Sunday, December 29, 2013

Resolutions, got any?

Ah, yes, toad cropper. It is good to set goals.
photo by jon_a_ross via flickr

I'm going to make New Year's Resolutions this year. I know, I know, resolutions are typically stupid. We make grandiose promises to ourselves and lose track of them by mid-January. Because life.

Well, I don't care. I'm doing it, anyway. Just watch me.

Because in 2014 there are things that really need to be done and I've got to have a plan of some kind and some sort of accountability. Is a blog that no one really reads accountability? I think it can be. It's out there, after all, on the Tubes, for all of eternity--according to the the Internet Safety Police (Motto: Young girls, don't do it! Don't do it!)--like those drunken semi-nude photos you uploaded that time. You'll never live past that, right?

Okay, so here are the goals for 2014. The first one is personal and I'll try to get through it as quickly as possible, considering how verbose I tend to be. Because TMI.

Goal #1: Lose fifty pounds
It's a rule! All New Year's Resolutions have to start with a lose weight/go to the gym/get a six-pack and I don't mean beer promise!

Seriously. Okay, I really don't know how many pounds have to go; but many have to go. (I don't weigh myself and absolutely promise never to do so again!) I won't go into gory details, but I got fat this past year. And so here is the promise: I will continue to do Zumba as long as my feet hold out. And if they fail me, I will just have to take up cycling. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I have no choice. So, there it is.

And I will continue to eat salads almost every day, and fruit nearly every day, and only a few dark chocolates most days. (Which doesn't mean what it sounds like. It sounds like I'm saying that the only sweets I'll be eating are a few dark chocolates most days. What it means is that the chocolate consumption that will be taking place will, for the most part, be contained to a few pieces of dark chocolate on most days. The other days, well, all I can say is, I'll do my best. Trust me. There's no friggin' way I'm going to promise myself I won't eat a brownie but once a month. It's ridiculous to even contemplate. Why set oneself up for inevitable failure. Failure? What am I saying? I'd never even get started on such a promise in order to fail at it!)

That's it. I promise myself. I HEREBY RESOLVE....

Goal #2: Finish and publish The Story Runner
When I'm away from this project I think it sucks artichokes. But when I read it, I really like it. I think it has great potential and I think I'm just afraid of the idea of a series. I feel trapped. keep the series going. But I like it! So, I must finish it. I won't think about the second book, or third book, or any future books. I will just finish it and publish it.

Goal #3: Finish and publish The Kell Stone Prophecy Book Three by Dana Trantham
Nothing to say about that. Just do it.

Goal #4: Write The Long Walk Home by Dianna Dann
All I ask is a nearly ready to publish draft. Note to self: You can do it! Just remember how easy <choke> Camelia was to <cough> write. That's right. No need to think about it. Just cut through that scar tissue once again, slice into the vein...see, you've done it before...and bleed all over the key board. Good girl.

Goal #4: Write JoJo's Ghost by D.D. Charles
At least a first draft. How hard could it be? And this one will be fun!

Goal #5: Work full time
This time I mean it! I'm not joking! I'm seri--don't you look at me like that, young lady!

In order to write/finish the above four books, I must write full time. No more being all artsy fartsy and sitting around feeling sorry for myself because I'm on a high/downer from just finishing or publishing a project. Just get back on the proverbial horse and get it done.

Goal #6: reevaluate
Once I get to the quarter year mark, I will stop and take a look at my progress. I'm betting I'll be farther along than I estimate, if I really put #5 into practice. And reevaluate at every quarter mark after that.

So, think about it...If I can do four, I could probably do six. That should be our motto, people of the keyboard! If you can do four, you can do six!

If you can do twenty push-ups, you can do thirty.
If you can run two miles, you can run four.
If you can lose ten pounds, you can lose twenty.
If you can read thirty books, you can read forty.

And if you can write four books...! You can write SIX!

I'll get back to you next year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

No more bananas for you...

Ah're bananas, lady
photo by Saucy Salad via flickr

I can waste time like a cat on a hot Sunday afternoon. I swear to all that is holy, I have just spent three hours reading this damn blog looking for my post on bananas. (I'm lying, of course. I gave up after about five minutes, but that doesn't change the fact that it was an incredible waste of my time.)

I couldn't find it! 

I swear (if I may be so bold as to do so, after proving that I'm a liar and a half) I wrote a post about bananas and chocolate and the dwindling supply. It might have been two posts, one for chocolate and one for bananas, in which case I'm missing two instead of one! I'm either nuts, or bananas, or I'm recalling some other blog from long ago, now rotting somewhere on the Tubes in that wasteland of the Internet.


Bananas have this fungus that's killing them and, if I recall, people started planting a different breed of banana--one that could withstand the fungus. But the fungus mutated, or evolved, or became Super Fungus--as we all knew it would! I predicted it! I watch The Science Channel, you know.

This article explains it all: Get ready for the banana pandemic to destroy your favorite fruit

No more bananas for you!

No more banana pudding, banana bread, peanut butter covered bananas, frozen chocolate covered bananas, and...well, that's all, isn't it? I mean, we don't do that much with them, after all.

Hmm. Maybe I panicked for nothing. Which means I wasted all that time searching and now all this time writing this post for NOTHING!

Damn bananas.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ten books and then some...

There's this thing going around Facebook. I don't usually do things that go around Facebook. But this one was about books.

This book will be in my heart...forever
Photo by Liz Rambles via Flickr

Here were the rules: In your status line, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard - they don't have to be the "right" or "great" works, just the ones that have touched you.

Here are the books I listed:

1. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
3. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
4. Louisiana Power & Light by John Dufresne
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
7. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
8. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
9. All the Harry Potter books
10. The Hood, Scarlet, and Tuck books by Lawhead

I tried not the think about it too much. I'm something of a stickler about rules. And looking back on it, I wonder why these books came to mind. I admit that numbers nine and ten were grabbed at the last minute, as I struggled to make a complete list.

Gone with the Wind is always the first book that comes to mind when someone asks me what my favorite book is. I still have the first, fat paperback copy I received as a gift for my fifteenth birthday from my parents. It eventually became so worn from having been read over and over again, I replaced it with a now worn second copy. I now have six copies of the book. Those two paperbacks, plus four hardcovers of varying ages. Two of them are in boxes and have never been opened.

Lately, I've taken to answering, "The one I'm reading," instead, when someone asks about my favorite book. I have to wonder if Gone with the Wind is really my favorite. It certainly was when I was fifteen. And sixteen. And seventeen. And all the way up into my mid-twenties. But still? I'm not sure.

It's a fabulous book with a complex main character, tainted by a film that failed to do her justice. It's a book about wishing for life and love to be the way they used to be, and failing to realize that the way they used to be wasn't all you thought it was.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn came to mind because in the past few weeks, I've considered reading it again. I still have the original hardcover that I had as a child. A child? Truthfully, I don't remember how old I was when I first read it.

It was a wonderful story and I'm willing to bet I'll see much more in it reading it again now.

A Suitable Boy has stayed with me maybe because it was an enormous book. I spent a lot of time with it. I enjoyed it and might read it again. But I've read Gone with the Wind at least sixteen times (I calculate this by remembering that I counted fifteen times and then being sure I read it at least once more--thought it's very possible I've said seventeen times, too. Once you get into numbers that high it's hard to keep track, and who cares? The point's been made.) I don't foresee myself reading A Suitable Boy more than twice.

