Monthly Archives: November 2013

What’s Thanksgiving About? Food.

As I’ve watched all of my Facebook friends offer up words of Thanksgiving all November long, it has definitely been heartwarming to see so much gratitude. However, hearkening back to the feast that was deemed “the first Thanksgiving,” I find it interesting that no one has been thankful for the one thing that inspired that first Thanksgiving. Indeed, I hadn’t even thought about it until my own son wrote that he was thankful for it. And that is food.

We are a people who enjoy convenience and variety when it comes to our food. Even the poorest of us in this country have access to it, some for “free.” Regardless of the technological advancements that have made this abundance possible (and even harmful, I would argue in a different forum), we are a nation of plenty. We cannot begin to fathom the fear of a crop-less winter or the devastation of a drought. Our food is packaged, processed, dyed and waxed to a shine before it is presented to us in neatly arranged rows and butcher blocks. Most of us do not know or care how that food came to be there. We simply fill our carts and pay the bill, patting ourselves on the back for any savings garnered by the time spent carefully cutting coupons.

But are we truly thankful for it?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking modern convenience. I have no desire to be an early-17th century pilgrim…or a late-17th century one for that matter. My purpose in this post is simply to point out that something as basic as sustenance should be appreciated, really appreciated, and never taken for granted. Sure, be thankful for your car, your families, your days off, your favorite football team’s win, your day to sleep-in, your friends, your spa time, your pets, your job, your Black Friday deals, your gym buddies, your favorite TV show and the weather cooperating with your plans. I would never want to discourage gratitude in any form. But be thankful for your food. You could live without all of that other stuff, but without your food, you’d be dead.

So, onto the history lesson.

As evident by the recent Jaywalking hall of shame on the Tonight Show, most Americans know next to nothing about the first Thanksgiving. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about that first gathering and what was ultimately a celebration of food. The pilgrims of 1620 who arrived in Plymouth on the Mayflower did so at the onset of winter.  There were 101 men, women and children and more than half of them died before the spring. If not for the Wampanoag tribe (or rather an adopted member of the Wampanoag tribe named Squanto – really cool guy, should definitely check out his story), the pilgrims likely would have died that year or been forced to return to England.

Now, to dispel the notion that the pilgrims were dumb English settlers who knew nothing about anything but religion, let me mention that the pilgrims were farmers. They had been farmers in England until they were pushed into exile by religious persecution, forcing them to flee to the city of Leiden in Holland. Being that they were farmers living in a city, life in Leiden was difficult and when the opportunity to settle in the “New World” arose, they went. The fact that they had a hard time making things grow in Massachusetts shows the differences between the two environments. But Squanto taught them when and how to plant, how to use fish as fertilizer and then taught them how to cook the maize.

During the harvest of 1621 pilgrim men went hunting for game to join the yields from their fields. The Wampanoag assisted the pilgrims in their hunts and joined the feast, which lasted for three full days. Together, they ate, played games and sports, danced and sang songs, and struck an accord of peace that lasted for fifty years.

The first “recorded” Thanksgiving, however, took place two years later. The pilgrims had suffered a two-year drought that ended in 1623. The rains that fell helped their crops flourish, and that November they feasted and gave thanks to God for bringing the rain to feed their crops, which then fed their malnourished bodies. The feast continued to be celebrated every November and it became a national holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln.

I encourage all to be truly thankful that, in spite of whatever weather and soil conditions, whatever water shortages or surpluses, whatever fungal nuisances or pesky plant worms may have influenced our farms and fields this year, there is still plenty to adorn our holiday tables this week.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Am I Wrong About Erotica?

I have read a healthy handful of erotica novels, and the only reason I’ve done that is to identify the trends of romance readers. As a romance writer, it’s good and necessary to see what is popular. A more daunting task, however, is trying to figure out why those things are popular.  It’s sad to say it, but if erotica is the way of the future for the romance genre then I am afraid my time as a romance writer will be short-lived indeed.

