Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Everything's Coming Up Mistie!

On Thursday I participated in an event that made my hands shake like leaves in a very high wind. I read at a literary reading. I read my own work. And I didn't vomit. It was kind of a big day for me. It made me want to get back on here and write. It made me want to stay off here and write. It made me want to eat chocolate cake and write.

It was incredible. People, and not just my sister and friends, came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed my selections. A girl, with tears in her eyes, told me how listening to me read about my mother had reminded her of all the wonderful things her mother has done for her. My art touched people! For an artist, I don't think there can be anything better than that...well maybe getting paid to do it.

On Friday, I had a job interview. Today, I received a call--they like me. They want to hire me. After seven months looking, I finally found a job! Crazy thing though. The woman who will be my boss called at 3:30 to ask if I could come in tomorrow to fill out new hire paperwork and go through an orientation/training session. I found a babysitter last minute for tomorrow, but they want me to start on Monday or Tuesday of next week. So now I have to figure out childcare full time for the kid, and it would be best if I could have that done by Friday. This week just got even more crazy. Looking into childcare reminds me how much childcare costs, but even the steep cost of childcare can't ruin my parade....what's that rain? I love rain!

I'm going to be working as a copywriter for a marketing and software company. It's not the type of writing I would pick if I were dreaming, but someone wants to pay me to write. It's kind of the dream of any English major to work in a field at all resembling the one they spent a ridiculous amount of time (and probably money) studying.

So here's to making dreams, progress, and money (at least a little bit).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Misty Forest

I am working currently at Misty Forest--a local art and after school program. It is a loving environment with a great group of kids. While playing football today, one of the students lost his ball in the tree. After getting two other toys stuck in the tree, one of the teachers told them to stop. When we went in, the little guy was very upset. So I grabbed a step-ladder and a broom and tried to knock his ball down. It was too short by about two feet. So I taped two brooms together and the ball came down.

The kid greeted me like a returning hero. He sat next to me the rest of the day. During quiet art time, he asked me if I would help him pick colors for his picture. My answer, of course, was yes. He told me he was making the piece for "someone special." At the end of the day, he gave it to me along with a big hug. It was such a great reminder of how the little things add up: It didn't take very much effort for me to retrieve his ball, but for him it was a big deal. And his art warmed my heart. I needed this reminder today.

Monday, August 12, 2013


I had an interview today. It was only a phone interview, but in two years looking for a job, this is only the third interview I've had. Being interviewed on the phone is awkward. Being interviewed is awkward period. When you add in the phone, it just takes it to a whole new level.

The following scenario is one that happens to me often: The interviewer says something, and I nod my head. Awkward silence. Shit, they can't see me nodding my head; now I have to think of something to say that would necessitate or at least excuse such a pause. I've got nothing.

I think this interview went okay. At the very least after talking about it with Ry, I feel better about some of my answers. I hung up and felt terrible, but I think that's might be in my head...here's hoping. Unfortunately, I probably won't hear anything until late August or early September.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Friendship: It Really Is Magic

The weekend before last was the man friend's birthday. Every year we head to the Keys with our friends and family to celebrate. It's one of my favorite traditions. This last trip was particularly special. We had a great group; everyone was laid back yet ready for an adventure. It's a hard balance to strike, but we managed it well.

Also, this trip left me with one of my favorite images of one of my best friends. When I met Stephanie, I wasn't sure we were going to be friends. Four and a half years later, it's fair and easy to say she's my best friend. She's pretty much everything you could want in a friend or a human: funny, intelligent, insightful, kind, and pretty. We were on the boat, going as fast as the boat goes, I'm not great with stuff like this, but pretty fast. She sat on the back of the boat--her hair blowing, sunglasses on, shoulders lightly sunburnt--looking as chill and relaxed as you could hope to look on a vacation in the Keys. But here's the thing, she was reading a book. The wind is whipping. And the girl won't put down her book! This is a woman after my own heart. This, this right here, is the reason we are friends. Or at least one of the reasons.

I like collecting mental images like these of my friends. I like having photos, but these images mean more somehow. Maybe because they are harder to share but easier to care all of them with me.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Last weekend a tropical depression was supposed to come through. We didn't get much rain, and the news caused the depression part (sorry, I'm not good at puns but sometimes I have to make them). This weekend however, it's been pouring. I love the rain. LOVE IT! I love the way it sounds, smells, feels, tastes. I forgot one there, but you get it. When I was kid and it would rain hard, we would go to the front porch and hold cups under the eaves to see whose cup would fill the fastest. There's a metaphor there if I could find it.

I was looking at a series of maps illustrating different dialects and word usage across the United States, and something that struck me was how much of the country lacks a word or words for rain when the sun is shining. In Florida we call it a sun shower; apparently this isn't a commonly used term throughout the rest of the United States. I can't remember where, but there are only a few other states that use it. The rest of the south calls it "the devil beating his wife," which I'm going to go right by (that's a different blog post), and a whole swatch of the country, when polled, didn't have a word for this happening. Which is weird to me. Sun showers are beautiful and beastly. In the summer, sure you get rainbows, but it's rain without the relief.

The cumulonimbus clouds build and build like the humidity, and then the rain comes. And the relief comes. The big thunderstorms bring a drop in temperature and a respite from the sun. The clouds inspire awe with their size alone. Not to mention the storms they bring. When I was in high school, Florida went through a drought. Needing more rain happens frequently, but this was a drought that lasted all summer. The clouds would build, but then the upper atmosphere would shear them or send them elsewhere. Afternoon followed afternoon with no relief. It seemed like we had a whole summer with absolutely no rain. That's not accurate, but it was bad. The next summer followed similarly. Until one afternoon. The home I grew up in has a long driveway that runs between the house and the garage. In front of the house is open pasture. I remember standing between the house and the garage watching the dark cumulonimbus clouds meet. Thunderhead butting against thunderhead until there was a wall of black clouds coming en masse down the driveway. I could see the rain sheeting down. A wall of cool air hit me 45 seconds before the rain did. Afternoon thunderstorms are for Florida what aloe is for a sunburn.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hoodies Aren't Scary

As my last post pointed out, I gave up. In today's post, I've decided I gave up too quickly; I should have waited to throw in the towel. I should have waited for all of the Zimmerman apologists who are just really afraid of people in hoodies. You know people! Today I read this Salon article, which is in response to this Richard Cohen article. I really recommend not reading the Cohen article if you want to keep your brain intact. Cohen mocks all the people yelling "Guilty!" about Zimmerman without waiting for the verdict, but the only statistic he uses is the percentage of black male shooting suspects in New York. It's not surprising that Richard Cohen is a dick. In his article, a dick who says wearing a hoodie is a cultural signifier or "uniform" of violence. The amount of people who have used this type of logic to justify the killing of a young man does surprise me. And this is why: hoodies aren't scary.

Let me tell you a story. I attended night school during college, and when I left class, it was usually dark. Part of my walk was past a church on a quiet street. It was a little creepy because by the time I was walking, no one was around. One night I got scared. A man was walking towards me. He had a beard. His hands were in the pockets of his hoodie, and his hood was up. He was a big guy. I immediately started running through all the terrible things that could happen to me. Rape, murder, harassment. When the man passed me, he turned and struck up a conversation....because it was my brother-in-law!  He was walking to school. I was walking from school. He had his hood up because it was raining and cold. He wore a beard because, wait for it, he likes beards. He was big because of genetics. None of these things were good reasons to be afraid of him, but culture has taught me to be afraid of these things--to the point that I sometimes ignore better indications of violence because the person acting in the aggressive manner doesn't have any of the physical attributes I have been taught to fear.

