May 3, Houston: The big one -- the Inprint reading -- occurs at the Alley Theatre on Monday, May 3. Do not miss it or you'll be sorry. I'm not kidding -- I'm going to say the craziest, most intellectual yet hilarious stuff I can think of, and I'll be sharing the stage with the ultra sexy Oscar Casares, too.
June 24, Houston: I'm one of the peeps scheduled to read at Poison Pen, at Houston's famous Poison Girl bar. Besides me, everyone there will be ultra, *super* sexy. Come see me and drink!
June 26, Washington, DC: I'll be reading at the American Library Association conference. Come on down.
My other blog: Go read my the Houston Chronicle parenting blog (or my ChronMomBlog, as I like to call it) and make sure my kids won't resent me more than other kids resent their own parents.
Buy my new novel, Lone Star Legend. Already did? Well, buy a few more for your friends, then. :)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008what happens most
All day long I look at people doing things they don't want to do, or not doing things they do want to do. It's depressing.
Obviously, most of us have to work for our living. But does that also mean that we have to talk about the weather? Eat bland food? Buy only one bag, and make sure that bag is black so that it goes with everything? Watch whatever they put on the TV at 7 PM? Stay home when we'd really rather be out, doing anything else? Drive by places we'd like to see, but tell ourselves we can't go in, for no reason at all? Wear whatever set of something that someone put on a rack? Keep our opinions to ourselves? Keep our eyes down? Laugh at things that aren't funny? Smile at people we don't like? Do things for people who don't appreciate it, and wait in vain for them to do things for us? Do the same things every day, even if they've never made us happy?
Why, people? Come on and love yourselves better. If you don't, who will?
A Sad Story About Body Image
A while back I hauled my boyfriend, Tad, to the 35th anniversary celebration of MECA, the local non-profit arts organization at which I used to do artsy stuff as a teenager. Someone there had made a DVD compilation of many shows they've hosted over the years. One of them was West Side Story, staged in 1989, in which seventeen-year-old me played Anita.
My boyfriend Tad wanted to see the whole thing, so we borrowed MECA's old VHS tape of the first half. (It's like, three thousand hours long, and no one knows where the VHS of the second half is.) I told the MECAns that I would have it copied to DVD and then return it postehaste.
At home, Tad and I made popcorn (or glasses of wine, can't remember) and settled in to watch the blast from my past. We pushed Play on the VCR (that I still keep plugged in because it's the only way we have of connecting the DVD, the PS2, and the XBOX360 to our TV. I know -- I need to upgrade.)
Just hearing the intro music made me nervous. Then, I saw myself on stage in my red satin dress with salsa petticoats, in the long, brown, curly-haired wig that covered my tacky '90s skater hair, in the flat jazz shoes I had to wear instead of the sexy character shoes that everyone else wore, so that I wouldn't be taller than Bernardo... and the first thing I thought was, "God, I'm so big."
I was 5'9", size 6.
God, I was so big.
I'm not saying that as a former or current sufferer of body dysmorphia. I'm just telling y'all that, compared to everyone else I knew then, I was very big.
Watching the show made me uncomfortable. I don't think I'd ever even seen it before in its entirety, but watching myself on the TV that night instantly freaking transported me into the prism of awkwardness that I was way back then. I saw my lackluster dancing and it made me feel, again, the fear of putting my arms out too far, standing up too straight, and being too big for the stage, my man, and everyone else. I heard my minimalist line recital and felt again the fear of being too Latina or not Latina enough. Too good or not good enough. I looked at my own face and re-felt all the worries, fears, insecurities, and awkward, awkward, embarrassing, humiliating, shame and guilt and insecure, fearful, worried etcetera. All the time. Every day.
"This is terrible," I said.
"This is awesome," Tad said. "You were hot. I wish I'd known you back then. I mean, even though I was only eleven years old and you wouldn't have talked to me. But still."
"I'm so big," I said. And then I told Tad everything I just told you, about the insecurity and the awkwardness and the bleh.
He said I wasn't big at all. He said, "Baby. You were a woman, and those other girls were girls. That's nothing to be ashamed of."
Why didn't he tell me that back then? you're wondering. I don't know.
Anyway. I called my friend Letty, also a MECA survivor, and she told me she often felt the same way. Too big. Not small enough. Weird. Ungainly. Grotesque. Like a monster. Funny how the world can make you feel that way, while simultaneously exploiting girls your age for illegal pornography. You know?
So anyhow. I decided not to have the VHS tape made into a DVD. I don't want that thing. It doesn't make me happy.
I was kind of sad not to see the second half, though. The second half contained my best song -- a duet with my friend Tania, who got the Maria part but wanted Anita, while I got Anita and wanted Maria so badly. I think we did very well, considering that she was the natural alto and I was the second soprano.
Also, the second half contained the "struggle" scene, which was pretty much an attempted rape scene, in which Ziggy Garcia played a white guy Jet who wanted a taste of spicy Anita, and in which I regularly fought Ziggy off, sometimes to the point of hurting him, and once to the point of my wig falling off. That was a fun scene to play. It was cathartic, at least -- all that angst getting channeled into violence. Getting to be angry in front of everybody. Being glad, for the moment, that I was big.
A Sad Message for Twenty-Something Women
I'm going to tell y'all something that a thirty-something woman told me, back when I was in my twenties. Because it was something I never would have known, otherwise, and because I love y'all. Here it is:
The first part of you to get old is your stomach.
Your digestive system, to be exact. That's the first thing on your body to fall apart. When you turn thirty, something on that trail will start slacking on the job. Acid reflux. Constipation. Gall stones. Flatulence. Etcetera.
You'll think back to all the times you heard older people make weird, random-seeming complaints like, "I need more fiber" or "I wish I could eat processed meats" or "Today's one of those mashed-potatoes-only days for me." And you'll be like, "ZOMG! Now I know what they're talking about! And therefore, I am turning old!"
And you'll be right. And you'll be sad.
I'm just telling y'all because I love y'all, and I don't want you to be scared when you turn thirty, thinking that it's only happening to you. It's not. It's happening to us all, and we will all end up eating nothing but mashed potatoes and oatmeal. It's the cycle of life.
