Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's snowing. On October 29th. Um?

This seems a bit early. And a bit extreme. A little early morning frost? Okay. I can live with that. But this? We just spent three hours working in the yard last Sunday, and now I can't even see the yard . . . . 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Boo on you, Shape magazine

In the days before I fell in love with This Old House, Shape was my favorite magazine. I've read it for years, had a subscription a handful of times, and generally enjoyed the content (however repetitive it may - and ultimately, must - be). 

Recently, however, magazines like TOH and Better Homes & Gardens and the Woman's Day issues that my mom has finished up with have tended to grab my attention whenever I have a (rare) 15 minutes to sit and enjoy a dozen or so pages. But today I took up the August 2011 issue of Shape (yes, I'm a little behind), and after feeling, well, only vaguely engaged for the first 70 or so pages, I then found myself more than vaguely enraged. Here's why: 

I turned to a multi-page article entitled "Look Good for a Lifetime" and immediately recognized the format: it charts changes/issues decade by decade (20s, 30s, etc.) and makes suggestions based on those age-specific issues. This particular article, I quickly learned, took up the subject of skin and how to keep it beautiful through the aging process. 

Fair enough. 

I was a bit shocked to learn, on the first page, that 20-somethings whose skin is "less radiant" than in previous years (due to decreasing fat stores in the skin) ought to invest in a $100-$300 chemical peel - monthly, no less - but it's a relatively painless and non-invasive procedure and I turned the page to the next decade, expecting something about creams and ointments and maybe an Rx for a product with Retin-a. 

Imagine my surprise: women in their 30s are encouraged to have their faces injected with muscle relaxers (e.g., Botox) or "fillers," the second of which requires a painful procedure costing (the first time) upwards of $1000. I flipped the page again, thinking, Surely when I hit the big 3-0 next year, my only options for skincare and improvement are not medical procedures?! 

What greeted me for the 40s and 50s were no less ridiculous. For you women in your 40s - hit up the lasers and the "tightening devices" (that sounds to me a little too much like a medieval torture device); those of you in your 50s, I hope you've been saving your dough: Shape magazine suggests you go under the knife (for more than $2500) to have an eye lift or, at the very least, using Latisse to thicken your eyelashes. Forget buying a $12 tube of Max Factor - get a prescription! 

Silly me! I thought this was a good
way to enhance your lashes! 
Basically, I'm calling bullsh*t. 

Hey, I'm all for looking good as you age, and before the attack of rosacea took over my cheeks at age 23 (one of my sisters also has it and it's nearly impossible to get rid of), I had great skin, which I miss on a daily basis. But if looking good and being "confident" (this is the article's word) comes at the cost of, well, a ton of money and a whole lot of pricking and injecting and lasering, I have to wonder what exactly it means to be "confident." 

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I believe in hard work and its benefits. When I work our hard and look good, I feel good and proud and confident. Would I look good if a got lipo? Sure, who wouldn't? But would I feel good about myself? I know I wouldn't, and I don't think that our culture - especially our women and girls - need to be hearing that it's okay to strive to "look good" no matter how you have to fake it, buy it, or suffer physical pain for it. 

You've let me down, Shape. You really let me down. 

On writing, etc.

"Don't throw anything you've written away - cut brutally when you're working, but keep everything because this is the great fact. We are all strangers to ourselves. From palm readers to analysts, we try to find the way to decipher our dreams. Don't try to sort it out - make stones - make clay - a writer is a sculptor who has to make his own rock. I understand now why it's not playwrite but playwright - wright as in wheelwright - boat wright - wright refers to the craft and the craft is the method we use to make a new map to the unconscious" - John Guare, preface to Six Degrees of Separation

It's finally happened: I'm a published fiction writer. As of earlier this week. Still waiting for the contributor's copies to arrive in the mail (maybe Monday?!), but I've seen the back cover with my name on it online, and it's an unreal feeling. (Brad printed out the front and back cover for his bulletin board at work - what a cutie.) I'm 29 years old, and I've been writing stories since I knew how to write. So this is what it feels like to, well, achieve something you've dreamed for years of achieving. Hmmmm, I like it. 

