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E.L. James Should Stick to Writing Naughty Stuff and Stay Off the Twitters

July 5, 2015

I don’t like the 50 Shades books. As a lover of words, I have not been quiet in my criticism of E.L. James and her poorly written erotica. And yes, people. I’m being kind by calling it poorly written. And erotica.

You wanna read a sexy book? Getcha some. Rock on. But read a good sexy book, and by good, I mean one that doesn’t read like it was written by a 15-year-old girl who’s never actually had sex. I’m a mom. My two young boys run me ragged most days. I don’t have the time and energy to read a sexy book…and let’s be real, a lot of the time I feel like I don’t have time and energy for sex.

I’m not offended by what goes on in the red room of pain. If whips and chains are your thing, whoopee for you. You like the occasional spanking to shake up your otherwise vanilla sex life? You go, girl. But I still don’t like the book and I’ll keep telling anyone who will listen why.

I read the first two books. I’m a little bitter about the estimated 10 hours of my life I’ll never get back. One of my friends suggested I’d enjoy the series because I’d liked Twilight. Seriously people…I got through half of the first book before I realized that vampires weren’t going to show up. Sigh. My primary reason for not jumping on the 50 Shades bandwagon because this book glamorizes unhealthy, controlling relationships.

If it’s true love, he’ll stalk you, girls.

Uh… no. Besides, the writing is shit. Seriously, just read Twilight and imagine Bella and Edward banging from Chapter three, on. It’s practically the same thing.

The movie (which I have not seen) was released on Valentine’s Day because nothing screams romance (in SHOUTY CAPS, see what I did there?) like sitting in a theater with a bunch of heavy breathers watching a movie about a college girl who likes bondage. Ew. After the initial hoopla (and the spike in DIY sex swing injuries) died down, we didn’t hear much about 50 Shades of freaky-deaky Christian Grey.

I guess I was just silly to think that cash cow was going to be quietly put out to pasture.

I was in an airport a couple of weeks ago. I had some time between flights and I decided to browse at that little kiosk that sells reading material and overpriced gum. You know the one. I spied a copy of of the newest Fifty Shades of Grey spin-off book written from Christian Grey’s point of view.

It was like my hand had a mind of its own. I reached out to pluck it off the shelf, morbidly curious about what was written inside. It was like that car wreck you just have to look at. Fortunately, I snapped out of it, turned around and headed straight for the bar. It was a close call. Cocktails for all.

I’m willing to admit that my criticism of E.L. James might be sour grapes. I know hundreds of talented writers who are making a pittance…or writing for free…and it kind of stings to see someone who can barely string a sentence together make a gajillion dollars because she wrote a Twilight knockoff substituting the word “spanking” for “vampire.”

But this new Grey book is too much. Too, too much. It’s the same story as told by Christian. I didn’t buy it but there is a Buzzfeed article that screen captures of some of the text. That was enough. You can click here to read it but I’m warning you… you can’t unsee this stuff.

So it’s the same story, people. In the parts of the book where Anastasia says geez and freaks out because Christian is so intense, Christian tells the same story… except his perspective is peppered with commentary about the thoughts and feelings of his nether regions (except for one bizarre passage where he describes Ana’s natural scent as something like an apple orchard.) And then there’s something about alternative uses for unpeeled gingerroot that I think is going to cause me to need extra therapy.

I swear I’m not making this stuff up, people.

In an effort to boost publicity for this latest literary masterpiece, E.L. James decided to host a live Twitter chat: #AskELJames.

Actually, I’m sure the idea came from some publicity wonderkid because E.L. is probably off writing her next literary masterpiece. OMG, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

E.L. wanted questions and by golly, she got ‘em. Here are a few of my favorites:

The responses to the responses are interesting. There’s a lot of finger-pointing and labeling the tweets to E.L. (what in the eff does E.L. stand for anyway) as bullying. The world is sometimes a mean place and I generally try to steer clear of bullies…or even call them out on their behavior. But I don’t think taking shots at a writer who is notorious for not being a very good writer when she’s opened herself up for questions is bullyish behavior.

