Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Memories of What You Can't Seem To Let Go

I am a pretty cautious person by nature, despite how it might seem, when it comes to protecting myself emotionally. I think everyone has those triggers that put them mentally in an unhealthy place that they want to avoid. I do everything I can to keep myself from those situations. I've done what I can to help myself heal from things that have hurt me in the past and by and large I feel like I am well adjusted given my fairly chaotic and occasionally awful past. And yet, there are days when it seems the past is inescapable and you find that you are much more vulnerable than you imagined you could be.

Let's rewind for a moment to about four or five months ago. I was just starting to work as a server at The Diner. Or, at least, I was finally comfortable enough with my surroundings that I didn't feel like every weekend was a battle. Its then that I first noticed this nice, quiet guy who read books and sat by himself. He came in every Saturday. He seemed nice enough. I noticed him enough that he eventually became That Nice Quiet Book-Reading Guy Who Always Orders a Breakfast Special (Take Three Creams with the Coffee). We would chat occasionally and I discovered he was an interesting person. He liked the outdoors. He seemed pretty well rounded. About two months ago I found out he's an Arborist. He then became (in all my references to Kitten when talking about work) That Nice Arborist Who Comes In On Saturdays and Reads. By luck or design he started landing in my section more often. It was then that I discovered two things 1- he does just about everything from play instruments to rock climbing to reading, in general that he is a person whom I would like to hang out with. 2- His name. We'll call him Jack here (short for Lumberjack, or Jack of all trades, you chose).

So I happened to have an extra ticket to the symphony this last weekend and I invited Jack along. I was both pleased and surprised when he said yes. Sakura and I go (well we try) every month. He has season tickets and I am almost always his date. Anyway, we went, we had dinner, Jack met Kitten and Sakura and things were nice.

Cue Sunday. Without airing Jack's dirty laundry I can say with a fair amount of certainty that he has, in most people's eyes, a personal history that would make him predisposed to dislike me. That he was not only comfortable but gracious and very open with me and my strange little family speaks to his strength of character, I think. I know, without him telling me, that he was putting himself out there when he joined us on Saturday. I took it as a compliment. Imagine my surprise when that morning when he was in eating breakfast that he invited me to come watch him play his instrument at his church that Sunday night. Once again, I'll reiterate that his character already shames mine because I don't know if I would be able to ask him to come, I don't know, watch me sing or read my writing or whatever. Not this early in our tentative friendship. Not especially considering those extenuating circumstances with would bother me considerably were I him. He was even kind enough to point out he was not proselytizing in inviting me- proving he was intuitive enough (or I scream NOT CHRISTIAN loudly enough) to see that might be something of a deterrent to me. Even though, once he gets to know me better, he'll understand that I really don't mind most Christians, or the religion itself, really. Its just not my cup of tea, and we've already discussed here my philosophical disagreements with the religion- I won't rehash it.)

What he couldn't know (and what some of you who have been around for some time will recall ) is that I was sexually assaulted by my Pastor's son and some of his friends when I was a teenager. The resulting damage to my person, and my mental health and all of the horrible things that came after that when I foolishly sought help from my pastor, thinking he would do the right thing and want to help me (I was really, really naive) have had a profound effect on me as a person. He wouldn't know about the years of therapy. The drugs. The attempts on my own life. My blatant disregard for my own health and safety. My lack of personal value. The number or horrible relationships I ended up in that mirrored, in some sick way, that first really awful one. He wouldn't know this. And he shouldn't really. Because in the intervening years, as most of you are aware, I've gotten help, I've healed and in general I consider myself to be as well adjusted and happy as a person who has gone through what I did can be. I live a relatively open life. I have learned to cope with my anger and fear. I am in a successful, healthy relationship. I have friends who love and support me and help me when I feel weak. Any person who looks at me would not see those hidden scars. I don't want them to.

So imagine my surprise- after all these years of being well adjusted and happy- at finding myself in the parking lot of his church Sunday night, sitting in my truck, having an utter and complete panic attack. I never even saw it coming. You know, it occurred to me as I pulled in that outside of three funerals, one wedding and a couple of Midnight Masses at Christmas (and honestly, a Catholic church is a completely different animal from a tiny protestant church) I have not set foot inside a church building since the incident as a teenager. I certainly have not been to any church without having someone whom I might consider a security blanket with me. So there I was, sitting there, feeling one hundred percent out of sorts and a little bit terrified, trying desperately to talk myself off that panic ledge. I remember telling myself how big a step it must have been for Jack to be with my family. I remember telling myself that I could be a big person. I remember telling myself that I was not going to punk out. I was already there.

And honestly, as I sat there, I reminded myself that I am different now. I know who I am. I am stronger. I am braver. I know how to protect myself. As a priestess I speak with god more often than most of these people would ever in their lives. I never thought the day would come when my being a witch would be the thing that made me brave enough to walk into a church. But it was. If I can hear the voice of god, if the goddess comes to me in my dreams, if my Grandfather and Great Grandmother and all my sacred dead can sing me to sleep on my worst nights, there was really no reason I should be worried that they would not be there for me in that moment. And so I got out of my truck.

And Jack, thank god and goddess, came out of the church just then to get something out of his truck. And he spotted me. And promptly commented on how terrified I looked. Bless his heart, he asked me if I was afraid of combusting or being struck down by god when I went inside and he laughed. I managed a smile and told him with complete honestly that I was fine with God, it was his followers that had me anxious. Bless his heart, he put his hand on me and led me in and let me sit down and I could tell he felt bad when he had to go do other things. But he did come back, and when he wasn't playing he did sit with me. I felt bad about that, really, because I feel like he was babysitting me. I know he had people he probably would rather have been with.