This is probably because I don't identify with Lata as much as I do with Scarlett. I still think Lata made the wrong choice, even though I accept her reasons for it. Her reasons were wrong. That's all there is to it.

Reading Louisiana Power & Light was like meeting an old friend for the first time. It was like reading my own words, but they weren't my own. Reading John Dufresne convinced me that I was on the right track writing Camelia. He writes in that easy, casual, almost chatting way and it felt like home. I may not remember much of the story (or that of any of the other books of his that I read), but I remember being in love while I was reading it.

I had just finished reading The Book Thief when I made the list, so, that explains that. That story will be with me for a while yet. I struggled just a bit at first, though. The style was a bit weird and some of the writing so intentionally vague and artsy that I shrugged a few times. But there was something there--I could feel it. So I stuck with it and finally got into the groove. I loved it. I just loved it.

The one thing that stood out for me, though, was that in the book, Liesel never says, "When life robs you, sometimes you have to rob it back." I'm glad for that, for some reason. It's like a secret that only those of us who've read the book know. I think that's the way it is with all books made into film. We readers know.

I read East of Eden recently also, so it popped into my head. It was a wonderful story. But I have to wonder if I should have put Raintree County in that slot instead. The problem is that Raintree County, although a wonderful story, was an awful book. I had to search for the story the entire time. So, no, I guess I made the right choice.

Vanity Fair came to mind, probably because I'd thought of Steinbeck. Classics beget classics in your head. Vanity Fair was fabulous (the film, with Reese Witherspoon, was awful compared to it). And thinking about Vanity Fair made me think of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.

I remember being afraid to read Nicholas Nickleby! I'd watched a performance of it by the Royal Shakespeare Company on PBS years and years ago when I had time to sit all day on a Sunday watching that sort of thing. I loved it! But I remembered that it was sad and there was child abuse involved. But the book was funny and touching and wonderful.

If you've never read Dickens, by all means, read Nicholas Nickleby and you'll be a fan.

After that I was stuck. I couldn't think of any other books that stayed with me. So, not to think about it too much, I remembered Harry Potter. I still have copies of those. So, I put that down. And then I remembered the series about Robin Hood by Lawhead, so I put that down.

I chose Hood off the shelf one day at the bookstore, just looking for something different to read. I was hooked right away! I couldn't wait to read Scarlet and Tuck. I was sad when I finished reading the series (The King Raven Trilogy)--bummed that it was over. But I didn't keep the books. I'm not sure what that says regarding their place on the list.

After I posted the list, I remembered some other books that ought to have been included. Persuasion by Jane Austen is definitely one.

The truth about Jane Austen is that, while I love her books, most of them I fell in love with as films. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books. But it's hard to untangle it from the miniseries with Colin Firth. (I really hate what they did to it in the Keira Knightley version. I mean, come on, talk about whimpifying Mr. Darcy with that, "You've bewitched me body and soul" nonsense! Ugh.)

Same with Sense and Sensibility. The film with Emma Thompson is fabulous! And Emma! The book is wonderful, but I can't get over the film with Gwyneth Paltrow (I love John! I hate John!). I can't love these books without the films, it seems.

But Persuasion. That was different. I liked the film. Very much. But when I read the book! I fell in love!

I think Ender's Game should have been on the list as well. All the time I was reading it, I was wondering what it was about it that I liked so much. Why do I keep reading this? Why am I so excited to get back to it each night? I still haven't figured it out. I only know I loved it.

I don't think the film did it justice at all. Whatever it was about the book that made it great was missing in the film. It's as if they took a psychological thriller and turned it into an action flick. It didn't work.

But, if the list is about books that have stayed with me, I have to include two more. Two books that I read in elementary school that I have not forgotten.

The first was Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare. It was about a young woman captured by Native Americans. I guess she wore a dress made of calico. I must have checked it out from the school library a dozen times. I should pick it up and read it again for old times' sake.

And the second was Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus. Basil was a mouse detective just like Sherlock Holmes, pipe and all. There was a whole series of books about him. The Great Mouse Detective by Disney was based on the books. I remember loving those books so much, and checking them out from the public library so often, that my mother actually scolded me and told me I needed to read books for kids my age. Apparently, I was reading beneath me.

Hmph. I read Harry Potter during my there.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The joy of curmudgeonry...

What the...Tom? Is that you?
Photo by teresatrimm via Flickr

Today was the day I was going to list thirty things I'm thankful for--as a tribute to Thanksgiving. Friends and acquaintances on Facebook have been listing things they're grateful for every day this month and I thought it would do us all a lot of good to see that I'm not grumpy all the time. I have joy, too.

But I changed my mind. For one thing, I couldn't come up with thirty things. And, frankly, it's just not in my nature to ooze happiness; it doesn't feel right. And to be perfectly honest, I think a blog post listing thirty wonderful things would be dreadfully boring.

Instead, I thought I'd examine the best part of me: curmudgeonry.

But let's just get it straight first that it's true that I am not always upset, angry, critical, or logical. Sometimes I'm downright happy. I love cats, and chocolate, my husband, my children, the stars and the moon, and mushrooms--in all their fanciful varieties, movies, and pizza, and food, and Zumba. I love stuff. Squirrels. Bunnies. Music! From metal to reggaeton to Pachelbel. I am absolutely mad about No. 1 Ticonderoga pencils. And books! All sorts of books. I have read Gone with the Wind more than sixteen times!

I love a lot of stuff.

But I do enjoy being critical.

For me, being critical is the best way to parse truth from fiction, to find reality amid the fantasy that permeates our culture. To me, being critical is life.

I like to cut through nonsense to discover fact. It makes me feel real; it makes me feel alive. Sure, it pisses me off sometimes; it has to, with all of the rampant crazy in our world. But I'd rather be upset that people's rights are being denied, or that religion is infiltrating government, or that stupidity is writing textbooks, than to just shrug and say something ridiculous, like, "Your truth is your truth and mine is mine."

Because, no. There is only one truth and it's the truth. And I love the mental exercise of finding and revealing it.

I love being critical of films, art, music, and books. I love hearing other people's opinions while forming my own--knowing that others' opinions often sway ours. I like that. Going from what I think, to what you think, back to what I think again, and around and around, to finally come to a conclusion of an opinion that will no doubt change over the years.

I love how Gone with the Wind grows less religious every time I read it and how my husband insists I'm only reading my own biases into it. I want to smack him. But I love it.

I love that I don't love everything I see or read. And I love that, as harsh as I am, my sons are increasingly more discerning.

You might think, how can you enjoy anything when you see so much to criticize, but that's just it! Inevitably, something comes along, like Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one, anyway) or Brave, to fill me with amazement about how good something can be, and I'm walking on a high knowing I've found another gem.

Not everything can be a gem, you know. Their value is in their rarity.

Another thing I love is grammar.

I love pointing out other people's bad grammar for no reason other than because it's fun.

Being critical of others helps me be a better writer, a better person. That's it! That's really it. Curmudgeonry, for me, is an exercise in self-improvement--a constant judging of how not to be, of what not to fall for, of what and who I am, and want to be.

It's almost as if I love that the world is crashing down around me and I'm happy just holding up one of those dainty drink umbrellas to keep the worst off me while nitpicking about the debris at my feet.

