Happy Independence Day!

It’s been a rough week here and today doesn’t promise to be much better (stomach virus, which the kids also have gotten, whee!) but it’s the Fourth of July so I figured I’d let everyone know that I am NOT dead yet.

Independence is kind of a big thing for me, given that I even used it for one of my kids’ middle names. (You can have fun guessing which.) It’s been really fun and interesting to do our homeschooling history lessons about the Revolutionary War and the things that happened because of it. Like our Declaration, the Constitution, etc. Things that maybe we don’t appreciate enough these days.

I wish everyone a safe and happy Fourth! Keep the bottle rockets out of the kids’ hands once they’re lit and don’t let them smack anyone in the eye with a lit marshmallow. God bless us and our nation, and thank you especially to all the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen who have served our country in all of her various times of struggle.

Summertime madness

Well, Lana Del Rey may have Summertime Sadness, but around here it’s been nothing but Summertime Madness.

Frankly, I’d prefer it that way, as her video isn’t especially cheerful (duh.) At least, when it’s just crazy as hell, there are still moments of happiness and joy and love mixed in there somewhere. Granted, they’re not the most numerous moments, but they ARE there somewhere. You just have to endure the craziness first.

So, the source of most of the madness has been Miss Autism. She’s stepped up her game with fun new diversions like smearing feces around her room. She was really playing us one day and drew a smiley face on her wall . . . in poop. So, yeah, she’s not just doing it for fun. It’s a form of protest as well. Just what she’s protesting is up for debate, since she’s the one calling all the shots around here anyway.

Took her in for a checkup, she’s in great health. Every woman should admire her ability to maintain a stable healthy bodyweight while drinking over a liter of Dr Pepper every day. She does that by vigorously avoiding all but a handful of foods, and mostly eating meat, veggies, and fruit with a small sideline in rice and pasta. Well, she also eats crayons, plastics, and small pieces of wood and metal. But those aren’t exactly high calorie items.

It’s . . . indescribable. You think you’ve hit bottom and then you find a new low. I have no idea what’s going on in her head. I wish I understood her better, maybe we could stop this cycle of escalating behaviors.

My husband has been out of town for the past two weeks, as well, working in El Paso. The little boys have reacted to Daddy’s absence by acting out and regressing. Whee, fun. So I have one of them screaming and screeching at the top of his lungs all day and the other one whining nonstop. And both of them fighting with each other all day. I think they need a vacation from each other, honestly. Maybe they’d appreciate each other after a break.

I’m hoping that’s the case with their big brother, the Viking. He’s going to spend the entire month of July with grandparents back east. Since he’s been the one doing most of the mopping of Miss Autism’s room, I’m sure he’ll be glad of the break. Me, I’m going crazy worrying about stupid things like his flights and layovers and whether or not I will be able to find him some good shoes this weekend.

But eventually, you have to let your babies grow up and become men and women who are in charge of their own destiny. This is the hardest part of parenthood, and I’m not exactly doing the best job ever. It’s so hard to let them make mistakes (or do thing you THINK are mistakes.) It can drive you to madness, to saying stupid things that you really should keep under your hat.

Madness . . . it’s in the air lately. Maybe it’s the heat.

Be yourself

I think our culture here in the decadent West has a giant identity problem. Somewhere, in our little tiny brains, we’ve accepted this notion that the stereotyped ideal of 1950’s television shows WAS and IS the proper norms for human behavior. Everything else we do and say seems to stem from that colossal misunderstanding of history, fashion, mores, morals, and cultural shifts.

It gives me a massive headache, because it’s like taking all the richness of human history and cramming a portion of it to fit into a teeny tiny little box . . . and then claiming that the box is enormous and filled with treasure. It’s almost like a golden calf that we’ve created and no one seems to see that the idol is false. Either we’re reacting against the idol or we’re busy telling ourselves that the idol was and is the best of humanity and them was the good old days. Somehow, people seem to actually believe that the “normal” that was on “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show” was ideal, right, even attainable.

Ugh.

I love history. I have many nonfiction history books on my bookshelves. I have a series about the private lives of people during history, a book or two about sexuality in history, and books about different time periods and their little quirks. I’ve even got economic history and sociological studies in the bunch. Reading all these books has given me a much more nuanced view of human possibility. What I’ve mainly learned is that the idealized 1950s American life is a ridiculous set of norms, and trying to live by them OR reacting against them is just plain silly.

