The Pop Diva Landscape

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For my purposes, a pop diva is a female singer who is played on one of the pop music stations in my area. She may or may not have also appeared recently on the Grammys.

I’m sure album sales and/or downloads figure into both of those things — radio play and Grammy appearances. But as I am not an industry analyst, I’m not sweating those details.

I have always been intrigued by pop music, especially female pop artists, and have been probably since the advent of Madonna. I primarily try to keep up now because I know it’s the type of music that my children are most likely to overhear in the public space.

Also, I’m simply not willing to dismiss all forms of popular entertainment as dreck, and/or people who decide what is popular as sheep. Even if privately I don’t get it or like it.

Let’s take the pop queen to top all pop queens, current reigning diva Taylor Swift. Her popularity utterly escapes me, and I know for me her ubiquity is a real turn off. She is EVERYWHERE. I will not deny that her songs are damn catchy; those things are ear worms extraordinaire.

But given the choice, I’m changing the station.

What amusing me is that my daughters can definitely tell that I don’t like certain pop artists and pop songs. They play it cool in the car. “Oh, sure, it’s okay. You can leave it on, if you want, mom.” Or, “Well, let’s just let the radio play, okay, mom?”

Sure, kiddos.

Here are the three pop stars that I do not prefer at this time, and a little bit on why I, personally, don’t like them:

Katie Perry — I find her music trite. To say she’s not groundbreaking is an understatement. I like the sentiment behind “Roar”: don’t be a push over, stand up and speak for yourself, girls! But the song is one lyrical cliche after another.

Taylor Swift — As I said before, this young woman is ubiquitous. The music industry loves her. All well and good. But I’m just not interested.

Arianna Grande — This little wisp of a singer needs to learn how to enunciate, for goodness sake.

Here’s a short list of the pop singers who are current that I DO like:
Lorde
Sia
Ellie Goulding
Rihanna
Nicki Minaj (Is she pop? I’m not even 100% sure she goes in this category.)
Charlie XCX

I don’t know why I like Lorde but not Katie Perry, or Ellie Goulding but not Ms. Swift. I think the pop singers I like have something — a little sass, a little darkness, a little rebel — in them. They aren’t quite EVERYWHERE — although Lorde is coming close. And I probably won’t even hold it against her. Something about her smoky voice hooks me.

I’m unsure where Megan Trainor goes. I haven’t listened to her closely. My overall impression is that she’s sassy, yes, but she’s released two songs that sound nearly identical to me.

I’m sure I’m missing whole swatches of the pop diva landscape. Got someone on pop radio that you love (or love to hate)?

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Aside: It’s too loud and all sounds the same anyway. It’s SCIENCE!

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If you like a good female chanteuse outside of the pop mainstream, make it a point to check out Charlotte OC.

World Book Day

I’ve been working on a blog post about female pop singers (deep thoughts by rpm, doncha know?), and it came to my attention that today is World Book Day. (h/t @SecretAgentL) And yesterday was Grammar Day.

So, basically, my two favorite days in a row.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, you probably have to write. Emails, notes to teachers, Facebook posts, tweets — maybe you even blog. I would encourage you to be familiar with grammar rules, even if not that many people are seeing your “work”. It looks good when you can use proper grammar (and punctuation, but I’m sure that’s another day). If you have questions, the Grammar Girl — who has the coolest name in all creation as far as I’m concerned — offers Quick and Dirty Tips for those times you want to figure out if it’s lay/lie or who/whom, among other things.

She also posted a checklist to Twitter yesterday. It’s a good guide for when you do have to write something, especially in a professional setting.

And, sure, no one likes a grammar Nazi, because no one likes to be corrected. (Ask my husband!) But wouldn’t it be even nicer if you were confident enough to know that you weren’t going to be corrected in the first place? Because you used this handy dandy checklist?

I’m just saying.

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Oh, sorry, that got a little longer than I had intended.

What I meant to say was: My favorite book in the entire world is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

That and: Read. Read what you like, and read what challenges you. Read to the children in your life. Heck, read to your pets. Use the library. Read a book or read an ebook.

Reading is good. Reading doesn’t have downsides. Reading makes you better!

What’s your favorite book?

The Little Prince

Meatless Monday: More Internet Recipes FTW

This weekend was surprisingly slow-paced — at least once we got back to the house on Saturday.