1. Starbuck still doesn't like Toby.
2. Toby still feels a need to dig in the houseplant, although I couldn't tell if it was for waste products or just for fun.
3. Toby discovered that food and water taste even better when they come from Starbuck's bowls.
4. Starbuck kind of hates Toby's guts, actually.
5. I forgot to tell y'all the other day that I think Toby's part Siamese, or some other kind of Asian cat ethnicity. You can't really tell in the pics I've shown you, but he has the Asian cat eyes and head shape. When we got him, he didn't really meow a lot. When he got home, I noted that he would meow once, in response to his name. (Smart boy.) But then, last night, at 1 AM, Toby decided he needed to meow. A lot. It was like, "Meow. What's up, y'all? How come everyone's lying down and all the lights are off? What's everybody doing? Why isn't anyone petting me? Hello? HELLO-O-O-O!"
And I was like, "Oh my god, someone's on fire!" as I jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen to warm a bottle or catch vomit in my hands or fight off a monster or whatever. But it was just Toby, speaking his mind. He got quiet as soon as I came out and found him. He even stayed quiet when I tripped over his giant cat body in the dark. So I pet him half a time, told him to play quietly, and went back to bed.
Thirty minutes later, it started again. "Hello! You guys! What's up? I thought y'all woke up and were gonna play with me! How come I'm the only one talking? Meow!"
I ignored him so he wouldn't be rewarded for his noise-making. He quieted down. Then, an hour later, he piped up again. But this time it was more like, "Meow yow yow, doo dee doo... Here I am, walking around. I think I'll eat from this bowl. Mm, that was good. Hmm. Why's that other cat hissing at me again? Man, it sure is quiet in here. Hey, what's that out the window? Man, I sure am awake now. Funny how I'm the only one..."
And then I thought that he sounded Siamese. Because isn't that something Siamese cats do? Talk to themselves?
6. I took more pictures of Toby and Starbuck, with a Mexican piggy bank next to each for scale. Didn't have time to post them, though. I'll have to do that later today, after the day job is done.
I'm still doing the Shimmies. However, I'm starting to realize that belly dancing in sweatpants and a t-shirt could never be as fun as belly dancing in a hip scarf and sequined bra.
That's how they get you, see. That's how they get you hooked. They make you shake your hips to the too-mellow music, and then you wish you had fake gold coins to keep the beat. Next thing you know, you're spending all your money on costumes and spending all your weekends at the Renaissance fairs.
It's a racket, I tell you. "Sensual dance with mystical origins, as old as the sands of time." Sure. That's how old the hip-scarf-selling racket is. I should have known. 5:21 AM # (13) comments
Tuesday, January 29, 2008Toby update
Toby spent the night in my oldest son's room. Starbuck spent the night in the living room, instead of on my bed like she normally does. Was she guarding the whole house from Toby? I don't know. After I woke up, she went into my room, I guess. Moments later, Toby bounded in to say good morning. I petted him. Then I heard this ominous, "Er-r-r-r-r... ERR-R-R-R!" from under the bed. "Starbuck! Be nice!" I yelled.
Poor Toby, after apparently holding it all night, finally went to the bathroom... in one of our houseplants. "No-o-o!" I cried, scaring him across the house. But then he let me carry him back into the hall and show him the real litter box. I'd shown it to him yesterday, but neglected to scratch his paws in it, like you're supposed to. So I did his paws, and he made this face like, "Oh. That's why you showed me this box yesterday. Okay."
I hope that, once the house is emptied of humans, Starbuck will get bored enough to be a good hostess. Maybe she'll give Toby a tour and let him share a seat next to her at the Bastard-Squirrel-Watching Window.
Avon: What's up with it?
At my work, in the room called Ladies, there's a new Avon catalog with something weird on the back. It says, "Rich, creamy goodness! Moisturizing body yogurt!" And it shows pastel, fruit-scented lotions in yogurt-carton-like containers, with a spoon dipping into one of them.
Isn't that kind of disgusting? Body yogurt? Not only does it sound like smearing food on your body, which is a practice best left to seventies porn, in my opinion, but it also carries the vague connotation of... I don't know. A cure for yeast infections or something? Okay, I'm sorry I said that. But I had to. It was there, in the back of my mind. I'm just not turned on to the body yogurt idea.
Plus, the ad copy: "Rich, creamy goodness." Doesn't that sound like early 2000s blogspeak? Like a phrase a blogger would use facetiously, on a blog called something like, "A Blog of One's Own" or "Randomized Thoughts," to describe Josh Hartnett in a shirtless scene?
You'll be glad to know that I finally found a pair of brown boots.
And I got them on outrageous discount, 65% off. I want to wear them every day. I'm wearing them today, in fact, with a dress they probably don't go with. They look sort of like galoshes with this dress. But I don't care.
Here they are. They look just like that, but darker. That picture is way bright/reddish on my monitor, for some reason.
And, normally I wouldn't link to something I bought in that way, but I really wanted you to see the boots, because I've been talking about looking for brown boots on this blog for, what? Nine thousand years now? And I know y'all have probably been worried about it. It's probably kept y'all up at night, your concern regarding my boot search... So I just wanted you to know you can lay the matter to rest now.
rich people annoyingness
There are certain web sites in this world on which the commenters annoy me with their snobbery. It's usually on sites about fashion or New York that a certain breed of blogsnob will show up and hate on people who buy cheap clothing. They'll be like, "Oh my god, I wouldn't be caught dead in Old Navy. People who shop at Kohl's should kill themselves. I use Banana Republic silk blouses to wipe my nose. I can't touch, share oxygen with, or live in the bourrough of anyone who browses the Barney's clearance racks."
And I always think, "Yeah, right." Who are these people, who brag about their wealth and discriminating taste anonymously, in someone else's blog comments? Who are they supposed to be fooling? Who would care, besides the other faux rich people commenting anonymously?
Then again, maybe they aren't fake. Unfortunately, I've met some rich people in real life who really do believe that either:
a) they're smart for being rich and everyone else is stupid for not being rich, or
b) they're better than everyone else, as evidenced by the fact that they were born rich.
