The View From Here, Part II

So, like Stacy (who gave birth during The View), I’ve spent the last few weeks as a Brand Ambassador for The View and thought I should share some of my thoughts on the experience. I’ve blogged about a few of the shows, but I think the most interesting conversations were those I had with friends and family.

Most of my closest friends are internet friendships — not only because my life as a freelance writer keeps me glued to my monitor, but because these friendships have been formed on mutual interests and issues. As a result, we all seem to have the same likes and dislikes about The View — most especially our feelings regarding the ladies of The View. For example, we love and trust Whoopi, Joy, and Barbara as steadfastly as we pity and mistrust Elisabeth and Sherri. However, I have several family members who feel exactly the opposite.

Perhaps most interesting is that after all these years of watching, after all the Hot Topics discussion, we each continue to remain rather married to these feelings, beliefs and attitudes despite our firm belief that it’s through this discussion, both the ladies on the show and our less public personal conversations, that we not only can but will learn, grow and change.

Yet, I remain as heatedly fixed on Hasselbeck’s righteous fear-based stupidity (yes, “stupidity,” because she cannot claim ignorance) applied as fear mongering to limit and control others as I’ve always been.

Heck, I still get hot about Hasselbeck‘s confusion between love and sex, her insistence that fairy tales are sex education, and her preaching that the only way we can be saved from the realities of the world we all live in is to stick our heads in the sand — including forcing everyone to join her under said sand and limiting the rights of others even further; she discriminates and insists we all do it with her! That was years ago and my ire won’t die. Not until such stupidity is gone and done.

But neither does the support of Hasselbeck’s position.

So does The View really do what we all believe it will?

Perhaps not — if the only way one measures the importance of such talks is a change in position. But if you consider the benefit of talking in other ways…

Most of the time we take the high road and agree to disagree, taking it to the extreme of avoiding such conversations out of respect. But the cost of doing so is that we avoid the issues.

With The View, we have a frame for the conversation, a table to sit at, and, perhaps best of all, a time frame for discussion. If we listen and talk with each other and then move along to the next thing — be it an issue we agree on, a celebrity interview, or some shopping thing — we have set limits and prove that we can discuss, agree to disagree, and still connect on other issues. Our conversations can be challenging but our relationships need not be challenged.

This, however, is thwarted by The View‘s time slot.

Too many people work days when The View airs. Watching “together” even though miles apart isn’t the only problem; TiVo space and hours in the day not being infinite, intentions of watching later may pave the road to hell. Even watching episodes online is problematic… Even if these family members of mine use the internet (and many of them don’t use it beyond email & photo sharing), it’s just not the same viewing experience.

Maybe ABC should consider giving The View an additional evening showing.  Who wouldn’t rather watch it than another same-old Jay Leno dealio?


As a Brand Ambassador for The View, I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime and will receive a tote bag or other The View branded items to facilitate my review; as you can tell from my long-winded posts about The View, the tote or whatever I may get is not my priority, but I mention it to be ethical.

The View From Here

Last week I became an official View Brand Ambassador, part of the Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime. This means you’ll be hearing more from me on The View and while I will receive a tote bag or other The View branded items for &/or to facilitate my commentary &/or reviews, I’m really excited to have the opportunity to participate in the discussion about and promotion of one of my favorite shows — yup, one of my favorite shoes, not just a daytime favorite.  It doesn’t hurt that we’re supposed to get some face or ear time with show producers either.

In short, being an ambassador for the show means I now have a legitimate reason to watch shows uninterrupted and a larger motivation to talk about them too.

So consider this post a disclaimer — and warning of things to come, both here and at my other blog, Motherhood Metamorphosis. (Heck, it might even show up at other places, depending upon the topic!)

If you’re a fan of The View, right now Mom Central has an exciting contest: The View Sweepstakes. The prize for one lucky winner? A trip to New York City to watch a taping of The View! The sweepstakes is open until February 28th and I encourage you to enter — but I hope I win!

PS If you join Mom Central, befriend me here!

Dear Chad, Alltel Customer Service Sucks

A few months ago we switched to Alltel. I love my LG Touch phone, but the other day I had a problem with text messages (a long story) and needed to call for help. You’d think this would be simple, but it wasn’t.

First I had to get another phone so that I could poke, prod, etc. my LG Touch per their directions; then I had to find the number to call. Going to was discovering the first FAIL:

They require you to enter your zip code to get the “offers” in your area before accessing anything on their site.

Since I’m already a customer — a customer with a problem, no less — this is an unwarranted frustration. To help you, here are Alltel’s numbers:

Personal: 1-800-alltel1 (1-800-255-8351)
Business: 1-888-4AT-BIZZ (1-888-428-2499)

Once I call, go through all the prompts — including entering the digits of my Alltel cell phone — eventually reaching the place where I get the prompt to speak to a person. “Hip-Hip-Hooray!” right?


Once you press (or say) that magic number, Alltel forces you to agree to one of those satisfaction surveys. “Press 1 if you’d like us to call you back in an hour or, if you’ve called after 9 PM, call you back after 9 AM tomorrow, on the number you are calling from; or press 2 if you’d like us to call you back in an hour or, if you’ve called after 9 PM, call you back after 9 AM tomorrow, on your Alltel phone.”

Wait a freakin’ minute.

I have to agree to a “How satisfied are you?” survey before I even get any help?!


My already frustrated brain was certain that my transfer to a person had been lost and that the system had bumped me ahead to the post-call recording.

I mean, why would they hold a customer hostage like that?

But I angrily spit-out the vocal response and was finally patched-through to a human, a human who — yes, you guessed it! — made me give my Alltel number out again before she could/would help me.

I get that we live in an age where everything has to be as automated as possible because even outsourced jobs cost more than robotic voices and technologic routing. I get that data is at a premium in your competitive business. I get a lot of things about business — your business, and business in general.

But really, Alltel, do you have to hide your contact information?

Do you have to add more layers of insulting behavior to the process, holding human interaction (the very essence of the wireless business) hostage to the tune of promises a frustrated customer must keep?

All of this is like layer after layer of frustrated-icing on a bullshit cupcake.

Here’s a business tip you obviously don’t know, Alltel: It is cheaper to retain a customer than to go out and get a new one.

You don’t retain customers by keeping contact with you at bay, especially when they are already frustrated and calling customer service. So take that advice and stick it in your circle.

Because My Husband Is Mr. WalMart…

OK, maybe so he’s not-so-much Mr. WalMart… But he is Derek — The Derek — of Derek’s Big Website of Wal-Mart Purchase Receipts. (Yeah, I married Internet Royalty — Old Guard Internet Royalty, not a bust-er, or a guy with some money to buy a presence.) Anyway, because of hubby’s history, I keep an eye out for amusing WalMart stories.

So who could resist an open letter to WalMart entitled, Hey, Wal-Mart, your new case-less milk jugs are retarded:

Dear Wal-Mart,

Congratulations on your latest successful accomplishment in the dairy retail industry. Assuming, that your goal when redesigning your plastic milk containers was to have me spill milk all over my kitchen counters.

You can let the letter’s author, Chase Roper, tell you all about the new product; all I know, is after reading what Roper wrote, there won’t be any new case-less jugs of milk on our WalMart receipts.

While I could just thank Roper for his consumer report, I really enjoy his classy retorts. Like his exit line: “Also, your stores all smell like maple syrup and old people.”

Taking Off Those Kid Gloves About The Collectors Convention

Hey, that conference I’m presenting at, the first annual Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention, has been written up in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Which reminded me that I had not mentioned the event here, pestering you to attend. So, here it is, “Will you please attend the convention?”

I think there’s still some free commemorative bookmarks available, so check that out before you register.

And, in case you missed it, here’s my story about incidentally collecting bookmarks: When I Was A Child, I Bookmarked As A Child (Or, Seeking The Perfect Bookmark).

Image Credits: This bookmark advertising Paul Foster & Co. kid gloves also features palmistry; it was submitted to the convention’s gallery by Laine Farley.

You Could Have Hundreds Of These Cards & Still Not Be Playing With A Full Deck

I’m completely smitten with these 1916 M.J. Moriarty Playing Cards featuring the leading ladies and gents of the silent silver screen.

I found them when I found my buddy Cliff Aliperti (who deals in vintage movie collectibles, especially movie cards and other ephemera) in chat and asked him if he had a photo or scan of something featuring Florence LaBadie for a silent film article I was writing. When he sent me two options, I, the too easily smitten, replied, “Damn you, those cards are cool!”

“Which ones? The playing cards or the pink borders?” Cliff types back.

