Friday, April 15, 2011

The Heartbreaking End of an Era

Yesterday, ABC announced that they are cancelling All My Children and One Life to Live.  I know this may seem silly to many of you, but I am completely heartbroken.  These shows have been an integral part of my life pretty much for as long as I can remember.   My mom has always watched the ABC soaps: Ryan's Hope, All My Children, Loving, The City, One Life to Live, and General Hospital have always filled our television screen. 
My tween/teen years were filled with my love of the soaps.  I used to devour my mom's Soap Opera Digest every month and knew all of the families, characters, and actors on almost every soap.  At one point in junior high or high school, thanks to the VCR, I was watching five soaps: All My Children, Another World, Days of our Lives, One Life to Live, and General Hospital.  Robert and Anna, Frisco and Felicia, Jack and Jennifer... the Quartermaine's, the Buchanan's, the Martin's... they kept me occupied for hours with the sometimes ridiculous sometimes sublime events of their worlds.

Any soap fan you talk to will tell you that their shows have meant so much more to them than mindless entertainment.  For me soaps have been a huge bonding experience with my mother.  My mother tapes her soaps every day while she is at work and watches them when she has time. We have laughed and cried, hypothesized on-going plot lines, and made up what we considered better ones.  Our soaps have been an escape from our everyday lives, a place where we can go and not think about anything but Llanview and Pine Valley. 

What saddens me the most about the cancellations is that they are replacing these shows with yet more reality shows, these two will be titled "The Chew" and "The Revolution".  Really?  Really?  We need more of these shows?  I personally do not care to watch yet another scripted reality show, another cooking show, another "improve yourself" program.  Also, I can already hear Barbara Walters throwing from The View, "Take a little time to enjoy The View, and now stay tuned for THE CHEW." Barf.  Part of me thinks there must be a way to save my beloved friends: grassroots campaigns, phone calls and letters, picket lines... Unfortunately, the other part of me knows that the production costs of "The Chew" will only be a fraction of what it takes to produce a daytime drama and that ABC won't care that they may have lower ratings for these shows than the soaps.

So I must say good-bye to two shows that have been on the air longer than I have been alive.  No more Tad Martin or Jesse Hubbard.  Farewell Dorian Lord and Bo Buchanan.  I know that soaps have come and gone in the past, most recently Guiding Light and As the World Turns, but this time it's different because they are MY shows!!  I keep reading that ALL the scripted daytime dramas will be gone within five years, but I have decided that I will continue to watch General Hospital (which if we are being honest, has always been my favorite anyway) until the sad day comes that they send that one off into the sunset too.  I also think I might start watching Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful in an attempt to show my support for this genre that has been entertaining me for my entire life. 

By the way, even after getting this all off my chest I am still heartbroken. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Adventures in Motherhood: Epic Fail.

Motherhood is truly the greatest adventure of my life.  As with any adventure you have ups and downs; good and bad.  Today was a great big ball of all of these mixed together.  Since my separation (and subsequent divorce) three and a half years ago, my son and I have lived with my parents.  Obviously this is not a dream situation.  I mean no twenty-something independent woman wants to put everything she owns in boxes and move back into her childhood bedroom.  However, at the time, this was the best solution for everyone involved.  I hadn't planned on staying longer than a year, but divorce recovery, the economy, and really just life itself have combined to make the situation a bit more permanent.

WARNING!! **Bad mom confession ahead**

Due to space and furniture issues, my son has not had an actual dresser to put his clothes in since we have lived here.  His clothes have lived in a large laundry basket in our living room.  When he was still mostly in onesies and other smaller toddler clothes, this was fine, but now that he's five, his clothes have long ago outgrown this handy little practice.  I was also starting to feel pretty guilty about the whole basket thing.  So today I did some rearranging in our (fairly large) bedroom and re-purposed a smaller dresser with shelves on top (which I had been using as storage/a bookshelf), and made it into a dresser for W.  This turned into a great rainy day activity for he and I: unloading the books and miscellany, cleaning it up, moving it into our room, and filling it up with this clothes.  We ended up turning the top shelving unit part into a makeshift entertainment center for our 13" TV and DVD player and some of our DVD's.  He was SO excited to help and so proud to have his own little spot for his clothes.

Good mommy feeling.  Right?

