Thursday, July 5, 2012

... cold is the water - it freezes your already cold mind ...

Since the beginning of my first summer as a school district employee, meaning my first summer of freedom and daring, I have done many crazy, odd things - dancing all the the time, reading relaxing books, riding my bike in 104 degree weather, last minute day trips, going to plays, drinking moonshine, jumping in mountain creeks, not having a sleep schedule, not having ANY SCHEDULE AT ALL, fireworks, hanging out downtown with old friends, drinking way too many iced teas at Starbucks, sleeping in tents, and seeing all the people I love and want to spend time with. I am looking into more real estate, am sporting a vicious tan (especially cute biking tan lines, I might add), I am watching Frasier and documentaries, and really trying to embrace the good things being thrown my way. I am using my computer less, and doing more. I am registering a team for a Mud Run (maybe! It's expensive).

As an example of how crazy my life has become, my weekend plans involve biking around 35 miles on Saturday morning, coming home, packing camping gear, driving up the mountain, setting up camp, contra dancing for around 4 hours, camping out AND THEN hiking on Sunday.

But today, I deep cleaned.

Now, most people who know me how important that phrase is - but in case you didn't - when I deep clean, it is for a reason. Why on earth would I deep clean my car, bedroom, bathroom, or various and sundry areas in my house instead of doing the more exciting things I could be doing - like laying out and reading, or the things I should be doing - like going to the gym or going through the mail?

Because I can't think straight. I Monday quarterback everything. I over think and over analyze and worry. For example - as delightful as having a summer off is, I feel like I can't plan ahead for next year and I'll be behind at something I've never tried before. And then the brain loop. And this builds and builds the nerves can't be fixed by a brew or yoga or a bike ride - and I want to avoid too much delicious food because I am happy my behind is smaller than it used to be - so I turn to Clorox wipes. 

And this is just ONE thing on my mind. There are others. And they bug me too. And they all have loops. So I clean until they all get sorted whilst I scrub or I am too tired to care. Because I don't currently have the stamina to take all this out on the treadmill and dance is on other nights.

Thank goodness for Clorox.

Since I've taken a break, I will get vino, order a pizza, make some yummy beverages (Thanks for the tips, KF!), and keep cleaning. Hey, a night in after 2.5 weeks of adventure is a good idea.

And I will have the cleanest, comfiest bedroom ever on Sunday as a reward for my crazy weekend.

Monday, May 21, 2012

... baby, climbing the walls gets me nowhere ...

My weekend was wonderful.

Dance weekends are so much more for me then just a chance to go dancing. They really are times when I get to feel the most at ease, the most at home, the most in-my-skin that I get. KF, an astute non-dancer friend, mentioned that it would be neat to see me in my 'dance' state - because it's where I am confident I can do something and I'm with people who know I can do it. In essence, it's where I have nothing to 'prove'. 

Travel gets me in a mindset that frames my weekend with awesomeness - music, audio books, the adventure of driving yourself, the slippery passage of time, maps, street names, new corners of old cities. This particular trip involved a midway stop at an old stomping ground with one of my favorite people ever, loud music from random radio stations, NPR, my windows down, and making my throat scratchy with singing.

Cool Beans! took me back to undergrad in an intense way - they've opened the downstairs up, aired out the cigarette smell, gotten a new espresso machine, and haven't changed the menu a bit. It was home away-from-dorm/home for the few years I was at USC - providing me the space I needed for coffee dates with gal friends, actual dates, cutting classes, bible studies, book reviews, arguments over group projects, finishing assignments, pretending to work and preparing for exams. It was one of the two main centers of my education - Cool Beans! and one particular table in the library. Stepping in there, being there, relaxing - it was an odd bit of nostalgia. It was a place that was truly ... mine, in a way. The affection I have for Cool Beans! is very similar to the feelings I have for Nick's and The Handlebar. Nick's, because who can't feel at home inside? Well, at least those 'of age'. And the Handlebar is where I started getting my two left feet to become lindy-hoppin', swing dancin', blues-followin', skip-down-the-sidewalk feet. Isn't it weird the places we declare to be ours over time? That resonate with special meaning?

Anyway, one perfect cappuccino-filled hour later - I was back on my favorite stretch of highway down to the coast. I really love the ride on I-26, down through the twisty old trees and Spanish moss down to the Holy City. I was at CB's and changed and on to the dances in record time - surrounded by people who love at least one thing that I love with a similar level of passion. It's a great thing. The feeling you get when you fully inhabit your body, and you're wholly present - the one that's so hard for people like me with wondering minds and worry and plotting and dreaming and the NOISE NOISE NOISE of everyday life ... the feeling that makes your body just SING with untold possibilities and exuberance and joy ... that is one of the best things I have ever felt. I'm just lucky I get the opportunity to came to events to experience it with some frequency. And late night is just wonderful - everyone warm and cozy and relaxed and sleepy and the bluesy music keeping you moving just enough. The Folly day on Saturday was nice - I got some sun and got to play a little in the sand and in the water, as well as have some singular dance-nerd moments. I also got Liz-headspace time, which is something I've noticed I've needed more of as I've gotten older. I also got to see my grandparents and hang out with CB a wee bit before heading back home on Sunday. I rocked out to 'Fat-Bottomed Girls', 'Superstition' and way too much country music (guilty pleasures, all) between snippets of NPR. With all that and seeing BC, QUALITY time with K&JF (who always make me a better person, one coffee date at a time), and the three J's ...