“Both, actually,” I reply. “I like the playing cards a lot — but I’m a girl and pink scrolls are sexy too.”

He sends me links to more — purely to torture me, I am sure.

And while I’m looking them over, he tells me more about these old playing cards. “But the fun is there’s different cards in some decks … I’ve seen over 100 different cards. Ruth Roland, on one of the Aces, there are actually 4 different poses for the single card. But some of the variations are totally different stars — like one deck shows Norma and Constance Talmadge together, another has them on 2 separate cards.”

At this point, all I could say was, “Dude, stop messing with my head! It’s not nice to do that to obsessives.”

Like Cliff, you know I am obsessive with stuff; so y’all know I was half begging him to stop, half in love with the idea of hunting down all the variations.

I mean Charlie Chaplin as the Joker? Awesome!

Plus these cards feature silent film stars I’ve never even heard of — oh, the glory of the hours of research!

You can get more details and see all the cards in the gallery at Cliff’s site; and you can buy cards from him in his store, Move Cards For Sale, and in his eBay listings.

Doodle Week: Why Do I Continue?

This week’s Doodle Week is stick figure girls.

As you can see, I continue to struggle with doodling.

At this point, it’s pretty obvious the problem is with me, not the themes.

In case you’re wondering, the girl on the left is sitting on the curb, while the young lady on the right is sitting with her legs crossed — like in the lotus position.

As for why I continue, I guess the answer is because it’s there.

Inherited Values: Antiques & Vintage Collectibles, NOT By The Book

ivbanner‘Cuz you know I just don’t have enough to do what with moving the sites and all…

I’ve started Inherited Values, a new network for lovers of antiques and vintage collectibles. It’s not a site about “how much something is worth” in the monetary sense; it’s about the values in the objects themselves — and it’s far more nostalgic and sentimental then I here, where I’m passing out the kitsch slaps *wink*

I started Inherited Values because I wanted a place where I could, with other moms and pops in the biz, focus on and share the joys of collecting old things, specifically. And do it in a more nostalgic, personal, and (I hope) beguiling way.

As the site tagline says, we don’t do antiques and vintage collectibles by the book!

  • Here the focus isn’t on money — because the only time price matters to a true collector is when she’s checking her wallet.
  • We won’t rehash the same old dry descriptions — because you don’t want to read them (and we don’t want to suffer through writing them!)
  • We won’t focus on new stuff — because there are plenty of sites being driven by those deep pockets.
  • We won’t make the usual comments about conditions — because collectors at all levels know that stuff.

We do, however, aim to assist antiques and vintage collectibles, be they handed down to you or the heirlooms you’ll one day leave behind, in charming the proverbial pants off you.

The site is live now (so if you’re a collector I do invite you to come on over!), but we’re still looking for a few dealers of antiques and sellers of vintage collectibles to join us. Email me at if you’re interested in joining the ne

Welcome! (But, Please, Pardon Our Mess While We Move In)

This is no kidding, pal! Kitsch Slapped and Relationship Underarm Stick will be moving here permanently as of January 1, 2010, when Twolia changes the focus of its site to more reflect their mission & direct women to the core of the site.

Both Alessia and myself will likely update here every now and then, but look for our big debut by the first of the new year.

Until then, please excuse the migration mess.

vintage sunburn slap postcard

Whatjamacallit Wednesday: Waste (Can) Not, Want (Can) Not?

In response to my Gadabout post (about a vintage composition dog), Laura (of Doodle Week) said, “I really like how you know all this stuff about old things and how they were made. But how do you manage to keep all these collections without running out of room for yourself?”

Well, Laura, here’s the painful truth: Occasionally I sell stuff.

I don’t like to do it — it does actually pain me. But sometimes, in the continual space battles that collectors face (both living space and the empty space in your wallet — spaces you & your spouse must agree on!), selling items is the proverbial poo that happens.

In this case, hubby (shown here miserable that I’m not only buying another one, but that he’s forced to carry it lol) was right that I had no more room for using another wastebasket…


So I’m selling this retro metal waste can with a huge, adorable, Scottie dog on it — despite my deep affection for vintage metal waste cans.

I console myself not only with 11 more inches of space and the extra bills in my wallet, but by imagining the thrill such a find will be for the new owner — who will melt every time they see those warm brown eyes, that black plastic nose, and that red felt tongue.


Cheap Thrills Thursday: Discarded Stockings Go To War & End Up At The Hingham Shipyard

stockings-go-to-warAwhile ago, folks working on The Launch at the historic Hingham Shipyard, contacted me about one of my pieces of ephemera, a page from Modern Woman Magazine (Volume 12, Number 2, 1943) with the article “How Your Discarded Stockings Go To War.”

They wondered about using the image in the series of panels which would be placed along pedestrian walkways, creating a walking tour educating people about and commemorating the history of the shipyard’s role in World War II. In case you don’t know, the Hingham Shipyard was one of the largest shipbuilding centers in the entire country, where over 2500 women worked, putting out over six ships each month.

Long story short, I’ve finally got photos of my contribution to the Hingham Shipyard Historical Exhibit, included on the ‘Home Front Sacrifices’ panel (the one with the children & Victory Garden veggies).




I Was With 95% Of Americans In 1950

From the June 26, 1950, issue of Newsweek, results of Gallup Poll regarding “how well informed the average American is on terms and phrases appearing regularly in the news.”

The result: 94 percent understood the term “flying saucers”; 68 per cent, the term “bookie.” But only 26 per cent knew “bipartisan foreign policy,” and 5 per cent, “Point Four.”


So, the titular meaning of the 95% of Americans in 1950 means that I didn’t know what ‘Point Four’ was. (I did, however, know the rest of the terms, thank-you-very-much.)

While I was not alive in 1950, one would think I could be excused for my ignorance; but it turns out I shouldn’t be — ignorant, I mean. I might still have an excuse…

‘Point Four’ refers to President Truman’s fourth point in the foreign policy objectives he stated in his inaugural address, January 20, 1949. Seeing as this fourth proposal, announced as the Bold New Program, was not only the foreign policy equivalent of the New Deal but based on similar conservation, rural rehabilitation, public works, and economic development strategies, it seems I should have been taught this in school. Especially as Point Four is what inspired president John F. Kennedy to lay the foundations for the Peace Corps in his inaugural address, January 20, 1961.

Why did my public school education insist upon making me an Ugly American, omitting foreign policy and our connected world history instead of including it in discussion of domestic policy and affairs?

Of Monday Movie Memes & Media Use

This week’s Monday Movie Meme is Deep Impact: Movies That Have Changed Your Life:

Our blogging buddy Cardiogirl wanted to know if we had ever covered movies that changed our lives or our world view.

Fundamentally, I don’t believe movies — or any media, for that matter — makes people do anything. I don’t think films have changed my life. Or yours. Enhanced your life, sure; if you’re lucky (and smart), movies have provoked thought; but primarily, because people mostly choose what they watch and therefore their selections are based on notions previously held, films confirm what you & I already know or believe.

Seeing that in pixel-ized print makes me rethink why I bother writing then… Rather depressing. So I take another look at the challenge. “What movies had such an impact that they caused a change in our behavior, beliefs, or exposed us to a new passion?”

Ah, that last one — that’s the ticket! Movies and media can expose us to new passions. They can, if we are open to learning, educate us and inspire us to find out more about something we were ignorant of before — and that may include facts or plights presented in such a way that they open our eyes to a new position or point of view.

deadly-deception-videoIn that sense, Debra Chasnoff‘s documentary, Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment, opened my eyes and I changed my behaviors; to this day, I won’t buy anything made by GE. Not even a light bulb.

And if I’m forced to buy a GE product because it’s the only option on the shelf, I rant about babies born without skulls.

And then there was Mississippi Burning. That film had a profound impact on me spiritually. (Please note that this is not a review of the film, nor a commentary on it’s historical accuracy or depictions of reality; just about my personal epiphany.)

Prior to renting the film (shortly after it’s home video release) I had known of the events it was based on, namely the real-life murders of three civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney; as I said, we are drawn mainly to those things we know &/or already believe in, so I was drawn to a film about civil rights, equality, and humanity (and its converse). But after inserting the tape, once seeing the date on the screen, “June 21, 1964,” in white letters on a black screen, I was shocked. That date was news to me.

I know I didn’t know that exact date because I would have remembered it; it’s my birthday.

mississippi-burning-dvdThe fact that I was being born while those men were murdered shocked me; the next few minutes of the movie blurred (don’t worry, I rewound it and starting the film over) as I checked in with my spirit, my soul… And then, in a moment of crystal clarity, I knew.