We're not meant to be happy all the time. The problem for me is that people think it's bad form to let anyone know we're not happy.

Well, to hell with that!

Why is complaining worse than gloating? Or talking about how wonderful everything is? Why is it okay to go on and on about how beautiful the rose is, but not okay to point out its thorns? Do the thorns make it less a rose? Are people so intent on ignoring the thorns that we're no longer allowed to speak of them? So, half the rose is sacrosanct and the other is shunned?

Yes. But, stop it!

Let's talk about all of it. The beauty and the horror, the joy and the sadness, the glory and the vile. It's all life, after all. It's all worthy of our attention. When you buy a dozen roses sans thorns, you're only getting half of what makes a rose a rose.

So, tomorrow, I suppose I will be no more thankful for the things I have, and the person I am, than any other day. Because, as I'm sure you know I must point out, it's just another day like any other.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Haters gonna hate"'s what they do...

Photo by Brilhasti1 via Flickr

A long time ago, on the Internet, in a Zumba instructors' forum, there was this whiny little wanker who would stir up trouble nearly everywhere he went. And one day, he created a thread to whine about how some other Zumba instructors had called him a whiny little wanker on Facebook.

What a whiny little wanker he was.

In typical Internet forum fashion, the mob jumped in to ease his worries. "They're just jealous!" He was praised, and pet, and plumped up, and fawned over and told how wonderful he truly was. And the offending parties were lashed and slaughtered and denigrated.

Then the inevitable happened: someone said, "Haters gonna hate."

And that was it. All was saved. The whiny little wanker went on as if nothing ever happened and is probably still a whiny little wanker to this day.

When I was in middle school, we didn't go past, "They're just jealous!"

That was all we needed to stop ourselves from having to consider that maybe what someone was saying about us might be a little bit true--oh, hell, no! They're just jealous!

And this self-aggrandizing phrase didn't slander our nemeses so much. They're just jealous, after all. It happens. And it comes and goes, and maybe later they'll feel better.

I'm not sure what happened. Somewhere along the way, "They're just jealous!" stopped being enough. Maybe somebody realized how immature it sounded. Maybe somebody felt like it wasn't enough that they were just jealous--they had to be much, much worse than that to call me a wanker!

And the creature known as the hater was born.

Now, anytime someone criticizes you, or isn't all in on your thing, or bursts your bubble, or pulls you down a bit from that ego cloud you're riding, it's not that they're right (god, no! It was never that!), and it's not that they're just jealous. No.

They're haters!

They're people who are so miserable in their puny little lives that all they can do is spread hate everywhere they go.

Don't worry your pretty little head over what they said. It's not true! It can't be true, because everything you do is wonderful and how dare anyone else not like it? Or not like you! Egad. It's just not possible. No. Only someone filled to the brim with hate could possibly have a bad thing to say about you!

When I had my first child, black and white was all the rage. It was said that babies only see in black and white.

Do you see what I'm saying?

Every time you call someone a hater, you're being a big whiny wanker of a baby.

They're not haters. They're people with lives just like yours. They love other people, just not you. They laugh and sing and watch movies. Just like you do. They just don't think you're all that. They're not haters. They don't spend all day hating things. They just don't think that thing you absolutely love is all that and they don't mind saying so. Just because they say so doesn't make them awful people.

Do school girls still run around in packs picking on other girls? Sure they do. But they're not haters either. They're adolescents.

Don't be an adolescent. Grow up. Stop trying to label anyone who doesn't fawn all over you a "hater."

I understand that reading literary novels makes a person more compassionate. Why? Because it helps us gain empathy for more than one view of the world: black or white.

So, go read some literature for chris' sake. Consider that people who criticize you, or don't like you, or think being perfect all the time isn't a noble goal just don't like you, and don't mind saying so. And once in a while, stop and evaluate yourself.

Maybe what they're saying has some truth to it.

I mean, after all, you are the type of person who labels anyone who dares to criticize her as some kind of evil villain called a "hater."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sexual behavior does not define worth...

Could we just stop defining a woman's worth by her sexual behavior already?

Photo by The Alieness GiselaGiardino via Flickr

Two things set me off again this week: Bob Marley and some woman with a blog.

You remember when I wrote "That's what girls are for...?" Mark Barwell Tweeted something silly like, "if all your friends turned into chicks, would you try to get some?" I handed it to him because the idea that once your best friend turned into a girl, the first thing you'd think about was sex, was repulsive. But it was repulsive not just because it suggested that that's what girls are for; it also suggested that men look at women primarily as vessels for sex.

That might be true. Biologically speaking, maybe it is. But does that mean that men are incapable of looking at women as equals, as intelligent beings, as people of value? To assume so is degrading to men.

Someone shared this Bob Marley quote on Facebook:
If she's amazing, she won't be easy. If she's easy, she won't be amazing. If she's worth it, you won't give up. If you give up, you're not worthy.

I take his use of "easy" in the old-fashioned way: easy girls have sex when they want to, even if it's on the first date. Easy, because presumably what the guys are looking for is sex and it's easier to get from some girls than others. The girls who are "easy" are whores and sluts. The girls who are not are virtuous and good. The girls who make you work for it do so for various reasons. Most likely their mothers told them if they are easy, they won't get married, because men want sluts for sex and "good girls" for wives.

I'm no scientist, but if you look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense. Men spread their seed far and wide. But to be sure they are furthering their own gene pool, they want a mate who is faithful. Girls who like sex won't be faithful, according to the misguided logic of our culture. Note that it doesn't matter if the male is faithful, and for him it's better that he isn't. But his name, his all-important legit progeny, had better be his and only his. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but this idea is rooted in the need for control by the patriarchy.

So, Mr. Marley is telling us that easy girls aren't amazing. Good girls are. And if you give up on trying to get sex from the good ones, you're not worthy of them.


Then along came Kim Hall and her blog Given Breath. In a recent post titled FYI (if you’re a teenage girl), she chastises young girls for posting pictures of themselves on Facebook while not wearing a bra, in their bedrooms, in provocative poses.
Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it?  You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?

To maintain her sons' integrity, those girls will be blocked from their Facebook accounts, because "men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls."

That's right. See her sons there in that picture (unless she removes it, rethinking her hypocrisy*)? See how they're scantily clad in their swimming suits, posing like strong, virile men? That's okay. Because they're men. They can revel in the assets of their bodies, in the beauty of their muscles, their curves, their manliness.

But girls can't enjoy their bodies--unless they do it like boys...say, playing softball or building muscle. But put on a shirt without a bra underneath and you're too enticing. Oh, dear, how shall we protect our young men?

Hall will teach her boys integrity, not by explaining to them that women are sexual beings just like they are, that sex can be a minefield of emotion and excitement and consequence, and ought to be approached with maturity. No, she'll teach them integrity by telling them that girls who do that should be unfriended. Because they're bad.

The Hall boys, we must assume, don't have enough integrity to refrain from lingering on those photos and so their mother will help them out by blocking any girl who dares to express herself thusly.

Look, I get it. Girls need to respect their bodies and their sexuality (ahem--so do boys). By that I mean they need to learn about it, be guided by maturity and sense. But they don't need to cover up (can you say Burka?), or act as if they are not sexual beings just because the boys around them can't control their own impulses.

