Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sub-Woofers, the Sequel

Several months ago, I blogged about my son's massive sub-woofers. We attracted the attention of law enforcement, and at the time, I wasn't sure if the officer thought I was cool or just needed to grow up. Yesterday, I attracted the attention of many people with that same expression on their face. I think I've finally interpreted it.

But let me back up first. My eldest and I had to go to Lexington yesterday afternoon. He had a couple of appointments, and we hit the mall in between for a little pre-vacation shopping. Normally, we would go in my car. It's the newest and most comfortable of the family fleet. My son's car is a couple of years older than my husband's, but we maintain it better. Why? Only someone who has never seen their child drive away for the first time would ask that question.

My husband, being the great guy he is, drives the POS car. The deal, to which I've happily agreed, is that we switch cars on days he has to drive a recruit around campus. Usually, that just means I have to make the short drive to work and back in the POS. I did not want to drive to Lexington in it.

Eldest perks up, "I'll let you drive my car as long as you fill it up afterwards."

Such a deal. I should have been suspicious when he insisted I drive. I've been down that road before, and I'm generally not stupid. But faced with a day in the POS or a day in son's nicer ride, I chose superficially.

Of course, Son's ride contains son's bitchin' stereo system. To make life even more interesting, he just bought Eminem's new Recovery album. (That link takes you to the edited-for-radio version. My son, naturally, has the unedited version.) As soon as we hit the interstate, he cranked the music. The opening to the first song was kinda nice, and loud music doesn't bother me.

Then he turned on the subs.

Yeah. Really, you haven't lived until you've had Eminem rattle your teeth and vibrate the hair on your arms. Let me give you a sampling of what I heard. For purposes of this blog, "Waaaaahhhhhh" should be interpreted as an ominous bass rumble you feel deep in the pit of your stomach. It calls up images of alien spacecraft, monsters from the deep ocean, the horn on a cargo ship getting ready to plow over your life raft. Those images are enhanced by the sensation of being electrocuted. When combined with Eminem's lyrics, it goes something like this:

Waaaaaahhhhhhhhh. Motherf'er. Waaaaaaaahhhhhhh. F'n bitch. Waaahhh Wahhhh Wahhhh Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh. F You!

The only words I could make out between sandblasts to the ear were the F bomb and bitch. Charming, huh? My son is almost 19, and in truth, I've never really censored their music. By the time they knew who Eminem (or any other artist) was, the genie was out of the bottle and there's no putting it back in. Anyway, I'm allergic to censorship.

I cut my eyes at my first born, wondering where I went wrong, and entertaining the momentary thought that I should have censored the hell out of his whole life. I trusted he could read my expression. Trying to talk to him would have been comical.

My expression must have been comical because he was laughing his ass off. He did turn the stereo down a smidge, and asked me to actually listen to the words. I was in favor of this because it meant he had to turn off the subs, so I could hear the words. I guess I'm an old fart because I don't get having the bass so loud you can't hear the song.

I did listen to several songs, and as Son predicted, I liked them. In spite of the motherf'n, f'n, F you bitch, the message was mostly uplifting. Eminem is in recovery after all, and he's a wordmaster. He throws the F bomb out there to shock you, then he says something profound...or crazy. Either way, it's interesting.

Listening to Eminem at an unhealthy volume with everything, including your ear canals, vibrating puts you in a certain frame of mind. As we wove in and out of Lexington traffic, the subs (even turned down) garnered some looks. I found myself staring right back with a "You gotta problem?" expression on my face. The other person almost always looked away first.

Yeah, I'm a badass. And that expression on their face just before I stared them down and they looked away?

"That woman really needs to grow up."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shake and Pop, Twerk and Work, Wait. What?

This morning at Jazzercise, I went through one of those phases where I listen to the lyrics of all the songs to distract myself when I get tired. The lyrics to one song in particular jumped out at me. That complex and thought-provoking song....Shake and Pop. The lyrics go something like this:

Shake shake shake shake
Pop pop pop pop
Shake shake shake shake
Pop pop pop pop
Shake and Pop Shake and Pop
Now shake now bounce
Now pop now drop
Now twerk now work

Wait! What???

I was with him until that last line.

I can shake, and I can even pop. Lord knows, I'm working, but what, pray tell, does it mean to twerk? It sounds like something the mother of teenagers shouldn't do...in public anyway.

Until I looked up the lyrics, I thought he was saying twerp and work. I'm all like, "Is he calling me a twerp? Cause that's just rude." I reserve that term for immature ninth grade boys (in my head of course).

