Monday, July 20, 2009

I admit it, I'm addicted to...

Kitchen gadgets! Ha! Not what you were thinking, was it. LOL! :))

Yea, though I dislike cooking and baking, I love kitchen gadgets and cookbooks. I'm not even sure if I can explain why I have this fetish for kitchen things. Most women (I think) have a shoe fetish or a purse fetish. Those things would make sense - you wear shoes and use purses. But I don't normally even use the kitchen, unless I'm nuking milk for a latte - yes, I have a cooktop espresso maker. And yes, I have an electric grill which is my main mode of cooking - otherwise, everything would be raw and, quite honestly, raw steak/chicken isn't my thing.

I have two and a half shelves of cookbooks - okay, they are very narrow bookshelves (about 18 inches / 45 cm wide). I leaf through the pages, lovingly gazing at the pictures of what I could do, should I be so inclined. Which doesn't happen often but it does happen on occasion. I may even go out and get the ingredients. And then they rot or go stale. Sighhhh. My parents did not a domestic goddess raise.

Today, I wanted to find a cherry pitter. Cherries are in season and I want to have pitted cherries. I find a kitchen supply store and to my great dismay, they are sold out of cherry pitters. So instead of leaving the store like a normal person, what do I do? I get myself a shopping cart and I peruse the aisles. Up and down until, lo and behold, my cart is full. How the heck did that happen??

Hey, I needed those silicone brushes, place mats, six BBQ lighters in a single pack (although I don't own a BBQ), the over-cabinet door hangers, the bright red dish scrubber (red's my favorite color), water-stop flocked latex gloves in hot pink, the trash bin, the blue polka dot beach/shopping bag and the baking paper. Oh, and the food dehydrator was an absolute must. :)) Really, I think this should be categorized as a compulsion. I'm not compulsive about anything else, just kitchen stuff that I don't use.

This is why I don't go into kitchen stores. I haven't been into one for a few years now. So I guess I was catching up and now it'll be another few years before I allow myself near that kind of store again. 

Life is hard. :))

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trust Yourself

There is a Blue Rodeo song that has been playing in my head for the past five years. It has become my anthem of sorts. The lyrics that I identify with the most are:

Now you’ll be alone when the sun comes up

Tattered little dreams and a broken cup

Then you’ll have to trust yourself

And don’t believe in any more lies

I believed in lies for years, about myself and about the people around me. And it wasn’t just a bad marriage. Other things and people contributed to my problems, problems that were and are up to me to fix. It’s all well and good to discover from whence your problems sprang, but if you get caught up in the “It’s all your fault” thing, you can’t move forward and you can’t fix those things that are every person’s responsibility to fix. You become a victim because you define yourself as a victim. You may have been victimized, but it doesn’t follow that you have to view yourself as a powerless victim. And you perpetuate your victim-hood by not taking steps to view yourself and your world in a different, clearer light.

And whether it’s an abusive childhood, abusive marriage, racism or bullying at home, school or work, in the past or present, it’s up to you to fix you. You teach people how to treat you. I absolutely believe this. You may have tried to have the perfect life, the perfect relationship, the perfect whatever but it blew up in your face and “now you’ll be alone when the sun comes up”.

Being alone in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact it can be a very good thing, a very centering thing and a very humbling thing. Being alone has allowed me the time to figure out what has gone wrong and right in my life. Yes, I hang onto my “tattered dream and broken cup” but that is until I replace it with something better, which I am working on.

My eyes are open and I won’t believe the lies anymore because I am not that person anymore. I have to be able to trust my judgment and instincts. And that comes with maintaining my personal boundaries and listening to myself. That comes with carefully picking apart my past and my present. Some of it is painful but some of it is good. I have done some things right, even though it may have taken me some time to realize it.

The reason I am writing this post is that I believe that everyone gets dealt a raw hand in some way, at some time. No one’s life is a fairy tale and unfortunately, some get dealt a worse hand than others. No, it’s not fair. But it is life.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Romance and The Sexual Mind

I spend quite a bit of time looking at psychology and physiology to build my characters. The other day I read a special issue (July 7, 2009) of the “Scientific American Mind” magazine dealing with sex and sexual differences between men and women, aside from the most obvious dissimilarities. The article about kissing was named “Affairs of the Lips” by Chip Walter. Did you know that a kiss “triggers a cascade of neural messages and chemicals that transmit tactile sensations, sexual excitement, feelings of closeness, motivation and even euphoria”? Also “Kisses can convey important information about the status and future of a relationship. At the extreme, a bad first kiss can abruptly curtail a couple’s future.” Wow, talk about pressure and all dependant on the first touching of lips.

Oxytocin is a chemical that can govern the formation of social bonds. They did an experiment and the results were fascinating. With kissing, researchers had predicted that oxytocin levels would rise in both men and women. What they found was they while oxytocin levels rose in men, they did not rise in women. Researchers concluded that women “needed more than a kiss to feel emotionally connected or sexually excited during contact.” The reason I thought this was interesting is that I believe that men fall in love faster than women. And if oxytocin, which facilitates bonding, rises faster in men than in women, it could mean that men become involved in a relationship faster than women.

Another article, “The Orgasmic Mind”, was written by Martin Portner. Men and women were placed in PET scan machines to see what happened in their brains during an orgasm induced by their partners. Not something I would want to do personally, but hey, it takes all types. I like privacy. When a man orgasms, “the amygdala, the brain’s center of vigilance and fear, showed a decline in activity”… ”a probable sign of decreased vigilance during sexual performance.” When a woman orgasms, something unexpected happens, namely that, “much of her brain went silent”, which might correspond  “to a release of tension and inhibition.”

As a result of other measures, the researchers concluded that, “(f)ear and anxiety need to be avoided at all costs if a women wishes to have an orgasm, we knew that, but now we can see it happening in the depths of the brain.” So maybe this has to do with our caveman brains: a man, being broadly responsible for the safety of his family, must always maintain some vigilance even during sex thus allowing his female partner to relax enough to orgasm and facilitate bonding with her partner. I may be wrong, I may have misinterpreted what I read but still it’s an interesting subject.

So those of us writing romance and erotica now have more scientific ways to closely simulate realistic characters in courtship and sexual situations. The images of women as mindless during orgasm don’t appear to be all that far off. But this is only during climax, the article indicates that women’s brains bounce back to normal activity immediately after orgasm.

Romance and erotica are such interesting genres because they explore relationships between men and women. And despite derision of these genres by “serious” writers and readers, relationships literally keep the human race in existence. I think that every adult should read at least one well-written romance novel, where the characters are realistic even if the situations are not.

I believe the percentage of men writing romance under female pseudonyms is somewhere around 10%, so some of your favorite romance authors may be male. It is really too bad that we don’t necessarily know who is male and who is female in these cases because we might get a more balanced view of men and women. After all, writers are either men or women who have to simulate the opposite sex' responses and feelings. 

I would like to think that romance writers could present a realistic view of both men and women. I personally do my best to avoid stereotypes in characters because no one is entirely a stereotype. Everyone is an individual with feelings and motivations and agendas. And when we stereotype anyone, whether in real life or in fiction, we do a disservice to everyone.

This is why I love mixing science and art. When the two are combined, great things can happen. Science is art and art is science.