When Christmas Meets LOTR

I’ve been sitting in my office for the past two hours alternating between numbness and tears over the most recent mass shooting in California (the most recent one today, I should say, because we are clearly no longer content with our current shooting-to-day ratio), and I am nearly desperate to not feel so broken and hopeless.  So, I’ve decided to post a little something I have been working on.

I enjoy rewriting songs a la Weird Al Yankovic.  I am not nearly as talented as that, but it amuses me so I do it.  One of the songs I’ve been listening to a lot lately due to the upcoming holidays is “Mary Did You Know?” by Pentatonix.

As I was making the 30 minute commute to work yesterday, I thought to myself, “Self, how wonderful would this be if it was about Lord of the Rings instead?”  To myself, I replied, “It would be pretty fucking wonderful.”  So, I made that happen.  I present to you…

Frodo Did You Know?

Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring had once belonged to Sauron?
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would lead to mass destruction?
Did you know
that your uncle’s ring was searched for by Nazgul?
‘Cause Sauron wants a body and the ring will be his tool.
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would lead you from the Shire?
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would bring down Sauron’s ire?
Did you know
that your uncle’s ring would come with such great cost?
You must throw it into Mt. Doom before Middle Earth is lost.

 

Frodo, did you know… Ooo Ooo Ooo

The Orcs will come.
The Goblins march.
And Isengard betrays.
The Ents will rage.
The Horselords ride
And Samwise never strays.

Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would take you into Mordor?
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would be the cause of this war?
Did you know
that your uncle’s ring has brought about this gloom?
The evil forged within it must die in Mt. Doom.

So there’s that.

The Importance of Planning

I have arrived at the first significant roadblock of my garden.  Of all the plants I had my heart set on, the vast majority of them are not hardy in my growing zone.  Because of course they’re not.  This is why I am spending so much time planning.  The plants I had chosen are not cheap, and while I could always just treat them like annuals, they are way too expensive to replace every year.  Also, I thought I could create some shade space so I could plant some gorgeous Japanese painted ferns.  Yeah, no.  No, that’s not going to work because of where my garden is situated.  So, I will have to come up with a new garden theme.  Thanks, Obama!

On the upside, I can still have some of the plants.  Tulips, hyacinths, and my vines will grow just fine here.  The trick is to find amazing plants to flower through the summer and fall.  To that end, I think I’m going to go with a dragon garden theme.  I’m not entirely sure what this is going to look like yet, but I won’t have to be so rigid in the plants I choose.  At least that’s the theory.

Depression and the Creative Mind

There are a lot of articles out there that discuss links between creativity and various forms of mental illness, such as depression, and they range from fluffy clickbait articles to peer reviewed scholarly publications.  It comes as little surprise, to me at least, that I have in the last few months been diagnosed with moderate to severe Major Depression.  Normally, the crickets chirping and the cobwebs in the corners are because I’m just so busy doing everything else that needs to be done that I neglect this space.  Nothing bad happens if I don’t post, but something bad does happen if I don’t turn in homework, don’t spend time with my kids, don’t show up for work, etc.  That isn’t an excuse right now.  I have lots of time that I could set aside for posting more regularly.  The problem is I have a hard time doing anything more complicated than taking a shower.

Don’t worry about me.  I’m doing what I can to take care of myself.  To that effect, I am planning a garden.  I have a very large yard and I am lucky enough to be able to plan out a private space for myself where I can go to read, to meditate and reflect, or to just be alone.  Until winter hits, I plan on posting pictures and writing about my gardening progress because 1) it’s going to be a gorgeous garden and 2) it forces me to write regularly which can only be a good thing.

The construction will go in stages.  Stage 1 will be getting all of the measurements, removing sod, installing the inner edging, and laying down rock.  The inner portion of the garden will have rock as a ground cover and a bistro set for seating.  The garden will surround this space so I can have some privacy.  I’m looking on Craigslist, Freecycle, and yard sales looking for pots and anything else I can find a use for.  In fact, I’m picking up a garden bench and three trellises today!  Depending on how much I spend on the rock and the furniture, I may go ahead and set up the gated arbor I have picked out for the entrance.  If possible, I want to pick up some shepherds’ hooks and some staked candle holders/solar powered lighting for the interior.  I’m hoping to find some end of the season sales.

Stage 2 will be deciding which plants I can put in before the snows hit and what will need to wait until spring.  I am planning a gothic garden, so all of the plants and flowers will have a dark, gothic feel to them.  I plan on using the trellises and ornamental grasses to give the garden some height.  The arbor will be covered in flowering vines.  What gets planted will depend on what I can get and where it needs to go.  I’ll also put in the outer edging.

Stage 3 will be next spring.  Once the snow melts, I can reassess the planting I did in the fall and start acquiring the rest of my plants.  The annuals will be planted in pots that I’ve painted with a stone textured spray paint.  If I have a lot of smaller pots, I might get some inexpensive small plant stands to vary the height on them.  I’m going to be planting herbs in hanging baskets and hanging them from the shepherds’ hooks.  I want to grow several varieties of mint, dill, cilantro, chives, parsley…you know, the good stuff.

Stage 4 will be ongoing.  It’s just buying extra things for the space as I find them or can afford them.  I want a pair of these dragons to guard my garden gate.  Maybe I’ll add more lighting.  With pots and planter boxes, I can add plants if I want.

I can’t wait until I start the actual work.  It’s going to be amazing.

