Read This Valentine’s Day Story About Poo

The future scares the shit out of me. In fact, right now, this very second scares the shit out of me. There. A Valentine’s Day post that starts with something straight from the heart. Here’s my love story.

I can’t remember who said it, but a few months ago a friend of mine made a comment on a picture that I posted on Facebook that said something like, “One day, when I grow up, I hope my life is as exciting as yours.” Hold the phone. Cue the music. My real life doesn’t look anything like my Facebook timeline.

I hope that this is no surprise and that most of you feel the way that I do about social media. It’s a perfect distraction from feeling anything too deep. It keeps our heads on straight, filter-perfect. When I’m scrolling through all of my friends’ posts, I don’t have to think about much. It’s just a stream of non-thinking amusement, sometimes horror, sometimes sadness. Mostly though it’s just a dead-pan, zoning out thing I do to keep myself from thinking and actually doing anything productive.
It can be great.

And then there’s the posts and status updates. My BA and my MA are both in English, so I can generally use words to get a certain feeling out of people that I want. Now that I think of it, it’s sort of manipulative in a way. Adrienne, one of my best friends and bandmates, once said that I could post about poo and would get 100 likes on Facebook. If I could, it would only mean that I wrote about poo in a way that others found somewhat captivating. While they were doing their version of a zombie-Facebook-dance, I cut in and dipped them back. That’s how this shit works. Pun intended.

Also, I know I’ve met many of you in various bands that I’ve been in. Whether it was a solo project or singing with Mad Maude and the Hatters, some of you only know me through music endeavors. My actual day job, however, is as a Marketing and Communications Coordinator. I spend eight hours each day perfecting how to most effectively craft and sell a message, a mission. At this point, I’ve raised over half a million dollars for a nonprofit that I love, so I guess I’m okay at it. So keep that in mind if I ever write a poo post that gets 100 likes.

And let’s not forget about vanity. My grandmother and my grandmother’s sister died of lung cancer, my great-grandmother died of throat cancer, and my mother is a respiratory therapist. You know why I quit smoking? Because I don’t want wrinkles. So, if you see a cute photo I posted. I probably took twenty. I probably made my friend take twenty and then put a filter on it.

So, why do we play pretend? Well, because life isn’t so pretty. Take this photo for example:

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If we would have taken this photo an hour before, you’d have seen my head in Hattie’s lap, screaming and convulsing. This was the day that I had watched my brother fall back into the hands of addiction. For eight months he tried like hell to stay clean, but addiction is a daily, irrational beast to battle, and sometimes the problem feels like the solution. If you would have taken the photo at 2 a.m., you’d have seen me in a t-shirt, choking on tears and rain in the middle of the street, calling out for my brother. At 3 a.m., it would have been a calmer scene. Perhaps a black and white of the two of us, my brother and I huddled together on the porch, crying, wishing we could both fix each other. Loving each other at our worst.

That’s real life. Real life, real love isn’t always pretty. These raw images aren’t the kinds we’d want others to “like.” We all have them, tucked right beneath the surface. The worries. The doubts.

As I mentioned earlier, my fear of the future is debilitating. I’ve always tried to find a way to control it. I buy those Dollar Store planners and try to fill in every box, every day with an event, a future dinner, a coffee date, a talk with a good friend, a Rockets game. Worse than not having a plan, you see, is not having a plan and being alone. Filling in the spaces makes me feel complete. This process helps to curb the anxiety, the uncertainty of the future.

In terms of relationships, I’ve spent the last nine years of my life with three men who I tried to box into a plan. If they didn’t quite fit the part, fulfill every single need that I’d dreamt up, I left. At times I thought that it was a wedding ring, a kid that looked like me, or a move across the country that would have made the plan work.
During this search for the perfect future-version of my life, however, I forgot to see that the plan, that greater “future” that I had no control over was working.

I found out that I was about to turn 30. That I had built a world of relationships with people, co-workers, family, strangers, best friends, crushes, ex boyfriends (even ex boyfriend’s wives) and new semi-boyfriends that made me appreciate the hell out of Valentine’s Day. So, here’s to real life and real love.

I’m going to end this post with a few PARTY TIPS from Andrew W.K.
1. Doing what you love = partying
2. If you need someone to be your Valentine tomorrow, you can count on me.

