Getting personal: anxiety, depression, and being “normal”

As a teacher, I taught sex ed and human systems three times. It didn’t take long before I realized almost all questions kids asked were variations of the same one: “Am I normal?”

The Other Side of Normal - Jordan Smoller - Hardcover

I read The Other Side of Normal by Jordan Smoller a few years ago and think about it a lot. It sprang to mind whenever I answered the questions my students posed. “Normal” is a spectrum. It’s scary to deviate from what we perceive is average, but almost all of us do in some ways.

Even if we’re all still mostly stuck in one spot right now as this pandemic continues, whatever you’re going through, other people are dealing with it too.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month | Oshkosh Area United Way

It’s almost the end of mental health month. It’s also the end of a personal era as my time at the place I’ve worked the longest draws to a close. I know mental health for many of us is under particular strain this year as we cope with a global pandemic.

For me, my mental health issues predate lockdown.

I’ve dealt with anxiety since childhood. When I was younger, it manifested like it does for Chidi Anagonye in The Good Place.

the good place gifs — I'm in a perfect utopia and I have a ...

I got stomachaches ALL THE TIME. Basically, whenever I had to take a math test…which was every week in the third and fourth grade. That stress reaction continued through high school.

The Good Place's Chidi Gives Me Stomachaches, Too (But Not Always ...

I also struggled with decisions. To a certain extent, I still do. I’ve gotten better at it as the years have gone by, but I do still torture myself over my choices and drive the people in my life crazy as I ask for input….

As I got older, my anxiety manifested more like Annie from Community.

Still Hurting GIF | Gfycat

I got migraines almost every week for a year in college and have had stress headaches that last for days at a time, even as recently as this year.

And a different aspect of Chidi’s anxiety, insomnia, has also become a recent issue.

18 Times Chidi From "The Good Place" Got Way, Way Too Real

My insomnia is also tied up with something I was finally diagnosed with last summer: depression.

Dark Arts Halloween GIF by Harry Potter

The best fictional example I’ve seen of depression is a dementor. J.K. Rowling came up with them after her own struggles with depression. They’re monsters that drain the joy out of people, trapping them in their own worst experiences, making the world around them cold; they’ll quite literally suck out your soul if left unchecked. Which is….dark for a children’s book. 

Except children already know that bad things exist. The beautiful part of the dementor storyline is that it is about Harry learning to defeat the dementors. He doesn’t give up: he faces the stigma of his peers as he’s more affected by the dementors than they are, but he finds a mentor in Professor Lupin and learns the complicated spell that helps him cope.

Gilbert K. Chesterton Quote: “Fairy tales do not tell children the ...

The message that monsters can be overcome was important to me because my childhood and teen years were shaped by mental illness…it just wasn’t mine.

In my late childhood and teen years, my mum and my dad had all of the symptoms of depression between them: one couldn’t sleep, one slept too much, one had a lack of focus, one lost interest in things they loved, and they both dealt with negative thoughts and had difficulty taking care of things. I always knew I was loved and they made sure my sister and I had clothes, food, and were safe; but it is hard to watch people you love not love themselves.

I’ll admit that I’ve carried around some damaging ideas about depression. Creativity is important to me and for a time I bought into the idea that being treated for mental illness would make me lose the piece of myself I valued above all others.

Starry Night Print by Vincent Van Gogh Painting by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh is often touted as an example of how mental illness is linked to creativity. He created beautiful art, but he was already in treatment when he painted Starry Night. The yellow hues in the painting may have even been influenced by the digitalis he was taking as part of his treatment for epilepsy.

Van Gogh lived in a time when mental illness was poorly understood. He is likely to have suffered from the same mental illness my grandfather did: bipolar disorder. Van Gogh himself recognized the need for treatment: “If I could have worked without this accursed disease, what things I might have done” is a line from one of his final letters (Wolf, 2001).

A Pile of Good Things (With images) | Doctor who quotes, Doctor ...

A line from one of the most beautiful Doctor Who episodes when they visited Van Gogh.

If anything, when my depression is bad, I’m less creative. Lack of interest in things you love is a common symptom of depression. After my grandfather died in a way I found difficult to cope with and I started the demanding job I’m now leaving, I struggled to sit down and write. Then I’d be paralyzed by self loathing (another common depression symptom) over my failure to do what I love…or disgusted with myself about my less than healthy coping strategy of watching too much TV.

It took a long time–longer still due to an impacted mental health system that made me wait months to get an actual appointment–but I finally saw a therapist.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend recap: 3x06 "Josh is Irrelevant."

My major depression is, fortunately, of the mild variety. I am largely functional: I have a steady job and do well in grad school, pay my bills, feed myself, and exercise. Because I’m functional, it took time to admit that I needed help. I started Cognitive Behavior Therapy in September and, while I didn’t gel with the therapist and was about to find a new one when the quarantine started, even taking that one step has helped.

I started writing again.

How to cope 

I am not a mental health professional, and I strongly encourage you to see one if you are dealing with mental illness or any sort of mental health issue, but here are some small tips that have helped me.

#1 Talk about it.

Talking To Your Pets Means You're A Well Adjusted Person

He’s a good boy; he will not judge. 

This one is scary, but it’s worth it. If you aren’t ready for a therapist, start small. Tell a close friend or a family member or a stranger online. Heck, start with a pet to help you find the words. It was so hard for me to open up to people about my depression, but the more people I told, the easier it got. I learned that more of my friends were dealing with similar issues than I’d ever expected.

#2 Make one habit healthier

The Beginner's Guide to Meditation | Shape

It sounds a bit hokey, but meditation, even for just a few minutes a day can have positive impacts on your mental health. Will it solve serious chemical imbalances? Of course not. But it can help you cope with mild depression and anxiety symptoms. It can also help with stress management, which we could all use right now.

I’m fond of the free app Insight Timer (other popular apps include Calm and Headspace) and have started to do a short guided meditation every morning. I decided to make it a part of my routine after my existing morning routine of scrolling through Instagram and BBC news resulted in getting out of bed feeling awful. My new habit has improved my mood. It doesn’t mean everything is great or that I don’t sometimes feel low. I’m definitely a work in progress, but I’m glad I’ve been able to incorporate a healthier habit into my day.

Sunlit path | In the evening woods at Sugarloaf mountain in … | Flickr

Getting outside, even if it’s just for a quick walk around my block, helps get me out of my head for a few minutes. Being around natural spaces has been shown to improve overall health; try it if you can.

Even a small change can feel huge. Pick just one habit to try to make a little healthier.

#3 Be kind to yourself

Demi Lovato - I Love Me (Lyrics) - YouTube

Lyrics from Demi Lovato’s song “I love me”

 

Mental health is a lifelong process. Most of us will struggle to cope at one point or another. So be a little kinder to yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.  Don’t be mad at yourself for needing help with your mental health.

Nobody is perfect. Nobody is worthless or unimportant or expendable. And nobody is here alone.

Community GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Community is my most recent obsession. None of them are perfect, but they love each other anyway. 

