin who is right, and the ancient wisdom of Cervantes, telling us about the difficulty of knowing and the elusiveness of truth, seems cumbersome and useless. ”

This is true. Despite all of Kundera’s old-man haranguing about the death of the novel (which he does a lot in that essay), he is right in that we often grasp the low-hanging fruit of easy answers instead of wallowing in mystery. If you’ve shared an Upworthy video, you are part of the problem. (Don’t worry, I’m not throwing stones. I live that glass house too.)

So, all of this in one complex novel. And I’ve never read DQ, and I imagine many of you haven’t either.

So, let’s start reading DQ on Monday, October 6. That gives you enough time to get it from the library where it is no doubt moldering on the shelves. I’ll start every week by posting an update about DQ, and leave the comments open for us to complain about semicolons or the fact that The Wire is more interesting. I don’t care. Maybe if you say more interesting things than me, I’ll turn the reins over to someone else for a post or two (I can’t pay but in coffee gift cards, maybe that’s enough?) Maybe we can chat on Twitter about it, should we feel so compelled. How about let’s use the hashtag #tomeclub? Because I think I’m going to call it Tome Club. This is why I was fired from my marketing job.

Now, let’s take a moment and revel in the fact that I just made up a hashtag for something three people on the internet are going to do. Is that narcissism or am I just a victim of my delusions of grandeur, like Don Quixote? DO YOU SEE HOW I DID THAT?

Once I Had a Little Church

keystone

I once had a little church. Did I ever tell you about it? Dave and I and three other families started it four years ago. Dave and I were coming out of a church where we had seen leadership do some pretty disheartening things–treat women with blatant disrespect, mug for the camera inside the house of someone poorer, because look, we’re doing it for Jesus. And of course, when we tried to talk about those things we were met with a stonewall. For example, the leader we approached told me that none of these concerns had been raised before. When I said I knew they had. He vehemently denied it and asked that I out anyone who said anything to the contrary. I wouldn’t. That’s when Dave stepped in and said, “Look, we aren’t outing anyone. We know they are telling the truth.” And with those words, the leader caved. He apologized to Dave for lying. He apologized to Dave repeatedly.

We left.

We were tired. We had been to so many churches in town and either found ourselves unwelcomed or in a place where we didn’t feel comfortable. We left one church after the Pastor blasted The Da Vinci Code from the pulpit as “ungodly and evil.” We left to go see the movie. Afterwards, Dave said, “He should have just told us not to see it because it was bad.”

One church sent elders to our home at 9am on a Saturday. This was before we had children, so I answered the door in my pajamas. I was asked if the “Man of the house was home.” I told him, I was as man as they get and shut the door. They prayer walked around our home for fifteen minutes. Presumably, casting out the demon. The demon stayed. [Read more...]

Making Decisions About Babies

Guys, we need to talk. We need to talk honestly about the decision to have another baby.

No, I am not pregnant. Shut up and listen.

This month, there have been two wonderful essays, wait, three, that discuss the decision to child or not to child, very openly and honestly. And I love them. But they also make me sad. Sad, for two reasons: 1. That not having a child is a position that people need to feel like they have to justify. Like choosing not to bring a child into the world is somehow an indefensible position? Please. That decision is just as brave, noble and responsible as choosing to have a child. For all the same reasons.  The other reason it makes me sad is this: 2. That choosing or not choosing a child is a privileged few have.

In a recent essay on The Guardian, Linda Tirado, talks openly and honestly about being poor and living below the poverty line. She talks about how there is no such thing as free. That even acquiring birth control or condoms are fights that few poor people have the time or energy to pursue. Free clinics aren’t free (co-pays and time and gas). And she writes: “The closest Planned Parenthood [family planning clinic] to me is three hours. That’s a lot of money in gas. Lots of women can’t afford that, and even if you live near one you probably don’t want to be seen coming in and out in a lot of areas. We’re aware that we are not “having kids”, we’re ‘breeding’. We have kids for much the same reasons that I imagine rich people do. Urge to propagate and all. Nobody likes poor people procreating, but they judge abortion even harder.”

I think about this position of privilege now, especially now, as I weight the merits of a third child. It’s not a decision we are going to make anytime soon. This second baby, lord love him, has been challenging to me in so many wonderful and exhausting ways. He’s finally giving me a good night sleep now at 14 months. But this was about the age E was when we decided to have a second child. It took us a while to get pregnant. Then we had a miscarriage. And then we were pregnant. And honestly, I still feel the whiplash from all of that.  Once we decided to have kids, we always knew we would have at least two kids. We both have siblings and we believe in the value of spending your childhood getting the crap kicked out of you. (Slow down, only children are good too. Perfect even. This isn’t a referendum on your choices, just an honest discussion about mine.) But the transition from one to two was hard on me. What do I mean by that? Well, I found myself screaming at my two year old over nap time then locking myself in my room and demanding my husband come home from work. I found myself frustrated and disengaged. Tired and yelling with everyone. Because I was exhausted. Because the baby wouldn’t take a bottle. Because I was overwhelmed. Because I felt like I was crushing under the weight of everyone’s needs and I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t get an escape. That I would never escape. Those feelings are mostly gone now. We have sleep. We have a schedule. We have school. We have sanity. I’m not trying to be glib and say, “Worth it!” But I am trying to say, here we are in a place of love and we can breathe.

