Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Princess Bride

(cross posted at Reviews, Chews & How-Tos)

I am often terrible at getting the things I plan to write actually written - I keep a long, long list of post ideas I plan to write and then experience writer's block about getting the actual words down, even though I'm thinking about what I want to say often.  Usually, this is because I very much want to make a positive commentary, but the subject matter itself turns out to be problematic.

Months ago, now, I received a book via Blind Date with a Book (an excellent service, and I highly recommend you give them a try!).  You can read my review here - I talked about their service, but kept the book I received a secret so it wouldn't ruin the surprise for anyone wanting to choose the book based on their hints.

What they do is wrap books - some old classics, some newer offerings - in plain brown paper labeled with just a few key hints at what it might be. You select your book based on those keywords and then a lovely surprise book comes to you!

The hints for my book were "Spoof fairy tale * Romance * Adventure * Fantastical * Hilarious".  My guesses when I picked it were that it might be 1) something by Terry Pratchett, 2) The Princess Bride or 3) something wonderful I had never come across before.  Any of these options sounded great to me, so it was win win win, no matter what.

It turned out to be Princess Bride - which I'd checked out of the library and read once long ago, and I've seen the movie several times. Hooray!

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman was originally published in 1973, and then updated and expanded in 1999, well after the movie release in 1987.

For those that love  the movie (also written by Goldman), there is much to love in the book, because most of the movie dialogue is lifted wholly from the book without change.

I am pretty sure that the first time I read it, it was the earlier edition - the one I received was the update.

So first, the good - it is the same rollicking tale as the movie, which makes it an easy, fast paced read that feels very nostalgic and familiar.

I don't have a lot else to say about that - I don't think I've ever read a book with a movie tie-in that so completely mirrored one another. What's in the movie is in the book, although the book does provide some additional backstory and expansion on the history of most of the main characters.

On that basis, I'd recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the movie.

So what led to my discomfort with writing about it? It's the expansion.  The premise of the movie is a grandfather reading an old book to his sick grandson.

In the book, Goldman makes a fictionalized version of himself the main character - while in real life, he has two daughters, his fictionalized self has an unhappy relationship with his wife, and a son he doesn't connect to.

His descriptions of his thoughts toward this family of his were really off-putting to me - he blames his wife for being a strong, successful woman, and refers to his son with contempt - he's fat (depicted as a character flaw more than merely a physical trait), he isn't interested in the things his father is, which is evidence that he is an unworthy son.

He wants to have a better relationship with him mainly as a matter of duty, but he pretty much puts the fault on the kid for not being the son he actually wants.  And there is never any irony in this, never any sense that he, the author, knows the mistake in this. His family disappoints him, so he avoids his son  and cheats on his wife.  Their fault.

I have a really hard time seeing this as anything other than a veiled dig at his actual non-fictional family.

He remembers a book his father (or grandfather? I can't actually recall) read to him as a child, and thinks perhaps his own son will bond with him over this book, so he goes to great expense to locate this obscure book in a second hand shop and has it sent to his son while he's away on a business trip.

Later he asks him how he liked it and the kid says he didn't and tried to read it but couldn't.  Again the son has failed him - how could he not love this wonderful story of love an pirates and adventure?  What is wrong with this boring lump of a kid?? What a waste of time and money getting him the book!

Well - it turns out the book wasn't fiction - it was a very dry and badly written book of history, and while the stories were in there, they weren't written to entertain.  His father/grandfather had greatly editorialized the book when he read the 'good parts' to him so long ago.

So, he sets out to rewrite it as it should have been - a fairy tale.

And thus, we enter the story of the Princess Bride

Goldman definitely makes it a fairy tale - Buttercup isn't simply beautiful, she is the Most Beautiful Girl in the World.  And that is all she brings to the story - her personality is petulant, kind of mean, bland, and incurious and she is a very passive participant  in the adventures that center around her.

And yet - she is Beautiful, and therefore a reasonable object of desire and all the resulting intrigue and chaos that ensues. Westly holds no interest for her at all other than as a thing to order around and demean, until he expresses love for her (because of her beauty) - then she loves him back.

