Unrelated Lessons This Week

Northern Cardinal

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~ William James

“We can’t understand when we’re pregnant, or when our siblings are expecting, how profound it is to have a shared history with a younger generation: blood, genes, humor. It means we were actually here, on Earth, for a time – like the Egyptians with their pyramids, only with children.” ~ Anne Lamott

I have no book movie connections to write about this week. I am reading, just not books that I’ve stacked up to include in this blog. So, today I’d like to write about some random things that happened that I’ve been thinking about.

Story One
Yesterday I met with my independent study student. It’s the dramatic structure class that is normally taught during fall or spring semester. She’s taking it now because she’s going off to a four year institution in the fall and the theatre program at her new college doesn’t offer a class like this. This young woman is remarkable. She just graduated from high school and already has a number of college classes completed toward her theatre degree. Though she’s a fantastic actor, she was in my spring production of Measure for Measure, her first love is theatre tech.

I could talk about movies all day. She and I have fun talking about the movies we’ve watched, but yesterday I had reason to be further impressed with her. We were discussing Cloud Atlas, a movie/book connection I’ve written about before in this blog. The movie can be very confusing because it switches back and forth among six timelines. Because of this, I created a movie guide to help the students notice important aspects of the movie. My student impressed me when she said that because of my guide, she got what was going on during the first viewing. It helps that she’s also taking a film class at the same time.

As we got to talking about the many themes of the movie, she connected them to things she has learned in her life. And I have to say, I was so happy to hear that she has already learned things it took me well into my fifties to understand. I find this to be true of many of my students. They are so self-aware. It gives me hope that what I believe really is true: When I do my personal work and gain insights, they are passed on to future generations. We talked about that too, because it’s one of the major themes of Cloud Altas. Even if no one remembers our names, our experiences help those who come after us.

I told my student I was happy that she was so much farther along in her development than I was. Don’t be fooled that the younger generation is going to hell in a hand basket. It’s just not true.

Story Two
A week or so ago, I wrote about the book and TV show Dietland. I don’t think I mentioned that I also watch the show, Unapologetic with Aiysha Tyler which airs right after. It’s a talk show linked to, but not exclusively about Dietland. In fact the main part of the show is discussing women’s issues. I hope it stays around. Aiysha has three guests on each week, they discuss current events as part of the format. About a week ago, Aiysha had a woman, who had been part of Obama’s administration, on her panel. Sorry, I don’t remember her name. The woman said that signing petitions and making phone calls to our elected officials really does make a difference and to keep doing it. I loved that, because in recent weeks I have been tempted to give into battle fatigue. But no more. I’m going to speak up as often as possible.

Story Three
Barry and I have a friend who is a lesbian. She and her wife just celebrated fourteen years of being together. Today, on her Facebook feed, she wrote a moving story about a conversation she had with a gentleman while they were getting their cars inspected. He talked of his wife and family and what they were going to do this summer. When he turned the conversation to find out what her summer plans were, she felt a bit panicked to come out to him. At first she made her plans with her family generic, but finally she just came out with the facts. When he realized that she had used the word, “wife”, his face changed for a moment, but then they continued their conversation as if what she had said was perfectly normal. Wow! I want to become that vulnerable. As an introvert, I don’t like revealing too much about my personal feelings and beliefs. But our friend, Joy, who has much more at stake than I do, taught me a valuable lesson. Being vulnerable, open, and honest can help us change the world.

One final little tidbit. Last Sunday David Edelstein, the film critic for CBS Sunday Morning, urged the viewers to go see Won’t You Be My Neighbor? a new documentary about Fred Rogers and his groundbreaking children’s show on PBS. But he said something that I completely disagree with, that seeing the movie will make you feel good until you go back out into the real world. He implied that treating everyone with respect and love is abnormal. I disagree with him. I believe that, for the most part, we come into this world with open hearts and a desire to love everyone, but those natural impulses are altered by the time we reach adolescence. I will go see the movie and aspire to be loving and respectful at all times just like Mr. Rogers.