Variation on a Theme

I’m sure everyone is sick of me talking about Caitlyn Jenner, so I’m not going to do that today.  Instead, I’m going to talk about my book, Celia.

For those who haven’t read it, Celia is the story of a woman whose husband tells her he is going to transition from being a man into a woman.  That bit is a slight plot twist, but there are spoiler reviews out there so I might as well give it away at this point.  It’s told from the wife’s point of view and it follows her journey through the transition process.

(For the purpose of this post, I’m going to refer to the husband as Brian because he is Brian nearly through the entire book.  It’s going to get confusing if I do it any other way.)

Brian is the bad guy in the book.  Here’s the thing, though.  Brian isn’t the bad guy because he’s transgendered.  He’s the bad guy because he lies to his wife.  He’s secretive and hides things from her.  He excludes her, and he doesn’t care how she’s acclimating to all of these changes with him, with their marriage, or even with herself as she figures out how to navigate this new relationship dynamic.  This is something that’s very important.  Trans* people can be good people and they can be bad people because they are people.  You don’t lose your humanity because you are transgendered, so as many variations as there are in humanity, so can there be in any portion of humanity.  In short: Brian is an asshole and he’s transgendered.  He isn’t an asshole because he’s transgendered.

So, why did I write a book about a transgendered person from a spouse’s point of view?  Well, for starters, my former spouse began transitioning during our marriage, so it was the point of view I had experience with.  From there, it might be easy to think that I am bashing transgendered people because of the actions of one person.  Except, the book never undermines Brian’s decision to transition.  There is never that unseen entity pointing a finger and saying, “See what you’ve done?  You should never have done this.  This is all your fault.  You should have just stayed the way you are.”  The book does criticize the way Brian handles it, however.  We’re all dealt a hand of cards and what we get is what we get.  We don’t get to control that.  We do get to control what we do with them, though, and Brian doesn’t make the best choices.

So, why write the book at all?  I think most people think I wrote it for cisgendered people.  The fact is, I wrote it for transgendered people and for people who might be the parents of transgendered people.  Clearly, this is not representative of every transition experience, even those that occur within a marriage.  Not all marriages end in divorce because of a transition (though a fair amount do, including my own, for various reasons).  At first, Brian’s wife does the best she can in order to be supportive of his transition and to help whenever she could.  Many wives and husbands are supportive.  So, while this is not representative of transition experiences, it is a type of transition experience.  This is what can happen when someone is told they can’t be who they truly are.  This is what can happen when someone is beaten for questioning their gender identity.  That child or adolescent grows into an adult who might think that if they could just find the right partner, that partner could “fix” them and they would be normal.  Except, there’s nothing to fix because they’re not broken.  This sets up the transgendered person to be depressed, miserable, and possibly even desperate.  They might marry someone and even have children while they’re living their own personal lie.  This makes for an unhappy home life for everyone involved.

I wrote this book to say, “This is what you are setting yourself/your children (for parents of trans* youth) up for if you can’t be who you are/if you can’t let them be who they are.”  In my own case, there was a lot of pain, not just for me but for my children who I lost custody of.  I live in Indiana.  ‘Nuff said.  While writing this book, I kept thinking back on my former spouse as a child and thought about all the pain that could have been avoided if my in-laws had just allowed my former spouse to be authentic.  If I’m being honest, I blamed my former spouse to some extent, too, for not being strong enough or brave enough to be authentic in spite of it all.  That’s not fair, but we don’t always react fairly when we’re in pain.  I don’t have a high opinion of my former spouse and I probably never will, but it isn’t because of the transition.   I have always supported the decision to be authentic.  I don’t think highly of my former spouse because my former spouse is a selfish asshole who didn’t care about anyone else’s needs.  I don’t hate the cards.  I hate how they were played.

This is why I feel so strongly about Caitlyn Jenner being so high profile.  If it allows one parent to look at their trans* child and say, “You know what, maybe this isn’t such a horrible thing after all,” then she’s done something tremendous.  We are not islands.  We ripple, touching lives beyond our own.  I imagine my former spouse transitioning as a teen, being comfortable enough to say, “This is who I am” and finding someone who is comfortable enough to say, “I want to be with who you are.”  So many people wouldn’t have been wounded later on.  This is why I wrote the book.  It’s a warning, a preview of what can happen when you try to live as someone you’re not for the sake of other people.

More Thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner

Since I wrote my open letter yesterday, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.  I’m very happy to see so many people being supportive and making the world just a little bit better by accepting the beings who live in it.  From this point, I see two more camps who I feel need addressing.  There is the camp who says that going public wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t intended to benefit the trangendered community, so we shouldn’t be quite so supportive of it.  There is also the camp who says that Caitlyn Jenner cannot be someone’s hero because she isn’t risking her life in order to help people.  I’m going to address this second camp first.

In my letter yesterday, I mentioned that trans* people encounter disproportionately high rates of suicide, assault, sexual violence, and murder. I want you to take a moment and look here.  Then I want you to look here.  And here.  Keep looking because there is more to see.  Caitlyn Jenner risks her life just to exist as her authentic self.  Her wealth and celebrity may protect her from the brunt of it, but being a celebrity doesn’t keep you from being killed.  There is no guarantee that her being in the public eye will serve some greater good, but I can guarantee you that it will help more than it will hurt.  If even one trans* youth sees her in the spotlight and decides not to commit suicide, then Caitlyn Jenner will have saved a life.  That makes her a hero.  We may never know if that happens or not.  We don’t necessarily need to.  The possibility is there and that’s good enough for me.