So, a third?

I’ve been on a fact-finding mission. I’ve been grilling strangers and dance moms, friends and family, what is it like to have a third child? Some tell me it was so easy. After two, everything is a cinch. (Liars.) Sure, it might not be as hard as another transition, but parenting and “cinch” don’t belong in the same sentence unless the sentence is “Cinch up your belt and get ready for parenting.” But that is a dumb sentence, so never use it.

Some people tell me three is also a hard adjustment. But universally, no one ever regrets that child’s life. Because of course, you love them. I understand. No one ever wants to look at someone and say, “I wish I didn’t have my child.” Even if that’s a little bit true, you love your children. And part of having them means loving and part of loving means wanting, even if there was an ambivalence and hardness through their birth and life. So, I understand. But I don’t think everyone is being honest with me. And fair enough, in most cases, I’m not a best friend. I’m just a lady asking another lady about her uterus. They don’t owe me any insight into what is a complicated decision or sometimes even not a decision.

But it’s so hard to be honest isn’t it?

I recently read an article on Buzzfeed about how teenage moms feel that the Whisper app is the only place they can do to honestly talk about their feelings about their children and their lives. For so many of them a child wasn’t a choice. The child was just there. (I’m not trying to be political. Take your talk of choosing to have sex and virginity elsewhere, thank you.) But they feel they can’t have an honest discussion about their children with their friends and family, so they take that talk to strangers.

babypeacock

I recently had someone criticize me for being negative about my kids all the time on this blog. Negative? Since when is honesty negativity? As long as we are honest about the good and the bad, isn’t that just transparency? It’s not comfortable to look around at the mess and the screaming and admit, “I am not happy. I don’t like this.” But part of parenting (and life) is that it’s not about momentary happiness or immediate likes or dislikes. That it’s about a bigger picture. So sure, there is the transcendent love. But there is also the moldy milk cup in the car and a baby biting your shin. It’s about being so happy this person is part of your life, but also acknowledging your career has taken a hit and you are scared. You want to be with them. You want to work. You want them to go to bed. You miss them when you fall asleep.

And through that muddle we have to make decisions or learn to handle the lots we’ve been given. It’s great to have reasons. But reasons are a privilege. I linked to the essays about having children v. not having children because I love that the writers so honestly shared their stories and reasons. They are especially salient to me as we waver between what we want our family to look like. But I never want people to feel like they have to justify. I never want to justify. But I also don’t know. Are my reasons for wanting to stop at two good enough? Are Dave’s reasons for wanting three compelling? Somehow we have to weight these decisions, privileging choices. Making choices of privilege.

This is it. The tension of what I’m trying to say: It’s a muddle. I’m trying to find a best way.

Have a good weekend. I have no answers.

  • I wrote a post on Mom.me about how despite my children being very stereotypical with their gender expressions, I refuse to chalk it up to biology.
  • Also, I wrote on my Facebook page about reading a “classic” novel together. I’ve have a goal of reading classic novels I have never really read, but hate that I haven’t read. In past years I’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Mis, Great Expectations, Middlemarch (this was a reread) and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was thinking of reading Moby Dick, but while lots of you want to read with me no one wants to read about thinly veiled phallic symbols and white men and white whales. Instead it seemed lots were cast for Don Quixote or Jane Eyre. JE would be a reread, but probably worth it. I’m leaning toward DQ.  Cast your final votes! We’ll decide on Monday.
  • Also, in case you missed it, my post this week was sponsored (the first one since February) and has a discount code. Also, tips on disarming a weaponized baby.

Disarming Babies

This is a post sponsored by Livie and Luca. I don’t do many of these, so I hope you all like this. Because the shoes are cute, right? Also, really awesome.

JQ Grip

Late one night, as the baby screamed “Mamamamama!” from his room, I turned to my husband and asked. “On a scale of one to 10—10 being dead right now—how much does the baby want to kill me?”

My husband paused. We could hear more shrieking. It was three in the morning.

“Maybe somewhere between a five and a seven? It’s hard to know.”

I got out of bed and rocked the baby. He was teething and refused to be put down. So, for the next three hours I slept on and off in the chair in the nursery. The next morning, I was basically dead and the baby spilled my coffee. And I know, science tells me that babies are not actual trained assassins, but I am not convinced.