 

 

Fictional Friends

2020 is weird so far. Coronavirus has changed so much as it’s swept across the globe. Millions are out of work, thousands have died (over 94K as of today), and millions more are isolating as much as they can. Now, I’ve read tons of articles about Covid-19, as I’m sure you have too. This post isn’t about that.

At a time when “social distancing” has become a common phrase, I’ve been thinking about the importance of friendship.

Best Friends: Some People Impact Your Life, Remember It – Boom Sumo

That connection matters. While friendship often takes the backseat to romantic love in stories, it’s the friendships that keep me coming back.

So, what are fun kinds of friendships to see in fiction (or have in life)?

#1 Childhood friends

Winnie the Pooh was one of the first stories with friendships I ever loved.

happy christopher robin GIF

Winnie the Pooh and Piglet were my favorite, but Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin were sweet too. They weren’t trying to change each other. Their friendship was very pure and sweet, like most of us wish childhood could be.

Childhood friends have seen you through your awkward stages: bad haircuts, missing teeth, terrible crushes. Despite seeing you at your worst, they love you anyway. These kinds of pairings have a deep sense of shared history.

In Sex Education (Netflix), by far the best pairing is Eric and Otis. Also, Eric is absolutely the best character on the whole show.

Eric Love GIF by NETFLIX

While their friendship suffers when Otis is pulled away by the allure of a love interest, their pure love for one another is beautiful to see. I also adore how Eric’s sexuality is never an issue between them.

#2 Bond Through Extraordinary Circumstances 

Another fun version of friendship that shows up in many stories are the people who don’t initially seem to have anything in common, but who build a strong bond with due to some sort of extraordinary event or circumstance.

Lord of the Rings focuses on friendships forged during times of conflict. Although the hobbits knew each other throughout their lives, their bond deepens throughout their extraordinary journey to destroy the One Ring. Gimli and Legolas also distrust each other at the beginning before going on to genuinely care for one another.

Day 11 Gimli and Legolas just the fact that it's a dwarf and an ...

In the Harry Potter series, while Ron and Harry become friends almost instantly, they don’t befriend Hermione until the three face down a troll together. After that, their little trio forms a nearly unbreakable bond. (And go on to face ever more dangerous threats together.)

Image result for harry potter ron and hermione first year | Harry ...

Sense8 (Netflix) is another beautiful example of this type of friendship. In the show, the cluster is composed of people around the world who no one would initially put together. When they gain the ability to share consciousness and skills, they each find points of connection. The show is so much about our shared humanity. Their friendships outside of the cluster are also celebrated. Each character also gets their own arc and it’s great to watch them show up for one another during large and small moments.

Sense8 | Netflix Official Site

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC) also has an example of this type of friendship. When the titular Zoey gains the ability to hear people’s inner truths through covers of popular songs, the first person who believes her is the effervescent Mo, her gender fluid neighbor that had always annoyed her before. Watching them figure out her power together is fun and their dynamic is enjoyable. So far, the show devotes too much time to its love triangle; I want more Mo!

Season 1 Episode 3 Nbc GIF by Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

#3 Found Families

Probably the most famous example of friendships in popular culture are found families.

Mia Sheridan Quote: “Friends are the family you get to choose for ...

In these stories, the friendships formed by the characters are the foremost relationships in their lives. These friendships are a constant. They also often take place in stories where the characters are separated from their families for whatever reason. (Places like NYC where people often move in order to pursue dreams are a common setting.)

This type of connection is what keeps drawing people back to the show Friends, despite jokes and plotlines that haven’t aged well. The main six celebrate holidays together and are their own insular little circle. Hell, the theme song is quite literally “I’ll be there for you,” which is what we all hope our friends will be. It’s a formula that many shows have tried to replicate over the years.

I'll Be There For You (Friends Theme) - Sheet Music - YouTube

Sex and the City in particular celebrated female friendships, even going so far as to label the main quartet soul mates. Like Friends, it’s another show that’s been endlessly copied and updated.

Elegant Sex and the City Quotes About Love and Friendship | Love ...

The Bold Type (especially the first season) captured this found family dynamic well and is, in many ways, an updated version of Sex and the City. Sutton, Kat, and Jane are constantly there for one another to build each other up, celebrate accomplishments, and commiserate when things go wrong.

The Bold Type” Season 4 Is Coming to Freeform | Teen Vogue

Not all of us get that–at least not forever–which is probably why it’s such a popular trope.

Closing thoughts 

Whether you have a group that’s as close as family, a person who you’ve bonded with over a strange shared experience, friends who have loved you forever, or any other variety of friendship, I hope this serves as a reminder to celebrate all of the platonic love in your life.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reaching out to my friends scattered around the world to check in during this strange time. I’ve gone on walks with my childhood friend, Brittney (we’ve been 6 feet apart, don’t worry) while we were both staying with our parents. I had a Zoom tv date with a friend, Martha, who I met while we were both doing AmeriCorps (a strange experience if there ever was one). And I’ve reached out on various emails and social media services to friends all over the world.

During this strange and frightening time, I’ve realized how very lucky I am in so many ways. I’m also incredibly grateful for all of the people I love, wherever they may be.

Good friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you ...

 

 

 

Try, try again

I had my first story published! Daily Science Fiction purchased the rights to a piece of flash fiction (sub 500 words) I wrote called ‘Last Shot.’

The title has several meanings. The story is partially about an injection. It’s also how I was feeling when I submitted the story. Over the last few years I’ve tried several times to publish with Daily Science Fiction–getting rejected each time. I’ve been kicking around the story idea for ages before sitting down to write it this summer. I finally just went “What the hell” and submitted it this October. Then I expected to get a form rejection and have to pick myself up to try again.

That’s not what happened.

Happy Oh My God GIF by The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

I found out I’d made it into the second round in November and was excited by that. Even so, I still expected to get rejected. Then, in January, I found out they wanted it!

excited hailee steinfeld GIF by Music Choice

Now, to people on social media, it can look like everyone is doing well because we all only post our highlight reel. Most of us don’t share our rejections. But I feel like it’s important to share that this is the first piece of good news I’ve had.

Trying to get into publishing over the last few years has felt a bit like standing outside of a club I wanted desperately to join, only I didn’t know the password.

knock parks and recreation GIF by HULU

Writing is fun. I love coming up with stories, making characters, building worlds from scratch…being totally immersed in creating something new. I have happily stayed in on weekend nights because I wanted to write. For me, finishing a manuscript is the easy part.

Publishing is hard.

Unless you’re very, very lucky, there will be rejection. (And hardly anyone is that lucky.)

I’ve made mistakes with query letters–my first go-around with my first manuscript was a disaster as I was so nervous that I did everything wrong–and I learned how to write good ones the hard way. I made a lot of rookie mistakes in my early manuscripts as well. I didn’t have any Mary Sue characters, but I did silly things with dialogue and had cliches that were hard to shake. As a beginning author, it was hard to edit out sentences and sections I’d painstakingly put together.

season 1 episode 3 GIF by Twin Peaks on Showtime

All of that meant my work wasn’t as good as it could have been. So it got rejected. I’ve had people ask for pages and then received form rejections. I’ve had well-intentioned assistants tell me to change pieces of stories. I’ve had work “fall between the stools” because it didn’t fit neatly into one category. I’ve had works that were too long. I’ve sent queries and had form rejections arrive long after I forgot about the agent in question.