So, going back to the first camp, I am of the opinion that it doesn’t matter how or why Caitlyn Jenner went public.  What matters is that she did and what she does while she is there.  By virtue of being public she has raised awareness.  She has sparked conversations.  She has compelled transphobes to come out of the woodwork into the light of day and that has given the rest of us opportunities to combat that as we encounter it.  I have had so many people say, “I’ve been friends with this person for so long and I had no idea they felt this way.  I just can’t believe there is so much hatred.”  Even if that is the only thing she accomplishes, that’s huge.  It’s caused those of us who are allies to be even more visible.  More people are seeing our support and that increases the chances that we can be there for people who we might not have been able to be there for.  I cannot speak for all allies, but for myself, I more than willing to be an ally to anyone who needs me.  You now know where to find me if you need comfort, support, and someone to have your back.

An Open Letter to Caitlyn Jenner

Dear Caitlyn,

Since your Vanity Fair cover debuted, you have been the subject of many comments.  Some of them were welcoming, some were flattering, but some were fetishizing and objectifying, and still others were plain vitriolic.  I’ve spent the better part of the last 24 hours attempting to combat the vilest of these, but I’m sure you can imagine how effective I’ve been.  Instead, I have decided to address you personally and I hope that this somehow makes its way to you.  I want you to know where I stand on the things some people are saying.

“That is not a woman.”

You are absolutely a woman.  For better or worse, the good and the bad, you are one of us and I welcome you.  I will not relegate you to a sub-woman (or sub-human) status.  I will not exclude you from feminist spaces.  I will not presume to speak for you, but I will absolutely speak up for you.  I will be your ally the best way I am able.

How dare she call herself a mother?! That’s an insult to the sanctity of motherhood!”

I am a mother and I am a birth mother. You identifying yourself as a mother does not threaten me in the slightest.  And, really, why should it?  It’s not like we’re BFFs.  We don’t even know each other.  And even if we did, your parental identity does not impact my parenting ability in any way, shape, or form.  No, Caitlyn, I am not bothered by you calling yourself a mother.  You know who bothers me?  These mothers.  Some sanctity, huh?

“I’m so sick of hearing about this. All she wants is money and attention.”

You know what?  We need you to get attention.  We need to have more trans* people visible in the media and in daily life.  So many people end up being erased, so if you being in the spotlight helps to prevent trans* erasure, I’m ok with that.  Use your spotlight wisely, though.  That’s all I ask of you.

“I have a friend like this and she doesn’t experience violence. That used to be a problem but not anymore.”

Yes, someone actually said this to me.  And in part, this is why it’s so important for you to be in the spotlight.  Trans* people experience much higher rates of assault, rape, and murder than the general public.  You are famous, and beautiful, and wealthy, so you may not experience this.  I sincerely hope you never, ever experience this.  Unfortunately, too many trans* people do.  When a group goes unseen, the violence done to them tends to go unremarked upon.  You have the opportunity to show your heart to the world, to show us who you are as a woman and as a human being.  Maybe if we can start seeing trans* people as human beings, we could finally start treating them like human beings.

“She isn’t brave! Our veterans are brave!”

Yes they are.  You know what?  So are you.  Bravery is knowing the path you need to take is filled with dangers and pain, but it’s what you need to do so you do it anyway.  You did that.  That makes you brave.

“I’d fuck her.”

The people actually saying this one think they’re paying you a compliment.  They are not, and as a woman, you will need to adjust to this reality.  Being a woman means constantly combating the idea that we become community property when we enter public spaces.  Men will catcall you.  Some may try to grope you.  Some may start to follow you if you don’t acknowledge their lewd comments.  Ok, being wealthy and famous might cut down on that a lot.  I wouldn’t know, as I am neither.  Still, these aren’t compliments.  In fact, reducing you down to whether or not you are an acceptable sexual partner is objectifying you and fetishizing you.  That’s not cool.  What makes this even worse is that I have seen women participating in this.  You’d think, seeing as how we deal with this kind of behavior fairly regularly, that women would know better and do better.  But no, some women don’t.  It reduces you to sub-woman status, and that isn’t cool either.

“She only looks good because she had surgery.  Otherwise, she’d just be playing dress up.”

You do look good, but let me be very clear.  You would be a woman whether you had surgery or not.  Whether you had hormone replacement therapy or not.  Wore women’s clothing or not.  We don’t have the right to dictate your femininity.  You will be the woman that you want to be, and it might look different than how other women want to be women.  That’s ok.  Whether you decide to wear evening gowns and red lipstick or sweatpants with a messy ponytail, you are the woman you want to be.  No one else gets to define that for you and no one else gets the right to validate your identity.  Fuck those people.

I am cisgendered, so I will never be able to know what your experience is like.  All I can do is offer my hand in sisterhood and welcome you to the fold.

Best wishes for a happy future,

Erin R. Britt

P.S. You don’t look gorgeous because you had surgeries or could afford expensive clothes.  You look gorgeous because you look so fucking happy and free.  Keep being happy.

Til Only Her Thesis Remained…

That’s right, folks!  As of this moment, the only thing standing between me and my M.A. in English degree is my thesis.  It has been a lot of hard work compounded by life.  In fact, this has been the hardest few months of my life.