Saturday morning it was: up, workout, shower, drive Dan to work — oh, yeah, Dan’s car broke down Friday night, JOY! — and take Flora and Kate to church by 9 a.m. for Kate’s First Reconciliation. That was a little bit of scrambling and running around. And at the last minute, Michael decided he didn’t want to go to church with us. Instead of fighting with him, I sent him to Bella and Tadone. (Oh, yeah, Bella and Tadone are back from Florida. They are glad to be home, but they would like warmer weather to GET HERE SOON, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.)

We had been having Internet connectivity issues, so I had scheduled a technician visit Saturday afternoon between the hours of 1 and 5 p.m. In my head, I pretty much blocked off that time, and made no plans.

Turns out the guy showed up around 12:50, and was gone by 1:30. The girls made themselves scarce by going next door to hang out with their cousins. Michael and I played a little bit, and I also made strawberry banana muffins to celebrate Kate’s reconciliation. I used my trusty Moosewood recipe, although I added too much milk (a cup instead of a 1/2 cup — not sure where my head was when I read that part), and had to start the wet ingredients over.

All in all, it was a quiet afternoon and evening. I didn’t even cook dinner, we just got a take-and-bake pizza, which seems to be our Saturday night dinner lately.

Sunday, however, I was determined to cook, and cook a lot. I had wanted to run to the store — we are badly in need of vegetables — but the weather precluded that nonsense.

So I stayed in and made mujadara from this recipe (h/t to @jonniker, who shared it on Twitter). I finished it in the rice cooker instead of on the stove top. I also topped with feta when I served it. It is DELICIOUS. Letting the onions cook for a long time is absolutely key, so make it when you have some time to caramelize.

I also made a three-bean chili because I didn’t have any soy crumbles. Basically: two cloves of garlic; three small carrots; chili powder to taste; a can each of garbanzo, black, and kidney beans, a can of diced tomatoes. I drained the garbanzo beans and kidney beans, but not the black beans or tomatoes. Turned out pretty good!

And then, for my finale, I made snickerdoodle cookies from this recipe (h/t @mindybakes), and you should do the same. They are wonderful.

Lonely Snickerdoodle

I brought the cookies to work, and someone left a poor, lonely half cookie. Who would do that?


What did you cook this weekend?

Tickets for Sale!

Ticket sales are now live for Listen To Your Mother: Pittsburgh.

More information here.

Direct link to the ticketing site here.

Here are a couple of details you may wish to know: Tickets are $20 each. The seating is general admission, so if you want to sit in a big group, or sit close to the stage, you should get there early.

The show is Friday May 8, 8 p.m., at the Elsie Hillman Auditorium at the Kaufmann Center.

If you are coming from out of town, and want to get a hotel in the area of the show, please let me know. A block of rooms has been reserved at a nearby hotel at a special rate. I can get you the details.

The venue seats 350 people.

OMG. THE VENUE SEATS 350 PEOPLE.

Three-hundred fifty. People.

I am a veteran performer, I am. I have been on stage. I have stood at podiums and read poetry. I have presented at PodCamp.

But I am not sure I have ever been in front of 350 people. The majority of whom I won’t know.

So. Buy tickets. I’d like to tell my story to people I know (as well as a few strangers).

And to those who have already purchased tickets: THANK YOU. Thank you so much. It thrills me that you will share this event with me. It means more than I can say.

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If you have other questions, please let me know. If I don’t know the answer, I know who to ask!

Conversations with Michael and Flora

“Mama, whose that black bad guy?”
“What?” Thinking, are we about to have a talk about racism here?
“That black bad guy? He’s got buttons.”
I have no idea what my son is talking about.
“What show is he on? One of your TV shows?”
“No. He’s the big black man. He has lots of buttons.”
“Do you mean Cyborg?” From Teen Titans Go!
“No, Cyborg has guns. He just has buttons.”
It clicks. “Do you mean Darth Vader?”
“Yeah, Darth Vader. How does he kill people?”
Of course this is what he needs to know. “Well, he can use his mind to strangle people. And he’ll just straight up shoot you if he wants.”
Flora pipes up. “He’s got a light saber, too, Mom.”
“Right. The light saber.”
Michael: “What can that do?”
Flora: “It can cut you right in half!”

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Michael to Flora, this morning in the kitchen: “Fora, Fora! Do you take naps at school?”
Flora, matter of factly: “Buddy, we’re too old to take naps.”
Me, making M’s lunch at the counter: “You’re never too old for naps!”

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The radio is on in the car; I believe we were listening to Snacktime by the Bare Naked Ladies.