Maybe people who were born rich are better than everyone else (or at least they were, in a past life). But I don't think so. And I'm not just saying that because I was born poor.
Some people think that we're all the same -- that no one is better than anyone else. I don't believe that, either.
I think that being a good person (good person, better person, best person) is based on your behavior. We can't all be born rich, smart, or attractive, but most of us can make the choice to be good -- to treat others as we'd like to be treated -- or to be assholes. And that's the basis on which I set a person's value, in my mind.
All that sounds super elementary and not worth discussing, I know. But I swear to gosh, I really do talk to people on a daily basis who believe that being born with money makes someone a more valuable person. Or that pretty people are more valuable. Or that smart people are. To each their own, I guess. But I hate it when people apply that value system to me. I hate it when someone quite obviously decides that I'm good enough to talk to because they find me attractive enough, or because I've published a book, or because I've pulled myself up by the bootstraps. Don't talk to me if that's why you're talking to me. Don't talk to me if you're an asshole.
(I know some of y'all reading this blog are rich, and some of you are Republicans, and that it sometimes seems like I hate rich people and Republicans. I know this because y'all write to me and say, "I know you hate rich Republicans, but I am one and I still like your blog." I don't hate rich people or Republicans! I know a lot of decent people of both persuasions, and I wouldn't judge y'all on that, alone. :) )
And that ends my rant for today. Come back next time for another petty, judgmental, evil rant.
A while back, I was on this here blog pretending that I might take up jogging, and my e-buddy Mike gave me some advice. He said, "Don't overtrain." And he cited an example of his own overzealous exercise and self-injury.
I thought of Mike the other day when I was trying to break through my weight-loss plateau. I'd already walked a couple of miles that day and done a half-hour routine with Gilad. And I was so annoyed at not having lost any more weight, I decided to do some cardio an hour before bed.
And I pulled a muscle in my lower back, and Mike's words floated above my head like the Ghost of Overzealous Workouts Past.
And now my back hurts, and I can hardly exercise at all. And I've only lost 2 lbs this month, when I should have lost 5. And now I just have to eat less, I guess, if I want to meet my goal, which is to lose 20 pounds total by May 1.
If I can't meet that goal, I won't hate myself or anything. But it will be a little disappointing, and it'll set back my plans and my time table for deciding on a Halloween costume. And etc.
But, if all that turns out to be the least of my problems, then I'll be doing pretty well and I'll be relieved. :) 5:30 AM # (7) comments
Monday, January 28, 2008I got a new cat today.
Our cat, Starbuck, seems lonely. Sometimes on the weekends we all spend the night elsewhere, and when I come back, she seems displeased at having spent the night alone. So I decided to get another cat, a kitten, maybe, so she wouldn't be alone. And so she wouldn't spend the rest of her life without seeing another feline, since she's an indoor-only cat and the only living thing she sees besides us is the bastard squirrel who keeps eating the buds off my gerber daisies.
So we went back to the Harris County Animal Shelter, which I like going to because it's like the zoo, but stinkier and free. With the help of awesome volunteers Linda and Nela, after two days of hemming and hawing, we picked out a little orange boy kitten with gold eyes. They told us he wouldn't be ready for release until yesterday. So we went home and thought up a name for him: OJ Smarfson. (Tad picked that. OJ because he's orange, and Smarfson because Tad originally wanted to name him Smarf but I said no.)
Yesterday we went to pick up OJ Smarfson and discovered that, overnight, he had turned evil. Suddenly, his mellow personality was replaced with bloodlust, and he tried to scratch us when we touched his cage. We didn't want a(nother) violent orange boy cat, because we already have scars from the last one. So we left OJ Smarfson there.
In the lobby, we stopped off in the Cat Display Room to play with the grown-up cats there. There were five or six of them playing in cat cubes or on these really fancy wooden cat condos that someone evidently crafted and donated to the shelter. Three of the cats were especially friendly, and swarmed around my son Rory's legs like pigeons on Jack in the Box tacos. One of those friendly cats was very, very big. He dwarfed the others, but was very friendly, like a dog. "I wish we could get this giant cat," said Rory, as the giant cat tried and failed to cuddle on Rory's lap. He was too big and had to climb Rory's chest like a tree, instead.
"Yeah, I like that one, but we're supposed to get a kitten, remember?" I said.
As we drove home, we talked about the awesomeness of the giant dog-like cat, and the way he was gentle with Rory and all the other cats, including the bitchy longhair who didn't want anyone else on her condo. I said that, if we owned the giant cat, we would name him Toby. "He does look like a Toby," Tad said.
We talked seriously about getting him, then, and wondered if Starbuck would get along with a bigger cat any worse than she'd get along with a kitten. The day before, the shelter volunteers had given me tips on introducing cats to one another. They'd talked about sectioning off the house for weeks at a time, about rubbing washcloths on the cats and then letting them get used to each other's smells, and etc.
And those sounded like good ideas, but I already knew I wasn't going to do all that. I've had a lot of cats in my life and I know how they are. They just deal with each other. They take a while to warm up to each other, and then they get over it. Sometimes, even cats who've lived together for years will bicker or fight or ignore each other. They're kind of like people, or kids. I figured, if I've managed to introduce three babies to my family over the years and no one's killed anyone else yet, the cats will probably be okay.
We decided Starbuck would be okay, and that her personality and Toby's would be compatible, and that they might eventually fall into platonic love.
I went back today to get Toby. The lobby of the shelter stinks really, really bad like stale urine. It hits you hard when you first walk in, and then you get used to it. The security guy at the door joked with the visitors ahead of me, saying that they sold that smell in incense form. As I signed in, Nela, the most expert cat volunteer, walked in behind me. I told her I wanted to adopt Toby. She was like, "Let me go get a carrier."
I feel bad for the volunteers because they love all the animals, and they know how little chance each one -- especially the older ones -- has of getting adopted. Toby is only 2, which is, like, college age for cats, but he can't compete with scads of kittens as far as cuteness is concerned. I notice that when I'm considering kittens, Nela encourages me to take my time and decide. When I say I want a grown-up cat, though, she says, "Let me get a carrier."