I did what any good writer who wants to add to her vocabulary would do. I looked it up. Google sent me to the Urban Dictionary which lists multiple usages of "twerk." Turns out my first instinct was correct. It is absolutely something the mother of teenagers should not do in public. The most benign of all the possible meanings of twerk is to shake your booty, and I'm pretty sure that's what the guy in the song wanted us to do.

And trust me. We shake it in that song. In fact, the gal in front of me turned around and said, "I apologize if my ass flew up and hit you in the face on that one."

Do you know how hard it is to breathe properly when you're laughing hysterically?

All in all, a productive morning. I exercised, added to my vocabulary, and got a good belly laugh to boot. You really should do all three every day.

I would include a Lala version of the song for your listening pleasure if Lala hadn't gone out of business. Playlist.com didn't have the appropriate remix, so I'm embedding a youtube version of the song. I apologize in advance if it gets stuck in your head. I've been hearing "shake shake shake shake" in mine all day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh Happy Day!

My bff, Pam, is home finally and for good! She has spent the last 18 months serving our country, and that meant enduring bad food, a bad Internet connection, sandstorms, insurgent rocket attacks, and a long, difficult separation from her husband and three daughters. I know they missed the hell out of her, and so did I.

When she left back in December of 2008, I fell into a deep funk. I cried a lot, and seemingly random events would trigger it. One day, my eldest found me weeping in front of the open dishwasher and asked what was wrong.

"I just realized I won't hear Pam yelling at her girls about cleaning the kitchen for over a year."

My son smiled at me because he knew exactly what I meant. Pam has always expressed her displeasure over an unacceptable situation in no uncertain terms. It's one of the hallmarks of her character and one of the many reasons I love her. In fact, that piece of her character is what cemented our friendship. We clicked as friends immediately. You know how you just have instant chemistry with someone? It was like that with us, but one particular incident sealed the deal.

Many years ago, when I first started teaching, a disaffected colleague tried to force my hand in an action I did not support. She came into my classroom after school one day, right across the hall from Pam's classroom, and we had an unpleasant confrontation. While she was there, the wind from the open window caught the door, and it slammed shut. Pam heard the door slam and swooped into my classroom like the Wrath of God. She was ready to take the other woman down, and I believe she could have done it. In that moment, I knew...absolutely knew...that Pam would always have my back no matter what. And she always has.

I have a scene in Sapphire Sins in which the heroine confronts a gun-wielding villain. I have an aversion (read phobia) to guns, but I needed to write a convincing scene. Pam took me to the shooting range and taught me to shoot both a revolver and a 9 millimeter. When we were done, I was able to describe the sound, the smell, the weight of the gun in my hand, and the serious adrenaline rush when I fired it. Even more than that though, Pam's guidance made me feel capable and powerful when I conquered my fear.

My friendship with Pam and our partner-in-crime, Linda, plays out in my writing in more important ways. My female protagonists have strong female friendships. I develop those relationships as carefully as I develop the relationship with the hero. Romance is great, but it's even better when you can share it with your friends.

When Pam left for Iraq, my depression worked itself out in the manuscript I was writing. My heroine and her best friend struggled because the best friend didn't like the hero. My only issue with Pam was the half a world between us, but my angst played out in my story.

Pam's influence shows in my writing in one more major way. I can't abide weak, milquetoast protagonists in a story. We all have moments of weakness, and certainly my characters do as well, but there is a strength at their core that gets them through the storm. We need strong female role models in both reality and fiction. Linda recently described a political speech we watched by saying, "She didn't just come across as weak. She came across as a weak woman."

No weak women play a major role in my life, and no weak women drive my stories. And by the same token, no weak man will ever be a hero. It takes a man of strong character to stay home and raise three teenage girls when his wife is called to active duty. I respect the hell out of Pam's husband, Mike. Only the best kind of man supports the interests and career of the woman he loves. That's real romance...not the hearts and flowers kind...but love based on mutual respect.

I spent last evening with Pam and her family. We sat around her dining room table and shared stories of war and stories of home. We laughed and took silly pictures. My heart is light in a way that only someone who has welcomed a soldier safely home can understand. When school starts in August, Pam will be teaching math in the classroom next to me. And that, my friends, is as it should be.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Apocalyptic Headlines and Beach Reading

News of the weird...Anyone who has travelled on I-75 north of Cincinnati has seen what is affectionately known as Big Butter Jesus, a large pale yellow sculpture rising out of a pond and reaching its arms toward heaven. Last night, lightning struck Big Butter Jesus and burnt it to the ground. What does that mean? I don't know, but if you google "Big Butter Jesus," you can see the headline writers are having a field day. Here's a real news link. And here's a link to Heywood Banks' tribute. I warn you, though, if you click on it, you won't be able to get the song out of your head.