Honestly, I haven’t sent many queries–I think, for each full manuscript, I’d tap out after 5-10. This last time, I think I sent out a grand total of one before I stopped. Because rejection is hard to take.

rejection love GIF

But, because of this whole painful process, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I was so excited when I finished my first manuscript at 21, but it wasn’t ready.

I wasn’t ready.

This is something I tend to keep to myself. For years, most people in my life didn’t know how much I’d written…or even that I wrote at all. It’s only recently that I’ve been opening up about it, through this blog and in person. Truth is, I have written five full manuscripts: Legacy of the Lost (2013), Searching for Sky (2014), Monster Hunting for Beginners (2015), The Destiny Curse (2016), and The Nestbuilders (currently making final edits).

I was trying to get published during a time of huge transitions and loss. Within the last seven years I’ve had several terrible jobs. I sat with dying relatives and was left feeling lost when they were gone. I’ve moved a lot. During the gap between finishing The Destiny Curse and getting back into editing The Nestbuilders, I’ve struggled with depression. It’s only recently that things have been getting better.

Image result for demons don't live under your bed

Art from Hun Markov

So, I’m gearing myself up to try again. Because, in spite of the rejection I’ve had in the past, I believe in these stories. Even a little bit of good news is giving me the energy to try again.

If you are writing (or doing anything else creative) and feel like nobody is ever going to want your work, don’t give up. Keep getting better. Keep trying.

Image result for water wears away rock quote

I’m sure I’ll get rejected again. I will likely get rejected a bunch of times before I find the agent and publishing house who say yes. Maybe my new manuscript isn’t the right one to get be my first publication either. But I’m getting closer.

I’m not giving up.

 

Reading challenge 2020

What a year. In 2019, I finished a complete year of graduate school and started my third year of teaching high school science. I also read…a lot.

For me, reading has always been a constant and a comfort. I visit the library almost every time I visit my parents to pick up a fresh pile of books. Reading is one of the major ways I like to unwind after a stressful day, even if I’ve had to grade papers and read numerous scientific articles for graduate school that evening. (All of this reading is probably why I’ve become so nearsighted the last few years.)

In my journal, each month I write a list of the books I’ve read. I tallied it up this morning.

In 2019, I read 109 books. I read the most books in July (17)–when work was out for the summer–and the least in May (4). I read series/ multiple books by 15+ authors.

While I wrote a post about a reading challenge before, I think the best lists are the ones we make ourselves.

 

January 

Challenge: Take a chance on an author you’ve never read before

Best new book of the month: How to Walk Away, Katherine Center

Image result for how to walk away

While I re-read numerous books in January, this bestseller from 2018 caught my eye. It’s about a woman who loses the use of her legs, among other things, after a plane crash. It made me cry and I finished it feeling surprisingly uplifted and inspired.

February 

Challenge: Read a book in an unusual style

Best new book of the month: Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn

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This was the first book I’ve read that’s had money in it. (A previous reader had $10 tucked inside a folded note sharing that it was his favorite book.)

The premise of this 2001 story is an island (Nollop) named after the creator of the sentence “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs” (a sentence with all the letters of the alphabet). When letters start falling off of the statue with the sentence on it, their use is outlawed. People who use the letters are whipped, put in stocks, or banished from the island. Each letter that falls also disappears from the novel itself, which is told via letters written by the main character (Ella Minnow Pea). It was a fascinating, thought-provoking book that made me think of words in a different way.

March

Challenge: Read a recent release by an author you love

Best new book of the month: I Owe You One, Sophie Kinsella

Image result for i owe you one kinsella

Sophie Kinsella has been one of my favorite authors since a friend gave me some of the Shopaholic novels in high school. I usually devour these books in one sitting. (Weirdly, I’m less a fan of the ones she writes under her real name, Madeleine Wickham.) This one was sweet; Fixie and Sebastian meet in a cafe and start exchanging IOUs, causing their lives to change for the better. While it’s not one of my absolute favorites, it was sweet and fun to read.

April

Challenge: Try a genre you don’t normally read

Best new book of the month: Fierce Fairytales, Nikita Gill

Image result for fierce fairytales

I looked for this book after realizing how many of her quotes I loved on Tumblr. While I almost never read poetry, my favorite parts of this collection were the fairytale-esque empowering poems. This was beautiful and something I sorely needed at that time of the year.

Favorite quote: “Out there may be monsters, my dear./ But in you still lives the dragon/ you should always believe in.” (From ‘Once upon a Time II’) I also loved the entirety of “Four Spells to Keep Inside Your Mouth,” which is all about how to maintain healthy boundaries.

May

Challenge: Finish reading a book series

Best new book of the month: Queen of Babble (series), Meg Cabot

Image result for queen of babble gets hitched

This was one of three series I read by Meg Cabot this year. This set is similar to the Little Lady Agency novels by Hester Browne. I also read the Heather Wells series and the Insatiable series by Cabot later in the year.

June

Challenge: Read a book that’s been turned into a movie/TV show

Best new book of the month: Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Image result for good omens book

While I read new books in June (including one I’ve seen for years, The Man Who Ate the 747), my favorite read of the month was Good Omens. I picked it up again after seeing the mini-series on Amazon. I’ve read it at least three times and always love it. While Crowley and Aziraphrale don’t have as big of a role in the book as they do in the series–it’s more Adam’s story in the book–I thought the series fleshed out their relationship into a great love story.

July

Challenge: Pick up a new book you’ve wanted to read for a while

Best new book of the month: The Flatshare, Beth O’Leary

Image result for the flatshare cover

I first ran across this one in an airport bookshop in England. I was excited to see it at the library near my parents in California. It had a quirky premise–two people start sharing a flat/ bed without meeting because one is there at night and one is there during the day, so they communicate through post-it notes. It was very sweet and the love story was adorable. Since I was dealing with a gaslighting landlord for the first part of the year, reading this one was also healing. (Tiffy, the female lead, deals with an psychologically abusive ex-boyfriend in the book.)

August

Challenge: Read a book set in a different time period

Best new book of the month: The Poldark novels, Winston Graham

Image result for poldark novels

I became obsessed with Poldark on PBS this summer and tracked down the first handful of novels in the library. They’re set in Cornwall after the American War of Independence  and go through the early part of the 1800s. It does include a lot of politics and mining from that time period, although the relationships between the characters are the part that kept me going. I don’t read many books by male authors, but I enjoyed reading this set.

September

Challenge: Read a book about starting over

Best new book of the month: The Bookshop on the Shore, Jenny Colgan

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In some ways, this one is a love letter to reading. It is also reminiscent of The Sound of Music. It’s primarily set in Scotland and features characters from The Bookshop on the Corner in minor roles. The main character’s son has selective mutism, which provided some interesting emotional depth. This one was ultimately hopeful.