I’ll give you an example– men’s hair. Now, I personally live in a very small city in the middle of the Bible Belt, a city that’s taken that ideal and stamped down hard on anything that deviates from it. Forget that, over the 6000 or so years of recorded human history, men have had hairstyles that have varied in every single possible way, from the huge curled wigs of the Restoration period in Great Britain to the “hack it off” look of the Roundheads that were the king’s nemesis. Men here have to have men’s hair as defined by the ideal– short, preferably a high and tight fade, something that wouldn’t look out of place under a fedora and above a white button-up shirt from Sears. Anything else is evidence that you’re some kind of deviant.

The schools around here, naturally, enforce a strict hair code for boys. They can’t have hair in their eyes or touching their collar, they can’t have facial hair, they can’t dye it interesting colors or cut it in any radical styles (like mohawks. or even fauxhawks.) Anything out of the “norm” is absolutely forbidden and you will be suspended or expelled if you defy the rules.

Girls aren’t much less hemmed in, really. No “unnatural” hair colors, no radical styles, the only difference is that they’re allowed to have long hair. There’s rules on the books forbidding any clothing that may be seen as “emo” or “Goth”, no black nail polish and lipstick, no trenchcoats, nothing to suggest that you’re not just another one of the herd. A lot of those rules got pushed forwards nationwide after the Columbine shooting tragedy, under the wrongheaded notion that forcing kids to dress in uniforms or forgo dressing in any “suspicious” manner would somehow solve the deep-seated issues that school shooters tend to have.

And the parents go along with all this. They obediently trot their sons off to the barber shop and buy the school uniforms and punish their kids if they’re caught breaking one of the rules. The effect is to push this silly notion of “appropriate” behavior on to yet another generation. If the rules say that boys shouldn’t have long hair or wear nail polish or dress in black, well, there must be a good reason for it, right? It must be proper and normal.

That was one of the saddest and stupidest things about the whole Bruce Jenner/Caitlyn Jenner story, to me. Some interviewer asked him/her what they were looking forwards to the most about “transitioning” . . . and he/she said something to the effect of “I’ll be able to wear nail polish and let it just chip off instead of having to remove it and hide it.”

Nail polish.

Seriously?

This man has so internalized the rotten and horribly circumscribed possibilities that men are allowed in our culture that he thinks he has to change himself into a woman to be allowed to wear nail polish in public.

And, in a way, it’s a form of cowardice, not bravery. Because bravery, in this world, isn’t to say that “I like nail polish and lipstick, therefore I must be a woman.” Bravery, in this world, is to wear what you damn well please, when you damn well please to wear it. Bruce Jenner was a gold medal winning Olympian and also extremely freaking rich to boot. If he wanted to go around wearing nail polish, who was going to really care? What were we going to do, strip his medals from him and boot him out of the country?

It’s precisely because people are afraid to defy the norms that things have stayed in this straightjacket of dress and mannerisms for so long. We’re willing to allow, oh, heavy metal musicians and Alaskan survivalists to wear long hair even if they’re men. The rest of you had better chop it short, though. And apparently only musicians and drag queens can wear nail polish and lipstick.

Urgh. It’s so dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Listen, fashions change. Manners change. I’m sure that Jenner has plenty of other psychosexual issues besides wanting to wear nail polish. But it’s definitely worth asking if people would have such severe problems with their identity and sexuality and gender if we as a society didn’t have an absolute freak-out about any deviations from the norm.

And where you see the freak outs start is in childhood, precisely the time when people start having these problems. My older daughter decorates cakes for a living– she can tell you how freaked-out people become if they can’t find a cake decorated in “boy colors” or “girl colors” (as defined by them.) To give a boy a cake with purple on it is, apparently, some kind of radical and frightening deviance. Purple, you know, the color of royalty and majesty as well as penance and mystery. Yep, it’s not a permissible color for boys, at least on birthday cakes. Forget about pink. What, do you want to make him queer? (sarcasm intended)

It’s just such a small way of looking at things. And the only way to change it is to refuse to be cowed by it. I’m religiously conservative, sure, but my sons are free to dress in any manner they wish. One of my sons is fond of nail polish. He loves the stuff (as my bathroom tile and rugs can attest, he’s also very bad at applying it.) And I don’t say anything negative about his wish to wear nail polish on his fingers and toes, except to yell when he gets it all over the new bathroom rug (yet again.) He’s just being himself, and he is a guy who likes to decorate his toes. So what?