Did you know that all churches smell the same? I swear they do, though I didn't recognize it until now. The voices sound the same. Its like the same picture, over and over, no matter where you are. I find it ironic. The sounds are the same. The church may be different- they may see themselves as completely unique- but I swear I had been to so many before...well, before. And it doesn't look like things have changed. Which is fine for them, of course, but for me was immensely uncomfortable.

I want to say this- Jack played beautifully and I am really glad I went. I really am. I might even go again because honestly, now that I am seeing my own fear I feel like I should face it. And it wasn't so bad really, even if I am on a different page spiritually. Their pastor is really, really nice. That said, I spent a lot of the evening jumping every time there was lightening (because of course there was a storm rolling in), twisting my rain jacket in my hands in an attempt to look like I was merely chilly and not fighting the impulse to white knuckle the seats (I was not leaving!) and struggling desperately to turn off my "witch eyes" which had suddenly decided to light up like The Plaza at Christmas (let me tell you how fun it is to be seeing auras and sensing emotions and have your psychic mail box go off while you're trying to focus on something else entirely.) Obviously something about the place or the situation put me in an Alpha state, which is great. Unfortunately, I was trying to torch my own personal demons.

I think I tripped over my own feet three times in the ten yards to the door (thank the lord that everyone already knows how clumsy I am). I managed to get out of the parking lot and home without wrecking my truck. I only had a little cry after I got into bed. I managed a whole night without nighmares, though, and that's got to count for something.

I suppose I am stuck in a strange place feeling like I am really weak because I had such a crushing panic attack and being proud that I got through it. I'm still sorting out how I feel. I am still trying to sift through the emotions I had and the ones I have now. I'm trying to give myself space and think about the whys and wherefores of a building being a trigger. I can't punish myself for it. I know that. But I feel disappointed in myself. I thought I was stronger.

Kitten says I am being unreasonable. That when traumatic things happen to us that we never really truly recover from them. I would never judge her for reacting to fire the way she does. I would never condemn a person who struggles with an eating disorder or addiction or any other thing that even slightly suggests less than sterling mental health. She's right, I wouldn't.

Is it wrong that I hold myself to a higher standard? Maybe, but it doesn't mean I don't.

AGxx



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wy Down in Missouri Where I Heard This Lullabye

So I recently had a new friend of mine who does not live in the US ask me what it is like in my home state of Missouri. (Hi Pressure-Point!) It occurs to me that I really don't talk a lot about my home state and what its like to live here so I thought I would post a little information here for you in case you are curious.

Missouri is smack in the middle of the United States. On our East is the Mississippi River. To the west is, well, the west.

















If you look at this map we're the orange/pinkish state right in the middle. I live pretty close to the Mason Dixon line, actually which means that we're actually part of the South. Or, at least, our state fought for the South in the Civil War. In southern Missouri, where I live, the customs are fairly southern. We have about 69,000 square miles in or state.

Missouri has a population of about 6 million people, and is predominantly settle by Anglo-Europeans (white people, 80% or so). About 15% of our population is retired persons (over 55) and about 20% are under 18.  A terrifying 25% of our population has a bachelor's degree or higher, though I am encouraged to learn that 87% of our population graduated high school.

Our Two largest cities are Kansas City and St. Louis, both of them share half their city or more with another state. My home city is the third largest by population and is the largest completely within the borders of the state. None of our three major cities have more than a half million people and none of the three largest cities are the state capital.

Missouri is predominantly conservative with the exception of the two larger urban centers of St. Louis and Missouri. It is one of the things I really dislike about my home state since I am fairly (okay, really) liberal and this part of the country is seriously not conducive to the lifestyle of a witch/lesbian/democrat and I happen to be all three.

ON TO PICTURES AND MORE PLEASANT AND LESS BORING TOPICS!

Missouri is really green. Really green. We have a lot of trees, a lot of lakes and a lot of caves. We're known for a special kind of land formations called Kart Topography, which pretty much means that a lot of our caves collapse and become what we call "sink-holes" in my area. They're sometimes dangerous but really, really pretty if you have a chance to walk/hike through it.


This is a look down at a spring at the bottom of a bluff in the middle/north part of my state in Ha Ha Tonka state park. This park is full of Karst formations and is super pretty and a lot of fun to hike.

This is a picture from the bottom and across from the picture above. If you click on the picture and make it bigger you will see the remains of an old building at the top center of the photo. That's where I took the picture above at. It took me about an hour to get to the bottom.
This is actually inside my city at a nature preserve. This spring cuts through part of my city and actually joins with several others in the area to form part of the lake in my town.

I mostly chose this photo to point out how very, very green my area is. This creek is literally a mile from a major interstate.





This one below is me at the same place in the fall, and you can see how dull and grey it gets whenever the green dies out. It can be pretty lame, and depressing.


Our weather is pretty changeable so it is pretty hard to describe the weather in generalities. I can say that over my lifetime in my city, spring and fall are pretty mild- about 18 to 26C (thats 65-80 for you US folks). The summers are hot and very humid- it generally gets to be about 35C (95) most days and sometimes can go as high as almost 40C (105) and not be too unusual. The winters are cold and generally it averages 0C most days (32 or so) and during the worst months it will be -23C (about ten below) during the most bitter cold days.  


You never can tell what its going to do either. Last week there was 3 inches of snow on the ground. Today it is supposed to be about 26C. Tonight its supposed to snow again but we'll be back in the high twenties before the end of the week. Crazy. 

And, in case you're curious there's a lot of people who come from my hometown who are famous. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft was from here. If you like film and Television celebrities Bob Barker, Brad Pitt, John Goodman and Lucas Grabeel are all from my city. Kim Crosby, the Broadway actress, is too. We had the guy who starred in the second season of The Bachelor (he still lives here, actually). The and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (who are really great, actually) are local. Gracie Gold, the Olympic skater, is from my city.  And if you like science Edwin Hubble (yeah, the Hubble Telescope guy) is from a town about 20 minutes from mine. 