Andrew W.K. playing his pizza guitar. Pizza=love
Andrew W.K. playing his pizza guitar. Pizza=love

Crystal “Clean” Beach, TX

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been driving back and forth from Beaumont to Bolivar Peninsula, where I’ve been, among other things, cleaning beach cabins with my grandmother. This “in-between” phase of my life is covered in Comet, bleach, Lysol Kitchen Cleaner, dust, Windex, dirt, Pledge, as well as all sorts of grime, and I couldn’t be happier.

After leaving my former full-time job to pursue other life opportunities, I’ve found myself again. When I have half of my body shoved in a stove and am wearing plastic gloves up to my elbows in a sea of Easy-Off, I smile. When I’m pulling out each drawer of a fridge to soak up a pool of fish blood left by a renter (not joking) at the bottom, I unroll the paper towels and soak it all up. I soak up that feeling of being young and motivated and free to choose what field or job I pursue next. With a rag tucked in each of my pockets, I make sure to step out on the porch every now and then. The ocean reminds me that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Some days it’s still and peaceful, other days it’s littered with whitecaps, but one thing remains constant and awe-inspiring. Near sunset, this muddy sea filled with the runoff of the Mississippi turns purple and blue, and the sky bursts into flames of pink and orange that lick the skyline.

In between jobs, I drink coffee and listen to the waves. I take pictures of wildflowers. I listen to my grandfather play his saxophone. I walk down to the shoreline and watch the waves bite at my feet. I pick through seashells. The “in-between” is not so bad.

Though my advice may be a bit warped due to both sun and chemical exposure, it is rather simple stuff:

Comet works best for sinks. Magic Erasers are actually magical. Never clean with things that smell like lemon or pine trees. Fabuloso smells nice and is great to pour into toilets after they’ve been cleaned. Dyson’s are spectacular.

If you fold your toilet paper ends into a lovely, little triangle, you win at life.

Sometimes love is hard, and sometimes love is a hardback.

Inspired by Cassandra Neace’s bookish Valentine’s she posted about this past week, last night, I decided to order a large pizza, finish up Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate, and attempt a few of my own.

A rare gem that I found at our local library’s yearly sale, was a hardback edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. The title is a bit misleading. As it mentions in a note, before Elizabeth Barrett Moulton-Barrett finally left her father’s house and eloped with Robert Browning, he had called her his “little Portuguese.” The sonnets were published in 1850.

What I love about this edition are the amazing cameos that were done by Fred A. Mayer. Across from every sonnet is a little scene that makes my heart melt. Let it be known, I love cameos. LOVE.

 

So, DING! My Valentines were born. You see, I’m one of those people who collect all sorts of paper and scrapbooking materials, but I do not own a single scrapbook. Once, after a feverish trip to Hobby Lobby, I did complete a single page, which I come across every now and then and can’t bear to throw away.

Here they are in all their glory:

I scanned the pages of the book on resume paper to give the image a slightly older look, sparing the original pages of my lovely book. Then, I went glue-happy with bits of paper. The little text hearts were made from two pages of Byron criticism, which I find sort of funny.  I still hated to tear out those two pages. Tearing a book page is so so so strange, even if you’ve read the book and know it can go.

If I were less lazy, I’d send all my bookish friends one, but I ran out of steam after the fourth piece of pizza.

Oh, and look at this:

My friend April put this adorable crochet heart in my mailbox the other day, and I thought it was the most thoughtful little gift. I’m not going to lie. I probably cried. I’ve been trying to learn to crochet for years. Now, I have an extra bit of motivation.

Is it weird that all I care about getting on Valentine’s Day is a nice meal? Feed me, and I’m yours. I’m sure someone has some food inspired Valentines around here. I’ll look.

Plotting: New News and Book Reviews

Mad Maude & The Hatters

Since my last post, I’ve been to Germany (where I drank better beer than you did for eight days straight), joined a fun new band called Mad Maude & the Hatters (Shame. Shame. Shameless self-promotion), and read a book worth writing about: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. Since I’m sure you don’t want me to brag-brag-braggy-brag you to death, I’ll get to the book review and leave Germany for a later post. By the way, this is an informal review. At work, I’m all formality and starched skirts, but on this blog, I’m gonna go ahead and unbutton the top button, if you know what I mean.

Okay, let’s get down to business, starting with the stuff dreams are made of.