My brother-in-law is white. Adding black to the above list is also not a good reason to be afraid of someone. Hoodies are not some kind of uniform which indicate violence. They are a ubiquitous piece of clothing. Everyone in the United States knows someone who has worn a hoodie or wears one themselves. When people use Trayvon Martin's clothing as a justification for his murder, what they are really saying is black people scare me. And if black people scare you, you are a racist. Because hoodies are not scary and neither are black people. And neither are black people in hoodies.

You are allowed to be afraid of a person when that individual starts acting aggressive. For instance, if someone starts following you for no apparent reason. We need to start being afraid of the people who are actively making our streets less safe. In the Zimmerman/Martin case, it seems clear to me which person that was, and it wasn't the kid in the hoodie. We must stop using dress, which is often just code for race, and race as indicators of violence. Because it doesn't keep anyone safe. In fact, it makes the world much more dangerous for kids like Trayvon Martin.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I Give Up

I'm from Central Florida. I love my home. I hate it when people bitch about the place I came from and the place I love. Especially people who don't know shit about Florida. But every once in a while, my love of Florida and my belief in humanity get kicked in the crotch. Today is such a day.

I'm not going to re-cap what George Zimmerman did. Anyone who doesn't know about this case probably has his/her head neatly packed in sand. But I will say this: laws which allow a person to follow another person, shoot them, and then claim self-defense are fucking bullshit. Justice isn't blind, she's on fucking vacation. Or dead. Or both. Or something equally disturbing.

Trayvon Martin was a kid. Buying candy. Walking home. And he's dead now. I don't know George Zimmerman. I don't know if he is a "good" guy, or a racist, or an evil murderer laughing all the way home from his acquittal like some comic book villain. But I know this: I don't want to live in a society where being black is perceived as dangerous and bad. I don't want to live in a society where someone with a gun can get out of his/her car (after being told by police dispatch to stay in said car) shoot someone, and face no legal consequences for those actions. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why I Won't Be Seeing Ender's Game

Most of you have probably heard about the controversy surrounding Orson Scott Card. If you haven't, let me sum up: Card is a huge, hateful dick who hates gay people and ignores the LBT part of the GLBT community. To see some of his more hateful quotes, you can read this Salon article. Or you can try. Enter his most famous work of art: the science fiction novel Ender's Game. Considered one of the best examples of sci-fi, the novel has won multiple awards and has made Card a well-known, profitable, and beloved author. The movie, long awaited by loyal fans, is opening in November, and its imminent release has renewed the controversy surrounding the man.

I read Ender's Game in seventh or eighth grade, which would have been sometime around 2000. I didn't know about Card's intolerance. I was living in a small town, attending a small Christian school. Sheltered is an understatement. I loved fantasy and got a lot of shit about that from my peers and teachers alike. My brother-in-law suggested I read Ender's Game. I loved it. Ender, the main character, read as compassionate, brave, and a little lost. I could relate to the emotions, if not the crazy setting. In the next three years, I read many more of Card's novels. As I became more socially aware, I was slightly bothered by his representation of women in his novels, but I brushed that aside because I liked the stories. In 2004, I read this article by Card, which is a diatribe against marriage equality. I was actually reading one of Card's novels at this point. I kept reading it. And that's when all of my misgivings about his female characters and all of the conservative undertones became too hard to ignore. In most of Card's novels the homophobia, sexism, and weird religion shows itself in subtext, but in his non-fiction it is front and center. Once I had read the non-fiction, I couldn't ignore the hateful subtext in the fiction.

Because of his personal views, Card ruined his art for me. His subtext became text. His worldview is hateful, and now I can't help but see the hate seeping through his stories, and for this reason, I won't be seeing the movie of Ender's Game. I'll be boycotting it. Not because I don't want to see it, or because I think it will be a bad movie. I actually think it will be a good movie. But my love of movies and good stories cannot and does not trump my love of human rights. In response to calls for this boycott, Card said, "With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot," which ignores the other issues facing the LGBT community. This is not a man who is sorry for his actions and words. This is not a man who has learned from the negative responses to his vitriolic writing. This is a man who wants you to go see his movie in spite of his hateful views. This is a man who only uses tolerance when he feels the consequential sting of his writings. And I am not falling for it. Mr. Card, take your novels, your movie, and your antiquated worldview and choke on them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

New Endeavor

Since I can't find a job, and I'm trying not to go stir crazy, I've decided to try something new. I started a new blog--don't worry, this one will still exists--where I will write reviews and talk books. If you want to check it out, you can at http://readiemcreaderson.blogspot.com/. My first review is up. It's about The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Adventuring in Titusville and Orlando Wetlands Park

This weekend we went for a little adventure. We drove over to the Titusville Municipal Marina to double check the rates and whatnot about a mooring ball. My family is the best. They are always up for an adventure. And they do it right.

They are checking out a row boat and hoping to see dolphin. The row boat was beautiful. No luck on the dolphin front. The kid loves her binoculars.

On our way home, we stopped at the Orlando Wetlands Park. A thunderstorm had just passed when we arrived, and after our walk, another one hit. But it was gorgeous while we were there.

The kid loves playing the game where you yank on a tree branch to splash another person. She found a perfect tree from a look out spot. We saw an alligator from here.

The sound of the water falling through the trees was like music. The birds were chirping loudly, and an alligator was making the sound an alligator makes--something between a bellow and a growl. It was a glorious day.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Confidence and Dance

My daughter is five. She's enthusiastic, intelligent, funny, and weird, which is really just a lot of adjectives to say she's a lot like a cool five-year-old. Recently, she asked if she could go back to dance class*, and she has been attending for the last month or so. At yesterday's dance class, her teacher allowed parents to sit-in, and I noticed something inspiring.

The kids in this class age from three to five (I think). And while watching them stretch and dance, I saw it. Each kid watched themselves in the mirror--intently. To the point that some of the time, they would leave their spot to get closer to the mirror to see how they looked. And this is the incredible thing to me: their bodies' abilities were amazing these kids. They weren't looking in the mirror self-consciously, they were looking in the mirror reveling in the beauty, strength, and sometimes absurd things their bodies could do. They watched their teacher also. Copied her, laughed when they failed to do so, and beamed when they got it right.

My kid struggled with the forward rolls. She didn't tuck her head all the way, and her teacher had to remind and help her. Afterward, she sat on the mat and watched the other kids roll.  She didn't look upset; she looked determined. Later when it was time for the flamingo hops--jumps while bringing one foot to your knee--she looked delighted. She told her teacher, "This is my favorite! I'm good at this one." And here's the thing: she is really good at that one. She loves it. She does it all the time. She is tall for her age, and she is strong. Some of the more graceful, elegant poses are hard for her, but the jumps they practice in class? Those she rocks. It was the same for the other kids. Some of the time they struggled. Some of the time they rocked it. And they knew the difference. They knew when they were doing well and when they were struggling. Asking for help didn't embarrass them, and maybe more importantly, neither did asking for recognition when they succeeded.