You remember MileyGate, right? Miley Cyrus strutted awkwardly onstage at the VMA's trying to be what society and the industry expect from mature women, and everybody blew their gaskets. Not because she looked stupid and unnatural, not because that bear teddy didn't fit right, no--because she was behaving too sexually.

Sure she was. It was pretty silly. But if someone better at it did it, fewer people would have snorted Diet Coke through their noses.

But nobody (well, one or two) bothered to say anything about Robin Thicke and his role as the man who received the twerkBecause it's okay for men to get sex, as much as they want, whenever they want, from good girls and bad. It's just not okay for girls to give it!

Is that a paradox or something?

We need to decide as a culture whether we like sex or not. If you want us all to be chaste, then we must all be chaste. Boys and men who have sex like rabbits should be denigrated as much as women and girls who do. If we are all going to accept that we're sexual beings and like it, neither boys and men nor girls and women should be labeled "bad" for doing it...a lot.

It's got to be one way or another. You can't laud men for loving sex and chastise the women who do. It's not right. And it's just plain stupid. And it's damaging our girls.

So here's what I would say to my daughter:
Your body is beautiful. And you can share it if you want. But remember that it's yours to give and yours alone. Don't do it for men, for their attention, or for their pleasure. Do it because it feels right for you.

And remember that society is sick and you won't be rewarded for loving yourself.
*Hall did remove the pictures of her scantily-clad teen boys from that blog post.
Update: There have been a few really wonderful responses to Hall's blog that I'd like to share here:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Husbands can be useful...

He's got my back; whether he knows it or not.
Photo by rikkis_refuge via flickr

I was in line at the BJ's Warehouse store the other day and the cashier person asked me if I was an "awards" member. I said I didn't know, was that something different, and she said yes and started to tell me all about it.

She took my card and scanned it and I thought she said that, yes, as it turned out, I was an "awards" member and she started telling me about all the "cash back" I was earning. I was so happy about it and excited...well, she was. And it's impolite not to mirror someone's enthusiasm, don't you think?

However, it was all a mistake. What she'd actually said, apparently, was that I was not a member and she was trying to convince me of how great it was. So, when she said, "Would you like to sign up?" I was stuck.

Here I'd been so excited, giving her hope for an extra sale (and maybe some commission) when in reality, I had no interest at all, especially since it was another fifty bucks on top of what we'd already paid. I'd have to go home and figure out how much I'd have to spend to earn back that fifty bucks. I can't do that kind of math in my head with someone watching me!

So, I heard myself telling her, "I'll ask my husband. I wouldn't want to do it without talking to him first." And then I was aware of all the women around me. Here I was, sounding like a 1950s homemaker who lived on the allowance her husband doled out to her.

So, I saved best as I could, and said, "This whole BJ's thing is his idea. It's his big experiment."

There. Saved. All blamed on my husband once again!

My husband has been, throughout our marriage, a wonderful excuse for anything I didn't want to do. I can't thank him enough.

I can't explain it really, except to say that I was always afraid of confrontation. I don't like saying "no" to people. Often, I'd say yes, because I couldn't think up an excuse fast enough, only to have to come up with a way to wiggle out of the commitment later. Life was such a struggle!

And then I got married and always had an excuse. I feel really bad about it. Seriously, I do. Not just for my poor husband who many people must think is a slave driver, a scrooge, and anti-social (he is that, at least). But I also feel bad about lying to all those people. And I feel bad that I couldn't just say "no."

So, I'd just like to take an opportunity here to apologize to the lady who keeps calling about the windows. In a way, it is my husband's fault. If he'd lay out all that money to purchase new windows, I'd be fine with it. But we both agreed we didn't want to spend that much right now, so no, I don't really have to talk to my husband about it. You can stop calling to find out what he said.

To those kids at the door selling magazine subscriptions, sorry. It's me. I don't want your magazines. Sure, neither does my husband, but I just want you to know that I'm the bad guy here, not him. I'm the one who wants you to get off my porch.

To the Jehovah's Witnesses, I'm sorry. My husband is not holding me hostage, keeping me from joining your church. I just don't want to.

To the cashier at Publix: I'm the one who eats it all. It's me. And to the meat slicer in the deli, I'm the one who wants it that thin, but not shaved. Me. And I'm the one who doesn't want your "sale" ham.

Sure, I'd buy all those stupid insurance add-ons whenever I buy stuff at Lowe's or Best Buy, but only because I can't say no. I know how useless they are. My husband didn't have to convince me. So, while it's sort of him--when I say, "No, my husband says never to do that," it's true enough. But it's still me, because I agree.

To my podiatrist...I didn't have to ask my husband about physical therapy. I just wanted to think it over. Same thing with purchasing the orthopedic shoes. Every single time you hand me the catalog.

Financial guru dude who keeps calling: I really don't have to talk to my husband. In fact, I already have. He doesn't call you back because he's not interested. You can just stop calling. Take the, "I'll have to ask my husband," hint and just go away.

Brighthouse Networks--I don't want an upgrade. I'm happy with the service I have right now. I know I always act like I don't know anything about computers or phones or the Internet and I have to ask my husband. But the truth is--no. Just no.

To that scam lady over in India...I don't have to ask my husband about it. You're a fraud and should be ashamed of yourself and I should have told you as much.

To all the acquaintances over the past twenty years of my marriage who have offered an invitation to's not him. Oh, make no mistake, he's just as anti-social as I am. But I'm the one saying no. I don't want to go to dinner, or to a party, or to a meeting. He's got nothing to do with it. In fact, truth be told, if I really wanted to go, he'd go with me, just because he's that nice. But it's me.

But, to that guy at the pet store--the one who tried to sell me that kitten...that one was all on my husband. He won't let me have any more cats.

You know how they tell the alcoholics that admitting you have a problem is the first step? Well, in this case, it's the only step. You don't erase twenty years of behavior just like that. And why would I want to rid myself of such a handy excuse?

At least, that's what my husband says...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writing is heaven...and hell...

Black cat; white roof.
photo by ssoosay via flickr

Today*, on my various forms of social media, I posted a link to an article about a brief spat between Philip Roth and Elizabeth Gilbert on writing:

Is writing hell, or heaven? Philip Roth and Elizabeth Gilbert disagree, while 20 writers tell all in 'Why We Write'

My first reaction to the idea was that writing is both. It truly can be hell. It's hell to know you have a story in your head that insists on being put to paper, but you sit and stare at the screen knowing that the first thing you write (from that very first beginning--the one you know won't make it to print--to merely the first thing in that writing session) is going to be pure crap. And you resist writing crap. Naturally.

Then there's the staring because you just don't know what to write. You don't know where to start, what to say, how to say it. You think maybe this writing thing isn't for you. Maybe you're a fraud. People were going to find out sooner or later; it's high time you realized it yourself.

And it's hell when you sit out in the family computer room blogging, or scrolling down Facebook's endless drivel looking for some diversion, playing Words with Friends, or a PopCap Mystery P.I. game, all the while knowing full well the novel is calling you. You can hear it. It's saying, "Get your fat bottom in here and write me." But you don't. And that's hell.

The day gets by you. Then a week. Sometimes more. That's hell. And it's a hell we create. All by ourselves. Fully knowing we're creating it.

We know we're making our own hell, because we've experienced heaven.