Another of my sons has hair down below his shoulders. He looks really good, too– long hair suits his face shape and features. He doesn’t look like anyone else but himself– but he has to constantly put up with people mistaking him for a girl. It’s ridiculous, since here is a kid who is wearing clothes that are obviously meant for boys (he’s 8, he thinks camouflage is an acceptable fashion choice) and nothing else about him is remotely effeminate. But long hair = girl even when there is no other evidence that the person is a female. Which is, frankly, stupid. Male DNA does not keep hair from growing. Men’s hair grows much more copiously on their bodies and possibly faster than women’s. I figure that because I have to cut my kids’ hair, and a fresh trim grows out WAY too fast on the boys. My daughters’ cuts seem to last longer.

So why do we hang on to the lazy shorthand that long hair is for girls only? What, exactly, would we lose if boys had long hair just as often as girls do? Total chaos? Riots in the streets? Dogs and cats, living together? Or just a bunch of kids who have hair that suits them, whether long or short, depending on their own fashion sense and their mothers and fathers willingness to brush it in the morning? (because trust me, boys are no better at wielding a brush than little girls are.)

I think, on the part of some people, it’s a fear that breaking down the “gender barriers” would lead to the dogs and cats living together option. But I don’t see it that way. I think that, if men and women could just be themselves, with whatever fashion and hair and makeup and dress they like, there would be LESS pressure on people to “choose” a sex. Maybe people could actually love the bodies that they’re in without feeling that they’re somehow wrong or bad for wanting to adorn themselves or feel pretty.

And that’s what we want, isn’t it? People who are just happy to be themselves, no matter what body they are born with. Men who can find a way to love their masculinity precisely because they’re not trying to fake being a man in the mold of Ward Cleaver. People who can love their bodies without feeling like they need to lop anything off, people who can be themselves without other people scorning them for matters of dress that are, frankly, not moral issues. If we insist that all women must be feminine in a precisely defined and limited way and all men must be masculine in a severely defined and limited way, we’re, in a way, lopping off our own human possibilities. We’re mutilating our own future.

The problem isn’t with Hollywood celebrities and whatever sloppily-dressed musicians happen to be topping the charts– these are down-on-the-ground problems, problems of moms and dads and the next generation. Problems of grandmas who sneak kids off for haircuts and grandpas who ask if you’re trying to “make a girl outta him.” Problems of us defining ourselves by such small metrics. Yes, fashion and hair and makeup are shortcuts to figuring out where a person “belongs” in our world. People will always use lazy shortcuts. But if people stop using those particular shortcuts, I think we’d live in a better world.

Besides, we can always find something ELSE to judge our neighbors by, thereby reducing them from the fullness of their humanity into objects for us to sort. Why, we could start putting stars on our bellies . . . . ;-P

stars

Ahh, I’m tired. God bless, whether or not you’ve got stars on thars.

Okay, sweet summer children, what IF?

So, “Game of Thrones” had its season finale on Sunday and I’ve been digesting it for the past few days.

Spoiler space, for those who haven’t watched and wept tears of frustration.

Ok.

Now.

It occurs to me that I, along with most of the fandom, have assumed that The Hero of the North (aka Jon Snow) isn’t really dead, at least not permanently. GRRM played us so many times throughout the last two books with cliffhangers (especially involving Tyrion) that we got a little blase about them. Okay, okay, another lame cliffhanger, we said. Get us to the good part, where Jon wargs into Ghost or gets raised by the Red Woman or whatever has to happen to get our hero back to us.

(This is especially important to show viewing people who are infatuated with the actor Kit Harrington. A show without Kit seems a barren place indeed.)

But what if GRRM wasn’t playing? What if Jon Snow’s really dead?

Eeeek.

Yeah, that’s about the entirety of my response. The Wall and the invasion of the ice dudes seems pretty unwinnable when no one really takes the whole thing seriously.

And, basically, I have a terrible feeling that it will get harder to give a hoot about the books and the show once they start killing off the point of view characters in larger numbers. I honestly didn’t care for Robb or Catelyn and their end didn’t make me weep any tears. Losing Jon, though, that’s rough. Because I actually despise Dany. And Tyrion is not my favorite (too self pitying by far in the books.) Jon was my man! And now . . . his watch is ended.

