…Perhaps we were only mildly entertained. Regardless, please enjoy these Reviews, Responses, Works of Fiction, and Retellings brought to you by one who hopes to someday join the ranks of those who have written something worth reading.
(Kaylia Metcalfe)

Also, don't forget to visit Kaylia's Official Website where you can get information about Kaylia's upcoming events, and learn more about her free lance writing and other publications.

Notes From the Front Lines

It happened.

There were times before where I know I got close, but today it happened.

I reached the end of my rope.

And then I became someone I never wanted to become; a Mommy Monster.

I yelled. I held her too tight, I let her drop from my arms onto the bed below. I yelled. I stomped my feet. I sobbed.

I was not the best version of myself. I wasn't even the mediocre version of myself.

I was a horrible red faced sweating cursing evil end of my rope version of myself.

Would it matter if I told you that this fit was edging into it's second full hour of screaming? No.  Or how many times I had tried to calm her down? No... because she is the toddler and I am the adult and I didn't act like an adult. At least not like an adult I would feel good about leaving my child with.

I am full of loathing. For myself and my actions. For my inability to cope with a child who is almost as stubborn as I am. For my lack of patience.

I look at her now, eating her peas and glancing up at me while I type.

She is still flushed from the fight, her hair is matted, teas still on her face.

A perfect reflection of myself.

I wipe my eyes.

Ella, I say, trying to keep my voice calm and without cracks.

Ella, I'm sorry I was not a good version of myself. I should not have yelled at you.

Yeah, she says, her voice small. I'm sorry you yelled at me too.

What about all the yelling you did to me? I want to ... yell. But I don't.

Umm, what about your fit, I ask, are you sorry about that.

She shrugs.

And now, because it has been a while and because I called a fellow mom and cried and because I have taken my requisite number of deep breaths, and because I am the adult, I close my eyes for a moment and feel my rope of patience, the rope of every moment is a teaching moment, the rope of sanity un-spool itself from around my neck and stretch out before me.

Would you like more peas?

Yes, and can I have more water please?


Reason 65 / Language of Flowers Review

There are a lot of reasons I haven't finished my novel yet.

Most of them can be called excuses.

Some are valid.

You know like having a baby, losing my vision, that sort of stuff.

But a large part of the reason behind my lack of novel completion is that I lack sufficient motivation. I don't have anything really riding on finishing it etc.

Unlike, say, the motivation to write a 861 word rant about a book I read four years ago and disliked on a Facebook thread.

I don't understand myself sometimes.

Does it really matter to me if a bunch of people I don't know like a book that came out 4 years ago?

Apparently it matters a little.

So... for those of who who are just dying to know what I write instead of my novel or short stories when I have ten minutes of computer time (usually while Ella is eating).... I give you my no-coffee-yet-but-omg-someone-on-the-internet-wants-my-opinion rant about the book The Language of Flowers.

(Yes, my opinion was actually sought. I said I didn't enjoy the book and was asked by multiple people to expound on that. I'm sure they regret asking, but It's TOO LATE~!!!! Bwhahahahah!)

/from the FB thread of Lisa/

Ok, here are my thoughts on the book… my only caveat in sharing is that these ae my opinions (many shared by the members of my book club) and I totally understand that they are not universal… nor do I want anyone thinking that my dislike of the book in any way infringes on my respect for the author or my like and support of those who enjoyed it.

I found the prose and the story itself over simplistic, formulaic, and trite. While the backdrop of the flower language was a great concept and was tied together well, it became so much a gimmick that it was hard to take seriously. I lacked true empathy for the main character; she was downright difficult to root for… and having a protagonist we can root for (good or evil) isn’t necessarily a must, but it certainly helps. In this case, all the characters seemed one note, easily defined by a small bouquet and lacking much in the way of roots… none of them were well grounded. (See what I did there? Flower and plant puns are hard to resist.)

I like the narrative device of moving back and forth in time; parallel structure is a time honored way of telling stories, but the near mirror effect used in this novel made the movement repetitive and predictable.  And instead of building tension with the “what is the big bad thing that happened?” question we instead get frustrated with the plodding plot.