So, yeah. That's sort of what my town and state are like. 

Questions? Leave me a comment! I will love to tell you more about my state. Or me. Or whatever. 

AGxx
(Also, the song lyric I used today is from Missouri Waltz, my State Song and done beautifully by Johnny Cash.)







Tuesday, February 11, 2014

There Isn't a Song Lyric To Express how Crazy and Wonderful My Family Is

Family seems to be that secret that we hold really close to the chest as adults. You never really think about it, but all those holidays together are something you may reminisce about but aren't necessarily something you share.

As you get older, that part of yourself is something that reserved for you, maybe your significant other (if they tolerate family gatherings and you still go to them) but by and large you never sit down with your friends and share about your family. Its a shame, really, because I think our families really influence who we are as as adults and its impossible to escape that influence. Sometimes I don't think we even really register the magnitude of how they influence our worldview.

I've been thinking more about this recently. Part of this reflection was brought on by an envelope of photos I brought home from my grandmothers to show Kitten- many of them were from when I was a little girl. Another contributor was our recent viewing (mine, twice) of August: Osage County. During the film Kitten leaned over to me and whispered "This is like watching a documentary of your family." I was also reflecting on how our family changes how people view us while talking to one of my coworkers today. I had been telling her about Sakura's first holiday with my family and his reaction to them. She was dying laughing. Personally, before Sakura's visit to my family Christmas I knew we were a little different from some families but it never occurred to me how much until then. That was also about the time that I realized how different I am from most of my family members in personality as well. I always knew I was one of the odd ducks in the family (maybe even to some extent the black sheep for a few years) but their cohesiveness was a shock when I honestly started to reflect on it.

To understand how different my family is I think you have to look at how unique we are to start with. My family is pretty large, by most family standards. (That picture, by the way, is my cousin Red, my brother Punk and me, respectively, being held by my grandmother sometimes in the early 80's. My guess would be '86 or so, if I had to wager) My mom has five sisters, all of them with the exception of my Aunt Dancer had at least two children. My grandmother has several sisters as well. Her youngest is within a year of my mom's age. Her son JD and daughter JJ, whom I call my cousins, are actually my first cousin once removed and JJ now has a daughter (my second cousin Iris, who is tiny and adorable). To my best knowledge my grandma has three living sisters- this may be inaccurate since I don't have a super firm grasp on my family history (don't judge me my family is HUGE). I additionally have family members that could be called in Southern terminology "kissing cousins" (that means they don't have direct blood relations to me but I consider them to be part of my family anyway- e.g. my Aunt's stepson is a kissing cousin). And don't buy in to all that Yankee hooey about how that's just a family member who is close enough to exchange a kiss in formal greeting- my family is southern and we're going to use those rules. Plus we'll get to the whole kissing thing in a little because my family KISSES and that's another animal entirely. So I have this nice, big family and we, for most of my childhood, piled into my great-grandmother or my grandmother's house every year for holidays (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, sometimes for no good reason at all) so we could spend time together. I also come from a really unique place in that for a few years of my life I shared a bedroom with one of my younger aunts when we lived in my grandmother's house. I look at my aunts more like sisters, which confuses things a little more, I suppose. I find myself often in a strange position- inhabiting a no man's land where I am not part of the older generation (though I am equally close to some of my aunts in age as I am my cousins) and I am old enough that I remember the births of and even babysitting as a teenager some of my cousins who are technically in "my generation" of the family.

Suffice to say, my family is all up in each other's space, all the time, no question. Once my mom remarried I never lived more than three blocks from my grandparents- in the same neighborhood always. I spent a significant part of my childhood in my grandparents home even after we moved out. My Aunt Dancer for a while lived up the street from my grandparents and it wasn't until a few years ago when my Aunt Priestess moved away with her husband and daughters (Lovey and Cowgirl) to Oklahoma that any of us lived more than a fifteen or twenty minute drive across-town from each other- excepting, of course, when my Aunt Buddy went to college in Kansas. Even stranger, for a lot of people, I've known most of my uncles who married into my family for a long time as well. Priestess married her high school sweetheart (they just celebrated their 25th anniversary) and Buddy and her husband met while she was in college and I was still in grade school when they married. There's never been a time in my life when my family- even the extended part- were beyond a day's drive. We're an up close, in your face, tell me all about it honey kind of family.

That in and of itself makes us a rarity, even in the Midwest where larger families are common.  But it wasn't until recently that the culture of my family, which is distinctly Southern, was something I was terribly aware of.  Sakura says it was a surprise when he met them two years ago (I was sick with a migraine and drugged out of my mind as a result, Kitten was at work and I needed a way to get to the Christmas party so Sakura did me a solid and came to get me) because he thought they would be like me. To wit "I was expecting a reserved, proper, northeastern, Huxtable kind of family. I walked into The Clampett Family Christmas." My mom was hugely offended when I laughingly told her about this- though I took no offense at all. Sakura was simply trying to express the shock he felt when he realized that one of his best friends (a relatively quiet, introverted, polished person- yes, me) came from a loud family full of kisses, cuddles and let me get you a sweet tea and fix you a plate honey. There's nothing wrong with it- but if you're not expecting it, its a shock, I'm sure.