October

Challenge: Read a book set in a culture different from your own

Best new book of the month: The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo

Image result for the night tiger

I picked this one up because of its gorgeous cover. Set in Malaysia in the 1930s, it weaves in multiple narratives and a semi-frightening dreamworld with myths of men turning into tigers in Southeast Asia. I loved it and was genuinely worried for the main characters Ji Lin and Ren.

November

Challenge: Read a book you’ve passed over before

Best new book of the month: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See

Image result for snow flower and the secret fan

This one was one that lingered. It’s set in China when foot-binding was mandatory for a good marriage (the narrative spans most of the narrator’s life from shortly before when her feet were first bound as a young child in the mid 1800s through her elderly years). I spent a lot of time looking things up about foot-binding.

December

Challenge: Read a book set somewhere you’d like to visit

Best new book of the month: The Rome Affair, Karen Swan

Image result for the rome affair

December wasn’t a month where I read many books I loved. This one was interesting. It featured a duel-narrative looking at the life and loves of an American heiress who meets the other narrator (a British tour guide and former barrister) when the heiress is an elderly woman living in a villa in Rome. The twists were a little too outlandish for me–the one that was telegraphed early ended up being a double-twist–but it was fun thinking about Rome. I hope to go to Italy at some point during the next decade.

Honorable Mention

The City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty

I read this one in October. It’s a fantasy novel based on middle eastern folklore, with djinns and other magical entities throughout. This was one with an interesting twist at the end; I’m not usually surprised by endings, but I was left curious about where this series is going next. I loved this one.

So there you have it, 13 books from 2019.

Next year, I hope to read more good books as I’m trying to finish my graduate degree. I’ll challenge myself to try books by new authors, in new settings, and featuring cultures different from my own. I’ll also definitely re-read some of my favorites as well. It’s always good to have a comfort item that isn’t also fattening!

In 2020, what do you want to read?

 

 

 

What does it mean to be good? (The Good Place)

The Good Place has been one of my favorite shows for the last few years. While not all of the jokes land for me–I’m not into toilet humor and the slang is always a little odd–there’s more than enough to make up for it. Jason is hilarious, it always keeps me guessing, and there’s a surprising amount of heart and character growth.

season 2 nbc GIF by The Good Place

The Good Place has a simple enough premise in the first season: a woman dies and finds herself in “The Good Place,” only she isn’t who they think she is.

That woman is Eleanor Shellstrop

season 2 eleanor GIF by The Good Place

A self described Arizona dirtbag, Eleanor worked at a call center shilling pharmaceuticals when she wasn’t drinking heavily, dumping boyfriends, or crashing parties.

If you haven’t seen at least the entire first season of The Good Place, you should go watch it. The first three seasons are on Netflix. It’s too good to spoil.

Spoilers below. You have been warned.

Continue reading

Poldark: Characters and where we left off

Poldark Season 5 has already wrapped up in the UK, but if you’re in the US, it starts playing Sunday, September 29th.

Here’s a character list and quick recap to refresh your memory if you’re about to dive into 18th century Cornwall again!

Season 5 takes place in the years after the book The Angry Tide and before The Stranger from the Sea, so they could still focus on the same characters. (The books switch to focus on the kids of Ross, Demelza, George, etc. after The Angry Tide.)

Who’s who

Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner)

sad ross GIF by MASTERPIECE | PBS

90% of this show is walking along the cliffs or staring over them.

Ah, Ross. The titular character. He’s courageous, principled, and reckless. (I sometimes refer to him as Poldork) He’s almost always haring off on some ill-conceived venture or another. One of them–rescuing Dwight Enys from a French prison–brought him some acclaim and status as a hero. (That adventure also saw him save the man his wife eventually slept with…oops.) His adventures helped him win the election to Parliament as a member from Truro. His most recent one–a fatal duel with someone who’d flirted with Demelza–brought nothing but trouble.

Demelza Poldark (played by Eleanor Tomlinson)

pride and prejudice drama GIF by BBC

Sadly, she’s not always given much reason to be happy

Demelza is definitely Ross’s better half. She’s often been insecure about her low origins (her dad was a drunken miner) and Ross’s lingering love for Elizabeth. She’s adored Ross since she was still a child (they married when she was 17 in the books) and the mother of Julia (deceased), Jeremy, and Clowance. She’s strong–having to make the best of whatever awfulness Ross drags them into–and loyal to her friends. She had a brief fling with a young naval officer (Hugh Armitage) Ross rescued from France. Most people she meets fall a little bit in love with her. Who can blame them?

George Warleggan (played by Jack Farthing)

Jack Farthing Head Nod GIF by Poldark

I’ve always been a little surprised he didn’t grow a mustache to twirl. He’s always been endlessly jealous of Ross, first for winning Elizabeth’s love and then for Ross’s general popularity. George always thinks Ross is more popular because of his higher birth (George’s grandfather was a blacksmith), but it’s mostly because George is a jerk. Nice people don’t pen pamphlets trying to bring down rival banks or get their childhood bullies hanged….

He also bought his way into parliament. He married Elizabeth at the end of season 2. Now he’s mourning her.

[deceased] Elizabeth Warleggan (formerly Poldark; played by Heida Reed)

Heida Reed Nostalgia GIF by Poldark

Elizabeth’s at the root of the conflict in this show. Three men (Ross, George, and Francis) were always at least a little in love with her. She had children with all three. (Ross had questionably consensual sex with her before she married George and fathered her son, Valentine.) Francis is the father of Geoffrey Charles and George fathered Ursula. She’s a devoted mother. Her life got hard quickly after an unsatisfying marriage with Francis that left huge debts after he died and her mother’s sudden stroke left her incapacitated. Marriage to George seemed like a lifeline, offering her a way out of her debts and a better life for her son. While a lot of reviewers give her a hard time, I don’t blame her for her choices.

Sadly, the pregnancy by Ross left her with an 8 month child when she was married to George. George got jealous and suspicious; she wanted to ensure her children were looked after and took a questionable drug to try to induce early labor when pregnant with Ursula. She died after giving birth at the end of season 4.

Dr. Dwight Enys (played by Luke Norris)

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King among men–especially when compared with Ross

Ross’s best friend. Also, kind of a miracle worker because he doesn’t bleed his patients or use other horrifying cures. He was imprisoned in France after stupidly joining the Royal Navy when Caroline wouldn’t answer his letters and he heard she was getting married. (Spoiler alert: she wasn’t.) He’s almost impossibly understanding and tries to keep Ross out of trouble (spoiler alert: nobody can). He’s one of the few people who cares about miners and poor people. His daughter, Sarah, died after a short illness due to a heart defect.

Caroline Enys (nee Penvenen; played by Gabriella Wilde)

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How is she this pretty? Asking for a friend.

A wealthy heiress. After the loss of Sarah, her daughter with Dwight, she left to ignore her troubles in London for a while. Eventually, she came back, slowly coming around to the idea of having a child again.

Her character in the books is a bit unusual–always flirty with Ross–and she’s more devoted to Dwight in the show. She’s clever. She also loves pugs, hunting, shopping, and is close with Demelza.

