Thursday, January 30, 2014

Southern Snow Driving

So.  The south has taken a beating from Mother Nature this week, and southerners have taken a beating from the world.  Places that haven’t seen snow in years had accumulation (which for us starts when we see white on the ground) and places that usually see some snow saw a lot of snow and ice, really fast.  It was bad.  People were unprepared, people made questionable decisions, and people drove badly.  And we have been mocked and criticized.
There have been plenty of articles and blog posts detailing why we should be mocked, why we shouldn’t be mocked, who is to blame, who isn’t to blame, who did what, didn’t do what, should have done what, or shouldn’t have done what.  I’m sure you’ve read at least some of them.  I’m not going to go into any of that.  I don’t claim any expertise in that area, but I have determined that there seem to be four distinct types of southern snow drivers:
1.        The non-drivers.  This group (which I’m a card-carrying member of) does not drive in the snow.  We just DO.  NOT.  DRIVE.  IN.  THE.  SNOW.  We value life and limb. This group consists mostly of G.R.I.T.S. (girls raised in the south), and we grew up being taught the value of staying home in the snow. 

It doesn’t matter if we have an armored tank available.  We simply do not venture out.  We buy our milk and bread when the nice folks at the Weather Channel tell us to.  We buy batteries and snacks.  And we arrive home to lock our doors and charge our phones long before the first flake swirls.   

We do not venture out.  It doesn’t matter what is going on, who claims to need us, or who assures us we can do it.  We do not venture out until the roads are cleared.  You won’t find us stuck on a highway, tumbling down an icy ravine, or ending up in a fiery crash in the median.  Nope.  We understand the perils of snow driving, and we choose to live another day by not engaging in such risky behavior.  The Yankees mock us. Other southerners mock us.  We don’t care.  We’re alive to be mocked.

2.        The cautious drivers.  This group (which is usually the one Nick is part of) consists mostly of native southerners, usually men.  They will drive in the snow.  They drive slowly, and they plan out the “best” route for getting from Point A to B.  They do not go anywhere that isn’t “necessary” and they’re often willing to take non-drivers along with them.  (Side note:  they’re the only group non-drivers will even consider getting in the car with when there’s snow on the ground.)

The cautious drivers reach a point at which they decide that the current road conditions are worse than their skill set and caution can compensate for.  They’re the ones who take two hours to get home from a place that normally takes 20 minutes to get home from.  They make it home, realize that conditions have deteriorated, and stay put until the roads improve somewhat.

3.        The four-wheel drive/powerful car/big truck/SUV/Y chromosome drivers. (Occasionally Nick joins this group.)  NOT all of the people who own any/all of these things fall into this group.  Just the ones who think that these vehicles have been sprinkled with some sort of magic fairy dust that makes them invincible.  Not all of the members of this group drive four wheel drive vehicles.  Some, just by virtue of being male, got the magic fairy dust. 

Icy roads, snow covered lane lines?  No problem!  They have four wheel drive/a big truck/an SUV/a Y chromosome.  They will be FINE!!!  They are often the folks attempting to help others out of ditches or giving everyone else a ride home.  They will drive around in snow simply for the sake of driving around in the snow.  They are thrilled to help unfortunate motorists out of bad situations. 

They have their magic fairy dust, so it’s no big deal for them.  They are genuinely shocked and puzzled that not everyone believes in their magic fairy dust.

4.        The “Superior Drivers”.  This group consists largely of Yankee transplants (note, not all Yankee transplants are like this) who believe that their having moved from places that get “real winters” gives them an edge, and southerners who believe they have been given superior intelligence and snow driving skills.  The only thing that frightens this group about driving in the snow is that (oh, the horror) there are “others” out there driving.  Other, inferior beings.

This groups believes that by virtue of having successfully driven in snow before, and/or having been gifted with superior intelligence and snow driving skills, they are far more qualified to drive in snow than any other group.   They mock all three of the other groups: the Non-Drivers for our lack of intelligence and gumption, the Cautious Drivers for their caution and timidity, the Magic Fairy Dust Drivers for their good natured attitude and belief that things other than Yankee roots or superior southern intelligence can give you the right to drive on snow covered roads. 

If this group chooses not to drive during the snow it is only for fear of what havoc the imbeciles who have no business being out there will cause.  If any accident befalls members of this group, it is never their fault, a member another group or the city/county/state/snowplow/salt truck drivers are to blame.  Certainly not a Superior Driver!