Also awesome is the fact that my story appears in the same issue as a poem from a National Book Award-winning poet - yi-kes! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's coming down

I'm talking about the wallpaper. The hideous, hideous wallpaper in the upstairs hall and along the stairs. 

But there's more to this: 

Brad and I are the black sheep of, well, not exactly the neighborhood (that title goes to a lot of other people before it goes to us - like the family with the giant camper parked in the driveway in front of their house 6 months out of the year), but we are definitely the black sheep of the 3 or 4 houses on either side and across the street. 

Meaning: Brad hasn't cut the grass (or dealt with the accummulated leaves) in three weeks; we haven't trimmed a shrub since, um, May; the weeds have been growing unfettered since early August; etc. etc. etc. So, we're slackers. I don't deny it. But it's not that bad and our next door neighbors (who we love) aren't too many steps behind us. 

One of our neighbors, Dale, however, has an uncanny knack for repeatedly asking if Brad's going to cut the grass "today." And he asks this almost every time we see him. To be fair, he's a wonderful, helpful neighbor, and he and his dad are very generous with us, but when I'm sprinting into my house from the car to avoid him asking me for the fourth time in a week if Brad's going to cut the grass today, it's a problem. 

And then yesterday happens. He'd already accosted me on my way in from the chiropractor around 11:30. Then, circa 2:00, the doorbell rings. I answer it. And he says, "Hi, I just wanted to see if you wanted me to help Brad with the leaves." My head nearly exploded. I nicely said, "No, he's going to take care of it tomorrow. Thanks though," and that was that. 

Except then I shut the door and started ripping off the wall paper with my fingernails (the ugly crap's got to go!) to expel my frustration. Brad was very apologetic that he hadn't done the grass sooner which made this whole situation possible, but my irritation is not at him; neighbors need to mind their own damn business. I don't go across the street and say, "I find your siding to be rather an ugly color. Are you changing that today?" do I? 

Anyway, it's obvious I'm irked - especially since today was already designated "Get the Yard Looking Presentable and Ready for Winter Day" - and now I've started this wallpaper project that's going to take forever to finish. But, hey, maybe when the walls are bare, the horrible green and pink is gone, and we're about to start painting a lovely color, I can go over to Dale and say, Thanks. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Philosoraptor says . . .

Courtesy of Brad, courtesy of the Philosoraptor - The Philosophy of a Dirty Reptile Mind App for the iPad 2, I've come across this hilarious little piece of brilliance: 

"If a man speaks his mind in a forest and no woman is around to hear it . . . Is he still wrong?" 

Surely the answer is yes. :)

The Friday 4: Tacky Trends

Okay, so they're not really trends in the usual sense, but I really liked the alliteration. Whether I'm witnessing these things or just hearing about them, I find them to be unacceptably ick and surely I'm not just being a prude (?). 

4.  Leaving up outdoor Christmas decorations year-round 

I will admit it:  I've got a thing for interior Christmas decorations, namely the tree. In fact, I just asked Brad the other day if we could put up the tree. His response? "It's a little early." He's probably right - especially since we'll likely have it up from after Thanksgiving till March. 

Your house should not look like this in March. 
That said, my family and friends are the only ones who have to suffer my out-of-season indoor Christmas decorations, whereas leaving up your blinking lights and icicles 365 days a year affects not only your neighbors but all passersby. It's jarring and confusing to those innocent bystanders, and it's just plain laziness on the part of the offenders. Take the darn decorations down, you tacksters; take them down. 

3.  Having a "sprinkle" 

That is, a smaller baby shower for a second (or third, or fourth) child. 

I never even heard of such a ludicrous thing until Amanda got invited to one (and then another and another and . . . ). I'm sorry, but you had your shower for your first child - and if you didn't, sorry, but the time has passed. Suck it up and buy what you need yourself. Your good friends and close family members will likely shower you and your little one with presents when the big day arrives anyway. Why should people, many of whom dropped $50+ on you the first time around, be expected to do so again? 