We know that once we get in there, sit down, and just start writing, even if it's crap, even if it's just some stupid thought that comes into our heads--once we do it, we start making art. We make ourselves laugh, and cry, and tingle with excitement. We're in heaven when we write, even when we write crap, because we know that once the crap is on the screen, it can be turned to molding clay, and that clay can be shaped into our hearts and our desires and our art.

So, why do we continue to put ourselves through the hell of it? Maybe we think, subconsciously, that we have to suffer for it. Or maybe...maybe the heaven is soul-wrenching, as wonderful as it is. It's frightening. It leaves us exposed and raw. We come away from heaven spent and satisfied, and worried that we won't get it back.

Maybe the heaven and the hell are both the same. The heaven is hell and the hell is heaven. And we just have to deal with it.

I hate philosophy.

Anyway, I've taken to planting candy in my work room as a lure. It doesn't really work. I may have come to the conclusion that there should be no lure. There should be no heaven, and no hell. There should only be my job. And as a job, I would have to agree with Elizabeth Gilbert, it's fantastic.

But, I don't have to pay the bills.

*Originally published on 02/07/2013 on another blog.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

That's what girls are for?

Saw this tweet on my feed this afternoon:

Guys: if all your mates turned into chicks, would you try to get some? Or just too weird?

It was an ad for The Turning by Mark Barwell, also the author of the tweet. I'm not going to talk about the book, but since I'm about to say not-so-nice things about the tweet, I thought I'd give you a bit of the description at Amazon, in case you're interested.
What would you do if all the men in your life started turning into women? Such is the predicament faced by Reuben, a twenty-something lad from contemporary urban Australia. Affable, likable and at least moderately handsome, Reuben is a bit miffed with life. His career has stalled, he's mired firmly in Best Friends Country with the loins-achingly beautiful Deidre, and his best mate Morrie's shag-happy ways are making Reuben wonder why he ever liked the womanising man-whore in the first place. So when a terrorist group of Militant Feminists unleashes a terrible biological weapon upon the world, a weapon guaranteed to turn every single man into a woman, Reuben can't help but feel that there may in fact be a great steaming turd in his hat. As it were.

Sounds like a lot of fun, no?

But the tweet...If all of your male friends turned into women...the question Barwell asks is..."would you try to get some?"

Because, that's what girls are for, right?

Seriously, it put this picture in my head of men running around a chicken coop without pants on trying to "get some" from any and all the chicks they can manage to hold down.

I found this a tad disconcerting, having just read about the latest study showing that neither men nor women, but mostly not the men, could tell the difference between statements made in men's magazines and statements made by convicted rapists.

I get that it's biological. I get that men are constantly in sex mode and every woman they hear coming is a potential romp partner, until they see her face and weight, at which point only some of them are. But still. That's what women are for, to the vast majority of men in this world. Women are walking sets of orifices for male pleasure.

If all your friends turned into women, you wouldn't think of them the same, would you? You wouldn't still want to play basketball with them, or talk politics, certainly not gym talk, and you wouldn't want their opinions on anything important. Nope. Once they sprout breasts and a vagina, your main concern is whether or not you should try to "get some."

From the pretty ones, at least.

Because another study has shown that men prefer to marry less attractive women and just boink the pretty ones. Still, all women are for sex. You just trust the ugly [relative to your own looks, we presume] ones not to be unfaithful to you.

It's just sad, so sad; it's a sad, sad situation.

Men appear to me to be sexually frustrated. They think of women as purely sexual objects. That's what they're for. And they don't seem to understand why women aren't constantly happy to oblige.

Some men just assume all women really want to have sex with them--they're just pretending to be disgusted by their cocky overtures. And because of that, some men "get some" whether the girl admits she wants to give it to him or not. Some men just walk around pissed off all the time because women won't lay down on the sidewalk and spread their legs when they walk past. Because that's what girls are for.

It's enough to make you feel sorry for them, biologically speaking, of course. Cursed, they are. Clearly.

So, that leads to the question...Gals: if all of your friends became men...?

Don't be gross.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Where death is held more sacred than life...

I love a good cemetery. It's no surprise to me that in my next two novels (Camelia and JoJo's Ghost) there will be scenes set in cemeteries. But not the kind I like.

Photo by Joel Kramer via Flickr

I like shady, hilly graveyards peppered with ancient, moss-covered oaks. They're meant to be meandered through; they invite long visits. I want to see a hundred statues of despondent angels, cherubs, robed sons of God with heaven-cast gazes, and creepy little girls. I want mausoleums. I want a place in which ghosts would roam. Where the hairs on the back of your neck often prickle and you feel like you're being watched. Where death is held more sacred than life.

But putting a cemetery like that in my books won't do. No, I'm going for a cemetery very much like Webb Cemetery in Webb Alabama, just across from Webb Baptist Church. It's plain. It's old. It's unkempt. It's depressingly awful. And it's wonderful.

Webb Cemetery, Webb AL
Despite knowing that my husband thought I was out-of-my-mind morbid, I made him drive me up to Alabama to see that cemetery. There's a very good reason I chose that one, of course. And I'm so glad that it's perfectly horrifying.

Sure, it has all the usual tear-inducing tombstones that most others have. The children who died in their birth year. The two-year olds. The three-year olds. The families who lost five children under the age of six. But when you're interred on a grassy slope overlooking a woodsy copse or a pond, you've got it eternally made.

Austin Lee McNeal 2005-2008

Try being two-year old Austin Lee McNeal, lying in the back corner, far from one of the two trees in a barren wasteland of deadness. Up against a back fence and a ramshackle trailer, home of dogs threatening anyone who dares to visit. You know how much your mommy loved you because she's left toy trucks and a plastic dinosaur for you. But the angel at your feet has fallen and broken and no one's come by recently to set it right.

That's the grave of novels, my friend!

Maybe it's strange to drive from the Space Coast to Webb, Alabama just to see a tombstone in person instead of on the Internet. But you get to do these sorts of odd things when you're a writer. You can call it research, even if it's also personally gratifying--even if it heals you in some way.

But isn't that what some novels do for us? They close up wounds even as we slice them open to bleed out the horror of our suffering onto the page. I don't think I was made whole by standing in front of that tombstone. But I think I will be when I write the story of standing there.

Call me crazy; I'm a writer.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The new dystopian bondage genre

Gabe Habash at Publishers Weekly tells us that "[h]alf of the top 20 bestselling books of 2012 in print were either Fifty Shades titles or Hunger Games titles, and only one book not written by E.L. James or Suzanne Collins...cracked the one-million-copies-sold mark for the year..."*

Fifty Shades of a Grey Cat
photo by ColKorn 1982 via flickr

Nerds, please join me in a deep, unsexy, all-too-normal sigh. Bondage and dystopia, dystopia and bondage. The people have spoken. It’s time to strap on the–uh...pen–and get to work.

Behold, the battle plan for 2013.

Step one: Get thyself to the nearest sex-toy-extravaganza warehouse and buy up all the paraphernalia you can find. You can’t expect to write about bondage without getting tied up. My husband won’t mind helping me out with this research–and no doubt you too can find someone willing. How bad could it be? Bring on the feathered handcuffs and cutesy leopard-print whips. Don’t forget the stilettos. And men, you’re not getting out of it–you have wear the eight-inch heels, too. Or whatever it is they do. Be masochistic–is that like whining? ‘Cause I’m good at that. And then be sadistic. That’s the nagging part. I think I could do this!