These kids impress me because I struggle with confidence. I apologize when I'm not at fault. I downplay my accomplishments and sometimes exaggerate my failures. I don't want anyone to perceive me as arrogant or boastful, and this has led me to a place that I don't particularly like. I'm good at many things, but it's hard for me to admit that. I know a great many things, but I apologize when sharing my expertise. I want to be more like the kids at dance class: confident enough to know when I need help and when I don't. Confident enough to say, "I can do that," without feeling the need to self-deprecate. I want to take an example from these children, so that I can be an example for these children because this kind of confidence is hard to hold on to, especially for girls. And we need this kind of confidence in the world. Confidence that sees strengths and allows for weaknesses. Confidence that makes us want to teach and be taught. Confidence that leads to exuberance. The confidence of five.

*If you are in the Orlando area and dance interests you, check out The Center for Contemporary Dance at thecenterfordance.org. It is an amazing place. They have classes for kids and adults. I can't say enough about the beautiful community they have built around dance.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


A few weeks ago was my and my husband's 6th anniversary. We had a great day. We went to Blue Springs and Gemini Springs, had a great lunch, and then went to dinner. My friend watched the kid for us during dinner. I love my family and friends. 

My anniversary always makes me think about marriage equality. I love my partner. He is the best. And when I talk about our relationship, everyone acknowledges it. There are no caveats. My relationship, if questioned, is questioned for its merits--never its appearance. We need to work harder for this. We need to demand equal rights for all. The Supreme Court's decision tomorrow matters. And I really hope they make the right decision.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Exercising....Cause Running Is Hard

My running posts have disappeared, and there is a reason for it. Okay, there are a couple of reasons for it, and none of them are particularly good, but here they are:

1) As a family, we have been really busy. My partner has been out of town a lot, which means I haven't had a lot of time to go out by myself.

2) I hit a wall. Learning to run a mile has taken more time than I, or the internet, thought it should. Turns out, I run a lot faster than most people, and this has led to my speed increasing in short spurts, but not my endurance or distance.

3) My shoes hurt my feet.

For the last two weeks, we have been taking family walks instead. So far this has developed into a great routine. My daughter reminds Ryan and me if we slack off. She has ridden her bike all on her own for about a hundred yards. The dog acts happier and more relaxed. And I am actually running farther than ever. Running with a kid on a scooter forces me to slow down, but it also forces me to go farther because the kid isn't ready to stop after a quarter mile (my limit for running on my own). The kid wants to keep going and going and going and going. It even seems to have helped Ryan who is wanting to lengthen his own runs, but becomes bored after a 5k or so. Ryan runs on his own and joins us on our slower walk/runs. Also, my frugality has run headlong into Ryan's rationality; it doesn't matter if my shoes are worn out yet or not, I can't wear shoes that hurt my feet. It's counter-productive. So I have new shoes.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Today was my last day teaching. To be fair, I didn't do much teaching today. I played poker, sang, and had discussions with my students. So I guess, technically, yesterday was my last day of teaching. Two years ago, I graduated with my B.A. in English and a minor in Creative Writing. I lined up a teaching job one day before the school year started.

I've wanted to teach since I was a kid. My best friend's mom is an art teacher at our local community college. I used to joke that I wanted her life when I grew up. I found a job at a private school where I would be teaching 7-12 grade English. I thought this would be a good way to get experience in teaching while I figured out what I wanted to get my graduate degree in. Once I had a graduate degree, I could teach at the college level. I had a plan.

Turns out my plan was a great one, but not for me. To teach is to perform. You constantly have to be on. And your job is never done. Once you are finished in the classroom, you have planning, contacting parents, grading, and more planning. I also realized how much it sucks sharing something you love and find important with others when they don't care. It's exhausting. Teachers are incredible, and I'm not...at least not in a teacherly way.

All that being said, it was hard to say goodbye today. I've met some amazing kids--not many, but a few. These kids are smart and passionate. They are kind and funny. And I'm glad they were a part of my life. If there could be a guarantee that I would have at least one kid like this in every class, I would consider remaining a teacher. I'd probably decide against it, but it would make me re-consider at least for a little while.

Life is funny. I'm glad I'm finished teaching, but I will miss my kids. I'm excited for summer break, but I'm worried about the fact that I'm now unemployed. I know I don't want to teach, but I don't have any ideas for what I do want to do. I'm happy, but I'm a little melancholy. As one of my favorite students would say, "I've got all kinds of feels."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

On Receiving a Free Book in the Mail

I think I might have mentioned this a time or twenty, but I love books. I love them! Even books I don't love, I wouldn't want to see destroyed. There is power in story-telling. There is power in the written word. This is one of the tenets of my beliefs: Language matters.

After going to lunch with my family a few days ago, I arrived home to a familiar sight--a yellow shipping envelope with Amazon's recognizable typeset on it. I had a book. Like I said, this is a familiar sight. I order a lot of books through Amazon. Hell, I order a lot of books period, but I couldn't think of any that I had order recently. My last few purchases have been for my e-reader. I ripped open the package and found The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical. I'm used to receiving books that are new to me, but I had never seen or heard of this book or its author--Shane Claiborne. I looked for a shipping receipt, but couldn't find one. On Amazon, for the three people in the world who don't know, you can leave a note and send a gift receipt with anything you are gifting, so this surprised me. It means I don't know who sent me this present.

Putting that aside for the moment, I flipped the book over and read the description where I learned that "Claiborne stirs up questions about the church and the world, challenging you to live out an authentic Christian faith." Here's the rub: I'm not interested in living as an "authentic Christian" because I'm not a Christian. I try hard to live and let live, but I'm an atheist and a humanist. Neither of which I hide. Whoever sent this book to me is connected to me--he/she has my home address--and either he sent this to me because he doesn't know anything about me or because she knows things about me and wants to tell me I'm wrong.

I don't mind having a discussion about religion or politics or any topic. One of my closest family members, D, and I have discussions about faith and religion and our worldviews regularly. And our worldviews are not the same. If she sent me a book about Christianity, fiscal conservatism, or anything else, I would read it because she respects and values my opinion, and I feel the same about her. But, and this is a big but, she would tell me she was sending it. She would ask before she sent it. She would follow up with questions on what I would recommend she read, so that our discussion can be a real discussion.

As it turned out, a different cousin sent it to me. He and I haven't spoken in a long time. Somewhere along the lines of three or four years. We, on occasion, comment on the same Facebook statuses, but we don't have that much to do with one another. We live states a part and always have, plus he's a few years older than me. A few months ago, he asked me for my address, and now I have received this book. I sent my cousin an email expressing my unease and unhappiness with this "gift." It came out of the blue, with no note, no explanation. It is a book that has nothing to do with the way I have chosen to live my life. Apparently, my cousin's feelings were hurt by my email stating these things. He thinks I overreacted and misconstrued his intentions. He said he sent the book because he thought I would enjoy the message and because he knows how much I like to read. He asked if I would recommend a book on secular humanism, and he would read it.

We have exchanged a few emails now about this, and I hope we are on a better footing, but it has made me aware of a few things: 1) I don't like being given unsolicited religious books. 2) I don't really like the proselytizing or teaching aspect of explaining my beliefs to someone that I'm pretty sure won't like them and only view them as a reason for further witnessing to me. 3) I will read anything if someone asks me to. 4) I really should get over that. 5) I hate confrontation, even if it is amiable. 6) I love keeping in contact with my family, but if the only reason you want to talk to me is to discuss religious beliefs and points of view, I'm not sure this counts as keeping in touch. 7) How do you tell someone you have no problem becoming re-acquainted, but the current conversation isn't how you want to accomplish this feat?