The childbirth,  breastfeeding, post partum psychosis part was… difficult to read because I felt that a very powerful thing was happening in terms of character development but it was lost in the excess of bloody nipples… and  battle of wills with the infant really struck a bad note for me. Actually, the entire unplanned pregnancy, childbirth, and new adoption aspect was downright eye rolling… again because not only was it cliché and overworked but it was so downright unbelievable. The lack of legal documentation of the baby at the very least is enough to make me want to rip out my hair.

Too much in this novel relied on plot contrivances… have a plot hole? That’s cool, talk about flowers and shoehorn something in and no one will notice.

Examples? Sure. The midwife who just happened to be nearby and well respected, the ability for this homeless teenager to work fancy weddings let alone get a job while sleeping in the park, the childhood connection found after years and in a hugely crowded city… even the idea of Victoria sneaking into restaurants to finish food off people’s plates and not getting caught. Really? As someone who was homeless for a brief period of time I find this entire part of the book really really problematic and borderline offensive. It, like how the book deals with the trauma of the foster care system, seems to be written for an audience who wants to cluck their tongues at these huge big bad issues from the comfort of our couches before the potluck begins. Yes, this book and the marketing and the companion flower dictionaries, are the epitome of the chick lit book club genre… in all the worst ways. Tortured female character searching for her happy ending? Check. Long lost love / perfect man brought back by fate to cure her wounded heart? Check. The magical power of a mother’s love that can cure all things? Check. The lack of logic when it comes to the actual things that happen in the book being overlooked because of pretty prose and an overly simple super tidy wrapped up in a bow ending? Check.

I feel like if the entire novel had been written as magical realism, then we could have forgiven these lapses, but having it attempt to be grounded in reality and to showcase a very real issue with the foster care system while striking this tone of fairy tale la-la-la, made it problematic.

A few final notes:

Elizabeth’s borderline abusive (definitely not consent respecting) announcement that she likes to be touched and so Victoria will have to get used to it is downright creepy and gross.

The sex scene was anything but sexy and there are some levels of consent worry here as well.

In fact, the plants and flowers get way more visceral descriptions… they are far sexier and more interesting than the people.

The shtick of the flowers gets so overdone that it invades even the characters names. Of course her name is Victoria. How… convenient.

The unforgivable act that is pretty much forgiven at the drop of a hat.

The ending felt rushed and overly sweet. Lifetime / Hallmark movie material for sure, but also predictable and cliché.

To sum up: I understand why this book was as popular as it was. It was written by someone who obviously knows how to structure a novel for maximum chick lit aplomb. And for those who want to pretend that their beach book has substance, this might be the perfect vacation companion. I, however, ended the book with a feeling of relief that it was over and I could move on with life. 

Yes, this is a photo link to the book on amazon, I welcome dissenting opinions!

A matter of race?

I had a weird experience the other night.

First: a bit of set up.

Like many, I am upset by the rampant racism that I see portrayed in the media. I shake my head and cluck my tongue and give my money to nonprofit groups.

Also, I am white. Like super white, and I don't encounter racism day to day. And the friends I have in minority groups seldom complain to me about racism. Which isn't to say they don't experience it, but that it isn't on my radar in a personal sense, but more as an abstract thing that happens to other people in other places.

At least until the other night.

Stage set, let's get to the story.

It is evening, music playing, people shouting laughing; a crowded restaurant bar in Fresno. . I approach the bar to order another drink. Behind the row of drinkers there is another row of people pressed together, waiting.

And a small little spot opens up between a woman nursing something red and a "bro" in a ball cap staring glumly at his phone. 

I gesture to the spot to the woman standing next to me and say, "I think you were here first." She nods and squeezes in.

The bartender approaches and... and then what it looked like to me was that she, the bartender, glances at the woman who just got the spot and then looks over her to me and says, "Another one?" and I, happy at being noticed nod and smile and shout out my order.

Freeze frame. Does it matter that the woman clearly at the bar in front of me is black? That I am white? that the bartender is white?

Asian, I am super pleased to be singled out and so when I answer, "Yeah, another cherry bomb" (I told you I am super white right? Don't judge my girly drink), I don't really give it much thought.

And then.

