What I read in April

The past few months have definitely been a lot more about art than literature–both in the sense of creating and consuming, but there you go. I’m getting better at building a reading schedule into my routine. My personal reading goal is three books a month, and I’m really glad to say that I topped out this month with four (and a half, but you know, that goes into the May pile).

Leviathan Wakes, Author
David and I are starting to get into the obnoxiously couple-y habit of buying books we’re both interested in reading, and this was one of them. It’s a bit mammoth in concept, but the authors handled it a lot better than I expected. The concept blends the themes and style of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with a fifties black noir dime novel. My one critique, which is more of an observation than anything, is that co-authored books (like this one) is that they tend to read with almost a starchy level of structure. Honestly I loved this book and I’m already halfway through the follow up one, which I am shocked to admit holds up all on its own. My biggest complaint was realizing that the authors are the assistants to George R R Martin, and my main thought was ‘What the heck are you guys doing writing your own books? Let’s get the Game of Thrones series finished already!!’

The Prisoner of Heaven, Carlos Ruis Zafon
David’s coworker passed this book along to me after her initial recommendation, The Shadow of the Wind, was met with my confession that I already read it (it happens embarrassingly often, #humblebrag much, which is why I avoid book recommendations like the plague). This is a follow up to Shadow of the Wind, which was a scary and creepy and good. This book was also scary and creepy and very good. It was a lot more violent, though, which I could have done without. It was the worst kind of oh-this-really-happened violence, too, which makes it so much harder to stomach. This book was a fast read, though. The first half took me through the three hour boat ride to Victoria and the second half kept me occupied during the return boat trip home. It also ends with a very clear set up for another book, which seems like it’ll be a really good one.  

Single Infertile Female, Leah Campbell
Read this one after the blogger self published. I’ve read her blog for a couple years now, and the book provided a lot of “behind the scenes” details to her story. Similar to other blogging authors, her book’s story and writing style is a slightly more polished very of her blog’s story and writing style. I’m hesitant to write anything but a glowing review, because the author is a blogger whom I admire quite a bit on a personal level. In the end, though, I have to be honest. Her book felt incomplete, as though it lacked purpose. If she had written a memoir, she was missing too many details and structure to give a complete picture of her life. If she was writing with the main goal of giving a voice to women who suffer from infertility, then I’d say she let her story get a little overshadowed by the boy drama. In the end, her book was neither a memoir nor about her journey with infertility–it was a summarized, slightly polished version of her blog posts.

The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer
Since this is part of my Pulitzer Prize Reading Project, I’m going to save my full review for one of my monthly recaps, but I’ll leave you with this. Oh man. So much yes. It was intense, it was emotional, and like everything that man writes, reading it was like a gentle massage for your eyes. Well, maybe more like a deep tissue massage. A little painful but in a good way.

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Lets look at a bunch of flowers, eh?

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I scrolled through my blog and it’s just so very full of words. So let’s keep it easy for this Monday and stick with a photo dump. The trip to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria BC was a birthday present from my dad & stepmom. David and I had a great time and every time I go to Canada I become more and more convinced I want to move there. And the look on the bartender’s face when we told him we were not, in fact, locals was priceless. He would have bet the contents of his wallet that we were. Must be a northwest thing.

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Drowning in the nostalgia of middle school me

Monday night I got reacquainted with the middle school me. I don’t want to brag, but I like that girl. She was cool, in an awkward nerdy way. It was really nice to remember how goofy and loving I used to be, before the throes of teenagerdom and mental illness took over. She definitely wasn’t perfect, but she’s one of my favorite versions of me, hands down. It was definitely the beginning of when I began testing boundaries and realizing how much trouble I could get away with–this was, after all, the era of forging my parents signatures on everything–but it was before lying became built into the habit of who I was.

seventh grade me

It all started a few weeks ago when my music-savvy partner came home from work and asked me, sounding more like a 65 year old man than someone I share a bed with, if I had ever heard of this band? Called…. oh called something weird… Called Depeche Mode?