Fast-forward to a couple hours of later when I had to leave for a work-related meeting.  He knew beforehand that I had to go and wasn't happy about it.  He wanted to go!  I knew this was a bad idea.  He is five.  He would have been bored out of his mind and I would have spent half the meeting trying to entertain him when I needed to be involved in what was happening.  I tried to make a clean break for it when the time came.  No such luck.  It turned into a full-fledged meltdown, and my mother ended up having to pry him off my leg and hold on to his screaming little body while I ran out the door.  Now this would have been bad enough, but when I got out to my car I had a low tire.  THEN I couldn't figure out how to get the air compressor to work and had to call inside for help.  This prompted my dearest son to come running out, reattach himself to my leg, and cry, "Mommy!  Don't leave me!  Don't leave me!"

In case you aren't following me here -- BAD mommy feeling.

So I was late for the meeting (great impression I made I'm sure), and spent the whole meeting thinking about my little man and feeling like the worst mom ever.  The meeting went way longer than I had anticipated and I got home to find him sprawled out on his bed fully clothed.  My mom said he ran down there the minute I left and refused to come back upstairs unless I was home.  I roused him up (well, sort of), got him into his pajamas, and tucked him in.  I sat on the side of his bed for awhile stroking his hair and just staring into his face for no apparent reason.  I thought he was sound asleep, but even so started to say our "special words":

"I love you buddy; always and forever..." and  in his little sleepy voice he finished it by saying "all the way around".  It was totally one of those cheesy commercial moments, but I swear it happened!  My heart just melted.

Even though I have the built in help of my parents, I am still a single mom.  It. Is. Hard.  I always feel like I am not giving W enough, not spending enough time with him, not giving him everything he needs.  I have to work because I get absolutely no help from my ex.  Because I feel bad about working and sending him to daycare all day, I try to spend as much non-work time as I can hanging out with the kiddo.  THEN I feel bad because I don't really have any time for myself.  THEN I feel guilty because that makes me feel selfish!  It truly is a vicious cycle.

Motherhood has been the craziest, most convoluted adventure of my life.  My son is by far the best thing I have ever done.  I hope and pray that I am being the best mom that I can be for him, and that I am preparing him to spread his wings and fly out into the big, bright world on his own someday.  There are days like today when I am not so sure that whole idea is really going so well.  I just need to try and remember that I am only human and that I really am doing the best I can.  As corny as it is, it might also help to keep those "special words" in mind no matter what:

... always and forever and all the way around.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Idea! Hunger Games: the Congress Edition.

So as I was driving to work this morning, I came up with the solution to the United States' legislative problems.  I know it sounds unbelievable that I, mild-mannered librarian, could solve the nation's woes in one fell swoop, but I really think I've figured it out!  We need to turn Congress into a new Hunger Games.

For those of you who are not aware, The Hunger Games is an excellent trilogy of young adult novels written by Suzanne Collins.  The books are set in a post-apocalyptic society called Panem where North America is divided into twelve (well, thirteen) districts and governed by a central district called The Capitol.  Each year, there is a lottery where two children from each district are chosen to go to the Capitol and fight to the death in a televised competition.  It's kind of like Survivor without that crazy torch extinguishing thing... and Jeff Probst. 

Here is my plan.  First, we inform all of the current senators and representatives that they will be going on a month long furlough.  Without pay.  Then, each state holds a lottery of all of their registered voters.  For simplicity reasons we just keep the Senate, not the House.  Two people from each state (regardless of age, political affiliation, gender, etc...) are randomly chosen and sent to Washington D.C. for a month. 

Each person selected in the lottery would have their meals and accommodations for the month paid by the government.  They would still get paid their regular salary from their regular job -- kind of like they are on jury duty or military duty.  They are then presented with a list of national business that needs to be addressed.  They have one month to consider and debate all of the issues at hand and then vote at the end of that month on all of the issues.  Also, no lobbyists.  Just their own thoughts and opinions and the opinions of their fellow state residents.  People can vote for their favorite lottery winners and their viewpoints via Facebook polls, and American Idol-like phone numbers and text messages.  Hey!  Maybe we could get Jeff Probst to host! 

This little experiment has the potential to have many benefits:

1)  People will realize that it is harder to be in Congress and get things accomplished than they thought and stop complaining about them.  OR they will realize that is not that difficult after all and get more accomplished in that month than our current Congress does in a year.