At least, these are the four groups that I think southern drivers fall into during the snow. What about you?  Which group are you in?  Or is there another group I don’t know about yet?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shivering & Sleepy

Doesn't she look thrilled to go out?
I assume that most of you are being hit pretty hard with winter weather.  I know we are!  We mostly dodged the snow.  There were snow showers off and on for most of yesterday afternoon, but nothing really stuck.  The wind sounded much like the big bad wolf trying to blow the house down.  And it’s cold.  It’s crazy cold.  We dropped down to the single digits last night, and with the wind chill it feels like negative temperatures today. 
Nick came home from work sick yesterday with a nasty stomach bug, and spent the evening on the couch, with Duke as his self-appointed guardian.  It was really sweet the way Duke stayed right with him.  Duke likes me just fine, but Nick is definitely his person.  It works out well, because I am Emma’s person. 

I really hate the cold weather.  I dread going outside for anything, and it just feels like it sucks all of my energy.  I understand why some animals hibernate during the winter.  I’m fond of the idea myself. 
All of the fur kids were in sleepy, cuddly mode last night.  They seemed fine with the idea that we went to bed early, and cocooned ourselves in fleece sheets and blankets.  If you have to wake up because the wind is howling so loud, it’s nice to wake up surrounded by purring cats and a snoring dog.  They just look so cute all burrowed down in the warmth!
Always happy to go out! 
Emma was not at all impressed at having to get up and out of the warm bed this morning.  I kept hitting snooze on the alarm because I really didn’t want to get up and face the cold. Emma looked very approving every time I did.  She seemed to be suggesting that I just keep right on hitting snooze until the warmer weather is here to stay.  Unfortunately that wasn’t an option.
Duke doesn’t seem to mind the cold, and is always excited to go out for a walk.  He’s happy to take his time sniffing around even when the wind is icy and cuts right through you.  Emma tried to assure me that she was fine, and wouldn’t need to go out again until summer.  She could wait.  Really.  I didn’t buy it, so I bundled her up into a few sweaters and out we went. 
I’m pretty sure Emma set a record for how quickly a dog can take care of necessary business and be ready to go back inside.  Duke took his sweet time.  I think Emma is going to have words with him today. 
We’re not supposed to get any snow for the rest of the week, but it isn’t really going to warm up much either.  I’m very ready for warmer weather.  I’m tired of shivering and feeling sleepy. 
I hope you’re all staying warm!

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Would You Really Like To Read?

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  I never seem to stick with them, and I’ve read a few different places that’s it’s not the best idea because we tend to be vague – “I’m going to lose weight” (how much, how, etc.) or not realistic – “I’m never going to drink soda, or eat sugar, or junk food, ever again starting today” (only to binge on a two-liter bottle of Coke, a bag of Cheetos, and a tub of ice cream a week or two later).  So, no New Year’s resolutions for me.
That being said, I can’t help but get drawn in by the idea of a fresh start, a clean slate, etc.  It makes sense, the beginning of the year can be a great starting point, and having some goals kind of helps with the post-holiday letdown.  I always find myself setting goals for the year, and this year is no exception.  A few of my goals are writing related.  I really enjoy blogging, but it seems to be one of the first things to go when things start getting hectic.  I’m trying not to let that happen so much this year.
Of course that begs the question of what I’m going to blog about.  I don’t seem to have much of a theme, and I did that on purpose.  I’m interested in a few different things, but none of them seem to merit their very own blog.  That’s why I post everything from recipes to pictures of adorable fur kids to my attempts at flash fiction, and everything in between.  I try to keep it varied.  I get bored easily, and if you’re kind enough to spend part of your valuable time reading what I write, I certainly do not want to bore you either. 
One way to attempt not to bore you is to just ask you what you want to read.  I’m not good at guessing.  Sometimes I post something that I think will be really popular and it gets very, very few page views.  Other times I post something, somewhat reluctantly, that I’m not so sure about, and it camps out on the side as a popular post.  Like I said, I’m not good at guessing. So, what do you want to read when you visit?
Let me take this opportunity to clarify that I’m not trying to be lazy here and ask you for content.  One of my other goals for this year is to actually post all of the things I write and intend to post, but never actually do.  I write lots of posts, email them to myself, and then they’re lost in the black hole that is my inbox.  (Organization is an ongoing goal for me.)  But I’d still like to know what you actually want to read.
Two blogs I really enjoy asked for questions last year, and it made for some interesting posts. Maria at Just Eat Your Cupcake answered questions from readers in a few posts, and Anna at Herding Cats & Burning Soup let readers interview her.  The topics were interesting, and it was nice to be allowed to ask questions.  
So I’m trying it myself.  Is there a topic you’d like to read more about, a fur kid you’d like to see more pictures of, a type of recipe you’re interested in, or something else entirely?  Just ask.  I will endeavor to come up with something worthy of your time.  The only things off limits are controversial topics.  I’m just not going to get into my views on politics, religion, etc.  There’s enough nastiness out there without my creating yet another forum for name calling.  So, other than that, ask away.  And if you like a question or topic and want to answer or expound on it as well, by all means tell us in the comments so we can check out your post as well. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mid-Week Cuties

