…Perhaps we were only mildly entertained. Regardless, please enjoy these Reviews, Responses, Works of Fiction, and Retellings brought to you by one who hopes to someday join the ranks of those who have written something worth reading.
(Kaylia Metcalfe)

Also, don't forget to visit Kaylia's Official Website where you can get information about Kaylia's upcoming events, and learn more about her free lance writing and other publications.

E and Me and Books: Horton Hears a Who

We made another book review video!

Credit Cards, French Revolution, and Nail Polish!

The world is far more complex and interesting than we tend to think. Today I want to do a Throwback Thursday that is a bit different.


A quick little history of credit cards... did you know they got their start here in Fresno? I didn't!

And.... on this day in history: King Louis the 16th was killed after being found guilty of conspiracy with foreign powers by the French National Convention.

This is a big deal. Killing the Monarch and killing the monarchy led the way for different types of government... like our own. As I am currently working my way through the French Revolution by Mike Duncan (something I cannot recommend highly enough*), I find that interesting. Wanna know something else that is interesting? You have heard of the Reign of Terror... you know, the big "everybody gets to die" part of the French Revolution? Well it was carried out by a committee called the Committee of Public Safety. These guys were all about killing those who spoke up or who were even remotely connected to those who spoke up against the new government in France. (Ironic since freedom was part of the reason behind the revolution in the first place...)

ANYway,  remember that group of batshit insane "freedom" fighters aka the Domestic Terrorists in Oregon? Yeah... well apparently the outside group that is supporting them (formed before the occupation as a way of illustrating local support) is called ... The Committee of Safety! I have to wonder at their choice of names. Yeah, it isn't the same. But it i close and it is just as wacky.

And lastly, because why not, here are a few facts about the history of ... Nail Polish!

(Ironic choice i know as I have finally accepted that I bite my nails and cannot stop so 2016 is the first year I can remember NOT making "grow out my nails" a NY resolution... but I digress...)

Interesting Facts about Nail Polish

-- Invented in China
-- First color by Revlon was cream
-- Acrylic nails were (partly) invented by a dentist: in the late 70s, Dr. Stuart Nordstrom, invented the professional liquid and powder system used in acrylics. 
-- There are 13 (!) types of nail polish finishes; And they include: shimmer, micro-shimmer, micro-glitter, glitter, frost, lustre, crème, prismatic micro-glitter or shimmer, iridescent, opalescent, matte, duo-chrome, and translucent.

You future Trivial Pursuit champions can thank me later!

Anyway, have a great Thursday!

* Seriously. He did the English Revolution, the American Revolution, and is currently doing the Haitian Revolution... 20-ish minutes each and done with a great ability to tell you what you need to know in a storytelling format that keeps you engaged and learning... I cannot say enough good things about this series. Except that the only thing I love more than his Revolutions series was his History of Rome series which was incredibly long but incredibly fascinating. Check it out. Really. Check it out, you will be glad you did.

A White Woman’s Thoughts on MLK, #BLM, and The Bay Bridge Protests

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and like many cities across the nation, Fresno had a gathering. I attended this gathering with my family and I have the following thoughts:

1. This rally and march was a celebration of Dr. King’s life and a chance for a community to come together to mourn his loss and to check in regarding how much progress has been made since his death. The man was a hero, a legend, and totally merits the acclaim he receives. There is no doubt about that. HOWEVER, a fair number of groups attended yesterday’s event under the banners of causes tangentially related to Dr. King’s work. Of course climate change matters (and it affects African American /Latino communities and the poor disproportionately). Of course migrant farmers have rights that are being trampled on. Of course undocumented workers are at higher risk of being brutalized. Of course woman should have access to birth control. These causes (and others like them) matter. But yesterday was about Black Lives (and how they Matter) and these groups should have stayed more in the background… or better yet put down their signs and join the march in true solidarity.

2. Actually, the “other causes” issue was like a micro chasm for the Black Lives Matters vs All Lives Matters fight that is (stupidly) still continuing. But more on that later.

3. There were a lot of speeches. Mostly by local big wigs and mostly centering around ideas of unity, coming together, honoring the ideals of Dr. King, etc They were mostly good if a bit long.

4. Worst Speech: Pat Brown (if I have that right), from the Clinton campaign. Her speech was the most pandering. She talked about people who had known Dr. King, people who had been alive when Dr. King was alive… and how these people (only “one degree of separation from Dr. King!”) were all endorsing Hillary Clinton. Which… is nice… but not really relevant at this sort of gathering. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why a political campaign would send a delegate to motivate people to vote in an election… but the whole thing felt sour. She even brought up some children roped into holding a Clinton sign to stand in front of her during her speech. Tacky. AND.. and I know this is quibbling now… but she referenced the “GLB” community… which leaves off the “T”… and I’m sorry but both the HRC and Mrs HRC don’t have the best track record with the Transgender community so to leave them off like that was a pretty big misstep in my opinion.

