Thursday, December 18, 2014

All I Want for Christmas...

All the popular bloggers are doing it, so I will too! Here is my Christmas wishlist of "OMG PLZ GIVE ME" stuff that has a 99% likelihood of being denied. (Which, you know, means that eventually, I will have to buy this for myself.)


All's I can say is, I've been hanging out in SoCal too long. Wtf, why do I care about a designer label? But the lines on it are so classic, and it's so lovely and pink and bold!

I have been so obsessed with this pendant since I saw it on Pretty Shiny Sparkly's blog. But UUUURGH, it's sold out! This delicate, chic, colorful piece of jewelry is not for me now. Yet.

 I regard most perfumes like I do wines: My sniffer and tastebuds are broken; don't expect me to appreciate this shit! But I recall, vaguely, that this perfume was delicious when I first took a sniff, and so I've been captivated ever since.

I've been in love, absolute-so-far-gone love with this piece since I first laid eyes upon it. It reminds me of a long-ago October afternoon in Middle America, when an overcast sky was fought with the chilly sunlight and resulted in golden rays shining brightly but feebly through a lavender-grey mass of swiftly moving clouds. In 2015, I'd like to assemble a gallery wall, and this may end up being the masterpiece.

Mid-Range Goodies:

Now, let's get real, shall we? When December 26 rolls around and I am in the doldrums, these are what I am more likely to be popping into my shopping cart:

 Q&A a Day

What was the best part of today? What are you reading right now? What was the last restaurant you went to?  My sisters will be the first to say that I have really, really lousy taste--in culture, in books, hell, probably in men. But bad or not, it's my taste, and I like to know how these tastes--and thoughts, and goals, and ideas-- shift and evolve.

 Staedtler TriPlus Fineliners. IN ALL THE COLORS.
 Since I discovered the world of blinging out your Erin Condren Life Planner, I've been coveting these lovely ladies. Because, you know, I just don't have enough pens.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I seriously don't understand how I haven't gotten this yet.

Hello Kitty Aviator Hat 

 Last Christmas, my sister's boyfriend got her a cutesy aviator hat, which she promptly plopped on and announced that she would always knit while wearing it. I love the idea of creative rituals and ritualistic tools, so this shall be mine! At least in the winter months.

Enh, Stuff It In that Stocking:

 So pretty! So colorful! So in my shopping cart!

These are perfect little gifts, not too expensive, and so graceful and scenty. For those who can smell. I guess I'm just a poseur.

Cards Against Humanity Expansions

If you have played this game, you know how fun this is as a gift. And what a perfect stocking stuffer! This isn't nearly as graceful or elegant as the previously-mentioned candles. But I guess I'm just a conundrum wrapped in an enigma wrapped in bacon.

So that's it. That's what is in my mental shopping-list. Or at least, that's a little of what's in my mental shopping list. What are you thinking of getting for yourself as a post-Christmas treat?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Our Farewell

A year ago tonight was my mother's last night in this life.

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of her passing. "Dead Mom Day," I've taken to referring to it in my characteristically vulgar fashion, as if by putting it as baldly as possible, I will lessen the complicated sadness of this whole fucked-up experience.

In many ways, I was much more upset with Mom's initial cancer diagnosis, the surgery, the prognosis, than I was with her death. I certainly cried much more when faced with her possible demise than when faced with her actual demise. Yet, as the months go on, I find that grief presents itself in odd, yet sharply poignant, ways. An increasingly unbearable homesickness. A silly wish that one of my sisters decides to have children. The absurd desire to know what her young adulthood was like. A heaviness in my center that just feels like a melancholic, spiritual sadness.

We never said farewell. And if I don't tap into this well of muted sorrow that seems to grow deeper by the day, I don't know that we will ever say our farewell.