I stood at the cashier's window and watched Nela box Toby up. She brought him out to me and said that he seemed to know what was happening, because he got into the box and sat right down. I wondered, like I did the time before, if the cats really do know what's happening -- that they're going someplace better. It would be kind of cool if they did, but also kind of sad, because then the ones not chosen would be jealous. I imagine that's how it is for the dogs -- the dogs not chosen get sad. You can tell that the smarter, more experienced dogs try to act especially good when visitors come to see them. Because they want to be chosen. I always look at the dogs, too, even though it breaks my heart. But they have way more volunteers working with them than the cats do, and they get to go outside every day, so I guess it evens out.
Toby was very good throughout the long drive home to my suburb. When we brought him into the house, Starbuck sniffed his carrier until I thought her nose would bleed. Then she and Toby looked at each other like reflections in a mirror (you know how cats don't seem to recognize their reflections as cats), and then Toby went and got under my bed.
And then we noticed that he stank really, really bad, just like the lobby of the shelter. I didn't know if he'd tolerate a bath, like Starbuck periodically does, but I had to try because, seriously, he reeked.
He didn't mind the water, but hated the tub, itself, so I shampooed him on the bath mat and mopped up with towels afterwards. He let us dry him and then walked around happily damp, unlike Starbuck who will spend hours trying to lick herself dry.
And then they saw each other again, and this time Starbuck hissed at him. Toby made this face like, "Note to self: That chick doesn't like me," and walked away. Starbuck kept her tail bushed up after he'd gone, but let me pet her. She was like, "I'm your cat, remember?" even though she normally can only fit us in for pettings when we make reservations.
That was earlier today. Since then, Toby's been hiding under Josh's bed. If I go in that room, he comes out enthusiastically to be petted. But he hasn't eaten or gone to the bathroom yet. I brought him out and tried to get him to eat from the separate bowls we'd set up for him, a room over from where Starbuck eats. Wouldn't you know that Starbuck was at his bowl, sniffing his food? I set him down and she acted like a complete bitch, hissing at him until I had to shoo her away with my foot. Poor Toby sniffed his food but couldn't eat it. Then he went back to the bedroom.
I'm disappointed in Starbuck, but I'm sure she'll get over it, soon. Then, next thing you know, we'll be making a Match.com-commercial-style video about her love for Toby.
Or else, if not, she can be my cat, and Toby can be the kids' dog.
Pictures of Toby and Starbuck on Flickr, for those who have read this far and still want more info. :) 6:00 PM # (10) comments
Friday, January 18, 2008Body Issue Talk
(or, Why I Can't Date Latino Men Anymore, Reason #421)
The other day at my day job, I walked to the elevator and saw this guy who sometimes works contract for us, who I haven't seen in a long time. Who is latino. Of whom I am wary, because once, in the past, I saw him in the hall and he said, "Why don't you smile? You look so ****ing pissed off all the time." And he said that in a pissed-off way, and it pissed me off and freaked me out.
So, I see this guy. And he's smiling, and I give him a standard Corporate American greeting. And he says, "Hi. Wow. How are you doing? You look good. You lost a lot of weight, huh?"
And I say, "Uh, Rodrigo, that's not something you should say to a lady. You shouldn't be commenting on..."
And he says, "But you lost a lot of weight. You look good."
And the elevator door opens, and we get in, and another woman is in there, and I say, "Okay, thanks, but what if I lost weight because I was sick or something? You shouldn't comment on a woman's physical..."
And he says, "But you look good! What should I say then? I mean, I want to say you look good. How should I say it?"
And the other woman was simultaneous smiling and raising her eyebrow, and I didn't want to get all into it, so I just said, "You can tell someone 'You're looking well.'"
And he goes, "You're looking well. You're looking very well." And I return the sentiment, and get out of the elevator and hightail it home.
What I should have told him was that I'm not looking for any man's verbal approval of my physical appearance, and it's impertinent to offer such a thing unsolicited.
I think about this a lot now. This is what I think: It's wrong to criticize people for things they can't help. If you want to criticize someone's manners or work habits, I won't hate you for it and I might join you, because I'm a critical bitch like that. But if you want to criticize someone's face or race or mental abilities... then you're just an asshole. Why would you criticize someone for something they can't control?
In the same way, to a lesser extent, I think it's purposeless to comment positively on someone's face or skin color or hair texture or intellect, because what is the person going to say in return? "Thank you. I chose my DNA myself"?
I think that, if you must compliment or critique someone, it should be on their actions. Like, I would compliment you on your nice clothing, because I know you selected it and put the outfit together, and you did a good job. Or I would compliment you on something you wrote, or said, or built.
It's a fine line, I know. You could argue that people do have some control over the presentation of their bodies and faces and hair. However, I think most of us can tell the difference between, "Congrats on your weight loss, you look great" and "You look good" said while the speaker looks you up and down. And the difference is the offering of approval. And I don't want it. And yet, since the moment I was born, there has been a never-ending supply of Latino men willing to offer it. Approval, or the retraction of. On my body, my face, my clothing, my behavior. My words, my facial expression, whether or not I'm chewing gum...
And I don't want it. When I want their opinions, I will ask for them. And I never will want them, so I never will ask.
And I'm picking on Latino men, here, because they're the ones with whom I, personally, have experienced this phenomenon the most. But it's not just them. It's men of all corners of the rainbow, I'm sure, and it's women, too. But mostly men, because that's what men get raised to do in our society -- offer their approval of people they find attractive. I mean, I know that I would never feel comfortable offering a man my approval of his looks, unless he was a very close friend of mine, or unless I was trying to get him into bed.
And you can get mad at me for saying all that, but that's the way I feel. And you might be a woman who feels differently and enjoys that kind of attention. And if you are, I support your right to feel that way. And I'm sure I'm just reinventing some wheel that a feminist rolled back in 1972. But it's a feeling that's been boiling in me for a very long time now, independent of any dissertation or magazine rant.
in other body issue news
I didn't really want to work out last night. Instead, I decided to do this new thing I Tivo'ed from Fit TV -- a new dance show called Shimmy. It was about belly dancing, as you can probably guess. Belly dancing provides a decent, ballet-like workout, and it's kind of fun, so it doesn't really feel like working out.