Remember, kama sutra is old school. You need a trapeze of some sort. Maybe a Dance Dance Revolution mat. (Music is better ambiance than a spinner in your face; and anyway, when I think of Twister, I feel my back ache.) You'll want some lacy underthings, over which you will wear black leather with stain protection. (This has already gone too far.) No laughing allowed. Stop giggling. This is serious love/business/research.

I think you’re supposed to have a safe word that you shout out if you want to stop. Mine will be "Seriously?" I mean, seriously. I’m supposed to enjoy that?

Step one complete.

Step two: Become a prepper. You know. Doomsday. Apocalypse. The end of the world as we know it. You’ll have to move to the mountains of Tennessee and put in an underground bunker. But it’s probably tax deductible. Hoard seeds. And canned goods. Practice scenarios for when the moochers come for your gold and silver coins. Teach your children to be very afraid. Booby trap everything. Watch marathons of Survivorman–possibly the only part of this I will be able to handle.

And now that I think of it...has anyone on Doomsday Preppers showed us that they can make water out of pee?

Don’t forget to plot out hikes to the lake and your boat, in case you have to get to the lake and your boat. Never mind that if a boat is important, it would have been stolen long before then. Just hike the fifty miles there and back–digging up the gallon jugs of water and plastic bags of granola you’ve pre-buried along the way– prepared.

And no, this is not just an excuse to tromp around in the woods and play with firearms. This is serious research. But...just in case...maybe toy guns are an option.

Step two complete.

These two activities should scar us sufficiently; thus we are now ready to join E.L. James and Suzanne Collins in famous-writer paradise. But, we won’t just write about sado-masochistic sexual relationships or dystopian futures. Heck no. We will be on the forefront of the new dystopian/bondage genre.

Our characters will be thrust into an horrific dystopian future where all sex is sado-masochistic bondage. Only our heroine, Hissatme Nevermore, and her lover, Chrissmackme Darkly can subvert the tyranny of President Ron Jeremy** and make their way to the paradise colony of Nerdland... without accidentally asphyxiating each other first.

It sounds simple enough, sure. But can we all pull it off? Take me for instance. I’m not fond of reading sex scenes...much less writing them. If someone doesn’t crawl out from under the bed mid-copulano and shoot someone, what’s the point? And I’m prone to making up magical worlds or putting my characters right here in the one we’ve got–it’s awful enough when you think about it.

Bottom line: I don’t want to create a dystopian future...and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to imagine sex that requires a trapeze. Not right now, anyway.

So, here we are again nerds. Right back at that same-old, lame-old, just-write-the-story-in-your-head advice. We may not be famous–our books might not make readers hyperventilate. But they excite us in their own way.

Still. A few packs of seeds and some fluffy handcuffs could come in handy one day.

*Originally published on 02/14/2013
**All our wishes for a full recovery go out to Mr. Jeremy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Stop and smell the platitudes...

photo by Marcus Vegas via flickr

I pick up trash. I go to one of several local parks almost every weekend with my husband and youngest son and pick up after others who don't give a shit. True, some of the trash has blown out of the trash can on site. But most was tossed aside by park goers, or worse, tossed out of moving cars. The cans and beer bottles in the bushes were tossed there by passers-by because they were too lazy to carry them or didn't want to get caught with them later.

I pick up trash.

But to be perfectly honest, I don't do it willingly...not really. I often wonder if people who see me think that I've been sentenced to this type of community service after having been caught littering. But no, it's not that. I pick up trash because students are expected to do seventy-five to one-hundred hours of community service to qualify for Bright Futures scholarships. A scholarship would greatly help our family put our youngest son through college. So we pick up trash.

We are volunteers with Keep Brevard Beautiful. I chose this form of community service for my son because we could do it together, it gets us outdoors, and I enjoy picking up trash.

But as I was working my way around Veterans Memorial Park yesterday, it occurred to me that most people would think that I'm doing this because I want to help other people. They think that all volunteer work and charity is for others. Once in a while, someone at the park will thank me for what I'm doing for them.

It's a motto, no doubt. It's their preaching: help others.

But, I'm going to be very honest once again: I do it for me. In fact, I honestly believe that all volunteer work, all charity, all giving to our fellow man is done, not to help others, but to help ourselves.

We feed the homeless because we feel good doing it. We donate to victims of natural disasters because it makes us feel good. And I pick up trash because it makes me happy.

This is taboo, of course. It's ingrained in us that we are not supposed to make ourselves happy. We are supposed to make others happy. We aren't even supposed to think of ourselves. We must be self-less.

There is another side to that--just as insidious.

Platitudes like "help others" are the very opposite of what they are intended to mean. We should stop telling each other to volunteer, to donate, to help because we are duty bound to help our fellow man. No. We should tell each other to do all of these things because they feel good. They make us happy. They make us noble. They make us human. Doing for others, getting out of that self-centered, self-absorbed bubble, is one of the best temporary cures for the natural sadness of life.

Yes. I said "temporary" cure. There is no true cure for unhappiness or depression. Unhappiness and depression are a natural part of being human.

Too many people fail to recognize that people have different temperaments. We range from highly charged and emotional, to those who live an even keel of flatness. There are people who walk blissfully through life unconcerned with the pain all around them. And there are those who are nearly smothered by the horror. While one would think that the best tendency would be to fall somewhere in between, that isn't the case for the prevailing attitude.

Too many people have come to believe that to live rightly is to be happy. All the time.

That's, of course, utter bullshit.

Studies have shown that this focus on happiness, especially through platitudes and affirmations, only deepens sadness in sad people. And yet, our positive thinking friends continue to offer us platitudes constantly affirming the joys of life, the wonders of staying positive, and reminding us to look on the bright side.

They're not, as they might like to believe, doing this to help us. I would give them the benefit of doubt and say they think they're helping, but, nah, I won't. What they're doing is a combination of two things: 1. attempting to reinforce the dogma of happiness in their own lives, and 2. letting everyone else know how much better they are than the rest of us.

That's right. Positive thinking gurus have a firm belief that they are happy and that being happy is superior to not being happy. And they don't want you to forget that they are doing it right, and you, if you don't agree with their platitudes, are not.

And it's bullshit.

The simplest platitude is this: Focus on the positive, and good things will come your way.

Bullshit. Recognizing the negative will not stop good things from happening to you. And forcing yourself to ignore the bad things all around you will not keep it from affecting you. It's a lie.

Sadness, negativity, and even depression are helpful in any manner of ways. They tell you that you are alive, for one thing. (And that's a pretty big thing!) But more important, depression and negativity tell you that there is something to be worked on. And you can't work on it if you're too busy telling yourself you're not sad at all.

You can sit cross-legged all day telling yourself there is no spoon but all the while you're recognizing that there certainly is.

Sadness and negativity are a tunnel through a wall. You can climb up the side of the tunnel and sit there at the top, swinging your legs back and forth over it as if you haven't got a care in the world, all you want. But that won't get you past that wall.

photo by doctorserone via flickr

In order to get past the wall, in order to grow and learn and mature, in order to live fully human, you have to go through the tunnel. You have to feel the sadness, let the depression take its course, work through the negativity, so that you can come out on the other side of the wall healthier, smarter, and more mature--and ready for the next tunnel.