On a news video, a distraught bystander called the destruction of Big Butter Jesus a sign the end is near. I had to shake my head. The Gulf is being choked by raw crude, wiping out ecosystems and economies, and she thinks Big Butter Jesus is apocalyptic.

If you're looking for something to get your mind off of apocalyptic headlines, I recommend getting lost in a good book. Before graduation last Saturday, as the faculty waited in the wings, we talked about plans for the summer. One of my colleagues in the English department said, "I'm going to read trashy books with absolutely no literary value."

She said it belligerently with an "I-dare-you-to say-something" edge. I just laughed. Lots of people treat genre fiction as a guilty pleasure. English teachers are particularly secretive about non-literary reading habits. We are the keepers of the flame. We introduce young minds to Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Bronte, Twain, and all the other great authors of The Canon. God forbid we read *gasp* commercial fiction.

The irony of that ivory tower attitude is that Homer, Shakespeare, and Twain all told stories for the masses. To the extent that commercial fiction existed in their day, they were it. I think they would hate the idea of being considered stuffy, literary geniuses read only in the hallowed halls of schools and universities.

It's summer, so let's get out of the hallowed halls and onto the beach. Here's to reading romance and fantasy, murder mysteries and sci-fi, political thrillers and horror without guilt. Since I read genre fiction year-round and completely guilt free, I have some recommendations. All of these books are either paranormal romance or urban fantasy...my genres of choice.

  • The fabulous J. R. Ward released the latest installment in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series this past spring. Lover Mine is John Matthew's story. Loved it.

  • Charlaine Harris' Dead in the Family is the newest Sookie Stackhouse book. Eric's dad and psycho little brother show up in this installment. If you're a True Blood fan and haven't read the books, you should.

  • Laurell K. Hamilton keeps pushing the envelope in her Anita Blake series. If you haven't read any of the other books, don't start with Bullet. It'll freak you out. You need to work up to this one. Jean-Claude...Asher...whoa.

  • Keri Arthur wrapped up her Riley Jenson series with Moon Sworn. Riley has to come to terms with Kye's death, her estranged family, and her relationship with Quinn. I hate that the series is over, but the last book was satisfying.

  • Gail Carriger is a new addition to my must-read list. I reviewed Soulless on the blog a while back. Soulless left me wanting more. Be careful what you wish for because Changeless, the sequel, was crazy-frustrating. The story was fun, but the middle book in a trilogy is always the most frustrating because typically it ends in the most annoying possible point in the story arc, and you have to wait for resolution. Blameless comes out September 1.

  • Karen Marie Moning just rocks. I read Beyond the Highland Mist recently. It's the first book in her Highlander series. Reading this series all out of order didn't interfere with my enjoyment at all. Her Faefever series is to die for.

I have a stack of paperbacks in my to be read pile. When I'm not writing genre fiction, I will have my nose in one of them. I suggest you do the same.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


My son reached one of life's milestones yesterday. He's a high school graduate.

Isn't he handsome? Yeah, I'm a proud mama.

I remember walking him into Ms. Logan's Kindergarten class as vividly as if it was yesterday, but in fact, yesterday he walked across the stage and received his diploma. And in truth, the last 13 years have been fraught with struggle, so it's hard to believe they've flown by so fast.

I have always loved school. From Kindergarten through grad school, I loved stepping into a class for the first time, wondering what I was going to learn. It's really no surprise that I'm a teacher. I'm sure I love school so much because I have always been very good at playing the game, both academically and socially.

Kids who never quite figure out the rules to the game struggle academically or socially or both. Sometimes a kid knows the rules, but doesn't have the skill to play. For example, I know how football is played. I understand the rules. I can even wax lyrical on the finer points of the game, but if I tried to get out on the field and play, I'd get killed. I'm not equipped to succeed in that game.

My son has never liked school. He's plenty smart, but he's never been very good at playing the game. He can tell you how the game is played. He can wax lyrical on the finer points of the social minefield of the average American high school, but as a practical matter, he can't navigate it. He is an artist, and like many artists, turned inward.

I am grateful to the teachers he had along the way who saw my son and inspired him. I am grateful to my son for making me a better teacher. Every kid isn't like me, and getting an inside view of one who has wildly different ideas about school has been good perspective.

The last year has been an odyssey, a long journey characterized by many changes of fortune. There were days when I really didn't think we'd get here. I've been a coach, a drill sergeant, a counselor, and a priest. I've wept tears of despair and tears of joy. In the end, my son did what he had to do himself. I am more proud of him than I can say.

Happy Graduation, Son. I love you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


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I'll stop ignoring the blog now. :)