The Virgin Suicides: my sort of book candy. Next to an original Henry Darger, you can’t get a better glimpse of young girls battling personal demons.

Middlesex: could a book be any better? Nope. Don’t think so.

Jeffrey Eugenides: the sort of guy who actually replied wittily and sweetly to an almost stalkish, “I-love-you-this-much” email I sent to his actual work account when I was an undergraduate student.  In other words, I’m a huge fan. A giant, obsessed geek who wanted to name my latest band “Lux Lisbon” before realizing some gents in the UK beat me to it. Sigh. To top it off ,their album is called “Your Heart is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist.” :: slaps self on forehead for not thinking of things first ::

That being said, here it goes.

Source: Personal Copy (picked up at a random B&N trip)

THE MARRIAGE PLOT  

What I liked:

1. The character development was top-notch.

I feel that Madeline’s annoying-yet-needy/independent nature really resonates with that inner emotionally crazed girl in all of us.  Crying one second, taking her top off the next, that’s the kind of girl that I know and can relate to.  She seemed real. There were times I wanted to smack her face, but that’s true of many many characters I’ve gotten into bed with. Bad joke. I know. Sorry.

2. Of all the characters, I liked Leonard the best. Eugenides portrayal of someone who suffers with manic depression and bipolar disorder seemed believable and accurate. In my own life, I’ve known quite a few “Leonards.” They may not have ever donned a cape, but they did obsess and freak out and gain weight and lose weight and become their disease. Good job, Jeff.

What I got tired of:

1. Marshall. Marshall. Marshall. He was the guy in my English class that bored the shit out of me. The guy who likes the hot girl he can’t have, the guy that is sort of pretentious in his un-pretentiousness, the guy who is too smart and travels too much. Does that make sense? Perhaps that was the point. Perhaps we weren’t supposed to like him.

2. I also missed having separate chapters. Since we change narrative perspective in each section, I understand the set up, but I’m a traditionalist in some ways. I like those little markers that tell me I can take a quick pee or hop in the shower. This is obviously a personal thing.

Overall: If you love Eugenides, give it a go and let me know what you think. For me, it was worth it. It took a while to get through the first fifty pages and get to what I think is the “meat” of the book, but that could have been caused by hunger, not necessarily a bad plot progression.

Rating: I give it a T-rex  for sure.

Thoughts?

Here are some other great reviews that I found on the Marriage Plot that are much fancier than mine:

The Marriage Plot- Jeffrey Eugenides-Book Review

The New York Times: Sunday Book Review

The Family Fang: Review

Bought at a random trip To B&N to cure boredom, at the suggestion of Jenn aka thepickygirl.

 

Hell yes. This is good stuff. A book where parents eff their kids up without remorse, all in the name of capital A-R-T.  I can relate. Replace “A-R-T” with “R-E-L-I-G-I-O-N,” and you have The Family Ivy.

By Ch. 2, I was lolling all over the place. And…. I actually stayed interested as the story progressed, which is a great feat for me. At times, I swear I accidentally switch brains with my dog Annie and can only think of food and sleep, which interferes with actually FINISHING good books (I have had 100 pages left of The Historian for the past year). Sigh.

Back to the Fangs.

Kevin Wilson is really damn good at ending paragraphs. Every last line of the first few chapters made me stop, go back, and reread. Nice job, Kev.

To sum it up, I stayed interested until the very end. The end disappointed the heck out of me for reasons I can’t exactly place. The plot seemed to be working towards some cataclysmic event, and then all of the sudden, the balloon didn’t pop. It sputtered out.  It made one of those fart sounds. I can’t say I’d like it more if it had had some explosive ending, but I know I was mildly disappointed. I felt very “Hmmmfph” about the ending.

But, I’ll admit, I can’t think of a way he could have done it better or differently.

Aside from the ending, the middle was freaking delish. I loved the way he crafted his sentences. The way he weaved this twisted family of characters together really worked.

My favorite selection from the novel comes at a moment when Annie Fang thinks about a life without her parents (Damn this format for making block quotes look retarded):

And then, no one to prevent this unfounded optimism, she imagined a future where her parents had never existed in the first place. Once she allowed herself this miracle, as soon as it had taken shape, it immediately burned up in the atmosphere, turned to vapor, and Annie realized that, without her parents, there would be no way into the world for her. She could not, despite every attempt to do so, figure out a way that she could arrive ahead of her parent, to outspace them. It would have to be her parents, young and still tender, entirely unaware that their children, Annie and Buster, were moving, inexorably, toward them, waiting to be named (209).