So I turned on Shimmy and moved along with all its isolations and slow routines. My kids and I giggled at the dramatic film of women shaking sequins in the snow. Then I went to bed. Then I woke up.
And, oh my god, I feel like somebody beat me with a pillowcase full of soda cans. Every muscle in my body -- quads, glutes, abs, triceps, biceps, trapezius! kidneys! the balls of my feet! -- is sore.
Shimmy tore my ass up. I laughed at it last night, but Shimmy has the last laugh now.
What Jealousy Means to Me
Right now I kind of hate one female writer I've never met, and I really, really loathe one male writer I've never met.
Why? Not because their writing is bad. I've read and enjoyed their stuff in the past.
Why, then? Because they have things that I don't have. What do I do when this happens? Easy -- I make voodoo dolls of these people, then scream at the voodoo dolls and slap their faces!
No, just kidding. I force myself to think, in great detail, what it is about these people that I hate. In other words, what they have that I don't have.
And then I silently thank those people for showing me my own true path to happiness. Because that's always it, for me. The things I bitterly covet from others are the things I need to work on getting for myself. And the faster I face that, the faster I can get to work on making myself happy.
Something That Everyone Already Knows
Kids don't really like clowns. So quit decorating their rooms with clown pictures. Sheesh.
Y'all know I hate clowns -- it says it in my first book, on the very first page, I believe. But hearing this story on the radio made me think more about it. The DJs talked about how clowns used to be more popular back in the heydays of circuses and parades, back before Stephen King's It came out. And they are so right.
However, I did think of one clown I've always been able to tolerate, and that is Mr. Ronald McDonald.
Then again, Ronald has never really been a clown, in my mind. He's just some weird-looking guy who hangs out with other weird-looking guys named Grimace, Mayor McCheese, Hamburgler, the Fry Guys, and that chick who has the head of a bird. Maybe they're aliens. Maybe they're Egyptian gods. Maybe they're mutants or something. Either way, I don't hate them, because they were obvioulsy born looking like that, and I don't hate people for how they were born.
I've been meaning to tell y'all for a while now that I finally, finally scored an awesome leather jacket at the thrift store. Brown suede, slight motorcycle style, high quality, perfect fit. For TEN DOLLARS. You can't beat that with a stick.
(You could probably beat it with a Shimmy, though!)
(Okay, that's it. No more cutesy self-referencing sentences within the blog post.)
And then... I want to tell y'all that my kids got into the act, and that they scored some completely outrageous finds, but I can't, because that would be revealing the kids' personal businesses. And you know how kids are. You know how they get. You know how, when we were kids, the cardinal sin was getting caught with clothes from K-Mart. Even, illogically, if a classmate saw you shopping there because she, herself, was shopping there. The rule seemed to be: first person to call out someone for shopping at K-Mart is the winner, no matter how they got the evidence.
So I won't say. I've probably already said too much. I mean, I think my kids can stand up for themselves and their awesome thrift finds, but just in case, I'll hush. 5:55 AM # (8) comments
Thursday, January 17, 2008surprise in the mail
I stopped by my mailbox after work and pulled out a package that'd been wedged in among the bills, coupons, and previous homeowner's American Girl doll catalogs.
My first kids' book! Growing Up with Tamales. It's way, way more beautiful than I was expecting, thanks mainly to April Ward, who illustrated it. Seriously, I almost cried when I saw it. Then, I almost cried again when my ten-year-old son read it aloud to me.
Go to my Flickr to see more of the book. Or, better yet, go to Amazon to pre-order it.
Labels: writing6:38 PM # (5) comments
Oh, here's a good cliched post topic -- New Year's resolutions!
1. Write a bunch of stuff.
I have so much stuff to write, I feel guilty sitting here writing this blog entry. I have so much stuff I'm contractually obliged to write this year, I'm probably going to use up all my vacation time and floating holiday writing it. And having so much stuff to write? Is a good thing. Don't think I'm forgetting that.
2. Make a bunch of money. Or, if that's not possible, save a bunch of money.
I'm not going to say anything bitter about the fact that all the money I would have made this year is already allotted to making up for lost child support. I mean, I already made a lot of money for the year, but it wasn't enough. Bad Luck seems to follow me around, watching my mailbox for checks.
Then again -- better to have bad luck when you have the checks than when you don't, right? Right. In the mean time, I am in the midst of a budgetary resolution to never eat out again. As you might imagine, it's making me sad.
3. Lose 20 more pounds. (WARNING: Boring weight talk to follow.)
Science has left me upon a plateau. Now that I've lost 35 pounds through the magic of physics, I can no longer lose weight at the same rate (2 lbs per week) unless I subsist on 1100 calories per day. Which is 100 fewer than the recommended allowance for anyone, fat or thin. And about 300 fewer than a hypoglycemic chick who really loves to eat would recommend for herself.
Subsisting on 1100 calories a day would be doable if I ate 1400 per day, then burned off 300 of that with exercise. Burning off 300 would take about an hour and a half. Maybe less if I did it via DDR. ("Difficult" level = hardcore cardio.) And all that would be incredibly plausible if I didn't spend most of my day sitting, either at a desk or in my car. I spend about 11 hours a day sitting down, if you include my long-ass commute. Sad, huh?
I'm trying to eat as few calories as I can stand, and burn as many calories as I can squeeze into my sedentary day. But I might have to resign myself to losing the weight more slowly than 2 lbs per week. My goal is to lose five pounds a month, totalling 20 pounds by May 1. Guess how much weight I've lost so far!
Half a pound. Bleh.
If I do meet this goal, I might give myself two or three months to rest, then lose 20 more. Why not? That would make me only 10 pounds overweight, by Dept of Health standards, and yet thinner than I've been since I was 18 years old. (Current goal would make me thinner than I've been since 19 years old. Freshman Fifty much? :) ) (<-- That emoticon has a double chin.)
4. Try not to equate money or career success with happiness.
Despite resolutions numbers 1 and 2. No, seriously. I mean, I want to write more and make more money, but without letting my happiness depend on those goals. Should be easy! Right? Right??
5. Work on that whole self-promotion... bleh
Promote myself as an author without feeling like a show-off or a sell-out. Yeah. I remember. I'm gonna do that. Okay.