5. Ahem.

6. Best speech: Councilman Oliver Baines. This man knows how to speak to a crowd and his message was vital. He started off by saying how Dr. King made people uncomfortable with his activism and that he, Oliver Baines, was going to make us a little uncomfy too. Because, he went on, it is fine to celebrate the life of Dr. King… but the truth can be disconcerting. And the truth is that a lot of us aren’t doing anything. What are you doing, he asked the crowd, when Trump makes his statements full of hate and bigotry? (And then he compared Trump to the KK which was… awesome). What are you doing, he asked us, when unarmed black boys are killed? I filmed the 2nd half of his speech because no recap here can do it justice… (sorry for not getting the Trump / KKK part). There is a protester who starts yelling… I *think* it was about cops killing people but he really gets going when Mr. Baines starts talking about standing up for the LGBT population (Calling out churches that spew hate!!). Thank you Mr. Baines.

7. And then we marched and sang and it was sobering and sad and wonderful all at once.

8. I went home and was almost instantly confronted with articles about the Bay Bridge protests. And of course, the nasty rude vulgar horrible comments about the Bay Bridge protesters.

9. But here’s the thing. I can spin my wheels all day explaining and then explaining again and again and again the importance of #BlackLivesMatter and how #AllLivesMatter is stupid and self serving and MISSES THE BLOODY POINT… I can wax poetic about how civil disobedience NEEDS to make people feel uncomfortable because otherwise nothing changes… I can even point out the latent hypocrisy of “enlightened not racists” folks bitching about the protestors… but when all is said and done…

10. This woman says it better. And really, we should be listening to her, not me.

Why #BlackLivesMatter Protests Are Happening Across the Country
This woman tells us what ignited the #BlackLivesMatter movement. “An Overreaction,” written and performed by Sarah O'Neal.
Posted by AJ+ on Sunday, January 17, 2016

Everything Old is New Again.

I have been 35 for a month now.

I made it through the holidays mostly intact and without gaining any weight (no small feat to be sure).

And now... it is the start of a new year and the start of my downhill slide to 40.

And like many birthdays and New Years Days in the past, I am considering my options and goals... and this year I am finding that I don't really like the plans I am formulating..

I don't feel like I can make a writing goal as I didn't meet the last several writing goals I set for myself and with my eyes being the way they are (glaucoma that ebbs and flows despite all the medication)

I don't feel like I can even make a "read X number of books" goal for the same reason.

The nonprofit that I have poured my time and energy into is going through some changes... and while those are good and necessary, I don't know how I fit into the organization anymore... and coupled with the frustration of not having reliable vision and eye energy to do things, I feel like maybe I should take even more steps back so that someone more qualified and with more energy can step forward.

And I have pretty much decided to stop trying to not bite my fingernails. I am 35 years old. I think I just need to let that one go. I bite my nails. It is gross and hurts my jaw... but I cannot seem to stop and you know what? I am tired of feeling guilty about failing.

Of course, there are still areas where I can set goals. Health /wellness, financial security, home projects, and of course Ella's ongoing education and empowerment.

And while I am excited about those goals and the benefits I will reap from meeting them, it is a very odd sensation to not be including writing or reading in my long term )or short term) plans.

I feel like part of my personality has splintered off and left this huge gaping hole.

Honestly, if I think about it too much I start to freak out and want to cry and stomp my feet and throw things.

But that's not really all that productive, is it?

And being productive... being a better steward of my time and energy... making good choices and modeling this for my daughter, these are part of my goals.

So I guess I will do something else.

I'm 35. I'm an adult.

And I don't really know who I am anymore. So here's to 2016 being the year I figure that out.

Notes From the Front Lines

It happened.

There were times before where I know I got close, but today it happened.

I reached the end of my rope.

And then I became someone I never wanted to become; a Mommy Monster.

I yelled. I held her too tight, I let her drop from my arms onto the bed below. I yelled. I stomped my feet. I sobbed.

I was not the best version of myself. I wasn't even the mediocre version of myself.

I was a horrible red faced sweating cursing evil end of my rope version of myself.

Would it matter if I told you that this fit was edging into it's second full hour of screaming? No.  Or how many times I had tried to calm her down? No... because she is the toddler and I am the adult and I didn't act like an adult. At least not like an adult I would feel good about leaving my child with.