And nothing is more surprising than walking into a room (we rent a community room now- we're too big for anyone's house) full of people shouting good naturedly, elbowing each other in the food line and chasing down toddlers when you're expecting a nice polite clam bake. We eat, too, make no mistake. I didn't know until recently that its odd to have more than one turkey at Christmas. I didn't know its not normal to have to empty out bedrooms so there's room to set up card tables because the main table (a 12 seater, mind you) is full, the long card tables set all along the dining room wall are full and there's no more room on the stove, the kitchen counters or the two dessert carts my grandparents dug out to stick all the cookies, pies and cakes on in the pantry were all full. Now that we have a community room its not odd for my aunts to carry in three or four crockpots and chafing dishes to go with all the cold food and dips and vegetables and whatnot. My cousins even cook. No kidding- Aunt Buddy's youngest  Colorgirl made a soup last family gathering that was so good I wanted to cry and she's in her second year of high school. Even my boy cousin's cook. And if you bring a date- if they're going to fit in chances are they'll cook too. JJ's husband makes prime rib to die for and my cousin Mustang brought his girlfriend to Christmas (her second family gathering) and she didn't have to be told to bake cookies. She just did. They were delicious by the way.

So I'm sure Sakura was taken aback- in part by all the food and in part by the determination of my family to feed him. I may have been to sick too eat (and that was debatable since I had thrown up from the dizziness and had "plenty of room in my stomach") but by god Sakura was not. And no kidding they drug him to the table and fed him and fed him and kept his drink full. Nevermind he had eaten before he came. He wasn't just my ride. In my family its unspoken but true- if you're willing to bring someone to meet them then they are family too, like it or not. Sakura was family and when we get together we eat. No ifs ands or buts about it. Truthfully, I laughed my ass off this year when several of my family members were horrified that I had not told him when the party was because of course he was going to come- he came last year didn't he? They were even dismayed that Oscelot (by then my ex) and her lovely girlfriend Bobcat didn't come because Oscelot is family and that Bobcat sounds like a nice girl and when do we get to meet them? Truthfully I think my family will love Bobcat- she cooks on caliber with my family's best and that's saying something.

On top of that my family is by nature loud. They are affectionate. Oh yes, the kissing. You know, my younger cousins don't do this so much, it might be a generational thing, but growing up everyone kissed. I mean, I'll get a peck on the cheek from my cousins I'm close to and everyone hugs- like full body crack your spine hugs- but I mean my family kisses hello and goodbye. On the mouth. All the time. Think nothing of it. It never occurred to me until way later in my life (I had an ex point it out, maybe ExBeloved) that I realized that this is not how a lot of families interacted.  My aunts and my grandparents and any of the older generation still do it and I do when I'm with them and I don't feel weird or ashamed about it. I know some people have implied that its unhealthy. But it never bothered me. It might also explain why I have such a small personal space when it comes to my friends. I grew up in a house with two bathrooms and sometimes up to six women. Personal space didn't exist. My aunt went into labor on the same night as my mom's first date with her second husband- while he was picking her up (Lovey, if you're reading, it was you...). My family kisses on the mouth and swats on the ass and pinches with their toes and why in heaven's name would I have a personal space when I grew up expecting that if you're with people you love you pile on top of them and give them hell?

The Easter Lovey was four or five my uncles dumped a kiddie pool of water on my aunts and chased them around the yard while Lovey chased me around the yard in her powerwheel. As close as we are now she would probably be horrified to know my clumsy ass fell and she ran over me with that damn thing. But she did. (Swear, Lovey, I don't hold a grudge. Its funny now.)

My family is privy to some of my most private moments. Some of my most embarrassing. Some of the most moving. It was my family that was there to pick spiders out of my hair when I ran afoul of an opus in my Grandma's yard (hence my severe arachnophobia for nearly two decades). It was my aunts that took me away from the horrible scene they were making the year my parents split up- Christmas, mind you- and my father came to the party to try and take us from our mom. It was my aunts who fought for me. My grandfather and my uncles who protected me. My grandparents who gave us somewhere to go. When I became a dancer at a downtown club when I was 18 I had family show up (like it was a dance recital or a school exhibition!) on my first night. My grandmother bought me my first pair of pasties and my first pair of leather boots. It is my family who helped me through my coming out process. My family came for all my karaoke contests. They showed up and ate when I was having a sales contest at work. I have worked as a coworker with three different generations of my family now- and it wasn't that bad, really. It was my family who helped me when I hit bottom, twice, and had nowhere to go and no way out from my mistakes.

Its the absolutely insane level of nosiness that spurs my family to offer dating advice on women. Its what makes them call me to make sure I know that we're always welcome, damn the conservatives and what they say (neveryoumind that some of them are conservative too!). Its my family who pushes me to be my best, who call with good natured nagging when I'm not getting along with someone else (a rarity more and more, thank god). It is my beautiful family who watched my romance with Kitten develop and who felt no compunction stalking her through Walmart when she was shopping before coming home to me even though they'd never met her, debating with each other whether or not they should introduce themselves.

And my family's kinks, quirks, oddities, secrets, histories, dramas and fights that make me so understanding of the troubles of others. It is what has given me the little compassion and empathy I possess and it is their level of unconditional love that I one day aspire to have. It is my family that reminds me that I am human. It is my family that reminds me that I need forgiveness as much as they do sometimes. But if ever there is a time when I need a second chance, forgiveness, help or acceptance I know I can get it from them. And it is that certainty that makes me want to share them with the people I love despite those links, quirks, oddities and dramas. Because after years of wondering where the hell I fit in with them I've come to realize that I am my family to my friends.

That's the one thing you can count on from me. I'm going to cheer for you. Loan you what money I can. Clean your house when you break your leg, bring you soup when no one else will because you have bird flu. I'm the person they'll come to when they need to bitch about work, or a friend. When time comes for a life changing decision, I know my friends are going to use me as a sounding board. If no one understands or they need a cry, a couch to crash on, or they need a dinner because the paycheck is three days away and they can't take one more bologna sandwich or packet of ramen; its my house you come to. I'm proud of that. I'm delighted that after all these years of wondering if I was ever going to be able to truly cope with my family and fit in I've discovered that they are a significant part of who I am, and have been all my life. I'd just never noticed.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

So I never got to the rest of my Alaska posts, though I've got them saved on here somewhere. I'll have to track them down.

