Please Correct Me if I Misgender You, But…

A few weeks ago, a friend from the internet decided ae wanted to use more gender-neutral pronouns than “she” and “her.”  They said they were still fine with “she” as well, but wanted to try others.

Last month I finally got to go to volunteer orientation at the Time Out Youth Center.  We went around the room and shared our pronouns and I felt awkward about it when it was my turn to share mine.

When I worked at the local library two years ago, there was a person whose gender I couldn’t easily identify.  I wasn’t sure what to do but one of my coworkers made it sound so simple.  Just ask if they’re a man or a woman.  Easy.

I’m from the South and it just doesn’t feel that easy.  Talk about people who get offended easily: how would an older person who believes gender is clear-cut react if I said I couldn’t tell.

I am a cisgender woman and my gender has never felt wrong to me.  Learning that there are other experiences has been a long process and, though I want to be a good ally, this proves I still have a long way to go.  I shouldn’t be waiting for you to correct me.  I should be asking for pronouns when I meet people.  I should be doing my part to normalize that experience instead of forcing you to out yourself as different.

So correct me if I misgender you, but I’m sorry you have to.  I’m sorry I haven’t given you an easy opportunity to tell me what you want to be called.

Thank you for being patient with me, but I’m sorry if I ever make you feel anything less than 100% accepted as yourself.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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Making it Official

I love Book Club Thursdays.  Writing about books is the next best thing to talking about books.  But I have to be honest with you: working 50-60 hours each week makes reading difficult.  When I feel rushed, I read less substantial books and don’t always think my responses through fully.

I’ve already skipped a lot of Book Club Thursdays because I didn’t finish the book, and I’ve always felt guilty about it.  I don’t want reading to become a chore that I dread each week.  So from now on, Book Club Thursday will (officially) not be happening every week.  When they happen, they will still always be on Thursdays, and I’ll still do them every time I finish a book.  I’ll try to keep them to once a month minimum.

Doing this every week means I’ll be able to read at my own pace, so it’ll stay fun instead of work.  It also means I can think through my reviews or responses and every post won’t just be a variation of “I liked/didn’t like this because…”  And, most importantly, I’ll be able to read whatever I want instead of something I think I can get through quickly.  I may finally get some classics and House of Leaves read.

So I will see you next week with The Night Circus (which I will only definitely be done with because I’m meeting with my actual book club about it on Wednesday).  After that, I’ll see you when I have a book to talk about.

 

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The Eclipse

I want to write this down so I don’t forget.  There will be other eclipses, and I may even get to see some of them, but none will be quite the same as my first.

I was off on August 21st, 2017 by sheer luck.  I knew the solar eclipse was coming but I was so busy that I didn’t pay attention to the details.  Which is a shame, because it’s the sort of thing my dad would have gotten extremely excited over.

Fortunately, his brother did, and my cousin texted me the week before to invite me to their black-out party.  They live just outside Columbia, South Carolina and were in the path of totality.

Shortly after one that afternoon, I was playing Apples to Apples with the kids when one of them announced it was starting.  We all stepped out front, eclipse glasses in hand.  I couldn’t see anything from the porch and stepped down the two steps into the yard before putting the glasses back on.

They worked.  All I saw was black except for one muted spot of light.  Instead of a perfect white circle, a semicircle section on the right blended in with the darkness.  We went back inside, returning to the yard occasionally so we could check its progress.  The dark spot kept getting larger until the sliver of sun we saw through the glasses resembled a crescent moon.

I kept removing my glasses and putting them back on to marvel at how bright it was.  The sun was so powerful that, even when three-quarters of it was blocked we still couldn’t stare at it directly.  It was so strong that the sky didn’t change – not yet anyway.

We were in the backyard now and somethings were changing.  The temperature dropped, degree by degree, causing the air pressure to shift.  Even the shadows were affected.  Instead of the usual shapes, everything reflected the crescent of the sun.

And then they were gone.