Nope. Sorry. It's tack-ay. 

2.  Parking on your lawn 

Veto. Veto. Veto. 
Really? Is your driveway so short, your garage so crowded, your street so narrow, that the only place you could feasibly park was in the grass? Cars, however nice or small or shiny or whatever they may be, are not lawn decorations. They are means of transportation, and last I checked, the appropriate repository for means of transportation not currently in use is not the front yard. 

Unless you're living out in the wilderness (Shannon, this means you), you've got neighbors who have to look at that car on your lawn. So get the keys, turn the thing on, and move it somewhere else - preferably to a paved surface. 

1.  Wedding shower without the wedding 

No, I'm not referring to when someone has a shower and then the wedding doesn't happen. I'm talking about when a couple has a wedding in an exotic location, or maybe even a courthouse ceremony, and no one is invited - but the bride-to-be also has a shower to which everyone is invited. 

Look: most people, myself included, hate going to weddings and hate going to showers, too. They're tedious, eat the entire day, and after about the second one, start to seem inane and identical to one another. 

If you're not having this, 
don't have a shower. 
But we nevertheless attend, when we can't come up with a good excuse to get out of them, b/c, well, we have to. The wedding deal is "I give you $/a present and you feed me and provide me with terrible music for 4 or so hours." The wedding shower deal is "I give you more $/another present and you feed me probably really bad food and we play dumb games for 2+ hours in anticipation of my giving you $/a present and you feeding me and providing me with terrible music for 4 or so hours." The wedding, as you see, is crucial to the shower logic. 

Everybody likes presents. It's as natural to human beings as breathing air and criticizing others. But if you're not wasting your money throwing a big bash for other people to not really enjoy (I do so love mocking the wedding industry), then it's not right to ask them to come on over and give you some stuff. To do so takes the tacky cake.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oh, look! It's new!

My blog look, that is. No, it's not super fancy-shmancy, and I haven't even changed my picture (how boring I am!), but it's fall and this is a fall-ish look, so it's fun and seasonally appropriate, if I do say so myself. 

I mean, there's orange, and other than brown/tan/caramel, I don't know what's more fall than the color orange. You got your orange-y leaves on the ground. You got your obviously orange pumpkins doing their thing. You got your sort-of-orangish-if-you-squint-your-eyes cider. (Speaking of, I just had some delicious cider from Trader Joe's at school yesterday, and boy does it scream, "Fall's here!" Which is interesting if you don't usually think of beverages as talking, let alone screaming.) 

And I'm sure there are other orange things that just aren't coming to mind. Hardy mums? Candy corn? 

Anyway, enjoy fall while it lasts. It's my favorite season, and maybe yours, too, but I feel like it keeps getting shorter and shorter over the years. Like, we only have truly fall weather (45-65 degrees, some wind, chilly but not miserable) for a month and a half at most. Then it's into freezing town, at least for us Pixburghers . . . So, I'm eating it up while it's here!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Butcher and I were just commenting on this today, so I know it's not just me, but I find the word "partner," when used as a replacement for "husband," "wife," "spouse," "boyfriend," or "girlfriend," to be simply unnecessary and annoying. As Butcher put it, it's pretentious. Am I off-base here? 

Why does it bother me? Well, I can only sort of articulate it, but it bugs me when married people use it b/c they seem (in my mind, at least) to be saying, "Sophisticated me has contempt for this man-made system of union, and I refuse to buy into the arbitrary concepts of 'husband' and 'wife' which are limiting and socially constructed and, therefore, only for you dummies who are not so enlightened." 

But I want to be like, Hey, you're married, meaning despite whatever contempt you profess for the institution, you're a part of it. If you were so advanced, why did you GET married in the first place? 

A former professor of mine seemed to use "partner" in front of certain audiences - like large groups of people whose marital/partner (haha) status and political positions are not know - but in front of others - like me, who's married and calls Brad "my husband" - he would refer to the mother of his children as his "wife." If you're going to go the partner route, then, I say, you gotta go all the way. Waffling makes no sense whatsoever. 