She and I, we weren't close in the traditional sense, particularly after I grew up. When I was ten, I went to go live with her parents, and at the time--for two decades--I didn't question it or feel it as a rejection. Only after her diagnosis, when certain truths could no longer be ignored, did I begin to see and feel things differently. I was her youngest daughter, and when she sent me to live with my grandparents, perhaps it was because I was the one who needed the most when she was able to give it the least. Because, you see, she was Elaine before she was my mother, and Elaine was troubled.

My sisters will be the first to tell you that their bonds with her, their knowledge of her, came at a steep price. It was all about Elaine, all the time, every day. I didn't grow up feeling her increasing demands upon me, so I never felt obligated to cede to them, the way that my sisters did. You want a piece of the Mom? You better be willing to give her a bigger piece of you.

Well, I suppose it's water under the bridge, or some other dismissive figure of speech. She's gone--or maybe not so much? When I was in Florida, my sisters and I went and visited a psychic medium in Cassadaga, and while the woman we saw certainly muttered a bit of balderdash, she said quite a few things that let us know that Mom was "there." It was an odd and emotional experience, but at the end, the lady said to us, "She visits you all the time."

At the time, I found that a bit hard to believe, seeing as how getting her to visit anyone or answer the phone was difficult enough when she was on this fucking plane of existence. I'm still not sure that I believe that she visits me. And yet...

Maybe she does. Maybe she does it when Hermione, her cat that I hauled back to California, who meows and mrrrrrps at the oddest times. Maybe she does it when I hear the folksy strains of Judy Collins or Peter, Paul, and Mary. Maybe she does it every time I utter a foul word, for who else did I learn my language from? Maybe she visits each time my sisters and I come together.

Or maybe she does it all the time, hanging out in my bedroom or my cubicle or hell, even in the shower, and I'm just as oblivious and estranged from her now as I was when she was alive.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Gotta Tell You: Florida Thanksgiving Trip

Last month, for Thanksgiving, I returned "home" to Florida.

My use of quotes is quite deliberate. These days, I don't know where home is. It's been a point of confusion in my head and heart since 2009 or so, and in the past year--since the passing of my mother--it's become a subject that is downright fraught with misery.

(Yup, I said it. Misery.)

I'd love to say my trip to Florida was wonderful. I'd like to say it was productive, filled with laughter and reminiscing and closure, that I connected with old friends, that I showed Mr. Melissa the delights of Florida. That I spent a good portion of it talking with my 93-and 96-year-old grandmother and grandfather.

I'd like to say all of this, but I cannot. I try not to lie when I can avoid it.

It was a necessary trip. It was the first time I had seen my sisters and grandparents since last Christmas.

It was, at times, a fun trip. No one can can make me laugh--or cry--like my sisters do.

It was an eye-opening trip. I watched Mr. Melissa interact with my family.

It was a sorrowful trip. The most poignant part came on Thanksgiving Day, when we looked at the oyster stuffing that Eldest had made (that my mother used to make) and saw how little of it was eaten. 

But ultimately, it was a heart-wrenching, harrowing, excruciatingly sad trip. I don't like to use the word trauma, because it feels like it might be more than somewhat trivializing to those who endure actual trauma. My initial description holds: It was rough. I can only say this: I spent a good part of the last two days of it crying my eyes out, not wanting to leave my sisters. Even now, I am starting to get teary-eyed. Only one thing really stands out to me: an hour or so before I said goodbye to them,  I said to my sisters, like it was some sort of fucking genius epiphany, "I'm miserable six months out of the year in California. I may as well be miserable six months of the year in Florida, with a chance for thunderstorms and being closer to my sisters."

Yet, if I don't live in California, why should I move back to Florida when there are cities in Indiana and Ohio and Illinois and Michigan and Missouri that could offer more of what I want? I'd have the seasons and balance that I crave, and at least be closer to Eldest and Middle.

Yet, I am in California. My wonderful job, my husband, my obligations are here. How can I leave?

Perhaps, it was a game-changing trip.

Or perhaps nothing changes.

Or perhaps I don't have the courage (or the money) to change.