The moon couldn’t block the sun completely.  A ring of light surrounded the dark circle, but the sky became as dark as dusk.  We could see Venus to the right of the moon and even the bees and crickets got confused.  The bees rushed to get home to their hive and the crickets began their nightly symphony.

We stared for a minute.  It was 2:41 in the afternoon and it looked like eight at night.

Then it was over, the moon leaving so the sun could return to its full power.  Venus vanished and it began to heat up outside.

Maybe there’s a lesson or a message in this, as there is in everything if you choose to look for it.  But there doesn’t have to be a moral for the experience to be valuable.

It took me three and a half hours to drive home on what is usually a two-hour route.  It was worth every minute of it to see the eclipse at its totality.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

It feels oddly anti-climatic to be writing this post, but sometimes…you just gotta.

I’m still working on the “balance” part in the “work-life” balance equation, but I’ve found something that’s important is that I read what I can.  This week it was something short and sweet: The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde.

Velde was an author I read a lot of as a child, a storyteller I could always count on to add a little magic to my life.  Books like A Well-Timed Enchantment, Dragon’s Bait, and Curses, Inc. were my introduction to the fantasy genre.  So when I found The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, I picked it up instantly.  The nostalgia helped, but Velde also had a point on the back of the book, a point I’d been thinking about for a while: the story of Rumpelstiltskin is pretty messed up.  Velde wrote six stories that made it make more sense.

My personal favorite was “Straw into Gold.”  My number one problem with the story has always been that the miller’s daughter married the king after he threatened to kill her and it was supposed to be a happy ending.  “Straw into Gold” gave her the best ending, in my opinion.

With six stories that come from the same fairy-tale, it would be easy for the stories to get repetitive, for the characters to run together.  Velde makes each story unique and each character is her own person.  If you want something short and fun to read, this is a great option.

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Charlottesville, Virginia.

This post is going to be a bit scattered, but I have to say something.

What’s happening in Charlottesville right now is what I was afraid of back in November.  When Trump said he would “Make America great again,” I kept wondering what he meant by “again.”  When was the golden age he was trying to get back to?  Based on this demonstration, it’s clear what these people consider “great.”  “White power,” they chanted.  All because a statue was removed – a statue of a general from the losing country.

And then Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”  Because clearly both sides are equal here.  But this man was endorsed by the leader of the KKK.  He rallied about taking our country back.  The seeds were all there.

This isn’t about free speech any more.  When you’re carrying torches and guns, it’s about more than that.  When someone protesting you is murdered, it’s more than that.  When the symbol on your arm is the same symbol worn by those who literally killed billions of people, it’s more than that.  This was proven when a black man was literally beaten at this protest.

I don’t have a solution, but I know it starts with calling racism and Nazis what they are, not equating those things with those protesting them.

 

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The Magicians

My least favorite thing in the world is when an interesting concept is done poorly, and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was one of those books.

The premise itself sounds great: kid is obsessed with a collection of fantasy books about a magical land.  He grows up and finds out magic is real after being invited to a school to learn the skill, but this magic land (Fillory) is still considered a fantasy.  Until one day…it’s not.  He and his friends actually get there.

Unfortunately, the story goes wrong right from the beginning.  Quentin Coldwater, the main character and third-person narrator, ruins it.  The first line of the description on the back states that he is “brilliant but miserable,” but he’s also a dick.  He objectifies every woman he sees.  He plays the victim even when he’s in the wrong, and he thinks he’s above everyone else.  As the main character, he’s annoying, but since the book is told from his perspective we get every gross or self-righteous thought that flows through his head.

The other problem with the book is its timeline.  It opens with him finishing high school and preparing for college.  In 400 pages, it spans somewhere between seven and eight years.  To do so, it glosses over those years to get as much time into the story as possible.  Random story elements will pop up, go unmentioned for hundreds of pages, and then come back when you’ve already forgotten about them.  Other story elements are never relevant and put in solely for shock value: when Quentin and Alice have fox sex, for instance.  The whole thing feels disjointed and vague.