What a weekend.

I have a homework assignment, and I will be posting the results when I actually get my act together and do it. Today was not a good day as I've been at my desk very little, dealing with behavioral issues and barely meeting deadlines. My coffee sat untouched until 1:20, I was that busy.

I keep reminding myself it is a four day work week.
That I have a job contract to sign and return.
That I have a cat to cuddle and a house to relax in.
That I have a birthday bash to attend tonight.
I can imagine that my coffee is what it tastes like, not actually just flavored coffee.
That I will be flying to DC.
And, I will be enjoying what my cousin swears is the best milkshake ever from this dive.

Soon.


I'll allow myself the ranty moment of the day ... really, now? Another reason I've been distancing myself from the church lately. 

And as for what I love in this world -
this anonymous poem is just so beautiful ...

"I want to know how many scars you have
and memorize the shape of your tongue.
I want to climb the curve of your lower back
and count your vertebrae,
your ribs,
your fingers,
your goose bumps.
I want to chart the topography of your anatomy
and be fluent in your body language.
I want you, entire."

And this cheerleader says what I need to say more often ...

Friday, May 18, 2012

... the space between ...

And now I'm mad at Mississippi. They have found a way to make their state impossible to get abortions in.

This means I have fairly recent reasons for rage with Georgia (testing scandal), North Carolina (Amendment 1), and Mississippi. Maybe I need to move West. Great job there, Bubba.

Bubba Carpenter Lauds Potential Return Of 'Coat Hanger' Abortions
News One on Bubba's Decision

I guess this ad from MoveOn.org with Lisa Edelstien from 'House' was closer to the truth then people might have imagined at the time -

... man is a giddy thing ...

This is a pointless lunch-break post, and a very vent-y one. Feel free to ignore.

Wednesday night I slept ... well ... none. It was a no sleep night. I tried everything and it was just a journal-y, reflective, too-much-thinking-thinky-thoughts, scowling at the ceiling sort of time. Even with Hendrick's. So Thursday was a grumpy, emotional, weird day, with more journaling and being short with kiddos then I would've liked. And whoa, what appeared in my journal needed burning. And Thursday was a 12 hour workday.

We had a parent night and I was told John Cessarich and the news crew were going to be there and I was to be around them most of the evening manning sound for things. But the 'weather acted up' bringing all the events inside and keeping John in his crazy weathermobile and away from my hair which was having a hissy fit due to the humidity. It looked like this -

If John had been there, the forecast could've been done with my hair alone! And while I was wearing, according to most of the staff, a comely outfit - a mother came up to me and asked me a string of questions about my legs. Her face was full of pity and horror and, perhaps, fear. Her words come out in a rush - "OH MY WORD DO YOU HAVE A CONDITION?!?! What is wrong with your legs?" And after, you know, a reasonable explanation of my Footloose knee-slide and my biking experience of doom ... her face was full of incredulity and sadness and she asked me if I need help. I went from a cancer patient to a battered woman in a matter of seconds! I also had to get people to sign in and out of the lobby, threaten a teenager with a world of pain if he left his younger brother unattended, read parents questionnaires, look for strays, and answer occasional impertinent questions about my life from many different individuals. Including a parent. Who wanted to know my relationship status. This parent has just recently gotten a divorce, apparently. And deal with a blue million texts about things in Clemson I couldn't control because hey, I'm at work IN EASLEY. I'd forgotten all meals, so hanger threw good sense to the winds and I noshed on what was available (not tasty, not filling, so not much was consumed). I finished up, tidied my office and put a smile on my face, thinking about CHEX, in GLORIOUS Charleston! Then I remembered that I would look even more like a fluffy bunny there, and that I was supposed to pack when I got home. I ordered a pizza, thinking Y would deliver it (haven't seen him in ages, have to order pizza to see him these days), so my healthy eating for the day was totally shot. I got home about the same time the pizza got there, and even though it wasn't what I ordered I took it anyhow. I cooked, packed up the food I'd cooked, and got most of the clothes together, and then proceeded to not finish packing and watched Roku instead. I've gotten interested in 'Last Airbender' of late, so I had some episodes to watch. I had some company over to watch it with me, which was nice, even though I over-shared, grumbled about writing style, and J said that maybe I should think about seeing why I bruise so much. WebMd did list cancer (and lupus), but also more reasonable things, like taking vitamins I may lack. I cleaned some, took out the trash. And then I tried to sleep, and actually got maybe four hours between grumbling at the fan and thinking too much. And then ... overslept my alarm this morning. Solution - bring ALL THE CLOTHES! And run run run to the car. I now have almost my entire wardrobe in the car, way too much to drink, food so I won't have to eat out, and leftover pizza and cinnapie to eat today. Because I wasn't going to waste it. And I can't leave early today, even with lots of comp time.

At least I get recess.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

... down on my knees, begging you, please, give me some more of that stuff ...

