Saturday, February 14, 2009

Holy cowtastic!

Ok, first, Happy Valentine's Day to everyone :)...

Second... my son is SICK AGAIN! I cannot believe this, it's starting to get ridiculous. My son has had a grand total of two colds in his entire three years of existence... then we start sending him to a part-time preschool and his immune system freaks out. It's not like he's never been exposed to germs -- I take him out, to play groups, to Chuck E Cheese, etc, all the time!!

In the past month he's had:

*A really nasty cold (which he kindly gifted to me)
*An ear infection, that he got on the tail end of the nasty cold
*A nasty stomach virus (which he received from the husband and is still suffering some side effects from)

and, now, ANOTHER ear infection.

I'll have to give good ol'doc a call on Monday to straighten this out -- maybe I'll have to keep him out of school and quiet for a week to build up his immune system. Keeping him out of school won't be hard, it's the quiet part that I'll have some trouble with.

Anyway, I won't be around for a while... I've got to battle with the child, wish me luck!

Monday, February 9, 2009

I have a serious problem with books...

It's one of the reasons why I don't read that often, or really I should say that I don't read new books that often... I can't stop reading. I don't think I read books so much as devour them. I'm a fast reader but I completely involve myself to the point that I cannot hear what else is going on in the room around me (drives the husband INSANE) and I literally can't put it down. I can be reading a book, look up and see that it's 5 am with no problems at all.

Anyway, after my aunt passed away I needed something to take my mind off of everything, so I decided to start a new series -- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I'm a HUGE (understatement) fan of the Harry Potter series, so I figured that Twilight would be able to hold my attention. Then again, I wasn't really planning on reading the series until I stood in Target and saw the book was $8 on sale.


So, four days later I'm done with all four books (yes, even Breaking Dawn ... I told you I was fast) and I have some thoughts on them.

First, I love the series. Yes, yes, I know... it's very teeny-bopper-ish, but it was captivating and fun. I can absolutely understand where people (ahem... Stephen King) are coming from when they say she's not a great writer. Rowling, who wrote Harry Potter), started off a little weak but (in the course of her writing) developed into a fascinating writer with a very involved storyline (quite a few extra characters). She managed to weave in mythology, theology and science without batting an eyelash and she made it work.

Stephenie Meyer did not (cannot?) do that with her series. They are very simply written -- told exclusively from the protaganist's point-of-view -- and cover only a few essential characters. The rest aren't really woven into the tapestry of the book and they seem like place holders or a means-to-an-end instead of flesh-and-blood characters (kind of like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet, as Meyer likes to draw on Shakespearean references, except she treats all characters this way except the main Cullen clan, Bella and Jacob... even Bella's father doesn't necessarily seem as fleshed out as he could be).

NOW, that being said, that woman can sure as heck write a captivating story. It's a story that literally had my teeth clenched together during the final scenes of Breaking Dawn. Her straightforward, teen-finding-herself-while-falling-in-love-with-a-vampire story is truly addictive and I found I simply couldn't put it down. Yes, it's definitely written for a younger audience and yes, it is written for women (my husband is a huge Potter fan but he wouldn't be interested in this), but it's romantic and fun.

I'll also say that I simply don't see what certain people are saying about this book -- by that I mean that it's a negative influence on girls. I can see *certain* points... but most are simply ludicrous. I consider myself a feminist and if you can find fault here, you'll find fault with every Disney movie ever made. Yes, Bella isn't a strong female protagonist (neither are Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine... etc... etc...). Many times she made me want to bang my head into the wall, but she's a teenage girl filled with doubt and coddling a low self-esteem. *Most* teenage girls are like that. I can see how many teenagers envision themselves in the character of Bella Swan (definitely more so than I can, as with age comes wisdom). Yes, she does rely on people saving her a bit too much in the first three books, but I feel she redeems herself in Breaking Dawn -- the final book was truly about Bella coming into her own, so to say... gaining wisdom, intelligence and self-esteem in the process.

I can't see, however, how people can interpret Bella and Edward's relationship as 'abusive.' Yes, Edward is overprotective... he's a vampire, folks, and doesn't want to see Bella hurt. He will do anything, including leave her, to make sure she's never hurt again. Overly romanticized portrayal of men? Of *course*, it's a fairy tale (like Meyer aludes to quite a bit throughout the series). It's the same kind of portrayal as the classic "knight in shining armor" or "prince charming." Should girls take this to mean that their future mate be a KiSA? They might for a while, but reality will set it. If girls start setting higher goals, though, for their future mates... is that a bad thing? We may not expect them to write piano concertos for us, but we can still expect them to open doors and show chivalry (it is *not* anti-feminist to expect a man to open a door... it's simple manners, folks). It's not male chauvinist, it's chivalry.

Can you see which one (Edward vs. Jacob) I like better?

I think that many critics need to realize the audience this was written for. They need to think back to their teenage years, without the veil of older wisdom, and see the girls there. They need to look at the series as a whole -- Bella, starting off weak, impotent, fearful, powerless, who gains strength, power, wisdom and pride. Does it set a bad precedent -- that a girl will be devastated without a man? Think back -- we are all devastated when romantic relationships end and it's especially potent in high school. Nobody should think they they have to live without "a man" (as in, someone), but there's nothing wrong with feeling grief, sadness and overpowering anguish when the 'love of your life' is gone.