I knew that my profound pain and connection with civil rights issues wasn’t just because I was a nice person or something. It was more than that.. Deeper. It was due to the fact that I could not join my house of flesh on this plane while those souls suffered their way out of it and not be touched by it.

You can call me crazy for such thinking; many do. And you’d be correct to hold me accountable for such thoughts, not those who made the film. Because I still argue that these films didn’t change me; I changed me.

Yes, the facts opened my eyes — because my mind was open to being informed — and I took action (or belief) because my values (and sensitivities) dictate I must. And so I have to take as much — or more — responsibility for my actions than I’m willing to give to media creators for their efforts.

If all of this seems contradictory, or like I’m splitting hairs, it’s because I think we need to draw these lines for ourselves.

I am thankful my college professor showed us Deadly Deception; and I feel blessed to have learned a fact that somehow clarifies spiritual holdings in Mississippi Burning. I admire all involved in those projects greatly (and those sentiments are equal to the feelings of mourning sickness both projects inspire). But if I hand over the responsibility for my actions to anyone, I run big risks. So do you.

We run the risk of expecting people to plop things in front of us, rather than owning our responsibility to be seekers.

We run the risk of relaxing our personal accountability for our own actions, placing blame & credit alike on others for what we ourselves do or fail to do.

So splitting these hairs isn’t cosmetic or even a matter of semantics; it’s about ownership of our actions, beliefs, and passions. This distinction between ‘media which moves us’ and the actions we opt to make is incredibly important.

‘They’ can bombard & pressure us all they’d like, to buy shoes, kill people, vote for candidate A, believe the religious rhetoric of god B, drink beer, mutilate ourselves in efforts to be ‘beautiful’; but we make the choices. We must accept our personal accountability for those choices.

We consume media, and we are what we eat; but in this case, we need to know that we digest in order to properly digest it. And to digest it, we must be diligent in our seeking and consumption of media; as equally open to ideas and points of view that counter our own as we are critically thinking about what we see/hear/read.

Great films, or crappy ones, great books or crappy video games, do not make us do things. We do.

Defending Kate Gosselin

I’ve been trying to ignore every impulse I’ve had to blog about the Gosselins. Sure, I’ve spat at the TV and grumbled at my pc (just ask hubby for confirmation), but I’ve put off writing about them — until Catherinette, that is.

When she tweeted her dislike of Kate, I just couldn’t refuse the bait. Witnessing how so many are oblivious to the facts here drives me crazy. Crazy enough to challenge Catherinette to a duel for Kate Gosselin’s honor. (Or, baring her “honor,” at least for some understanding.) Even though I know Catherinette’s post is likely to be far more clever to read, I challenged her. (And even the entertainment value is part of the problem; it’s much easier to impart the snark than it is to look at the real issues here. Especially if those issues have something to do with you, your behaviors, your value-laden actions.) So I probably won’t “win” this duel; not only is what I have to say far less entertaining, but Catherinette has far more vocal readers than I. But like many who have doth declared a duel, I must do it in spite of winning and simply for the principal of the thing.

First of all, we, the collective “we” of society, are partly responsible for the Gosselins being on TV in the first place. Read through any publication from the past, and you’ll see that we humans have a long history of loving to vicariously follow the lives of people we don’t know. Before film, before more timely mass communication gave us the ability to herald public figures on the national or international scene, we read the local society pages & made local celebrities out of those people in our local bergs — especially those who could travel to the big cities and see the opera or buy Paris fashions.

Unusual human drama was the stuff we entertained ourselves with during our hum-drum days and nights. We consoled ourselves as “at least not having those problems,” and puffed our chests with “proof” that the rich had more dollars than sense.

quintuplets-clipping-smallThrow children into the mix — especially an unusual number of babies — and whoa, Nellie, we’re smitten. Why else do I continue to find so much evidence of the Dionne Quints?

The Dionne Quintuplets who, by the way, grew up under the intense media spotlight yet turned out normal — and by “normal,” I mean they have as adults complained about their not normal childhoods. Children everywhere complain about their parents, the lots they are born into, even without such public interest & scrutiny.

Think I’m being cold & crass? Before their complaints, we didn’t feel responsible for literally buying their story; since their complaints, we continue to buy the lives of others.

While I’ll leave it to others to debate the “who had it worse, the Dionne Quints or Jon & Kate’s + 8?” and/or the “do the plus eight have it any worse than any child actor?” I will say that most folks justify their watching and purchasing with a “Had they not our dollars, where would they be? Had they not been born a litter of five or eight, who can say where they would have ended up…”

OK, so even if you don’t agree with the choices Jon and Kate made (and I did turn down Wife Swap), to make some money off the general public interest in their über sized family of tiny tots, you must at least see how tempting such monetary gains would be when faced with the costs and work of raising such a large family. And the decision was theirs to make.

If you don’t get it, I don’t see any way to convince you. So I’ll move along.

My next point is that Jon’s a jerk.

more-husbands-self-starters-wife-would-not-have-to-be-a-crankEven without the publicity, Jon’s a poster-boy for male jerks everywhere who eschew family responsibilities. From the beginning of the show, Jon has sat back and done very little with his kids. Even less for his wife. When people say, “Kate’s a bitch,” I say, “Of course she looks like one. What woman can shoulder what she does and not look like she’s bossy?” And I don’t just mean the number of kids.

Worse than simply lazy, Jon’s a nightmare.

Jon’s passive-aggressive behavior reads off the television screen like a text book case for psych students. He doesn’t lift a finger unless he’s told to, does a half-assed job of it (if he actually does anything) — and then he stares into the camera and plays victim to millions — millions who then view Kate, the responsible party trying to get her husband to participate in his life, as mean.

It’s crazy-making and abusive. Enough to dislike him for on its own.

But then he cheats.

Looking for escape from a reality he created, he continues to paint himself the victim while he partys-on, dude.

And then he tries to leak a story about Kate’s cheating, just to make himself look, hell, I don’t know, “better” as the victim again. *sigh*

Jon says he’s not, despite his plethora of boys toys (of the mechanic, electronic, and human female varieties) and mode of recapturing-my-youth rocker garb, having a midlife crisis. Maybe he’s not. Like drugs, a midlife crisis is not required to be an asshole; but such things help.

Meanwhile, Kate, who likely has been worried about this whole thing for years now (even if not consciously), continues to try to get what she can for her kids. Jon complains about her book tours — and some of the public bitches in agreement. But really, would you have any respect for a woman who didn’t do anything to support her kids? Why is Kate blamed for wanting to use what popularity she has & leverage it into something more? I don’t have eight children, but I continually worry about feeding & providing for the kids I do have.

And when talking heads & comedians mock the Gosselins for being out & about, not home with their kids, there are distinctions to be made: Momma’s working, daddy’s an asshat.

But even if both parents are out of the home working, leaving the kids with other childcare providers, so what? Millions of us do it every single day. So these parents have a much longer commute, traveling to the far more fashionable production coasts; the same talking heads on TV do it all the time. Does anyone wonder just who is watching Stephen Colbert’s kids? Or Nicole Kidman’s?

I’m soooooo tired of people bitching about Kate when she’s been victimized and abused here.

No, she hasn’t handled everything with as much aplomb as you’d like to imagine you would. Being the sane responsible one who looks like the problem drives you crazy — and sometimes you act like it. And divorces bring out the worst in people. Even when you are trying so hard to do the right thing.

It sucks that this drama is playing out in public, especially for the kids. But dude, let’s keep some perspective here. As a kid, you’re worried about what your friends will say or think… Your friends and the kids at school, the kids in the neighborhood, at day care, your cousins, maybe. And even without such a media frenzy, all those kids would already know that your dad’s a jerk because they will have met him — or heard from some other kid who has. Seeing Daddy Dearest on TV, boozing it up with other babes only confirms what they already know. And it helps explain why your mom is tight-lipped, teary-eyed, and sometimes failing while trying to hard to hold it together.

Give her a break.

And start with a hard look at yourself. What is it that Kate brings up in your own life, about your actions/beliefs/behaviors, which you are trying so hard not to see or be responsible for?

PS In case Catherinette should mention Kate’s hair cut…

My middle child went out and got Kate’s haircut a few months ago. Did she intend to get Kate’s haircut? I can’t say; Destiny was with her biological mom that day. But the 80’s are back, baby, and asymmetrical haircuts along with it.

Besides, if Kate’s hair is anything like Destiny’s, that haircut is completely wash-and-go. Who couldn’t use that much style with eight kids, a lazy husband, a busy traveling work life, and continual media attention?