I should be ashamed of myself.
I am reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
I read some at work. And by some, lets say about 150 pages. In an hour. One glorious hour.
I can't put it down.
I'm glad I have an actual office, with a door. This means I can hide it if I see people coming. I've been shoving it under papers.
I have gotten next to nothing done this morning - mostly due to meetings, testing, feeling illish, and THAT BOOK.

My book 'diet' is varied. I've read Push, Bearing an Hourglass, The Kite Runner, some Sherlock Holmes, A Witch of Blackbird Pond (was stranded in the GT room, needed something to do), and ever so many news articles in the past month. But THIS. Reminds me (non-ironically) of my obsessed teenage days reading Cassandra Claire's Draco Trilogy (if anyone is interested, I have .PDF files of the fan-fiction, which has been pretty much scoured from the internet, due to some scandal).

And it makes it hard for me to, you know, work. Or really, concentrate on anything much. Except that hunk of book on my desk.

I blame EJ. She came into my office all aglow and atwitter and she is just so nice and sweet and lovely and she kept talking about THIS BOOK and she had that aura of awesome post-reading joy surrounding her and she was going on and on about how it wasn't her 'thing' but it was just so ... and could I get her the sequel? Because I had to buy myself a copy. That night. Immediately.

Yes, ma'am.

So, one lovely trip to Barnes and Noble later I have the first and second books in my possession, as well as a banned book (Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut) because I am, of course, a reasonable person and don't only read 'trash' novels.

Poor Mr. Vonnegut may have to wait until I finish a book or three.

Speaking of Banned Books - I owe some words of response to my two latest endeavors, so let me attempt to be more rational and analytical.

Song of Solomon - I felt almost NOTHING about this book. The level of MEH was quite astounding. Really, sincerely, I tried. I didn't like any of the characters. I wanted to shake all of them, except maybe Pilate. It was violent and unfocused, and I really couldn't bring myself to feel much for the people in the story. Milkman was on a search for identity and meaning in a newer, bigger world. But none of the searching made me empathize with him, or want him to find the answers he sought. The only strong point I can take from this novel is that as milkman realizes his 'showboating' and self-glorification get him nowhere, he is able to release it bit by bit. That is a good point. I suppose. Maybe I'm reading too many of the same type of novel back-to-back. It was violent, abuse was mentioned, and there was some sexuality, but I don't see why it was banned. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone below 10th grade, but that point is rendered moot by the fact that I would never recommend it at all. I just have very little emotional energy to care about it, honestly. Momma Martin would be saddened by my lack of depth here, but I couldn't love or loathe this book enough to have a wordier response.

The Color Purple -
Now this book I loved. I understand the ban. I understand the reason that people are shocked about the sexuality, violence, and darkness in the book. Abuse is rampant. Women are constantly being put underfoot. A lesbian relationship blossoms. Sexual relationships are fluid. Everyone is in flux, growing, changing, finding new ways of being. This book made me feel like I'd just opened a new bag of freshly ground, excellent coffee - the earthy, dark, rich feeling of forward motion and discovery. Infinite possibility blossomed in the characters, and they went unexpected and far-off places. I felt like I went with them and felt change uncurling in my bones. Haven't we all written letters to God? Haven't we all groaned and longed under a weighty yoke and then wondered how to step out from under it? Haven't we all had our own small miracles? Don't we all want our own little happy ending? The most powerful moment in the book was the last letter - one of forgiveness and strength. Celie even forgives God. She's found her strength and abandoned her question of 'why me?' that's followed through the previous letters.
So much love for this book.

And from loving to loathing in a single breath - I am upset about Amendment 1. I am hacked off at the South and Bible Belt in general, as well as with people with a 'armchair' view of rights for people they can't relate to. More specifically, the state of North Carolina and a lot of people of my acquaintance. And I'm sure that this post will NOT change anything. I can't convince people to see things the way I do by RANT RANT RANTing on the internet, or by raging that they simply don't care. But this is my corner of the internet, after all.

When mentioned, I have gotten the following responses -
  1. It's not even your state, CTFO.
  2. It doesn't matter to you, really. You aren't gay.
  3. Gay people shouldn't be married. God says so. In fact, the very fact that they are gay means they are abominations on the earth.
  4. Marriage is just so special, and we need to keep it that way.
  5. Wait, are you gay? I thought you went out with that guy last week?
  6. So, bisexuals should be able to marry one of each?
  7. Really, it's all about tax breaks.
  8. Gay people don't have those kinds of commitments anyway, you know?
  9. Well, I don't care what they do as long as it doesn't change how my life is going. 
A poll was given to see if people in North Carolina even knew WHAT they were voting about.
27% of people thought it was only a gay marriage ban, and 7% of people thought that the bill would legalize gay marriage. 26% of people weren't sure about what the legislation was about. So, only about 40% of the people polled knew what the vote was about.

I am overwhelmingly struck by how many people equate this issue only to 'Adam and Steve'. Well, here's what I've been assigning as homework for them ... Far reaching consequences and  Trifecta of intolerance and Straight Man for Gay Marriage

And to the people who think it has NOTHING to do with 'Adam and Steve' - One Old Queer

Sigh.

Feel free to comment. I love a good debate.

More Randomness

This is an image I found that I've chosen to reflect back on as many times a day as I need to - which is (un)surprisingly often -


Why is it so easy to get in/stay in that state? Anyone?

