Burn of the week: Villette

Burn of the week is a segment in my favorite hit podcast, The Babysitters Club Club, which is totally worth checking out if you’re a fan of The Babysitters Club books, literary theory, or the 1990 fantasy-themed graphic adventure game Loom.

But my burn of the week today comes from Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, a book I’m reading for Book Riot’s Read Harder 2018 Challenge to fulfill the category “A book you hated or never finished.” I felt that hated was a strong word to use for this book, but I remembered only reading about half of it for a class a couple years back.

(I was wrong. I read maybe 20% of it before I stopped…and then wrote a short paper on something that happened in that first, like, 60 pages.)

So I’m getting through it now, thanks in large part to my new commute on Bart, which is letting me get through about 5% on each trip into or out of the city. Honestly this commute will be the only reason I get through any of the ebooks that I buy on sale because who can resist a book that costs only $1.99 and doesn’t take up any physical space in your home?

I’ve lost the thread. So without further ado, here’s my burn of the week, from Villette‘s first-person main character, Lucy Snowe, on the beautiful but selfish Ginevra Fanshawe:

Courtseying with mock respect, Ginevra said: “I would not be you for a kingdom.”

The remark was too naive to rouse anger; I merely said: “Very good.”

“And what would you give to be me?” she inquired.

“Not a bad sixpence—strange as it may sound,” I replied. “You are but a poor creature.”

“You don’t think so in your heart.”

“No; for in my heart you have not the outline of a place: I only occasionally turn you over in my brain.”

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So that’s what I’m up to these days. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Bedtime? More like badtime, am I right?

Parents joke through their teeth about bedtimes, but it’s not really a joke. It’s a well-known fact that for parents, bedtime is the absolute worst time of the day. For our family specifically, it seems like everything can be going great, everyone is enjoying themselves, baths are silly, reading books is cuddly and sweet, they want to give a bunch of hugs and kisses, we leave their room smiling and happy…we sit down on the couch, take a deep breath, and before we can even release it, one kid is wandering out into the living room to ask if he can eat your dinner (food he wouldn’t deign to touch if it was served to him at 6pm), or the other kid is calling lustily from her crib, “I need a stuffed animal from the hammock! I need a new diaper! MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYYY! What do deers eat?”

A casualty of having children who get more mobile and aware has been relaxing evenings where Drew and I are able to have long conversations that traverse many topics and end with a satisfying conclusion. Whether kids are awake, asleep, or in that in-between period (which seems to last HOURS), we’re constantly being interrupted in sentence, thought, or bite of dinner we put off until 8pm.

I realized this Sunday that it makes me question everything I say. Because if I’m going to be interrupted, I don’t want to have to come back, going, “What was I saying?” and be reminded that it was something stupid or pointless. Which is unfortunate, because I think a lot of nighttime unwinding conversation is just little stories about your day or something you saw online or something weird someone said, stories that don’t necessarily have a lot of heft.

On Sunday, I was in the middle of trying to tell Drew about the Neil Patrick Harris / Rachel Bloom Tony Awards Twitter drama (I’m on Rachel Bloom’s side all the way here), and halfway through reading NPH’s tweet out loud, my eldest child comes marching out of his room to see…I don’t even know. I have no idea what he wanted. Because I leapt up off the couch and literally chased him back to his room, crying desperately, “I just want to tell a joke! I just want to get through a SINGLE STORY WITHOUT BEING INTERRUPTED!”

After that I couldn’t even finish the story. Like, what was even the point of what I was saying. It’s so embarrassing to be second-guessing what you’re saying – to have to come back and say, “Okay, settle back in while I read you the second half of the tweet – and then what Rachel said!” That’s just stupid.

To Drew’s credit, he waited about two hours, and then said kindly, “Can you please do me a favor? And finish your Neil Patrick Harris / Rachel Bloom story?” And I did. But I’m not gonna lie – it didn’t hold the same pleasure for me that it would have if I’d gotten through it in the moment. But I have faith that one day I’ll be free to read tweets out loud to Drew, and I’m sure he’s as eager as I am for that day to come. Because what could be more fun for him?