After emailing back and forth more, I don't think my cousin was trying to hurt my feelings or be disrespectful. However, I don't think his motivation was as "pure" as he thinks it was. I'm curious about the motivation to witness, and I'm curious as to why I'm the object of this witnessing. The only thing I can think of is that I'm the youngest of the cousins. Most of our family likes to read, but I'm the only one to receive this book. Why? Why not send it to my cousin D? She is a Christian and very interested in discussing different aspects and manifestations of Christianity. Why not send it to my sister or D's sister? They are both avid readers; they are also humanists, liberal, and share many of my beliefs. The biggest thing I have learned about myself in this exchange is that these issues fascinate me, but I don't really enjoy the process of discussion and confrontation.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Suck at Picking Doctors

I had to call and pay a doctor's bill today. I had waited a while because I was/am really irritated. See, I get these headaches. I've gotten them for a while. Sometimes they are low-level aches, and sometimes they turn into full blown migraines. Before I had my daughter, I was on migraine medication, but it made me feel awful, so when I had to quit taking it during pregnancy, I never started back up.

Also, the doctor who prescribed it was kind of a quack. So I found a new doctor. I did research. I looked at reviews. I went to a new patient appointment. And new doctor seemed pretty cool. He took my headaches seriously. He ordered cat scans, put me on new medicine, had my heart checked out when the new medicine fucked with my blood pressure and heart rate. After a year of this, I'm still getting headaches. They aren't as frequent, but we're still talking two or three a week, and I'm still getting dizzy from the medication. This doesn't seem like a perfect solution. What happened next made me realize, I'm not good at choosing a physician. In fact, I'm terrible at it.

In January, I had a check-up. I waited for an hour and a half after my appointment time to see the doctor. He came in the room at 2:30. I told him I wasn't happy with the headache/medication situation. He told me this was the best we could hope for--based on what I don't know. By 2:35, I was in my car. In five minutes I saw the doctor and paid my co-pay. Since January I've been debating finding a new doctor. My headaches are getting worse again even on the medication, and the doctor's disregard for my concerns really bothered me.

To make matters worse, a month ago I received another bill. Apparently my insurance hadn't covered all of the visit. The notice from the office told me I had 30 days to pay or I would no longer be a patient. For a less-than-five-minute visit, I was charged $70.39, and that number doesn't include what my insurance paid. I'm lucky enough that I can afford this, but it's bullshit that I have to "afford" it. For telling me basically, "I don't care that in a year you haven't adjusted to this medication, this is how I am treating the problem," the doctor charged me $100. The system is broken.

Oh, and does anyone know a good doctor in the Orlando area?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Scrub Jay Habitat

Eastern scrub jays are these really cool birds that live in Central Florida. They are beautiful--seriously, they have the most amazing colors. They are really smart and inquisitive. And they live in my home.

We went to an area in Deltona where they scrub jays live on a piece of scrub land by the library. Many people want to develop this land, but as of right now, it's a habitat, and it's magical. My kid, of course, went to the habitat dressed in a fancy dress because that's what you hike in. She wanted to be fancy for the birds. This trip was exciting because the birds were building nests, which I had never seen before. The kid thought it was pretty awesome that they build their own houses.

The scrub is where I came from. It's my home. I love sharing it with my daughter. Plus, the weather was gorgeous. And there were these lizards. Lizards are cool.

I love Florida, and the only thing better than exploring it alone is exploring it with my family.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Music and Musings and Women

I've been reading an ongoing discussion about female characters in books, movies, and other forms of entertainment. It goes something like this: I hate female characters, especially when they seem to be usurping a man's place/role. Why do you hate female characters? Is it because you are sexist? NO! You're stupid and probably ugly. I don't hate all female characters, but female characters are so often written from sexist and negative perspectives that I would rather focus on good characters...you know, men. But don't you think that is detrimental to artists who are trying to write/portray "good" female characters? What about the void that this lack creates in reality? Can't we have good characters that are women as well as men? It's too hard trying to wade through all the bullshit lady characters out there. I've sort of given up. That makes me sad. I hate female characters! There isn't enough yelling in this section! AAAAAWWWWWWWW.

This inter-web conversation made me think of a real-life conversation I had a while back with a friend. My friend loves music. He has a connection with his music that I can only relate to because it is a connection I experience through reading. We were discussing musicians and the types of music we enjoy. He commented that he doesn't really like female singers, but I should listen to this one song by this one lady. [I don't remember details like what song or what lady.] I agreed; in fact, I remember saying something like "I prefer a male voice as well. The deeper the better." And then my friend said something that hit me like a donkey kick: "Women don't experiment as much with their voices. They just sound pretty."

And I realized, damn, women don't get to experiment as much in music or anywhere else. PERIOD. And all of a sudden, I was pissed and defensive. And I started naming all of the women who have unique, strong voices that I personally love--Nina Simone, Patsy Cline, Brody Armstrong, Brandi Carlisle, the Dixie Chicks, Joan Jett, my own goddamn voice--and that's only naming a few. And here's the thing, I wasn't pissed at my friend. I was pissed at myself. I'd been saying to myself and others for practically my whole life that I preferred men's voices. But what I was really saying is the same thing I meant when I bragged about having more guy friends than girl friends--"I'm cool. Don't count my femininity against me. I'm not one of those girls. I'm not a girly-girl. Hell, my favorite characters are men. I like a man's voice. I relate to DUDES."

And although there is nothing wrong with liking male voices or male characters or men in general, there is something wrong with dismissing anything feminine or feeling like you have to justify your love of feminine things or females in general. If you are dismissing female characters, or judging them more harshly than you do male characters, or dismissing female artists simply because they are female, you are part of the problem. I was part of the problem. This doesn't mean we have to love everything or everyone woman, but we do have to evaluate our feelings about women because of the sexist culture in which we live.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Importance of Narrative

My sister-in-law, D, moved to New York last year to pursue her education. The kid misses her a lot as do I. D and I have a lot in common. She's the baby of her family. I'm the baby of my family. We both identified as fairly awkward teens. We're both artists. And we both love Art Deco, sundresses, and Neil Gaiman. So when her boyfriend came home for his spring break, she sent presents--awesome earrings and a purse for me, gourmet dried fruits for her brother, and a book for the kid.

I feel like the book was also for me. It's Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman. It's this beautiful "prayer" for a little girl. Wishes for how she might grow up, and how the world might treat her. It's the perfect blend of fairy tale magic and real world scenarios. I love it, so does the kid. Great present giving from an awesome Tia...

I read a lot. In fact, my whole family reads a lot. Reading as an activity has helped define and shape me as an individual and has influenced my views of the world. If I love you, I have probably given you a book because books and the stories they contain are how I cope and concentrate. They are how I define myself. I can tell you the books I was reading in moments of change in my life. I'm not sure if they are books that made me change, or if they are simply the markers I use to record those changes. Either way, books are often the yardstick I use to measure my emotional and philosophical growth and development.

Stories help us grow. They activate our empathy and make us more open to other people's experiences and lifestyles. They help us articulate our own experiences and lifestyles. They let us know we are not alone. Which brings me to my point: there is a trend in education to remove fiction and narratives from our high school curriculum. Curriculum planners want the focus to be on non-fiction, informative texts. 