Michael, from the backseat: “Mommy, did you already have your birthday?”
“Yep, Michael, I already had my birthday this year.”
“Why didn’t you have a party?”
“I did have a little party, with some grown up friends.”
“When?”
“Do you remember the last time you slept over Bella and Tadone’s. Niece and Nephew where there?”
“Yes.”
“That’s when I had people over.”
Flora: “Who did you have over?”
“We had Annie and Stevo, whom you guys know from Cook Forest. And Aunt Jen, and —”
“Mommy! Turn off the radio!”
(I turn off the radio.) “What’s up, bud?”
“Nothing, I couldn’t hear you. Start over.”

M asleep -- the only time he is quiet.

The only time he is silent.

Have you had any interesting conversations with children lately?

Playing Favorites?

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Growing up (and, frankly, to this day), I always thought that my brother was my mother’s favorite. It wasn’t overt, it’s not like she gave him better desserts, or let him off the hook in terms of chores because he was a boy. Ultimately, even suspecting that Dr. Bro was her favorite didn’t hurt me or our relationship.

I never felt that my father had a favorite, although I think he enjoyed his two “daddy’s girls”. He liked to play the protector, the knight. He wanted to give Dr. Sis and I a healthy male role model to look up to — someone who was a breadwinner, who loved and respected our mother, a man who prioritized his marriage, and who pulled his weight around the house. He was tougher on my brother in terms of discipline because he wanted him to grow up to be a good man. (Well, done, Dad. I think it worked.)

I think maybe I was at times resentful of being the oldest child; I found certain things unfair. For example, I was the one testing the boundaries, and when I busted them — and boy howdy, did I know how to bust a boundary, especially as a teenager — I got well and appropriately punished. But I didn’t see the Dr. Bro get the same consequences. Which isn’t to say that he didn’t. I just didn’t see it.

And never mind Dr. Sis. Raising three children now, I get the baby-syndrome thing. When it comes to parenting Michael, I understand. I’m tired. Whatever works to get him to a) stop whining and b) go to sleep. I’m in.

I’m sure Dr. Bro and Dr. Sis have their own feelings about all of this, and I suspect that one of them is totally assured that he is the favorite child, forever and ever, amen. *ahem*

Author, Dr. Bro, Dr. Sis

I think we are 7, 5, and 3 in this picture.

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On the way to school Monday morning, this story came on NPR, and the girls and I listened to it. (I am not sure how *closely* they listened to it.)

And yes, my first instinct was to stab the button to change the channel, but I overrode that instinct. I like riding in the car and talking about stuff with my children. It’s probably a captive audience type thing.

When the story was over, I asked Kate and Flora if they thought I had a favorite. They said no, they didn’t think I did. I asked if they felt I treated them differently. In the car, they said no. However, I know that Flora often feels the burden of being the oldest, and knowing that her father and I have higher expectations of her, than we do for her siblings (at this point). And I know that she struggles with that (as did I). And I also know that both girls think I spoil Michael rotten. Or at least let him get his way more often than they get their way.

They may not be wrong. (I’m tired, I said it.)

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The mother of four adult children passed away. She had been a good wife and mother, and active in her church, at her job, and in her community. She was well-loved and well-regarded, and her funeral was very well attended.

Of course, all four of her children were there, all with their spouses and children. They celebrated her life. Over the course of the wake after the funeral, her oldest child finally couldn’t stand it anymore. At dinner that evening, he called all his siblings together, and said, “Now that mom’s gone, I just can’t hold it in anymore. I have to tell you all: She always told me I was her favorite.”

His brother and two sisters were shocked. “I don’t know why she would tell you that,” the older sister said. “She told me all the time that I was her favorite.”

“Yeah, well,” said the younger brother, and baby of the family. “She told me that all the time, too.”

The younger sister was nodding. “Yup. All the time. ‘Don’t tell the others,’ Mom would whisper while putting me to bed. ‘But you’re my absolute favorite.'”

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Do I have a favorite? While I love all my children equally, I do sometimes think I have a favorite. Of course it varies from day to day and hour to hour. And the reason varies too. Michael has a special place in my heart for being the boy I get to raise; I love Kate’s complete enthusiasm — she may have been my favorite for a while Sunday while roller skating. She was utterly fearless, not afraid to look silly or fall down. She got out on that rink, and didn’t stop skating until we told her it was time to go. (Yesterday morning, Kate groaned, “I’m really sore.” I didn’t see her make it once around the rink without taking a spill. But that didn’t stop her.) I love Flora’s curiosity and growing sense of responsibility.