2)  The extra money that will be saved from not paying the current Congressmen and women their salaries can go back into paying the federal deficit.  It would be kind of like a government shutdown, but would only impact our elected officials. 

3) The entire thing will be televised and C-SPAN will earn their highest ratings ever!

Let's be honest, our current government is not really getting anything done.  Unless you count name calling and fighting.  More people vote for Dancing With the Stars and American Idol than vote in political elections.  Now granted, the suspense of waiting for someone to be killed would not be there because we're not killing anyone, people.  However, it would be kind of fun to watch Lenny from down the street or your favorite high school English teacher work together (or not) to figure out health care reform or education.  At its best, this little social experiment has the potential to solve problems, educate, and promote involvement in the political process.  Will this ever, ever, ever in a million billion years happen?  Absolutely not.  But really, would it be any worse than what we've already got going on?  Think about it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Librarian Reads!

I find it highly amusing when people tell me they would love to be a librarian because "then I could just sit around and read all day!".  Ah, how I wish that was what my job entailed!  Librarians have almost zero time to read while working, and since I have a 5-year old at home, mommy reading time is sometimes kind of scarce there too.  When I do read, I tend to read in spurts.  I can go a couple of weeks, maybe even a whole month without reading an entire book and then bam! -- I read several back to back.  I just finished one of those episodes.  This time all of the books I read were really different from each other but equally great and a couple of them have lingered in my mind since I finished reading them.  I love when books do that...

The first book I read in my little marathon was The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.  I picked it up on a whim because it sounded interesting, but also not like what I normally read.  All of the reviews I read prior to opening the book called it a throwback to the "great Gothic novels"  and honestly that genre has never really been my cup of tea.  I decided to give it a shot anyway though, and was pleasantly surprised to become almost immediately hooked. 

The book starts out in the early 1990's when we meet the main character Edith "Edie" Burchill.   Edie lives in London and holds what I find to be the "literary cliche career" of working at a publishing house.  (Come on, you know I'm right on this one.)  Edie has just broken up with her live-in boyfriend, and has a tolerable but not particularly good or close relationship with her parents (particularly her mother).  Then a long-lost letter arrives at her parents' house, and Edie discovers there is a whole different side to her mother than she ever imagined.  Although she had never before talked about it, as a child, Edie's mother was sent to the countryside during the London bombings in World War II.  Now this in and of itself was not so shocking because it was a pretty common occurrence at the time, but where she was sent was the clincher -- Milderhurst Castle.  Milderhurst Castle was home to twin sisters Persephone "Percy" and Seraphina "Saffy" Blythe and their younger sister Juniper. Coincidentally, (or is it?) the castle is also the setting of Edie's favorite childhood story  "The True History of the Mud Man", which was written by the sisters' father Raymond Blythe.  This is where the Gothic element starts to bubble to the surface.

Edie discovers that Percy, Saffy, and Juniper are all still alive and still living in the castle.  She soon gets drawn into the lives of these women and the mysteries surrounding their pasts.  What happened in this castle?  How was Edie's mother involved and why has she never mentioned it before?  Where does the mud man story fit into it all?  Kate Morton does an excellent job of weaving this tale together.  Morton flashes back to the 1940's, and a couple of times even earlier, to fill in the back story.  Some people find this technique hard to follow, but I thought the time changes here were really quite effortless.  The pacing of the story was a little slow in the middle, but by the end she had wrapped up nearly every plot twist and unanswered question I had.  Was I totally happy with how everything turned out?  No, but then again being called a "Gothic novel throwback" doesn't really give off that sunshine and puppy dog vibe to begin with. 

The book kept me thinking about the Blythe sisters for days after I finished reading it.  The sisters and their commitment to each other and their family was haunting.  It really resonated with me and raised several questions; What would you do for the people you love? How much is too much to sacrifice in the name of family?  Is there such a thing as too much sacrifice?  I also thought that the dynamics of the relationship between Edie and her mother were interesting.  You mean our parents were people with lives before they were our parents?  There might be things that they haven't told us about themselves?  There were some scenes in the book that were a little corny, and a couple of plot points that were pretty predictable, but all in all The Distant Hours was a satisfying read.  Springtime is right around the corner (supposedly) and this would be the perfect book to curl up with during a long afternoon thunderstorm.    

I was going to write a bit about A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness as well, but this post is getting kind of long and I need to go to bed.  Tomorrow maybe?  We'll see how it goes.  :)