At least yet.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Florida Vacation Lookbook

Taking a page out of one of my new favorite blogs, Paper and Glam, I'm going to instate an occasional "Lookbook"--not a lookbook of fashion, but more like a mini online scrapbook highlighting some of the various shenanigans in my life.

Edition the First: My 2014 Thanksgiving Trip to Florida
For quite a few of the past several years, I've returned home to Florida for Thanksgiving to visit family. Usually this leads to a lot of fun times, but starting in 2011, things started to get rough. My aunt passed away that year, a week before Thanksgiving. And then last year, my mother passed away about 10 days before Christmas. So this was our first Thanksgiving without our mother, and for my grandparents, now 93 and 96, it was their first Thanksgiving without any of their children. 

Still, there were many memorable moments...

countless fits of helpless giggles with me and my sisters...

Possibly the most delicious crawfish etoufee I've ever had, courtesy of Tibby's in Winter Park, Florida...

Quirky, doofy Florida humor...

A blissful day of perusing various stores at the Mall of Millenia (pre-Black Friday, of course!)...

A Thanksgiving morning mosey through Sugar Mill Plantation and Gardens...

A walk down down the beach at Ponce Inlet...

A day spent in Cassadaga, talking with a medium who knew a lot about our mother, and who offered some life advice that was maybe a little too close for comfort...

And speaking of the Momster, we transferred her ashes to the urn and got her all set up in the shrine in the Fairy Wonderland Bedroom.

Lest my Supportive Therapist (TM) accuses me of glossing over things too much, I'll just say that it wasn't all just yummy food and peaceful nature walks and drunken games of Cards Against Humanity.  For all these pretty pictures, for all the laughter, for all the wine consumed--it was still a rough trip. We're all getting older (duh) and each year it gets harder and harder to leave. I spent a good part of the last two days of my trip crying, conflicted, and tormented by life decisions that have kept me so very far from my sisters, from my grandparents...and yet, at the same time, I don't want to return to Florida to live. I don't know what the answer is, and it's been scalding my heart for the past ten days. 

And there's no picture that can capture what that looks like. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekend Awesomeness, Recapped

Somehow...and I'm not entirely sure how this happened...the end of the year has sneaked up upon me. Summer, which seems to go on as eternally as hellfire here in the desert, has officially fucked the fuck off for another few months. The days can still get warm, but not uncomfortable, and the nights and mornings have been downright cool.

If I were completely honest, I'd say that this has been the most lovely October and autumn out here in the desert since I moved here six years ago.


The last few days have been a whirlwind, filled with an abundance of happy circumstances and things, all of which have given me extraordinary pleasure:

  • We actually had a wee bit of WEATHER this weekend, with grumpy, deep lavender-grey clouds fighting with the sun in the desert sky. I love the extra-stormy feel of those contrasting natural elements, don't you?
  • An absolutely kick-ass concert on Saturday night--along with my superhero girls, NavaJo and MILF, I attended the Def Leppard concert at the casino. It was a high-energy, fun, sold-out event, and one of the best nights of my life.
  • Daylight savings time! I CANNOT, SIMPLY CANNOT be the only person that loves "falling back," can I? I mean, we gain a whole hour's sleep, AND it gets dark earlier! I love the dark, and the winter months, and oh, how I miss how it would be pitch-black by 5 PM, back in Southern Indiana. Sigh. 
  • My Erin Condren planner has shipped! I intend to stalk the tracking number on this every day until this bundle of life-planning awesomeness is in my hands and I can have this physical representation of all the planned awesomeness of the year ahead. 
  • Lots of other wonderful things: seeing the Christmas decor come up in Michaels and Target; purchasing a lovely haul of cosmetics from Ulta and Sephora; greasy hangover food and a Hair of the Dog (which does, surprisingly, do the trick), and just lazing around in bed on a Saturday morning with YouTube...all of these, just damned lovely ways to make life grand.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Into the Looking Glass

"The people around you are mirrors, I think...You see yourself reflected in their eyes. If the mirror is true, and smooth, you see your true self. That's how you learn who you are. And you might be a different person to different people, but it's all feedback that you need, in order to know yourself. But if the mirror is broken, or cracked, or warped...the reflection is not true. And you start to believe you are this...bad reflection."