Weekly Geeks: Organization & Inspiration

This week’s Weekly Geek is “Tools Of The Trade”:

Book blogging, as a concept, is essentially pretty simple: If you have Internet access and an opinion about a book, you can be a book blogger. However, actually maintaining a book blog is much more complicated — our blogs are labors of love that require a lot of time, energy and devotion. For this edition of Weekly Geeks, I want to focus on the little things that make your blogging and/or reading life a bit easier. …Tell us about what makes your blog tick. Is there something specific that keeps you organized or inspired?

weekly-geeks-book-pileHowever the answers they seek — at least from me — are far less about physical or digital assistance; I need mental help *wink*

On one hand, my deviation here might stem from the fact that I do not describe myself as a “book blogger.” As a reader, bibliophile, accumulator, collector, researcher, I have many reasons to read books; as a person suffering from logorrhea, I naturally talk about what I read — and how what I read fits into or connects with my life, collections, work, other reading, etc. Anywhere I write/blog, no matter the subject, books and other publications pop into the conversations, even though I’ve never been dubbed “the book blogger” or had my column called “about books.”

On the other hand, it seems I’m always slightly tilting meme questions… So here goes more of the same.

Remaining organized and inspired as a reader who writes about books involves, for me, the very same challenges as it did before I was stuffing the tubes of the internet with words about books.

My organization, of which I admit a general lack of, still depends upon the traditional use of stacks. Not only the stacks of “to be read” books, which I think all readers have to some degree of toppling nature; but stacks of “to be blogged about.” I keep at least two stacks which assist my blogging progress.

One right at my desk, so that I cannot over look them (try as I might) because they will soon slide onto my keyboard.


Another, primarily library books so that they do not get lost in the milieu, usual sits near the sofa for reading; their very public placement is a reminder to read (and, typically required, renew) them before I accrue fines. (When it’s time to review a few, the whole stack is then moved to sit precariously atop of my pc’s case.)


Remaining inspired is not typically a problem; I am the sort of person who easily becomes obsessed — with the reading of, talking about, and further researching about what I’ve read. But what I and my blogging suffer from are what I call inertia issues

Bouts of reading do not wish to be interrupted by reviewing; bouts of reviewing do not like to be hampered by not having read anything new; bouts of research/reading in one area ignores others. These things, of which time and personality are both critical factors, can make for series of posts that skew my blogging heavily. Which is to say that new visitors to my blog who happen by during a period in which I’m heavily into one activity or interest — and by virtue of not sharing that interest — may leave quickly, not seeing their more shared interests lay, like layers of an onion, deeper within.

I do try to remember these possibilities and address them.

Using blog carnivals (such as — shameless plugs — the Book Reviews Blog carnival which I’m hosting on the 25th and the New Vintage Reviews carnival, which includes books, that I host monthly), helps remind me. Submission due dates are reminders that post must be written.

But primarily I keep an eye on my stacks. And they on me. The growth of all of my stacks — through their tumbling acts — nags. This creates a balance at the blog which does really exist within myself or my habits.

As my “to be reviewed” stack slips precariously towards my keystroking fingers, I try to avoid being annoyed at the disruption and take it as a cue that I’m more than a little behind in my reviewing. As the family sighs at having to operate around my stack of library books, I try not to let that upset the reader in me who wishes for more time to read, but acknowledge that, yes, I am a more than a little behind in my reading.

I’m always a little behind in my reading.


Falling In Love With A Southern Character: Miss Isabel

I discovered a new character and fell in love with her, but I didn’t find her in a book, a film, or even in my piles of ephemera — I found her when I found that auction for the antique vampire killing kit (and now, all of you who haven’t yet read about it will, with tiny mouse clicks, stampeded away in giant droves; but I patiently, digitally await your return).

Miss Isabel Person of Port Gibson, Mississippi, is more than just some older southern lady who passed away this last January, leaving an estate of fine antiques — although you wouldn’t really know it unless you stumbled into her nephew’s narrative, published at Stevens Auction Company. I know we are all more than our possessions, more than our distinguished and character-ridden family trees, but usually these are the things I truly see when physically present at auctions and estate sales, or discover through books &/or research; in this case, I fell in love in just 1600 words.

Of course, the writing by her nephew, Jim Person, certainly helped.

In the first paragraph, his line, “The house was filled with wonderful objects from all over the world and, to a child, the furniture was so huge that the pieces took on personalities of their own,” proves that he is, like I, an imaginative soul who appreciates the romance of objects, making the reading of his abbreviated story of Miss Isabel a delight.

I drank in the history of her family and their times, and I chuckled at the young Miss Isabel who blamed the college laundry for shrinking her clothes before realizing the true culprit behind the freshmen ten. But this is the paragraph which perhaps best sums up my affection for this special lady I’ve never met:

Miss Isabel never married, although she definitely liked men. She was very attractive, impeccably dressed, intelligent and the life of the party. And did she like to party. She enjoyed company and drink and indulged in both into her 90’s. She used to tell me about her great friend Lambert Huff, somewhat of a rounder, but an intelligent businessman and a charming person. After a few drinks Lambert would often ask Isabel to marry him. Miss Isabel, after a few drinks of her own, would invariable reply, “Lambert, if you think I would marry you, you must have taken leave of your senses.” I like to think that Miss Isabel was a modern woman and that during her marriageable years, the 1930’s and 40’s, the institution of marriage, as it was at the time, was not something that she was interested in. Maybe she would be more interested in a modern marriage where men and women are on more equal footing. Miss Isabel was not one to be on unequal footing with anyone. On the other hand, she was so fiercely independent, that it is hard to see her agreeing to even equal footing.

We continually hear of (and I myself write about) how women had less choices in the past, and all this time there’s been Miss Isabel bucking the system in grand style. Sure, there are and have been other “Miss Isabels,” but this one was a southern belle with a vampire killing kit in her attic, entertaining rounders — all while, I imagine, a great twinkle in her eye.

I wanted a photo of Miss Isabel — if not an antique one I could fame and display as my adopted Aunt Isabel, then a digital one I could study for the twinkling eye and other secrets. So while on the phone waiting to speak to someone at Stevens Auctions about the historic vampire kit, I decided I’d also ask about a photo of Miss Isabel.

Before Dwight Stevens himself was on the phone with me, another good southern gentleman (whose name I didn’t catch) tried to help me. When I mentioned my affection for Miss Isabel, he regaled me, in the tremendous southern story-telling style, of a story about her.

The story goes (in my not-so-fine southern story-telling way) that one day the chief of police was riding by the golf course and spotted Miss Isabel chasing after a golf cart. Apparently in one of her daily golf games, her group had decided to leave before Miss Isabel was ready and she sprinted on after them. The police chief was impressed by her speed — especially for a lady of 70 years. But as it turns out, Miss Isabel was already 90 years old.

This story must be a classic Miss Isabel story, for when Mr. Stevens did come to the phone to speak with me, he too told me the story of the 90 year old sprinting after her golf cart.

When I asked about Miss Isabel, about the possibility of obtaining a photo, Stevens told me that he found that in poor taste; Miss Isabel had just passed in January, you see. I felt like a classless (northern) idiot.

I told him that I had no wish to be inappropriate or disrespectful, I was impressed and charmed by Miss Isabel — would he be able to put me in touch with the nephew who had written the lovely piece about her? Stevens said he had no contact information for the nephew, but perhaps he would run into him when traveling next week. I hope he finds Miss Isabel’s nephew and that Mr. Person is willing to speak with me about his aunt — maybe even share an old photo I can study… Keep your fingers crossed, dears!

As if seeing an actual antique vampire kiling kit weren’t cool enough, I’d love to travel to the auction on Halloween and walk among Miss Isabel’s things — and at her own home to yet, as the auction will be held at her house in Mississippi. In fact, the auction preview on Friday, October 30, 2009 is also at her home and will even conclude “with music on Miss Isabel’s porch, a tradition in Port Gibson.” Mr. Person says Miss Isabel’s house, “although showing some neglect (Miss Isabel could afford the maintenance but couldn’t stand the inconvenience), is still a beautiful thing to see.” Oh, if only… *heavy sigh*


Grandma Was A Swinger: Estate Sales & The Ephemera Of Women’s Lives

I have a habit of making stories from nearly anything. I see a person on the street, I give him or her a name, an occupation, a mood, a spouse or other family member, and a mission. In line at the grocery story, I love to watch what people are buying. A lovely, or hysterical, little vignette emerges. (One time, it was a man at 12:30 at night purchasing a huge bottle of vodka, kitty litter, and a Cornish game hen. The vodka bottle was nearly the size of the kitty litter canister. I had to keep myself from advising him not to sit down with the bottle until after he fed the cat — even if the hen was for the cat, sooner or later, a hungry cat will eat a passed out human.) Anywhoooo…

Visiting estate sales allows me to see more than things to buy; I see a life. A few objects create a sketch, a few more inks it in, and then my mind paints in all the rest. I can’t help myself. And I believe it’s not just more exercises for my imagination; I learn a lot this way.

