Xenophobic: intense or irrational fear or dislike of people from other countries.
Do you remember “freedom fries?” In 2003, when France openly opposed the war with Iraq, our government (who get paid a whole lot more than I do, btw) decided to change the name of French Fries served in the Congressional cafeteria to “Freedom Fries!” We’ll show you! Though this maneuver was obviously a highly intelligent act of protest (*sigh*), the dislike or fear of foreigners has been ever present throughout history (and is perpetuated by antics like the Freedom Fries incident).
Xenophobia is a toxic feeling and is used to justify all sorts of atrocities. Why is it that we (humans) fear the unfamiliar? Why do we fear our neighbors? Foreigners represent “the other.” Something other than ourselves; strange, different, alien. We fear the loss of our cultural identity. We see skin color as somehow defining our character and the mixing of races somehow contaminates that. OK, so it’s true that we (big WE) have done some hard work on overcoming these feelings. But there’s a long way to go (as evidenced by our ongoing need to identify one group as “the other” and try to oppress them).
How many people still see someone of Middle Eastern descent and feel uneasy? My family is Hispanic and my mother is often stopped for extra screening at the airport because she looks Middle Eastern. She’s not. But what if she were? My mother is a pacifist. She’s the person least likely to be a threat, especially on planes, which make her nervous. Of course, you can’t tell that by her complexion or the shape of her nose. But we’ve created a security system built around racial profiling. Here’s the problem. The people who actually want to hurt us are paying attention. If we create our system around the concept of “the other,” the logical step for someone who wants to beat the system is to make sure the next evildoers are “us.” (P.S. using the word evildoers here made me cringe, but I’m going with it anyway).
It’s a vicious circle. What do you think? Am I way off base here? Chime in. Your thoughts on this topic are very welcome (but please keep it constructive).
My daughter and I are reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Now, anything by Roald Dahl is likely to be a little on the strange side, but I can’t help thinking that Willy Wonka is maybe the weirdest character ever. I’m partial to the Gene Wilder version of the infamous Mr. Wonka; playful, whimsical, but still an adult at the end of the day. The Johnny Depp version might be closer to Roald Dahl’s vision, but it’s never been my favorite. Re-reading these books with me has given me some insight into why. Willa Wonka is weird.
That I find Willa Wonka’s weirdness a little worrisome is saying a lot. After all, I am weird. Some of the stuff that comes out of my mouth even surprises me. But there’s something disconcerting about Wonka’s weirdness. And I don’t think I ever noticed it as a kid so I think this re-evaluation is happening through my adult / mom filter. I can’t help but wonder what happened to Willy Wonka. The Johnny Depp movie has that strange dentist backstory which I actually found too creepy. Johnny Depp played creepy Willa Wonka like nobody’s business.
I really do like the whimsical Gene Wilder portrayal best. I am of the opinion that that adaptation of the book combined all the best moments of both Chocolate Factory and Great Glass Elevator. And despite the more recent remake, the Gene Wilder version is timeless. My kids love to watch it and I do too.
Which is your favorite version? Have your kids read the books? Share your stories of weirdness and whimsy!
I almost wrote about feeling vengeful. When someone hurts us, getting back at them may seem like a good idea. But luckily, most of the time we can talk ourselves down from those vengeful feelings and move forward. I read a lot of thrillers, so vengeful feelings are common. Vengeance is actually fairly simple to understand though. Vulnerability and validation, on the other hand…now that’s where things get complicated.
Feeling vulnerable can lead to a whole lot of strange and even dangerous behaviors. For instance, a woman gets mugged and all of sudden she can’t sleep, she can’t eat, she stops hanging out with her friends. She might install extra locks on her doors. Or she might even become incredibly angry, lashing out at the people she loves. Vulnerability can cause emotional and even physical reactions. I just read a book about a woman who’d been abducted and held captive for over a year. After being rescued, she became a vigilante. Her experiences drove her to stalk predators and, in doing so, she felt less vulnerable.
And then there’s validation. Oh the things that people will do to feel validated. Is it human nature to want to be right? To know that the things we believe are true, commonly held, supported. But when that need to feel validated is combined with fear, anger and control issues, it can become ugly. For instance, a parent chooses to listen only to advice that validates their own beliefs, reads articles that validate their choices and uses those resources to make decisions for their children. What are the implications?
Yes, there’s a reason I’m thinking about this. No, I don’t want to discuss the details. But suffice it to say that the challenges a friend is facing have me considering how far a person will go to feel validated and to avoid feeling vulnerable.
It’s finally happened. I’m feeling rather unwell today and I may have to consider that raw onions and I aren’t the BFF’s we’ve always been. But how can I live without raw onions! That’s like cutting garlic or…dare I even think it…green chile from my diet. What’s a New Mexican girl supposed to do without onions? I think I’ll live in denial a bit longer and just hope I’m plain old-fashioned sick.