I read this today during lunch, in the staff break room, as I was curled up in one of the pleather armchairs, dutifully noshing on a hardboiled egg. (Don't think me virtuous, the egg was the follow-up to two slices of doughy pepperoni pizza that may have been older than the chicken from which my egg had come.) And when I read those words in Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman, I had to put the book down--and my egg, too--and really take those words in. Massaging them into my own words, my own understanding...

It's their perception of you that's warped and cracked or skewed, and they are projecting it back out on to you. And the insecure, or easily duped, or simply emotionally spent person will see that, and will accept that reflection. 

This is a somewhat sobering thing to ponder on a weekday afternoon. This is the type of realization that it's best you come to when you're a little tipsy on a cool night, gazing out into the inky sky. So I had to dog-ear the page and make a mental note to myself to go back and ponder it later. After all, it never hurts to ponder the people in your life, ponder the role they play, ponder the way you feel and think about yourself when you're around them.

There's another type of mirror that Caitlin Moran doesn't talk about, at least not yet. There are some people that, unwittingly or not, hold up a mirror and project a reflection of what we could be (I was thinking of good potential, but I reckon BAD could be there as well.) When we spend time with those people, we feel stimulated, inspired, energized, shot through with hope and ideas. I'm lucky to have encountered quite a few people like that over the years. I find I need that mirror, need to be reminded of the amazing things I COULD do and be and experience, given the right drive and company and motivation.

Do we need the dark, cracked mirror in our lives?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

This Day and Me: A Love Story

The day and I got off together on the best of terms, the best of intentions. We were ready for each other. We knew what each expected of the other. We met each other, prepared for each others' needs and hopes. Me? I wanted productivity and maybe a few high points of "Wow, I rocked in that particular situation." The day? it would just be happy if I didn't part ways with it in tears and recriminations and thoughts of "I should have done this better."

Did we meet eachothers' needs and expectations? More or less, we did. I had a phone interview with a panel of folks charged with seeing if I'm a good fit for a leadership program. I had tried to prepare for it (with, it turns out, no particular success; this institute feels more secretive than the Bilderberg Group) but really, the only way to be prepared was physically: having my application notes in front of me, filling up my cup of water, putting out a do-not-disturb sign, donning my tiara.

Yes, of course you read that correctly. My tiara. I wore it. To a phone interview. Why the fuck not? The only people that saw me were the colleagues and bosses that are well-attuned to my quirks.

(Damn, how did my face end up looking so long and crooked?)

Fortunately, secretive leadership institute interview was at the beginning of the day, so I got that out of the way first thing. Did I do well? I think it's hard to say. My colleague Dr. Bob, with his annoyingly sharp hearing, heard pieces of it, and said I did well, but then, who wants a red-headed feminist librarian having a nervous breakdown on your watch? If I were Bob, I would have told Emily Wilding Davison she did a great job right after she flung herself underneath the horses. 

Anyway, the rest of the day was fairly unremarkable. I didn't fuck up, I didn't piss people off, I made people laugh, I followed orders. But there were upheavals throughout the day, which I quietly (and sometimes, not so quietly) witnessed,  and by the end of it. the thought of going to the gym or doing anything even remotely good for me sounded pretty fucking repugnant.

So? The day and I, we met each other's basic expectations, but it took a lot out of both of us. Which is why, at the end of this day,  I ended up at home, haranguing my housemates, drinking shitty white wine, wearing a tiara, and putting together a fake-shopping cart on Sephora. No one is in tears, or threatening to hang themselves from the rafters, or dying of alcohol poisoning (yet.) So this day and I, we will subside into a peaceful, wearied detente, and hope to arise again, refreshed, tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Stories That Nobody Hears...