My oldest son has been having a lot of health issues.  In March, we discovered he has a large cyst that was causing him a lot of problems and needed surgery.  In April, he had brain surgery.  There is nothing more terrifying than to learn your child has a potentially life-threatening condition.  Without surgery, the pressure from the cyst would most likely have killed him at some point.  With the surgery, he is limited from doing things he enjoys because a blow to the head could kill him.  There is a lot of adjustment going on.

His health issues (which included a week in Chicago and I do not live in Chicago) made school work more challenging than it should have been.  I didn’t have the time or the energy to devote to my work.  I initially wanted to be completely done by now, but something had to give so I chose to push back my thesis work.  I missed a lot of teaching because of being out of town or at various doctor appointments, so I asked that they replace me.  That helped in terms of my work load, but that stress was replaced by anxiety over money.  I am thrilled to say that his surgery went well and he is ok.  This is something he will need to monitor for the rest of his life, though.

I ended the semester with a 3.7 GPA.  Not too shabby considering the other stuff I was going through.

Now that school is over for the most part, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.  My poor blog has been mostly forgotten about.  I have some new projects in the works and some major changes coming up.  Hopefully, I’ll have a lot of good news to be sharing.  After the first of the year, I plan on getting back to my interviews, so if you’ve been missing Author Corner, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I might also spend time lamenting that Hollywood, not content with simply systematically destroying my childhood, is now working to destroy my life in its entirety with their horrible remake schedule.  I’m no screenwriter, but I’m reasonably certain that I could be doing a better job of things.

And, of course, I will be updating periodically on my thesis.  My goal is to have my proposal approved this summer so that I can start my revisions.

Have a happy weekend!

Happy Birthday to Me

It is that time, once again, where I celebrate the glorious occasion of my birth.  It is also the first day of the spring semester and I am teaching today as well as taking a class.  It stands to reason, then, that I haven’t been able to sleep and the birthday butterscotch creme brulee has killed my insides.  For those who don’t remember/are new, I’m allergic to eggs and that’s basically what creme brulee is: baked eggs with crunchy sugar on top.  I realize I shouldn’t have eaten it, but we were at a nice restaurant and our server brought me a complimentary dessert and that was what she brought.  It was delicious, but I am paying dearly for it now.

I am 38 today.  Some things really make that hit home.  My oldest son is already angling for his first car and he won’t even be 16 until August.  My high school class is planning our 20th reunion.  Whenever I think about the things I used to enjoy in my 20s, I instantly feel the need to take a nap.  Oh, and there’s my stockpile of hair color.

Last year, for my birthday, I was deathly ill with flu and I had lost a dear friend of mine to a lengthy respiratory illness.  It was shaping up to be another sad birthday for me when weather prevented me from seeing my youngest son this weekend.  But, you know?  It hasn’t been that bad at.  It’s actually been pretty good.

I spent the weekend with my oldest son, just the two of us.  We went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies yesterday and it was great.  When I got home, I had a present waiting for me.

IMAG0114

 

A friend wanted to make my day suck less.  It worked.  My guy took me to a really nice restaurant where I had fettuccine with shrimp and lobster in a spicy diavolo sauce and my butterscotch death brulee.  Came home and watched a few episodes of Game of Thrones.  Yes, I’m behind, but I’m in the 4th season now so cut me some slack.  After that, I came into my office to do some work but saw a contest and decided to enter a chapbook of poetry instead.  If all of this wasn’t quite enough, I’ve had birthday wishes coming in from Facebook and in my email, and I’ll be meeting up with friends after class tonight to eat noms, drink beverages, and spend time together.

It’s cold.  The roads tend to be awful.  I didn’t get to see my small man.  Nothing is perfect, though, and so I’ll spend my day being grateful for all the wonderful people I have in my life.  I fully expect lots of birthday hugs and lots of laughs.  Here’s to another trip around the sun.

Car Shopping Makes Me Sad on the Inside

For the last two months or so, I have been without a vehicle.  With the start of a new semester fast approaching, this won’t work out well for me, so I’ve been combing the interwebs for a new car.  To say the experience has been soul crushing is putting a positive spin on things.  Everything is either almost as old as I am (and I have a birthday soon :/), over 150,000 miles, or gets horrendous gas mileage.  I drive over 1200 miles per month, so that’s just not going to work for me.  Side note: if you are wondering why I’m not writing, chances are I’m driving somewhere.  It feels like I live in my car sometimes.  Except I have no car.

My goal is to have something to drive by this time next weekend.  The hunt continues!

Happy New Year

Hopefully, everyone had a great night last night and no one is too hung over today.  My own evening was spent deep cleaning and getting pinned under the deep freezer.  We were moving it out of the basement and into the front garage, but moving it around the landing and up the stairs was somewhat…problematic.  I was at the top of the stairs and I ended up pinned underneath the thing.  It went something like:

Him: Go up the stairs.

Me: I’m pinned.

Him: You have to get up the stairs.

Me: I can’t.  I’m pinned.

Him: You’ve got to move!

Me: What part of “pinned” was unclear?!

Needless to say, I became unpinned once he rolled the freezer over the top of me.  My leg is still a little sore from where it rolled, but there’s no bruising so I don’t think there’s any major damage.