Additionally, this is something that's been running around in my head all week - unrelated to Amendment 1, because all the WRONG people are overly verbose about it (at least at my job) ...
And a final thought, from a book I've been reading piecemeal online - "Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him demand-free and asking for nothing but his company."

Bonus points if you name the novel.

Cheers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"... my lonely eyes deceive me - oh, you can't know how I'm feeling - don't make it easy..."


Not having a working laptop (at least 90% of the time) makes posting on this little blog a bit difficult. I have carved out some time to update, because some of you have mentioned that you have missed my blog posts!

(Read - Flattery gets you blog posts)

Major and minor things that have taken place of late –
  1. Crossed off some goals! I read two books on my list (and lots of others - you know, the easy fun books) and I will do a review on them soon. I also gave up caffeine for a month, went to a movie alone, and tried yoga. And I LIKED yoga. So I may be doing more of it. I cross the items off my list in the original post as they are completed, if anyone is keeping track at home.
  2. I’ve decided I like biking. Enough to commit to a 20 some-odd mile ride on Sunday. Enough to reexamine my budget and consider getting a bike. This is saying something, seeing as I don’t have a working laptop!
  3. My funding got cut and I am applying to jobs like a crazy fiend (maybe that phrase is a bit redundant). I've already applied to 5 today. I will be unemployed as of the 1st of June unless something changes. I am a ball of nerves about it and it makes me want to crawl in a hole. Just in case you were wondering, the process is demoralizing in the extreme. Which may be why I am turning to my old friend C8H10N4O2  so often.
  4. I have scheduled and booked a real grown up vacation to DC for Red Hot Blues and BBQ. Normal family plans on that weekend be damned. I am going. I will dance. I will demonstrate that I posses dancing techniques that resemble those usually implemented by Mick Jagger. I will also explore DC in a very haphazard and boisterous manner. With a map. And a phone. And not much else. You will receive far too many details on the blog. Red Hot Blues and BBQ
  5. I will be going to CHEX, as I have registered and have housing. Excitement level is similar to that of the DC trip. It will be WONDERFUL. And in Charleston. Maybe fewer blog details, but HOLY LORD IT’S CHARLESTON! Have I mentioned that the Holy City is my favorite? CHEX - Lindy in the Lowcountry
  6. I have been eating whole foods, cooking a ton, and loving it. Although it’s not super cheap to do so, I’ve been happier with how I feel, etc.
  7. I discovered ModCloth and Etsy. As well as WOOT, TeeFury, and Qwertees. This is complicating my plans to buy a bike, laptop, or eliminate debt. And ruining my productivity! What have a purchased, you ask? A print, a robe, some fisherman pants, and some sundresses. And shirts with nerdiness on them. I have avoided the shiny things. For now.
  8. I have called my HOA like a MFing ADULT in an attempt to remove an unsavory shall-not-be-named squatter.
  9. Come to think of it, various other things have been dealt with in a rather adult-like manner, which pleases me somewhat. Ask if you'd like details.
  10. I had to give away some clothes because they were TOO BIG. This NEVER HAPPENS TO ME EVER. I’ll take it!
  11. Found a new band I love. They wrote the song containing the lyrics I stole for my title. Who can figure out the band? 
    I know that this is sort of cheating and a bit of a laundry-list post … but … more later. I PROMISE!

    Obligatory videos and music -  

    Rediscovered this old favorite. You WILL sing it at work mentally after a listen or two. Truth.

    One day I will be this good at blues - DID YOU SEE THOSE HIP ISOLATIONS?

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    " ... and honey, you know me, it's all or none ... "

    Something I saw, and needed to share.

    Because it is honestly and simply perfect. 

    Enjoy.

    The Uses of Sorrow (Mary Oliver)

    (In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

    Someone I loved once gave me
    a box full of darkness.

    It took me years to understand
    that this, too, was a gift.

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    … you make the rockin’ world go ‘round …


    There I was, in Coffee Underground, typing on my prone-to-die laptop. I‘m drinking tea made in a teapot shaped like an elephant, on a red velvet antique sofa. It is five minutes after the race began, and I feel like a putz.

    Why? Because, yet again, I set an ambitious goal and prevented myself from doing it. I tried really, really hard. And then I made myself hate running. Really loathe it. And do you do things you hate HATE hate doing? No. So could I do my 10K today? No. Physically unable to run the whole thing without stopping (my goal). And that, in that moment, it made me rather irritated at myself. I’m mad because I want to finish a race, I want to reach my goals and I want to do it fast. And I’m just not a person who gets things or achieves things quickly or easily.

    And now - lesson learned, maybe for good this time. Slow and steady and … something. I’ll modify and adjust. And I will make myself love running again, because honestly I need to (what a functional relationship!).