So, stay off the Twitters, E.L., unless you can really handle the truth. Stick to writing naughty stories… and laugh your ass off all the way to the bank.

Jill Robbins writes about adoption, motherhood and midlife on her blog, Ripped Jeans & Bifocals. She has a degree in social psychology that she uses to try and make sense out of the behavior of her husband and three children but it hasn’t really helped so far. She enjoys dry humor and has a love/hate relationship with running. Her work has been featured on Babble, Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, and Blunt Moms. You can also find her in the December print issue of Mamalode. She willingly answers any questions that end with “and would you like wine with that?” You can follow Jill on Facebook and Twitter.

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The 4th of July Can Get a Little Awkward in Our House

July 4, 2015

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. Who doesn’t love staying up late on warm summer evenings and watching beautiful displays of light in the night sky?

But I never really stopped to think about the traditional, patriotic, meaning of the holiday until I was an adult and married to a British man. Now that I think of it, he did own a red coat when I married him.

Is Independence Day a triumphant celebration of the American people over the tyrannous British rule, or is it a somber day of remembrance for the savage uprising of a colony? It’s hard to sell the latter here in the midwest. I’m not really sure what those t-shirts would look like.

Being raised in a particular country, one tends not to question traditions until much later in life. Then you grow up, move out into the great big world, and start to see those same ceremonies through the eyes of the rest of the planet. When my husband and I first started dating, we planned to watch the fireworks display along the riverfront in St Louis, where we were living at the time. I was excited to show my new British beau the splendor that is Independence Day in the U.S.

Part of that splendor included binge watching Fourth of July-themed movies. Because what else did we have to do before kids?

We watched Born on the Fourth of July, Independence Day, and The Patriot. Despite my husband’s clearly unimaginative insistence that President Bill Pullman would never fly his plane into an alien spacecraft to save the world, we had a great time. I felt like I was giving him the real American experience of the Fourth of July.

Then we watched The Patriot. Mel Gibson went all crazy-eyed, and things got awkward. The British were portrayed as evil, conniving, backstabbing, child-murdering, villains who needed to be slain by the great American hero, Mel. Yet no matter how completely contrived the plot was, I challenge anyone not to get a little choked up when Mel is giving one of his revenge speeches. The man is famous for a reason.

Watching that thinly veiled piece of patriotic propaganda was the first time we’d fully appreciated that the approaching holiday was celebrating the victory of my country over his, and that it might be considered a little weird for him to be joining in the festivities. It seems like an obvious realization now, but at the time I was just excited about the fireworks.

So we did what all new couples do when faced with a potentially uncomfortable bump in the relationship road: we laughed it off. I dressed my husband head-to-toe in red, white, and blue. He practiced chanting U – S – A in a perfect American accent. Fun was had by all and none was the wiser.

However, now that we have children we will have to think hard about how to explain to them some of the more delicate themes underlying many of the holidays we often celebrate without a second thought.

When my oldest son was three he asked why we have fireworks on the Fourth of July. My husband graciously explained that a long time ago America was ruled by the British and on the Fourth of July, 1776 the Americans told them they wanted to be in charge of themselves. As a toddler, he found this to be a perfectly reasonable explanation of the holiday; after all, he was mostly concerned with the fireworks anyway.

But soon the day will come when his questions get a bit more complicated. Will he still see the yearly display of patriotism and colorful bursts of light with the same innocent wonder that he does now? Or will he feel uncomfortable with his dual heritage the way his daddy did all those years ago?

Only time will tell. In the meantime, we’ll continue to dress in our red, white, and blue flag t-shirts and wave sparklers like we always have. After all, it’s not really about the British anymore, is it? It’s about BBQs, fireworks, and parades. It’s about families and fun. That’s our kind of holiday, no matter where we’re from.

Of course, he hasn’t experienced his first Guy Fawkes Day yet…

How would you handle conflicting cultural holidays with your kids?