Even more problematic, when Westly is still disguised as the Dread Pirate Robert, he enjoys a good round of actual physical violence toward her before revealing himself to her - and neither one of them seem to think this is disturbing. It's what Love does when it's angry, right?

The movie was better and now I'm afraid to rewatch it again because this is still a very strange 'love story'.
I'm not sure I'd have such a negative impression of her and their relationship if I hadn't read fictional-Goldman's criticisms of his wife for not being content to be a passive, supportive ornament for his own life.  And because I am not sure where real-Goldman and fictional-Goldman part ways, I wound up reading the entire thing through this somewhat annoyed lens.

Very disappointing!  It doesn't take away one bit from the fun parts of the story, but overall I think it doesn't age well... so much of this is rooted in the tail-end of the Mad Men era's notion of women, and he did nothing to correct it in this later update.

I'm glad I read it and don't want to discourage anyone from reading it who wants to, but I do think it's not suitable for younger readers unless there is a long discussion of how sometimes authors have some disappointing sexist views that need to be understood as such.

I get that when you read older books, you have to account for the era in which they were written - and I remember the early 70s well enough to recognize the attitudes Goldman brings to his story. But there is little cultural excuse for it in the late '90s, and I'd like to think that here in 2017, girls are no longer content to believe their value comes solely by how beautiful and willing they are to let men suffer and fight to attain them.

So, my assessment - problematic.  Just as fictional-Goldman needed to reframe dry history as a fairy tale, the resulting fairy tale needs some reworking. But - if you liked the movie, you'll probably enjoy at least the parts of this book that found it's way into the film!  If you don't want to be rabidly annoyed, feel free to skip the prologue, and maybe a lot of the parts about Buttercup and Westly.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Healthcare Anxiety

It's official - I have some sort of traumatic stress response to dealing with healthcare issues.  And mind you, I'm one of the lucky ones - I HAVE insurance and a cadre of good doctors trying to make sure I don't die unduly soon.

The background stress, of course, is the one we all share as we watch the politicians-currently-in-charge working their old white asses off to make sure none of us have affordable access to this, and knowing I have a collectors set of chronic conditions that put me second only to cancer patients on the list of people likely to see deductibles rise straight up into the nosebleed seats.

But down here, where it's personal, the whole process is causing me to burst out into tears everytime I have to talk to a doctor.  Here where it's personal, we maxed out of our out-of-pocket limit (which was pretty high) back in FEBRUARY - so I haven't had to pay for a thing since then.  Which is good, in a dark way.

But that's about to start all over again as January 1st - and Michael is currently between jobs. This means, if he doesn't have work by then, we'll not only be starting fresh having to pay out of pocket in January, but then we'll do it all AGAIN as soon as we flip over to a new insurance policy.

Every five weeks, I get biologic infusions to control my rheumatoid arthritis - this is why it got used up so fast. Those infusions come in at close to 20K. EVERY FIVE WEEKS. So that yearly out-of-pocket limit is hit all at once.

That is not counting all the other things I need to be seen for, and trust me, when you're 56 years old, there are a lot of things that need to be dealt with.

Today, I had my annual physical.  And it came with referrals for a mammogram and PAP, along with a trip to go see about a colonoscopy and deal with some pretty serious GERD issues, and possibly a sleep study at some point in the next few months to make sure I'm not risking a heart attack by breathing wrong in my sleep.

No way is all this happening before the end of the year, and while talking it all over with my doctor, I burst into tears before I even realized I was upset.

It surprised her and she's so nice, I had to assure her it wasn't her making me cry. She's fantastic, let's me talk and get to the end of a sentence - and awhile ago, I'd mentioned how often male doctors constantly cut me off at every sentence (and then grouse at me later because I didn't thoroughly explain symptions, hello??) - so now she always finds me women doctors, and usually the same ones she sees herself.

But, this marks the fourth time in three years that our insurance has led to a switch - with all new doctors who will take it or not take it, so I don't even want to set any tests up with anyone I may not even be able to see once that happens, or have to go through the approval process all over again.  It's no good to get tests and then not be covered for the follow up care.

