Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Break!

Summer is now in full swing, and rather than fight, I've decided to succumb and embrace the crazy. So I'll be taking a blogging break from now to the end of August.

In the mean time, here are some summer pictures to enjoy:

The last day of school:


The Drive-in:


Fireworks:


And of course, Ice Cream!


Have a great summer!

Monday, July 7, 2014

High Heels and Science: Being Girly is Okay

So this past week or so, this article about a Verizon commercial has been going around:

"Powerful Ad Shows What A Little Girl Hears When You Tell Her She's Pretty"

After watching the commercial, I have all kinds of things going through my head. Things that have been swirling about for a while now, and I am tired of holding it in. First, as a parent, I tell my boys not to get their clothes muddy, too. Because, LAUNDRY. Need I say more? And who are they to tell us what a girl hears when you tell her she's pretty? I'm a girl. I know just fine what I hear.

Because here is the thing: my personal experience as a girl was pretty much the opposite. No one took tools from me and said 'let your brother do that.' Everyone told me how great I was at science and math. From parents, to teachers, to professors. And knowing how much of a braggart I must sound, I was great at it. All my highest test scores and best/easiest grades were in math and science.

Everyone encouraged me to go into a science, depending on what subject they favored: My orthodontist told me I should be an orthodontist. My engineer dad encouraged me to be an engineer. My HS and college math professors said I should major in math. My physical science professor encouraged me to major in science.

And they were all men. They saw potential, they encouraged. Good on them! Exactly what the ad said adults should be doing. And what the ad suggests they aren't doing. Keep in mind, I am old. Like in my 30's *wink,* so this was back in the day women were discouraged from science, right?

By all accounts, I should have been in that 18% mentioned in the ad. Because I liked science. And I STILL liked it when I got to college. Plus, I was encouraged, which, according to this ad, simply doesn't happen for girls. And right up until my first semester of college, I planned to be an engineer.

So what happened? What went wrong???

Nothing.

That first semester, I realized that the classes that I loved were not math and science. So I switched. Majored in English. And I am one of those people who was somehow "failed" by society because I didn't major in science. Or so this study tells me.

Well I am here to tell you that I was not "failed." I did not fall out of love with math and science because society discouraged me or told me I couldn't be good at it. I simply loved other stuff more. I know it is not politically correct to suggest that gender might be an influence, but there it is.

In no way do I mean to suggest that there won't be women out there who love science best. Of course there are. And actually, I know and love quite a few of them. But why make the other 82% feel like crap for not choosing science? MUST we choose it simply because we can? Simply because others aren't?

I read an article where the author makes a conscious effort not to talk clothes or hair or pretty with little girls. And while I love a lot about the article, I was left with a question: What if a girl loves fashion? What if she loves make-up? What if she wants to cut hair? Are those desires unacceptable now? Are those subjects not "smart" enough? Not educated enough?

The coveted high heels
Because I have a little girl who loves all of that stuff. And trust me, this is not me thrusting girliness upon her. I was a Tomboy with a capital 'T.' I loved sports and taking things apart and running around without a shirt because my brothers could. So imagine my surprise when my own daughter is not like that. When my own daughter insists on cute girly froofy skirts that poof when she spins. When all she wants for her birthday is a pair of high heels (I don't even wear high heels!).
 
"But these jeans!" I say, "Don't you want to wear jeans? Like Mama?"

Nope, she's having none of it. She knows what she likes, and who I am to discourage that simply because the world says she should love science, and sports, and stuff that is not cutesy? Stuff that is "educated."

I have just read so many articles and seen so many ads (I'm talking to you, GoldieBlox with your anti-pink Super Bowl ad) on what you should and shouldn't say to little girls, and what you should and shouldn't give. I worry that the swing from healthy encouragement of letting girls be who they choose to be has switched to discouraging little girls from doing things that are esteemed to be "girly." Pink is not okay. Dresses are oppression incarnate. Choosing to teach or study English, or heavens, stay at home to raise children is letting societal stereotypes guide your life.

I assure you, it is not. And with that, I claim pink to be an acceptable color, dolls to be acceptable toys, and dresses to be acceptable attire.

In no way do I mean to belittle women who choose science. I LOVE science! I think it's great when women choose that—as long as it is their choice and not society forcing it upon them. I am sure there are girls who did not get the encouragement that I did. Girls who maybe would have gone into a science. And for that, I am sorry. Just as sorry as I am for girls who are put down for liking pink.