Anywho, I've been a lazy blogger and I know I have a lot of catching up to do. It is, however, time for that inevitable end of the year round up. I remembered how I needed to do this when I saw the lovely survey below and I think it covers most stuff, so you know, I thought I would run with it.

What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Uh, I went to several states I had never been to. I hiked a waterfall. I took a ghost tour.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Probably not. I don't remember what they were. I didn't write more, which I always want to do. I didn't exercise more, which is usually on my list. I did, however, quit smoking and that was a bonus.

I have, yes, already decided what my new resolutions are. I am promising myself to not let people bully me or take advantage of me. I'm going to start calling people on their bullshit as it relates to me. Should be interesting.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
No. Thank god.

Did anyone close to you die?
My familiar Voodoo died. That was really hard for me.

What countries did you visit?
No new countries this year, sadly.

What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013
Nice abs? A drama free existence?

What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Kitten graduated on May 16

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Probably a tie between quitting smoking and not killing my MIL while I was trying to quit smoking.

What was your biggest failure?
I feel like I really let myself down in my journey to become a more compassionate person. I also didn't finish editing my last novel. Sad.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing significant. The usual bumps, bruises and colds, as far as I can remember. And headaches. Always the headaches.

What was the best thing you bought?
Uh, I liked the pirate tee that we got in Charleston?

Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I'm a big fan of the Pope.

Whose behaviour made you appalled?
Justin Beiber upset me a bunch. There were a bunch of douchey politicians as well.

Where did most of your money go?
Bills, as always/

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I was excited about Kitten graduating, her new job and the amount of time we get to spend together now.

Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?
I think I am happier, fatter and about the same financially.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Spent more time with my Grandmother.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Uh, wasted time.

How did you spend Christmas?
We went to the movies and watched American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks. It was awesome. We had a picnic in the floor of the movie theater for lunch and ate way to much popcorn and candy.

What was your favourite TV program?
Sherlock

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Uh, I try not to hate anyone.

What was the best book you read?
Oh. Wow. I read so many. I loved Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman) and Looking for Alaska (John Green) both were total tear jerkers. I also discovered my love of fantasy books. I read David Eddings and enjoyed it. I also started the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan with Swiss. I think he's a little firther on than I am. I'll get there though. Good books. I just can't do a single genre for very long.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
Oh, good grief. I have to pick one? Nope. Can't do it. I loved too many things this year.

What was your favourite film of this year?
I don't know if I can pick one. I loved Catching Fire and I've been waiting for it a while. I also loved American Hustle and Desolation of Smaug....

What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I got to spend a lot more time with Kitten once she graduated. I was pleased to see her succeed and then get a great job right away. It made my life much fuller and richer.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Sweat pants and T-shirts. Having put on a substantial amount of weight it was the most comfortable. Before that I spent a lot of time working around the house and camping. Its practically required.

What kept you sane?
Sakura. Kitten. Lots of deep breathing.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Its probably a tie between Jennifer Lawrence, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston.

What political issue stirred you the most?
gay rights. always. Gun control got me fired up too.

And a month by month:
In January I didn't do a whole lot except work a temp job at KMOM's office. I was, however, obsessed with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. We also got a new computer because our old one (and I mean, like, made in 2002 old) computer died. Sakura and I went to the symphony.

In February I  intentionally didn't celebrate Valentines because I didn't feel romantic at all. It snowed and iced a lot.

In March we went to go see Lindsey Stirling in St. Louis, MO. Sakura smashed his hand in the window at my house on Ostara during an indoor egg hunt because it had snowed outside. I was super proud because Kitten did her first ritual planning. Started the remodel of KMOM's kitchen.

In April my sweet Voodoo crossed the rainbow bridge. I saw Bob Dylan in concert.

In May Kitetn graduated from college. I quit smoking. We left for South Carolina. I planned a party. I celebrated Beltane. I played 7 wonders for the first time.

In June I saw South Carolina. I camped through a tropical storm. I saw sea turtles. I collected shells from a beach. I climbed a waterfall. I took a couple of ghost tours. I explored some graveyards as old as I am. I QUIT SMOKING. I cooked like a champ over an open fire. I made a few new friends. I came back from our trip and managed a ritual with less than a week to fix it up.

In July I went to the zoo. I joined Goodreads. Kitten quit her old job and got a new one. I got bitten by a poisonous spider, or several, I'm still not sure. Either way, this resulted in me having a poultice put on my feet and I thanked Lord and Lady that my wife is an excellent herbalist. Again. I started reading The Wheel of Time series with Swiss. I redecorated my living room.

In August I joined the Sherlock fandom. I bought some seriously hot salsa. I ran around a whole lot and generally wasted some time. I got my first smartphone. I learned that a 6gig data package for three people is TOTALLY not enough and I should never trust the ATT lady again. I put in a lot of flower beds.

In September I started working at The Diner. I went to the symphony with Sakura. Kitten and I saw Spamalot. Oscelot dumped us. We went to the Japanese Fall festival and had a nice time for a whole weekend. I got Kitten into a kimono.

In October nothing truly thrilling happened, I don't think. Except Halloween.

In November Kitten and I had our four year anniversary.

We skipped Christmas in December. That was fun.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Don't Ask Me How I Am! I Understand Nothing More- Hans Christian Anderson (Looking for Alaska- Part 1)

If you recognize where the quote for my blog comes from today you're certainly 1) aware that it is not a song quote, per my usual habit 2) you've read a fair amount of dying declarations and 3) (I can always hope) might be John Green.