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Territorialism

This morning I was at Safeway with H at 8:30am, because that’s when moms and kids go grocery shopping. We were in the checkout, and she was wandering around my feet chatting to me. The woman in line behind us was wearing a baby in a sling, and we smiled at each other, and I asked her how old her baby was, and she asked me how old H is, and it was this nice exchange of cute baby, talkative kid, fun age, etc.

Then H tugged on my arm and I picked her up and she took my face in her hands…and proceeded to make out with me. I actually had to say, “Okay, that’s enough” and put her down.

And that’s how I almost made a new mom friend this morning.

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The selfishness of Misty Morgan

If you were a bookish child born in (I’m going to guess) the 80s, chances are you read the Serendipity books.

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I checked out a lot of these from the library over the years, but I think the only one I actually owned was Misty Morgan. That book has ended up on my kids’ shelf, and while it hasn’t gotten into the regular routine yet, I have read it to them a few times over the last few years. And I’ve got a bone to pick with author Stephen Cosgrove.

To catch you up, the title character Morgan is this majestic stallion:

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He has a friend, “a very pretty princess dressed in pinks and purples” who “lived by time and time alone.” She lives in a “magnificent” castle filled with clocks: “alarm clocks, cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks, and even a grandmother clock.”

The princess spends all day every day running from clock to clock, making sure they’re all set and keeping the right time. This is literally how she spends all her time. There’s no explanation given for why she has to babysit these clocks, or what will happen if she lets them fall out of time. But it’s clearly important to her – she is always “rushing here and rushing there, crying ‘Can’t be late!’…Time was the master and the princess was the slave.”

Morgan, on the other hand, loves to “play and frolic in the forest and meadows…He would chase after butterflies and kick at the sun, for his life was his own and filled with fun.”

Good for you, Morgan.

Morgan goes to the castle one day to see if the princess can play, but surprise! She’s busy. She tells him she doesn’t have time, but maybe later. He goes outside to wait for her (while doing absolutely nothing) and then heads back inside, “sure that he had waited long enough.” She gets impatient and tells him she doesn’t have time to play right now, and runs off.

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Morgan goes back outside. He waits for her. Let me tell you exactly what he does:

A day, maybe two, passed by while he nibbled on some flowers and chased a bird about the meadow. He idly spent his time scratching his back on the bark of a tree, or taking naps in the bright, golden sunlight. He waited, and wiled away the time. Finally he galloped back to the castle.

Inside, he finds her shoveling coal in the basement. She’s annoyed and says, “Listen, unicorn! I am very, very busy. Time is wasting and I don’t have time to play right now. When I do have time to play I’ll find you! For now, leave me be!”

He is very bummed out, and leaves. He wanders away from the castle, and into the Misty Meadows, “a place so lonely, quiet, and empty, that even the birds wouldn’t sing.” He’s so despondent that he walks straight into the Misty Meadows.

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The princess continues working, until one day she notices that Morgan is missing. She goes to look for him, and when she can’t find him right away, gets scared that something’s happened. She follows his hoofprints and sees they go straight into the Misty Meadows. “‘Oh no!’ she cried. ‘No one or no thing has ever gone into the Misty Meadows and ever come out!'”

She tries to go into the fog to find him, but everything is “shrouded in silence” and she’s out of luck. So she sits down at the edge of the “Stream of Regrets” and “began to cry and cry. She cried for her selfishness. She cried for those times that she didn’t have time to share.”

Magically, Morgan appears out of the fog, and she runs to him. She leaps on his back and “off they ran, the wind whipping at their hair. The last thing the princess did before they ran out of sight was to take off her watch and toss it far into the Misty Meadows, for she would never be a slave to time again.”

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To which I say…wtf? First of all, the princess doesn’t even get a name. And we only see her face one time out of the ten illustrations she’s in.

And who has made her a slave in this castle? She’s the princess but doesn’t seem to rule anything – she just works 24/7. Is this a metaphor? What’s the backstory here?

Also, why can’t Morgan read the room? She needs help. OFFER TO HELP HER. Maybe if you helped her she would have more free time. It’s not like you’re busy. (See above, with the wiling away the time.)