I defend the rights of girls to choose science or NOT. The rights of girls to love pink, blue, orange, black, fuscia, or all of them. To be a girly girl, a tomboy, or a mix of the two as they so choose. Society would vilify these words. Tell you they are insults. But I disagree! To be Girly is a joyous and beautiful thing. I know because I see it daily with my own daughter. To be a Tomboy is exciting and a daily adventure. I know because I lived it.

There is room for all of it, and we need to find a way to encourage the one without denigrating the other (whatever your preference may be).

Monday, June 30, 2014

RED BUTTERFLY Winner!

And the winner is . . .


Congratulations!! You've won a pre-order of Amy Sonnichsen's RED BUTTERFLY, which is set to release Feb. 3, 2015.

I have sent an email, and I'll get you all set up as soon as I have your address.

Hope you all have a great Monday!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Passionate Discussions on Social Media

***Five days left to enter for a chance to win a pre-order of RED BUTTERFLY (link)***

I am a person with strong opinions. Only natural considering my family loves to discuss. After meals, we'd sit around the family room and "passionately discuss" (my husband's euphemism for the sport). I never thought much about it until my then-boyfriend, now-husband sat in with us. He was shocked that we hadn't all leaped over the coffee table to beat each other up. I was shocked at his take on the evening.

But since that time, I have thought a lot about how a discussion can come across. Especially in the last few years, given the explosion of social media. I love discussing things passionately, but I have been amazed at how quickly a discussion turns to mud-slinging on the internet.

Instead of discussing issues, people turn to name-calling. Anyone who doesn't agree with them is a jerk, and a whole slew of much more vulgar insults. To make things worse, intent of the Written Word can be much harder to interpret than that of the Spoken Word. Plus, it's easier to be rude when you don't have to look your audience in the eye, and it's double easier when you can post that rudeness anonymously.  The exchanges can leave you feeling like this:

Which is why I've hesitated to join in. Instead, I've kept my posts/tweets/status updates innocuous.

Once, I broke my silence. Expressed my confusion on a current Media to-do. I sincerely wanted to understand and said as much, asking commenters to keep it civil.

From that, I had a "friend" explode on me. It was crazy. She unleashed her anger on me over a slew of subjects that had nothing to do with my post, and before I could even figure out what had gone wrong, she unfriended me. And I don't just friend anyone on Facebook. This was someone I knew well. Someone I truly considered to be a friend. It made me sad.

More thinking ensued, and in the end, I determined that I can't avoid discussion forever. But I refuse to let others dictate my behavior. As such, I have come up with three rules of conduct for social media:

1. Treat others the way you would want to be treated (the Golden Rule, yo).

This means you gotta show respect. People will have different opinions than yours, but going all kinds of piranha-crazy-fish on them isn't going to change anyone's mind. When someone can express their views passionately yet respectfully, I'm much more likely to listen. 

2. Let your work gel before hitting "send."

Does what you are typing really need to be said? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Let it sit for a few hours and see if you still feel that responding to something is the best choice. But ask yourself: What am I accomplishing with this tweet/facebook post/response/social-media-message-of-choice? Are you really convincing others of something, or are you speaking to dead air? Are you venting, or are you defending something that needs defending? Time gives better perspective.

3. Accept that you cannot possibly please everyone.

No matter how nicely you say something, you will find people who just don't want to hear what you have to say. People have their own reasons for doing what they do. I've found people ready to be offended at nothing. We can't change others, we can only change ourselves. But if we are respectful in what we say on social media, try to consider other's points-of-view, well, in my book we will be happier.

What suggestions do you have for engaging in social media debates?

Monday, June 16, 2014

"The Butler" and Standing Up for What You Believe

This weekend I finally saw Lee Daniel's The Butler. Yes, yes, I'm behind in the movie-going world, but that's what you get when you have 3 kids and a husband still in training. (Let's just say the medical path is a long one, my friends).

But getting back to the point, this movie had me all over the emotional chart. You read about the civil rights movement, and the events and the horrors, but it's different seeing it a bit closer. So much courage! So much patience. I am in awe of Martin Luther King Jr. and his conviction and understanding of how to change people's minds. He and Dumbledore would get along great, because the answer really is LOVE. And the world desperately needs more men and women like him.