If you saw my year end post the other day, you will know about the wonderful writing spreadsheet my lovely guest Jamie Raintree created and shared.  I had last year’s spreadsheet and that was pretty cool.  The changes she made to this year’s spreadsheet are amazing.  Now, you can track more projects and there’s a new section for tracking your editing progress.  I spent some time setting up my projects and I’m excited to get tracking.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t feel like you do any writing at all if it’s not on your primary project.  The fact is, we’re constantly writing things.  My goal for this year (I refuse to call it a resolution) is to track all of the different forms of writing I do every day and see what I’m actually producing.  With the extra project space, I can do that more thoroughly.  Of course, one of the very first projects is for Enraptured, and I’ve actually been working on it today so I may finish it at some point.  You know you have something special when you go back over your manuscript to see what you’ve done and you impress yourself:

“Church shouldn’t be comfortable.  You’re here to work, and work should be hot and sweaty.”

“But shouldn’t the Church also provide comfort?”

“The people of the Church provide comfort.  The building does not.”

–Enraptured, Chapter 2

I have a project set up to track blog postings, so that should help keep things a bit more regular around here.  I’m in my final semester (!) of graduate school, which means another writing workshop and my fiction thesis project.  This time, it’s creative nonfiction.  This isn’t my favorite thing to write, but “Fruits of Labor” was published last summer and “Don’t Be Sorry” was included in a collection of grad student essays, so there’s that.  My thesis project is already written, so I get to play with the edit tracking feature.  I do need to add 2-7 pages through editing but that isn’t a problem.  I’m having more of a problem writing the damn thesis proposal (which I will do!).  I added a project to track my poetry writing and then a final one to track whatever writing exercises I do.  I have a couple more spaces left, so I have room to work on something else if I want to, but I really think this is enough for now.

What goals have you set for yourselves this year?

 

 

The End is Nigh

The end of the semester is nearly upon me, which is both good and bad.  It’s good because I’ll be done.  It’s bad because I still have an 8-10 page paper to write, it’s due tomorrow, and I can’t find the sources I need.  So, whilst I stress over this thing, I thought I would share some of the work I’ve been doing over the semester in poetry workshop.  Here is the first piece.

 

Naked is One Consideration Under the Orange Tree

 

She never wanted to let me be—

she constantly molded me

I let her

 

It was easier to drown in

the tidal wave of her

personality

 

that washed away every distinction

not clinging desperately to coral skeletons

weary seaweed

 

Having Faith meant having faith that

I could ignite like citrus and cinnamon

a candle at Christmastime

 

I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures

Yellowed paper behind yellowed glass

My skin so much paler

 

from exposure to the sun

memories frozen like fish in a shallow pond

I saw the dangling hook

 

waited to feel its piercing

taste the penny coated

steel

 

The wind blows, shaking the trees

oranges sway like tumorous

ornaments

 

I take one down, rip the flesh with my teeth

leaving the peels behind

me

 

It was pointed out to me that the bulk of my work, whether fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry, deals with the structures of power–who has it, who doesn’t, and the conflicts that come from that.  I do focus a lot on interpersonal relationships, but it never occurred to me that it was the power dynamic that I was focusing on.  Hooray for workshops!  So, in this piece, the power dynamic is between two friends.  I’ll post another piece tomorrow.

 

Brining the Turkey and Ferguson

Last night, I prepared the brine for my turkey.  Because my bird is usually over 20 pounds, I end up with over 4 gallons of brine plus 22 pounds of ice to go in the brine, plus the weight of the bird (23 pounds this year), plus the weight of the cooler it gets to chill out in.  It will soak from Monday evening until Thursday morning.

So, why am I talking about holiday preparations at the same time as I bring up the Ferguson grand jury decision?  I guess it’s to bring home the point that life goes on…and maybe, just maybe, it shouldn’t.

I’m not going to offer much commentary on the decision.  I don’t have nearly enough information.  To offer up an opinion one way or the other would be irresponsible, so I’m not going to do that.  Instead, I’m going to offer up a statement of fact: black lives matter.

As a white woman, I can’t even begin to wrap my head around the bullshit people of color have to deal with.  Intellectually, I know the bullshit exists.  I can admit, though, that I don’t always “see” it.  This has to stop.

THE BULLSHIT HAS TO STOP, PEOPLE.

We, as individuals, as communities, as a nation, have to find a way to rise above our prejudices, our ignorance.  I’m sick of seeing people die.

We all have the potential to offer something great to our world, so why the fuck are we limiting ourselves?

Black lives matter.

Gay lives matter.

Immigrant lives matter.

Women’s lives matter.

WE ALL FUCKING MATTER.

It’s time to start acting like it.

Too Much To Handle

They say that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade.  Or, that you should make grape juice and let people wonder how you did it.  Life handed me a small orchard’s worth of lemons this past two weeks, and I’ve got those bastards in my freezer so I can throw them at people.

Things started to go awry when I was informed my oven was broken.  When was I informed of this, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.  It was right after I posted a blanket Facebook invitation to my holiday table for all of my friends who might be without loved ones this Thanksgiving.  Because nothing can be simple, I’m not going to be able to replace it for awhile.  It’s a narrow built-in unit and we can’t really replace it without redoing the entire kitchen.  So, this Thanksgiving, I’ll be attempting to roast my 23 pound turkey at my neighbor’s house while being over here preparing the rest of the meal.  My kitchen-fu is strong, though, so I just might pull this off.