If GRRM is trolling us and Jon stays dead, well, I’m going to be pissed. And definitely will not buy the books (if they ever come out.)

It seems like something he’d do, doesn’t it? Give us hints that Jon’s not dead, only to stab us in the feels when the next book comes out?

Bleh. I hope I’m wrong.

I wish I had a copy of the second book handy. I’m missing that one and the last . . . and possibly some pages from the third one, since Miss Autism decided that my Song of Ice and Fire paperbacks are fun to carry around the house and leave in odd places. You never know when you’re going to trip over A Storm of Swords or have to sidestep A Feast For Crows.

I may buy them secondhand, anyway. I got my copy of AFFC from a used bookstore in Florida. The others, yes, I paid full price for. But George is rich enough, my friends. Unless he actually finishes the darn books, he ain’t getting any more of my money than HBO passes on from my $17 a month during the season each year.

I really hope I’m wrong . . ..

Falling, sans style

This week has been, in a word, perilous. I feel like we’re traipsing just at the edge of disaster and any wrong step is going to pitch us over the ledge into our doom.

Maybe that’s a little melodramatic. Maybe not. The rain has been falling steadily here for the past two hours, so maybe I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of having our nearby river escape its banks and strand us on the far side of the Bosque. Tropical storms, coming right after we’d just begun drying out from the abnormally wet spring, are not helping us in our quest for “let’s all get back to normal.”

The farmer who farms the land next to our neighborhood is really SOL, too– his sudangrass is already starting to set seeds. By the time this dries out, it will all have gone to seed and the nutritive value will be crap. But, then, this is the same farmer who baled wet hay last year. And then baled moldy hay. The dude obviously has issues.

Epic rains. Epic bad behavior from Miss Autism. Unexpected complications, unexpected everything. I just feel a little lost. Our trip to the doctor’s office yesterday didn’t exactly give me any answers– no answers about Miss Autism’s health (Do I have to call back for the results of her urine test? When should I bring her in for bloodwork?) and no answers about the ongoing struggle to find her a psychiatrist who will be willing to help us find a medicine that works to calm her without turning her into a veggie. I feel like it was a wasted two hours. Very discouraging.

The good thing about the rain, I guess, is that it gives us a chance to “reset” the garden. Everything was getting baked dry by the sudden switch to 100 degree days. Now we can go rip out the lettuce (that bolted) and the green beans (that already did their thing) and try to get in some pumpkins and a new bunch of beans and greens and whatever else we have in the seed box.

I need to do so much. I have an entire day’s worth of paperwork and phone calls that I need to make. At least two days of work in the garden to get that all done. Several days of cleaning and painting to make Miss Autism’s room look like a bedroom instead of a war zone. I wish I had a magic wand to make it all go away.

So, yeah, if my posts this week seem a bit lackluster, it’s because I’m just drained and lost and feel like I’m falling way behind. I’ve been reading silly nonfiction books about fashion, not that I can afford new clothes or anything, just to have something fluffy and silly to think about instead of serious stuff. I watched the entire first season of “True Detective” on HBOGo before I cancelled my subscription (I only keep it for Game of Thrones every spring.) I didn’t sleep nearly enough. My brain is kinda mushy right now.

So, yeah, I’m going to try to get my act together. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to stay rainy so I may tackle that pile of paperwork. Not excited about it, but it has to get done. At some point, when you’re falling, you have to decide if you’re going to keep falling or open your darn parachute.

Minimalism vs. thriftiness

I have to admit it– I’m 41 and I’m sick and tired of all the junk we’ve managed to accumulate in 23 years of marriage. I’m sorely tempted by all the websites and books that espouse minimalism, but I’m up against a big problem here.

We’ve got antiques my husband collected before our marriage. We’ve got antiques my great-grandmother handed down to me. We’ve got dishes we bought together and a mishmash of pots and pans that, honestly, confuses me most of the time.

Linens, oh my, we’ve got tons of pillowcases. Those seem to be the only part of the sheet sets that survive the heavy use they get when you have bedwetters in the house. We have several blankets for each bed, since the bedwetters tend to soak theirs and need a new one at 2am. There are some old things in there, too– afghans crocheted by mothers and grandmothers, baby clothes, and quilts. Add in our always-tattered towels, washcloths, and hand towels, and it’s a mess that takes up three closets.