Drake Carne

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Bit of a low point for him. Season 4 was rough.

Demelza’s younger brother. He arrived in Season 3. Less of a devoted Methodist than his brother, Sam, Drake is sweet. He also has the worst luck. He was almost executed, had his blacksmith’s shop burned down, and was beaten up/ left to die. He’s friends with Geoffrey Charles and loves Morwenna more than anything.

Luckily, things are looking up. After the foot-fetishist vicar–which you cannot unsee–died of being dragged by a horse through a forest, it left his one-true-love free to marry again. They got hitched at the end of the 4th season, although it’s a marriage in name only.

Morwenna Carne 

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Poor Morwenna. Not only is she saddled with that name, but she was seriously traumatized by her marriage to the toe-sucking vicar (yes, it’s every bit as gross as it sounds). She had a little boy (John Conan) with him, who she had to leave behind when she left. To be fair, she was barely able to see him anyway and they wanted to put her in an asylum.

Drake has promised to never touch her…unless and until she initiates it.

Sam Carne

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Sam is older than his brother Drake, but younger than his sister Demelza. He works in the Poldark mine, but he’s mostly a Methodist preacher. He loves God and is one of those people who talks about the bible ALL THE TIME. He does also love his family and is willing to help everyone. His most redeeming quality is that he practices what he preaches.

Rosina Hoblyn 

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Poor Rosina has been unlucky in love. She was left (almost) at the alter by Drake in season 4. Her previous fiance betrayed his friends by informing on them, then turned up dead in Season 2. She also had a crush on Dr. Enys before he married Caroline. She’s a seamstress, good-natured, and deserves some better luck.

Geoffrey Charles Poldark

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Puberty is weird.

He’s the son of Elizabeth and Francis. He helped bring Morwenna and Drake together the first time and remained a friend to Drake. He does not get along with his stepfather, George, and has honestly been pretty rude to the man. He bonded a bit with his uncle, Ross, when he kept running into him in London (where he was able to keep visiting while at school for some reason). He’s visibly aging a lot faster than all the other children.

Prudie

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Prudie has a larger role in the show than the books. She’s largely comic relief and has served Ross (and his father before him) at Nampara for a long time. She’s more devoted to Demelza than anyone else.

Cary Warleggan 

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George’s slightly more evil uncle. He runs the Warleggan banking concerns. Scruples? What are those?

Garrick 

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Demelza’s possibly immortal dog.

Horace

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Caroline’s scene-stealing pug.

Assorted miners 

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This one is Zacky Martin

Ross owns a mine. Tragedy can, and frequently does, strike at any moment.

Season Recaps (newest to oldest)

Season 4 (mostly corresponds to The Angry Tide; part of The Four Swans too)

Most of this season was split between London and Cornwall as Ross gets elected to Parliament and Demelza tries to keep things going at home. They both begin the season still reeling from Demelza’s brief affair with the young Hugh Armitage. Hugh died early on in the season, but Ross never felt resolution.

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Moodily walking out of the ocean

Elizabeth’s death at the very end was the biggest event of the season, since she’d been a major character in the series from the start. Another big moment was Ross’s duel…which resulted in the death of Monk Adderley. George bought his way back into parliament. Caroline and Dwight’s daughter, Sarah, dies. Caroline, grieving, leaves for London.

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On a happier note, the awful vicar (who kept sexually abusing his wife, Morwenna) died. Morwenna, while still traumatized, eventually does go back to Drake. (Drake’s blacksmith’s shop was burned down after he jilted Rosina. George also still has it out for the couple.) Drake and Morwenna marry at the very end of the season.

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George’s latest scheme to bring down Pascoe’s bank–where Ross’s money was–backfires when Ross helps save it and gets named as a banking partner in the new concern. Ross actually has some money, for once.

Mining and political stuff happened too. They were less important.

Season 3 (corresponds to The Black Moon and part of The Four Swans)

The season starts with Elizabeth’s son, Valentine, being born during the Valentine’s Day eclipse. Demelza gives birth to Clowance Poldark not long after that.

Elizabeth’s cousin, Morwenna, arrives as a governess for Geoffrey Charles, who George wants to send away to school. Drake and Sam–Demelza’s brothers–arrive and cause new tensions between George and Ross. Drake and Morwenna fall in love, but George is set against them and marries Morwenna off to a foot-fetishist vicar, Ossie Whitworth. Morwenna gets horribly abused. She finally gets Whitworth to leave her alone when she threatens to kill their son if he touches her again. (Whitworth also slept with her sister.)

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A much happier moment with Morwenna and Drake

Dr. Enys is stuck in a French prison until Ross goes to break him out with a group of friends. They lose Captain Henshaw–a friend and the captain of Ross’s mine–and also free a young naval officer, Hugh Armitage. Hugh falls in love with and writes poetry to Demelza at a time when Ross is increasingly shutting her out. Demelza has a brief fling with Hugh. Ross learns about it; Ross and Demelza decide to begin again.

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Demelza and Hugh

Dr. Enys comes back with PTSD, which he gets over pretty fast. He and Caroline get married. Caroline had been worried sick over him and doing all she could to bring him back. She helped raise money for famine relief in Cornwall as well.

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Dwight and Caroline about to get married

George became a magistrate–a corrupt one–and fixed his eyes on the next prize, Parliament. Aunt Agatha died, but not before dripping poison in George’s ear about Valentine’s true parentage.

Season 2 (corresponds to Jeremy Poldark and Warleggan.)

Ross starts the season on trial, but he manages to get off when Jud recants testimony. Demelza is pregnant with Jeremy at the time. Francis almost commits suicide while in Truro and then turns over a new leaf. That doesn’t last very long as he drowns in the mine he shares with Ross halfway through the season.

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Caroline Penvenen, a wealthy heiress, is introduced. She likes Ross, enjoys laughing at everyone, and develops a rapid crush on Dr. Enys when he treats her dog. Dr. Enys and Caroline almost elope, but Dr. Enys doesn’t turn up as he runs to go save Ross and the rest of the free-traders from imprisonment. She refuses to talk to him afterwards and she goes back to London. He joins the navy, which seems like an extreme response to heartbreak. When Ross intervenes, Dr. Enys and Caroline get back together, but Dr. Enys still has to leave for war.

Ross’s mine is, as usual, on the brink of collapse. He lets smugglers use their cove and sails with them at one point to try to get mining intel. He sells his last shares in a profitable mine to give the money to the widowed Elizabeth…without telling Demelza.

Worst of all, when he learns Elizabeth is engaged to George, he goes and has sex with her. (It’s pretty much rape, to be honest.)

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Violence in marriage is never okay, but this was satisfying to watch.

Demelza is, understandably pissed, especially when he doesn’t even apologize. The mine finally starts to turn a profit…but it doesn’t fix anything.

George and Elizabeth get married and make their home at the Poldark ancestral house of Trenwith. George then becomes a terrible neighbor and makes everyone in the neighborhood hate him.

Demelza was on the brink of leaving Ross when he turns up to stop people from burning down George’s house. It isn’t until he makes a speech about his abiding love being for her that she decides to stay.