When we put the children to bed, we usually say to them, “You’re my favorite Flora.” And Kate, “You’re my favorite Kate.” Or I’ll tell Michael, “You’re my favorite little boy.” And it’s true.

They are my favorite.

M, Kate, Flora

How could I choose just one?

Who’s your favorite? I promise not to tell.

Announcement

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I have been dying to tell you this for a week. For more than a week! I got the email last Saturday at 10:30 pm.

They swore me to secrecy.

*ahem* Are you ready? Are you sitting down?

Are you free May 8?

I AM IN THE PITTSBURGH LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER SHOW!

Oh, it’s such a relief to be able to share that. Whew.

More details, and the cast list here. Aside from our director/producers, I’ve also met the lovely Britt Reints, who blogs at In Pursuit of Happiness. The show is Friday May 8. We are raising money for and awareness of the Woman’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

I do hope you will come see me read my essay. It’s not a story I’ve told publicly before.

I can’t wait to meet the rest of the cast, and hear their stories too.

I’M SO EXCITED!!

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Random Thoughts: The 50 Shades of Grey Edition

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First, some disclaimers: I did not read 50 Shades of Grey, nor did I see the movie, and I have no intentions to do either. It’s not because I’m a cultured snob, either. The reviews are negative, and it seems many people are engaging in what is called “hate-reading” — a habit I don’t understand (ditto hate-watching — life’s too short, people). My understanding is the book is terribly written. I can’t read terribly written books.

I do not live a BDSM lifestyle, so my speculations about it are simply that: pure speculation.

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My understanding is that the portrayal of the lifestyle in the books and movie isn’t BDSM, it’s straight up abusive: stalking, isolating, using drugs and alcohol to influence “consent”.

I think one of the biggest misrepresentations of the BDSM lifestyle that comes from this movie and/or book is this: The reluctance of the submissive.

From what I have gleaned from book and movie reviews, Anastasia Steele has a lot of misgivings about being Mr. Grey’s submissive.

We want to think that submissive people don’t really want to be THAT submissive. We are more willing to think that they feel demeaned or have doubts about submitting. And I don’t think that’s the case. A true submissive can only feel sexual excitement by submitting. That may be difficult to grasp for people who don’t understand BDSM. We think it has to be non-consensual — that the sub is being pressured to do it.

No, a sub freely chooses it. She (for the sake of brevity) submits because that is what is sexually exciting and fulfilling. She’s not doing it to heal her lover (as in the 50 Shades books) or because it’s a game the two are playing, and saying yes even when she wants to say no is her role.

I’m also pretty sure that dominants, as a rule, aren’t mean people or bullies. You don’t get to slap your wife or boyfriend around and claim it’s okay because you’re a dom. That’s not how that works. There’s a very specific sexual fulfillment that comes from being a dominant and having a willing submissive. It’s not an abusive relationship.

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According an academic who has studied the books –how’s that for a career track? — (and now the movie), “[Ana] tells [Christian] she feels demeaned, debased, and abused, and he says, ‘Well, you need to embrace those feelings and deal with them the way a real submissive would.'” A real submissive wouldn’t feel demeaned or debased or abused by what her dom wants to do. This is the difference between actual consent and what is portrayed in 50 Shades.

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I also think we are focused on the wrong fantasy. The media trope was that bored housewives were reading this, and taking it to their husbands or lovers to spice things up. However, the biggest purveyors of 50 Shades were women between the ages of 18 and 34.

I think the fantasy is two-fold: The ages old “savior” fantasy. “I will cure this damaged person through the power of my life-saving and unique love.” Which I think does end up happening in 50 Shades. And the Prince Charming fantasy, with a twist: “A young, rich, hot man will find me irresistible, and will do anything to be with me. In exchange for a few spankings, he will take me away from all this drudgery (i.e. work) and I will live in a palace for the rest of my life.”

So, arguably, 50 Shades of Grey is no more damaging than Disney princess movies, where a knight on a white horse rides in to save the day.

Oh, wait.

50 Shades of Grey cover

Are you a 50 Shades fan? Why or why not?

Incidentally, I have no bones with people who have read or seen (or want to read or see) 50 Shades of Grey and the series of books that follow. To each her/his own, seriously. I’m not judging you for reading or watching anything — or for practicing BDSM for that matter. As long as everything’s consensual, all right?

40 Days and 40 Nights, 2015 Edition

For years, Dan has tried to get me to do some kind of nightly meditation. For my anxiety. And for years, I have scoffed. I have whinged. I have said, “Just let me read in peace, that’s all I need to alleviate my anxiety. And wine!”