6. Do more art.
That goes with being happy.
And that's it. Okay. Aren't you glad you asked? What? You didn't ask? Oh. Well... Don't read this entry, then.
Doh. Too late! Too bad for you.
:) 12:11 PM # (5) comments
Tuesday, January 15, 2008Linkelodeon
Tom Cruise promotes Scientology in a scary way, in a video that is apparently exclusive to Gawker right now. (Remind me to post later about my varied experiences with cult members.)
I didn't want to let this happen again, but I'm addicted to American Gladiators. And so are my kids. After only two episodes, too. My favorite Gladiatrix so far is Crush, because she has awesome hair.
Pretty Indian wedding dresses! If I were to wear one for my own wedding, it'd be this one. Not that I'm trying to appopriate anyone's culture. I'm just saying -- I want a fancy pink dress, and that's the best one I've seen so far.
I know this chick who took a class on lampworking, and then started her own little side business making and selling glass beads. She's doing really well at it, and I've been meaning to tell y'all that I admire her. She thought up an idea, then just went for it. You know?
My favorite site that I can't read. 6:05 PM # (11) comments
Wednesday, January 09, 2008Life Skills
When I was in third grade at Roosevelt Elementary School, we had a very good teacher named Mrs. Dorothea Terry. Ms. Terry taught us a lot of important things outside the normal, Houston Independent School District sanctioned curriculum. I remember that whenever she had to discuss anything delicate or sexual, such as the time we read Johnny Tremain and someone asked what castration meant, she would first say, "If any of you feel like you can't handle this subject matter -- like you might feel uncomfortable and that will make you giggle or whisper -- please feel free to go into the hall and I'll call you back when we're done discussing it." No one ever left the room, and everyone understood that laughing during such talks was a mark of immaturity.
She taught us how to be good audience members. We were planning a fieldtrip to see The Nutcracker, and so she showed us the proper way to applaud. And I'm sure the lesson encompassed more than that, but all I specifically remember is the clapping, all of us lightly striking our left palms with the fingers of our right hands.
Since graduating from public school, I've noticed that a lot of adults in Texas missed out by not spending third grade in Mrs. Terry's class. Whenever I give a reading at a community college, for instance, I notice that a lot of my audience has obviously never attended a reading before. Either they'll pointedly avoid making eye contact with me and the other speakers, or else they'll look at us with facial expressions I'm sure they wouldn't consciously make in other situations. Or they'll quietly talk to each other during the reading, as if they're at the movies, discussing people on a screen. Or, saddest, they'll laugh at something that's meant to be funny, but they'll cover their mouths, thinking they're not supposed to.
I've been to community colleges where the professors treat the students like disabled high school kids. If I'm reading and someone starts giggling and whispering in the back, I'll do exactly what our teachers used to do to us in elementary school. I'll say something like, "Am I interrupting your conversation? Should I pause so you guys can leave the room?"
And then, afterwards, these students' professors will apologize to me and say, "It's hard for them... They come from different backgrounds... They don't go to many readings..." As if any of that is an excuse for rudeness. And I'll feel sorry for those professors and wonder what they put up with in their classrooms every day.
Sometimes I'll speak to a class that's well enough behaved, but very inhibited. And I'll interrupt my own reading/seminar and tell the students that it's okay if they want to laugh, or gasp or scoff, because authors expect listener reactions. I'll tell them, during the question and answer session, that they can ask whatever they want, and not only questions that sound teacher-approved. Because we're all adults, and a reading is meant to be enjoyed. And then the students will loosen up, and we have fun.
And afterwards, their professors will tell me, "Wow, they really enjoyed your reading!" and that they're going to do a class on audience ettiquette, or on how to interview authors, and that they're going to take their classes to more readings in the future.
A lot of times I'll do a reading for one particular class that's reading my book, and then other classes who aren't reading my book will show up to my reading -- required attendance for credit. So, when I go to community colleges or high-school-age events, the first thing I like to ask is how many people in the room want to be writers. Usually, only one or two people will raise their hands. Then, I'll ask how many people are there against their will, and most of them will raise their hands.
In those cases, I shift from talking about my writing to talking about acheiving one's goals. And that's when I get a lot of questions from people who want to be DJs, nurses, entrepreneurs, and etc. And, the more I do these kinds of readings, the more strongly I feel that I have a personal mission. It is to let kids know that they're allowed to do stuff.
You know? Because that's the big undercurrent in all these situations I'm describing to you. I think that a lot of kids are raised with sentiments like, "You don't go to plays and readings. Only those people go to plays and readings. Therefore, I don't expect much of your behavior on the few occassions where you're forced to go to a play or a reading." And how easily does that attitude cloud one's whole life?
"I go to community college. Only those people go to the university."
"I don't want to be an artist. Only people like that get to be artists."
"I'm not going to speak up. Only people like her are supposed to speak up."
I look at Facebook and see all these kids from Choate and Marymount bleeting out their opinions of the presidential candidates, all sexist and misspelled and uninformed, and I wonder where the sexist, misspelled, uninformed comments from 5th Ward and East LA and Compton students are. You know? No, I don't wonder, actually. I know. They're frozen in those students' heads, because only those other kids are allowed to spew silliness, right?
I'm not trying to brag, but I'm a very popular speaker at local community colleges, and the audiences there enjoy the hell out of my readings. I enjoy talking to them, too. My favorite part is after the reading, because -- inevitably -- a few people will come up to me and say, "I really do want to be a writer, but I didn't want to say it earlier." Or, "I write all the time at home, but I didn't think that counted until you said so just now." And, even if I don't sell many books at those readings, I'm always glad I went.
A while back I went to read to a bunch of junior high girls at a local community center. We ended up talking not about my book, but about applying for high schools. We spent more than half an hour erasing misconceptions about who's allowed to apply for better public schools, who's allowed to ride the school bus, who's allowed to get on the Internet and look for information, who's allowed to be smart without worrying about fitting in, who's allowed to want a little more success than their parents had. We didn't talk about writing at all. (But, even so, at the end, someone came up and whispered to me that she wanted to be a writer.) And I was glad I went. If all I ever taught someone was that she was allowed to do a little more, that would be enough for me.