    I hit a wall with my reading goal – Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was miserable going for me. Just plain horrid. I understand that some books are just difficult but I found very little enjoyment in 90% of this book. To be fair, it wasn’t chosen for enjoyment purposes – I chose it for the controversy and drama. Murders, bombings, and protests happened because of this book (links about the real life drama, in detail, are at the end). That made it somewhat attractive. How could this NOT be a good book? Answer is – it is a very interesting work. It has nice pieces to it, and has some charming short stories near the end. The rest is confusing and like a vivid, crazy, waking dream. Which was likely the point, as one – arguably both – of the main characters are quite insane.  The biggest ‘take-away’ was the argument that people mold the concepts of ‘God’ and ‘religion’ into forms that allow them to harm others and excuse their own actions. And I can’t wholeheartedly disagree. I’ve seen it happen. And what’s worse – it shows the people who decide to do this as crazy, amoral, monstrous. And I still can’t wholeheartedly disagree. Honestly, I’ve never finished a book and been happier to put it down, but it did lead to some related philosophizing, which isn’t a bad thing. If you’re interested in further discussion, mention it in the comments.

    But, to round things out, I’ve had a lot of new experiences since my last post, learned a lot, I’m waiting on more contact from folks with an exciting employment opportunity or two, and overall I’m making healthy choices mentally and physically.  At least, trying to. I’ve been caffeine free for 6 days. Niffer challenged me on my sweetener usage – and that’s gone too.  None for 6 days. And I haven’t been missing it so far. So really, I don’t lack dedication for things, just for my running shoes. Which will get fixed. Today.

    C and I have been watching The Italian Job today, which brings me to the definition of ‘fine’. Freaked out. Insecure. Neurotic. Emotional. It’s a good joke, and makes people giggle because it’s true. When have you been ‘fine’ because that’s what people needed to hear? Is that really the best use of yourself, your energy, your unique self? Is there a better way to be then proclaiming that you’re ‘fine’ when you aren’t? I generally avoid the word ‘fine’ because of this movie. But I still cover up a lot. How much of that is learned, and how much is really OK?

    Less giddy joy and information, more rambling about my little, silly life.
     

    Doesn’t this look fun? EtB videos – http://www.youtube.com/user/shaugran?feature=watch

    Song I’ve had on repeat this week - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_4utiBscIE

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    ... Sit and think, down and drink - sing this sad, sad song. You can bring me flowers, baby, when I’m dead and gone ...


    I have been lax in posting lately. This is partially due to my laptop journeying to I-refuse-to-turn-on-without-complex-rituals-being-performed-in-my-honor-ville, and partially due to the fact that, as always, my life gets busy. As lives typically do.

    This week I buried a friend. I didn’t know her too well, or even for too long. But Amanda and her dog Louie had a major impact on my life. Her suicide took many of her friends by surprise, even if she had come upon hard times. She was compassionate, stubborn, knowledgeable, friendly, giving, and intelligent. She had high standards for herself and others, and never compromised on things that she felt mattered the most. Her service was simple, with bells, biographical notes, and a bible passage. The service was held in a church that embraces tenets of many faiths and welcomes people regardless of their sexual orientation, martial or socioeconomic status, and history. Amanda would’ve liked that. One thing that made the service different from any I’ve experienced was that it also included a surprisingly frank discussion of suicide, which was both welcome and unsettling.

    The speaker addressed the elephant in the room, and used the M*A*S*H theme song to start his reflections. He painted Amanda’s choice to take her own life as her final act of courage – her pain was creeping up on her slowly and she saw no solution except to end the pain by ‘pushing the sword in fully’. She apparently saw herself as a burden and didn’t believe in public assistance and saw this as the only way. We were encouraged to respect her choice and to hope for the best for her soul. She had been a good person, so her life would come to a place of wholeness. I found all this very hard to sit through, as did Auntie Joyce. We were told to let our feelings of guilt and anger go, and to remember only the moments of joy in Amanda’s life, instead of the ones where she was troubled, tired, and in pain. He told us to let go. He rang a bell and told us to leave in peace.

    I don’t let go easily. It’s a major flaw of mine. I gather my friends around me and sing and gamble and dance and try, for a minute, to forget how fragile things really are.

    But I tried. We tried. I kidnapped Joyce to make us both feel better, and drove off to Greenville. We bought books, holed up in my favorite coffee shop, and alternated between happy stories (Auntie apparently smuggled a phone into Columbia once), reading, and people-watching. She left her coffee order up to me, and she got a latte with half a pack of brown sugar. So did I. I read Rushdie and tried to figure out if I had an opinion other then ‘meh’. She read murder mystery short stories. She came to Tuesday swing and watched me dance (“You just sparkle, Sara!”), after I had my house bourbon and she let me order her beer (Purple Haze). She made friends, and fell over trying to dance with a younger (“He was so handsome! Go dance with him!”) man. She also giggled like a schoolgirl when she saw the young couples cuddled close, slow dancing. Somehow, the physical activity coupled with Auntie’s joy at being somewhere new helped the tightness in my heart ease, just a tiny bit. I got her home by Bert’s curfew, and huddled in my bed under layers and layers of blankets. I felt cold and small.

    My life also has its effervescent moments of joy – a perfect swing-out, the burn after my bourbon, laughing at Joyce’s crazily perfect stories, perfect advertisements on Craigslist (link below), meeting the most oddly perfect new friends, Sherlock and popcorn and puppies, FarScape and crazy cats, advocacy, dinosaurs and hordes of four-year-olds, Matt Nathanson’s dirty mouth, masquerade balls, and banned books.

    My latest taboo joy – The Hunger Games. This gem of YA literature has been on the most challenged list for age appropriateness, violence, and for being sexually explicit.