I snorted into my coffee. Um please are you kidding? He wasn’t. I grew up listening to Depeche Mode. In the 2k equivalent to laying down on shag carpet with your head next to a record playing the songs that sing to your sweet, tortured soul, I listened to Depeche Mode. I would stretch out on the couch while my painfully cool older sister would play video games with her guy friends, and Depeche Mode would be playing in the background. It was one band of many, but it was a band that spoke to the sweet and slightly broken essence of my preteen soul. Did I mention I may have been a bit dramatic back then?

Anyways, David blew my mind when he nonchalantly admitted ignorance of the band. It hurt my head, but we remedied it. We sat down and purchased–actually legitimately legally purchased — the album that I remembered the best. I didn’t know what it was called but the album art of a black background behind a lime green flower silhouette is burned into a deep recess of my brain used predominantly to store cultural and generational memories. My kids will most likely have that same album in their head, and when they touch that memory in their brain, they’ll remember an angst-filled haze of 90s furniture and pop-tarts and feeling calm. This is for real, I’m pretty sure.

We turned on the visualizer and I went to town on an art project and the album did not disappoint. David admitted that middle school him would have hated the music, but he also admitted that middle school him listened almost exclusively to the Beatles. Sitting on the couch with him, relaxing into our comfortable bubble of being a couple, with Lyra snoring on the floor in front of us, watching the visualizer go crazy with Depeche Mode’s overworked electronics made my life feel, for the first time in a long time, like one revolving circle. This was a band that did not fade after middle school. It kept its significance with me all throughout high school, sharing air time in my headphones with Linkin Park and Incubus and Green Day and Third Eye Blind. It lasted all the way to my senior year, and  I have a vivid memory of laying on my bed, turning on my Apple laptop and opening up iTunes searching for Depeche Mode. Lyra was on the foot of my bed, snoring her cow-like siren, and I switched on the visualizer as I lay there. Depeche Mode fills my room, I keep one hand on Lyra’s puppy fuzzy back, and let my brain travel far away from the suffocating messy web of social traps and mental anguish that was my high school experience.

Full circle, people. And I promise to never subject you to another nostalgia-induced dribble that was this post. Probably. If I do, though, I’ll show you another even more awkward photo of me from middle school, okay?

Spring uniforms demand stripes & hats

I asked my ever-loving patient partner to snap some updated photos of my face so I could play around with a new blog design because I’m sure I’ll always be in transition with this blog design and because he’s such a sweetie, he made sure to get some full outfit photos as well. What a keeper. Also, sorry for the bland background. We were looking for something that would be easy to crop out.

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Sweater & Tights: Target | Dress: Old Navy | Shoes: Marshalls | Hat: Sojourner

Have I mentioned how obsessed I am with this dress? Oh and these shoes. And the tights. I sweat those are the three most commonly worn items in my closet. Followed closely by the sweater. I’m so unimaginative. What to do? Add a hat, clearly. It’s the perfect temperature out for a hat now–dry and blue skies, but still chilly and brisk. Ideal hat weather.

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So I know it looks like a boob shot, what with the whole image and all, but David assures me it was a necklace shot. He was showcasing my necklace with this picture. The necklace that was my birthday present from him 😉 I mean does the guy know me or what? I have a bad habit of losing all of my favorite necklaces so I’ll have to keep a close eye on this one and make sure it doesn’t go anywhere. I’m still mourning the disappearance of my typewriter necklace.

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It’s been a long week, to say the least.

It’s finally Friday, and I wish the entire world could take a collective breath together. It won’t. It can’t, really, because for a lot of people it isn’t even Friday. My brain keeps running through the programs to come up with a summary recap of the week, and it fizzles out before it gets to the end every time It’s the kind of emotional exhaustion that makes many bloggers, not unreasonably, say “Hey, maybe lets just look at a few pictures of cute kittens, okay?” I don’t work that way, though, and I think when there is something that causes us grief or discomfort, it is important to explore that issues so we can better understand ourselves, and learn from it. I strongly feel that even in a tragedy, or especially in a tragedy, there is a lot to learn from.