Every time I go to one of my son's junior high band recitals, I resent most of the other parents because they're very rude. They talk and yawn during the performance. Between pieces, they make insensitive remarks. The band teachers wear suits and dresses. Our kids wear tuxedo shirts, bow ties, and vests. I wear whatever I wore to work that day ("business"), but then half the parents are in shorts, flip-flops, undershirts, baseball caps. Their hair uncombed. Their teeth full of food.
I used to hate them, but now I just pity them. You know why? Because no one taught them better, because no one ever thought they'd grow up to go to plays or readings or even junior high recitals.
More than that, I pity them because their kids will go places that these parents won't. And their kids might keep things from them, might say things like, "No, I didn't invite my parents to see me play in Boston, because you know how they are. They never go to things like that. There's no use even trying to teach them how to behave."
But, then again, that might not be so bad. I'd rather have my kids do things that I'm too ignorant to understand than have them be afraid to do things, because I never told them they were allowed. 12:05 PM # (25) comments
Tuesday, January 08, 2008There was bad news, too.
I went to court to finalize the arrangements for my middle son, Dallas, to go live [elsewhere] for the semester. And then, [magically, in a process I'm not supposed to describe in detail], my child support got reduced to nothing. And that wouldn't have bothered me so much if it weren't for [the emotional ugliness surrounding the process].
And I wrote a long, angry entry about it here. (And some of you responded with very kind, helpful comments. Thanks, y'all.) And then I deleted that post, because there's no use filling up my blog with [that ugliness]. You know?
So, aside from the fact that I miss my middle son and I'm even broker than I was before, life is still very good and there's no use dwelling on the ungood parts. Right? Right.
1/9/07: And now that I'm having to go back and censor this entry, lest it invoke more ugliness, let me say again how happy I am to have removed myself from my previous life. Thank God.
Tad and I got engaged for a few personal reasons, particular and special to him and me and no one else. Namely, this ring symbolizes a promise to each other, and that promise is, "I promise you didn't just spend five years dating me for nothing."
I explained the word engagement to my kids. I told them it usually means the fiances are planning to marry in a year. But that we aren't getting married in a year. "How long?" my youngest asked. "I don't know," I said. "Maybe five years from now. Maybe two years. But probably more than two years. I don't know."
The kids accepted that answer, but no one else will. :)
On Friday evening, while visiting Tad at his place, I fielded my third or fourth phone call from congratulatory friends and family members, all of whom were eager to help us plan the wedding. RIGHT NOW. I was explaining to the caller that we wouldn't make plans until we saved up enough money to have the kind of event we wanted. The caller was trying to persuade me that we should have an inexpensive wedding this spring. Tad was on his second such phone call. We hung up and turned to each other over the turkey spaghetti dinner Tad was cooking.
"Man," said Tad. "I thought getting engaged would make people quit asking us quesitons. But now it's even worse."
I nodded sympathetically.
He said, "I'm telling people, 'She's not pregnant. We don't have to get married right now.'"
"People are excited," I said.
"People need to mind their own damned business," he said.
I told him it was a good thing, that people were so eager to see us married. It meant that they thought we'd be happy together. He grudgingly agreed, then we made up a unified strategy for dealing with other would-be wedding planners. Then we agreed we wouldn't talk about this anymore, for at least a year. Then we ate our spaghetti.
After dinner, we went to a friend's art thingie, where a local string quartet played. While we listened to them, it flickered through my mind that it might be nice to have this string quartet play at our hypothetical wedding, however many years in the future. But I decided to keep that thought to myself. I didn't want Tad to think that I'd been infected with the fever.
After their first piece was done, Tad leaned over to me and whispered, "We should get them to play at our wedding!"
On Saturday, we went to Barnes and Noble so I could spend the last of the gift certificate my dad got me for my birthday. I couldn't help looking through the wedding mags. It's my right! This ring on my finger means I'm allowed! I picked out three of the least obnoxious seeming, then added something called Asian Bride to my stack. In case, you know, I decide to wear an Asian wedding dress instead of a white one. Well... I'm pretty sure I'm not going to wear a white dress. Not a white wedding dress, in any case.
Asian Bride turned out to be for Indian weddings only. (However, those Indian wedding dresses are pretty freaking awesome. I wish I had the slightest excuse to wear one.) The other magazines seemed to fall into one of two categories:
1. Magazines for brides who only care about looking like princesses on the biggest day of their entire lives.
2. Magazines for couples who care about their wedding guests... and thinking up a million ways to force their "personality" down their guests' throats.
I bought an issue of The Knot (Texas edition) because it had the nicest photos and design ideas worth knocking off for cheap. I also bought five gazillion non-wedding magazines. Thanks, Daddy! At home, I flipped through about a quarter of the Knot before thinking, "This is ridiculous. We don't need all this stuff," and putting it aside.
That night, Tad was visiting me at my house. I came upon him in my bedroom with my wedding magazine in his hands and a look of distaste on his face. "This is ridiculous. I don't think we need all this stuff. Do you?"
No. No, I don't. We don't need escort cards or signature cocktails or monogrammed favors or save-the-date cards. Shoot, we don't even need bridesmaids or groomsmen or big white wedding dresses. We decided it right then, as we flipped through the magazine. No superfluous expense. No symbols without meaning.
My friend Yvonne passed on really good wedding planning advice. She said you're supposed to decide which two elements of the wedding are most important to each of you. Then, you spend your budget on those and forget the rest. For Tad and I, the two most important things are food and music. We've already talked about it and decided that, years ago, even back before we ever admitted we might get married some day. Third most important thing, to me, is flowers. But I think we can just have it in a garden, then, and not worry about buying too many.
We've thrown a lot of parties together, and I've always been pleased by how well they go, and how our party priorities dovetail. So I think our hypothetical, years-from-now wedding should be just fine. The more we agree not to discuss it, the more I realize that we've already, pretty much, telepathically planned the whole thing.
"There's no use getting married until we can afford a bigger house," I said.
"I wish... Don't think this is weird, but I kind of wish we could get married and then not live together," I said. "Just get married and then keep doing the same exact stuff we do now."