Erotica. Okay, clearly the explosion of readership in this genre transcends the simple notion of a “trend.” I mean, I read the other day that the first book in the 50 shades trilogy has outsold all of the Harry Potter books combined in the UK. If you don’t realize how huge that is then you must have slept through the Harry Potter decade. I am deeply saddened (as a mother of a daughter) and even more outraged (as a woman) that these books are so easily accepted and lusted after and I am sickened (as a writer) that they are considered literature. And why don’t I like erotica books?

No. It’s not what you all think. I am not a prude and I don’t have any problem with “kinky fuckery.” While I may not understand the…um…adventures… of others in the bedroom, I don’t really care, and I don’t have a problem with two consenting adults getting their kicks behind closed doors. What bothers me is that the erotica novels I have read are full of abusive heroes (and I say the word “heroes” with a heavy eye roll and sarcastic turn of the tongue, because to me these guys are anything but heroic).  The men of these books are…well…for lack of better terminology – they are narcissistic ass holes. They are possessive and controlling, to the point where if any woman of my acquaintance were in a relationship with one of these guys I’d be pulling an intervention real quick! They make their women cry…ALL THE TIME. Why are the women crying? Because they can’t seem to reconcile these men who give them multiple orgasms and then turn around and treat them like dirt when they’re out of the sack. Hmm…..what a dilemma! I see your point, ladies. What’s not to love?  And that leads me to the next thing I don’t like about erotica…the women.

I am a personal fan of gutsy leading ladies (think Maureen O’Hara, Katherine Hepburn, et al). Those are the gals I dig. Personal preferences aside, I can also get behind an awkward, goofy, beautiful-in-a-gauche-way girl as long as she has some spine. And I mean real spine, not I’m-going-to-cower-in-the-corner-and-chastise-you-in-a-shaky-voice-hoping-you’ll-hear-more-bravado-than-really-exists kind of spine. Where are the feminist voices out there? Yes, yes, yes, I’ve heard the arguments that erotica is a huge thumbs up to female empowerment, allowing women to unashamedly explore their own sexuality. To that I say….what the hell are you reading? Because it sure ain’t the books I’ve been reading.

Possessing and controlling women (in and out of the bedroom), grossly disrespecting women, heavily blurring the lines of rape (girl: I don’t want to do that, boy: oh, you’ll like it. I promise, girl: I really don’t think I want to do that, boy does it anyway, girl: umm….maybe I like it. I’m not sure, but you said I would like it so, I guess I’m supposed to like it. Hmm…yeah that sounds about right. I guess I like it) erotica appears to be sexual manipulation in its highest form. The women in these novels can’t seem to get past the bedroom with their guys. Of course, the guys are always gorgeous and hot (the most overused word in erotica), and in a most cookie-cutter fashion the men are high-power, rich executives. That’s all the women need to know. Could a more shallow, weak leading lady be written?

But perhaps the greatest downfall of erotica for me, is the utter and complete lack of love. Now, as I’ve said I have read a heavy handful of erotica. That is probably about twelve books and I am well aware that there are thousands. If I could give one tip to erotica writers it would be this: just because you have your characters say “I love you” over and over again, does not make the discerning reader believe it. I swear the formula is the same:  mind-blowing orgasms, cold cruelty, pools of tears, declarations of love, confusion, mind-blowing orgasms. That’s it. Rinse and repeat. I guess  if you only care that the stories begin and end with mind-blowing orgasms and the in between doesn’t matter, these are the books for you, but these are not my ideas of love or romance or passion, and I would be absolutely horrified to find my little girl in any relationship like the ones I’ve read.

There is a line between passion and possession, between love and obsession. Love and lust should be intense, life-altering and mind-blowing, but in an uplifting way, not in a manipulating, demeaning and depraved way. Real love changes us. Real love is not controlling or commanding. It is more than physical. It is redeeming and self-sacrificing and served by mutual respect. It does not come from physical passion but enhances it. At least, that is my humble opinion.

So, back to the title of my post. To all of you readers out there who love erotica – have I got it all wrong? Did I just unluckily pick a dozen of the worst erotica novels written?

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