The woman in front of me turns and looks at me... and the look on her face makes me suddenly realize that I just cut in front of her while standing behind her.

"Wait," I say to her and to myself, "did she just skip you?"

She nods and turns back around and I am thunderstruck. Did that just happen?

The spot next to her opens and I squeeze next to her. I flag down the bartender by leaning waaaay over the bar. She hasn't started getting my drink yet, "Hey," I say catching her eye, "she was first, so my cherry bomb and whatever she wants."

Bartender nods.

I look at the woman next to me, she is looking at me with a look that I read as a mix of surprise and disgust.

"What are you having?" 

"A beer"

Again I lean and flag and make a fool of myself to the harried bartennder, "She wants a beer, get her's first."

Again the bartender nods.

But she brings my drink first (to be fair, she might have already started it, I do't know) and I don't touch it. I stand there awkwardly while she asks the woman next to me what kind of beer and then I continue to stand there awkwardly as the beer is poured and delivered.

"I got this" I tell the woman, "I'm sorry"

She accepts the offer and rewards me with a smile and a touch on the arm.

I take my drink and return to my friends... and I wonder.

Was that racism?

Now, I have been told by people who know way more than I do about such things, that since I had an open tab, the bartender would probably have served me before anyone standing in front of me because I am a guaranteed sale / order / tip. I'm not sure I agree with that as I have had many tabs over the years and I don't think it has ever gotten me special service... at least none that I noticed. (Maybe I have been going to the wrong bars)

But even if that is the case, the woman in front of me didn't know that. All she knew is that she was first and she got literally overlooked by the white girl in front of her for the white girl behind her.

I can see how she would be angry, heck, I'm angry on her behalf.

And I have enough liberal guilt that I can't stop thinking about it. Yes, it was a minor thing. Yes, it might not have been a bona fide "thing" but it felt like a thing and it served as a reminder to me that privilege comes with responsibility.  It is my job as a person of privilege to be vigilant and to do what I can, and I hope that next time I react faster in the interest of fairness.

Echo Chamber Echo Chamber Echo Chamber

In response to this a lot of people, something like 26 MILLION changed their Facebook profile picture to have a rainbow filter.

Including me.

Over the next few days I found myself smiling to myself as I scrolled through my feed and saw all the pretty rainbows. I also noticed that my feed was full of love, support, celebration... and I started to wonder.

Of my over 500 "friends" on Facebook, were there any that weren't happy about the Court's decision? Were they being quiet? Was FB keeping their negativity out of my feed? Did they even exist?

What I realized, upon closer inspection of my friends list, was that I had, over the course of the past few months, unfriended  most of the people in my life who aren't LGBT friendly.

I also had unfriended people who make rape joke memes and those who are racists.

Which means, my feed is pretty darn liberal, leftie, pro vaccination, pro democrat, and only a tiny bit religious. 

This got me wondering... am I in an echo chamber? When I post something political (rarely but with increasing frequency) I do so knowing that most of the people that see it will agree with me... and those that don't will either keep quiet or be shouted down by those that do if they dare to speak up on an ensuring thread.

Honestly, I am conflicted.

I like saying that I have friends from a variety of walks of life. I like pointing to my conservative friends and saying things like "there is a lot we agree on" but it seems that the things we don't agree on are so divisive that they lead to big blanket statements that in turn lead to lines in the sand and to alienating people on the "other" side.

Case in point:

Sandy Hook.  After the tragedy of Sandy Hook I posted something along the lines of "If you think the Sandy Hook happened because we stopped having organized prayer in schools , please undfriend me because I find that sort of opinion totally without merit."  I noticed I lost three friends after posting that,.

Later I heralded: "If you think Obama is a Muslim terrorist or that there is such a thing as "real vs fake rape" please unfriend me or let me know so I can unfriend you."

Again, a few more people disappeared off my friends list.

And even: "If you think that 50 Shades of Grey is romance, the sort of relationship we should ascribe to, or not problematic, please let me know so that I can make sure to question your other opinions and never allow you to watch my child"

or words to that effect.

So now, now I have a feed full of things I mostly agree with and full of people I mostly trust and respect. There are a few under the radar types but in general I feel this is the case.