Happy Hump Day!  Here are some adorable fur kids to help put a smile on your face:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Update on Duke

We still have our foster dog, Duke, and as you can tell he has settled in very comfortably. 
He had his heart worm injections on December 30th and 31st.  He was very sore and tired the first night, but seemed to be feeling better the next day.  Now we have to keep him very calm for the next two months.  After that we can add some low level activity back in.  He will be re-tested in four months.  A negative means the heart worm treatment is over, a positive means we repeat the whole process.  Fingers and paws crossed for a negative!
We’ve learned that there is some sensation in part of his front paw, but there’s still a lot of nerve damage.  Apparently there’s a small chance he may be able to keep the leg, but it’s still looking like an amputation is most likely.  Regardless, nothing can be done about the leg until he completes the heart worm treatment. 
In the meantime he’s enjoying snuggling into the couch, being friends with Emma, and basically charming everyone he meets.  He’s very friendly toward people, and so far everyone who meets him loves him.  He has a few minor behavioral issues we’re working on, but overall he’s a great dog and just seems happy to be part of a family. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Good Dads Are A Big Deal

I wrote this post yesterday when I came across this article featuring a father brushing his daughter’s hair to get her ready for school.  Apparently his wife was running late for work, and he took over getting the little girl ready to go.  The picture went viral, with people commenting positively and a few negative comments (aren’t there always at least a few?), and the blogger ultimately saying that it’s no big deal for a man to take care of his children.
The older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I am to have the parents I do.  Since today’s article was about a dad, I’ll focus on my dad.    
My dad never blogged a photo of himself getting me or my sister ready to go somewhere.  We were born well before blogging was a thing, and honestly, my dad was just plain awful at helping get us ready for anything.  My mom loves to tell the story of my dad dressing me so badly (mismatched and backward clothing) as a toddler that I cried and refused to leave the house.   The one, and only, time he was entrusted with taking us for haircuts, he had all of our long, curly hair chopped off into bowl cuts.  He apparently thought he was being efficient. It’s still a sore topic with my mom. 
But that doesn’t mean that my dad wasn’t a very active and good parent.  Some of my earliest childhood memories involve a weekly trip to the library with my dad for Curious George books that we read together over the following week, and dancing around the living room together when he came home in the mornings from working third shift. 
Later, he capitalized on child labor, and we made trips to the hardware store together where I picked out my own rake to use in helping out with the massive amounts of raking to be done. Chewing gum was a highlight of those trips – my mom can’t stand it, so we were never allowed to chew it around her.  A trip to the hardware store with Dad meant chomping gum until your jaw ached.  I thought it was wonderful at the time, and now think my dad is a genius for turning yard work into something I wanted to do, and for making the time to spend with us in the process.
Then came the self-defense lessons.  My dad decided early on that having two daughters didn’t mean he had to raise two little victims.  He taught us the importance of personal space, of saying no, how to get away if grabbed, and lots more.  My sister and I often joke that while most dads were teaching their kids how to throw a ball, our dad was teaching us how to kick would be assailants in their…unmentionables.  A bit unusual, I know, but there have been times over the years when some of those lessons have come in handy.
Today my sister and I both enjoy a good relationship with our dad.  We have some great memories from when we were kids, and we genuinely enjoy spending time with him now. 
I think the blogger who shared the photo is wrong that dads taking care of their kids isn’t a big deal.  It is a big deal, because not every child is fortunate enough to have a dad who cares enough to help get them ready (even if they do a really, really bad job of it).  Not every child is fortunate enough to have a dad who is even there.  Some are, and even if they don’t realize it until years later, they’re fortunate to have a dad who does those things that don’t seem like a big deal at the time.   Because good and involved dads really are a big deal.  I know, because I’m fortunate enough to have one. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Historical Romance Reading Challenge