At a recent estate sale, I discovered the recently deceased woman had been a bookkeeper, extremely active at the nearby church, and an excellent bowler. But there was more. I was lucky enough to find (and purchase) a few raunchy old pulps and a paperback on open marriages — extra bonus material included a bookmark at the chapter on renewing the contract, and a few Polaroids of the woman in her 1950’s wearing office attire in pinup poses. In order to not let her sons (who were running this estate sale) learn things they may have lived this long without knowing, I bought a whole bunch of stuff so that they’d be too busy tallying my bill to really see my items and do the math on their mom’s life.

Working at another estate, where ‘Grannie’ was moving to an assisted care facility, there was a lot of clutter. For practical reasons, it seems. Hidden in plastic waste cans, desk drawers, floor cubby-holes, were half-full (or half-empty, for you pessimists) bottles of booze. Mostly cheap sherry & brandy. So cheap was this hooch, I’d imagine you couldn’t tell one ‘flavor’ from the other — or from rubbing alcohol for that matter. Now we knew more about where ‘Grannie’ was moving and why. We just disposed of the bottles as we found them, without a comment, so as not to embarrass the family. We also found an overwhelming number of unfinished sewing and needlework projects; idol hands really might be the devil’s workshop.

I have been to more estate sales than I can count where the now-deceased elderly woman had been to art class in her younger years. Yes, she studied figure drawing — nude figure drawing. If I am lucky, I get to buy the portfolio. Often, I am not so lucky; but I do get to at least leaf through them. I do think ladies today ought to be educated thus. It’s something we, as a culture, should not have stepped away from.

This all gets me to thinking… Upon my death, at my estate sale, people will draw conclusions about me. Folks may think I took a nude figure drawing class — at least until they read the various names and dates on the drawings. They might think I had an open marriage. Lots of folks will think, due to my huge collection of pinups and vintage erotica, that I was a lesbian; people do it now.  Perhaps I should leave notes.

But women do leave notes. In fact, they document their whole lives. Especially those women who were wives and mothers. There’s a certain pattern to a mom’s life, and in these homes of women who have passed on, you see the evidence of it.

There are the piles of scrapbooks, letters, photos, and correspondence of intimate connections. The trail begins with cards, notes, and photos with written clues to romance. Perhaps there are diaries. Soon there are stacks of ‘baby books’, family photo albums, depositories of greeting cards, postcards, letters and other clues of a new family and social attachments. (As the family grows, whatever personal diaries there were may now cease; she is too busy caring for her family to document and journal her own life in a diary.)

As the children get older, these scrapbooks turn into group things. Work newsletters, bowling league gazettes, church group & luncheon publications… She continues her habits of saving and, if lucky, pasting. As the children age, she becomes an empty-nester, and the social group activities are intermittently interrupted with family wedding invitations, announcements of new born babies, thank-you-for-the-gift cards, and a few obituaries here and there. Some of the wealthier women traveled, and you’ll find volumes full of travel itineraries, plane & boat tickets, postcards, photographs and other travel souvenirs. But just as the books became less and less about family, so the books eventually become less and less about the living.

Too soon the scrapbooks become filled with page after page of obituaries, memorial service bulletins, the occasional thank you card from the younger generation for the flowers… Even if the obits are punctuated with the occasional wedding and birth announcement clippings, there are no cards, or handwritten notes, just newspaper clippings. Proof that human interaction is limited, the only handwriting now is the feathery-script of the woman making the book; a single script places the dates below the clippings. The scrapbook is a one-woman — one-way — endeavor. She continues to chronicle the past rather than the now. To fill her day as well as the books, she includes newspaper articles on ‘Remember When’ and ’50 Years Ago Today’ stories. These clippings dot the obits with more socially-sterile tanned documents of death and loss…

There you stand, holding these books, this evidence of life which was cut, pasted and collected by this woman who has passed on. In some cases, all you find are the drawers and boxes of intentions — loose papers that had patiently out-lasted their acidic attacks to survive the great “some day” when they would be placed into books to tell their stories; their brittleness a testimony to the bitterness of time that ran out.

Yet, when you bring the stacks of lovingly made books &/or old saved ephemera to the living, they say “Go ahead and sell it. Or pitch it if it’s not worth anything; I don’t want it.”

I cringe when they say that.

But I do as I am told, praying that someone will come along and adopt these books and boxes of ephemera, in some fashion adopting these women & their families — if they are willing to see the dead-paper forest for the trees of individual auction-priced items.

But sometimes, it’s what you don’t find which illuminates the most about lives.

Once I was working with my mom at an estate sale. We were clearing out the master bedroom when she opened the nightstand drawer and squealed so loud that I quickly turned from the closet to look. My mother stood clutching an item in her hand, her face was flushed and her eyes begged for help. “I shouldn’t have picked it up,” she said. I came over, removed the item from her hand, and discovering one of those small clothing shavers (the kind that you use to remove pills on your sweaters etc) I said “What’s the matter with a sweater shaver?” My mother sighed, her shoulders relaxed and she said “Oh, I thought it was a… well, you know…” My mother had thought it was a vibrator.

This, of all the finds over the years, has me thinking the most: Why haven’t I ever found vibrators at estate sales?

You might be quick to say that the families had already cleared the home of such things, out of a sense of propriety perhaps. But I’ve cleaned too many nightstands, bathrooms, closets, and under too many beds. I’ve found too many family skeletons, dark secrets, and old people diapers to believe this is the reason.

I’ve found all the ephemera documenting the most intimate parts of their lives, including their love lives. What’s more, I’ve found evidence of their sex lives — be it the old letters, pulp novels, erotic works, or ‘just’ their offspring. But never a sex toy.

I find it hard to believe that loneliness, drinking, sewing, bowling, church activities, and cut & pasting from the newspaper replaces the need for sexual gratification. It doesn’t work now, at the age of 45, so why would it be enough at 92?

Do families worry more about ridding mom or grandma’s home of her pocket rocket more than they do adult publications or evidence of other bodily functions? Could it be these women really have no sex drives? Or, even though vibes and sex toys have been around for ages, were these women unaware they existed — or without means to get themselves one? Or is there some other reason I do not find vibrators when preparing for estate sales?

Whatjamacallit Wednesday: Myrtle The Turtle

My mother is the one who started it, this tradition of making up silly songs to sing to your kids. I’ve twisted it onto singing songs about my children, usually silly rhymes sung to melodies from television themes songs — like Hunter’s Boo-Bear, Meet The Boo-Bear based on The Flinstones.The kids used to love it, but then they grew older and not-so-much… I must now wait for them to grow old enough to appreciate them again.

One of Allie’s favorites was grandma’s Myrtle The Turtle who would “swim any hurdle — just to be near her Allie.” So when I found this Myrtle The Turtle, a story by Ernestine Cobern Beyer (illustrations by Mildred Gatlin Weber), inside the July 1964 issue of Wee Wisdom, I instantly thought of Allie and began singing the song. Thank goodness I was home alone flipping through the pages & singing, or… Well, let’s just say that if the kids who know the songs and presumably love me no longer can rise above my crazy singing to enjoy the special memories created by such silly songs, how can I expect the general public to?


My mom bought me this vintage copy of Wee Wisdom when we were out antiquing together because she know how much I love Great Danes. Now that I’ve found Myrtle in here, I wonder if she’ll want it back? …I myself am tempted to remove the Myrtle pages (ack!) and frame them for Allie for Christmas. Better yet, just make really high quality scans, print two great copies and frame a set for each of them… (If either one of them pop in here, all bets — and gifts — are off.)


Romancing The Van: Ephemera Proves There’s Someone For Everyone

Two years ago, hubby and went to the junk yard to get replacement doors for our van, Ookla. I was utterly fascinated with the junk yard itself and was almost disappointed when we found the right doors — but the adventure wasn’t quite over yet…

I sat down inside the van, to get out of the hot sun, while Derek went about the business of removing the doors from the junked van; I looked about. Clearly the last owner’s belongings had not been cleared out of the vehicle. Paper and trash were strewn about, but then there it was — a Playboy magazine. Water-damaged and smelling of mildew, but there it was, right next to a bottle of Axe body spray. Does it get any more kitsch than that?!

