July 14, 2014

The Summer Series - Elaine Ambrose

As I was approaching my Summer Series this year, I decided to do something a little different. In addition to inviting specific writers (I always have some in mind), I put out a call via social media to see who might be interested in participating. I was amazed and humbled to find myself inundated with emails. I filled my calendar in the blink of an eye, and sheepishly had to turn people away.

Now I get to be introduced to great new writers, too! The purpose of this series when I launched it was twofold: to take a break from writing during a season of the year when I have less time, and to offer fresh voices and perspectives in this space. It has been extremely well received. And this year, I am loving it even more because by opening up to submissions, I have been exposed to writers and work I might not otherwise have had the pleasure of reading.

My guest today was one of the many talented writers who responded to my call for submissions. We connected through the Women of Midlife (I cannot tell you how happy I am I found that awesome group on Facebook). Elaine Ambrose is an author, syndicated blogger, and publisher from Eagle, Idaho. Her latest book, Midlife Cabernet, won the 2014 Silver Medal for Humor from the Independent Publisher Book Awards program and received a 4-Star review from ForeWord Reviews. Preview her books, writer’s retreats, and blogs on her website.

The Seven Dwarfs of Midlife

Some of our darkest psychological issues could be blamed on the horrifying fairy tales of our youth. A wolf ate grandma. Singing mice pushed a poor girl into a pumpkin driven by strangers. A little boy was locked in an oven for nibbling on a candy house. It’s no wonder we overeat and drink so we can smother those early memories of pain and fear!

Snow White is the fairy tale most likely to cause the need for lifelong counseling: You’re so beautiful that your mother wants to kill you and eat your liver, so you run away to live with seven tiny men. Serious medication/chocolate/wine is required to deal with such a story.

The Brothers Grimm wrote Snow White in 1812 and updated it in 1854 to soften some of the more gruesome details. In the original version, the evil mother tries three times but fails to murder her pretty daughter Snow White and then demands that a huntsman kill the little girl and bring back her lungs and liver as proof of her death. The huntsman instead slaughters a wild boar and takes the organs back to the queen who orders the cook to prepare them for her to eat. And you thought Hunger Games was violent.

After surviving the hunter, the girl runs into the forest and finds a tiny cottage belonging to the dwarfs. They agree to let her stay if she will “keep house, cook, make beds, wash, sew, and knit, and keep everything clean and orderly.” Really, she should have returned to the castle, thrown the wicked queen and the seven dwarfs into the sea, and then ordered the cook to make her a chocolate cake and serve it with a bold Cabernet.

In 1937, Walt Disney made the story into the first full length cartoon, and he added a few changes to again soften the horror. The mother became the stepmother Queen who only tried once, not three times, to kill Snow White. Disney changed the ending so that the evil woman fell over a cliff instead of keeping Grimms’ account of her dancing to death in scalding iron shoes. Lovely improvement, Walt.

In our innocent youth, we never questioned why the mirror talked back when the wicked woman asks, “Who is the fairest one of all?” But then, we also didn’t question the gruesome act of murdering a child or why the lovely and fairest Snow White moved into a home with seven little men. Or why every helpless Disney female needed a handsome prince to save her. But, that was long ago, before we matured, scoffed at such nonsense, and created our own characters to imitate, appropriately named “The Seven Dwarfs of Midlife.” Here are a few of my middle-aged, imaginary friends:

DOC. For years, we have coddled children, spouses, wandering neighbor kids, aging parents, and anyone at work who needed a bandage. Now, it’s time to take care of ourselves and prescribe home remedies that include naps, good books, laughter with friends, chocolate, and good wine.

HAPPY. Try to laugh every day, and aim to enjoy a weekly belly laugh that makes your eyes water, your sides hurt, and could cause you to wet your pants and snort liquid from your nose. Now, that’s fun!

SNEEZY. Have you noticed that suddenly you’re allergic to crowds, dust mites, and dirty diapers? Avoid these irritants, at all costs.

DOPEY. During and after menopause, our brain chooses to take sporadic vacations, so we often discover that we can’t remember the ingredients for a BLT. Just relax and wait for it to return.

GRUMPY. I see crabby people. They’re everywhere. Maybe they exist for me to entertain, so I’ll do my best to force them to smile. If that doesn’t work, they can go away and live in the forest with the wolf and the witch.

BASHFUL. The only time I’m timid is when I endure a mammogram, a colonoscopy, or a pap smear. Not even my bravest attitude can alter the trepidation I feel when someone manipulates my private parts, mutters, and writes down an intricate diagnosis. Depending upon the outcome, I then become either Grumpy or Happy.

SLEEPY. Midlife gives us a new appreciation for an afternoon nap. We try not to snooze when we’re driving or attending an important meeting, therefore we don’t schedule such activities between noon and dinner time.

Wilhelm and Jacob, the intrepid duo of the Brothers Grimm, wrote or revised more than 200 folk tales 160 years ago. The stories endure and adapt in various versions, much like middle-aged women. To celebrate my older, wiser face, I recently taped a note onto my mirror: “Hot Damn, Gorgeous! You’re going to live happily ever after!”

"Hot Damn" is right! I love it! And I really like your imaginary friends, Elaine. 

Check out the other Summer Series contributors:

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