Next, we had to take our dog, Cocoa, to the vet.  She’s a senior dog, unspayed, and pretty well behaved for the most part.  She listens better than the other animals, at any rate.  The vet diagnosed her with cancer.  She also has arthritis, which we are medicating to keep her comfortable.  With the way the tumor keeps growing, we don’t think surgery will do her much good in light of all the risks the surgery holds for her.

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My Cocoa Pup’s tumor. She almost looks like a male dog when she’s standing because of where it’s located and how big it’s gotten.

My younger son is heartbroken.  He loves these dogs and he cried after I told him she was sick.  She’s not acting like she’s in too much pain, and the meds for her hip help her move better.  When the time comes, I will probably have to be Cocoa’s medical proxy, as it were.  I refuse to let her suffer and I have a feeling I am the only one who will be able to be objective about it.  Sometimes letting go is harder than holding on.  This is something I know about.

After Cocoa’s diagnosis, my computer died.  I did what I could to fix it, but it gave me the Blue Screen of Death followed by the Black Screen of Fuck You, so it is well and truly dead.  Hopefully on Friday I can take it in somewhere to get it looked at.  As for now, I’m working on Joe’s laptop.  I do not like working on laptops, but beggars can’t be choosers.  At least I have this as an alternative until I can get mine fixed, so I’m being grateful.

A few days after my computer’s untimely demise, Saranda, our alpha female (at least, the way she tells it.  I’m sure Cocoa begs to differ), got an eye infection.  Of course, Joe instantly blames Smeagol for this.  My cat is a good kitty.  He doesn’t participate in run-by scratchings.  Danna never messes with him, so I knew he didn’t scratch her.  Turns out, I was right.  She has doggy pink eye.

By this time, it was time to pick up my boys for the weekend.  We were in the car driving home from Peru, Indiana (where I was telling them about Cocoa and breaking their hearts) when my transmission locked up, flipped me off, and left me stranded on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night.  It will cost more to fix than the car is worth, so I am now without a car for the next few months.  Because of course I am.

While I was waiting to be rescued, Joe informed me that the washer broke.  We needed to buy a new washer and dryer anyway, but this was not when we were planning to do it.  So, $1900 later, we have our new washer/dryer set.  It was delivered this morning.  They were worried it wouldn’t fit down our stairs.

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Of course, as I’m going through and trying to clean the house for the holiday feasting, I keep finding old piles of dog vomit.  Apparently, when Danna got her shots at the vet, she decided she wasn’t going to tolerate them very well.  She’s been horking all weekend and if she’s still doing it after today we have to take her back to the vet.  This will be a neat trick seeing as how I don’t have a car and I’m the only one with the time to do it.

Oh, and because this clearly isn’t enough to deal with, we discovered our front garage is leaking right above where we have all of our Christmas decorations and tree stored.  I don’t know for sure yet, but I feel it is reasonable to assume we will need to replace at least the tree.  We store the other stuff in a big Rubbermaid tote, so that stuff might be ok.  Of course, there’s still a leaky roof to contend with.  Because of course there is.

What It Means To Be A Woman

I try very hard to stay away from hot button topics when it comes to this space.  Sure, I have my views and opinions.  I just think that some spaces are better for sharing those things than others.  That being said, I’m going to discuss one of those topics today.  I have a number of reasons for making that decision, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I’m sure most people have heard of #GamerGate, whether you play video games or not.  I am a gamer who is also a woman.  Lest anyone question my gamer credentials, allow me to show you my first console:

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Yes, friends, that beautiful, beautiful piece of gaming is the Atari 2600.  I spent hours on it as a kid in the early 80s.  Yes, I really am that old.  Since then, I’ve played on various consoles before eventually moving on to prefer PC gaming.  We still have an XBox 360, and I do still play it, but I prefer PC games.

Now that that’s out of the way, one of the major issues in video games in the treatment of women.  Anita Sarkeesian has a series Tropes Vs Women where she discusses these things much better than I can, so I’ll leave her to it.  The point of this post isn’t to debate whether or not women are portrayed badly in video games (or media in general).  Like I said, people who are better than I am at it are already doing that.  This post is about what happens after women such as Anita Sarkeesian, Felicia Day, and Shoshana Roberts actually do something to point out the dangerous environments that exist for women.

If Anita Sarkeesian’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because she was scheduled to be a speaker at Utah State University.  That speaking engagement was canceled because someone (a man, as it happens) threatened to shoot the place up if she spoke there.  If a woman speaks out about violence against women, and your response is to threaten violence against that woman, perhaps you should stop right there and think about things a bit.  Since the university would do nothing to ensure Ms. Sarkeesian’s safety, she canceled her speech.

Felicia Day is a ridiculously talented actress who has appeared in some of my favorite things (Buffy, The Guild, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog) who was doxxed for speaking out about this larger issue.  For those who are unfamiliar with the term, doxxing is where someone goes through the trouble of finding your personal information and then posts it online so that people can send rape/death threats and make the person leave their home out of fear for their safety.  Again, if a woman is talking about violence against women (even pixilated ones), and your go-to action is to threaten (or perpetuate) violence against the woman, you are the problem.  You aren’t part of the problem.  You are the problem…the unique, self contained problem that is your entire interaction with 1/2 of the planet’s human population.