The idea of more science- or fact- based readings in school does not worry me, but our society's disregard for the power of stories does. I see this all over. My students love to hear stories, but they don't understand how the stories they read/hear/see affect their view of the world. And we aren't teaching this skill. They are reading--Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars. But they can't explain the difference between Katniss, Bella, and Katherine. They don't know how these female characters are shaping their personal views of femininity and women's roles in the world. They don't understand the connection between entertainment and personal beliefs. But they want to. This is what hurts the most, at least for me. This disregard does not come from our children. They are seeking out stories to influence them, but they haven’t been taught to understand and question this influence.

I want the written word to touch people’s lives, but I want more than anything for people to understand the difference between Gaiman’s Blueberry Girl and Bella. I want people—adults and children alike—to be able to critically look at the way language shapes perceptions. I want society to see the power of language, a power for change and beauty and growth or one of stagnation.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Soul Mates

I am not a Romantic--not with a capital R or a lower-case one; I'm too cynical for that. Don't get me wrong, I love a love story, but I don't believe in a perfect soul mate or that every person has one "true" love. I married the first person I met who I could imagine talking to every day. I love him, and I am grateful that he is in my life. But in all honesty, I would be okay if he weren't. I like Elizabeth Bennett more than Jane Eyre. I hate Angel and Buffy as a couple. Romeo and Juliet makes me laugh (which I will argue was actually Shakespeare's intent, but that's a different blog post). When I was in high school, a friend of mine told me she wasn't going to get married until she found the person she couldn't live without. She wanted to NEED her spouse. We had a huge fight over this because I told her I wouldn't marry someone I couldn't live without. I would go see a shrink instead. This is actually something on which high-school me and present-day me agree.

There isn't one person that completes me, but there are a few people that make my journey way better. A few weeks ago, it was my birthday. My sister made me the coolest present--a Firefly cast cross-stitch. My friend, S, left me a message that brought tears to my eyes. Another friend, A, made a Hemingway coat of arms that he left on my Facebook. K, yet another friend, sent me a link to the Home Movies birthday song, which she has done every year since learning of our mutual love of the show. When I came home from vacation, I had a book that I have been wanting for ages waiting for me from another friend. And these are only a few of the kind, hilarious, thoughtful things people have done for me. I'm an introvert by nature. I prefer to be alone, but my life is richer due to the friends and family I have--people who refuse to leave me to my own devices entirely. I might not have a soul mate, but I definitely have bosom friends, which works out in my favor I think.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dealing with Loss

My daughter, a five year old, came in to the bedroom and told me, "Kibby died. I cried and cried." Kibby is a dolphin from the Dolphin Research Center. Kibby occupies some of my daughter's earliest memories. She loves him. Kibby died. Tears started seeping, but not from my daughter's eyes. From mine. My daughter patted my face and told me, "It's ok to cry, Momma. I asked, and Daddy said this is ok to cry about. I cried in the car." When she told her grandfather, she simply said, "He died because he was old. I will miss him."
It is amazing to see the way grief and personality interact. I'm a crier, sort of. When I read, when I get angry, when I feel stressed, I cry. But my daughter isn't like me--most of the time. Obviously, she's a five year old, so she gets her crying fits like most five year olds. But on most days, she's pragmatic. She became curious about death a few months ago. She wanted to know why, how, and when things die. After realizing that people die, she asked what we would do if Daddy died. I explained we would be sad, but she wanted to know "who would cook, and where would we live?"

When she was three, she asked for an Anatomy and Physiology cheat sheet. Sometimes we read it for a bed time story. She loves seeing the parts of her body and learning what they do. When her dad's car had a flat tire, she nearly jumped up and down in her excitement to see him change it.

After learning about Kibby's death, she was sad. She's wanted more snuggles this week, but she is dealing with her grief by talking about it and rationalizing it through her understanding of the natural world: e.g. when things get old, they die. It's amazing to me to watch her deal with issues that I still struggle with as well. It's amazing to see her personality and her personal processing.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Break

Currently, I teach. I don't want to do it forever, but one perk is the time off. My spring break started today. I finished grading most of the work; I finished my formative assessments; I made a professional development presentation. I'm on spring break.

I am tired. I don't want to do anything but sit in the sun, sip a fruity drink, and read. I'm tired. I want to turn off my computer. I don't want to hear from or about students. I want to read The 12 Tribes of Hattie. I want to swim in the ocean with my kid. I'm hoping to see a manatee and its calf. {My father-in-law and mother-in-law have seen this grouping for the last few weeks.}

I am excited for my break, and I will see you all in a week.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Running 3

I haven't been out running for two weeks. My new tattoo kept me in for a few days, and then I wasn't feeling great, but tonight I finally went out. The night is lovely, ya'll. Really, really lovely.

I like to run while listening to music, but for the first half of my run/walk, I listened to the sounds of crickets and the wind through the trees. The world has stressed me out recently. You probably know the list--gun violence, the Steubenville rape trial, the 17 million children who are hungry in the United States right now, the sequester. I could go on, but I'm not going to. My point is that running is a good distraction. It reminds me of the good things that exist in the world--mostly non-human things. Like this tree, which is beautiful and my favorite color:

Sometimes it is good to get out. It's good to exert yourself. It's good to turn off the computer, switch off the news. Not so that you can ignore the bad or sad or awful parts of the world, but so that you can come back to these problems with a clear head, a strong body, and the energy to keep fighting against the wrongs in the world. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reading the internet will make you mad...

And the worst part is that so often it is an impotent anger. So we go to Facebook or other social media. And we yell about it in short sentence fragments and paragraphs in which the easiest thing to do is yell our talking points into the ether. I nearly fell into that trap today.

You see, an article I read made me cry. This article--Six-Month-Old Baby Dies from Gunshot Wounds in Chicago. It's about a six-month-old baby who was shot six times. She died today. Her name was Jonylah Watkins. We share a surname, which isn't really surprising. It's a fairly common surname, but my last name matters a great deal to me. When I think about myself, it is what I identify with more than even my first name. And this little baby had that in common with me. And pretty much nothing else. Because she died at six months. I'll be 27 at the end of this month. I've never even broken a bone; she was shot SIX times. She was shot as many times as the months she lived. This is unspeakably horrible, yet we need to speak of it. We need to discuss it. We need to realize that her death is almost as common as the surname I share with her. Thirty-one days after the Newtown shooting, 919 people had died in gun related deaths.

I understand the importance of our Bill of Rights in the United States. I understand that this is a complicated issue. I understand it is unlikely we will discover a simple solution to this problem. But I am angry about the lack of real discussions and solutions. I am angry. I am angry. I am angry. I don't have all of the solutions. These problems are more complex than gun control. Poverty, lack of upward mobility, easy access to guns, these and more contribute to the problems of violence. But simply because the question is complicated doesn't mean we stop looking for answers--that we avoid discussing one of the areas that is definitely contributing to this issue: the access to guns, guns, and more guns.

So instead of yelling the common talking points, let's think about the women, men, and children who are dying every day in this country. Let's try to discuss and find solutions, real solutions that will help our community and country and world be safer and more secure.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Adventuring and Art

Last weekend I went on an adventure. One of my favorite tattoo artists, Mark Hartenberger, was tattooing at the InkLife Tattoo tour and convention in Fort Myers. My sister, brother-in-law, and man-friend (have you noticed the awkward way I avoid saying husband? I don't know why, but I have never really liked that term) drove the interminable distance so that my sister and I could get work done. The drive was made longer by the fact that we were dropping the littlest members of our family off to stay with grandparents because the only thing worse than going to a tattoo convention would be dragging children to a tattoo convention.