As with “D”, the list of feelings starting with “U” is largely comprised of “un” words. I’m feeling unclear, unmotivated, unwanted, unloved…You get the picture. The word ugly is on the list and that brought my mind around to the late 90’s TLC hit Unpretty. I always liked that song. Years before Christina Aguilera crooned about being Beautiful, TLC was making a statement about the pressure placed on girls to be conventionally beautiful. The lyrics paint a fairly graphic picture of all the things we can do to conform to society’s idea of beauty: extensions, plastic surgery…you name it. But the group urges listeners to question those who’ve set these standards.
We see a lot more of that these days. Lots of messages about the dangers of fat-shaming; lots of companies with plus-size sections and plus-size models (though there’s some debate about the term plus-size and it’s impact on women). We’ve really become aware of the tremendous harm we do to women and girls by holding them to unrealistic expectations of beauty. How many of us have had someone call us fat and then run out and got thin? If that sort of abuse actually produces a result (other than depression and low self-esteem), it’s usually the unhealthy kind. How many women with eating disorders can trace the roots of their disease to verbal and emotional abuse? And for that matter, how many men can?
In the “K” section, I talked about kindness, so here are a few words about unkindness. Words hurt. That old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” diminishes the impact that words have on us. It equates emotional abuse with physical pain, and it’s just not an accurate comparison. Emotional pain is felt days, years and even decades later. Physical wounds may heal while emotional scars are ever present. Even the emotional impact of a physical trauma (i.e. PTSD suffered after a car accident) is often the more difficult wound to treat.
Be kind to one another.
Now, I’m off to sauté my onions.
Oh temptation, you rascal. Feeling tempted is an interesting thing. Temptation reveals your strength of character and determination. It toys with your will power. It’s that chocolate brownie sitting on the table that you know you have no business eating. Nonetheless, you inch nearer and inhale deeply, breathing in the intoxicating aroma. Your mouth waters. Your pulse quickens. Even if your will is strong and you have no intention of touching the brownie, temptation can have powerful physical manifestations.
I know what you’re thinking. Give that girl some chocolate!
Temptation can make you feel twitchy. Of course, stress makes me feel more twitchy. When I am stressed out for a prolonged period, I get that twitching eyelid thing. Drives me completely crazy! I know it’s just a matter of relaxing and it’ll be gone, but the muscle spasms annoy me and it takes a lot of will power to calm down. Does that ever happen to you?
Tenacity. Possibly one of my very best traits. Or maybe one of my worst? I’m not easily dissuaded. I may not always have a thick skin, but I’m also not at all likely to let getting my feelings hurt make me doubt my ability to live my dreams. On the other hand, I have a hard time letting go of things. So, like most thing, I think tenacity has its good and bad sides.
(I admit, I can’t think of this word without Tenacious D songs running through my head. I really really like Jack Black.)
Another “T” word: tangent. Happy Monday!
Boy, does my sassiness get me in trouble sometimes. I’m a very social person. I love getting to know new people. Occasionally, my cheekiness is off-putting. But for the most part, I’m pretty easy to get along with and I’m cheerful. My sassy nature works well at writing conferences. I have no problem approaching new people and, more often than not, you’ll find me joking around with even the most serious presenters. This weekend I had a great time interacting with literary agents, experienced authors and other professionals in the field. And my sassy self only ended up in one hilarious and awkward situation as a result. Go me!
On the way to the conference, my sister texted me with the news that Prince had died. This is so not the year for celebrities and rock and roll legends. When Alan Rickman died, I was sad, sad, sad. Prince’s death was especially sobering. He was so young and as I get older, deaths like these make me feel my own mortality. Not only that, but I spent a good portion of the weekend feeling super nostalgic. I grew up on Prince & the Revolution. Even at a very young age, I could feel the raw emotion coming through in those songs. They’re powerful and sensual. I love listening to music that makes me feel things deep in my gut. Prince was like that. Can’t help but be sad that he’s gone, but thankful that I can put on tunes and rock out.
…which is precisely what I did Friday morning. Had you been a fly on the wall in my hotel room, you’d have seen me in full dance party mode. I cranked up Purple Rain and danced like a madwoman. It was so energizing and I had a great day. Thank you dear Prince for your contributions to music, pop culture and my heart.
Today, I'm feeling ready. I'm heading to the Northern Colorado Writers conference. I've picked out the sessions I want to attend. I've got most of my stuff together (just a few things left to go) and I'm ready to spend the next few days immersed in my craft. Woo hoo!
It's going to be a great reboot. When I get back home, I'll be working hard to get the first draft of my next book finished. It'll be fun to apply all the lessons on character, plot and setting that I'll be getting over the next few days. I'm kind of a "school" nerd so I get excited about taking classes. And when the material is something I can directly apply to what I'm doing in my career, that's even better.
So, ready, set, here I go! What are you ready for today? Are you working on a new project? Finishing an ongoing one? Are you ready for the weekend?
Looking forward to hearing from you. The next few posts may be a little short and I'm sure they'll revolved around conference. That being said, at last year's conference, many many things happened (both good and bad) so I'm keeping an open mind. Who knows what you might read here!
I love “Q.” It includes fun words like queasy and quirky. But my favorite is quixotic, because, quite frankly, I feel this way all the time!
