We Are Both Right

Fifty Shades of Grey, and Why Mommy Lived Happily Ever After

Done, done and done. How about you? ©We Are Both Right

I’m a Fifty Shades of Grey convert.

There, I said it.

Until Tracey recently asked Amanda and me if either of us had read it, I wasn’t admitting to anyone (except my husband) that I not only read Fifty Shades of Grey, but Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Just two months before, I had openly and stubbornly refused to consider reading these books.

You see, I prefer to buck trends whenever possible. And in this case, my decision not to indulge was made in reaction to the incessant gushing of pent-up moms in the bleachers at the town baseball field who thought the trilogy was worthy of a literary award. Seriously, mommy porn? How hard-up do you have to be?

So where was I? Oh yes, I read the entire trilogy. And I liked it. A lot. (I can blame a good friend, whose opinion I very much respect, for my change of heart.)

Once I had read them, it was challenging to refrain from the water cooler critiques which were heavily anti-Fifty Shades. All of my editor friends were saying that any self-respecting writer/editor would never get through the books without covering the pages in red proofreading marks. They were partially right — I was tempted, but distracted enough by the Red Room of Pain scenes to resist picking up a pen and mailing my corrections to author E L James. I also had to overcome a mental top ten list of the most overused fifty shades phrases (Can I get an “Oh my”?). The only thing left to do was laugh at myself for wasting hours on such a guilty pleasure when I barely make time to read anything else. And still, I was glad I did.

Now I am firmly planted on the Fifty Shades bandwagon — that is me, waving the flag, surrendering. But not for all the obvious reasons. Sure the story was hot, steamy mostly. And I even heard of one couple who completely turned around their relationship because the Mrs. had an awakening. But there was more to it than a bunch of sensationalist sex scenes and the BDSM theme.  The most intriguing take-away for me was how Anastasia Steele and Christopher Grey spun their extremes into a whirlwind of self-discovery and ultimately met somewhere in the middle.

I would go so far as to say that the story was touching, dare I say even sweet at times. Anastasia and Christian learned to bend (in most interesting ways) and let go of their fears and inhibitions. Their story, fictional as it may appear, gets you thinking about how far you can stray from your comfort zone while still being true to yourself.

The real theme here is about connecting with someone on a deeper level — and how sometimes you have to expand your definition of normal to get there. But I won’t lie, you will have to repeatedly pick your chin up off the sheets and get through a lot of cable ties and clamps before the real story emerges. Not a bad way to pass the time.

Come to think of it, maybe the real lesson here is about trying something before you decide whether or not you like it — kind of like this book.

Soooo, did you read it? What do you think of the Grey frenzy? Amanda had to deal with the Fifty Shades-hype on the baseball field too, except she’s not giving in. Ever.

Fifty Shades of I’ll Read Something Else

Let’s start with a fun fact, shall we?

Did you know that Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy author E.L. James originally published the work as a piece of Twilight (don’t get me started) fanfiction under the name Snowqueens Icedragon?

Book. Cover. Judged.


One afternoon about a month ago, I was sitting at my son’s batting practice reading a book on my Nook. My daughter and 3-year-old son were home with their dad, and since me offering my child hitting advice made about as much sense as cleaning the house while my preschooler walked around with a cup of grape juice, I suddenly found myself with an entire hour of interrupted reading time. It was heavenly.

Until it wasn’t.

50 Shades of Grey? Nah, Amanda prefers color. And books without mistakes. GiniMiniGi ©/stock.xchng

Fifty Shades of Grey? Nah, Amanda prefers color. And books without mistakes. GiniMiniGi ©/stock.xchng

“Whatcha reading there, Mrs. R.?,” one of the dads asked. (It should be noted this has always been a pet peeve of mine. I’m clearly reading. Not talking. Why are you interrupting me?) In the interest of social niceties, I looked up and started to answer, but I never had a chance.

“I bet it’s that Fifty Shades book all you women are going crazy for,” he said with a smirk. “Lucky for your husband,” he added.

I started to correct him (I was actually reading the thought-provoking Defending Jacob by William Landay) but he liked the material he had imagined and wasn’t going to let facts get in the way of it. He addressed the other parents (all dads) that were in the waiting area.