(Now, before I go any further, you should know a bit more about when we went to purchase Ookla, our old conversion van. When the salesman unlocked the vehicle and showed us the spiffy airline lights which ran along the floor and the ceiling, the first thing I said was, “Hey, was porn made in this van?” Both the salesman and Derek blushed. So I’m neither a prude nor surprised that the previous owner of this van was also marked with smut — it just seemed to be a sign that along with make, model and year, these doors were the right match for dear old Ookla.)

But before I could reach for that Playboy, my eye spotted something else…


Yup, that there is a used tampon, folks.

I carefully reached for the Playboy. It was only the cover and badly damaged — but where there’s a cover… So I kept looking about, being very careful where I put any part of myself, least I find another tampon. Or worse.

Next, I spotted a notebook with a fancy silver foil cover. Only the first page was written on — a cheap attempt at fantasy fiction, with the main character discovering a magical notebook with a silver cover. (Yeah, I took that home for giggles later.)

I then found a bill for the van’s last oil change, paid for in 2005; been sitting here awhile, I guess.

I eventually found the insides of the Playboy and I put them with the magazine cover pages and the silver notebook just as Derek called for my help to hold the doors while he took out the last bolts.

I got out of the van, headed to the back. Standing there, just holding the doors, I scanned the insides of the van from this new angle. Immediately I note Star Wars light saber boxes — not one, but two of them. If the amateur sci-fi-slash-fantasy-fiction and Axe wasn’t proof enough of an under-sexed goober, the Star Wars weaponry was. This van was owned by a nerd. A nerd who, according to the oil change bill, had the first name of Jim.

Then I spy something else…

“Hey, Derek, what’s that by your foot?”


“What’s that black thing by your foot?”

“I dunno. Let’s get this door off…”

We set the door down and I go to get a closer look at the black thing which was by his foot. It’s a bit of fabric… After the tampon, you’d think I’d be leery, but I had to know what it was, so I cautiously picked it up.


In my hand I then held one very small pair of black nylon panties, bikini style — with lots of lace. I should’ve dropped them like they were on fire, but they were very, very clean looking. I started laughing.

Oh my God, it looks like Jimmy had himself a woman. At least once. A light-saber-playing, small-black-panty-wearing, menstruating, Playboy-accepting woman who could tolerate the smell of Axe.

There’s someone for everyone.

Book Review Blog Carnival Submissions Call

book-review-blog-carnivalEvery two weeks the Book Review Blog Carnival highlights special book reviews from book blogs across the internet; the most recent edition, number 28, is now up at Books For Sale?

I’ll be hosting carnival number 29 here, at Kitsch Slapped, on October 25th. So, if you’re a book blogger or otherwise have posted a book review or two (more?) at your blog, please submit your own book reviews for inclusion in the 29th edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival. The carnival is open to all genres — fiction, non fiction, children’s books, whatever!

Cheap Thrills Thursday: Of Storks In My Collection & Contraception

shoo-vintage-stork-postcardA few months ago, a gentleman contacted me about one of the items in my “vintage stork” collection. The antique postcard, postmarked 1908, depicts a couple shoo-ing away a baby-delivering stork; the gentleman was James M. Edmonson, Ph.D., Chief Curator of the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum at the Case Western Reserve University; and he was asking if I could get him a larger high resolution scan of the postcard for inclusion in a new gallery the museum was working on.

Could I? Would I? Um, this is exactly the sort of stuff that floats my boat! Not only is my object connecting me with others, with history, but the gallery is for Virtue, Vice, and Contraband: A History of Contraception in America — a new exhibit at the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum that examines 200 years of the history of contraception in the United States.

So, naturally I did whatever I could to get the chief curator the graphic. And here it is, on the left-hand side of the display designed by guest curator Jimmy Wilkinson Meyer from The College of Wooster:


The exhibit (launched September 17, with Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, author of Rereading Sex: Battles over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in the 19th Century America, at the Zverina Lecture), depicts the social and cultural climate that influenced birth control decisions in this country, says James Edmonson, chief curator at the Dittrick:

The exhibit reveals a longstanding ignorance of essential facts of human conception. For example, that a woman’s ovulation time was not discovered until the 1930s by two doctors, Kyusaku Ogino in Japan and Hermann Knaus in Austria. Before and after this finding, desperate women went to great length to prevent pregnancies. The exhibit explores less well known (and dangerous) methods such as douching with Lysol or eating poisonous herbs like pennyroyal, as well as conventional means such as the IUD or the Pill.

“A remarkable body of literature was available to assist newly married couples and others,” says Edmonson. “These books were not displayed publicly, on the coffee table, but hidden in a private place.”

He cites examples such as Charles Knowlton’s Fruits of Philosophy, or the Private Companion of Young Married People (1832) and the popular 18th century book on anatomy, reproduction, and childbirth, Aristotle’s Masterpiece.

In addition to literature, the exhibit draws upon and incorporates the vast collection of contraception devices donated to the university in 2005 by Percy Skuy. The Canadian collector had amassed the world’s largest collections of such devices over the course of four decades.

The exhibit starts in the early 1800s, before Anthony Comstock, lobbied Congress to pass the Comstock Act of 1873, responding to what he viewed as a moral decline after the Civil War.

“It was a watershed year. The Comstock Act made it illegal to sell contraceptives or literature about contraception through the mail,” says Edmonson.

While Congress legally barred contraception, a black market for such products and literature flourished. Comstock went undercover to search out and turn in violators of his law in his crusade to stamp out what he defined as smut and obscenity.

In the early 20th century, women’s advocate Margaret Sanger opened a birth control clinic and research institute, flaunting the Comstock Law. Eventually her efforts evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The exhibition highlights some ancient methods of birth control and presents information about the influence of religion on contraception.

“We wanted to have a multi-faceted look at the topic of contraception,” Edmonson says.

Future plans are to expand this exhibit with a companion book, a kiosk where additional information can be accessed on the birth control collection, and an extensive online site available worldwide.

I love that my old postcard is hanging out with Margaret Sanger — well, it does that here at home, but now it’s part of the larger public story. And that’s cool.

Now I must get myself to Cleveland, Ohio to see it!

My Summer of ’79

At 15, I was straddling the simple romantic fantasies of girlhood by day — and the hormonal induced sweaty-pink-bit-manipulations by night.

By day, I still played with Barbie & her friends. Still playing with Barbies was not something I advertised; I didn’t invite my girlfriends over to play with me. Like my nocturnal activities, this was the solo-play of self-discovery.

Playing with Barbie was like warm comfort food; I understood the rules and romance in playland, even if I didn’t understand the ways of the boys around me who had suddenly started reacting to my well-beyond-just-budding breasts.

But at night, I got hot and sweaty for Andy Gibb — via his posters on my walls.

angy-gibb-posterEspecially that poster of Andy with his dark blue satin baseball jacket worn open to expose what I could only then (and now) best describe as a tree of hair — with a trunk that went down past the navel to what I could only then bear to imagine as another system of hair at the root… Leading to that something that beefed-up his tight satin pants. And that magnificent mane of hair on his head, ahhh... it still works.

But before I begin to get lost in teenage masturbation fantasies, let’s just say that solo-play was far more productive in terms of my nighttime studies; learning the ins-and-outs of myself, physically & emotionally, was easier than figuring out interpersonal play by myself. But I did learn much about me.

At 15, I knew the score — or at least what scoring was — even if I wasn’t ready for it. At least not with a boy. If I was going to give in — and I wasn’t sure I was — it would be with a man who knew what he was doing.

Since I was an avid reader, Barbie wasn’t my only form of entertainment. (Nor was masturbation — quit trying to get me off the subject!) As an avid reader with a voracious appetite for books, my parents let me read freely from anything on the bookshelves at home and at the library. I hadn’t needed my parents’ permission for any reading material since what, I was 6, 7? I read what I wanted, and asked questions when I needed to.

For example, when I was about 10 I read a mystery book which presented a mystery it hadn’t intended. I forget the title and author, but the passage went like this: “and then he threw the flaming faggot into the fire.” Since the only definition for ‘faggot’ I knew was the same for ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ (hey folks, it was 1974, and folks were ‘out’ in theory even if I didn’t know anyone personally); I was at a loss. How could a man who was alone throw another man into a fire? And if there was someone around, why hadn’t he been mentioned earlier? Shouldn’t there have been some sort of exchange or motive? Was it just bad writing?