Toys, oi . . . let’s put it this way: we have 7 kids and they each have gotten a ton of toys and we hardly ever throw any toys away until they’re utterly destroyed. As a result, we have more toys than any kid could ever play with.

And then there’s everything else. And it’s in the “everything else” pile that problems start to crop up when you’re trying to go minimalist. Because, yes, some of these things I haven’t used in 6 months, or even 6 years, but the cost and trouble of buying them again would be so difficult that saving them seems the frugal, wise, and reasonable option. We only use the plug-in roaster oven for the holidays for turkeys and such, but it’s a lifesaver (and they’re $70 or so to replace it.) We only use the tile tools for big tiling projects, but those saw blades and tile cutters are expensive, and we will eventually need them again.

There’s a huge number of those sorts of things stored in the garage. Nothing terribly valuable, just useful and specific. And, honestly, I don’t need some of it and may never need it again. Hoof picks and halters and lead ropes? I haven’t owned a horse in the past decade. Ditto with the dog leashes and clippers and things that are sized for a giant breed dog. But I’d hate to have to get rid of the stuff, even if I know it’s probably for the best. If another Great Pyrenees or Great Dane walked into my life, I’d wish I had those heavy-duty leashes and elevated food bowls.

Minimalist websites like to talk like we’re going to buy a smaller house somehow if we get rid of some of our clutter, but let’s be honest– it’s not the box of barn equipment in the garage that made us buy a 3100 square foot house, it’s the four kids we had at the time, the one that was on the way, and the two more that have been born since then. Just thinking about moving into a small house makes my heart rate go a little hinky, no matter how much cheaper it might be. Have you ever tried to keep kids happy in a tiny space? We have a travel trailer which is about ten feet wide by 32 feet long. I know all about having lots of kids in a small space. It’s hell.

Every time I go to declutter things, I have to stop and ask myself: “Am I going to have to buy another of these darn things in a couple months? And how much is that going to cost me?” I may never need to replace the antique dishes that, honestly, aren’t very pretty and I don’t particularly enjoy, but I will surely end up replacing the huge double stroller if I chuck it in the junk pile, because there’s no way I’m going to try to take kids on a long vacation without our “battle wagon.”

In the meantime, it’s a big bulky mass in the back of my truck, eating up my gasoline, or it’s a big bulky mass in the garage, taking up space. But it’s a hefty chunk of change to replace the darn thing, even secondhand. So I put up with it and hope that my husband doesn’t get irritated some weekend and throw it in the dump pile.

As much as I would like to sell everything, rent a yacht, and spend the rest of my life bumming around the Caribbean, I know that I’d run into the same stupid problems there. I’d be kicked back in a lawn chair on some white sand beach, reach for a cool crisp bottle of wine, and remember that I sold the damned wine bottle opener with everything else.

Or I’d drop my Kindle into the sea. Because you can’t own hundreds of books on a boat, unless that boat is the Queen Mary 2.

Guess I’m just going to have to be as minimalist as I can with 7 kids, which is  “not very.”

Well, anyway, that wasn’t in the plan

Pretty much nothing this week has gone according to plan. For example, we’ve had:

Another ridiculous bunch of needless legal drama, thanks to our incomparable school district.

My husband’s car giving its transmission the heave-ho.

My husband finally coming down with this awful virus that everyone has had.

And several other things of minor importance that just make things less pleasant in general. You know the sort of things– bills and ruined meals and someone spilling an entire ice pop on the floor you just mopped and then leaving it to dry to a sticky syrup. The things that wear you out. They tend to add up when you’re homeschooling, too, especially since part of my master plan is to allow the boys to make their own sandwiches and snacks. So my new tile floor is a constant sticky mess. I just banished all ice pops to the back porch only. Maybe that will help.

There are good things, sure. The baby is walking more and more each day. The Ninja’s reading skills are getting better and better. The Tank told me that he only hated me a little but also loved me a little, so I am “medium” on his chart of who he hates. Whew, a relief. ;-) Would hate to be entirely hated.

Just no time to think or rest or relax this week. Tired and weary and just want a nap.

Maybe things will improve.

Froot Loop having a bad night.

Froot Loop having a bad night.

There are no words for how rough this week has been. All I have for you is this picture of my dear friend Froot Loop, the stuffed bunny. I found him in the living room last week, right in the middle of the room, with one of my roses on his chest. I’m not sure if he was being buried or just being romantic. Either way, there he was.