I just had to cancel a surgical procedure for my hands that I've been working toward for the last half a year.  It was for reconstructive surgery on my left hand (the dominant one) and it has been both compelling and intimidating to plan for it.

The bottom line is that once it was done, I was looking at about six months of braces and near daily occupational therapy and zero use of that hand - so I'd planned to cut my hair very short, and we were looking at Michael pretty much doing everything for the duration.

Thing is - it would have worked. He was teleworking from home, and everything ahead looked peaceful and quiet enough to get through it.

Then he got laid off. No telework and we sure don't have the means for regular hired in-home care.  And the insurance shift meant maybe I'd lose my surgeon and my occupational therapist right in the middle of it all.

Not to mention, the next job may require us to move.

So no, it just couldn't be done.  So we cancelled and I'm probably going to be mourn and be relieved about that all at the same time for a long time.

The worst part of it - and what really made me cry when my very kind doctor expressed dismay that we weren't going to be able to do it is that I can never trust health care and life stability will stay solid long enough to ever do it.  It would have helped with constant pain but the risk of upheaval is too high - I have to let that go.

I'm traumatized.  And I don't know anyone who isn't.

And I feel bad for even worrying about it when I HAVE care, and will be able - soon I hope - to get all these referrals dealt with, and still HAVE access to the biologics let me have a life, because too many people that I know and love - and so many I don't know at all - are literally wondering if soon, they'll just have to die for lack of affordable care or worse, inability to access health care at any price.

Politicians are doing this. Our country is doing this.  Insurance tangled up with employment is doing this. It's so rooted in partisan politics and yet, it feels like the least political issue I can think of.  Poor health isn't partisan.  I will never understand how we got here, and I don't know how to look at it as if it's not personal.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Herndon Holiday Craft Show

One of the things I like about this time of year are all the craft shows - here in the Northern Virginia area, all the little community centers seem to hold one sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Today, we headed over to Herndon to visit there, and spent a nice couple of hours looking over the various handmade goodies and collecting cards to visit Etsy shops later.  There was a good range of knit, crocheted and quilted items, along with lots of jewelry makers, various artists and soap and candlemakers.

We resisted buying any holiday decor (I always want them all) because our holiday stash is enough for a house and we now live in a small apartment.  But he picked up a nice shaving brush and some beer soap and I scored with a hammered copper bracelet with a lovely blue patina, as well as a fragrance oil diffuser pendant with a tree of life design.


We topped off the afternoon with a late lunch/early dinner at Clydes, at Reston Town Center after a bit of window shopping and enjoying the (mostly) mild weather.

Tonight, we need to  take things easy and get to bed at a responsible time (something neither of us are even a little bit good at), as we each have early appointments - me for a physical, and Michael for a job interview.

Hopeful both with have positive results!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Well That Didn't Work Out Too Well!

Last year, I decided to participate in Holidailies. I got in ONE ENTRY, and haven't touched this blog since!!!  This may, in fact, be everything anyone needs to know about me. heh!

All I can say this time is - I'll try. But since I already missed Day 1, I've already failed so - pressure's off!

It's been an eventful year - but I don't know how to summarize it. Michael had a fantastic job - that he got laid off from a month ago, so now everything is in transition.  Our sweet 16 year old beagle, Sadie, died just days before that.  The lost job meant insurance upheaval that led to my needing to cancel some planned reconstructive surgery on my hand.

That all sounds negative, but really, life is good in spite of all that, and in spite of what's happening with our country right now.

We also have done a bit of traveling this past year - to Bethany Beach in Delaware and recently got to spend two weeks in Germany, where my daughter Jackie and her family are stationed.  His job search is going well and we have no worries that he won't find the right position well before the severance package runs out.  And while I can't have my surgery, that means I don't lose the use of my dominant hand for several months.

I may talk about some of these things over the next month, or maybe not.  As sure as I promise anything, well.... see last year.

But I look forward to trying!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ok, Let's do this thing

It's only been about a millionty-seven years since I actually tried any straight up online journaling, so the best I can say about my doing Holidailies is.. I'll try. If you look at the archives, you'll see my short lived failed stab at last years NaNoWriMo poetry theme with Magaly Guerrero.  Two whole days worth! Oi.