For the record, quixotic refers to something or someone who is “exceedingly idealistic.” Some synonyms: romantic, visionary and extravagant...oh yeah, and also unrealistic, impractical and starry-eyed. If you’ve ever worked on a project with me, you know that I dream big. I spout off extremely ambitious ideas and people look at me like I’m crazy. When I give gifts, I go overboard. And I always expect the best out of people. It’s not just disappointing but shocking at times when someone is unkind. Exceedingly idealistic, that’s me. OK, maybe I’m more realistic than I give myself credit for. But I like to imagine a world full of love and kindness, and I’m not at all convinced it’s not possible.
The word quixotic became popular after the publication of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic work The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. In the novel, Don Quixote is so affected by chivalric romances that he sets off on a series of adventures guided by fantasy rather than reality. Who does that sound like people? Don’t we always complain that watching romantic movies sets false expectations about real relationships? For those of us who love a good romance, does it ever make real life seem a little bit dull? Maybe we all feel a bit quixotic from time to time.
That being said, I just booked excursions for my honeymoon including tours in “Romantic Austria” where I foresee a lot of kissing and cuddling going on. So, I guess real life can be pretty fantastic too. Eat your heart out, Elizabeth Bennett.
I’ve never had a problem with writer’s block. What I find more distracting is feeling pensive. When I’m lost in thought, usually about something personal, I have a hard time thinking about what I’m working on. And there have been a lot of serious things to think about, especially in the last few months. This year has presented many opportunities for me professionally, all of which weigh heavily on my mind. When it comes to my career, I try to think things through. But I’m also a total over-thinker so I have a tendency to get carried away.
On a sadder note, a friend’s death earlier this year has kept me thinking about death, and life and how we live it. At odd moments, I find myself thinking about him and about his young daughter who will grow up without him. My high school reunion is coming up this summer and one of my classmates passed away this year as well. It’s a different sort of feeling when a peer passes away. Obviously, it brings to mind my own mortality. But more than that, it makes me think about how I spend my time. I’m thankful for the opportunity to do what I love and especially grateful that my career allows me the flexibility to spend tons of time with my kids. These moments are so precious.
And finally, I’m getting married this year. As you might have guessed, this isn’t my first rodeo. Over the past few years, my family has done a lot of adjusting. The kids and I went from being on our own to living again as a family with a showroom new co-parent. Learning to co-parent again has been challenging. And moving to Colorado so that the kids could have more time with their father was also a big transition for all of us. There are a lot of serious moments when the stress seems overwhelming. But there are also these joyful times when we’re all (and I mean all of us, including my ex) are working together so well. We’re a family – just configured differently.
Whether it’s my age or my previous experiences, I find myself approaching my new marriage much more seriously than I would have imagined. When you’re young, it’s easy to get caught up in the wedding. At this stage in my life, I think a lot about the actual marriage and what it means to me and to our whole family. Some days, I am full of doubt. After all, if I couldn’t make the previous marriage work, what makes me so optimistic about this one? I could tell you that part of what makes it different is my fiance, and I wouldn’t’ be lying. He’s my best friend and we’ve been through a lot together. But I think the thing that makes this time around different is actually me. When I look at myself now vs. 15 years ago, I know that I am a very different person now. I have grown. I’ve become much more self-aware. I’m the best me I can be and I think that makes a difference.
Most of all, I finally realize that failure is a very subjective concept. After my divorce, I wasn’t feeling terribly confident about my relationship-ing abilities. I felt like a failure. I’d failed my children. I’d failed myself and my husband. I was fully willing to not only carry the entire burden of my failed relationship, but I’d allowed the divorce to grow into something monstrous – something that would likely destroy all our lives. For those of you who are divorced with kids, ever feel that way? It’s taken me years (and therapy J) to discover that there are very few things in the world that are that black and white. And while my marriage didn’t work out, I was still capable of making good choices for me and for my children. And you know what? I think we’ve done OK.
See, this is me feeling pensive. As uncomfortable as these pensive moments may be, I know that I learn from them. So here’s to embracing discomfort, sitting with our feelings, opening our minds and learning how to be successful in our lives (whatever that means to each of us).
Oof! That’s me today. Feeling out of it. Kids had a four-day weekend so everyone was a little groggy this morning. I could use a nap, and it’s only 10am. Yikes! Here’s hoping my concentration improves.
Also feeling overworked, but that’s just because it’s a short week for me. Two and a half days of work time before heading to the Northern Colorado Writers conference. So much to do to prepare. I’ll have books available for sale at the conference bookstore this year. Very exciting! And the classes are really inspiring and thought-provoking. I look forward to seeing everyone again, but before that can happen, I’ve got a monster to-do list to get through.
OK, and last but not least, I’m feeling optimistic. Several of the writers in my critique group are pitching to agents at this conference. They’ve written some really wonderful books and I’m excited to see how they do. This group has been such a great source of support and encouragement for me. It’s easy to be optimistic when they’re involved and I’m wishing them all luck!
How’s your day going?
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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