I only kept reading it because someone I love very much bought it for me because she wanted me to watch the TV show.  I imagine, in that format, it’s much better.  You can’t be vague on-screen, and it is more third-person omniscient than third-person limited so I won’t have to deal with Quentin’s internal dialogue.  Because of that, I’ll probably try an episode or two.  But I wouldn’t recommend the book.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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4 Times You Should Say “No.”

I love the word “yes.”  When I say “yes,” I get to try new things or make someone happy.  I believe the word can really enhance your life.  But sometimes I go a little overboard and end up over-extended.

“Yes” is great, but sometimes you just really need to say “no.”

  1. When you’re overextended already – Believe it or not, you are not Wonder Woman.  You can’t go nonstop and you can’t do everything.  Once in a while, you have to rest.  So if you’re already exhausted or the workload you have is keeping you busy, you’re better off telling someone “no” than taking on extra that is going to burn you out.
  2. When the thing makes you uncomfortable/goes against your values – When I was a kid and people asked me if they could cheat off my paper, I always felt bad saying no…but I would have felt worse if I had let them.  This goes for adult things as well.  If it will make you feel guilty (or hurt you in any way), you are allowed to say no.  I encourage you to say no.
  3. When someone is repeatedly asking for favors and never helps you in return – I’m a huge believer in the golden rule.  You should absolutely treat other people the way you want to be treated.  But some people will take advantage of that and you should take care of yourself too.  If someone consistently asks you for help and is never around when you need something, it’s time to stop helping.
  4. When you just don’t want to – This may make me sound like a bad person, but I don’t actually care.  If you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to.  Period.

“But Kari, what about…”

Absolutely there are exceptions.  Maybe you’re tired, but it’s your best friend in the entire world and they really need you.  Or your schedule is booked but it’s a person who has never failed to help you out.  Maybe you really don’t want to do it, but they really can’t do it.  Err on the side of kindness, but remember to be kind to yourself too.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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The Handmaid’s Tale, Part 2

I am incredibly excited to discuss the The Handmaid’s Tale with my book club tonight.  After reading it, we’d also talked about watching the show on Hulu.  We had all heard good things, but I put it off because I thought it would be intense.  Today, if for no other reason than I was running out of time, I finally worked up the nerve.

I only got two episodes in, but here are my thoughts so far.

If you read my post about the book, you know I liked the way Margaret Atwood dropped the reader into the story.  The show didn’t work that way.  Episode one opens with Offred and her husband’s attempt to escape, a scene that was shown as a flashback about halfway through the book.  The change made sense, as the visual format needed a more dramatic introduction to the story.

The change I liked most was the casting of actors of color.  In the book, society’s downfall is directly related to an overwhelming wave of racism.  That is a very important and relative message and I think everyone should read the book so that they can see that effect.  However, in a TV show, it would just seem like an excuse not to cast non-white people.  (Granted, there still weren’t enough people of color cast, but maybe it’s better than none at all?)

They also made the population problem more dramatic.  In reading  the book, my understanding was that birthrates were down due to abortions and birth control.  In other words, people were choosing not to have children en masse.  In the show it was clear that infertility was an epidemic.  It had gotten so bad that someone tried to kidnap the main character’s baby.

I’m still waiting for more of the corrupted religion aspect to play in.  They’ve shown the Ceremony and talked about the Bible story that inspired it, but haven’t discussed why Offred became a Handmaid.  One of my favorite scenes in the book was Serena Joy telling Offred that the Commander was her husband, til death do they part.  That scene still appeared, but lacked the final line that gave it power: “That’s what we fought for.”

I also really hated what happened with Ofglen.  In the book, she’s a rebel fighter, using the term “Mayday” to judge who may be on her side and informing Offred about the rebellion.  The show already seems to have done away with her without giving Offred any of this information…although IMDB has Alexis Bledel credited for two more episodes, so maybe they have something else figured out.