“Your wives read the Fifty Shades?” he asked. “Mine did,” he said proudly. “Oh, yeah,” he added as a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, fill-in-the-blanks afterthought. (Lucky girl!)

As the other men started comparing and congratulating (!?!?) each other on the reading habits of their significant others, my inner (ha) nerd had had enough of the locker room talk. She has been a passionate, thoughtful reader since the first time she picked up a book 30-something odd years ago and was not about to let her good, hard-earned reputation be sullied by a 20-something virginal, clumsy woman and her terrible life choices.

“Actually,” she (I) said. “I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey, nor will I ever. It’s a ridiculous, poorly-written book with a laughable plot line; incompetently developed, inane characters; and questionable grammar.” (Yes, my inner nerd speaks with semi colons. She didn’t get a lot of dates in high school.) I was about to add, “And I resent that a woman can’t read a book without it being assumed that it’s that tripe,” but the group had already moved on, undoubtedly feeling sorry for my husband and what he has to live with every day. (I think I lost them with my frowny face, furrowed brow and glasses which after that rant were clearly for use and not as a “sexy librarian” prop.)


Actually, when all the hoopla started, I had considered giving the books a go. I knew of their reputation (subject matter and proclivity for mistakes and repetition) but figured all those people and Facebook feeds couldn’t be wrong. Right? A friend stopped me before I could download the first one. She had read all three and thought they were not bad, but knew “how I was” (whatever could she mean by that?) and said that I would wind up throwing it out the window and mailing a thesaurus and a copy of Garner’s Modern American Usage to the author. I think her exact words were, “It will make you stabby.”

So I stay away from Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, I realize this makes me a social oddity and a snob (an an awesome poet apparently). That’s fine. I’ll keep on keeping on. You and your inner goddess sit over there and blush and bite your lip. Again. And again. Oh my! Holy cow! Don’t forget to bite your lip! I understand 26-year-old billionaire control freaks who are into BDSM also like that. A lot! (Oh my! I’m biting my lip again!)


(Holy cow!)

Please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that every book read has to be a thoughtful tome discussing Important Topics. Far from it. Reading should be fun and enjoyable. A way to escape. That’s what books have always been for me. But if we are going to collectively going to go crazy over something that appears on the written page, can it at least be something that doesn’t include the phrase, “He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor Popsicle.”?

Ladies, there are some very good fiction authors out there that have strong, smart women as the lead character. Want erotic fiction with a good story? Try Judy Blume (Summer Sisters and Wifey, not Superfudge) or Penny Vincenzi. Heck, read Joan Collins! (Did I just write that? I’m probably lightheaded from Christian’s rule about no snacking between meals. Who in their right mind would agree to that? My guess? A 21-year-old college student from Seattle who doesn’t own a computer.) Now in these books, you won’t find any Red Rooms of Pain, but you will find interesting plots, complex characters and no glaring typos! Or try something on this list (Wuthering Heights! Really!).


Have you read any part of the Fifty Shades trilogy? Did you become obsessed? Did anything about the books bother you? Suzanne not only read the trilogy, she liked it! (And I always say she’s my most sensible friend!)

Encylopedia Brown: More than a Mystery?

Cuddling up with my seven-year old, lights out and flashlight in hand, we readied ourselves to dive into his first-ever detective mystery novel. He was excited about the flashlight. I was excited about passing on the joy of reading books filled with adventure and intrigue.

The book I selected to deliver on such high expectations was Encyclopedia Brown. Earlier in the day, my husband and I had picked this book while browsing the shelves at the local B&N. He spotted the Encyclopedia Brown series and recalled liking them as a child. I remembered Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys fondly. I had never heard of this series or character.

This being my first exposure to Encyclopedia Brown, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Luckily, it became apparent after the initial well-constructed and neatly wrapped-up chapter that facts are presented, clues are given, and the reader is left to use their own deductive reasoning skills to sort out the mystery. Helpful answers are provided at the end of the chapter to help the novice detective along.

Beginning with chapter 2, my son and I were ready to do some sleuthing of our own. We could solve these mysteries with a bit of research.  Who won the battle of Waterloo?  No problem.  Then, I glanced over at my son and realized he hadn’t a clue as to how to find the answers.