So, super speedy update for anyone who may have ever followed me way, way back in the day:

I got divorced.
I had some massive health issues.
My kids grew up and are sprouting families of their own and scattered around the globe.
I married fellow journalist and BFF Michael Hardy.
We live in Falls Church City, VA and are crazy-stupid-happy.
Life is good.
(discounting the whole 'omg, what did we just elect?!!!' thing.  I'll probably leave that out of Hollidailies - for that, find me on Facebook.

Our plans for December are to head off to WV to visit my youngest, her husband and my brand new granddaughter for a week, and we've be heading off somewhere -we've not decided yet - for Christmas.  I expect to fill my days with trivialities, and that's ok.

Nice to see you!  Onward!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

NaPoWriMo Day 2: Creativity & Pain

Thu, Apr 2nd – Creativity and Pain
This poem should explore creativity as a healing salve, as a shield, as a weapon, or as a negotiation method to use when dealing with physical and/or psychological pain.

An Imperfect House

When you live in a creaky house
You learn its personality.
Its exhalation and sighs
And how, when you step here,
it will groan in protest
And how there its warmth
Always attracts purring cats and babies.

A new house - a good house that
Hasn't yet experienced aging or running children
Or joints that no longer quite line up right
Is hard to get to know.

It's the chewed up doorframe
From when a now-grown man was two,
It's the chimney that whistles in storms
And the crack in the ceiling
That always inspires stories - remember that day?
Remember? Remember? We were so scared!
Said laughing around the table at fear now past
And fear that can be faced again if needed

A creaky house has lived,
has been stuffed full of life
Of pain, and joy and terror
And making do and getting by
And it knows
And you know
It will be ok, even if not all of it works
The way it used to or 'should'. 

You can't trust a new house, a perfect house.
It hasn't survived anything yet. 
If it is very very lucky,
it will one day be less perfect
And more strong.

~ Lynda Hardy, 2015

I'm not sure this bit of ramble actually gets at the topic - except that my chronic pain stems mainly from rheumatoid arthritis, which means that sometimes it is pain - at other times it is swelling that reduces mobility with or without pain, and there is also an element of deformity.  My hands particularly are  "joints that no longer line up quite right".  These various issues, except for the last, vary from day to day so that every task comes with a few questions:

  • Can I do this the way I usually do, or do I need to find a creative alternate way to do it?
  • Can I do this in a new and alternate way or is it just beyond me to deal with it alone?
  • Can I / will I ask for help - is there someone who can nearby, that I trust, that understands that asking is tough?  Will they let me live in my imperfect house and still allow me my dignity? 
  • Or shall I just let this task go for now?

In terms of 'creativity and pain' they are totally tied together - creative problem solving is the only way to be functional in a shifting world where one day your hands don't work and the next day your knees are screaming and a third day your elbow may decide to dislocate while in a really awkward position.

My imperfect house handles all that - not without damage and not without a lot of quirks, but it has been tried and tested and that is enough to put me into 'ok, what new way can we do this thing' mode instead of falling apart when things get hard.

Not that a little howling angrily up the chimney at the storm isn't a part of my arsenal!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

NaPoWriMo Day 1: The Birth of Your Art

Prompt: Base your first poem on the first work of art that inspired your creative addiction.


there was a time i remember
before teachers
and rules
when numbers were magic
and lived and danced and breathed
colors that were fluid like watercolors
that danced in a liquid ballet

in that time seven was a graceful purple
and three a dignified blue
fours were brash shades of yellow
and fives bold reds that demanded attention

and everything made sense to me
numbers multiplied by blending their colors
and subtracted by growing more pale
and i loved them
and cared for them
and knew one must show great caution
before putting a nine with a genteel two.

but then came those rules and lessons
and important and serious math
i did not understand
and don't make up stories
numbers are not colors
memorize this table
and show your work

and all the numbers were pinned
to a multiplication board
like butterflies that could no longer fly
and the colors bled out of them


the numbers died on their specimen board

the colors still live
and sometimes still I can remember
when numbers danced for me
alive and enchanting.

~ Lynda E. Hardy, 2015