I am full of loathing. For myself and my actions. For my inability to cope with a child who is almost as stubborn as I am. For my lack of patience.

I look at her now, eating her peas and glancing up at me while I type.

She is still flushed from the fight, her hair is matted, teas still on her face.

A perfect reflection of myself.

I wipe my eyes.

Ella, I say, trying to keep my voice calm and without cracks.

Ella, I'm sorry I was not a good version of myself. I should not have yelled at you.

Yeah, she says, her voice small. I'm sorry you yelled at me too.

What about all the yelling you did to me? I want to ... yell. But I don't.

Umm, what about your fit, I ask, are you sorry about that.

She shrugs.

And now, because it has been a while and because I called a fellow mom and cried and because I have taken my requisite number of deep breaths, and because I am the adult, I close my eyes for a moment and feel my rope of patience, the rope of every moment is a teaching moment, the rope of sanity un-spool itself from around my neck and stretch out before me.

Would you like more peas?

Yes, and can I have more water please?


Reason 65 / Language of Flowers Review

There are a lot of reasons I haven't finished my novel yet.

Most of them can be called excuses.

Some are valid.

You know like having a baby, losing my vision, that sort of stuff.

But a large part of the reason behind my lack of novel completion is that I lack sufficient motivation. I don't have anything really riding on finishing it etc.

Unlike, say, the motivation to write a 861 word rant about a book I read four years ago and disliked on a Facebook thread.

I don't understand myself sometimes.

Does it really matter to me if a bunch of people I don't know like a book that came out 4 years ago?

Apparently it matters a little.

So... for those of who who are just dying to know what I write instead of my novel or short stories when I have ten minutes of computer time (usually while Ella is eating).... I give you my no-coffee-yet-but-omg-someone-on-the-internet-wants-my-opinion rant about the book The Language of Flowers.

(Yes, my opinion was actually sought. I said I didn't enjoy the book and was asked by multiple people to expound on that. I'm sure they regret asking, but It's TOO LATE~!!!! Bwhahahahah!)

/from the FB thread of Lisa/

Ok, here are my thoughts on the book… my only caveat in sharing is that these ae my opinions (many shared by the members of my book club) and I totally understand that they are not universal… nor do I want anyone thinking that my dislike of the book in any way infringes on my respect for the author or my like and support of those who enjoyed it.

I found the prose and the story itself over simplistic, formulaic, and trite. While the backdrop of the flower language was a great concept and was tied together well, it became so much a gimmick that it was hard to take seriously. I lacked true empathy for the main character; she was downright difficult to root for… and having a protagonist we can root for (good or evil) isn’t necessarily a must, but it certainly helps. In this case, all the characters seemed one note, easily defined by a small bouquet and lacking much in the way of roots… none of them were well grounded. (See what I did there? Flower and plant puns are hard to resist.)

I like the narrative device of moving back and forth in time; parallel structure is a time honored way of telling stories, but the near mirror effect used in this novel made the movement repetitive and predictable.  And instead of building tension with the “what is the big bad thing that happened?” question we instead get frustrated with the plodding plot.

The childbirth,  breastfeeding, post partum psychosis part was… difficult to read because I felt that a very powerful thing was happening in terms of character development but it was lost in the excess of bloody nipples… and  battle of wills with the infant really struck a bad note for me. Actually, the entire unplanned pregnancy, childbirth, and new adoption aspect was downright eye rolling… again because not only was it cliché and overworked but it was so downright unbelievable. The lack of legal documentation of the baby at the very least is enough to make me want to rip out my hair.

Too much in this novel relied on plot contrivances… have a plot hole? That’s cool, talk about flowers and shoehorn something in and no one will notice.

Examples? Sure. The midwife who just happened to be nearby and well respected, the ability for this homeless teenager to work fancy weddings let alone get a job while sleeping in the park, the childhood connection found after years and in a hugely crowded city… even the idea of Victoria sneaking into restaurants to finish food off people’s plates and not getting caught. Really? As someone who was homeless for a brief period of time I find this entire part of the book really really problematic and borderline offensive. It, like how the book deals with the trauma of the foster care system, seems to be written for an audience who wants to cluck their tongues at these huge big bad issues from the comfort of our couches before the potluck begins. Yes, this book and the marketing and the companion flower dictionaries, are the epitome of the chick lit book club genre… in all the worst ways. Tortured female character searching for her happy ending? Check. Long lost love / perfect man brought back by fate to cure her wounded heart? Check. The magical power of a mother’s love that can cure all things? Check. The lack of logic when it comes to the actual things that happen in the book being overlooked because of pretty prose and an overly simple super tidy wrapped up in a bow ending? Check.