Season 1 (corresponds to books Ross Poldark and at least part of Demelza)

Ross returns to Cornwall from the American Revolution with a scar and not much else. He comes back to find his father’s dead, the farm is in ruins, and his love (Elizabeth) is about to marry his cousin (Francis). The marriage is reasonably unhappy and gets worse as Francis becomes increasingly insecure after Geoffrey Charles is born. Francis starts to drink, sleep with the local harlot, and gamble heavily. The Trenwith Poldarks are on the brink of ruin.

Over at Nampara, Ross is heartsick and throws himself into the farm and resurrecting a family copper mine. He rescues a young women (Demelza) who works for him for years. They eventually sleep together and get married. He falls in love with her over time.

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Meanwhile, his favorite cousin (Verity) falls for an unsuitable man (Captain Blamey). Verity doesn’t forget him and is heart-sore. When Demelza brings them back together, they elope and Verity falls out with her family because of it. Ross and Demelza have a baby, Julia. When everyone at Trenwith gets the Putred Throat, Demelza nurses them back to health. She returns to Nampara, only to get ill herself. Julia catches it and dies while Demelza on the brink of death herself.

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Other pieces: A copper smelting venture goes sideways. Dr. Enys has an affair with a young woman in the village–her husband kills her for it and flees the country. George Warleggan–the villain–is rich and generally out to ruin Ross at all costs…he keeps trying to take over the mining ventures Ross starts, ruins the smelting venture, and causes tension between Ross and Francis. Ross gets arrested at the end due to riot/ shipwreck that’s looted down on the nearby beach.

Got all that?

Ready for season 5?

 

Men Writing Women

Last month, I read a lot more books by male authors than I normally do. I mostly read female authors (it’s about an 80-20 split) for one very specific reason: female characters. Women don’t seem to have as much trouble writing men as men have writing women. Maybe that’s because we’re so inundated with male-centric stories on TV, in movies, in the news….

Here’s how to write a female character:

#1 Start with the idea that women are human

This…should not be so hard. We are human.

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Except when we’re robots

Women want to be heroes. We have just as much interest in saving the world, seeing as we live here too.

Some women want families. Some want families and careers. Some want to be fortune 500 CEOs by the time they’re 40 or cure diseases or create the next big app or sail around the world.  We have every bit as much variety in our interests and aspirations as men do.

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The Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy by Kevin Kwan does this well. Yes, it’s largely wealth porn, but the female characters are distinct from one another. There’s a lot of social jockeying and poking fun at the contradictions in the wealthy characters, true, but they feel like heightened versions of real people. Eleanor is a Tiger Mom to reckon with: she wants grandchildren and to protect her son’s inheritance, but she’s also a shrewd investor. Rachel loves her single mother and is an economics professor with solid friendships and a strong moral compass. Astrid is a fashion plate with friends all over the world, struggling to follow her heart while also pleasing her demanding family. Kitty is a social climber yearning for acceptance and prepared to change to get it.

It’s clear that Kwan had fun coming up with his immense cast of characters and he spent as much time crafting the women as he did creating the men.

#2 A woman is more than her sex appeal or sexuality 

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I got the idea for this post after reading the first several Dresden Files books. The men tend to get cursory descriptions. Women’s descriptions, on the other hand, seem to focus a lot on sex appeal. With the possible exception of Murphy–his detective friend–there’s a lot about how attractive the character/ author finds a woman when she’s introduced. The women also seem to wind up naked a lot or throwing themselves at the titular character, despite the fact that he is scruffy, permanently exhausted, insanely self-destructive, emotionally stunted, and virtually incapable of taking care of himself.

It reminded me of the Madonna-Whore complex. It’s the idea that women are viewed as either pure (chaste, motherly, worthwhile) or whores (sexual, unclean, unworthy). Both women and men lose when sexuality is viewed as something dirty.

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That’s related to the patriarchal ideas that women (and teen girls) always know what they’re doing, that they’re somehow responsible for controlling men’s lust. My experience is that we don’t really know what we’re doing any more than men do. And no, most women don’t use sex to get what they want. Larry Niven’s Ringworld–a Sci-Fi ‘classic’–literally has a woman whose sole purpose and power is being lucky and inspiring people to save her due to sex.

Teen girls in particular are struggling to figure out their own changing bodies and raging hormones; they are not born femme fatales, knowingly tempting men or boys. All teenagers, boys and girls, are confused to some degree. Girls are also trying to reconcile being “nice” (a damaging expectation) with saying no when they don’t want to do something.

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Orson Scott Card had a teen girl in his Mither Mage’s book “The Gate Thief” that basically proposed that the main guy have sex with her so she could get pregnant when the world is descending into war because of some horrifyingly weird argument about women wanting to have something of their men with them in times of war. That’s not like any teen girl I’ve ever met and turned me off the book series entirely.

#3 Women don’t always think about their bodies

I get it, many men like breasts, but women don’t tend to think about their own unless they’re uncomfortable.

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Unless a woman’s bra is causing her physical pain or is sweaty, she probably isn’t thinking about that part of her body. Sci-fi/ fantasy authors, especially older ones, have a harder time not talking about women’s bodies constantly. In the Dresden files, his eyes basically glaze over when he’s looking at a girl’s chest and she often seems to know/ flaunt it. Unless you’re exclusively writing for horny teen boys, knock it off. If you are writing exclusively for horny teen boys, good job limiting your market and perpetuating damaging stereotypes!

#4 No sexual violence! 

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No

Ah, Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin always seemed to have a thing for throwing rape in his story constantly and claiming that it’s justified because it’s historically accurate. It’s why I only read one book from A Song of Ice and Fire. In the show, you have the atrocious quote above where Sansa seems to say that being raped and tortured made her strong and spurred her character development. Which, no. That’s awful and damaging and horrifying. Abuse didn’t make her strong.

Now, female authors do that too sometimes.

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Diana Gabaldon, are you okay?

Rape, or the threat of rape, shouldn’t be used to spur a character’s growth or drive the story forward, for men or women.

At least Winston Graham’s Poldark series dealt with the emotional fallout and healing after a character (Morwenna) is abused by her husband. Graham goes to pains to explain the inner life of his female characters and uses all of his characters to help illustrate injustices of the time. The story doesn’t condone the abuse or excuse the characters. (Except in the case of the questionable consent involved when Ross has sex with Elizabeth.) Eventually Morwenna is freed from her awful husband and begins slowly recovering after her first love promises her a marriage where she will decide when, or if, they will ever get physical.

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Terry Pratchett does this well. He has a highly satirical world and rape never happens. Even the barbarians in his book are not depicted hurting women. Women have power and agency in his stories.

#5 Women don’t hate other women

Female friendships are important! Most women have female friends. I went to a women’s college. Those wouldn’t still exist if women hated other women.

In Poldark, Demelza and Verity are shown to have a close friendship. Elizabeth is more isolated as the story wears on–it’s lonely up there on the pedestal–and it’s part of what makes her a tragic figure.