Mary Widdicks is a 32-year-old mom to two boys and a brand new baby girl. She started Outmanned so she’d have a place to escape the testosterone and share her hilarious life with the rest of the world. Mary’s writing has been featured on other great parenting sites such as Mamalode, In the Powder Room, Pregnant Chicken, Scary Mommy, and BLUNTmoms. She has been honored as a Voice of the Year by BlogHer in 2014 and 2015, and 2014 Badass Blogger of the Year by The Indie Chicks. Follow Mary on: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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Best BBQ Dishes That Impress

July 3, 2015

My favorite part about summer? Going to BBQ’s! And even better? When someone else hosts the barbeque and I can focus on creating one amazing dish to contribute to the fete. But here’s my secret…I only make easy dishes that look like I was slaving away in the kitchen all day. Here are the best BBQ dishes that impress:

Watermelon Pops

Slice watermelon at least two inch thick. Use any type of cookie cutter you desire to make watermelon cut outs. Place each piece of fruit on a stick, and pop into the freezer to harden a bit.

Tomato Mozzarella Skewers

Looking for a savory kabob to go with the sweet watermelon one? Simple! Alternate cherry tomatoes, boccanocini, and fresh basil on a skewer. Drizzle with a little olive oil (you can also add balsamic vinaigrette, too) and salt and pepper.

Homemade Salsa

Get ready for the best five minute salsa imaginable. Roughly chop 3 cloves of garlic and one jalapeno pepper (you can take out seeds if you want the salsa to be more mild). Blend them together using a food processor, blender, or my favorite—the Magic Bullet. Next, add one can of tomatoes, one handful of cilantro, salt and pepper, and the juice of one lime. Puree again. Grab some chips and enjoy!

Cucumber Salad

Thinly slice three cucumbers and arrange them in a colander. Heavily season them and try to push the water out of the cucumbers, letting them marinate for at least one hour. While the cucumbers are brining, mix together the vinaigrette:

¼ cup vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup water

1 tsp dill

½ tsp pepper

½ cup diced red onion

Coat the cucumbers in the vinaigrette and chill before serving.

Pistachio Cake

Mix together one package of yellow cake mix, 3 eggs, 4 packages of Pistachio flavored pudding, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Bake for 1 hour at 400 degrees in a well greased Bundt pan. Decorate with powdered sugar.

Sangria

You can make this either with or without the wine—but I feel like with a nice bottle of pinot grigio makes it even better!

1 Bottle of white wine

2 frozen juice canisters (any flavor you desire—I like a pineapple orange banana juice)

2 cups tonic water

1 cup orange juice

½ cup grenadine

Ice

Chopped fruit for garnish (apples, oranges, peaches, etc)

Happy BBQ’ing this 4th of July!

Amanda Simkin writes the blog Queen of the Land of Twigs ’N Berries. A lifelong Chicagoan, Amanda created her website to share how she raises her two Midwestern gentlemen and their Second City finds. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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Removing the Confederate Flag Will Not End Racism

July 2, 2015

I’m tired. Exhausted really. It feels like ever since Trayvon Martin’s death there has been nothing but a series of racially charged incidents resulting in African Americans being killed or brutalized. I can see my sons in all the victims and I worry about what their future holds. The constant reminders that their skin color makes them a target for hate wears on my psyche daily and is slowly crushing my spirit.

By the time I heard the news of the church shooting in Charleston, I was all out of tears and had no desire to make sense of it all.

My frustration quickly boiled into rage and my heart hardened. I didn’t want to hear any rhetoric about how troubled this kid is, how he was a loner, mentally ill or somehow not responsible for his actions. I am not interested in having this monster humanized.

Sure enough, within hours of the shooting, the media was full on pressing to provide the alleged shooter with an excuse for his reprehensible actions. Asking questions like, “was he influenced by a hate group? What was his state of mind before the crime? Could his family have prevented this?”

If this had been a person of color, no one would be asking these irrelevant questions. They would have been labeled a “thug” or “terrorist” and folks would be spewing out what vigilante justice they would enforce if given the chance. (FYI, I don’t support vigilante justice.)

I get that this hateful crime calls into question the delusional belief that we are somehow living in a post-racial America. But let’s be honest, this shooter isn’t some anomaly that we have to figure out. He’s your garden variety racist who cowardly attacked nine people when they were most vulnerable. Sadly, there are plenty more like him out there.