As for why it irritates me as a "boy/girlfriend replacement," that's mainly b/c 
1.  Half the time people are trying to make their boy/girlfriend seem more significant than simply a boy/girlfriend. As in, I am mature and this is a serious relationhip - thus he is my partner

2.  The other half of the time, it's used to designate marriage replacement, as in, I actually do not buy into this man-made system of union, etc. etc. Which is all well and good, and I certainly understand the position. 

But seeing as I think that non-easily dissolvable unions are essential to the stability not just of the family (we see how well that's going these days) but of the society, I believe the answer is not in rejecting marriage but in rejecting the way it currently works and oppresses by being the change you want to see within this problematic institution

(All the feminist theory in the world isn't going to convince me that we need to go back to group partnering and communal child-rearing of the your-baby-is-my-baby-is-her-baby sort). 

I'm pretty sure gay people
couldn't marry in his day
When gay people use the term, it should be noted, I do not bristle. Since most of our country has neanderthal laws, gay men and lesbians who are in committed relationships are only allowed to be partners. As for using the term for a boy/girlfriend, it also makes sense to me given so many people's reactions to a man saying, "My boyfriend and I went to dinner the other night." Why should someone subject himself (or herself) to immediate judgment at the hands of ignorant oafs? 

Basically, I hate snootiness, and I've really never encountered a non-snooty heterosexual use of the term "partner" to designate a significant other. Climbing down off of soapbox . . . now-ish. :)

3rd time's a charm

So, after much ado semester after semester, it's finally happened: I'm teaching creative writing in the spring! 

Somehow, for the third semester in a row, the instructor who was supposed to teach this class cannot do so (and it's been a different person each time). The class didn't make in the summer, so I was out of luck there. Had to turn down the offer to teach it this fall b/c it was MWF and would have put me on campus every. day. of. the. week. (Which just cannot happen in my life.) At that point, I was convinced the dept. head would never offer it to me again . . . but, alas! 

It's a good thing, too, b/c six years into this teaching thing, freshman composition has become nothing if not stale. And tedious. So creative writing is exactly the breath of fresh air I need this spring (well, and in the burrrr cold winter months).

Normally I don't loathe comp. courses, but my class this fall would not be moved, I'm convinced, if I dressed up like a clown, came in the room and did a dance, then explained cause and effect to them in pantomime. About 2/5 of them would still sit there and look at me without even curiosity on their faces. I few would smile bemusedly. 

This sort of attitude makes teaching the same old thing very difficult. Even when, as I have this semester, you've changed up a bunch of your readings and are doing a new paper assignment and different activities, etc. That is, I'm not teaching the same old material in the same old way, but the gist is the same and it's tiresome. 

Creative writing is so much more exciting and freeing and interesting. Don't get me wrong - I have no illusions (I've taught creative writing and/or fiction courses three times before). I know it's still a class for only vaguely interested undergraduates; but I'll take vaguely over absolutely not interested any day of the week. 

So, with excitement I look forward to this course (and it's in a great Tuesday/Thursday time slot!). We'll read Amy Hempel, Denis Johnson, Jo Ann Beard, Yusef Komunyakaa, and so much other fabulous stuff. Yea! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Don' you go rounin' roun to . . . what?!

Friday night Brad and Red Boxed Blitz, a barely mediocre cop movie with Jason Statham (yummity yum) at the helm. We understood about 82% of the dialogue, and only that much b/c of context clues, interpreting for one another, and continual rewinding. 

Blitz, as I did not know until after we'd made our movie selection (the choices were slim regardless), is a British movie - meaning sexy Statham was not the only one speaking only-sort-of-discernable English. Everyone was speaking that variety, and further, they were doing so in the like 18 accents that somehow manage to exist in a country that's about 2/3 the size of California. 

What is it about the way Brits speak that makes it so darn incomprehensible? Are American English and our accents this incomprehensible to the Brits? To the rest of the English speaking world? Goodness. I could barely follow the story. One highlight was Brad informing Mr. Statham, "The word is chips, not crisps." My response? "Wait - he was talking about potato chips?" Something (many things) was clearly lost in translation. 