There is a lot I want to write about, but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to go into what I’m really thinking without being disrespectful to the more basic unfiltered tragedies that have happened. I think those bombers did a horrible thing. I think an uploaded photo of police-soldiers in kevlar with a tanked-out humvee behind them sweeping the streets scares me more than it reassures me. I think that the bombing was a horrible event; I also see it as one that should be (like most other tragedies) an opportunity for our nation to reflect inwardly on our own choices and behaviors. I don’t know how to write more about that without sounding like I’m blaming the victims–I’m not. I am, however, turning a critical eye to our policies and actions on an international sphere, and finding a lot of fodder to fuel that criticism.

There’s been a global response* to the bombings that consist of “That’s genuinely, non-sarcastically, very tragic. Also tragic is being bombed so often that it’s no longer breaking news.”

That’s a sentiment that a lot of Americans don’t want to hear, and yet it’s important. Yes–what happened in Boston makes me sick to my stomach. There are a lot of other things that make me sick of my stomach, though, and they happen on a daily basis. This isn’t said to downplay what has happened, but rather a reminder to America that maybe it’s time for us to embrace other cultures and other histories, other countries with their tragedies, as effectively as we embrace our own. I’m afraid that until our country learns to grieve for tragedies on an international stage, our grief will always turn into a righteous rage that is to be feared on a global level.

There is an article from Tim Wise that can be a bit too antagonistic to be particularly effective right now, but it contains a quote that sums up a lot of about how not just white privilege plays into the matter, but how our Stance As United Americans (Who Are Predominantly White) influences our perspective.

“In short, white privilege is the thing that allows you (if you’re white) — and me — to view tragic events like this as merely horrific, and from the perspective of pure and innocent victims, rather than having to wonder, and to look over one’s shoulder, and to ask even if only in hushed tones, whether those we pass on the street might think that somehow we were involved.”

What scares me the most is what Americans end up doing when they are grieving on a national level. Many political analysts compare us as a toddler in charge of the world, and in many ways it’s true. When we get upset, we lash out blindly and violently. It’s time for our nation to grow up a little, though, and the best signifier that a toddler has matured is when they understand compassion and empathy to people outside themselves. They understand that hitting strangers because they’re mad isn’t an appropriate or effective way to express their frustration and anger. I think we have the ability to show a more global level of compassion, and that will be expressed by our ability to grieve on a global level for tragedies that happen not just on our terrain, but elsewhere as well. Here’s a great reminder about how to place contextually relevant emphasis on the cultural identities of the bombers themselves.

I hope that you hug your family and your loved ones. I hope that you take care of yourself, because often times tragedies like this can exacerbate depression and anxiety in people who cope with mood disorders. I know I’ve felt the effects. I also hope, though, that you don’t shy away from your feelings on the topic. Grieve for what happened, and grieve publicly. Grieve not only for what happened, but for the events and choices that led to where we are today. Grive, and learn, and move forward. Not as a united nation, but as a compassionate and involved citizen of the world.

*For what it’s worth, I think that article was written very poorly. Notice how all the sympathy for our tragedy is directly quoted from leaders and individuals, while all the hate mongering is more speculative in nature.

I watch too many documentaries, that’s for sure

So I’ve mentioned about how I watch a lot of Netflix in my life as a stay-at-home… Right? I have mentioned that, right? Anyway, I’ve shifted from obsessively watching everything Joss Whedon was involved in to watching not-that-great television (oh Gossip Girl, you make me ashamed) to watching random hit-or-miss movies to watching documentaries. I do this while working on art projects (and, who am I kidding, blogging), and I’ve learned that having a consistent Hum of Interesting Noise in the background is key to me actually being productive.

Monday morning I spent finishing up the last touches for The Loneliest Mustache (have you checked it out? because, um, shameless plug–you should totally go read it) and put on a documentary that I had been meaning to watch for a while. It was amazing and opened up a rabbit hole of Netflix recommendations. I figured after five documentaries in two days, it was probably time for a recap. And, you know, nothing screams Blog Fodder like a document-a-thon recap.