Book in hand, I approached my mother, showed her the passage and asked for help. How she kept a straight face (no pun intended) while explaining that ‘faggot’ was an English word for cigarette, I’ll never know… But I do know that not only had she helped me with my vocabulary but I helped her by letting her know what I knew. That’s what parenting is all about, yes?

So, flash forward five years to me at 15 again. I dragged myself away from Andy Gibb’s gaze, left Babs alone (that’s not a euphemism; I refer again to the classic fashion doll), and look for a book on my parents’ book shelf.

summer-of-42-coverA title caught my eye, The Summer of ’42 — something about it was familiar. I remembered vaguely the book making news… Something about sex & banning the book… Hmm, I thought, I hope it’s not as dumb as Catcher in the Rye. (That book did nothing for me, sorry.) But curiosity won, and I took Summer of ’42 to my room and read it.

The book was well-written, but it was from the point of view of a boy, which I found faintly disinteresting. A group of boys who want to get laid, gee, that was news to a 15 year old girl with big boobs. But I hung with it (to date, I’ve only quit reading 3 books — I’m a girl who believes in commitment), and I learned a few things.

Like Hermie’s date with Aggie. Hermie thinks he’s getting lucky by touching her breast — a deformed breast lacking any nipple — only to discover later that he’d been fondling and groping her shoulder. (Hey, Andy Gibb would never, ever, have made that mistake!) This only confirmed my belief that boys were stupid. They were in such a rush, they missed pretty basic stuff. Idiots.

But at the end of the book, the cumulative lessons learned left me once again surprised: I’d read another banned book that left me wondering why it would need to be banned. Frankly, I still am.

Sure, Hermie (an under-age boy) has sex with an older (adult) woman; but it’s depressing. It’s not erotic. Nor is it abusive or crude. In fact, it scared me about my fantasies about Mr. Gibb. I mean Hermie was in love, head over heels in love — ga-ga — and after what he thinks is such a beautiful moment, this woman cries and leaves him. Sure, she was vulnerable with her husband’s death and all, but clearly, she didn’t want some kid. Ouch. And hey, Hermie’s got feelings! Who knew boys had feelings?

This was not some sex-filled-romp of adolescence. This was not some titillating erotic entertainment piece. This was heartbreaking. Even at 15, a never-been-kissed-by-a-boy girl, I recognized the agony of misplaced virginity. I knew that a first time, a first love, a first f***, was sacred. This wasn’t some fodder for a solo-f***-fest, some sensationalized erotic entertainment — far from it. It was a warning. Not only were young boys not practiced enough to find a boob, but they were immature enough to not know they should protect their hearts. While I felt that I would fare better in the groping department, I knew I was likely as lame in matters of the heart.

Not long after, Barbie was put away and didn’t see sunlight until we had a garage sale. I had mastered what I needed to know: romance was a fickle bitch, boys could indeed be hurt too, and romance could be as plastic — as one-sided — as a fashion doll.

I still masturbated to images of Andy, but I no longer romanticized meeting him after a concert and that he’d fall in love with me. It was just sex — just sex in my mind. And it was safer for me at that time to leave it at that. Too bad Hermie hadn’t been that self aware, hadn’t protected himself… And no wonder the older woman who should have known better, but was so affected by her own broken heart she couldn’t think straight, left town asap.

I grew up quite a bit reading Summer of ’42, and I likely saved myself some pain. I’m not saying I mad no mistakes; my life is a character-building exercise. But I made less mistakes, less painful ones. I have Herman Raucher to thank for that. And my parents — for they let me read.

Just last week I asked my mom if she knew that I had read Summer of ’42; yes, she had. I asked her if she was, well, creeped out by it. Her reply? “No. You always came to us if you had questions. …It was a sad story, wasn’t it?”

Yeah mom, it was sad. Sadder still to know that some kids weren’t allowed to read it. Thank you, mom and dad, for being good parents.

banned books Epilogue: Some kids and adults are still not allowed to read or view Summer of ’42 because it has been banned from their libraries. Or they’ve been told to avoid such ‘horrible’ works. I can’t speak for the film, but if you get a chance, read Summer of ’42. It might be too late to save yourself from past mistakes, but it’s never too late to learn something.

Read it this week, Banned Books Week, buy Banned Books Week merch, blog about it and read what others have to say — and celebrate your freedom to read.

Lessons In Swine

I am recovering from H1N1, the “swine flu.” I know this from Dr. Sanjay Gupta. No, he’s not my personal physician, but unable to sleep, I caught Dr. Gupta on Anderson Cooper 360, discussing how he suffered through H1N1 while he and Cooper were in Afghanistan and when he recounted how he’s never been sicker, describing the worst chills he’s ever had — in Afghanistan! — I knew how he felt.

Even with Advil, my temp was over 101 (and my normal body temp is 1 degree under normal — something I used to get out of gym class all the time), yet I was soooo cold. That’s why I was up, watching CNN: I was too cold to sleep. My goosebumps were like the teeth of a saw and I was shivering so hard I was forced to wind blankets around & between my limbs so that so that my saw-tooth-covered flesh would not cut me while I shivered.

But this is not all I learned from TV this week.

Rod Blagojevich was on both Chelsea Lately and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart — and god help me, he, especially on The Daily Show, sounds rather convincing.  At least far more convincing than ever seemed possible before to me; I am now primed for a larger scandal involving criminal activity on the part of the state of Illinois. (Then again, as a native of Wisconsin, we can believe just about anything bad or criminal of those flatlanders.)

I may not be able to trace my illness back to where I caught it; but I think my ability to entertain the idea of Blagojevich’s innocence stems not so much from my own fever but rather from Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, and her appearance on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Patti’s staunch support may not have convinced me at the time, but it planted seeds… She made him human, and the rest can be recovered from.

And if you don’t believe me, consider that Tom DeLay has enough fans to save him on Dancing With The Stars.

Author reserves the right to fully recover and recant.

What Country Is This That We Condone Victim Blaming?

I’ve been crying all day…

I just learned that in eight states and Washington, D.C., insurance companies are legally allowed to blame victims of domestic violence by denying them coverage — claiming that it’s a “pre-existing condition.”

As a survivor of domestic violence, I find this appalling, unacceptable, immoral, and intolerable. Even if I had not lived it, did not still struggle with the impact and effects upon myself and my family, I’d still be horrified.

Why do we, as a country, go on talking about those “bad men” in other places who impose sexist rules and prohibit their women from the same rights afforded to men, but allow the victimization of American women & children with such foul practices disguised as legal business practices? Why do we condone and sanction victim blaming?

Insurance industry executives will be appearing before a House subcommittee hearing this Thursday to testify on insurance industry practices like this one — will you join me in asking the subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Kucinich, to demand answers from them about this policy?

It’s easy online — just use this form. Or you can make phone calls to your representatives. Please be sure to address the issue of domestic violence coverage, that the institutionalized victim blaming is flat-out unacceptable.

I used the form and made phone calls.

But I’m still crying — what country is this?!

Weekly Geeks: The Experience Of Reading & Reviewing Books

weekly-geeks-book-pileThis week’s Weekly Geeks challenge is a response to author Shannon Hale’s post about evaluating and reviewing books; we were to respond to the questions Hale asked in one of three ways — but I’m just going to go ala cart.

Since Hale’s post was as much for readers as reviewers, I feel I should start with a bit of my basic book philosophy, that reading is an experience. As such, the book is as much a prisoner of the reader’s context — your context — as it is the author’s, and the time and place in which the work was written, edited, published, etc.

Even if a book is not, as Zaid says, a conversation — or if you only view a book as a one-sided conversation — the reading of it is the process by which the book becomes alive, useful, “on.” (An unread book is just an object, art in a closet, a sweater you were given at Christmas that you don’t like enough to wear, or have no place to wear — at least not yet. Perhaps you intend to read it, but until you do, there’s no real experience with it — other than the experience you had obtaining it.)

camper-girls-1910sReading, like any other experience, does not exist in a vacuum; you take stuff with you going in. Some of it is practical, but much of it is subjective & personal. Like a hiker heading out on the trail, you take along your knowledge, educated opinions, dreams, expectations, likes & dislikes — and your previous experiences. Are you familiar with the territory? If so, is it too familiar — boring and formulaic? If it’s new territory, is it full of exciting discoveries? Or is it overwhelming, not for the novice? Perhaps you were poorly lead by the guide? Or maybe you were the problem, ill-prepared, lazy, or otherwise not up to the challenge. If the failings were yours, should you try again — would you?

In any case, whatever you discovered during your experience, including knowledge about yourself, those are the things you discuss with others upon your return.