The visual media is always going to be different than books.  Some aspects can be portrayed more clearly one way or the other.  As far as adaptations go, time will tell how the Hulu series does.  I’m interested in how they will move the story along going forward and if they’ll answer the question I’ve been dying to know since I finished the book: What happened to Offred?

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Welcome to August!

I have been SUPER busy lately, and the only way I’ve been able to get through it is to take one day at a time.  This is a valid method, but sometimes you’ve got to play the long game.  So, in the interest of that, here are my goals for the month.

  • Finish four books I’ve already started.
  • Write 6000 words (this is a low goal, Kari, come on).
  • Get caught up on your travel journal (WHY DO YOU DO THIS??? IT’S BEEN A MONTH SINCE YOU’VE BEEN ANYWHERE!)
  • Sign up for 401K (wow, adult much?).
  • Fix paystub problem (this has been on your radar for months, Johnson).
  • Stick to the preplanned budget for the month (which…is not your strong suit, but come on).

The next step is to figure out some rewards for if I do this, so…

  • Buy the three books on my (most timely) wishlist.
  • New coffee mug.
  • Day or weekend trip to Asheville.
  • That Kate Spade bracelet I’ve been looking at for months.
  • Nice dinner at Cowfish.
  • New pair of shoes in September’s budget.

Of course, my other problem is that I have a bad habit of letting myself have rewards without actually earning them, so who wants to keep me accountable?  Anyone?

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The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood wasn’t on my to-be-read list until last year.  I had heard of it, but had no idea what it was about.  I still didn’t know what it was about when I decided I should read it, but it sold out when Donald Trump was elected president, and that made me curious.

It’s a dystopic novel about a theocracy taking over America.  As a handmaid, Offred isn’t allowed to go out alone, read, or possess anything except her strict uniform and her Pass.  When she does the shopping, another handmaid accompanies her and she passes over vouchers with pictures of food on them.  Once a month, she participates in a ceremony to impregnate her so she can be a surrogate for her Commander and his Wife.  The ceremony was inspired by the story of Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 30, one of many scriptures the regime manipulated for their own purposes.

As she tells the story, Offred shares snippets of her life before: her husband Luke, her lost daughter, her feminist mother, and her friend Moira.  It was a time when she had her own job and family, when she could wear whatever clothes and make-up she wanted.  At first, it seems like a story set long ago, but with every detail it becomes clearer.  This isn’t the past for us, it’s the future.

One of the most powerful things Atwood does in this novel is to subvert the timeline.  By tossing us into the middle, she shows these rules and lifestyles as “normal.”  Only when Offred finally tells us when the change took place do we see how quickly it became so.

The women have little choice in the matter and are constantly told it is better this way.  “Look at how it was before,” they’re told.  “Women being raped and murdered all over the place.  This way protects you.”  Meanwhile, women who were actually raped are told they were to blame for it.

There is some resistance: an underground network and a rebel army.  But most people in Gilead are just trying to survive.  Except the Commanders, whose power allows them to flagrantly break rules with no consequence.

It is easy to read The Handmaid’s Tale thinking this could never happen, but the first step was to designate an entire group of people, legally, as second-class citizens.  And if we aren’t all free, none of us is truly free.  That includes our transgender brothers and sisters.

No one should feel like there is something wrong with them for existing.  Transgender people are not a burden.  And if we live in a country where this can happen, it isn’t truly the land of the free.  Don’t tell me it is when people with the bravery to serve are denied because of who they are.

If you choose to read this book, don’t start with the mindset that this could never happen to us.  Do not read it believing we have it easy because “things could be worse.”  If you read this book, do so with the realization that many women now are forced into abusive relationships or desperate lifestyles because of a power imbalance.  Realize how many people choose the military in an effort to escape poverty whether they feel called to it or not.  And realize how many people were just called a burden and not deserving of the chance to serve by the president of the United States.

Ordinary, as Aunt Lydia says, is what you are used to.  Let’s not let this become ordinary.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

You can also donate to the Transgender Law Center  if you want to make a difference.

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