The first time I met her, like, face-to-face met her, it was a warm, sunny afternoon in September. She hurried out of her apartment, accompanied by her "housemate" (a word I'd never heard before, but still use, to this day) and carrying some sort of homemade gourmet picnic goodies. She was on the petite side, and had a mysterious little smile and shrewd, observing eyes. Her name was Jeana, and she, like me, had left her home and family behind in order to launch her academic life at Indiana University.

And there is where our similarities both began and ended. From the beginning, I could tell that she was one of the most remarkable individuals I had ever--have ever--encountered. She had lived in a commune in Berkeley. She belly-danced. She was ferociously driven and ambitious. She had traveled many different places. She loved gourmet cooking, and belly dancing, and games and gaming. She wrote, she was interested in yoga and rock-climbing, and she always seemed to fucking succeed at everything she did. When she wasn't teaching or attending classes or writing papers, she was planning research trips and reading feminist theory books and submitting conference proposals or writing articles. Life, the way she lived it, was productive and intriguing and magical. I loved being in her orbit, loved watching her talk and bellydance, loved the feelings of creativity and potential that could arise when I spent enough time with her. I suppose I felt like a bit of a bourgeois dullard around her, but I know Jeana would have been the first to admonish me for those feelings. Jeana was all about owning yourself, and your identity.

All that was years ago, of course. Oddly, I ended up moving out to Jeana's native Southern California, whereas she has stayed in Indiana, carefully cultivating a respectable academic career and becoming something of a big fucking deal on the bellydance scene. I miss Jeana, like I miss all of the folks from my grad school years, but I also miss her insights, relentlessly logical yet still fraught with honest, if somewhat constrained, emotion. So it's not surprising that I finally got off my duff and found her blog to catch myself up on the life of this amazing woman.

Back in the day--and for probably well over a decade--she shared the minutiae of her every day life in LiveJournal. Alas, the times have changed, and her LJ is--like most of our grad school careers--a thing of the past, but she now blogs on her website. And I have to admit, I kind of miss the minutiae of her darkly magical life. Still, it was in reading her blog recently that I found a post of hers that was completely empowering and just beautifully inspiring:

"I share about my life in order to say yes, I’m a woman, and yes, I happen to be extraordinarily intelligent, but I do not neglect my physical existence, and if you have a problem with that, well, you should work on those unconscious biases of yours while I’m over here busily (and happily) living my life.

There’s another reason that I share, sometimes to the point of oversharing. I’m painfully aware that people like me did not and do not always have a voice. Very few written records of historical women’s daily experiences exist. Those that do are, in European history at least, overwhelmingly noble (as not many lower-class women could read or write). Other people at the margins of society... have also been voiceless and powerless in many situations, throughout many centuries. This makes me angry. I know that our oppressions and struggles are not equal or symmetrical, but I’m angry nonetheless. I’m angry that our experiences get lost and neglected because literacy and education are not yet considered universal human rights. I’m angry that history was written by the victors, most of whom were wealthy, Christian, heterosexual, monogamous, cis-gendered, neurotypical, European white men. I’m angry that even with the wealth of information at my fingertips thanks to the Internet, I still won’t be able to learn about what women’s lives were like in historical periods when men’s lives, and the lives of the rich, and the religious upper castes, were the sole ones being documented.

As a folklorist, I believe in the transformative power of personal narratives, those stories we tell based on our experiences. I want to see everyone’s lives documented. We all have stories, and those stories are treasures.

As a feminist, I want to see women, women’s lives, and women’s experiences and stories valued at least as much as those of men. I want to see that for all oppressed peoples no matter why they’re being oppressed, whether it’s skin color or religion or social class or sexuality or gender identity or nationality or (dis)ability.

So I share about my life. Sometimes I overshare. I broadcast it to the world, documenting it on the screen and in pen and ink. Maybe these small acts of resistance matter as such, and maybe they don’t, maybe they border on solipsism and narcissism. But I share because I know there are people like me living right now who cannot. Because if I’d been born perhaps one century ago, and definitely two or three centuries or more ago, I would not have been able to document my life.