We had a not dissimilar experience watching Luther this summer. Luther, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a fabulous British mini-series starring Idis fricking Elba, formerly of The Wire fame (oh, Stringer Bell). First of all, I had no idea he was British till I saw that show. Second of all, I love how the Brit cops say "Gov" when they're talking to the lieutenant. Third of all, we loved the show but only understood about 85-87% of what was being said during any episode. 

And it's not just media. I mean, when Brad and I first rode the metro upon our arrival to London in summer '08, three soccer players had a conversation next to us in a language that was both certainly my own and certainly not. I think I understood a sum total of 16 words in about 10 minutes. And I don't think we heard that same version of the language one more time over 3 days in the city. 

All this puts me in mind of a completely delightful, totally-worth-watching SNL clip, "Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro" -

It's a favorite of mine and Brad's, and it never fails to crack us up completely. Shannon was thoroughly amused when we showed her this summer, and I assure you, if you've ever found yourself watching a British movie/show and asking, "What the heck did he just say? What's happening?" you won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Soreness? No. No way

The nature of "being in shape" has now, officially, alluded me. Please somebody explain it. 

Let me relate my tale: this morning I wake up, flex my ankle, and ow, it appears that my calf, and wait, yes, my other calf as well, is sore. No big deal, except I cannot for the life of me fathom how this has happened as I have done virtually nothing for the past, oh, 14 days. 

The only conceivable cause - the only exertion I expended yesterday - is the 3 flights of stairs I walked up in the parking garage (3, not 30) and the hill I climbed from Subway up to campus. Wearing shoes I always wear, at a not-that-fast pace. This is like .2 on a 1 to 10 scale of stuff-that-makes-your-calves-hurt. 

Is it possible that after spending 4 months running/walking/Zumba-ing, a person (me) can take a 2-week not-feeling-well hiatus and end up with sore calves from this baloney above? Either I don't understand how the body works or how exercise changes (and doesn't change the body) or both or something. 

Am I just supposed to assume that it takes 4 months to get into shape and 2 weeks to get out of it?! Please tell me this is not so. Two weeks is not a long time at all. Goodness, it's like an extended vacation. (Except if you get to go on an extended vacation, I hope you don't feel as cruddy as I've been feeling.)

Finally (!) an Acceptance

No, I have not been twiddling my thumbs over here: I've actually been working my butt off (and, like half of the grad students in my office, I've been sick for weeks), and I'm finally seeing the fruits of my labor - I got accepted to the Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association conference in April! 

My luck with conferences has been, well, no luck at all, and my goal for this semester was either to 

1.  Finally get accepted somewhere after already having been rejected at 5 conferences; or 

2.  Really (depressingly) impress myself with 10 rejections total by year's end. 

I have to say, I'm pleased with the outcome :). 

On top of writing up an abtract for PCA/ACA (which took me unusually long for some reason), I wrote a different one for a conference in Louisville and submitted creative work for their creative panel, and I'm in the midst of organizing a panel on a different topic for the Narrative Conference - a bad*ss international conference being held in Las Vegas in March. 

B/c Narrative is so super awesome it's really hard to get into and they don't have much love for grad students I've been told. So, I'm not holding my breath. Even so, I've got an assistant prof. on my panel and a doctoral student with a number of publications, and I think all our papers sound pretty strong. Basically, I'm keeping my fingers crossed but not gonna freak out over a rejection (besides, after 5, I'm so far beyond freaking out about such things). 

Anyway, good things are happening, and the stress and time suck that is applying to these things is winding down for the time being, especially since I'm not applying to ALA b/c I've got stuff going on during May when the conference is scheduled. Spring already promises to be busy as I'm reading in a creative writing reading series sponsored by the department and most likely presenting in a university program that features researchers on campus as well as from outside the university. 

Finally finally finally! I'm exhausted, but I feel so much less loser-y. And it's a good conference to boot :).