Froot Loop came from JC Penney, a Christmas impulse-buy present. He had lavender-scented seeds of some sort in his chest. Buckwheat? Something like that. You could microwave the cloth bag of seeds and then stick them in Froot Loop’s belly, giving him the warmth of a hot-water bottle and the slightly fruity smell of sugary cereal. Back in the bad bad days when the Tank was having his fever episodes every month on the dot, Froot was his constant companion.

And now, he’s flat on the floor, clutching a rose. Don’t ask me.

I am flat on the floor, emotionally and physically and mentally. I am just SO tired after this week that I don’t know what to do with myself. Play a game? Read a book? Sleep? (Haha. Too tired to sleep. Which actually is a thing.)

Mostly I feel like listening to Soul Asylum and drinking a nice cold Coke. Well, there’s no Coke in the house, but there is YouTube. So here, share a song with me . . . because my life this week has been a Runaway Train.

A Book Addict fesses up

Most of my library book pile. Winnie the Pooh and Little People donkey for scale.

Most of my library book pile. Winnie the Pooh and Little People donkey for scale.

Hi, my name is Marti, and I’m a bookaholic.

(And a caramel-aholic and a game fanatic and many many other things, trust me, I have my tongue firmly in cheek right now!)

Being a bookaholic is a rough thing at times. For example, books are heavy. Maybe it’s not a problem if you’re one of those people who reads digital books, but my Kindle was smashed by persons unknown and my Kindle Fire has been, so to say, co-opted by the children for games and movies. I’m getting older and my joints aren’t so great, so hauling around books is a pain. Literally.

But mostly it’s a pain because my life is mostly lived in an intimate relationship between my eyes, my brain, and a written representation of someone else’s imagination. Actual relationships with actual people are much more difficult. People expect things. People need things. People want things. Books just give you an experience without asking for anything back.

So, probably due to my personality, but certainly not helped by reading more than 3000 books in my life (if we’re counting children’s books, it’s probably between 3 and 4 thousand), I’m pretty bad at the whole friendship thing. I’ve got a handful of friends and I love them all dearly. Of course, the problem is that none of them lives closer than 120 miles away! It’s not much of a problem if you want to keep people at arm’s length, as I’ve wanted to do most of my life, but it’s a real problem if you want to get closer to actual living people.

And, honestly, it’s hard for me to relate to most people. I have some rather peculiar hobbies and interests and tastes, and most people just don’t share those fascinations. Finding someone who does is rare and precious. My friend Lena, for example, not only would go with me to a science fiction convention, but also a Chieftains concert. We actually have too much in common sometimes– we each have a son with the same rare-as-can-be middle name. But even this great friend is someone who I’ve let down over the years, retreating into my head when my life gets too tough and I can’t deal with relationships anymore.

Of course, during the worst times, I’ve even stopped reading books. You know it’s a bad bad time in my life when there’s nothing being checked out of the library and nothing on its way from Amazon.

But how does one move out from behind the pages and out into the world? I’m not an easy person. Some people think I’m frightening. Most people just find me to be odd, distant, a little snooty.

It’s so much easier to deal with fictional people. They don’t get hurt. They can’t cut you for mysterious reasons.

Sometimes I think that it’s no mystery why I have an autistic child– I’m halfway there myself when it comes to social skills. I can type like mad, I am great at pretending to be someone else in a roleplaying game, and I’m able to use my humor and verbal skills so darn well when I have time to think about what I’m saying. In a conversation, well, not so much. In fact, not really at all. I’m too weird to hold a good conversation.

Oh well. Maybe I’ll be a late bloomer. Maybe? Maybe my book addiction won’t be such a crutch if I choose to move beyond my isolated and introverted ways.

Then I can indulge without the guilt of knowing I’m hiding behind the book, just as I was in first grade, all those years ago. Because I’m not going to stop reading . . . are you kidding? Do you know how many books I have on my to-read list??? :)

Seen through someone else’s eyes

For anyone who isn’t totally obsessed with the Game of Thrones television series and books and differences between, I apologize in advance for two posts in a row about Westeros. I also assure you that there’s no huge spoilers involved, this is more about perception than the actual show. I think.