Again and again, I return to the feminist slogan “the personal is political.” And yet I long for a day when it will no longer be useful. Perhaps documenting lives, even to the point of oversharing, is a step that will help us imagine that future."
-Jeana Jorgensen, PhD, from "In Praise of Oversharing," published 7/24/2013

Every day, if I think about blogging, or journaling, or even writing a letter to someone, I wonder, "Well, what the fuck should I post?" It feels silly and self-absorbed, usually, to sit here and talk about the interminable desert sunshine, or the nutty patron du jour, or the book that I'm reading, or the time spent at the gym, or the chores (such as they are) done. But then...why the fuck not? It might not be a riveting story, but it's my story, and goddamn...I reckon I've got the power to choose how I tell it.

So,  even 10 years after I met her, Jeana is still changing my life, inspiring and influencing me. Like Jeana, I hope to own my words, my life, my experiences, and document and celebrate them.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Week Ahead

Have you ever had one of those Sundays that was just so gosh-darned perfect, you want to call in sick to work on Monday, just so you can extend the joy? (I don't actually advocate that. The guilt and shame alone would totally cripple your enjoyment.)

Well, anyway, my Sunday was so pleasant, I actually have become excited about the week ahead! Here are some of the highlights and goals:

  • Going to the gym a minimum of three times
  • Trying to film my very first book review
  • Working a piano concert
  • Carrying on with my Christmas shopping
  • Watching cheesy Halloweeny films on October 31 and knocking back some wine with one of my lady friends
  • Attending my SECOND Def Leppard concert and maybe banging my head, just a little
  • Smiling a lot, and owning my smile as one of the best features of my face
  • Enjoying the decently-cool (for us) autumn nights here in the shadow of the mountain. The leaves ain't turning, no one is wearing any sweaters or jeans (at least not without sweating their nuts off) but the heat, hallelujah, is at least gone in the night-time.
 What are you looking forward to this week?

Weekly Web Love

One of the drawbacks of being a daydreamin' bookworm is that sometimes, I get a little out of touch with reality and trends. So me discovering things that all y'all might have known about for years  is akin to, like, Christopher Motherfucking Columbus "discovering" the New World. Still, every now and then I come across things on the web so smashingly magical that I can't NOT share them.

Shiro Cosmetics
This is THE go-to website for makeup geeks--literally, geeks. Or else people who can simply appreciate a line of Nicholas Cage-inspired beauty products with poetic names like "Nic Cage Churning Butter One Crisp Thanksgiving Morn." Some folks are, I am sure, titillated by the Hunger Games-themed eyeshadows, but I gotta say, "Red In My Ledger" lipgloss simply made my night.

Grav3yardGirl on YouTube
I wanted to loathe her, or at least roll my eyes and turn away. But I couldn't. I can't. I've been utterly charmed by this weirdo in Texas. She is, simply, the most delightfully un-selfconscious and quirky young woman I've ever met. Just...let her worm her way into your heart.

SO! Those are the links I've been diggin' on this week. What other internet gems have I missed out on lately?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

An Apple a Day...

Ten years ago (actually, plus a couple of months) I started grad school to train to become a librarian.

It didn't take very long at all for me to question my life choices, though. My very first day of classes, my very first class, I became immediately convinced that I was hopelessly out of my depth. I sat in that computer class, completely petrified and bewildered, as all around me my fellow students breezed through the instructor's directions.


The reason for my befuddlement, I now know, was a combination of two things: me being the most insecure creature that ever crawled the hills of Southern Indiana, and having to learn on an Apple computer.

People still use Macintosh computers? I thought desperately as a kind fellow student muttered directions at me like a techie version of Hermione Granger. I haven't seen one of these since the third grade. AND OH MY GOD WHY CAN I NOT RIGHT-CLICK???? Dimly I was aware that my brand-new shiny boyfriend, as well as some of my other recent acquaintances, used "Mac" computers, but that must just be something weird that those quirky geeks and academics do, right?