We arrived in Fort Myers late in the afternoon on Saturday night, which left enough adventure time for roaming to the beach, acquiring snacks and cards for at the hotel, and eating dinner. I know this sounds like a fairly laid back adventure, and it was, but with my companions laid back adventure is kind of where it's at. These are the best adventuring companions around. It's mostly because they are all hilarious and really smart. I don't want to brag, but I've got some of the best friends around.

We went to the beach where we froze our asses off in the wind. I thought the ospreys were going to drown themselves due to the wind strength, and a sailboat gave up on its sunset cruise.
The wind off the Gulf was cold. I thought I was going to lose toes.
The wind blew the ospreys off course.
For some reason, we decided that walking in the water was warmer.
This could be their album cover.
Lovely sunset.
On Sunday we woke up, ate bagels, wandered in a park for a while, and then the boys left to while away the time. The lovely sis and I waited around for the convention to start. Conventions in general are funny things, but tattoo conventions draw such an interesting assortment of people. It's not the ideal environment for me to get a tattoo, but after waiting nearly five years for Mark to come back to Florida, I wasn't going to miss him. The sister started things off, and damn, she's tough. She spent about five hours in the chair.

This is the outline for the new work.

And this is the new addition. It's not finished yet, but it's pretty incredible. 

My tattoo took somewhere between three and four hours. I added a kestrel to the inner part of my upper arm--on the outer portion, Mark had already done a peacock for me. This won't shock anyone who has had an inner-arm tattoo, but they hurt worse than the outer arm, and due to the limited space in the booth, I had to hold my arm at an odd angle for the duration of the tattoo. But I love my new piece, so all-in-all it was worth it.
This is my finished kestrel.
I can't wait for my arm to heal completely. I love my new piece. And with every new tattoo, I love tattoos more. I carry my art with me. I carry it on my arm, and neck, and back, and leg. I know tattoos aren't for everyone. I know there are jobs where having my arm covered in birds might not be ideal. I know my skin won't always have the elasticity it does now. But goddamn, I love art.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Readers of the World: Unite!

Azar Nafisi, the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and other books, read and answered questions last Thursday for the final Winter with the Writers (WWW) program at Rollins College. Not only is WWW a wonderful program at my alma mater, but Azar Nafisi is an inspiration.

I first read Reading Lolita a year after its publication, which happened to be my senior year in high school. It came as a much needed assurance that my focus on words and stories had a place in this world--a place that did indeed matter. It added to my belief that the action after 9/11 were muddying already murky waters between the USA and its perceptions and actions of and in the Middle East. Nafisi's insistence that stories illustrate and illuminate our reality resonated; her points about the importance of acknowledging the differences between our dreams and reality helped me articulate my growing unease and dissatisfaction in my personal faith. This book affected me greatly. It challenged and comforted me. It moved and shook me.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I am teaching Reading Lolita in Tehran to my AP English Language and Composition students. It's odd to return to a book that has meant so much to me and teach it. My students mostly seem to be enjoying the book. They struggle with the novels assigned in conjunction with the book--Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, Pride and Prejudice. But Reading Lolita they love. Nafisi's voice speaks to them. Not like it spoke to me, these are children who have no memory of 9/11. Most of them are not as passionate about language and stories as I am, but it does speak to them. Nafisi has captured a facet of humanity in her book, and my students recognize and respond to it.

At her reading, Nafisi spoke with conviction, articulation, and insight. She discussed the importance of stories. The importance of telling our own stories and participating in our own realities. Reality is written by those who show up; by those who are creating, fighting, story-telling. Her spoken words brought tears to my eyes like her written words had done a decade ago.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Last year, I had the pleasure of teaching two sisters. K and C are amazing. They are both empathetic, smart-as-whips, and beautiful. They were not in the same class, so I was lucky enough to hear them talk about each other. They often referred to their "sister-bond." Now, I was their teacher, so it's not likely that they were going to air their squabbles to me, but we did spend a lot of time in their classes talking about our feelings. I feel like I know these girls fairly well. And the thing I love the most about them is how supportive of each other they are. They love each other and are proud of each other. I like seeing female relationships that take this tack. Too often it seems we ladies fall into the role of jealous and bickery rivals. The world can add to this competitive feeling in many damaging ways. I enjoyed seeing two sisters throw all that shit aside and revel in their individual and shared accomplishments.

Last Thursday, I drove down to the attraction area with my sister and our daughters to visit our grandparents.* It was great to have some uninterrupted time with my sister. You see, my sister is (my 14 year old self is struggling not to call her the bomb) fucking awesome. She's funny, tall, smart, beautiful, creative, smart, tall, and all around bad-ass. For proof of the tall, beautiful, and bad-ass part see below. This is us at the best New Year's Eve party ever, which she hosts. EVERY YEAR.

Back to Thursday. It was great because although we live near each other, we usually only hang out about once a week because I am a ridiculous home body. When we hang out there are usually tons of equally awesome people, which leads to great discussions and fun times, but not a lot of one-on-one sister time. We had to drive in rush hour traffic from our homes in real Orlando to where our grandparents were staying in Kissimmee, which means lots of time. We talked about art, life, books, the tattoos we will be getting soon (I'm so excited!), feminism, douche-baggery, our awesome brother, and lots of other things I don't remember. But it wouldn't have mattered what we talked about because my awesome, beautiful, intelligent, insightful, hilarious sister made a usually horrible drive wonderful simply by being herself.

Yay for the sister bond. Whether it be between biologically related sisters or non-biologically related sisters. Yay for the relationships in your life that make you happy even when you are doing things you hate the most--like driving. Celebrate the people you love. Celebrate the people who make your world a better place. Celebrate the people who make you want to use way too many adjectives in your writing.

*On an unrelated note, why do all relatives who visit Florida say they are in Orlando when really they are in Kissimmee? It's not the same place.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I went running tonight. I haven't been in about a week, which means I felt it. I'm still trying to learn how to run as an adult, and it isn't easy. I keep telling myself that it isn't about the results--I don't care how much I weigh or what I look like--it's about how I feel.

But that's not honest. If I'm being honest, I would have to admit that body image is something I struggle with. It's an old struggle. When I was about 14 or 15, my school, a conservative Christian school, went on a retreat (think camp, but in the middle of the school year). All of the girls were hanging out one evening when one of my friends, J, commented that I had a nice ass, for a white girl, and she was going to teach me to shake it. Now remember, conservative religion, dancing wasn't something I knew a lot about, but who doesn't like to dance? My god, this is sounding like "Footloose" or something.

After 20 minutes or so, my friend laughed and admitted defeat. I might have a nice ass, but I couldn't shake it. "You're just not sexy" seemed to be the consent of the girls, but they all made sure to remind me that I was funny and cute. And this is pretty much what I stuck to through high school. I was funny and smart and, on a rare occasion, pretty or cute, but I never felt sexy.