Since turning one year old in July, the baby has made it his mission to destroy me and then himself, in that order.  Once, I lost him for five minutes and found him in the dishwasher gumming a butter knife. A few weeks ago, while we were playing outside on the front lawn, he found a discarded cigarette butt and shoved it into his mouth. He screamed and bit me when I tried to rescue him.

Then, while I was on the phone with poison control, he scooched a chair up to the counter. Climbed up and grabbed a knife. As he waved it frantically in the air, I listened to the poison control woman’s instructions (“Babies have a surprisingly high tolerance for tobacco…”) and wondered how exactly one disarms a baby with a knife. If I grabbed, he might cut someone. But if I didn’t get it away right now, someone would die. Probably him. Do they train for this in the FBI? Because, “Drop your weapon or I will shoot,” does not work with a baby. I know, that was the first thing I tried.

Eventually, the knife slipped from his hands and went flying across the room. The poison control lady assured me everything would be fine (I didn’t tell her about the knife. Is there a knife hotline? I might need that.) But it wasn’t, really. Once my husband got home, I ran to the store for some whiskey.

I have since learned how to disarm a baby with a knife. (Sneak up behind him, grab his wrist with one hand and the knife with the other. You are welcome. Learn from my mistakes.) But he is still finding new ways to kill. He has bruises from knocking a whole shelf of library books onto his head and a cut on his chin for insisting that he could climb on the bookshelves. He repeatedly tumbles off our little trampoline, which I’m renaming the “$30 heart attack thing.” Right now our stairs are blocked off with an ottoman, a fisher price washer and dryer, a bunch of blankets and two baskets. He still finds a way to climb up.

But at least I’m still alive (for now) and I have whiskey.Grip Close Up

A few weeks ago, after I told Dave about JQ trying to flip over the couch, he suggested we get the baby some shoes. Like real shoes. Because the baby’s toes were all scuffed up and he’s started asking, nay DEMANDING outside time. He does it like this: Stand by the front door and scream until we let him out. So, that’s fun.

Around that same time, Livie and Luca contacted me. They sent a catalog and I thought the shoes were freaking adorable. Honestly, they were a little pricey. But since I usually cobble my kids’ wardrobes together from hand-me downs, grandma gifts and garage sales, I thought it might be something we’d do. I really try to make sure that what I promote over here is stuff I would actually buy if no one sent them to me. And I can honestly say, I would. I so would.

The shoes are great. Easy to get on. Pretty hard core. And great soles for walking…because JQ is trying to walk now. Everytime he does, I push him over and start sobbing. So hopefully we can forestall that apocalypse. Ellis calls the Ruche her magic golden shoes and JQ hates taking his Grip shoes off. (He toddles around saying, “Sheesh, sheeeesh.” I think it means “Shoes.” Or “I will kill you in your sleep.”) But the shoes match everything (see above where I talk about our hand-me down style). And they stay on.

The powerful gods of Livie and Luca have offered you all a discount code (giveaways only benefit one person anyway, right?). Ready? It’s….

lyz_lenz_10

Next month, I’m buying E these boots.  She straight up refused to wear boots last winter because they weren’t fancy enough. Do you know how many times I had to carry her through the parking lot in -30 degrees because she was wearing sparkle shoes and didn’t want the snow to touch her sparkle? Do you? No. I didn’t think so.

It’s too bad they don’t sell straight jackets for the baby, though.

Ruche close up

Ellis HidingAlso, can we discuss how do other bloggers do this? Get their kids to cooperate for pictures. Because, this was about the best E would give me.

What I Did Over My Summer Vacation

Hi, how are you? My name is Lyz. I feel like I’m coming back to life after a summer of just being immersed in a manuscript. My children have no idea who I am. I have no friends. And the Dave has remarried after having me declared legally dead. The good news is she’s really hot and makes delicious food.

I finished some edits on the PROJECT last week and shut my computer. Then, I looked up and blinked. As my eyes adjusted to the light, it was like when Tom Hanks in “Castaway” comes back home and everyone is just like, “Um do you know how to talk to anyone besides a bloody beach ball?”

And I said, “Wilson!”

wilson

 

But now the kids are in school and I have to go back to making my paltry income that only sustains my flagging ego and my nugget addiction, so I’m writing for Mom.me and the local paper (old media, amirite?) on the regular and hoping to write some more essays for places I love. Maybe reestablish a presence in the land of the living? I spent the day yesterday washing my floors and cleaning the house and it was great for like five minutes. And then JQ smeared banana everywhere and I spent 10 minutes trying to figure out if the yellow smear was curry or explosive diarrhea. (Spoiler alert: I still don’t know the answer.) So, that was a good reminder in why I don’t clean things.

Here are some links to things I wrote this month.  How are you? Would you like to have coffee and remind me how to brush my hair?

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