I didn’t read much at all in 2013.  I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I just didn’t do much reading.  I didn’t ever come close to meeting my goodreads reading goal.  I really don’t want another year of not reading much, so I’m signing up for the 2014 Historical Romance Reading Challenge being hosted by Anna at Herding Cats & Burning Soup.
It sounds like fun.  I used to read historical romances almost exclusively, but then just kind of drifted away from them.  I miss them a little bit.  What better way to get back into reading them than by participating in a challenge?
You can read more about the challenge here, but here’s what counts:

  • Every historical romance you read and review in 2014
  • Any time period prior to 1920 qualifies.
  • They can be historical paranormal, historical erotica, m/m, f/f, etc.
  • All historical romances over 100 pages in length--audio, ebook, print
  • Re-reads, cross overs from other challenges
Level One is 12 historical romances.  Level Two is 18 historical romances.  I’m trying to decide which level to try for, but am currently thinking about a 1.5, with 15 historical romances, and I’m currently looking for some recommendations.  Any favorite historical romance novels or authors you think I should try?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Review of Someone Else’s Love Story

***Spoiler and Soapbox Alert.***

This review definitely contains spoilers, and I’m climbing up onto a soapbox in order to deliver it.  There, you’ve been warned.

I don’t usually review many books on my blog or on goodreads.  I don’t normally care to spend the time, especially when it seems like I’m not the best at writing reviews, and there are plenty of other people out there who are really good at writing reviews.  Sometimes, though, I just feel like I have to write a review.

I’ve loved most of Joshilyn Jackson’s books.  She writes the south well, without relying on stereotypes, and she normally writes strong, flawed, just plain real female characters.  So of course I put her latest novel, Someone Else’s Love Story, on my Christmas wish list, and dropped a few not so subtle hints to Nick that it was one of the things I really, really wanted.  He picked up on my hints and I found it waiting for me under the tree on Christmas. 

The book is terrible.  I gave it one star on goodreads, which means “I didn’t like it.”  I have two major issues with this book:  It crams religion down your throat, and it excuses rape.

The book harps, incessantly, on a virgin birth, the resurrection, and various other religious tenets.  I’m not saying that a book can’t have some religion.  Characters need to care about something, and they need to stand for something.  Sometimes that something is a religious belief.  I get it, and I’m fine with that. 

I’m not fine with a book that’s dressed up as fiction trying to cram a certain belief and value system down its readers’ throats.  It’s fiction, it’s meant to entertain, not to convert.  If you want to explain the beauty, absolute rightness, or perfection of a certain belief or value system, then write a non-fiction book on that subject.  Don’t use your status as a best selling author to get people to unsuspectingly buy “fiction” with a motive like that.  It just comes across to me as cheating. 

My biggest issue with this book, however, the one that honestly made me feel somehow dirty for having read it, is the way it addresses rape.  The main character, Shandi Pierce, conceived her son when she was raped at a college frat party.  She was drugged and didn’t remember much from the night it happened, and chooses not to come to terms with any of it until her son is three years old.

The book harps, incessantly, on the fact that Shandi was still technically a virgin, even after the birth of her son because her hymen was still intact, and her rapist was apparently a premature ejaculator who “didn’t get it in all the way”.  I am no medical expert, so I have no idea if that is even medically possible.  The constant harping on her being technically a virgin, even after giving birth, was just disturbing.

Shandi spends the first three years after her son’s birth being pretty much a-okay with the fact that she was raped.  She loves her son, and after all, she’s still technically a virgin. All’s well that ends well, apparently. 

She never contacts law enforcement, and very, very few people know the circumstances surrounding her son’s conception.  That part doesn’t bother me.  Rape is extremely under reported.  I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to go with the fact that a 17 year old girl who is drugged and raped at a party wouldn’t go to the police. 

What bothers me so much is that she was mostly okay with having been raped for over three years after the fact.  All because she loved her son and her hymen was intact.  I applaud her for loving a child who was conceived so horribly, but that doesn’t make the act that caused him to be conceived okay at all.

When Shandi finally decides that she does want to know who raped her, and tries to fill in the details of the night it happened, she enlists the help of an emotionally stunted geneticist, and together they determine the identity of her son’s father – her rapist. 

They never contact law enforcement.  On one hand, I understand the rationale.  It has been years, it’s basically her word against his, and she doesn’t want her son to find out that he’s the product of a rape.  I don’t necessarily agree with that decision, but it seems like a decision that could be seen as good by someone in that position.