An image of my childhood collection of Encyclopedia Britannica sitting on the top shelf of my closet, quietly awaiting the next social studies report sprung immediately to mind.  What to do? We have no such printed reference materials in our household today. We have the internet. We have…WIKIPEDIA!

The rest of our reading time was spent discussing technology and its impact on information. I explained to my son that today information is stored, shared and updated constantly on the world wide web. It is no longer the static, outdated facts on a printed page that I had as a child.

Coincidentally, I recently read an announcement that Encyclopedia Britannica will stop printing books. Turns out that the 2010, 32-volume set will be the last of its kind as the company focuses on digital.  They are betting that consumers will see the value and pay for vetted, expert information vs. Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

So as new technology forces the old to adapt and compete, will Encyclopedia Brown be  renamed Wikipedia Brown? Which will resonate more with my son? What an unexpected twist to our evening. Thank you, Encyclopedia Brown!


Best of: Summer Reading Kids’ Chapter Books


What books will your kids read this summer?

How does that rhyme go again? “No more pencils, no more books! No more teacher’s dirty looks!”

While we can’t speak for the #2′s or the educators, it’s safe to say that in both of our homes, the “no more books” part is not an issue. While summer reading is required by many school districts, even if it weren’t, you better believe we’d be making our kids spend some of their precious summer vacation in a cool, quiet spot, absorbed in something that doesn’t make noise or have flashing lights.

And while it’s likely the kids will bring home age-appropriate lists from their teachers with some great suggestions on what to read, here we humbly offer up some of our own choices. Feel free to add your own selections in the comments section below!


The “Ramona” series by Beverly Cleary: You cannot even begin to imagine my absolute delight when my 8-year-old daughter came home with the book “Ramona & Beezus” from the school library one day. (An even greater source of pride? She chose it on her own, long before the recent movie came out.) We read it together aloud, a page at a time. And while she was confused by some of the dated references, we found ourselves laughing out loud at many of Ramona’s misadventures. Unfortunately we didn’t get to finish the book — it was due back before we were done — but we fully intend to pick up where we left off.

Encyclopedia Brown by Donal J. Sobol: I’ve been a fan of mysteries since I was young and Leroy Brown was the main reason why (also, I might have had a little crush on him). These short stories follow the tween-aged detective as he solves crimes big and small, some presented to him by kids in the neighborhood, others by his father, the local police chief. The mysteries themselves are not only a fun read, but they encourage logical thinking. By the third or fourth one in, your child may even be able to figure out “whodunit?” without having to turn to the answers section at the end of the book.


The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne: So maybe your summer plans don’t include any trips to far off exotic lands (at least this year). No worries. Give your child one of MPO’s chapter books and you will more than make up for it. These tall tales make history and geography about as easy to swallow as carrots and beets hidden in tomato sauce. My son and I started out reading these books together when he was in kindergarten. He then spent the following two summers bouncing his way through the series and surprising us by what he learned along the way, including obscure facts about Venetian Carnivals and camel rides through the Middle Eastern desert. My favorite: when my husband and I came back from New Orleans and L. knew more about the history of the blacksmith Lafitte than we did after actually being there.

Sports Novels by Matt Christopher: Does someone you know prefer a ball and a bat over the pages of a book? Then you might try throwing one of these chapter books their way while you are driving to batting practice. Author Matt Christopher didn’t earn the title of #1 sportswriter for kids for nothing. His books include fiction stories like The Kid Who Only Hit Homers and Nothin’ But Net, while his numerous biographies on famous athletes will make that book report a breeze once school starts again. These are the books I find my son reading and re-reading late at night with a light under the covers.


What’s on your child’s summer reading list? What was on yours as a child?

Best of: Books for Toddlers

You might have to spend a few extra minutes at bedtime saying good night to the walls and such, but this classic children's book is well worth the read. ©HarperCollins Publishers

There’s something about those first books you read with your toddler that sticks with you for a very long time. (And not just because you have been reading the same two books every night for the last three weeks and can all but recite them in your sleep.)

The titles will come to you in an instant when you are asked to bring your favorite children’s book to a baby shower years from now.

They will still have a place on your child’s bookshelf, long after he develops an affinity for chapter books with underpants in the title and toilet plungers on the cover.