Fast forward 10 years and my friend, M, asked me if I would take salsa lessons with him. Since my daughter's birth, I had been trying to get back in shape, and salsa seemed like a fun way to begin. We went to the lessons and to my great surprise, I didn't suck. I wasn't great or anything, but I learned quickly, and more importantly, I was having fun. When I moved up to the second and then third group, we started switching partners. This gave me pause. I wasn't nervous dancing with M; he would love me no matter what, but these strangers might judge me based entirely on my shitty dancing skills. I know it's absurd to worry about how well you are dancing at a class teaching you how to dance, but that's what I was doing. M tried to reassure me, but I didn't calm down until a man told me he waited to learn the moves until he was dancing with me. When I asked him why, he very nicely told me because I clearly knew what I was doing. Thanks, friendly man at dance class. After going to class for a few months, I asked the instructor about a move I continually struggled with--it's a move designed to move your hands from one position to another. His response was simple: this move is sexy, and you don't do sexy. Loosen up more. This might shock you, but this advice didn't help me loosen up.

A few months later my schedule changed, so I had to quit taking salsa classes. Since I enjoyed salsa, I started taking ballet at my college. It was a class of about 20 women. The women had a wide range of age, body types, and strengths, but for two hours each week, we came together and learned how to control our bodies. I was learning something new about my body: I liked dance. I liked the way it made my body feel, and although I never deluded myself into thinking I danced amazingly, I did feel like I was improving. One of the last steps we learned in class was the "pas de chat" or step of the cat. One day, I was jumping around feeling silly and fun, when one of my friends made a joke about less stepping more dying "of the cat." It wasn't meant to hurt me, but it did. It didn't matter that moments before I was enjoying myself and my point was not to look attractive, as soon as it was pointed out to me that I was NOT attractive while performing this move, I felt guilty for not being attractive.

So back to the whole running thing. I enjoy running at night. I like it for many reasons, but one of the reasons I like running at night (and I don't like the gym) is because at night people can't see me as easily. I like the anonymity because running makes me feel good in much the same way that dancing does, but just like dancing there are too many judgements involved when someone's gaze (mostly male) falls on me. It's no longer about the activity or the health aspect or even if I feel sexy. It's about how other people perceive my body and its sexiness. As soon as I am visible, my feelings no longer matter, but invisibility isn't good either. I deserve my space on the sidewalk and dance floor, but I can't seem to overcome my own insecurities about my worthiness on these spaces if I'm not running well and looking good. How can I overcome my fear of visibility? Or more importantly, how can I retain my good feelings in the face of a world that does not always agree?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Day

I am a fan of any excuse to give presents. I like birthdays, X-mas, accomplishments, International Waffle Day, and even Valentine's Day; anything to celebrate the people in my life. Some people are easier to buy/make presents for than others, but no matter who the person is, I love an excuse to give. Even as an angsty teenager, I liked Valentine's Day. Don't get me wrong, I complained about not "having" someone; I bitched about the commercialization of every aspect of our lives (which is valid, but CHOCOLATE!). All the while, I secretly loved it. I loved giving my friends flowers and receiving some in return. Hell, I even liked passing out silly notes and being forced to give them to everyone in class. I spent a lot of time thinking of the right way to tell someone I didn't hang out with often that I appreciated him/her.

It's Valentine's Day tomorrow, so I'm going to take a little time out of my day to say how much I love and appreciate my family. As I type this, R is doing the dishes and the kid is dancing with a stuffed animal to the music playing in the background. I love these two people more than I thought possible. I'm an introvert and can easily imagine spending my life contentedly alone. But I would give up almost all of my alone time to go on adventures with them. Okay, not all of it, but a good portion of it, which is still saying something.

Today we grabbed smoothies and wraps and ate supper by lake Baldwin. The clouds were incredible. The kid was silly. The man-friend was handsome. We had a great time roaming around the park, looking at birds, going down by the water and finding secret spots.

After this last picture, we started heading back when the rain started. I followed the kid and R as they ran and laughed and (one of them) shrieked. It was a marvelous way to end the day. Right now, I feel filled all the way to the tippy-top with love.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Learning Skills

Growing up I liked sports: playing them and watching them and arguing about them. I had crazy, curly hair that my mother--who has the straightest, finest hair of any person I have ever met--had no idea how to tame, and I didn't give her much time or help in that endeavor. I liked cowboy boots and comfortable clothing. My family didn't have much money, and as I got older, I decided that I didn't care about clothing and accessories and make-up. Part of it was a coping mechanism--I couldn't afford what the other girls had, so why bother with any of it? The other issue was that being pretty was a bonus, but you were never supposed to try too hard or act like you cared about these things too much. If you did, you were vain, superficial, probably dumb. Girls were somehow, magically, supposed to be flawless seemingly without anytime in front of a mirror. So I ignored style and make-up and everything else I deemed "too girly." And I took away the lesson that I wasn't a pretty girl. I was smart and funny, but not pretty. That wasn't me.

Fast forward 10 years, and you have me today. A grown-up with no idea how to do my make-up or paint my nails, which isn't a bad thing except that I really want to do my nails and wear make-up. And this is where friendship comes in. My friend, L, always has amazingly painted nails, and the thing I love about it is how obvious it is that it is for her. She doesn't paint her nails because she has to; she paints them because she loves it. After commenting a few times on her nails, she generously offered to teach me. Something I always felt intimidated and embarrassed by has become one of my favorite ways to relax. I discovered that my weak, flaky nails hold up better when I paint them regularly. The painful breaking happens less often, and bonus, my nail color occasionally matches the colors in my tattoos.

Nail polish was the tip of the iceberg for me. I decided I was going to embrace the side of me that likes sparkly things and always wants to buy eyeshadow palettes at the drugstore even though I don't know what to do with them. Enter another awesome friend, S--at this point, you are probably thinking I'm just rubbing in how many awesome friends I have, but that's not the point...or at least not the whole point. S is great at make-up. Sometimes her make-up is subtle. I can't even pinpoint what she has done or if she is wearing it at all, but she looks fabulous. Other times her make-up is funky, or sexy, or loud, but it always works for her. On Friday, I went over to her house, and she taught me how to do my make-up. Because she is great, and fun, and smart. I didn't even have to ask. She called me up and told me to come over because we were going to have a fun time playing with make-up. She broke it down for me in terms of painting, which is something I can understand. She taught me something I really wanted to learn, and she helped me overcome an old lesson.

Growing up I felt a lot of pressure: to look a certain way, to know a certain skill-set, to care about certain things. I rebelled against the gender pigeon-holing which I found to be stifling, but I didn't leave room in my rebellion for the other side. The side that embraced these things without embracing the misogyny. The side that liked nail polish, clothes, and make-up AND liked football, climbing trees, and science. Through my friends' know-how and their support, I am learning to embrace all the sides of me instead of belittling the parts that teenager-me found "too girly," while secretly longing to know more about them. I'm learning that pigeon-holing oneself in response to outside pressure is as bad as bowing to that pressure. I'm learning that I can be pretty, smart, funny, or almost any other adjective I wish--except tall, I'm never going to be tall.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ode to Grapefruit

When I was a kid, my mom would peel grapefruit for us. She would take the outer-skin off, but she would also peel the pith away from the juice vesicles--the pulpy bits that hold the juice. This is a visceral memory for me. I can see her hand--palm down, fingers cupping the fruit--dripping juice as she passed each bit to one of us kids--my siblings and whatever cousins were around--or my dad. I can see her throat when she would lean her head back and eat one of the sections herself. She would put the peelings in a bowl on her lap, which a towel would cover. After peeling a few grapefruits, she tossed the peels to the chickens or on her hardier plants. She only did this with grapefruit. With oranges, she would roll them on a hard surface, put her thumb through the peeling, and suck the juice out, or occasionally, she would slice them for us, but grapefruits were special. Always special. My dad is the only person in the family that I can recall eating a grapefruit any other way. He would peel it with his knife and eat it like an apple if we were outside, or slice it in half and add a little salt if we were inside. Everyone else would wait until Mommy felt like having grapefruit.