Are you reacting to any fears or insecurities?
What was it about the story that resonated?
Would you have loved this book as much five or ten years ago?
Will you continue loving it in the future?
Where are you in your life that this is the story you wanted and needed?

Answering these questions is a somewhat natural process; you are automatically sorting & sifting through these things when you read a book and think to yourself how your sister simply must read this book, or how your girlfriend would hate the heroine, or how your father would pick the science apart. You might not articulate these things as well as a reviewer does (or ought to do), but you are making the connections.

vintage-campersDepending upon who you are talking with, your tale may vary. When talking with those who have never been, you might describe the trail (plot) in greater detail. With those who have been, you can share those insider jokes & stories (spoilers and “you had to be there” moments). With those who are either planning on going or those who you sincerely believe must go, you tailor your tale to arouse their interest without ruining their own discoveries (you can share those “had to be there” moments after they’ve been there). Conversely, if you hated the trip, or had places where you struggled, you share those accordingly as warning. And for those with no interest whatsoever in the subject, you will simply comment what a great (or poor) trip you had — and should they politely ask questions, you will steer your comments towards things your companion can relate to.

Reviewing isn’t that much different — but it does add another layer, another experience.

A book selected (or assigned) for review will have those additional contextual constructs affecting the experience. You know you will be having conversation, regardless of your impressions of the book — and let’s face it, not every book you read is necessarily one you care enough to talk about. Why? Because maybe it failed to show you any magnificent views. Maybe it didn’t ignite a memory, provoke an idea, force a feeling, or jog an interest. Maybe it didn’t even offend you enough to warrant warning others. It was, overall, a rather unremarkable experience — but one you must record nevertheless.

(In the past decade of reviewing online, I’ve had my share of those! Quickly, I learned not to accept books or items I would otherwise have no interest in; if I wouldn’t buy it or at least want to buy it, I won’t take it for free — the price paid for having to write a review full of “I don’t usually read” and disclaimers regarding my own lack of knowledge, experience or interest is even less fun than reading a book for which I have little knowledge, experience, or interest.)

As I myself never use rating systems for anything in life, I do not use them with continuing the book’s conversation. (When forced to use them at sites like Amazon, I’m continually chafing at the lack of options — Why no zero rating, no 3.5 stars? There’s never been a rating system that really works for me.) This is part of my personality, as subjective as anything else in the experience of reading and discussing books.

For me, the primary mandate of reviews is honesty: I’m very aware of my obligation as a reviewer. I may not know all of my audience (blog readers) as well as I do my circle of family & friends, so I face a different circumstance in conversing. Using the hiker analogy again, I must write either a review of the hiking spot for a general audience of hiking enthusiasts (taking into account the varying levels of experience, but focused on the trail), or I must write, as I do here at Kitsch Slapped, for an audience that is more interested in what I opine — keeping in mind that what I have to say about my discoveries and experiences is at least equal to what I am writing about.

In either case, I must be fair to disclose not only what I liked &/or didn’t like, but why — and what things are purely subjective to me & my experience including my personal tastes, my failings — my penchants and peccadillos.

camp-merry-meeting-1920sAnd I, like the authors themselves, must accept that even though we are all part of the same group of bookish explorers taking in the same views, we will have different experiences, different tastes, and different reviews.

Images via FuzzyLizzie’s vintage hiking & camping gallery.

When You Accept Being A Woman…

accept-being-a-womanSaturday was odd. It started out a funny sort of awkward, had some slight awkwardness in the pursuit of kitschiness, and then by dinner time, went full-throttle into just plain awkward. But the real kicker of it all is that at about 10 PM, I went to the bathroom and made the discovery that I was starting my period — and you know what my first thought was? I thought to myself, “Oh, that explains it.” As if my freakin’ period & all the hormones it implies were somehow responsible for the stuff that happened that day.

Could hormones make my eyes more sensitive to my neighbor’s blinding shirt? Sure. And maybe you could argue that my psychic prediction of his request was female intuition inspired by my moon time. But the irony of his request, the still-drunk-the-morning-after oddness was not my doing. And there’s no way in heck that the stationary dry hump I received from a drooling disabled girl can be attributed to my soon-to-be-on-the-rag status. But still, that was my first thought.


Because we women are told that we are nutty when we’re on the rag. We’re told, directly or via insidious “jokes,” that strange things occur because we menstruate. Or because we are pregnant. We women are driven by our hormones, you know, to the extent that anything & everything outside of us is our hormones’ fault — or at the very least our hormones color our perceptions. Our bosses aren’t asshats, our husbands aren’t abusive, those guys aren’t too handsy; we’re too bitchy, too sensitive, too moody.

The message gets pounded into your brain, your psyche, to the point that you no longer have faith in your own response, your own experience — you see a bit of menstrual blood and there you are, questioning whether or not the days events actually occurred.

Accepting being a woman does not include accepting the notion that menstruation invalidates your experiences — or that you should shush yourself, counter your beliefs, or otherwise weaken your voice.

The “inner yous” the women need to clean, the emotional douching that needs to be done, is to get rid of the notion that our biology makes us crazy. Because the notion that as women our perceptions are all wrong because we have hormones is the crazy one.

Odd Curator’s Notes & Whatjamacallit Wednesday

Consider it stuff I could have tweeted if I weren’t so long-winded & too lazy to work within the 140 character limit; yes, you can take the title to mean the following are odd notes by the curator, or notes from the odd curator.

Upon donning my new bra, making adjustments & checking self out in mirror: Why aren’t bras made in as many flesh tone shades as makeup — they are both the foundations of “beauty,” right?

Eldest daughter is selling magazines for high school choir. Upon paging through the catalog & spotting Horse and Rider magazine: They should have Horse & Writer magazine… I still don’t have a horse, but I’ve never outgrown my appreciation; I can’t be the only one…

Reading to hubby the latest Tweet from @shitmydadsays. Post giggle, I say, “Ah, if only our dads abused & confused us more… Well, my biological dad probably would have, but he died when I was little.” I would have added on a glib, “What’s your dad’s excuse?” but hubby’s face but the kabosh on that.

And now what you’ve been waiting for… This week’s Whatjamacallit Wednesday.

I found this in a box full of old pinbacks at a local antique shop — the pin reads “Menopausal Women Nostalgic for Choice.”


See, if you are crazy enough to diligently pour through the hundreds of things in a box or pile, you can find an awesome surprise.

Weekly Geeks: One Title, Multiple Copies

This week’s Weekly Geek is about a collection of books of one particular title:

[T]ell us, do you have a collection, (or are you starting a collection,) of one particular book title? If so, what’s your story? Why that book, and how many do you have, and what editions are they? Share pictures and give us all the details.

It will probably not surprise anyone who knows me & my “serendipitous path to discoveries” that any multiple copies of books are unintentional. Did I say “any” copies? I meant many copies…

duplicate-book-finds See, the problem with just letting universe steer your discoveries, is that you don’t exactly have a shopping list.

And you don’t exactly head into Barnes & Nobel with much of an agenda — at least not as often as you stroll through used book stores, thrift shops, rummage sales, flea markets, even curbside boxes on trash days, touching & paging through as much dust (and sometimes mold & mildew) as you do paper, on your way to discovery…

And when you trust universe to lead you, you buy it when you can afford it. Even if — especially if — it’s a box of books at an auction.

Online serendipity aside (for online discoveries & purchases tend to send me to my shelves to double check before I click & buy), all of this means purchasing duplicates or multiples of books is imminent. (Hubby has already documented the details of some of the titles, shown in this photo, at his book blog.) As for why we retain ownership of redundant titles, same prints even, when we are small-time sellers of collectibles who could easily sell them off, is probably more fanciful than how we’ve come to own them.

Simply put, I envision duo review opportunities — or dueling reviews, if you will, in which hubby and I begin reading the same book at the same time and then publish our reviews (rather) simultaneously. Of course, this doesn’t explain those cases in which we have three or more copies of the same book…

I believe that would come down to a reluctance to upset universe by refusing the multiple gifts it has given; re-gifting or selling of gifts given by the book gods seems too tacky — I wouldn’t want to risk peeving them, resulting in them stopping pointing the way to books.

But hubby would likely put this all down to sheer laziness.

However, it should be noted that hubby also mocks my suggestion of book review duels. And he says I mistake “greed” for “serendipity.” Clearly he is wrong about all of this. *wink*

And he must know it too; because he’d never suggest we catalog all our books or become more logical & organized in our approach to buying books, like having lists. We can’t; we don’t know everything that’s out there, so how can we possibly know exactly what we’re looking for?

If multiple copies are the burden we and our sagging bookshelves must bear for our love of books, we accept it. Happily.