What's much more likely is that you have, like I have just done, read Looking for Alaska, by the aforementioned Mr Green and took some time to look at unusual dying declarations (Its okay, really, I needed another weird obsession, I really did.). Having read it, I assume you were just a broken and touched by it as I was.

Before I really branch out, I'd like to give one of those general, vague, spoiler free type reviews. Like so:

Pudge was a loser in high school. Well, his first two years anyway. Then he convinced his parents to send him to boarding school where he meets The Colonel, his roommate, and Alaska, who is- of course- the most beautiful, enigmatic, tragic and amazing woman he has ever known in his man-boy existence. And she changes everything.

I have to tell you, honestly, this book is a tear jerker. I'm not a crier either. Not normally. But this book, it had me in tears. I also devoured it in less than a day. Its a quick read that begs (and I will give in) to a slow, languorous re-read that allows you to swim- nay- wallow in the tidal wave of emotions this book will set off in the deeply closeted teenager that you hide inside yourself. Unless you're still a teenager and in that case OMG THE FEELS. JOHN GREEN TOTALLY GETS YOU. I'm not being condescending. Its the truth.

The book has a beautiful tone to it. It holds the odd beauty of a boarding school- that mystique most of us never understand but yearn for as teenagers. It reminds me in some ways of Curtis Stittenfeild's Prep, only in a lot less painfully self-involved way. The setting rings true, and I think both works take a lot of the glamour out of boarding school and its inhabitants.  I think the characters are very real and I think the emotions are very accurate and true to life.

That said, I feel like John Green is much better capable of handling deep, visceral emotion and a lot of the questions that plague the lives of teenagers (and adults, let's face it) even when we're not really thinking that they're plaguing us. I think its that overreaching sense of omnipotence that Green, as a writer, really flourishes. The texture and depth is there, waiting to be discovered. Truly, whether you love the characters or you hate them or you chalk them up to tropes (seriously, I read a review like that and I couldn't believe it because these people lived in my mind, truly lived there, for the three hours I was reading it.) you can't escape the feeling that they are real.

Now. At the end of my edition John (can I call you John?) asks five questions of the reader and I have no one to discuss them with so I want to tell you (and him, if he's here) the answers.

1. Is forgiveness universal? I mean, is forgiveness really available to all people, no matter the circumstances? Is it, for instance, possible for the dead to forgive the living, and for the living to forgive the dead?

I think it is, in a way. I think that some of your characters would argue that we have to believe that because it is the only thing that gives us solace in this life. I think maybe they might discuss that (like Pudge argues) because matter, energy, and thus ourselves, cannot be unmade, that we are infinitely enfolded in our own and the forgiveness of others because we exist in a state of forgiving.

My answer is of course it is. I believe our souls are eternal, they exist without our bodies. It is our souls that hold the seat of our emotion and our wisdom (if not always our collected knowledge) and that is something that cannot be taken from us when we die. I think the dead forgive the living because the completion and perfection of not being non-corporeal (call it heaven, nirvana, the summerlands, whatever) prevents you from holding grudges. You are the universe, you have perfect wisdom, you've joined The Force. There is no room for anger any longer because you are perfect and infinite. I think as a living human forgiveness is a choice and our ability to forgive is a signal of our progression towards that perfection and one of the great challenges of our existence.

2. I would argue that in both fiction and in real life, teenage smoking is a symbolic action. What do you think it's intended to symbolize and what does it actually end up symbolizing? To phrase the question differently: Why would anyone every pay money in exchange for the opportunity to acquire lung cancer and/or emphysema?

Okay. This is an interesting one seeing as I started smoking at 15 and I quit just six months ago (for those of you unaware, I am in my thirties). I started, I suppose, because I could. Because people I thought to be like me did it. In a way, they were like me, and I don't know why they started so it might be a vicious cycle. For me, then, it had nothing to do with looking cool or taking a shot at the establishment or whatever- which is what it eventually ends up symbolizing. It just made sense and I didn't think much about it. I did quit for a while and then I started again and I think that really answers the second question, which is why I would do it knowing it harms me. The truth is, I like the flavor of tobacco. Not the horrible stuff, but the nice, imported kind you smoke in a hookah and is soft and sweet and has texture and flavors like wine or nice cheese. In the end, I weighed the health benefits and decided wine and nice cheese were less likely to kill me although only time will tell.

As to what it symbolizes in the book (which is what I think you're actually asking) I would say that it is a portrait of both the feeling of invincibility that teenagers feel and a shadowy foreboding of the pain and shadow that come with growing up and loss. Maybe that's why any teenager does it, in the end; its our one chance to take something grown up that we aren't ready for and control it.

But I will say this- I think the idea that we must avoid death at all costs is silly. Everyone dies. I don't think life is measured by length as much as it is by quality. Granted, a longer life means more opportunity for quality, but only if you make the best of it. I started smoking shisha while I was in Kuwait in 2005 on a truly once in a lifetime trip. The truth is me being gone from the US then (I was there for almost three weeks, I think) and the fallout from me being gone had long-lasting consequences in my life. When I arrived home I did not know it but my life was about to change dramatically and for almost four years, not for the better. But I'll tell you something- even if I had only smoked while on that trip and I would never smoke again and it killed me in the end, I would not change it. I wouldn't. Because eight years ago I was sitting on the Arabian Gulf with a handful of students I had just met, with a group of people I will never see again, at one of the largest TGI Friday's in the world (Who knew, right?) smoking shisha out of a pipe and listening to them laugh in Arabic though I didn't speak a stitch of it and I was having one of the most beautiful experiences I had ever known. And yes, I could have had that without the tobacco, but I would miss the soft and hazy, perfectly relaxed  feeling of that memory- and it would lack the aftertaste of rich Egyptian tobacco if I hadn't. And that taste, that moment, and the scent of the gulf air and the taste of my terrible soda was the experience in my life that made me brave enough to survive what came after and aware enough of my own personal beauty to see I was something worth fighting for. When I die it will be one of a handful of moments in my life that I would not trade anything for. If death came for me tonight, it would be one of the things I loved about my life and I couldn't regret it- even if it was the cause.