     
    I’m going to come right out and state that I don’t begin to understand the complaint about the book being sexually explicit. Did I, as a grown-ass woman, miss the sexy-times in the book? I mean, there was some making out, and nudity was mentioned, and teenagers were left alone and unchaperoned… while they were trying to kill each other. So yeah, no real chances of sexy-time. Please tell me if I just missed it somehow. Now, the charges of violence – I agree the book is violent - very violent for a children’s book. You hear a characters screams as they are ripped apart, slowly, by creatures in the woods. A main character murders someone and watches a very tragic death of someone she cares about. The book is bloody – and made me, an adult, cringe a little. I feel that while sad and at times scary, the discussion of killing and murder in YA literature is not inappropriate, and the deaths were dealt with – the seriousness and sadness made evident – this was not some psychopath murdering for the joy of it. The major issue still remains – is this book age appropriate? I say yes. Going by the definition of 14 – 22 (what librarians and publishers generally consider the YA demographic); I can say this book is appropriate and valuable in the stacks.

    Valuable? Yes, I call The Hunger Games a valuable book.  First off, let’s look at is as a lesson in civil disobedience. Peeta’s family, as well as families in the land of Panem, do what they can to survive – including bending and breaking the laws of the land, without causing death and pain to others. The importance of personal decision and using your mind to help you escape problematic circumstances are highlighted. The need (hard to see, but there nonetheless) to examine where society is headed and asking if we are going back to the bread-and-circuses with our iPods in hand is clear.  The need to question, verify, challenge, and act with as much integrity as one can are not values in every YA book. I’d hate to see this one banned.

    Personally, I could barely put this book down. It was all I could do to not go buy the other two and devour them. A pleasant distraction, a good read, and not some mushy sparkly vampire book for teenagers to moon over. This afternoon I have a coffee date, a book to read, a friend's dog to walk, a bathroom to clean, and Sherlock to watch. Tomorrow I have a dessert to make, a house to tidy, and a party to attend. 

    And I sparkle.



    Friday, January 27, 2012

    ... No one can find the rewind button now - sing it if you understand ...




    DISCLAIMER – This is a banned book post.  A report of sorts. On a book that is either frequently challenged or is/has been banned. Some content may not suit you. So, consider if you want to continue reading, or if you’d rather wait for a ‘normal’ post.

    Very few things in my life have perfect timing. A precious, precious few. My art class study-abroad came at a perfect time, as did my travel to the UK. My first summer working at camp. Meeting my longtime tenant and friend, K. My independence rearing its head in the summer of ‘09. The events that all culminated on my birthday week in ’11 (what a week). Meeting my new Greenville friends.

    My latest banned book had freakishly perfect timing because it dovetailed with timing of events in my life in a strange, mysterious way that I can’t wrap my brain around. It’s even weirder when you consider the book is Beloved by Toni Morrison. To begin – the book. At the end – the way it fit into my life, at a very odd juncture.

    Beloved has been challenged in schools in Florida, Texas, and Maine (at least, these stats are the results of only light research). The reasons varied – violent images, language, sexual material (incest, rape, pedophilia, graphic sex, sexual abuse, bestiality) physical/emotional abuse, infanticide, and profanity. And yes, this is a dark book. A heavy book. A book that repeats itself time and again in the final chapter as a story you aren’t meant to share. Why does it keep popping up? Why does it keep offending people? If it isn’t a worthwhile book, why doesn’t it just go out of print? The reason is that Beloved is a book that confronts. It makes people confront their past, confront their sins, and realize their present. And people don’t handle these ideas well at all. I don’t handle these ideas well at all.

    Sethe is a former slave (she escaped to Cincinnati) who lives in a house haunted by a baby – her child. She has given birth to several children, but only one still lives with her – the others have fled or died. She and her daughter, Denver, do not mix with the community. In the beginning you assume it has to do with the house – and you are partially right. But as the story moves on and you learn the daily struggles of Sethe and Denver’s lives, you begin to realize that it is much more then the house that keeps them isolated. In the opening of the novel, a slave named Paul D. visits Sethe and becomes her lover. They worked on the same plantation years ago before Sethe escaped. While Paul D. provides her with joy and companionship, he begins to bring back memories that haunt Sethe. Paul D. (briefly) exorcises their resident ghost. Denver is upset, because she believes the ghost to be her baby sister. The ghost is also Denver’s only companion. She partly forgives Paul D. when he takes both ladies to a carnival. Sadly, this joy is short lived. Upon returning, a strange being appears at Sethe’s house. It is a well-dressed young woman who calls herself Beloved. She looks strangely like Sethe and behaves oddly – exercising a surprising amount of control over Paul D. (to the point of impelling him to have sex with her and moving him bodily around the house) and Sethe (using emotional manipulation and fear to cripple her). Eventually you discover Beloved is a sort of revenant/ghost/demon of Sethe’s dead child – and is back to be with Sethe. Sethe begins telling the women about (and while telling, begins to relive) her horrific past. Paul D. finds out why the community shuns Sethe and why her baby is dead. He cannot stay with Sethe after he discovers her secret, and leaves. For a time, Denver is alone with the demon and her mother – providing for them and trying to protect her mother from the overbearing, overwhelming presence of Beloved. Beloved physically harms Denver and Sethe when she does not get her way, causes them to starve, and keeps Sethe from working. Finally, Paul D. and the community overcome their distaste for Sethe’s past actions and exorcise her house. While free of Beloved’s presence, Sethe continues to suffer and is burdened with guilt. She has to come to grips with her past and see it for what it is before she can move into the present and dream of the future along with Paul D. and Denver.