Shoshana Roberts is a relatively new addition to this list.  You may have seen the video she participated in that documented over 100 instances of street harassment she encountered while walking around NYC for 10 hours.  Now, while there are some legitimate criticisms about the film (such as a lack of white men as opposed to an overabundance of black/latino men), the fact remains that what was documented is a fact of a woman’s life.  It does not matter 1) how old you are, 2) what you are wearing, 3) your race, or 4) your size.  I’m fat now and I still encounter street harassment.  She’s getting rape/death threats because she participated in this video.  Are you fucking kidding me?  Yes, I said the bad word and no, that was not rhetorical.

So, I guess the big question is why am I writing about this, knowing that this space is not usually used for these topics and knowing the potential risks to doing it.  The first one is really simple.  I’m a woman and I demand the right to walk down the street, mind my own business, and yes, even play video games, and not be harassed and/or assaulted for it.  I’m not asking for the right because, quite frankly, it’s not yours to give.  I have that right and I’m taking that right.  The second one is less simple.  I’m speaking out because I have to.  I can’t keep riding on the bravery of my fellow women and hoping I will benefit from the risks that they take.

I am not on this planet for you to look at. I’m not here to smile at you.  I’m not a potential resting place for your penis.  I’m not the foil for your masculinity, and I’m not the punching bag you use to feel better about yourself.  I will walk down the street with zero obligation to play to your ego.  I will play whatever video game I damn well like, whether you like it or not, and I’ll call out the bullshit as I find it.  I will demand to be treated with dignity and respect and I will expect that demand to be met.

So, you want to dox me?  Go ahead.  Flood my email with death threats and rape threats.  Show up at my house if you think that’s wise.  (I have three pitbulls and a .45 that would love to meet you.)  You’ll only be proving my point and giving the authorities something to track.  It’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of society, though, if it’s easier to send a death threat than it is to simply stop being a douchebag.  I’m not afraid of you, and that’s why I have to speak out.  I’m not afraid.  I’m pissed.

Rejection

Last night I received a rejection notice.  This makes the third in the past couple of weeks.  One would think this would bum me out, but it really hasn’t.  Perhaps my skin has grown thicker.  Of course, I’m disappointed.  I’m just not devastated.

Being rejected means you have work out there for consideration.

And this, in a nutshell, is why I’m not all that broken up about being rejected.  I’ve talked before about how hard it is for me to actually get anything meaningful down on the page.  Some of that is my fault, and some of it isn’t, but no matter whose fault it is, the words don’t get written and that’s what matters.  Rejection means that I got the words down.  I’ve gone over it, polished it up.  I put in the time to figure out where I should send it and then I sent it there.  That’s huge.

I still have a couple of things circulating.  Maybe they’ll get picked up.  Maybe they won’t be.  The trick is to keep on writing.  Maybe I need to find a more suitable publication.  Maybe I need to rework the piece.  Maybe I need to sit on it for awhile and work on something else.

A colleague once likened writing to winning the lottery.  You can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket.  Your writing is your ticket.  How many do you have?

 

Epiphany

I’ve been fairly honest about my deplorable writing habits, the fact that my attention span is smaller than a gnat’s, and that I’m a world class procrastinator.  The point is not to try and…what’s the word I’m looking for here?  I guess for some people, writing is an affectation.  People make excuses like, “I haven’t gotten anything done lately, I’m such a procrastinator.”  I think you know the general type of people I’m talking about.  For me, being open about my shortcomings is a way to self-evaluate.  If I was giving writing advice to anyone, the very first thing I would tell them is “Don’t be like me!”

In the interest of cutting myself some slack, and also of full disclosure, it isn’t completely my fault.  One of the biggest challenges to life in general, for me, is simply making it out of bed.  For many years now, I’ve dealt with some pretty serious fatigue issues.  I’m sure that there is some underlying medical issue for this, or more likely a combination of medical issues, but whatever the reason(s) for it, it makes functioning in my daily life incredibly difficult.  Add in the things that are my fault, and it’s pretty amazing to see what I’ve managed to accomplish.  It’s not nearly what I could have done, or what I feel like I should have done, but even with all my personal challenges, it’s still a lot more than some people have ever done.  I’m actually a little bit proud of myself.  Just a little.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writing.  The act of it, the process, the ritual, as it were.  I’ve also been doing some evaluating to see what I can change to make myself a more productive writer.  It was during this self-reflection that I had an epiphany.  It should not have been as great a shock to realize as it was.  It was one of those realizations that you never really think about until you do, and then of course that’s the way of it.  My epiphany was this:

My life is full of Dementors.

To be fair, not everyone in my life is trying to suck the creativity out of me through a bendy straw.  I have some amazing, creative, funny, intelligent, kick ass people in my world and I credit their friendship and support for getting me where I am, which isn’t really all that far, but that’s not what’s important right now.  The problem with a dementor (sorry, J. K. Rowling, but this is the perfect description for these people and you’re brilliant for coming up with it) is that it only takes one.  I actually have a couple, so there’s that.  These are people who don’t value my craft, the works I’ve produced, and who refuse to see the value of the time I’ve spent making art.  These are people who actively withhold their support and who put their own trivial interests ahead of my well-being as an artist, or worse: they don’t value my existence as a human being.  Because of the positions they hold in my life, simply eliminating them becomes problematic and easier said than done.  At the very least, extricating myself from their influence will be a time consuming process.

It’s hard for me to become motivated, but it’s nearly impossible for me to have the will to write when I’m not being supported.  To that end, I’ll be reading from my thesis project this evening as part of a showcase and I’ll be attending that alone because other things are more important to other people.   (My kids are willing to go even though they’re going to hate it.  I love my kids enough to let them stay home.)