"That's what I've been thinking, too!" he said. "Wouldn't that be cool?"
Maybe we'll end up doing that. Just have a tiny, beautiful wedding, with good food and good music, for our family and friends. Then go back to living our lives and being happy. 6:13 AM # (16) comments
Thursday, January 03, 2008Happy 2008
Did you have a good New Year's Eve? We did. My boyfriend Tad and his friends threw a party. At first, no one RSVPed on our Evite, because they all had clubs or hotel parties to attend. So we assumed it'd just be our core group of four couples, minus the couple who just had a baby. I thought we'd just drink and play cards, you know?
But a couple of people showed up. Then, as the night went on, people would call one of the hosts and ask what we were doing. And the host would say, "We're staying home because we don't want to mess with parking and traffic and the weather and all that shit. Come over if you want." And, by midnight, we had a pretty sizeable group of people, many of whom I'd never met before, but all of whom were awesome. Has that ever happened to you -- that you throw a party and it lines up with the planets such that every single person attending is either smart, funny, sexy, or all three? No jerks, no vomiting? That's what happened. Everyone was awesome, even to the point that they helped us clean up. Tad went to bed at 5:30. I went to bed at 7 AM, only because the sun was coming up and the people I was hanging with in the garage had a long drive home.
It was fun. It was a good start to the new year.
Quick List of Recent Annoyances
I have to get this out of my system.
1. People who block the intersection on red lights.
2. People who look at your jacket and scarf and gloves and not only have to let you know that they aren't bothered by the cold, but that you're a wussy/whiner/baby for needing a jacket. Bonus annoyance: Flashing back to that 80 degree day last summer, when you were comfortable but that person was sweating profusely and whining about the heat, but you sympathized with her, because you're not an asshole.
3. People who bring up your good news in conversation, and then call you a show-off because of it. Like, "Have you lost weight? Show off!" or "Is that a new blouse? Show off!" or "Are you a generally happy person? Show off!"
4. People who go out of their way to look cool, and who ignore you at social gatherings because you don't look cool enough, and who pretend not to recognize you in public, even though you've met them more than once. Bonus annoyance: If/when those people later decide you're cool ("You write books? I'm trying to write a book! Who's your agent? We should have lunch!") and suddenly act all friendly, as if their previous rudeness never occurred.
5. Networking events, because they're completely filled with people like the ones described above, and because I don't want to walk around with cheese and cheap wine in my hands, being judged by these people. And I don't like bragging that I'm a writer ("Show off!"), especially not to people like that. I would rather sit home and write, or attend a party where everyone already knows I'm a writer and no longer cares, or stand up on stage and read my books to people who are there because they like my writing, and not because they think I can do something for their careers.
6. People who dislike you and go out of their way to show it in the pettiest way possible (by forwarding jokes and "inspirational" emails to everyone in the department but you, by bringing baked goods and personally informing every person in the department except you)... but then expect you to greet them in the halls and introduce them to your boyfriend and/or fiance. And make a face of disbelief when you ignore them. As if you would want to contaminate your boyfriend and/or fiance with the misery that exudes from their pores.
The planets have plans for you in 2008. Even Planet Pluto. Even Planet Chiron.
All my horoscopes, as well as the moon phase planning guide my dad gave me for Christmas, have been telling me that this is the year I will succeed... if I first examine my habits and attitudes, and get over something I've been reluctant to get over.
I'm thinking it's the networking thing. Planets Pluto, Chiron, and Blitzen, in my Fifth House of Marketing, are asking that I get over my reluctance to brag and start up some serious self-promotion. (Say it: "Show off! SHOW OFF!")
There are things I've wanted -- writerly things -- that I've been afraid to ask for because I don't think I'm good enough yet. Like grants, or writer jobs, or bigger speaking fees. Because, you know, I'm never good enough, in my own mind. (If I were already good enough, I wouldn't have to work so hard, would I? :) )
Meanwhile, though, I see people with far fewer credentials than me, and they're getting the things I want. They're like, "Hi! I'm Mindy! I'm a writer!! My friend published my poem in his zine, and I have a novel outline in a shoebox under my bed!!!" And they're now teaching Creative Writing at Purdue. Or whatever.
And now it's to the point where even I think it's ridiculous. You know? I'm like, "Gwen. Come on. Seriously. What the hell are you doing? Stand up, declare yourself, and get what's rightfully yours."
But... I don't want to. You know? That's a difficult thing for me. You think I'm a narcissist, and you're right, but I'm still insecure, and I still have deep-seated fears of people calling me a show off. What happened to the time when writers could just stay home, drinking and writing, mailing pages to their agents, and get paid? Offered jobs? Showered with appropriate amounts of recognition, no matter how hard they tried to hide?
Maybe those days never really existed. The more experience I get, the more I suspect that those myths were carefully manufactured by people who were really good at networking.
So that's my first resolution for this year, then. Get over the last vestiges of insecurity, and move on with my life. I might regret posting all this, later today. If so, that probably means it really needed to be said.
All those long paragraphs were written in order to weed out the anti-fans
, the haters, the misery spreaders, the train-wreck seekers, the ojo givers, the bad vibe emanators.
All of those people are gone now and their negative energy has dissipated. So I can tell you: I'm engaged. Tad and I are engaged now. It happened on my birthday. I am happy.
And that's all the news on that now. There's no date set. Therefore, I can't answer questions about any weddings, any babies, or any shared funeral plots. (His sister's literal first question, upon hearing the news: "But aren't your tubes tied?" My response, "Uh, no, they aren't. Wait... what? the? what?") (I love his sister, though. Love you, Susan!)
I will say this: Even though I'm a feminist and I believe that marriage is an outdated institution and that society pressures people to conform to ridiculous, meaningless traditions... etc.... I did get this little frisson of excitement when I realized that I now have every right to peruse bridal magazines.
Even though I've seen them before, and I think they're boring, and I know they're all from the perspective of a culture that's neither Tad's nor mine. So I don't really even want to look at them. But I like knowing that I can, now, without worrying about what other people think.
So that's my good news, y'all, and that's all for this entry. Hope y'all's 2008 is good so far. I hope your planets are all lining up. 5:52 AM # (54) comments