Focusing on the flowers on the roadside won't do shit. You have to go through the tunnel. And you have to stop pretending the tunnel isn't there. And stop telling everyone the wall isn't real. It's real. And there's nothing wrong with the sadness and negativity you have to endure to get through it. That's called life.

Here's one that is the worst of the worst: You can't love others if you don't first love yourself. And its evil twin: Others can't love you, unless you love yourself.

Complete and utter bullshit.

People who have low self-esteem, who have great difficulty liking (much less loving) themselves, are just as capable of great love as the rest of us. And low and behold, what do you know, people fall in love with people with low or negative self-esteem every day.

Some people (apparently not our positive thinking gurus) are capable of seeing goodness in others that those others don't even see in themselves. What do you know? Real, human love knows no bounds. It doesn't stop just because we haven't learned to love ourselves; and it certainly doesn't keep us from loving someone with issues.

Before you send out another touchy feely quote about how beautiful life is if you just focus on the positive, remember that you're not helping anyone but yourself. But the difference is that, while picking up trash helps me, and the park rangers, and park goers--your tired and worn platitudes hurt people every day.

Try telling a woman who has lost a child to cancer to just look on the bright side of life. Try telling children dying of starvation and malaria to just focus on the joy and sunshine. Try telling people who have lost loved ones to murder that if you concentrate on happiness, happiness will be yours. Try telling the woman struggling with depression that all it takes is to look in the mirror and tell yourself how wonderful you are and voila, your life will be good.

photo by yuicino via flickr

These people are not less than you. These people don't need your platitudes. Your platitudes are hurting them. Stop blinding yourself to the reality of life. Stop trying to live in happiness all the time.

Who ever said that we are supposed to be happy? All the damn time? Who promised you that?

It's a lie that you should be. It's a vicious lie that you can be. Sure, if you have the peculiar bliss temperament that lets you walk around with a permanent grin, bully for you! But stop trying to make the rest of us feel inadequate because we are unable to turn away from the pain, the heartache, the loss, the fear, the evil, and the reality of this world.

And stop telling everyone that they can do anything if they just believe they can, or if they just think the right thoughts, or just try hard enough. Take it from Coach Knight:
No matter what your mom tells you, some physical and mental limitations can't be overcome, even "with all the determination, the willpower, in the world." That's why "Can't," "No," "Not" and "Don't" are powerful reality checks for those who aspire to greatness, or who coach others on that path.

It doesn't matter how much I may want to be a singer, it's never going to happen. I can't sing. My mouth isn't shaped right. I can't carry a tune. I can't belt out a scream, much less a song. It's not going to happen. Stop giving people false hopes that they can be something they are not.

If you can't sing, you won't be a singer no matter how many times people tell you to just believe. And if you are not happy with yourself, no amount of someone telling you to love yourself will help. And this world is not all glorious, all good, and full of joy. And you have no right to tell others to expect it to be.

And no. People who are negative and critical are not people who hate themselves, hate others (or as the goose stepping happiness brigade likes to call "haters"), and just trying to bring everyone down to their level. Their level is higher than yours. Yes, that's right. Because they are living in the objective reality where not everything is good, where things ought to be criticized, where we ought to look at both the good and the bad, where reality lives.

If you are unwilling, or even unable, to look at the reality of life--all of it, the glory and the horror--you are not fully living. You are walking around in a bubble that keeps you from being truly and completely human.

You're not better than anyone. In fact, you are worse, because you spread, not joy, but pain wherever you spread your inane platitudes. Happiness is not a choice. Happiness is a state of mind that is pleasant, but not always for the best. It comes in and rolls out like the tide for those of us who are living. And when it goes out, we do not dance and pretend the water splashes at our feet. Of course not. We tread the damp sands and learn from its absence. And then we wander out to meet it when it returns.

Update 07/06/2013
Found this awesome video on this very subject:


Friday, April 19, 2013

I saw the sign, and that's about it...

My own personal picture of Two Egg.

Do you remember the days when you'd take a long trip in the car and you'd have a huge paperback atlas of maps, big as a newspaper, but thick as a novel? And you'd open it up and trace your progress along the route with your finger? You knew which cities were coming up next and which roads you'd pass. Those were the days, weren't they? You always knew where you were.

It was in those days, and because of them, that I learned about Two Egg, Florida. Everybody wants to know now, how I ever heard of Two Egg. I saw it on the map when I didn't have anything else to do on a long trip. And I knew that one day, I would go to Two Egg. Just to see what was there.

I can tell you what's there: nothing.

My husband and I drove up to Alabama last weekend to visit a grave. It was one of the coolest things I've done lately. To get there, we drove up the middle of Florida to Tallahassee and then over into the panhandle and into another time zone. Then straight up to Dothan.

The middle of Florida is like a different state than what we have here on the Space Coast. It's got rolling green hills, farmlands, and wildflowers. I half expected to see mountains in the distance. But once you get so far up there, it turns back into flat no-man's land, just like home.

So, Dothan Alabama turned out to be a lot like my city--maybe bigger. We drove over to Webb to see the pitiful cemetery and the tombstone I was interested in. Then we spent the rest of the day visiting monuments nearby and the Tri-State BBQ Festival.

West of Dothan, in Enterprise, there's a monument to the boll weevil. A monument. To a bug.

There it is, right in the middle of the street.

Apparently, the boll weevil destroyed all the cotton crops and if that hadn't happened, they'd never have started growing peanuts and got all rich. So, all hail the boll weevil. I certainly hope they aren't that large.

I expected the festival to be spectacular, but again, it was just like the ones we have here. Nothing much to see. It was interesting to see the competitors who travel the country in their trailors, all wedged in together, drinking beer, and watching their cookers.

According to the brochure they gave us at the gate, Myron Mixon of BBQ Pitmasters was supposed to be there this year. But we walked up and down the competitor trailors and we didn't see him anywhere.

On the way back home, we took our detour into Two Egg. Our GPS didn't know what we were talking about, so I had to use my phone to find a nearby town it would recognize. Then we followed the directions I found on the Internet into Two Egg. My husband stopped the car at the Two Egg sign and I was like, "I should take a picture?" I'm forever grateful to him for suggesting it, because that was pretty much it. That was Two Egg.

We drove down the road until we came to another sign, for the next little practically nonexistant town. We were in and out before we realized what happened. We turned around and drove back through, taking a side road (the only other paved one) north to see if the town was down that way, but after several miles we went back to the main road.

From there, we traveled a series of orange dirt roads looking for Two Egg and we never found it. When we got home there was orange dirt inside the car.

According to the website, Two Egg has an historic downtown. But they certainly don't want anyone to find it. I had no signal on my phone in Two Egg, so I got no more help...not that the website would have helped me anyway. We followed the directions we had and they brought us to the sign.

So, that's it.

That's all there is to see here, folks. Move along.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Easter Sunday blood and gore Peeps diorama competition...

The results are in! The first ever Easter Sunday Peeps diorama competition was a raucous test of skill, creative use of trash, and how well we all know our family. Yes, that last one played a very significant role in the voting. (And I was surprised!)

Teams were formed voluntarily and had one hour to use what they could find in my craft box (and apparently around the house and garage) to create a shadow box featuring Peeps. Because we don't eat them here...we mangle them for art. Team members were not allowed to vote.

In third place: Entry number two, with two votes. Team Jeffrey, Jo-Ann, Katie, Michael, and Miriam. Also now known as the girlie, all-smiley team!