It’s what follows that I think is beyond upsetting. 

Shandi meets and talks to her rapist and his fiancĂ©.  His story, which she decides to believe, is that they were both at a frat party, and he had (sort of against his will) had beer funneled into him, so got really drunk, really fast.  He didn’t give her the date rape drug.  He found her talking with three other guys, who most likely had given her the drug, as they were getting ready to take her upstairs (presumably for a long evening of gang rape).  She grabs and kisses him (she decides during his version of events that it’s because he looks like her best friend who she is secretly in love with), and the two split off from the group.  Apparently Shandi takes off her underwear at some point, and even though she can barely walk and isn’t forming coherent sentences, the rapist decides this means she wants sex.

They go outside and she passes out, and he rapes her (though apparently it doesn’t really count, because even though she gets pregnant, her hymen is still intact).  She wakes up, sick and confused, and calls her best friend to come pick her up.  Then she proceeds to live the next three plus years basically denying the fact that she was raped.

When Shandi and her rapist (and his fiancĂ©) piece together the events of the night, she basically decides that the rapist isn’t a bad guy, and isn’t really exactly a rapist.  After all (according to his story) he most likely “saved” her from gang rape, he didn’t give her the drug, he was drunk, and he was really socially awkward, possibly autistic, so it wasn’t really his fault.  In fact, he’s practically a victim too.

That’s when I started to see red.  He didn’t “save” her from the three guys.  He just raped her himself instead.  He basically beat them to it.  If he had saved her, he would have removed her from the situation, possibly contacted law enforcement, or a responsible adult, or at least tried to leave her in a safe place.  He didn’t do any of that.  He took a girl who couldn’t form a coherent sentence and could barely walk, outside and raped her.  That’s not saving her. It’s just sick and disturbed that there’s any suggestion that one kind of rape is somehow “better” than another and saves the victim from a worse one.

It doesn’t matter that he didn’t give her the drug.  He still took advantage of what the drug did to her.  Under that logic it would be alright for medical professionals to rape patients in comas – they didn’t put them in the coma after all.  Using someone’s physical or mental incapacitation for non-consensual sex is just wrong.  It doesn’t matter if you didn’t cause the incapacitation; you still don’t have the right to take advantage of someone in that state.

Being socially awkward, or even autistic, is not an excuse for rape.  I don’t see that as being much different than saying someone asked for it.  You’re excusing rape by saying the rapist couldn’t help it, much the way that society often blames women in saying that they asked for it by their dress or behavior.  “Well, she dressed that way so he couldn’t help himself” doesn’t seem much different to me than “Well, he’s socially awkward, so he couldn’t help himself”.  That’s not an excuse.

I just can’t like a book that paints rape as an okay or blameless thing.  It isn’t, and there’s no way to dress it up and make it okay.  I also think it’s really upsetting how many women have given this book gushing reviews. I think there’d be an outcry for tarring and feathering if a man had written this book. 

So what about you?  Have you read the book?  If so, what did you think?  Does rape being portrayed as anything other than horrible upset you?  Want to climb up on your own soapbox? 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy (Lucky, Healthy?, and Wealthy) New Year

Is it just me, or does 2014 still sound like something that should be far away, not something we’re already in the second day of?  I guess it just takes some getting used to saying and writing a new year.
I hope the new year is treating all of you well, and that your celebrations were fun and safe. We’re pretty low key here in Sweet Tea Land (at least our little corner of it), so we stayed home, made breakfast for dinner (this fabulous pumpkin spice oatmeal), and watched lots of movies. 
On New Year’s Day we made what has become our traditional dinner: collard greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and meatloaf.  I know, being a southern girl, you’d expect me to have fatback, but we’re weird about pork in our house.  And hubby was raised by Yankees.  So we’ve just crafted our own New Year’s Day feast.  You can read about the traditional one here, it’s kind of neat how some of these things got started.
The short version is that the collard greens are for wealth, the black-eyed peas for luck, and the fatback for health.  That last part just really amuses me.  People give you the stink eye for eating bacon because it’s “bad”, apparently fatback is “worse” than bacon, but on New Year’s Day it leads to health in the new year.  Maybe I’m just easily amused, but it kind of cracks me up. 
We substitute the meatloaf largely because it goes so well with collard greens and black eyed peas, which we love.  And you really can’t go wrong with cornbread.  Hopefully the meatloaf works, and we’re all set for a lucky, healthy, and wealthy new year.  What is your traditional New Year’s Day meal?