That said- don't smoke, kids. Give yourself more chances for infinite perfection and happiness.

3. Do you like Alaska? Do you think its important to like people you read about?

Yes. I like Alaska. She's a great depiction of a teenage girl. I really believe that. Because I knew her, and I was her and I see her all the time. She's the depiction of beauty and enigma that lives in all females of a certain age. She is the kiss in the corner of Wendy's mouth.

That said; no, I don't think you have to like the people you read about. I think this is adult perspective creeping in, but I think a lot of important characters are like that. I think Holden Caufeild is a punk, but I get why he was and I know why that's important. Scout Finch was a smart-aleck brat. I liked her, but that's the truth. Lady McBeth was a whiner and a wimp but you can't have Out Spot Out without her crazy ass. I mean, look at the people we idolize now- Frank Sinatra beat his wife. Queen Elizabeth the first had a mercurial temper. Hell, look at all the celebrities who are dead that we idolize- Curt Kobain, Amy Winehouse, Corey Monteith, Marilyn Monroe- most of them were bad people. Unlikable people, but that's part of their charm. In Ken Keysey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Randall McMurphy talks about the "average asshole on the street."  all of us are that person- the average asshole- but that makes us no less deserving of love or interest, or no less lovable or interesting for that matter. I propose that's what makes us worth reading about. Alaska was an extraordinary "ordinary asshole" and I think that's why I (and everyone in the book) loved her.


Alright, kiddies, this is me tapping out because I have three other spaces to hit on the internet before I have to go to bed because I get up before the sun and its already way past my bedtime. John Green, you're costing me sleep, but you're worth it- you brilliant writer you.  I have two more questions to answer tomorrow and those will be the ones with the spoilers.

For those of you who have read the book, what do you think? For those of you who haven't- go get it. Seriously.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Time Keeps Rollin' On

I could keep telling you how busy I am, but no one believes me with the amount of time I spend on Tumblr, honestly. And I do have a Tumblr, in case you want to see what really occupies my waking hours. Spoiler alert- books, cats, food, Kitten and a few very pretty British men. Specifically This one:

Oh. And I've been figuring out how to work gifs, FINALLY, because I am sick of not being able to do it. Thanks to Sakura for that. Seriously.

I've been meaning to write lately and every time I get in here I get distracted because I want to talk about so many things. I keep thinking, why can't I be nice like Aravis and Swiss and only talk about one thing at a time? It occurs to me this is because Aravis and Swiss and all the other lovely bloggers I know actually have things to say and their minds are not, like mine, as cluttered as a forgotten attic in a romance novel. Fortunately, I explore mine pretty often and I always find a few treasures. Here's what's been on my mind lately:

The government shut down. I could get all wound up and do a political post but we'll stay away. I'll say this, the system is broken. EVERYONE is at fault. This started years before now. I'm sick of all of it. Talk about voter apathy. I won't have the heart to encourage people to vote if this keeps up, because really, who wants to convince someone their voice matters when really a bunch of assholes are going to hijack your decision making governing body and hold it hostage while pitching a fit like a two year old because they aren't getting their way. This goes for both sides, btw. All this nonsense does have a practical aide to it- I worry about money. I also worry because we have several customers who work for the government at Super Coffee and I don't want to cope with them not coming in because they've no paychecks.

Oscelot and Bobcat live next door. This causes no angst, its just new.

I am, though, concerned about Oscelot, because I have this horrible feeling the friendship is going to go south, and I hate when shit goes sideways. I've had a few tarot readings that indicate this is going to happen soon and it is going to effect my wallet. This will piss me off. We'll see. I feel like there's an effort on her part to needle me into being an asshole so she can be the victim, so I'm being as nice as possible for the moment, probably a dick move in and of itself. Ah, well. At least I'm being nice about it.

I have been enjoying some new fandoms lately. My love of Doctor Who grows daily. Of course, I've been loving Sherlock. Okay, I'm obsessed with Sherlock and not just because BC is a very painfully, adorably perfect example of what humanity should be. I've always loved the AC Doyle shorts and I think that there has been serious thought put into updating the stories into modern London. In old fandom news I am preparing to be really excited about Catching Fire. I think it is going to be great. I've seen some of the casting for the third and fourth film as well, and I can't be bitter about that. The Hobbit, Desolation of Smaug trailer came out and I think its going to be great. I will certainly be purchasing the latest Star Trek special edition to own for my very own quite soon. Kitten is currently really into AMC's The Walking Dead. Me? Not so much. I did, however, really like World War Z as far as zombie movies go and they aren't usually my favorite. I even liked it in 3D.

I am gearing up for Nanowrimo (Nano) and I think this year is going to be great. I've actually stayed in touch with some of the people who I have met in the forums over the last couple of years, and seeing them grow as writers and them  being there to encourage me is huge. I think I am going to try a romance again this year, though I am planning on skipping the historical and trying out a modern romance. I am also going to work to make this one real and enjoyable. I feel like there has to be more to romance than just billionaire philanthropist playboys, right? Poor people need love too. Hell, look at me.

My brother turned 30 last week and its making me feel really old. On the upside, Punk did invite me to his birthday party for the first time in years. I, of course, could not attend. But it was the thought that counted. We'll probably lunch later this week and it will be a good time. If not this week, well, by week I mean sometime in the next seven days. I need to work out his days off...