You might even find yourself waxing poetic about these beloved children’s stories someday, only to realize that you can’t recall the character out of the book you will be discussing that evening at book club.

So while they are still fresh in our minds, we figured we would share our favorite books for toddlers with you:


Barnyard Boogie by Jim and Janet Post: My husband had this routine of bringing L. to Barnes & Noble once a week, buying himself a coffee and reading to our son in his stroller. When he came home with Barnyard Boogie, a puppet book that has inserts for your hand into the lips of an oversized felt mouth, I couldn’t wait to hear his narration and see the baby’s reaction. Every page gives you an opportunity to act out another animal voice as you move the hand puppet in tune, with verses like “I’m a linky-slinky jazz cat, I sing meow, meow, meow. Linky-slinky me, Linky-slinky, ow. I’m a linky-slinky jazz cat, meow, meow, meow.” And the kicker — the Barnyard Boogie song that begs to be belted out in your best farmer voice on the last page. I have to admit that I still take this book out when I want to give the kids a good laugh.

I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas: This book is about Owen, a sweet little pig who doesn’t want to leave his mommy to go to school. I found it in a desperate search online right around the time my son’s separation anxiety reached its peak at 18 months old and it came in handy again when S. went through the same thing at day care. Taking you through Owen’s day at school, from coloring a picture for his mom to spilling juice on his snack and braving the slide, the illustrations show a range of emotions that are backed up by his mom’s words: I love you all day long… when you share your favorite purple crayon… or when someone takes your toy. I love you when I’m with you and I love you when we’re apart.

No Hitting! by Karen Katz: Have you ever seen the Yo Gabba Gabba promo where the dad is talking about the show’s messages resonating with his son, how he hears them sing “Don’t bite your friends” and he gets it? That’s what this book did for us. As the story takes you through all the impulsive things a toddler might do, like sticking out his tongue at mommy, each no-no (“I’m mad! I want to squeeze the cat.”) is paired with a alternative action on the flip up portion of the page (“That’s not okay, but I can squeeze some clay.”) My daughter took this as her opportunity to break out her morals and say, “Noooo, we don’t do that.” While it didn’t ward off temper tantrums altogether, reading this book did help.


Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle: Such a simple story, but my toddlers have always loved it. I don’t know if it’s the familiar cadence of the words or the bright, colorful pictures that are found on every page, but I suspect it’s a combination of both. Our youngest S. is especially a fan, asking to read it not only a few times a day, but more than once in each sitting. He’s always been particularly taken with the second-to-last-page (in our board book version anyway) that reads “Children, children, what do you see?” and shows assorted kids of all shapes, sizes and colors. I’m not sure what draws him to this exactly, but he will spend minutes (remember, this is a toddler we are talking about), staring at the page and tracing the different faces with his fingers.

Pete’s Potty (Begin Smart Books): This is a new-to-us title, one of hundreds I would imagine that tackles potty training for toddlers. My little guy has been interested in it for about six months now. At first, I took his attentiveness to the book as a good sign that maybe he’d want to try it himself, but alas, any movement I make with him towards the bathroom results in him yelling a lot. Still, he’ll bring me this at least once a day, happily looking for Pete’s missing potty (it’s not in the kitchen or the garden by the way). He’s especially taken with the mom in the book who doesn’t wear glasses (I do) and makes cookies, and the father who not only wears glasses, but has hair (my husband is lacking both). “Daddy glasses?” S. will inquire, pointing at the page. “No!,” he’ll laugh, shaking his head. “Daddy hair? No!” Good times for everyone!

Baby at the Farm and Where is Baby’s Birthday Cake? both by Karen Katz: I’m including both of these titles by the same author because by far, these are my toddler’s favorite books. Collectively, I think I’ve read both of these stories to him as many times as I’ve read books period. Simple lift-the-flap books with cheerful illustrations starring an adorable baby, S. loves looking for the rouge birthday cake and seems surprised every time we find it. And the trip to the farm is always fun, especially because some of the pages offer a chance to touch the mane of a horse and feel the eggs of a chicken. Plus, we get to make lots of animal noises, always a fun expenditure.


When your toddler settles into your lap for a snuggle and a read, what book can you count on him to bring with him?