I think the moral of the story is the most annoying part to me. Like, this whole thing was her fault? Because she was feeling overwhelmed and couldn’t stop to run around outside?

It’s also possible that recently I was trying to vacuum, and my five-year-old paused Super Mario Brothers to say, “Hey, you are distracting me with that vacuum sound!”

Okay, new moral:

THERE IS A TIME FOR WORK

AND A TIME FOR PLAY.

MAYBE HELP YOUR MOM WITH ALL THE CHORES

AND ALSO LEARN HER NAME

AND LOOK AT HER FACE.

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2018 Best Picture ranking

There are only nine Best Picture nominees this year, but we still barely fit them all in before the Oscars this Sunday. Here they are, best to least-best.

  • Get Out – Best movie of the year! I loved it. Entertaining, thought-provoking, and surprising. Vital.
  • Lady Bird – Also vital. And perfect. This spoke to me so hard.
  • The Shape of Water – I was so inspired by this one. Gorgeous. Kinda weird.
  • Phantom Thread – Creative genius treats women badly. But surprising plot. But you know Daniel Day-Lewis is so method, he was definitely a jerk on set.
  • Call Me By Your Name – I’m still not sure why they were calling each other by their names? There’s a lot I appreciated about this movie, even if it didn’t hit me in the heart the way Lady Bird did.
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – I understand why this movie is problematic in ways, but I’m hopeful that it created conversation around those issues.
  • Dunkirk – One of my fears is being trapped somewhere and drowning. This movie kept playing on that.
  • The Post – Pandering??
  • Darkest Hour – Should be called Darkest Two Hours. Plus, spoilers for Dunkirk.

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Dream Journal 2017

This year, I started keeping a dream journal for B—just a long-running note in my phone that I would add to whenever he told me about a dream. I started because I thought that first one was so funny. But now it’s kind of a fun thing, and a conversation that he’ll initiate sometimes. Like, “Oh hey! I had this dream last night!” Although most of the time, if I bring it up, he says he doesn’t remember. I guess he takes after Drew more than me in that regard. (Drew may be the sleep talker; I’m the vivid dreamer.)

Some of it gets kind of dark—you can tell he got really into Halloween and scary stuff this year, and hasn’t quite pulled himself back out yet.

Italics are me speaking. Otherwise the wording is all him.

February

We had a gopher as a pet and then we went to eat some ice cream, 1, 2, 3: me, Opa, and Gopher.

I had four dreams last night.

I had a dream about going across and across.
Across what?
Across the street.

March

I had a bad dream last night. There was a skeleton, and I was fighting him, and he was a BAD skeleton.

I had a dream about going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house after it flooded, and we built a gingerbread house.

Grandma and Grandpa were in my dream. We were in a 6-door car. There were no cats.

I had a short dream today. Oma closed the door all the way to get some papers out of the room. And then I saw their eyes and I started to cry.

I had a dream about Auntie Liz’s house. And Auntie Liz said probably it’s hiding from the next door.
What was hiding?
One cat and it was hiding from another one. I asked Auntie Liz to see where was Mike, and Auntie Liz said she was probably hiding from the cat next door.

April

Mommy, I had a good dream last night. Me and Little Red Riding Hood were in an elevator all by ourselves, and we were going up and down. No one was with us. First we went up, then down, then up. Just me and Little Red Riding Hood.

I was at school and I saw something this tall.
Is that little?
No, it’s very tall! I went to Mars so I could see what I could see on Mars.
What did you see?
That blue pellet up in the sky.

[We’re both sleeping in the living room bc he was sick]
Mommy…mommy. I had 400 dreams last night. This many.
[Proceeds to tell me the first one, but I’m so exhausted I don’t remember it at all]

May

I had one dream last night. It was a beach dream. There were no waves and no fish and no sharks and no whales and no sand. Just sidewalk and cars and a little sand. And little waves, like this high.

I had a dream that I was going to fall into the canal.
Oh no! What happened?
I didn’t go underwater.
Did you float?
Yes, I saved myself.