    Still from the movie with Oprah Winfrey and Thandie Newton - 

    Wow – this book is violent. There are descriptions of bloody deaths, rape, whippings, difficult childbirths, and slow decent into madness. The descriptions of what some slaves could have gone through (just bodily) to escape to freedom in the north made my stomach turn. The emotional strain and heartache Sethe and Paul D. endured and boxed away was enough for several lifetimes. However, the fact that they boxed all of these emotions up and did not confront them lead to the very physical oppression of alcoholism (for Paul D.) and the crippling presence of Beloved (for Sethe).

    The things that made this book worth the struggle were the characters of Baby Suggs and the realizations the community, Paul D., Denver and Sethe have in the final chapters. Baby Suggs is Sethe’s mother-in-law and the spiritual leader of the community. She calls the people in the community to laugh, cry, love, dance, embrace life and heal. When Sethe does the unthinkable and begins to justify her actions to others, Baby Suggs is overwhelmed and succumbs to illness. The community draws on her memory and the memory of her strength to save Sethe – realizing the hatred and fear they feel for her should be tempered with love. Sethe and Paul D.’s story closes on his realization that they both have had enough yesterdays and they need more tomorrows. They embrace themselves and each other, deal with the past, and leave Beloved behind.

    I had to confront my past this week. Actions I took. Actions I did not take. The ways the actions and inaction hurt others. My mindset. My opinions. My desires against what my desires should be. Truth against lies. Past versus present versus future. I looked into the eyes of someone who was standing where I stood almost a year ago and realized I was being haunted.  It wasn’t until that instant I was able to dispel the complete feeling of worthlessness and futility I’ve been carrying, In that instant I exorcised the demon – pregnant with hate and rancor – from my mind. I realized I was my own ‘best thing’.

    Today, I choose to love myself. – all of me. I choose to trust, yet verify. I choose to remember without reliving. I choose to forgive myself and others. Today, I choose tomorrow.

    Extra Credit - some of my workweek soundtrack.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    "... ain't no rest for the wicked, money don't grow on trees ..."

    DISCLAIMER – This is a banned book post.  A report of sorts. On a book that is either frequently challenged or is/has been banned. Some content may not suit you. So, consider if you want to continue reading, or if you’d rather wait for a ‘normal’ post.


    The first banned book I decided to read was The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice). I picked this book mostly on a lark, with no real research into how it earned the ‘banned’ status (oops). I remembered reading two of Anne Rice’s Vampire series at USC and recalled that her writing style didn’t make want to puke.



    I started reading, made some faces, got embarrassed and then reminded myself I must finish the book. I did. The writing was not bad. The subject was … well.



    Let’s start at he beginning, shall we?



    First, background on the fairytale itself. Sleeping Beauty’s PG and Disneyfied form is close to the version that was circulated by the Brothers Grimm. Some changes to the tale occurred, naturally, but nothing truly essential to the plot. What it is important to remember is that the Brothers Grimm had a tendency to rip off other fairytale writers - in this case Charles Perrault. Perrault is considered the ‘father’ of fairytales - his book The Tales of Mother Goose is one of the first to contain the genre. So his will be the one I reference in great detail below.

    In Perrault’s version of the tale seven fairies were invited to bless a baby princess, who had been anxiously awaited for years. The silly king and queen ‘forgot’ to invite the evil fairy (party foul). The fairy comes anyway, and like the negative-Nellie-gatecrasher she is, ‘gives’ the princess a curse.  When she becomes an adult, she will pierce her hand on a spindle and die. Thankfully, one good fairy hadn’t given her gift yet, and she is able to partially reverse the curse (she’s only kind of useless). She’ll be in a coma for 100 years instead, not age, and still marry a handsome prince. Go figure. The fairy also thoughtfully included that the whole castle would share the coma state, which sounds really cool to me. So the overprotective dad bans spinning (upending the rural economy). And for about sixteen years, all is quiet. Then, the woman-switch flips and everything goes to hell in a handbasket. Some independent, don’t-cave-to-the-man old woman is spinning in the castle one day, and the princess wants to give it a go. The woman (either in a genius move or because she is an idiot) lets the girl try. The curse is fulfilled, a massive spiny forest instantaneously grows up around the castle, and certain death awaits the knight who tries to part the thorns. As luck would have it (or some decent math skills) a hundred years later, a prince who had heard the story of the came to the castle and the thorns melted before him. He found the princess, FELL OVER due to her sheer beauty, and she woke up. As did the rest of the castle. Everyone’s lives continued where they left off in the happily ever after sort of fashion.

    Wait … what? No kiss? I FEEL CHEATED! What happened? Here’s the deal – Perrault cleaned up a rather dirty folktale. In the folktale, Sleeping Beauty was raped in her coma and didn’t awake until after her baby is born and sucks the piece of flax that put her to sleep out of her finger. Then her new mother-in-law got jealous and tried to eat her and her baby. Yikes. It’s almost more dysfunctional than Twilight. Especially when you consider that the origin of the tale was most likely the Brynhild story in Norse mythology (lots of death and revenge).