For a long time, I couldn't figure out my mom's technique. Every time I would try to peel away the delicate liths--the skin that makes the segments--I would end up bruising the fruit and end up with a soggy mess. It was still good; it just wasn't magical. It turns out her technique is patience and practice.

Grapefruits are my favorite citrus, and I haven't had any good white grapefruit yet this season. White grapefruit can be hard to find in grocery stores. Most sell the pink kind, but I have always been partial to the white grapefruit. It's smaller, and a little more sour, and it's what we always had growing up. This last weekend at the market at Lake Eola, I bought a big bag of white grapefruit. Tonight, I peeled two grapefruits. The kid saw the towel and bowl laid out near me, and probably asked five times if I were going to peel grapefruits tonight. The grapefruits are delicious, just like the older man who sold them to me promised; my hands smell wonderful; and my little one is perched on the arm of my chair like nothing so much as a baby bird or me as a child waiting for the wonderful fruit. If I were Pablo Neruda, or a poet at all, I would write an ode to peeling grapefruit, but since I'm not, I'll blog about it. That's nearly as good, right?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Running - 2

I usually run at night. My partner, R, runs in the morning because I like to sleep as long as I can. I like my night runs. At night, the world is quiet. It's cooler, which is great for me--a medication I take makes me extremely susceptible to the heat. Beyond all of that, I just like nighttime. While I run, I listen to audio books. Right now, it's Duma Key by Stephen King. I feel like it makes me run faster because it's scary, but that's probably wishful thinking.

This week has been hard. I've had two severe headaches, so my running has been mediocre at best. However, the nights have been beautiful.

The moon was full, and it was gorgeous. It made me wish I had my good camera rather than my phone camera, but trying to run with a camera wouldn't work.

After my run I like to cool down outside. I'm lucky enough to have a Banana Hammock made by my good friend, B. These hammocks are great because they can be hung anywhere. It's revolutionized my cool down. I can combine two of my loves--reading and hammocking. It might be fair to say that I run so I don't have to feel guilty about spending my evenings reading in my bright pink hammock.

P.S. I am in no way affiliated with Banana Hammock Republic. B's product is amazing, and it makes my life better.

P.P.S. How cool is Florida? It's January, and I'm relaxing outside in shorts and a hammock.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reading and Rereading

I love books. I was an English major in school; I can't help but smell every book I pick up; I keep a journal of all the books I read throughout the year, so that I can see and remember what I have read. It's more than a hobby for me. It's a way that I sort out my feelings and beliefs. It's the way that I relax. I become fidgety and angry when I have forgotten to bring a book with me no matter where I go. It would be fair to say that books--both the concrete item and the ideas they contain--matter to me a great deal.

I love the Harry Potter series. The first Harry book came out when I was 11 or 12. I read it, tried to act cool about it, and secretly fell in love. I read the whole series, slowly caring less and less about how nerdy I was becoming with my love of these books. When the seventh book was published, I had recently found out about my unexpected and unplanned pregnancy. Two paragraphs in and I was already crying. After my man friend, R, (very reasonably and sweetly) suggested that maybe just maybe my emotions were running a little high, I proceeded to read him the entire series because he "didn't get it." I literally grew up with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the gang.

I use to reread the series every summer or anytime a new book was coming out, but I haven't done that in a while. In fact, a year or so ago I traded my hardcover copies to one of my friends, A, for her softcover copies (I needed the shelf space, and A wrote her Honors Thesis on Harry and Peter Pan). I haven't opened them until recently.

I decided to reread the whole series a few days ago, and that's when I discovered that my new-to-me copies smell exactly like my friend. A moved away at the beginning of August to attend grad school. She is having a great time, and I get to live vicariously through her. But I miss her a lot. When I opened Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, A filled the room. The book smells like her; it has her notes scattered throughout. We have spent a good amount of time discussing this story, and sitting down to read her old copy of the novel reminded me of all of the wonderful times I have spent sipping coffee with A while discussing literature, movies, and life.

Books are wonderful because, for me at least, not only do they contain the stories recorded by their authors, which is pretty great all on its own, but they can also take us back to specific moments in our own lives, people we love, or lessons we have learned. The stories of Harry Potter do that for me. They remind me of what I was like as a kid and a teenager and how my understanding of the novels grew as I grew; they take me back to my pregnancy and the tradition that my act sparked (I still read aloud to R); and they remind me of friendships. Not bad for a book written for children that I first read 15 years ago.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Running - 1

My doctor wants me to exercise for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week. He hopes that it will help alleviate stress and that in turn it will help reduce my headaches. I'm all for it. I have a personal goal of being able to run a mile before my birthday, which is coming up. It actually works out pretty perfectly since a lot of beginner running advice starts with 20 minute workouts, 3-5 times a week. So that's what I've been working on. And man is it hard. I mean, really hard. Where did my ability to run go? I'm not sure, but it's definitely missing.

The bright side of the whole trying-to-run-unsuccessfully thing is this: it feels good. I mean, don't get me wrong, it feels horrible. My lungs burn; my muscles ache; I smell bad--but it feels wonderful in this weird, achey, awesome way.

It's also made me aware of how beautiful my neighborhood is. I know that the world is beautiful--I mean it's the world, it has to have something going for it--but there are occasions when I forget how lovely my surroundings are on a day-to-day basis. As an artist I want to capture that feeling for days when I forget. Thanks to technology, this is a fairly simple process: I'm going to run with my phone, and instead of only listening to music, I'm going to photograph the things that strike me. By the end of the year, I'm hoping to have a collection of photos showing both the places and distances I am running. Here are a few photos from my recent run:

The driftwood was in the most barren of all yards--barren except for a pile of driftwood. The stingrays are swimming in another neighbor's yard; this one a far cry from barren, but the stingrays are my favorite yard decorations that I have seen to-date. It helps that they appear to be made by hand. New project idea: weld yard decorations. Lots and lots of yard decorations.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Sometimes the world can feel like a terrible place. It can feel lonely. It can feel like all of your love is being rejected. I've been feeling like this. I graduated from a college that I loved with a degree in a subject that I love, and ya know what? I can't find a job that I love. The world does not seem to value the things I value. I've been visiting the doctor for a year trying to figure out why I have so many headaches. The best we have come up with is taking medicine that makes it nearly unbearable to be in the heat, and I'm still getting headaches once or twice a week. AND THIS IS AN IMPROVEMENT! Every time I read the news I feel like injustices and tragedies are accosting me. I vote; I write angry letters; I volunteer. Why doesn't the world (and my body) love me as much as I love it? Why isn't it improving?

I don't have answers to any of these questions, but I have realized a thing or two. The world doesn't owe me anything. It's this beautiful and big place of which I get to be a part. So this blog is going to be my place to write about the things which make my world lovely. The things that make my life worthwhile. The things I want to improve. In short, I want this blog to be my unrequited love letter to the world at large. A place to remind me of all of the things I love and have going on. So come along if you would like. It's going to be a wild ride...or what's more likely: a peaceful stroll.