I may or may not have mentioned that my mom and grandmother came unglued on me in public when I told them I didn't want to celebrate Christmas with anyone this year-not specifically them, but anyone. See, I'm not a Christian and I hate the shuffle and crazy. They both apologized and are being really mature about it. For now. This, I think, is a good thing.

Samhain (Halloween) is fast approaching and I am really looking forward to the dumb supper we are planning (it means we don't talk, not that its stupid). I've almost got everything ready, except for purchasing the food, of course. And I'm waiting on the final RSVPs. It'll be great. I love the holidays, I really do.

Outside of that I think I am joining a gym in January (Specials, friends. I hate paying the building fees, especially when they're more than a third of the yearly subscription. That's stupid.) I am finally uncomfortable with my body shape. I am okay with the weight, and I know a lot of it comes from not smoking (did I ever mention I quit smoking? I quit in May.) and the food cravings that I have been completely giving into because of it. I have to remember now that I probably shouldn't always listen to my cravings, especially if they are for truffles and cans of pringles. Or cupcakes for breakfast. Either way, I've been meaning to get into a gym and swim more. I've been a lot less active as a housewife than I was when I was working at Casa Bueno and I need to take better care of myself. Kitten is positively rail thin because of her work now (all muscle too- I keep feeding her and it doesn't work!) so I feel like a total layabout when I look in the mirror. I could definitely use some toning. Not to mention I decided to ride my bicycle to the post office today to get some stamps and what would have been a quick and easy ten minute ride was a painful and embarrassing fifteen minute slog. It is certainly time to get back into shape. I may take my bike to work with me tomorrow and ride it home. I don't fancy the ten mile ride will be pleasant, but then, exercise hardly ever is...I suppose I'll see how miserable and defeated my body is tomorrow. I mowed the lawn and hacked at some weeds today too....

So that's me. I think there's not a whole lot of other interesting things going on. I'll eventually get around to talking about exciting things again, and maybe telling you all about my workplace, which really is a treasure. I am so happy there I can't even think.

So....you lot take care and I swear I'll make it in soon. Swear.

Lots of love- AGxx


Oh- and a postscript for someone who swore they were getting the hell out of my life a few years ago and I've discovered that they are occasionally stalking my blog. For the record, I was right. I still am. I'm glad I made the decision I did. As for you?














Monday, September 16, 2013

Everybody Changes

So it seems again like I am a lazy blogger, but honestly, things have been so crazy, I really feel like I've been a bit justified.

I have a job now, for one thing. I've been working at a wonderful place we'll call the Magic Pancake for about a month and a half now. I really like it and I'm super happy. Its actually one of the places I mentioned that I would miss when I leave the city I am living in now. I feel like the staff are my family and I really enjoy going to work every day. It isn't far from my house and I can walk home if I want to. Its pretty nice. I also am off by two every day because we are only open until then, so I have my afternoons free, which is really enjoyable. It gives me a chance to still see my friends, be active or get housework done before Kitten gets home.

Having a job means I have time out of the house, which makes me appreciate being at home more, if that was possible. It has also brought to my attention that I need to exercise a little more and maybe lose a little weight. No, I don't think I am fat (not when I'm being rational anyway) but I weighed myself at a friend's house a couple weeks ago and I've put on 15 pounds since I stopped smoking. Some exercise might be in order. I don't mind going up a couple of pant sizes, but I do want to be healthy. Come January I'll probably join a gym. I've been looking into the local YMCA among other places, and I think I've almost settled on them. They have a lot of good classes and there's one just a few blocks from my house. It has a pool and I'll have access to it even if I can't or don't feel like driving.

I should also probably mention the fact that Oscelot is no longer living with Kitten and I. We are no longer dating her. It is (so far) a pretty amicable split. She and Bobcat are moving into the house next door to us, which should be a good time. We've been wanting Bobcat to come back over to our side of town for a while now and it was very convenient that the house was open when Oscelot was looking for a place. It will, I hope, turn out well. If it doesn't...well, it happens. We are trying as hard as we can to smooth the way for all of us. We don't want any of that nasty picking sides or whatever that comes from a lot of breakups.

Personally, I think it is wonderful for her that she feels ready to be on her own and support herself. I think it is a huge step for her to want more for herself than Kitten and I could have given her. She deserves to be happy and be with a person who is entirely devoted to her.

Since Oscelot has been moving out I've spent a lot of time going through things and arranging the house. We got a new bed with a really firm mattress and that's nice. I am sleeping better already. That pillowtop....ich.

Otherwise, I've spent some time enjoying the BBC series Sherlock (yes, I've just started watching) and Kitten and I have been trying to have little dates on the weekend. Next week we're going to go see Spamalot, its showing locally. Last weekend we went to the Japanese Fall Festival at our local botanical gardens. They have a Japanese stroll garden and we really enjoyed it. There were performers from our sister city in Japan there, and we had fun. We bought weekend passes and Bobcat came with us. It was a lot of fun. Our first night out Sakura joined us as well. The second day of the festival Kitten and I went in kimono. It was really comfortable as hot as it was outside and I was delighted to have a chance to wear my kimono from our honeymoon out of the house and with its obi. It also meant I got to wear my pretty jade hair pick that Kitten gave me. She's such a sweetheart.

I'm hoping that things will settle down soon, though. I want to start working on the leather corset and greaves I was doing before I started working at the Magic Pancake, and I've got fabric for a Neo-Victorian bustle I want to wear with it. I'd like to have it finished before our local Con this year, but that's going to be up in the air. I also want to make myself a mannequin so I can do my hand-sewing on it....but that requires time, help and a TON of duct tape. Projects, projects....

So. That's me. For now.
loves
AGxx