Hmm. Anyway, we all lie to ourselves. We’ve all got blind spots. Even the great saints spend years prying the scales from their eyes and trying to banish those last deceptions.

I’m no different than anyone else in this regard. I don’t perceive myself as the person I truly am– in my head, for example, I am a blonde. So what that my hair turned from blonde to brown at puberty; I grew up a blonde and I will eternally be a towhead with my hair turning green in the summer from the chlorine in the pool. Totally delusional, unless I decide to lop off my black dyed tresses and go for a radical bleach job. But, hey, it’s just one of my less serious quirks. I’ve got plenty that are worse!

I’m sure you have your own personal examples and doubtless you know someone whose little blind spots are more like beams in their eyes than motes. And we usually need help with the big flaws– it’s hard to see them without someone pointing them out, either gently in a spirit of love or in a manner less than loving. Usually the loving way is best– our denial mechanism is strong and we’re awfully good at ignoring things we don’t want to see.

There’s a very good example of this in Daenerys Targaryen, one of the big movers and shakers in the Song of Ice and Fire series. In the books, we never see Dany from the outside. Every single chapter that involves her is told through her point of view. The other characters in the books are much too tangled to be the sole set of eyes describing them. We see Queen Cersei’s madness and manipulations quite clearly through the eyes of those around her and their own feelings, opinions, and descriptions of her. Queen Daenerys, well, we only have her word for what happens.

In the books, this leads to casual readers just blithely reading through Dany’s impressions and taking her at her word. In a chapter told in a character’s own “voice”, this is a tempting thing to do. Agatha Christie used it to good effect in one of her most famous books. Blink and you miss the part where the narrator kills the victim. In the “Game of Thrones” universe, you can blink and miss the telltale self-deceptions.

Daenerys tells us things, repeatedly, because she is telling herself these lies. She seems to believe them, discounting evidence of their falsity and skimming over it in her representation of her world. It’s only when you go back and read through it again that you pick up on those discrepancies. They range from mote to beam sized, so to speak. A lot of them have to do with the way other people view her, her abilities as a ruler, and her heritage from her family. And since we never see her from another’s eyes, we have no way of knowing for sure if she’s lying. She could just choose not to tell herself these things, after all.

Don’t get me wrong, Dany is a huge favorite of many readers and lots of viewers of the television series. Her lies aren’t seemingly malicious ones. They are, as I’ve said, self-deceptions. For whatever reason, she lies to herself about herself. But, then, we all do it, don’t we? So we can maybe forgive her. . ..

In the television series, the character has actually been massively popular, even if people seem to have the impression that her name is Khaleesi instead. She’s been shown in a heroic manner, her travails have been noble, and her path towards victory has seemed assured. There were a couple of moments in the first four seasons where those around her seemed to indicate that things weren’t all well. They were minor things and mostly things only book readers would pick up– a minor spoiler of no import here– for example, Dany thinks that her command of the Dothraki language is perfect, because her husband told her it was. Later, however, her handmaiden/advisor quietly corrects her pronunciation of a word. It’s just a beat . . . but it’s a revelation that Dany’s self-deceptions are indeed deceptions and not the absolute truth.

And that’s the joy and strength of the television portrayal in a nutshell. We can actually see Daenerys through the eyes of other people. We can see the reactions of the other characters, the condemnation or approval in their expressions, hear the words that Dany herself never wants to hear, and see her in a much starker light than she has been portrayed in the novels.

The current season, Season 5, has been ramping this up a bit. Things are not all well in the state of Denmark, so to speak. Because we’re not forced to see it all through her eyes, there’s more of a sense of foreboding, more of a sense of doom at times. I suspect that some of the people who have been very pro-Daenerys will find this season to be frustrating, maybe boring or a letdown. The golden idol has feet of clay.

But I think that’s a good thing, and certainly what GRRM was trying to accomplish with his series. He set out to turn some of the stale fantasy tropes on their head. The wonderful hero with hardly any flaws was a very stale trope. Maybe people don’t want a hero who screws up, but we certainly need them. It’s one of the most vivid and relatable things about the saints of the Catholic Church– they’re not perfect. They try to be, sure, but they are wholly human and wholly fallible people. They are people who try to do the right thing, the just thing, the good thing.

It remains to be seen if Dany is a person like that . . . or if she will be, in the end, the Mad Queen. As the series goes on, we’ll find out . . . without having to see it through her sad little lies.