Art Is Embarrassing
This movie follows the career and life of Wayne White. If you haven’t heard of him before, don’t worry about. It means you’re not a hipster. For the record, I had no clue who he was before watching the documentary, and by the end, I would willingly trade lives with him. He’s an artist in the truest, most organic sense of the word. He essentially plays for a living, which is super cool. He was a huge part of the set for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and more recently is known for some awesome typography paintings on top of thrifted sceneries. I walked away (figuratively, since I am a couch potato) from this film feeling not just inspired to make art, but inspired to follow the inner tuggings of my imagination. All in all, that’s a good feeling to end on.

Monica & David
This documentary follows a young couple who’s getting married. It sounds like a simple and unconventional premise, with the exception that they both have Down syndrome. The whole piece was done with a pretty small budget, but it is very respectful and interesting. I know that, as an outsider to the world of disabilities, oftentimes it can feel like an entirely separate and unapproachable world. Fears of saying the wrong thing, of unintentionally being insensitive–the list goes on. For the record, I think it’s totally valid to have these fears and I also think it’s the responsibility of a compassionate citizen to get over those fears and treat other people with respect and dignity. That being said, I think this documentary is great in that it serves to explain and demystify a segment of the population–people with Down syndrome–that I don’t come into contact with on a regular basis.

Loving Lampposts
This is probably my all-time new favorite documentary. From a purely journalistic, scholarly perspective, it was done so well. The film documents the history of autism–not specifically people with autism, although they play a large role in the film. Like I mentioned in my summary of Monica & David, it gives a lot of insight into what it means to be autism. My favorite quote from the movie “There’s a saying in the world of autism–once you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” It covers elements like the vaccine debate and the long line of “cures” for autism in a way that is completely respectful to both sides, and it’s done in a way that really lets the readers draw their own conclusions. I mean, I say that even though I feel like the debate is settled with one side the clear victor, so maybe that’s my own biases feeding into it. Whereas I feel like a lot of documentary directors relying on adding text to the bottom to supplement whatever the film is portraying, there was none of that in Loving Lampposts–it really was about asking people questions and listening to their answers. It is to the director’s credit that he asked some really poignant questions.

Somewhere Between
This documentary follows several girls who were adopted from China into American families. It wasn’t my favorite documentary, but the parts of it that I liked, I absolutely loved. Most of this documentary didn’t seem all that hard-hitting. Turns out, some adopted kids are really interested in their roots, and others aren’t. Some are interested in the countries they come from, some aren’t. Some are at peace with the families that gave them up, and some aren’t. Some don’t feel that being adopted has influenced their personality all that much, and others have. In summation–different people respond to similar situations differently. There is a very glaring and yet invisible bias among all the girls portrayed, and that is to be involved in this kind of project, you have to be outspoken about your adopted roots. And that, if you are outspoken about being adopted, odds are you’re interested in exploring those roots. Like I said, not that ground-breaking. It was very well done, though, and I don’t regret watching it at all.

This Is What Love In Action Looks Like
Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. Where do I even start? I’ll totally admit that my coming out experience was deeply rooted in the film But I’m A Cheerleader, since one line in that film clued me into my own sexual preferences. Did not realize those camps are a real thing. If you’re a person who believes in loving and respecting all people regardless of their sexual preferences or gender identity, then this movie is guaranteed to make your blood boil. Also? It’s a documentary that’s based a religious camp, and so it features of lot of Christians. I think that, from the standpoint of the documentary maker, that’s a good thing. Hearing a Christian-based backlash to a Christian-based hate camp is a good thing. That being said, I’m not a Christian. So a documentary with most of the interviewees talking about their journey to find Christ despite being gay isn’t really high on my interest level. The best part of the movie, and the part that I wish I WISH they had gone further with, is the camp director’s experience. His was my favorite storyline, because it spoke the most clearly to the possibility of redemption.

Alright, well that was a good 1k words for you to ponder over. How about you guys? Any documentaries that I should add to my Netflix cue?

The Loneliest Mustache

So in the new found freedom of unemployment, I’ve had some time on my hands. It’s been kind of fun to use that time to wrap up the loose ends on old projects and planning out new ones. I mentioned that I got a wacom tablet for my birthday (thanks mom!!) and it’s been the best tool for me to finish up some sketches that had been bubbling on the back burner as I tried to figure out what medium would be best.