Well, for Lent this year — which, incidentally, isn’t 40 days and 40 nights, but more on that below — I’ve decided that I am going to do a nightly guided meditation. For my anxiety.

Dan wins.

Seriously, though: he brought home a meditation computer DVD recently. I talked to him to see if instead of a computer program, we could find the right app (that’s right, an app) that I could put on my Kindle.

I’m going to do it through Lent. For me, for my family, to help alleviate my anxiety (which really does seem to be getting worse), to bring some kind of mindfulness to my daily life.

M and Kate sleeping.

Think of the children.

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A good friend of mine posted a CNN article on Facebook, and out of curiosity, of course, I clicked on it. The headline was “5 Myths about Lent, and One Surprising Fact“.

Here’s the thing: The “myths” weren’t myths at all. They were incorrect facts. For example, the 40 days thing. Lent is actually, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, 46 days. It’s not a myth that it’s 40 days, it’s not counting Sundays during Lent because they are not days of abstinence. The other “myth” that gave me pause was the belief that Jesus went into the desert for 40 days before he was crucified. That’s incorrect — according the Bible he went into the desert for 40 days prior to beginning his public ministry.

So what’s the difference between a myth and a wrong fact? Hm. I’ll have to meditate on that.

Doing anything for Lent?

Dogs I Have Known

Inky

Inky was a mutt. A medium-sized, long-haired, black-furred mutt. To this day, I couldn’t tell you what her makeup was. She had short legs and a long muzzle, and fur that was long and dark, dark everywhere. I don’t recall a spot of white on her.

She was the dog I grew up with. We got Inky after my brother was born. So at one point, my parents had me (a 2-year-old), an infant, and a puppy. And then about two years later, another infant (Dr. Sis)!

Inky was a good pup, and a good dog until she got older. She got snappy, and couldn’t handle the excitement of children running around the yard. When I was a teen, we gave Inky to my widow grandmother Olympia. She did well there — probably got a little fat. But it was a calmer situation for her.

She eventually lost most of her eyesight and mobility, and we had to put her down. I don’t remember being particularly sad about losing her.

Dudley

Dudley was a short-lived experience. We got him at the mall, an adorable and utterly spastic cocker spaniel. A year later, after two biting incidents, Dudley went to the Humane Society.

Dudley was named after my favorite ice cream parlor in Erie, PA.

Buddy

Dr. Sis was a bit of a roamer before she went to chiropractic college and then settled in North Carolina. I forget if she got Buddy in Myrtle Beach or in Florida. Nonetheless, she called with reports of inheriting a Boston terrier from friends who were leaving the area and couldn’t take him with them. I believe he started life as “Peanut”, but was soon renamed Buddy.

If you have ever known a Boston terrier, you know what they are like: enthusiastic, small, friendly. They think they are the biggest dogs on the block. They want to lick everything. They refuse to heel. They snort when they are awake, and snore when they sleep. They are so ugly they are cute — they look like they ran face-first into a shovel.

Buddy relaxing.

Look at that face!

Buddy was good for my sister. He was the first “grand”mammal — I think she got him before Dan and I were even dating let alone married. But Buddy was still very much part of the family when my own children were born. He was well-loved and well-walked on family vacations, that’s for sure!

Buddy and Michael

The youngest and the oldest. M at 9 months; Buddy has to be at least 16.

Buddy was the ring-bearer in my sister’s wedding, and then made one more trip to the family vacation at Seven Springs. My sister nursed him as much as she was able. He had a good life, full of love. I think he was 17 when we finally had to say goodbye.

Fortunately, my sister had gotten Buddy a Boston terrier buddy — Roxy, who was even more lick-y, enthusiastic, and friendly. So while Buddy can never be replaced, we have a good breed in our lives.

The Camping Dogs

We take trips to the woods a couple of times a year. In among all of our friends and our friends’ children, there are dogs: Grace, Ruby (RIP), and Otis. Grace is a mutt, friendly and a shameless beggar of treats. Ruby was the sweetest, most affectionate Doberman pincher I had ever met in my life, and she is missed. Otis is a Labradoodle, and he’s very much like a muppet come to life. I think Kate is in love with him.

Finn and Charlie

Finn and Charlie are our neighbor dogs. Charlie is a Jack Russell terrier mix, and the elder gentleman of the house. Finn is a big, giant golden retriever, and he is Kate’s only match in terms of outgoing personality.


These are the dogs in my life, past and present. Someday, there will be a future dog. But I’m not scooping its poop.

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