Thanks for reading, liking, and commenting. Have a fantastic weekend. And by the way, The Space Between Time is half off this entire month at Smashwords. Click the link below to get your copy.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Dietland

“The problem for all women is we’re identified by how we look instead of our heads and hearts.” ~ Gloria Steinem

“Women tend to be conservative in youth and get more radical as they get older because they lose power with age. So if a young woman is not a feminist, I say, ‘Just wait.’” ~ Gloria Steinem

I’m not generally interested in contemporary fiction. I don’t comb the best seller lists for my next read. I prefer classic books, or books that are on the “back list”, which means they’ve been around a while but they are well worth my time to read. So, picking up Dietland by Sarai Walker was unusual for me. Okay, technically Dietland is a back listed book. The hardback came out in 2015, but it has come into the public consciousness again because it is now a summer series on AMC.

I didn’t pay attention to the first trailers for the series. It looked like a women’s revenge show and I wasn’t interested in lots of violence. However, one trailer caught my eye. It was centered on Plum Kettle, a young “fat” woman who works, interestingly enough, as a ghost writer at a fashion magazine. Barry and I decided to take a chance on it. I was hooked from the first episode so much so, that I decided I had to read the book.

Though I haven’t finished watching the series, I have finished reading the book. The two mediums diverge a bit, but I like that the TV show allows us to see women in different roles, with different attitudes and approaches to slogging through a male dominated society.

Both versions of the story center around Plum (Alicia) Kettle, who works for Kitty Montgomery, editor of a teen magazine for girls called Daisy Chain. Kitty is much too busy running the magazine to answer her own emails, so she hires Plum to ghost write her responses. But, of course, Plum does not fit the image of the women that litter the pages and offices of the magazine, so she works from home. She and Kitty meet once a month so Kitty can keep her finger on the pulse of her readers. I love those scenes. They show just how shallow Kitty is. Plum barely gets a word in edgewise, and, of course she has to endure Kitty’s condescension. Kitty is not someone you want to mess with. The book doesn’t concentrate on Kitty much. But the series capitalizes on the difference between Kitty and Plum, which I find appealing.

Plum has struggled with her weight and her self-image all her life. She’s dieted once with a Jenny Craig kind of meal plan. With this plan, she eats the “food” they send her, but she’s saved from future health issues when Eulayla Baptist, the owner, dies in a car crash That’s when she joins Waist Watchers. Though she must count calories, at least on that plan she’s eating real food.

Shortly after the book and series begin, Plum meets Verena Baptist, daughter of Eulayla who started The Baptist Plan, that Plum was sucked into. Verena is on a mission to help women, especially those harmed by her mother, find self-empowerment.

In another storyline, men are being pushed off freeway overpasses, off buildings and out of airplanes. These men are all sex offenders. The first of these men has a piece of paper stuffed in his mouth with the name “Jennifer” on it. It is determined that Jennifer is a group of “terrorist” women. They are taking revenge on men who got away with harassment and rape. Plum is minimally connected to this group through a strange young woman named Leeta, who is also the one who sends Plum on her journey toward self-love and empowerment.

This is a woman’s book. It shows the struggles that all women go through as they try to make their place in this male dominated world. For example, Plum hates to go outside because when she does she’s confronted by nasty looks, harassment, and judgmental comments from all kinds of people. Kitty goes on a funny, and sad rant that describes her fears of losing her position as she ages. The Jennifer women have had enough of men getting away with raping and abusing women. Though I don’t believe violence solves problems, I thought the book did a fantastic job of helping the reader understand why they chose the course of action they did. And I have to admit, it was satisfying to see male characters cower at the prospect of being treated the way they treat women.

But my favorite part of the story has to do with Verena Baptist and the other women who work together at Calliope House. They have already faced their demons and help other women, particularly Plum, find their power too. They are the ones who espouse the main message of the book, which is: To change the world, you have to love yourself first.

To me, Dietland is a feminist manifesto. Watch out men! Women are on to your games and tricks and we’re not going to play anymore. That’s a bandwagon I can wholeheartedly jump on.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. Have an empowering weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.