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There have been very few female relationships depicted in the three and a half Dresden Files books I’ve read. Murphy isn’t shown to have friends, Susan seems to exist to sex Dresden up and make him sad when she becomes a vampire, and the various fairies and werewolves and vampires have been shown by themselves. The only friendship I recall was the half-troll girl who paid Dresden to find out what happened to her friend and we never saw them interact.

Think about film tests  like the Bechdel test, duVernay test, Peirce test, or Koeze-Dottle test. Those boil down to the basic idea that women and POC should have agency and characters not driven by the men and/or white people around them.

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Ironically, Legally Blonde barely passes the Bechdel Test

If I think of the last conversations I had with my female friends, they involved: the difficulty of finding affordable housing in LA or Sydney, my graduate classes, writing, the deliciousness of mall pretzels, how obsessed I’ve been with the Poldark show lately, visiting family, school starting back up, and going to the beach.

Women don’t have to tear each other down to make a compelling story and they don’t have to just talk about men.

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What are the best (or worst) examples you’ve seen of men writing women? 

 

 

The night is dark and full of terrors…the day’s not much better

As Game of Thrones wraps up, my biggest disappointment is that we never met the White Walker who was making art installations out of body parts.

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I always imagined it was an emo teenage white walker and the rest are going “Really? Again? Let’s just leave. He can catch up.”

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“Now, pass me another arm”

SPOILERS AHEAD

Do not proceed if you haven’t watched Game of Thrones 8×03-8×05

Continue reading

Game of Thrones: Who’s Dying on Sunday? (Predictions)

Update: Well, that was unexpected. I’m grateful that so many of the characters lived! (Although, what happened with Ghost? Did he just keep running through the army of the dead to go chill with Nymeria? Why didn’t he protect the crypt or Sam?)

As 8×02 ends, the Army of the Dead is closing in on the gates of Winterfell. Most people anticipate that the body count in this one is going to be off the charts. So which characters are about to have their last moments?

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And will we be able to bear to watch? (Sorry, not sorry.)

First, let’s talk about the weapons at play. We’ve got Dragonglass all over the place, which can be used to kill White Walkers. Annoyingly, I don’t know why they aren’t investing in more flammable things, considering the ARMY OF THE FROZEN DEAD they’re about to face who only die for real if they burn. Seems like a good time to try to make some Wildfire.

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Wildfire for the win, guys.

Burning oil like they did on The Wall would work too. Failing that, I dunno, dry out all of the animal dung, light it on fire, and fling it at the dead. Just saying. There was a depressing lack of fire in the battle plans they were discussing.

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And Beric didn’t bring enough to share.

Anyway, that oversight aside, there is also Valyrian steel.

Valyrian Steel

While it felt like we’ve spent seasons of people exclaiming “It’s Valyrian steel” whenever they saw a sword, there actually aren’t that many of them out there. (They just talk about it a lot.) It’s probably not going to save their lives, but each of these weapons could be used to take out White Walkers. It’s worth watching where these end up if the people carrying them die.

Ser Jorah — The newest person to get a Valyrian steel sword. In 8×02, Sam gave him Heartsbane, the Tarley family sword he stole from his dad as he left Horn Hill.

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That’s one way to claim your inheritance

Arya Stark — she has the unnamed dagger. Bran gave it to her and she used it to slit Littlefinger’s throat last season. The past of this one before it was owned by Littlefinger is unknown. Is it part of a reforged Dark Sister (from the Targaryen princess Arya idolized) or Lightbringer (the sword wielded by the legendary hero Azor Ahai/ The Prince that was Promised)? If it’s part of Lightbringer, Jon may pick it up after it is imbued with the blood of his beloved sister. (Seriously, the Azor Ahai legend is ridiculously dark, even for this show.)  It would also be poetic if it’s part of Brightroar, the lost sword of the Lannister family.

Ser Jaime– Widow’s Wail, which he got from his nephew-son after the latter’s long-overdue demise. (Forged from the remains of Ice, the sword of the dearly departed Ned Stark.)

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Ser Brienne — Oathkeeper, which she was given by Jaime as she left on her quest to find and protect the Stark daughters. (Forged along with Jaime’s sword from the remains of Ice, the enormous broadsword of the dearly departed Ned Stark.)

Jon Snow — Longclaw, the Mormont family sword he was given by Jorah’s dad, Jeor. He’s already used it to take out a White Walker at the battle of Hardholm.

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White Walkers are basically really scary piñatas

So, who is going to die and how?

The Crypts 

For some reason, most of the women, children, and elderly are planning to be waiting out the battle in the crypts of Winterfell. People repeatedly said, “it will be the safest place,” which…feels like a lie. Considering it is full of long-dead Starks and Winterfell is facing an army led by beings that raise the dead, I’m not the only one predicting the crypts will not be safe at all.

If the crypts are overrun, we are likely to lose:

Missandei

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Why? Honestly, I hate this idea. I love this soft-spoken translator. She’s spent less time with Dany this season–who has been a bit one-note (“Bend the knee” on repeat) of late. Missandei also just had a sweet moment with Grey Worm where he promised to take her back to her peaceful island home with the butterflies. Game of Thrones doesn’t go in for happy endings. Either she dies, Grey Worm dies, or they both do.

Gilly (and Little Sam)

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To survive abuse, a White Walker attack, and everything else only to die in the crypt? It’s terrible, but they may go for it. There’s been speculation that Sam is the one who will one day record all of this. If so, he could finish the series back at the Citadel, writing down the story of his lost lady and adopted son…as well as everyone else.

Sansa 

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I know, I know. (On a scale of one-to-Sansa, how much do you regret your first crush?) While many people hated her character at the beginning, she’s grown into a strong woman and has survived years of horrific abuse. She’s capably led Winterfell in Jon’s absence by stockpiling food, helping make sure her soldiers’ armor is cold-resistant, and keeping the gates open as long as possible. But there are unlikely to be happy endings in store for the Starks and the Lady of Winterfell might be among the dead.

Tyrion?

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Dany just told him he has to be in the crypt. He’s a fan favorite and I hate this idea. But, since the brothers Lannister have reunited, one or the other might die. The loss of Dany’s Hand may send her into a full on mad-queen tailspin. (Which seems like what the show is interested in doing with her character. This is why we can’t have nice things.) The only way I think Tyrion is making it through this is if he’s hidden by a dead body/ knocked out early on. Maybe saved by Varys?

Varys 

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Is Varys going to be down there? Regardless, the show doesn’t seem like it knows what to do with him lately. And if Dany is heading for a full mad-queen moment, she’s likely to lose all of the advisors that have helped her keep a level head.

In the Godswood 

The least surprising death is likely to be Theon. As soon as he volunteered to protect Bran from the Night King, I went “Well, he’s dead.”

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Theon has had a rough road. After being raised as a child hostage, he betrayed the Starks by capturing Winterfell with the Iron Islanders, killed some kids to pretend they were Bran and Rickon, was tortured/maimed by the Boltons, lost his identity, watched Sansa get abused, finally snapped to save Sansa, went home, abandoned his sister when they were under attack, finally went back and saved his sister…it’s been a roller coaster. Now he wants to die heroically. It won’t undo all of the bad he’s done, but dying is probably the best outcome for him. In a weird twist, he might survive by somehow escaping…again. It would be more realistic to have him run, but I think he’s gone full on redemption-arc.