As long as society continues to pretend that racism and racial inequality is not a real problem, we will not be able to move beyond racial intolerance. So often, when people report experiences of racial discrimination, they are accused of using the race card.

Racism might not be expressed through lynching, burning crosses and state sponsored segregation anymore, but it still exists. There are women still clutching their purses when in the vicinity of a black male, countless African Americans are pulled over because they look menacing (aka black), and there are people who still believe that mixing races is a sin.

So where do we go from here?

The current narrative about race is centered on the confederate flag. I appreciate the symbolism of removing this flag from the South Carolina State Capitol and elsewhere. However, at this point in history, we are way past symbolism. If removing the confederate flag is all we do, the symbolism will serve to be a mere Band-Aid on a festering wound created by years of oppression.

We need interventions that will effectively address the racial inequalities that people of color face on a regular basis. It’s time to dig in and find meaningful ways to put an end to problems such as racial profiling, police brutality, and institutional racism. We need to find solutions to racial disparities in poverty rates, economic resources, educational opportunities, and incarceration rates.

Not only is it important for our government to put in place policies and legislation to address racial inequality, it’s also time for individuals to self-reflect and see how they are contributing to the epidemic of racism.

What conversations are you having with your friends? Are you condoning racial slurs or laughing at racist jokes? Do you call people out for being racially insensitive or do you remain silent? What stereotypes do you have against people who are not like you? What messages do you send to your children about diversity and tolerance?

If we want to eradicate racism, we can’t keep waiting on government to lead the way. We need to start by doing our part to support tolerance in our homes and in our communities.

I want a better future for my children. One where society won’t need a reminder that #BlackLivesMatter because it will be a given. One where I don’t have to prepare my children for the first time someone calls them the ‘N’ word or when they are pulled over for walking/driving while black.

Everyday I pray for my children to come of age in a world where they are indeed judged by their character and not the color of their skin. Like most parents, all I want is for my children to be happy and successful. I would hate for racism and intolerance to get in the way of them achieving either.

Yanique Chambers is a former school social worker turned stay-at-home mom. She enjoys sharing tips on teaching children valuable life skills and on positive parenting techniques. When she is not busy bandaging boo-boos and chasing children, you can find her on her blog over at kiddiematters.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Conflicting Feelings about My Upcoming Tubal Ligation

July 1, 2015

The day has been set. Friday I’m ending an era. The pregnancy era. An era I most certainly didn’t even think I would ever venture into ten years ago. Like ever.

But here we are three pregnancies later. We have a beautiful, awesome son. Is he a dream come true?

Not for me.

Having babies or a family was never my dream. I was perfectly content just having pets. But when you finally meet the right person, everything seems to fall into place.

Our son was a planned pregnancy that took nearly a year to accomplish. Getting pregnant was difficult and my pregnancy was complicated. But, when it is all said and done, he is everything I never imagined and more.

More.

Man I wanted more. More babies. Just one more. For him. For us. But more just isn’t an option. We’ve lost two babies since him. Loss is tough. Pregnancy loss is loss’s ugly step sister. She gives you hope, brings you up, makes you dream, and then snatches it all away in a blink of an eye.

Man, she’s a bitch.

So here we are.

Funny how life hands you twists and turns? Ten years ago I could care less about my lady parts. “Take them. I don’t need them,” was my motto. Now, they are being inactivated and I’m so conflicted.

I know a tubal ligation is the right thing to do. My body has not been the same since my son was born and since my doctor is going in to take a look around anyway, we might as well. I also have high blood pressure and cannot take birth control pills. We like to have sex and we can’t carry anymore babies without expensive intervention. And we can’t handle anymore loss.

But it doesn’t make me less sad. Sad I will never hold another child we created. I’m almost 43. I’m tired. And broken. It’s time.

How did you feel about ending your pregnancy era?

T.J. is a 40 something mom of an almost threenager. She lives with her fiance and their son in a suburb of Chicago. Her blog, Chi-town Mommy Mayhem, started as a way to cope with postpartum depression but now helps relieve the everyday stresses of toddlers and tantrums. She enjoys spending time with her family, friends, dogs, and sitting down with a good glass of wine. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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