And for the most part, I am glad. It makes my use of FB far more enjoyable.

But it also puts me in an echo chamber and I sometimes forget that there are people out there who think that rape jokes are funny, that racist doochbags still spout hate, that people think it is OK for a county clerk to not do their job.

It is nice in my echo chamber, but it isn't the real world.

And I don't know how to deal with that.

Coming Out

I came out to my grandmother today.

Let me be clear. I am out, and loudly so, in many places. I strive to challenge the automatice default assumption of straightness that my marriage to a man illicits.

In many places.

In most places.

But my grandmother... it never seemed relevant or necessary.

At least that is what I told myself

Today though... today she railed against the Supreme Court.  She talked about Biblical marriage. She talked about the persecution of Christians. She talked about the unfairness of people having to be treated the same.

She said that homosexuals didn't deserve marriage because they weren't able to love the right way.

Today, it got relevant.

And so today I spoke up. I spoke passionately. I refused to back down. I challenged her assumptions. And then I challenged them again. I went toe to toe regarding the Bible, the job of the government, the persecution, or lack thereof, of Christians in the US.

And I told her that I am bi. That I love men and women, that I have dated men and women, and that I could have just as easily wanted to marry a woman.

And that I am fully capable of love. And that I, and all the homosexuals, deserve equality.

It was... not the conversation I thought I would be having on my walk to Panera.

Over the past few years I have heard a lot of people talk about the one on one conversations that change people's minds. I don't know if this conversation did more harm than good... but I can't really feel too guilty about speaking up. It was time.

I'm pretty sure that I am out to everyone now.

I'm very lucky that I was not in danger while coming out. I am lucky that my coming out has almost always ended well. I am lucky that even when she refused to talk about this anymore, my grandmother told me that she loved me.

I take none of that for granted.

My Rededication

It is that awkward week between the holidays and the beginning of the new year.

If you are like me, the holidays mean a break from routine... we eat different (and usually more). We sleep different, in different places (and usually a bit less). We ignore things we would be up in arms about the other 11 months of the year (she said what? Meh) and we fixate on things that don't really matter (but does this bow match this wrapping paper better?)

And in the back of our heads as we help ourselves to more green bean casserole or yet another sugar cookie... as we settle in on the couch to watch a movie or we decide that we deserve a nap on our day off... there is that sinking little feeling just behind your right eye... a little gnome that is whispering, "better get it out of your system now.. the diet/exercise regime/whatever it is starts on the first..."

This year I am starting my New Years Resolutions or Renewals or Rededications or whatever you want to call them early. I figure, since my life was all wonky, why go backwards... just start anew, now!

I am optimistic that this approach will keep me on task a bit longer into the year because instead of spending the first two weeks of january starting new things and bemoaning the last two weeks of gluttony, I will start January with a few new habits already in place, if not totally routine yet.

On a related note, I have decided to pass up a paid nonfiction writing gig to focus more on my fiction writing. 

Happy New Year.

Growing up is hard to do.

I turn 34 today. 

I always like to think back x number of years... Birthdays make me introspective. 

10 years ago

20... At 14 I could never have imagine where life would take me. 

But here's the thing, I'm married (again). I am a mother to the world's most precious 2 year old. I have writing cred and some professional cred as well. There are a few circles where I am respected. 

But I'm still that awkward nail chewing klutzy day dreamer 14 year old inside. 

And this morning proved it. 

In a bout of misguided maturity, I decided this was the morning to learn how to blow dry my hair.

Instead of ending with a mane of delightfully fluffy beautiful magazine ready hair, the experiment ended with a few tears, the loss of some hair, a bit of smoke,  and the realization that while one should try to experience new things, the trial run should probably not be done in front of the all seeing toddler. 

The morning also included a run in between the large very heavy hamper and the said toddlers little face. Note to self: when moving a large hamper please make sure that there is no toddler or other dangerouse obstruction within a 10 feet radius of you, your flailing arms, or the heavy objects. 
Secondary note: the cat, who is a black little ninja of death, also counts as an obstruction. 

We survived the morning and are now enjoying our Panera breakfast. 

Let's hope the rest of the day (year) is less exciting.