>>cue The Loneliest Mustache. It’s the worst kind of nerdy hipster dorkiness that I can muster, but if you read it to the end you might even see a tiny hint of a social commentary.

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Also? Keep bearing with me as I stretch this blog revamp over the span of eternity! Sorry it’s taking so long. I’m indecisive, I guess.

Adventures with apple cider vinegar

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So I’ve written a bit about what it’s like to have gastroparesis before over on the Moose blog ,but basically–my stomach sucks at digesting. A poor balance of acid and a mostly paralyzed stomach muscle makes eating a painful process. My mom got wind of a good treatment to try out, though, and so she put me onto raw apple cider vinegar. I was putting the whole thing off, preferring to live in denial than pursue actual treatments, but David is on my mom’s side (the traitor) and insisted we pick some up while from our local hipster-happy co-op. In his defense, I spent the last week of March so incapable of digesting food that I was fainting and throwing up an hour after every eating attempt. Still, though, his betrayal can’t go unpunished, so I convinced him to try it out with me.

Here’s where the unfortunate part of the story kicks in. We didn’t know how much we were supposed to take, so I threw out the suggestion of half a shot each. For what it’s worth, there was some historical roots for this. Growing up, whenever my sister and I were sick with sore throats, our mom would fill a glass of water and add a couple drops of cayenne oil. She tried pouring short glasses, but we insisted on lots of water. Clearly we didn’t understand the whole oil-and-water-don’t-mix, but whatevs. It was painful, as you can imagine, but it worked well enough. we got a little older and realized that a shot of water with a couple drops of cayenne oil was over a lot faster than a glass full, and was only marginally more painful.

As I was saying, though, a shot glass full of apple cider vinegar seemed reasonable. I even made the comment to David that it smelled kind of nice. Worst comes to worst, though, it would be over in a flash, right?

Wrong.

Bottoms up, we clinked our shot glasses together and downed them. Almost instantly the pain began. It wasn’t so much physical pain as it was being so incredibly nauseous it was painful. It was horrible. The liquid hadn’t even finished traveling down my throat and I already wanted to throw it up. A quick glance at David’s squinty, frowny face let me know that he was in the same boat. It was so horrible. So so horrible. I could physically feel the sensation of the liquid reaching my stomach, and it was like fireworks. Nothing was happy. Not any kind of normal, regular nausea I’d ever experienced before (and remember–I’ve experienced a lot of intestinal issues), but a rolling, sweat-inducing bitter kind of nausea.

That’s probably way too much detail, but don’t worry, the ending is mild–nothing weird happened. I mean, you’d think, right? But nope. And yet, nothing illustrated the brokenness of my stomach more than that moment. While David definitely did not have a pleasant time of it either, his discomfort and nausea was over after twenty minutes. Mine? My stomach was in agony for two hours. Two whole frickin’ hours of misery. The pain in my stomach fizzled (after two hours) and I managed to drink some water and hold it down. The next day I could eat a little bit, so it seemed to work.

A couple days later my mom asked me if I had ever gotten around to trying it out and I told her it was way too horrible, and way too much agony to try again. Her face was full of shock and confusion, especially when David chimed in to describe the horror. She asked for the full story, so we gave it to her. When we reached the part where we mentioned shot glasses, though, was when she stopped us and started laughing. Hysterically. For about ten minutes.

So… apparently we’re just supposed to take like a tablespoon. And, you know, mix it in some other drink. That being said, it’s taken me a couple weeks to be able to muster up the courage to take the vinegar again, but those two weeks have been a downward spiral for my digestion. David mentioned it’d be a good idea to try again, so despite the fact that the smell of apple cider vinegar now makes my stomach roll over, I mixed in a tablespoon into some grapefruit juice.

Bottoms up!

A boring day in the life

I spend the day at home, alone but for a dog. Well, two at the current moment. I always fall asleep with the intention of waking up with David–usually after he gets out of the shower and turns on the closet light–but every so often I’ll throw a blanket over my face instead and fall back asleep. My dog rocks because she’ll snooze right alongside me–if she’s really impatient, I’ll let her up on the bed and that always buys another hour. It would buy more, but I always end up waking up no more than an hour after David gets in his car for work. It’s like clockwork, I swear, and it makes me feel bad for sleeping in. After all, what’s an hour of extra sleep when compared to a cozy morning with my favorite fella?