In a sentence or two:

Annie and Buster Fang find themselves in an awkward state of adult rebellion as they come to the realization that their parents’ involvement in their live is in the name of art rather than love.  The Family Fang is witty, well written, and outlandish in an endearing way.

Rating: One T-REX*

*I don’t officially have a rating system since I’m new to blogging and reviewing, but when I do, it will be a system consisting of dinosaurs and aliens. T-REX = Powerful read. Worth it.

Note to my mother:

Mom, you should read this book and think of the times you made us visit nursing homes armed with bananas and peppermints in an attempt to socialize us, your two, homeschooled nerds. FAIL. (Didn’t you also make us attend FFA (Future Farmers of America) meetings, despite the fact that we didn’t own an animal or a farm?

 

 

 

 

 

My Melted Baby and Other Post-Readathon Commentary

Light Reading

I would deem last night’s readathon a complete success. Though I didn’t get much in-depth reading done (I won’t even admit the page count), I did eat a lot of snacks: guacamole and chips, pizza rolls, and even some corn chowder that Adrienne brought over. It was a strange combo, and since we were both already in a slightly somber, yet relaxed-and-groovy mood, we opted for apple juice instead of wine.

Now, as far as Mitford’s’ novel Don’t Tell Alfred goes, I still can’t really tell you much. I’ve tried to read it three times now. Pfff. Nancy and I usually get along swimmingly, but I just reach a block at page forty or so.

My favorite lines thus far, however, have been Fanny’s thoughts regarding motherhood. She has just found out that her son Alfred has been appointed Ambassador to Paris and is happy and distraught upon hearing the news, which makes her contemplate the nature of the relationship between a mother and her child:

(I have formatting issues so if this block quote doesn’t come out right…..Doh!)

In moments of introspection I often thought that a woman’s need for children is almost entirely physical. When they are babies one cuddles  and kisses and slaps them and has a highly satisfying animal  relationship with them. But when they grow up and leave the nest  they hardly seem to belong any more (19).

I like this idea that kids are just sort of physical necessities. You knock em’ around, smash their faces between your palms and smooch em’….all to satisfy an “animal” need of some sort. I guess it is best one of my children is plastic and the other one is furry.

My friend Justin Varner (who is also an amazing artist!) gave me a miniature, plastic baby boy he found at a toy stoy in Austin after hearing of my various, “When are you having a baby and getting married?” troubles. I keep it on the dashboard of my car, and it is now all melted and mutant looking, which shows I am a shitty mother, even to plastic babies. On that note, I will leave you with this picture:

My Melted Baby

Sunday’s Craft Attempt: crocheting. I had a book (see pic in slideshow below) and a friend show me the basics. All I’ve successfully created is something that looks like a tortured blue sperm. Sigh. Will keep you updated on my success. Maybe the blue sperm will turn into a cute baby…blanket.

Hope everyone enjoys cooking or reading or eating or just being plain lazy today.

I’d also like to send a big thanks and a hug to all who came out to the benefit to support Marlee yesterday. We sold so much jambalaya and we had a great time playing for such a great cause.  I promise I’ll start working on the new cd again soon. I just have to finish this blanket first.

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Eating. Reading. Taking My Pants Off.

Okay, today I’m participating in my first readathon, and I’m really excited. With what is left of the evening, I plan on taking my pants off  and reading. I guess I should wait until I get home to do that since I’m using the interwebs at my friend Brittany’s house and don’t want to freak her out by unzipping. Plus, she just offered me some CHEEZ-ITs.

My TBR list consists of a couple of Barbara Pym finds from the Galveston book store (above), and Nancy Mitford’s Don’t Tell Alfred, which I hope is as funny and charming as her Love in a Cold Climate.

I feel so behind in the snacking. I definitely need to catch up on the snacking. If anyone else wants to nerd out with me, stop by my house and bring some vino. I will have the fire going, and I may even drum up a batch of wassail.

If I don’t have time to drive to the law firm down the road and steal some wifi again, I’ll get out the ol’ crystal ball and tell you how things went down: I ate too much, read too little, and plan on doing this again soon.

Thanks to Amanda at deadwhiteguys for letting this newbie blogger join in!