I had a dream that you and Ethan Wong were talking, and he was like, Whaaat? He went like that: Whaaat? He said, Whaaat?

Something bited me. A bird. It was black. The bird bit me because it was bad. It came from…I don’t know. Where does the bird hide?

My second dream was about an answer. It was kind of a doubled one.

In the first dream I went to school. In the second dream I was still at school.
What happened at school?
Baby H said hugs and kisses.

June

Did you have any dreams last night?
I didn’t have dreams. I had stories.
[won’t tell me any of them]

Grandpa was there, and he helped me build more electricity towers. They weren’t the brown ones, they were the clear ones. We were at school, and then we walked all the way to the condo. When we were building the electricity towers, we didn’t take the truck. We took a blue Hyundai Elantra.

November

When I was going down some steps, and then I fell back into my bed.

In my dream, I saw a big yellow cat, and it went like this. [does litter box dance move from the movie Puss in Boots] But then it wasn’t a cat, it was really daddy. It went under a gate.

In my dream last night, I kinda went to my school but it wasn’t it was a different school and I saw Jack Larkin there. And I saw that he was building with the Legos. And in my dream one more thing: we saw a stranger. It didn’t take us anywhere.

What’d you dream about?
*whispers*
Boogy man.
What happened in your dream?
Oogy Boogy. Oogy Boogy. Oogy Boogy. Oogy Boogy. He was tryna put me down the pipe.
Ooh, did he put you down there?
No he didn’t do it. Cause I cut him in two halfs.
What’d you use to cut him?
Knife.

Is that a graveyard or a corn maze?

I had a dream about touching Swakeek [elf on the shelf]. I touched him two times in one dream.
What happened when you touched him?
All his magic went into a soupcase that he carries.

December 

I dreamed that Frankenstein came to TTT [school extended care]. And I kicked his head up. It went up and into the water.
Uh-oh. Was he a bad guy?
No. He was a bad guy and a good guy. Also I pulled the bolts that hold his head up. Then I kicked his head off.

Two spirits, they were good and they took me and Trevor and Sean to the pharmacy to get a band-aid. All three of us needed a band-aid because we were outside hugging and we fell and bleeded.
That story you just told—did it really happen or was it a dream?
It wasn’t a a dream, it was a nightmare. Hey H, I have so much more blood than you.

One time I had a dream that everyone was wearing pajamas at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

I had too many dreams last night.
Do you remember them?
I just know that I sneaked out and got a sticker chart.
Ooh, what were the stickers for?
To put on the Legos.

Mama, I had a dream that I was eating snow.
Oh wow! Where were you in your dream?
I was in Hawaii.
There’s not usually snow in Hawaii.
Oh right…I was in Texas.

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Mild Roaring

I think I might have tinnitus.

(I was googling it and I guess “patients and laypersons” pronounce it “tin-EYE-tus” while “clinicians and researchers” pronounce it “TIN-ih-tus.” I hate to ever be lumped in with the laypersons so I’ve been pronouncing it TIN-ih-tus in my head and for purposes of writing this, but when I say it out loud it sounds so pretentious that I revert to tin-EYE-tus.)

Tinnitus is “ringing in the ears,” although it can also be described as “hissing, static, crickets, screeching, whooshing, roaring, pulsing, ocean waves, buzzing, dial tones, even music.” Luckily mine isn’t as annoying – it’s just like a lowkey dial tone. Sometimes it’s stronger, sometimes it’s quieter. But I was clicking through the sample sounds on this webpage and the eighth one – “Roaring” – kinda hit home for me.

My (possible) tinnitus might help explain why I feel like I’ve been saying “Wait, what?” more frequently. When I’m trying to listen through a closed door to see if that was a sleeping child crying out, or just something on TV, I find it annoying. But most of the time, it’s no more than mildly irritating, usually at night while I’m falling asleep. And then, it’s like my own personal white noise machine.

I hope it just hangs around like this without getting worse. I can handle a low-volume white noise machine in my head. Maybe that’s why I’m so good at sleeping. Maybe it’s a good thing, this mild roaring. It could be a lot worse. It could be “Cicada” or “7500 Hz Tone.”

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