But I digress. There is so much I could say about this movie, but I won't. I'm choosing to focus on one aspect. One aspect that is the main theme, but I feel gets buried a bit by the end.

You see, the movie does this amazing job of showing the parallel lives of Mr. Cecil Gaines and his son, Louis. Cecil is a butler at the Whitehouse. Louis is a Freedom Rider who takes part in the sit-in at Woolworths, and other infamous events.

Louis is out doing. He is fighting for his freedom, and for the freedoms of all African-Americans. He is brave. He sacrifices his time, his safety, and even his family for what he believes. And he suffers. Countless stints in jail. Beatings. Every time he stands up in protest, he risks death. In short, he is a hero. Very obviously. No question.

And then there is Cecil. He does not fight. He plays the role that society expects of him. Subservient. Soft-spoken. Not allowed to express political views at the risk of losing his job. He is paid less than white men doing the same job, but doesn't even dare express discontent about that (at least at first). In short he fears. Fears for his life. Fears for his son's life. And yet . . .

And yet, he is a noble figure. In his own way he is fighting, too. It is not obvious. It is not brazen. But he is fighting, and his influence is felt. At one point Louis speaks of his father with Martin Luther King, Jr.. Louis has been ashamed of his father his whole life, but Dr. King responds with this:

"Young brother, the black domestic defy racial stereotype about being hard working and trustworthy. It slowly tears down racial hatred because it's an example of a strong work ethic and dignified character. Now while we perceive the butler to be mainly subservient, in many ways they are subversive, without even knowing it."

In short, Cecil is more powerful than either of them realized. Cecil's honest decency. His care and concern for others regardless of their personal views. He influenced people. He changed them.

There are so many parallels to this story in today's world. We are called on to stand up for what we believe in (whatever that may be). Sometimes we think there is only one way to do that. That we must fight. We must be brazen heroes like Louis, with courage that is obvious.

But quiet heroism. Love for others. Treating others kindly, even when you know their views diametrically oppose yours. That is power, too.

**Don't forget to enter for (link-->) a chance to win a Pre-order of RED BUTTERFLY**

Friday, June 6, 2014

THE RED BUTTERFLY's Cover Reveal!! + Win a Pre-order

Not quite two years ago, my blogging friend and I exchanged manuscripts. I knew hers was a novel-in-verse, but I didn't know quite what to expect. Well. Let's just say, I was blown away. Blown!

That, of course was a draft of Amy Sonnichsen's RED BUTTERFLY. It was touching and delicate. Beautiful and surprising! I still think about this story. And even though Amy didn't have an agent at the time, I knew it wouldn't be long.

Last Summer it was picked up by Simon & Schuster, Books for Young Readers, and is slated for publication in Winter 2015. And I'm THRILLED to be part of her cover reveal! Go Amy!! [And I'm sure she'd love it if you stopped by her blog, The Green Bathtub, to congratulate her!]

So first, the book blurb:

Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an elderly American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has … but what if Kara secretly wants more?

Told in lyrical, moving verse, Kara’s story is one of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.
And if that doesn't have you dying to read it, just look at this beautiful cover!
 

 

A.L. Sonnichsen grew up in Hong Kong and then spent eight years in China as adult. She now lives on the dry side of Washington State with her dashingly handsome sidekick, five talented children, and a luxury cat. Red Butterfly is her first novel. Learn more at alsonnichsen.blogspot.com. Twitter: @alsonnichsen


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And because I love this book so much, I want to give away a pre-order of it! Just enter in the Rafflecopter below, and feel free to spread the word. This contest is open to US and Canada addresses, and will close June 27th at midnight EDT. Best of luck!

Congratulations, Amy! I'm so excited for you and your beautiful book.
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 2, 2014

In Which I Impatiently Await Amy's Cover Reveal

This is my normal posting day, but I'm kind of excited, because Amy Sonnichsen is having her cover reveal this week for RED BUTTERFLY, and I get to be part of it!

Sooooo, I need ya'll to come back here on Friday, June 6 to see Amy's beautiful cover. It's beautiful guys. And perfectly perfect! I can't wait for you to see it, and I even more can't wait for you to read it. Will Winter of 2015 never come?!! :)

I'm so in love with this book, I just can't even . . . yeah. I can't.

See you on Friday! and P.S. if you aren't following Amy on twitter, you seriously should be. She tweets here: @alsonnichsen