Rant: Rewriting Children’s Literature for Realism

There is a dark part of me, the ego-driven, socially conscious, bossy side of me that sometimes surfaces while I am reading to Blossom from the cannon of classic children’s literature. I feel this deep-seated need to rewrite the story.  I find myself tsking the writer, or the dated, unPC character:

“So what made you think you weren’t going to come home to a disaster if you left a monkey alone all day, Man with the Yellow Hat? Hmm?  That’s what you get for taking a wild creature out of his natural habitat.”

While my corrections might not be as entertaining, they would certainly satisfy the part of me that thinks modeling is important:

“I’m sorry, Son, that was my bad, I really am a terrible dad, Papa Bear admits he doesn’t know how, so maybe you should show me now.”

I secretly resent that most children’s programming tells them that as long as they are polite, and follow the rules that everything will go according to plan.  We keep it so nice for them.

I want Dora to sing a song about how she didn’t do it, she tried everything, she had all the help in the world, but no, she failed.

“We failed, we failed, we tried it but we failed!”

I want my kid to understand that often there is no resolution.  There are often desires that go forever unsated.   The world is highly unstable.  I remember the horrible feeling when I was eleven upon realizing that I was going to be required to do more and more math, that there were no longer any unowned pieces of the planet, that the social mesh we live inside just tightens with time.  It was not a slow realization, it was a car wreck.

To have a child in this lifetime is to really upgrade your level of denial about the state of the planet, our country, or even more fundamentally, about human nature.  We hope, as parents, to ease them slowly into these dismal truths, like the frog in the hot water.  That is why we lie to them in the stories we read them.

And honestly, as a person deeply committed to the literary tradition, I understand that these stories represent a time and place, that they have merit even when some of the particulars are no longer applicable.

My friend Gan Golan illustrated a great parody of Good Night Moon, called Good Night, Bush, http://www.goodnightbush.com/ and while it is a dark satire of the Bush Administration, it also deliciously satisfies the part of me that wants to call out the weirdness of the old stories.  A bunny in a nightgown, a bowl of mush even though it is night time.  ?

Unknown

There is another, unsettling thing that happens to me when I read her these books: I take them way too personally.

My mom gave Blossom a copy of Mr. Seahorse, a lovely Eric Carle book about all the Daddies in the ocean who take care of their babies:

“How are you, Mr. Kurtus?”

“Perfectly fine, Mrs. Kurtus just laid her eggs and I have stuck them on my head. Now I am taking care of them until they hatch.”

“You’re doing a good job, ” said Mr. Seahorse.

I read her this book right as my ex-husband was moving out.  In my mind it went more like this:

“How are you, Mr. Kurtus?”

“Perfectly Fine, Mrs. Kurtus just laid her eggs and I am going down to the Bay Area to do god-knows-what while she changes 100 diapers.”

“You’re doing a totally predictable job.” said Mr. Seahorse.

Unknown-1

Somehow knowing there are all kinds of male creatures out there holding it down for their offspring just made me bitter and sad.

In The Owl and the Pussycat:

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘you elegant fowl, how charmingly sweet you sing, oh let us be married, too long we have tarried, but what shall we do for a ring?”  I want to pull her aside and say, “you know, he is going to use this against you later, saying you pressured him into it, you’re going to let him pay that pig an entire shilling for a ring you won’t want to wear when you divorce, just sayin’, Lady. Besides, don’t you think there is some symbolism in your buying the ring from a pig and getting married by a turkey? Think it through!”

I get to the end of that book and I experience a pang of melancholy: “And hand in hand on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon…”  It’s wonderfully romantic story.  But in real life cats eat owls, a tiny boat like that wouldn’t survive a week on the open ocean and there is no island that would support their inter-species relationship.

Unknown-2

It’s getting a little out of hand, I admit.  I get that it is a metaphor, a glorious one.

I really do manage to keep this impulse under control for the most part.  I could get away with making comments when she was a babe, but now she cocks her head at me and says: “that’s not what it says, Mama.”

So if you have suggestions for Kid’s Lit that deals with real life, please send me some suggestions.  All this internal revision is exhausting.

Some of my favorite realist Kid’s Books:

The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst :http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/140185.The_Tenth_Good_Thing_About_Barney

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible no Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst

Red Tree by Shaun Tan

Spinky Sulks by William Steig

Yoga Studio Reviews in Sacramento: Yoga Loka

ImageMoving to a new place is exciting because you get to explore all the new possibilities like all the bakeries and yoga studios you have never tried.  I often try those two things together!  Most yoga studios in a metropolitan area offer an introductory deal, 20 bucks for 20 days, or a deep discount on the first month so you can check out different styles and teachers.  I did some calculating and I’m hoping that I won’t have to pay full retail for a yoga class for the next 6 months or so.  So for the next few months, I will be writing a review  of the studios in the Sacramento area.  

 I’m starting with Yoga Loka, which is right around the corner from my house in Tahoe Park.  This is a Bikram, or hot yoga studio, so all the teachers teach the same style.  The practice is 1.5 hours long in 100 degree heat, and it is rigorous, so not recommended for beginners, people with joint injuries, heart conditions, high blood pressure or pregnancy.  

First, I should say, this is a nice little studio.  There is only one big room with a low ceiling, wood floor and mirrors on three sides.  So far I have taken a class from Christina, Mercury and Sandy.  Mercury was my favorite. He was very serious in his practice and teaching, he gave specific, detailed instruction and he occasionally adjusted people.  Sandy was a more poetic and philosophic teacher, talking about the energetic qualities of each pose and reminding the class gently that the goal is self healing.  Christina seemed distracted, she skipped over parts in the sequence and students had to correct her a few times.