It’s finally the time of year where daylight is streaming in from my balcony windows, so I keep the lights off and read with my back to the outside. Right now it’s Leviathan Wakes, a creepy political sci fi book. This is after I walk the dogs, of course, so I’m already in skinny jeans, a sports bra, graphic print tee and chunky sweater. I’m such a fashion statement on my days off…. I read until I realize I’m tracking my page count more than the plot, and force myself to put the book down. At this point the clocks reads somewhere around 9:30, and David sends me a good morning text. I never text before 9:30, more out of habit than as a rule, which means he thinks I sleep in till then. Unless it’s a really bad day for my mood swings, we won’t talk again until somewhere around his lunch break, usually around 1:00. More often than not I won’t tune into the time until 2:30, so it’ll take him a bit to respond.

9:30 is the time I pay attention to my laptop, and wonder what on earth I can scrounge up for a blog post. It never crosses my mind to quit blogging, but damn I am always last minute about posts. It’s also the time when I turn on the tv, and put whatever television show I’m working my way through on as background noise. I think it’s a bad habit that I should stop, so sometimes I’ll put on Pandora instead. Internet radio works better if I’m painting, though, and doesn’t get me in the same productive mood for internet things. Netflix is a much better counterpart, although I’m definitely getting to that point in my stay-at-home routine where finding things I want to watch is starting to escape me.

Right now I’m typing this in 750words which is still my favorite typing journal (although don’t for a minute think it’s replaced my handwritten journal). In the background is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Ringer. I watch it almost grudgingly, thinking all the while that I would enjoy it so much more if Joss Whedon had written it. Mostly because if Joss Whedon had written it, it would look a lot more like Angel than Gossip Girl.

The dog who counts

As some of you noticed from Instagram (@likeasmallfire), our household canine population doubled. We’re watching Syd, who is Lyra’s birthmommy, for a bit. It’s hilarious how two dogs could not possibly be more different from each other, yet share genetics. Sydney has some pretty intense herding instincts in her and as a result her inner monologue is a constant process of counting her people.

Syd Water

One… One… One two… One.. Onetwothree…. Two? Two Three? ONE?!? ONE?!?!?!!

And so it continues. Endlessly.

Syd and Lyra

This picture sums the two of them up really well–Syd fearlessly retrieving the ball at all costs* while Lyra watches. She watches because 1–she doesn’t fetch. She might run alongside the ball if you throw it, but the concept of retrieving the ball, or even acknowledging the ball, is entirely lost on her and 2–Lyra doesn’t do water. Once, when she was a puppy, my sister and I were in a canoe and talking to her as she stood at the edge of the dock. In her excitement, she walked over to us and belly flopped right into the lake, and that was the last time she willingly entered a body of water.
Syd Climbing

Syd is the classic dog you can do dog things with. You can get her to catch a ball-in fact, she begs you for it constantly-and she gets really into faux-agility training things like jumping over hurdles and climbing onto logs. Lyra patiently stands glued to your thigh and watches Syd, cheering her on politely.

All of this to say–she is a really great dog. We adopted her after our German Shepherd was killed in a pretty tragic car accident, and she filled our house with happiness we didn’t expect from another dog. Well, she filled it along with her brood of eight puppies, that is–we adopted her when she was almost full term. Talk about exciting life experiences! We don’t know everything about Syd’s background, but what we do know makes us surprised and grateful that she’s such a good dog. She’s loving, she’s trusting, and she’s even gotten over her fear of men, thanks to my very patient brother-in-law.

Syd Mid Fetch Syd Playing Syd Water Shake*The hilarious addendum is that, as much as she loves the water, she is not a water dog. If you throw the ball into a lake, you better not throw it further than she can walk because this dog does not swim. In fact, a couple times we had to politely ask some of the real water dogs to retrieve the ball when Syd refused to get within two feet of the floating tennis ball.