Title: Peeps!

We were told that the original idea was to make the Peeps into the Beatles. We ended up with a band of long-haired Peeps on a nicely built stage (Michael's handiwork) and an audience of rubber duckies. Yes, I had a package of rubber duckies in my craft box. Who doesn't? The guitar player up front is actually playing a miniature skate board.

Well done, losers!

In second place: Entry number three, with a total of I can't remember how many votes and they're in the trash now so we'll say four. Team Matthew and Travis.

Title: Alien abduction

Excellent use of construction paper to create a tractor beam lifting the straw-hatted, backwoods yahoo into the alien ship! This entry held up well despite a few voters' attempts to reach in and "fix" things or make the space ship "fly."

And...drumroll, please...

The WINNER of the First Ever Easter Sunday Peeps Diorama Competition at the Narciso's House IS...ddddddddddddddddddd...

Entry number one. Team Danny and Anthony. Six votes.

Title: Blood is the Best Fertilizer

Let me axe you a question.

Yes, folks. It's Easter Sunday at the Narciso house and my two oldest boys hacked off the head of one Peep and slit the other's skull open with a hatchet. Excellent use of red feathers for blood.

I'm so proud.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Is the written word devolving?

You know how the whale ancestor started out in the ocean, evolved into a land animal, and then took to the seas once again, becoming the whale? No? Well, look it up.

If I can't write, no one can.
Photo by Kristine Paulus via flickr

Tell me. Is this what the English language coming to? Is it devolving?

First, they tried to ban the exclamation point from all writing! It started with non-fiction, naturally. No journalist worth his salt is going to use one. But fiction? Really? The exclamation point serves a purpose, people!

I listened to the excuses. Truly I did. Your writing should show the emotion. If your writing is strong enough, you don't need to use an exclamation point. I get it. But that doesn't mean the mark isn't useful, can't be useful, and has no place in fiction!

Next they went after the semicolon. And why? Because it's misused that's why. People are putting semicolons between clauses instead of complete sentences. No one ever seems to know how to use them properly in a list. And so, well, if people can't do it right, let's just stop using them altogether and shame authors who know what they're doing and happen to like, nay, love the semicolon!

What's next? The apostrophe! This from London:
A local council in southern England has sparked a grammar war with proposals to ban the apostrophe from its street signs

Are they out of their minds? Yes. Yes, they are.

Why don't we just revert back to ancient Hebrew. Forget spaces. No need for vowels. No punctuation at all. Let's just pttltthrndhpfrthbst. You couldn't read that, could you? Of course you couldn't. No one can. Why do you think people still argue over ancient holy texts today?

Better yet, let's just go back to hieroglyphics! Picture books for everyone! Why bother with words. They're so easily misunderstood and no one knows how to use them properly.

Please don't let English be a whale.

It's enough to make me start sewing again...

I went clothes shopping this weekend. That's never a good thing; but it has to be done once in a while. After an appalling session at Kohl's, I was reminded of Oprah Winfrey.

All of these make me look fat.
Photo by Stefanie Seskin via flickr

I guess this proves that I'll never forget that episode with the pretty girls. There were, maybe, five of them. They sat perched on stools on the stage, their dainty feet crossed at the ankles, backs straight, shiny, silky heads of hair brushed off their shoulders occasionally by their slender, manicured  hands.

"I hate my thighs." Says one in her lilting, agonizingly sweet voice. "I can't stand my nose," says another.

Right. Said I.

But I wasn't in the audience. No one, certainly not Oprah, once stood to call these pretty girls out on their complete and utter bullshit. Not one person was intelligent enough to understand what was going on.

Oprah was trying to tell us that we all have self-image issues, even pretty girls. And here was her proof. Pretty girls who didn't like the way they looked. See? You ugly girls should stop feeling bad about the way you look, because we all do it. Pretty girls see themselves the same way you do when they look in the mirror.

Bullshit. Utter, foul, odorous crap.

How did I know it was horse hockey? It was easy. Girls with self-esteem issues, those who suffer with negative self-images, do not sit up straight. They don't throw back their hair and giggle. They don't sing when they speak.

They slouch. They hide or twist their hair. They mumble.

Girls who are confident sit up straight, do their hair and nails, wear stylish clothes and speak clearly. Because they know damn well they're good enough just the way they are. Those girls up on stage didn't have self-esteem issues. But they're not stupid enough to let other girls know that they know  they're beautiful.

Women in our society are supposed to complain about the way they look. Society tells us we're not good enough. And those of us who know we're not feel sucky about it all the time. The pretty girls know better than to start bragging on their beauty.

No one likes an arrogant little piss, after all.

So, the pretty girls cross their little feet and tell the rest of us, "I know just what you mean. I just hate my ankles. Aren't my ankles the worst?"

Please. You're not helping.

Advice: Don't tell ugly girls you know how they feel. You don't. And don't tell them they're beautiful. They know they're not. Lying to them won't help their self-esteem.

What helps is being honest. If you think they're cute or beautiful say so. But say it that way: I think you're cute. I like the way you look.

Never say, "Don't be stupid, of course you're pretty." Because we can see right through that one.

If you don't think they're pretty, just agree that society sucks. "We're all beautiful in our own way" is one-hundred times better than, "Yeah, I don't like my thighs, so I know just how you feel."

So, anyway, I had to wonder what Kohl's was up to. Not only could I not reach the upper racks to try on some of their clothes (not a stool or grabber in sight), but their clothes looked awful on me, and the lighting in their fitting rooms accented every roll of fat and made me look like some monstrous twisted clay sculpture created by a misogynist. And what was up with all the clearance racks? Talk about damaging to the self-esteem!

Could there be anything worse than standing claustrophobic between racks filled with outdated, unorganized, ratty pieces of cloth, sliding the hangers back one by one, slarrrk, slarrrk, slarrrrrk. Make it stop!

Thanks, Kohl's. For that wonderful shopping experience.

I'm not sure what they're thinking. Could it be that pretty girls look fabulous in those fitting-room mirrors? Somehow, I don't think so. It's as if Kohl's doesn't want any of us to walk away feeling wonderful.

Next stop, Sears. I normally would have gone to JC Penney, but they've ruined it. I used to be able to go to Penney's and come out with a ton of clothes, a new purse, and some shoes--happy dance! But now I wander the aisles in a melancholy, not really understanding what's going on.

Sears has proven to be the new JC Penney*. Clothes! Clothes that not only look nice (and normal--only a few sets of odd prints that only a crazy cat woman would wear--not that I'm not a--oh, never mind) but clothes that fit! Yay! Grabber sticks readily available for the high racks. And lighting that even made me look not like a blob of ugly.

Granted, there was a section of Kardashian clothes that were questionable (especially the tees with Ks on them. Seriously?) but all in all, Sears is the new go-to store. True, I didn't come away talking all high-pitchy like a snot, or flipping my hair.

Bu you can bet I wasn't slouching on my way out.

Shopping is such torment.

*So, here's a shopping update. I'm not saying that this is the first time since I wrote this post that I've gone shopping! I'm just saying, things might be changing. This week I couldn't find a damn thing at Sears, but found a few shirts at least at Penney's. Kohl's is still annoying and I can't figure out why I still go there, but I do. Didn't find anything to buy this time. (07/24/2014)