There are some things to know about Bikram style yoga:

  • The teachers don’t demonstrate the poses. They don’t even set up a mat, they mostly stand in one corner and call out the poses.  This can be disconcerting to a beginner because they are forced to reference their neighbor and who knows if your neighbor is doing it right?
  • Your will become drenched in sweat and lose alot of water.  Don’t forget to bring a big bottle and a big towel.   Dress in fitted, light weight clothes. Also, if sweaty people showing alot of skin is a phobia of yours, this is not the class for you.  
  • You will be looking at yourself in the mirror.  Contrary to many other styles which focus primarily on sensation, Bikram wants you to focus on your form.  Again, for beginners this can be intimidating.
  • Shivasana is not very relaxing.  That deep relaxation you get at the end of most classes, not so with Bikram.  Most other styles set aside 10 minutes for corpse pose (lying on your back with eyes closed) and then guide the class back out of it.  Bikram teachers put you there but they end class at that point so most people jump up and leave.  To me this is a bummer.  Not only is it disruptive to my little moment of peace, but I want to say to those people: you just spent an hour and half making your cake and your not even going to eat it?  

i also take issue with some of the Bikram concepts: teachers will often instruct you to lock out your joints, even when that joint is load-bearing. This, according to my teacher training, is a recipe for injury: using the joints instead of the muscles can be corrosive over time. I have never seen a Bikram teacher ask the class if anyone has injuries, or offer people modifications when they are having trouble with a pose.  Bikram has a one-size-fits-all approach to what I believe to be a very subjective undertaking.  We all have different bodies, different aptitudes.  

The fact that the class is static, the same 26 poses in the same order, can be, well boring.

Image

 I realize how unyogic it is to say that, but part of what makes class interesting to me, as both a student and a teacher is wondering what is going to happen next.  I never plan my class because if I do, inevitably someone will walk in with recent hip surgery and I will have to abandon my plan anyway.  I like the sense of discovery when I teach or take a class.  There is a creative aspect to most yoga styles that is missing from Bikram.

All that being said, I do find Bikram to be very challenging.  It’s an opportunity to watch my mind rebel, create excuses, surrender and start over.  I have been asleep at my yogic wheel for several months now and I find Bikram is a rewarding kick in the ass.  Getting through a class is a triumph and the high really sticks with you throughout the day.  If you are going to try Bikram, I would definitely recommend Yoga Loka.  There are separate dressing rooms for men and women, but no shower and you will sweat buckets so make the time afterward to go home and shower.  

And generally speaking, I think Bikram is great in the way that going on a fast or cleanse is great: it really kicks the body into high gear and flushes out the stagnant energy. But I wouldn’t do it in an ongoing way.  And it’s really designed for fairly fit, healthy people.  

For more about Yoga Loka, go to: yogaloka.net

And if you have been to the studio and agree or disagree with my observations, I would love to hear from you.  

Peace to all Beings.

Wandering through the Dense, Modern Fog of Unemployment

In the old days, when I was a young person on the job hunt my Mom gave me good advice: show up early in the morning, put yourself together, look people in the eye, leave your resume, check back in person.

I was once in the grocery store on a Friday evening when I watched a man with his two children try to turn in an application to the manager.  He was in his painter’s pants and there were lines at every register.  Not everyone had received the same advice.

But the rules are all different now because of the internet: email your resume, don’t get too dressed up, don’t be too confrontational and if you circle back, they automatically put your resume in the circular file.  Show up in the afternoon when people are more likely to have the time to talk to you.  

Because I am a single mom, in a new city, it is hard to know the etiquette of job searching.  Some places consider it rude to actually show up and try to make a person-to person impression.  They look bewildered, as if they were never going to have to talk to you, ever.  Some places are so big that even if you impressed someone by doing so, they probably have no input at all.  And the rules about what you should put on your resume seem to change daily: don’t put the year you graduated from college, that will date you, don’t offer your references, that’s not the style these days.  

And please don’t get me started on what counts as “business attire” today.  I walked into an interview recently where I had been informed that business attire was required and the woman who greeted me was in a mini skirt and hooker pumps.  Skin colored, platform hooker pumps.  

Sheesh.  

I have never gotten a job from my resume alone; I always shook someone’s hand and said something unexpected to make them laugh.  I complimented them on something specific about their business in a genuine way to indicate why I wanted to work there.  I never got nervous in an interview because if I was honest people usually got it.  

But I am getting nervous now.  My savings is dwindling.  My expenses are many.  I realize I am in a much less precarious place than most people in this country, even this world.  I have roof over my head and food in the fridge.  But the threat of not being able to make ends meet makes me desperate, and employers smell desperate from miles away.  

And of course, there is always this lingering feeling that I’m trying to push myself into a space that was not designed for me.  There are many, many things I would rather get paid to do, like write fiction, teach yoga, sing jazz.  if I could find a job that combined all those things and paid me 80k a year with bennies, I’d be set.  

But here I am, in a blazer that fit me much better before Thanksgiving, driving around, clutching my resume, smiling and hoping to find a sympathetic bureaucrat to take it off my hands and put it in a stack of other resumes.  If I can even get through the door.

I am always tempted in my cover letters to blurt out: “you know, I could come up with some amazing adjectives to describe myself, but why don’t you just throw me in there and see what i can do?! You won’t be sorry!”  I’m sure that wouldn’t come across as desperate.  Maybe I should just try the hooker pumps.