Irreverent Mama

Thursday, October 08, 2009

"People don't know how to title things," the youngest grumbles as she plays with her iTunes. "Look at this. Someone's given me 'Fun, Fun, Fun' by the Beachboys, and they've..."

I join her. "...only capitalized the first word."

"Yeah!" she nods. "It's not a sentence, duh, it's a title."

I am so proud.

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My husband Matthew's ex is a woman of drama. She is large, loud and hearty. With her friends, she has a ready laugh, she's a bit coarse but a lot of fun. "Rough around the edges", I called her, with an affectionate smile.

I was a friend once, you see, until I experienced the darker side to that larger-than-life personality, the rage that, until she screamed at me on the street on day, loud and long, I hadn't realized was also part of her character. Insults, slurs on my character, confidences I had shared with her, twisted into weapons... all this poured out on a public street at maximum volume.

I didn't scream back. I am not a screamer. I'm not sure what provocation could make me scream on the street, beyond someone's imminent demise. "LOOK OUT FOR THE CAR!!" Certainly not a misunderstanding about when we were supposed to meet.

I didn't scream back, I didn't even talk back, but I did walk away, and I never walked back. Had any of her subsequent communications with me carried the faintest hint of an apology, I might have considered, but what I received were explanations of why I had made her behave that way.

I was married to an abusive man, once. A man who was always convinced that I had "made him" do whatever nasty thing had just happened. Righteously convinced. That's an abusive pattern, and I was not about to continue a friendship with someone who, I had just discovered, was abusive.

It was karma, of a sort, when Matthew and I fell in love. We had both been in abusive marriages, we two quiet, bookish people who, when faced with conflict, share an urge to talk, talk, talk. No bricks hurled, just bridges built.

It's lovely.

Matthew's ex married not too long ago, but, as per the plan, she and her new husband are not living together, but will continue living in their own homes until the children have left home. This has always struck Matthew and me as odd: the children are growing up and leaving home; at this point, they would have three kids between the two of them. Given that Matthew and his ex produced five of their own, one would hardly think three kids too much to manage. Two of these three are within a year or two of moving out. Odd.

We didn't say anything to anyone else, of course, but we couldn't see the logic.

It was the youngest who let us know that the reason is the inability of the two 17-year-old girls to get along that is at issue. They each have one, and, apparently, they "scream at each other. All they do is scream. They just can't get along. And mom is depressed because she just wants to live with New Husband and be normal."

A loud, angry woman whose idea of conflict management is to scream long and loud has produced a loud, angry daughter whose idea of dealing with a step-sister is to scream long and loud. So bad is it that she and the new husband don't feel they can cohabit until at least one of the girls leaves home.

Now that's karma.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

September's Library Challenge Books

Total to date this year: 57

1. Sorry, Walter (Judi Curran). Depressive Irish girl with sound sense of humour goes on a holiday to Canada and finds true love. Good, fluffy fun.

2. The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society (Augusta Trobaugh). Three sweet little old southern ladies find themselves planning someone's demise when one of their society finds herself married to an abusive con artist.

3. The Canadian Book of Snobs (Victoria Branden). Tongue-in-cheek book. Beginning with a history of snobbery, then exploring its current manifestions in Canadian society. Sexsnobbery, worksnobbery, wordsnobs, carsnobs, food, heros, poems, religion, education... is there any realm of human endeavour that doesn't have snobbery attached to it? In a word, no.

4. Match Game (Beverly Brandt). Abandoned by her emotionally lazy groom when she is cuffed and hauled away at the altar, straight-arrow accountant Savannah decides to track down the woman who stole her identity. And finds true love in the process -- and a shiny new career. Fluff, but fun.

5. A Conspiracy of Paper (David Liss). Set in 18th-Century London, the story follows Benjamin Weaver, former pugilist turned investigator as he picks his way through the multitudinous layers of deceit, power-broking, and murder that is the budding stock exchange. The story is very clever, but you also learn a fair bit about the enormous social changes triggered by the introduction of paper money. Who knew it was more than a logistical improvement? -- bills weigh far less than coins, after all -- but apparently this shift changed the pysche of a society. Fascinating.

6. Jailbird's Daughter (Irene Carr). Standard plot: impoverished-but-worthy young lady makes her own way in the world despite the social odds stacked against her, and is rewarded for her efforts with the love of a good (and wealthy) man. With standard plot twist 1: heroine dislikes hero intensely at first. Except it doesn't work. The heroine is a lovely young woman who, for no apparent reason (except to fulfill plot twist 1) behaves in a manner utterly out of character with him. Only with him, mind you. She just doesn't react that way to people. Why do it with him? Oh, yeah. So they can overcome the obstacle of her poor opinion. Right. I expected a frivolous read, but this didn't manage even that.

7. Whistling for the Elephants (Sandi Toksvig). Part allegory, part coming-of-age story, this jaunty tale veers chaotically through a surreal landscape filled with more-than-just-quirky characters. Very clever, very weird, well worth the time.

8. Darling Daughters (Elizabeth Troop). A novel-within-a-novel in which the main character is an author who reminisces about her childhood as the sole child of a single mother in World War II England through her quasi-biographical novel-turned-screenplay. Though at times the author's depiction of a 10-year-old's mind rang pleasingly true, I often found the 10-year-old 'Sarah' too wise to be real -- even intelligent and introspective 10-year-olds are just not that perceptive/analytical -- but a good read nonetheless.

9. Lucy (Ellen Feldman). A fictionalized account of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's long-term affair with Lucy Mercer Rutherford. Interesting in that I learned a smattering of history along the way, but the 'affair' itself has an air of being... theoretical, somehow.

10. Other People's Marriages (Shane Watson). Author Anna is researching her book on modern marriages. We are taken into the marriages, affairs, and relationships of Anna and three of her friends, seeing the mundanity, joys, tragedy, hope and compromise that comprise relationships -- modern or otherwise. An interesting and intelligent read, even thought-provoking at times, and though the slightly deus-ex-machina happy ending for Anna is a bit of a stretch, I'm a sucker for a happy ending, so I'll take it. :)

Year's total to date: 67


Friday, October 02, 2009

If you head upstairs after dinner, returning to the kitchen half-hour later, do not expect me to respond with cheerful gratitude when you say, "Are you done the dishes already? I was going to offer to do them!" For, even though I believe you are quite sincere in this, I am not a mind-reader to leave them for you without hearing your intention spoken aloud, and now I am only more annoyed that I did the dishes when I could have been doing something else.

Just sayin'.

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