I guess all of this is a long way of saying evaluate the people in your life.  Are they feeding you or sucking you dry?  Make your changes accordingly.

Procrastination Station

So, several months ago I talked about personal truths.  One of those truths is procrastination.  In fact, I’m writing this post instead of working on the 12 page research paper I have due in three days.  This is something that is a constant struggle for me and this article does a really nice job of explaining why.

It’s not (entirely) that I don’t want to work on it.  I would get a wonderful sense of relief knowing that it’s finished and out of the way.  I’ve already done the research on it (because I had to give a report on it in class).  It’s sitting right next to me in a pile, mocking me.  I have a notebook sitting to my left with notes that I’ve jotted down from thinking about writing the paper.  Yet, not one word have I written on the actual paper itself.  (In fact, I watched a music video, answered a student’s email, commented on an article about writing, and teased a friend on Facebook while trying to write this post.)

Many people won’t understand this compulsion to put off the things I need to get done.  And really, that’s exactly what it is.  I also don’t complain about the things I could have done (but didn’t) because of my procrastination.

And now, I’m off to battle my Instant Gratification Monkey.  Really, battle is the only word I can use that won’t leave my inner child (who is apparently a 12 year old boy) in a fit of giggles.

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Thanksgiving Planning

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving.  When I was a kid, I loved it because of all the food we got to eat for a week after the fact.  As I got older, I loved it also because of the eating but also because I love to cook the feast.  Love it.  This is not ironic.  So, even though it is not yet Halloween, I have started planning for the dinner.  We should have a pretty big group of family and friends this year, so I will probably start baking on the Tuesday before and cook all the way up to serving time.

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu (so far)

  1. Turkey, although Joe wants to try deep frying a second turkey to see how it turns out.  If you’ve never had my brined turkey, you are missing out.
  2. Ham. Joe likes to smoke a bone-in ham. I save the bone for bean soup later.
  3. Chicken and noodles
  4. Garlic mashed potatoes
  5. Sweet potato casserole
  6. Green bean casserole
  7. Stuffing
  8. Turkey gravy
  9. Homemade cranberry sauce
  10. Homemade baked beans
  11. Deviled eggs
  12. Veggies and dip
  13. Dinner rolls
  14. Lemon meringue pie
  15. Oatmeal pie
  16. Pumpkin pie
  17. Something sweet that isn’t pie. I haven’t decided whether that will be a cake of some sort, brownies, or cookies.

I keep feeling like I’m missing something.  Have a suggestion for the menu?  Let me know in the comments.

Gearing Up

I mentioned yesterday that I’m getting ready to teach my first classes.  I’m really getting excited!  First day of class is in 6 days, and this site is listed among my various contacts, so if you should see some of my students make sure you wave.

Even though I have so many things to do my head is spinning, I made the time to write a new article for Revolt Daily.  I’ll post links to that when they become available.  It involves clowns, claustrophobia (mine), and tears (also mine).

If you missed it on Twitter, I had a creative nonfiction piece get picked up back in July with Mamalode.

Oh, I’m trying out Ello to see how I like it.  If you’re also using it, leave me a comment on how you like it.  I’d love to hear people’s reactions.

 

No, I’m Not Dead…Yet

It’s hard to believe that my last post was in July.  As you’ve probably noticed by now, when life starts to get hectic, my blogging drops off.  Something has to give somewhere and, unfortunately, this is usually where the give happens.  I only have two more semesters left and then I will be finished with my Masters degree. <insert applause here>  Since I’m doing a creative thesis based on a story I’ve already written, I’m actually in pretty good shape as far as that goes.  I need to add 2-7 pages of content and revise what I already have.  This semester, I’m taking a literature class and a poetry workshop.  Next semester, I’ll take another literature class, a creative nonfiction workshop, and then defend my thesis.  I’m looking forward to not being a student.

Graduating doesn’t mean leaving the campus life, however.  I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve left the computer labs and have accepted my first teaching position at our local community college.  I told someone once, when they asked me what I intended to do with my life, that I was never leaving college.  Now I don’t have to.  I’ve spent the last few weeks preparing for the two classes I’ll be teaching this semester.  No, that’s not a typo.  I’m teaching two different 8 week classes that meet twice a week for 2 hours and 45 minutes a class.  They’re also back to back.  On the days when I take classes.  Oh yeah, this will be fun.  Except I think it really will be.  The classes are small and I have the same students for both, which means I’m going to get a good opportunity to get to know them.

Except for poetry, I haven’t really written anything.  I’ve got research sitting around for a new book and I still need to finish Enraptured. The danger with writing is that it’s so easy to push to the side when life starts being Life.  I have friends who say, “Screw you, Life. I’m writing whether you like it or not!” and I have so much respect for those people.  I’d like to be them when I grow up.  Unfortunately for me, I can’t always do that and the rest of the time, I just don’t do that.  I’m not even going to lie about it.  Self-awareness, I think, is a good thing.

A new book comes out today that I think you should know about.  Little Dead Riding Hood is part of the Scarily Ever Laughter series by Bethanie and Amie Borst.  Should you pick up this little gem (and hey, why not pick up Cinderskella while you’re at it), you might notice I made it into the dedication page.  I may or may not have contributed to the punniness of the book.  Ok, I contributed.  Really, if you need groan-worthy puns for your current work in progress, I’m your chick.

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