    Now to discuss the author, Anne Rice.  Anne Rice has sold nearly 100 million books. She ‘s written in many different genres, most notably Christian fiction and gothic fiction. Anne was a New Orleans gal for most of her life.  She left the Catholic Church, married her high school sweetheart, and took up writing. She was great, and kept writing. The only points in her life that are super interesting to me about Anne’s life thus far are her public decisions to rejoin and subsequently re-abandoned the Church.  More information on Anne and her religious experiences are provided below, because I am neither the most informed or best-qualified writer for the scope – especially when you can hear her own account! Links at the end, lovelies.



    Now back to the book, if you’re still along for the ride.



    The book opens with rape, like the dirty version of Sleeping Beauty always has. Ok. Weird. Especially seeing as the book was in the regular fiction section and was apparently SUPPOSED to be in the erotic section. Rape is not erotic in my opinion.  Nor is it something to be glorified. But our hapless heroine seems to take it in stride, and falls for her ‘prince charming’, hard.  He whisks her away for a stint of sexual slavery in an adjoining kingdom, in a tradition that has been going strong for at least the past two centuries. This sounds TOTALLY logical and feasible. So does the fact that this ‘sexual slavery’ seems to rotate around endless spankings and a very intense version of BDSM. Dom/mes are always dishing out pain, molding every prince and princess within reach into a permanent, enslaved sub.  Beauty begins to rebel in small ways, but is rightfully horrified at the gruesome punishments the disobedient are forced to endure at the hands of the Dom/mes.  She eventually loses her crush on ‘prince charming’ and has an ill-concealed attachment and affair to a fellow slave, which ends up causing them both being sent off to a village for a period of even harsher, more severe punishments.



    I read this book in less than 4 hours. I shook my head, I shuddered a little.  This was meant to be erotic? I was not in the least turned on. What I discovered was that I was curious. I logged on and began to Google. Do people really think this is sexy? Do people do this? Is this really what BDSM is/is about?



    First off, this book is (and others in the series are) immensely popular. People ARE into BSDM. Safe search came off, research happened.



    Whoo boy.



    Rice’s book basically focused on the S/M (sadist/masochist) and M/s (Master/slave) relationships that can occur in BDSM. The extreme versions of both kinds of relationships are shown in the book – which is why I was likely so freaked out.



    So in review – I read the book, didn’t throw up, learned a lot about human sexuality, and learned that I don’t find pony play or rape erotic.



    Nothing life changing. Not sure why this book has been banned when Harlequin has shelves and shelves in the library.



    Just sayin’.






    More information on her religious experiences: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128930526









    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    ... your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine ...

    I have been very remiss in blogging, running, and almost every aspect of being a normal responsible adult lately. I have been to work, naturally. I’ve seen friends. I’ve even embarked on a timeshare adventure with a husky puppy (I get to walk her and coax her into being a sweet obedient puppy, but no costs are incurred other then gas to go pet her). Other then discovering The Civil Wars (late on that one) and being very angry with Santorum for … breathing …

    NO, SERIOUSLY. I LOATHE THAT MAN. I will be going to vote in the primary SIMPLY to vote for SOMEONE ELSE, so I can contribute to his demise.

    He says nasty things about pretty much everyone, racist comments, his extremely holier-than-thou, and don’t even get me STARTED on the ‘the only moral abortion is my WIFE’S abortion and NO ONE ELSE can have one EVER’.

    Let more informed and (possibly?) less biased minds inform you of the specifics -






    Thank goodness for his ‘little Google problem’.


    In less … ummm … political and emotionally charged news …

    Rain makes me want to lounge in bed all day next to someone, drinking tea, reading books, and giggling. This week’s weather has put me off kilter, as I haven’t had the luxury of being able to do any of those things.

    I also got to pick someone up at the airport (Nick now owes me something pretty, as his flight was DELAYED and I sat there forever).  I love airports. They are magical, transformative places. Places you get to pass through and embark on an adventure – turn into a new person with a specific goal. No one knows who you are, and a few know where you’re headed. But NOBODY knows why other then the person who asks the obligatory ‘business or pleasure’ question.  You could be a spy, or a housewife, or someone having a torrid affair. A CEO or a down on your luck person who just got fired – running home to momma. The sense of freedom from the massive amount of stories, personal drama, anonymity, and separation from the known is intoxicating.  I was bodily sitting in a car, but mentally in Italy – on a piazza in Venice drinking a blood orange and champagne and eating the most delicious pizza ever while people-watching Italians.  I was in heaven there, with my moleskine, food, and pencils – writing, sketching, and reading in complete bliss. No one cared that my sketches looked like shit. No one cared that I got sunburned from sunbathing in my underwear in a vineyard.  No one cared that I was alternately blunt, crabby, wide-eyed, in love, and homesick. I was entirely within my own skin and I have never felt more powerful or more vulnerable. It was a perfect moment in time.

    More extreme than, but similar to the first sip of my tea today, the kid who waved to me in the hall, the bit of sun peeking through the clouds, finding out about the child whose test scores increased by 33 points ... seconds of bliss.