In the field 

Brienne 

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She had a beautiful, happy moment when she was knighted by Jaime. Our honorable, heroic knight is going out in a blaze of glory–and hopefully taking a whole bunch of undead fools with her. Songs will be sung in her honor by whoever is left to sing them.

Pod?

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I’m not as sure about this one. If he’s by her side, the most loyal squire in the 7 Kingdoms will die trying to protect her. If he’s kept away from her somehow, then he will be the next person to wield Oathkeeper and will keep Brienne’s memory alive. (After all, he can sing!)

Tormund 

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He’s not a subtle man. He also hasn’t figured out how to flirt with Brienne in a way that doesn’t weird her out completely. He may die on the field of battle alongside his favorite “Big Woman” and “Little Crow.” I think he will die heroically and in whatever way will cause Jon Snow the most pain.

Grey Worm

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No happy endings! If Missandei dies in the crypt, the most bittersweet ending for him will be sailing to Naath and keeping his promise to protect her peaceful people. If she doesn’t die, he’s a goner for sure.

Jaime?

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I still am hoping he’s the one to kill Cersei at the end if she tries to blow up the city with Wildfire rather than let Dany take it. If they don’t go that route, he might die helping Brienne save the family he nearly destroyed.

Davos?

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Miss you, Shireen!

Everyone’s favorite surrogate dad, Davos is the best father figure of them all. With his good sense, he’s been the right-hand man of two kings. I don’t want him to die, but they might just be trying to wipe the slate clean. I hope Shireen would keep him company in the afterlife. If we lose Davos, Tyrion, and Tormund this show will lose most of the humor it has left. (Euron Crazy-Eyes Greyjoy is cringey and not an acceptable substitute.)

Jorah

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He may have Heartsbane, but I think Dany will lose her favorite redeemed advisor this weekend. It would be most poetic if he dies saving his cousin, Lyanna. (Who I really don’t want to die!)

Edd

The only decent Crow of the bunch (everyone else we’ve seen has broken their vows) and most likely a goner.

Ser Beric Dondarrion

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He’s already died a whole bunch. This won’t be a new experience for him.

Ghost? 

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If Ghost–who is basically Sam’s direwolf now, right?–dies, Jon is definitely getting on that dragon to claim his birthright. Besides, they seem to want to save money by animating the dragons instead of the wolves.

So who will survive? 

Bran? If all of the buildup of him being the “Three-eyed Raven,” getting most people he cared about (and Summer!) killed with his tree school shenanigans, and saying weird s*** to everyone leads to him dying in Episode 3 instead of playing some bigger role in the war, I’m going to be pissed. (Honestly though, the Night King didn’t show up in the last scene of 8×02. I’m hoping he’s taking part of the dead army and his undead dragon towards King’s Landing. If he does show up, it’s likely that he wants Bran for some other reason than just killing him outright.)

Jon? If he doesn’t have a bigger role to play in this season, that was a huge buildup for nothing. I’m hoping he’ll be the one to die killing the Night King if he dies at all.

Arya? She just got a cool new weapon! I hope she gets to put it to good use. Besides, if Jaime dies, she’s stealing his face for sure so she can take out Cersei. Maybe she could infiltrate the army of the dead with her face-swapping skills?

Lyanna Mormont? I hope she still has more time of shaming old men ahead of her.

Gendry? Save the smith! (Seriously, if all these other guys die, somebody needs to be on hand to repair weapons!) And I want to see him take out some Lannisters near King’s Landing.

The Hound? If he dies, he’s coming back as a walker for sure. The Hound versus the Mountain is coming. But will it be Zombie-Hound versus Zombie-Mountain? Either way, I anticipate fire will play a role in his eventual death.

Dany? It’s hard to believe her arc is over and it will be awful if her dragons are wasted and out of play by the third episode. If they plan to kill her, it should be more climactic than as one of many casualties in Winterfell. She hasn’t had the chance to grapple with Jon’s parentage yet. (And I’m betting she’s pregnant.)

No matter what happens, one thing is certain: it’s going to be brutal.

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And epic

So, who do you think is going to die? And who are you hoping will survive?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a high school teacher

When I tell people I teach, their reaction is usually something like this:

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Then they ask what grade. When I tell them that I teach high school, their reaction turns into this:

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Turns out, a lot of people remember what it was like to be a teenager…

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To a certain extent, I get it. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had, and I’m counting the one where I literally cleaned up squirrel guts while a one-winged turkey vulture was trying to bite me.

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Wrong type of bird, right type of movement

My first year, there were some days I would get home so exhausted I would just stare at the wall. Every day is different and the same lesson can play very differently depending on the class.

Admittedly, I work at an all girls’ school, so it’s better than regular high school. For one thing, I don’t have to deal with teen boys. That’s a major plus. I didn’t like dealing with teen boys when I was a teenager.

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Ah, the years before boys have discovered a deodorant that works

Now I am halfway through my second year, I have some confessions. Here is what I wish I could tell them:

#1 Nobody hates you.

It doesn’t mean that your teachers like all of you, or like you all the time, but hate? No way.

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The students always go there though. To them, all of their teachers hate them. That’s mostly a consequence of being a teenager. Since they hate themselves, they think everyone else does too.

#2 I will definitely hide from you in public. 

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…especially if I’m buying alcohol. It’s weird for everyone involved.

#3 You got a bad grade because you turned in bad work 

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Nobody is sitting there scheming to give a student a bad grade. Kids I think are amazing people sometimes do poorly in my class and it makes me sad. Kids that are total jerks sometimes do extremely well. I grade the work, not how I feel about the person turning it in. That’s what rubrics are for.

There are also times I read a question and realize I worded it wrong or that something we covered didn’t connect. I beat myself up whenever that happens.

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But, honestly, we don’t like grading any more than students like getting grades.

Believe me, when I see the amount of papers on my desk, I want to do this:

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It’s the worst part of the job. It takes hours and hours. The worst part is, people are angry when they get their papers back if they didn’t get 100%, even if they did the written equivalent of this on the page:

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#4 I can see you

Yes, I can see you picking your nose. (Most memorably, I once had a student give herself a self-breast exam in my class.) Also, those headphones you think you’re hiding with your hair?

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I put time into this lesson, dammit! The least you can do is try to pay attention!

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#5 We absolutely talk about you.

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Now, not everyone. There is always that one kid that flies under the radar.

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Granted, it might be more extreme at the small school where I work, but if I’m having trouble with you, or worried, I’m going to check with other people that know you. I also talk up the ones that are kind, or try really hard, or who I think just need someone in their corner.

Remember, at the end of the day, we both have the same goal.

I want to see you succeed. I want all of my students to graduate and go on to live healthy, happy, productive lives. If I can help them be curious about science and think critically about the world in the process, so much the better.

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What do you wish people knew about your work?