I feel like if the entire novel had been written as magical realism, then we could have forgiven these lapses, but having it attempt to be grounded in reality and to showcase a very real issue with the foster care system while striking this tone of fairy tale la-la-la, made it problematic.

A few final notes:

Elizabeth’s borderline abusive (definitely not consent respecting) announcement that she likes to be touched and so Victoria will have to get used to it is downright creepy and gross.

The sex scene was anything but sexy and there are some levels of consent worry here as well.

In fact, the plants and flowers get way more visceral descriptions… they are far sexier and more interesting than the people.

The shtick of the flowers gets so overdone that it invades even the characters names. Of course her name is Victoria. How… convenient.

The unforgivable act that is pretty much forgiven at the drop of a hat.

The ending felt rushed and overly sweet. Lifetime / Hallmark movie material for sure, but also predictable and cliché.

To sum up: I understand why this book was as popular as it was. It was written by someone who obviously knows how to structure a novel for maximum chick lit aplomb. And for those who want to pretend that their beach book has substance, this might be the perfect vacation companion. I, however, ended the book with a feeling of relief that it was over and I could move on with life. 

Yes, this is a photo link to the book on amazon, I welcome dissenting opinions!

A matter of race?

I had a weird experience the other night.

First: a bit of set up.

Like many, I am upset by the rampant racism that I see portrayed in the media. I shake my head and cluck my tongue and give my money to nonprofit groups.

Also, I am white. Like super white, and I don't encounter racism day to day. And the friends I have in minority groups seldom complain to me about racism. Which isn't to say they don't experience it, but that it isn't on my radar in a personal sense, but more as an abstract thing that happens to other people in other places.

At least until the other night.

Stage set, let's get to the story.

It is evening, music playing, people shouting laughing; a crowded restaurant bar in Fresno. . I approach the bar to order another drink. Behind the row of drinkers there is another row of people pressed together, waiting.

And a small little spot opens up between a woman nursing something red and a "bro" in a ball cap staring glumly at his phone. 

I gesture to the spot to the woman standing next to me and say, "I think you were here first." She nods and squeezes in.

The bartender approaches and... and then what it looked like to me was that she, the bartender, glances at the woman who just got the spot and then looks over her to me and says, "Another one?" and I, happy at being noticed nod and smile and shout out my order.

Freeze frame. Does it matter that the woman clearly at the bar in front of me is black? That I am white? that the bartender is white?

Asian, I am super pleased to be singled out and so when I answer, "Yeah, another cherry bomb" (I told you I am super white right? Don't judge my girly drink), I don't really give it much thought.

And then.

The woman in front of me turns and looks at me... and the look on her face makes me suddenly realize that I just cut in front of her while standing behind her.

"Wait," I say to her and to myself, "did she just skip you?"

She nods and turns back around and I am thunderstruck. Did that just happen?

The spot next to her opens and I squeeze next to her. I flag down the bartender by leaning waaaay over the bar. She hasn't started getting my drink yet, "Hey," I say catching her eye, "she was first, so my cherry bomb and whatever she wants."

Bartender nods.

I look at the woman next to me, she is looking at me with a look that I read as a mix of surprise and disgust.

"What are you having?" 

"A beer"

Again I lean and flag and make a fool of myself to the harried bartennder, "She wants a beer, get her's first."

Again the bartender nods.

But she brings my drink first (to be fair, she might have already started it, I do't know) and I don't touch it. I stand there awkwardly while she asks the woman next to me what kind of beer and then I continue to stand there awkwardly as the beer is poured and delivered.

"I got this" I tell the woman, "I'm sorry"

She accepts the offer and rewards me with a smile and a touch on the arm.

I take my drink and return to my friends... and I wonder.

Was that racism?

Now, I have been told by people who know way more than I do about such things, that since I had an open tab, the bartender would probably have served me before anyone standing in front of me because I am a guaranteed sale / order / tip. I'm not sure I agree with that as I have had many tabs over the years and I don't think it has ever gotten me special service... at least none that I noticed. (Maybe I have been going to the wrong bars)

But even if that is the case, the woman in front of me didn't know that. All she knew is that she was first and she got literally overlooked by the white girl in front of her for the white girl behind her.

I can see how she would be angry, heck, I'm angry on her behalf.

And I have enough liberal guilt that I can't stop thinking about it. Yes, it was a minor thing. Yes, it might not have been a bona fide "thing" but it felt like a thing and it served as a reminder to me that privilege comes with responsibility.  It is my job as a person of privilege to be vigilant and to do what I can, and I hope that next time I react faster in the interest of fairness.