I also disagree with one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, calling her out publically. If he doesn't like the writing, that's fine, but don't broadcast it to the masses. I understand he has a point, but it's still rude. I can even understand if he was writing a review of something, but he was at a random press event. Plus, there's something about writers criticizing other writers (like a lawyer talking smack about the lawyer down the road... seems... unprofessional) that bothers me. Meyer didn't read vampire stuff, but I like the way she recrafted vampires instead of sticking to the tried-and-true, formulaic vampires from older books. I love Ann Rice, but we don't need "Interview of a Vampire" to be the be-all, end-all depiction of vampires.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. I give the series 4.5 stars and a thumbs up. It's easy reading (as it's not too involved, neither the storyline nor the writing) but a fascinating and entertaining story. If you're a woman, you should pick it up. I think you'll like it ;).


PS: As far as how readers should be... well, that all depends on the 'adultness' of the child. There are strong sexual overtones, but they are all done off camera, and the sensual scenes are well written without being graphic. I couldn't have read it if it talked like a normal romance (read: brain garbage) novel. If your child is younger, say eight or so, I'd recommend talking with them about the book -- asking them their opinions on the characters, the events, and so on. It's a good way to open a dialogue into the things they think Bella could have done better in the first few books.

PPS: Hey, Stephenie Meyer... if you're reading this, please hurry Midnight Sun. ;)

PPPS: WHAT? You've stopped writing Midnight Sun, indefinitely??? NNOOoOOoOOOoOOOooOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's ridiculously unfair. Yes, yes, I know what happened is wrong and ridiculously unfair to you, Meyer, and I feel horrible that it happened.... it sucks and I hope you get some sort of reprisal... but your fans love you -- they didn't mean for the first part of the rough draft to be released. I'll admit, I read it on your website and it was AWESOME. It's killing me inside knowing that I'll never be able to read the rest.

Please try to write it for your fans. Please?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

You know what's not an enjoyable alarm clock?

I just thought I'd start off the blog post with my wonderful alarm clock this morning -- the sound of my husband throwing up at 6 am. Yeah, that's not a great way to wake up on a Sunday. He's got some sort of stomach virus and he's been laid up all day today, poor guy.

We need some sort of well wishes our way -- I don't think my household has seen the sunny side of "healthy" in a month.

Speaking of months... February is starting off with a bang. I think I've had as many items sold in these past few days as I've sold in the past six months (including Christmas). Absolutely amazing!!

Oh, and my items? I put our Valentine's Day blanket up on Etsy and Art Fire this morning. I think it's awesome -- a large minky blanket with red applique hearts. It can be personalized with whatever saying you so choose -- let me know what you think about it.

I'll be adding a whole schmeal of stuff in the next few days -- burp cloths, bibs, blankets... awesome stuff, so check back often :)

WOO HOO, A battle is won but the fight rages on!

Ok, so we won a small part in the fight amending the CPSIA. The CPSC has delayed implementation of the CPSIA for one year pending further review of exemptions and potential changes.

Don't think that this is over yet, though, campers. We still need to fight for common sense changes to this law -- allowing small businesses to use their supplier's testing certificates, for example -- and one of the best ways is to support Senator Jim DeMint's new bill he's introducing to the Senate. You can read about it here.

In a nutshell, it:

** delays the CPSIA for six months so everyone can get their ducks in a row
** allows businesses to use component testing from their suppliers in leu of final product testing
** exempts yard sales, resellers and second-hand stores
** forces the CPSC to give all small businesses clear guidance on how to completely comply with the legislation

As you can see, it eliminates virtually all of the complaints small businesses had against the CPSIA without actually weakening the requirements. Handmade items will still be 100% safe because they are using suppliers who test while big manufacturers still must adhere to the strict lead testing laws. I can't see ONE flaw in this and I urge EVERYONE to PLEASE contact your Representatives, especially your Senators, and ask them to support DeMint's bill.

Here is a copy of my letter to Senator Bill Nelson:

I am writing to ask you to please support Senator DeMint's upcoming bill amending the CPSIA. His bill includes common-sense solutions to many problems small businesses like my own are facing without weakening the overall intent of the bill.

In a nutshell, it accomplishes the following objectives:

*Delays implementation for six months while all the issues are worked out
*Allows small businesses to use their suppliers lead testing certificates in leu of testing.
*Exempts second-hand stores and resellers
*Prevents retroactive enforcement of the act, allowing us to sell off the old stock instead of dumping it in the trash
*Forces the CPSC to give small businesses a "compliance guide" which spells out what the government requires of them

As you can see, that provides relief and certainty to small businesses faced with extinction from the CPSIA. It allows the Goodwill to still serve the needy population without fear of reprisals. It allows handmade artisans to use their suppliers certificates (almost every single supplier of mine already tests), which eliminates the costly duplicative testing and it gives us a set of guidelines to follow so we can actually obey the intent of the law.

All of this is done without weakening the effects of the law on the most egregious offenders. They will still be forced to test while small businesses are allowed to continue to provide safe, high-quality alternatives to mass-produced junk.

Please, please support Jim DeMint's legislation. It's, perhaps, the most common sense piece of legislation to come out of Capital Hill in a long time.

Thank you for your attention to this matter,

Jennifer Vetere
Made By Moms

If you want, use that as a form letter... copy and paste it to your Senators. We're not out of the clear yet, but at least it appears there's one Senator who understands!