Fortunately, I finally managed to learn my way around Apple products, and even became a fringe member of "The Cult of Mac." Early the next year, I got an iPod, one of the first generation minis. Years later, I got another. And then an iPad, and then an iPhone.

Yet, I always held off from that final leap; always held off getting an iMac or a MacBook Pro. I settled for shitty Toshiba laptops, that were not worth the pittance that I paid for them. And then, recently, when my latest Toshiba lost a fight with one of my cats, I figured, what the hell. My time, it has come. 

And a week later, the stork delivered my very first MacBook pro (also a magic mouse, so I could right-click.) And a day later, my new phone came, too, thereby insuring that my phone and computer will always talk to each other and will always be in touch with my creditors.

Yet it takes more than just new digs to be inspired to write, to create, to share. I'm still me, with the same hang-ups and reluctance to live out loud, to document the details. But nonetheless, here's this little detail for the world: this is my first post on my pretty new computer, and I hope it's the first of many more.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Meh-iest Meh That Ever Did Meh

There must be some sort of karmic debt or repercussion that's provoked whenever anyone has a good Monday. 'Cause let me tell ya, God or Life or Nature or Murphy certainly felt the need to kick both me, and the rest of the week, in our collective asses. It was all downhill after that first night. It was, simply, a week of "Meh."

Personal electronic devices malfunctioned, bosses got cranky, people said pissy things about the nurses who took care of Ebola patients (if you ever want to destroy your own faith in humanity, read the comments in a CNN news article), and it was a long workweek, too, with both a Saturday shift and a Wednesday evening. By Wednesday, I was starting to drag. By Saturday...well, I got through the day with only a small amount of blood and tears, so we'll count that as a win.

Tomorrow, I've got the day off for having worked Saturday. I'm hoping that a day of errands, Christmas shopping, getting my nails done, and stalking the delivery status of my Apple products will bring the week to a quietly auspicious start.

Until then? Meh.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Melmeister on this Monday morning...

I'm fairly certain there are some laws against such a pleasant Monday, and against being so open to having such a pleasant Monday, too. But I guess the grumps and haters will just have to press charges, because goddamn, this was a pretty damned decent day.

The fact of the matter is, I recently changed up my beauty routine, and now I shower and dry my hair at night. This means I can sleep in like I always do the next morning, while still having fairly put-together hair. (The alternative is me hopping out of the shower at 7:15 in the morning and putting my wet hair up into a bun or ponytail or clip. And I just don't have the facial structure to look attractive with that.) And because my hair is already styled in the morning, I feel ready and willing to put on some make-up, too. And when I head out the door feeling prettified and put-together, well, I just feel good. Or at least better. 

Plus, I used a new (to me) beauty product this morning: L'Oreal Magic Lumi Primer. While I'm an enthusiastic shopper for beauty products and cosmetics, I'm also rather skeptical. So color me illuminated when I realized this morning that this primer actually does seem to brighten my face!

So, anyway, going forward into this Monday, I had a decent attitude. I tried very hard to maintain an attitude of "be kinder than necessary." I smiled a lot. I called a patron who had lost his wife the previous week. I quietly pitied the homeless guy who borrowed our scissors to cut his hair (and I used hand sanitizer, too.) I chuckled at a practical joke my colleagues played on our accounting guy, blocking his entire doorway with boxes. I urged people to eat my pie (actually pie, no crude euphemisms here.) I got shit done. I spent an hour at the gym. I'm exhausted, in the good way. And I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

I lived this day right.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Bourgeois Bohemian: Bedding Edition

For about eight years now, I've been in search of the perfect bedding ensemble. And for eight years, I haven't quite hit the target. And, while my tastes are often a bit of a moving target (curse of the Gemini), in this, I haven't wavered in my goals: I want something colorful, sensual, unusual in design. I think I once dubbed it "gypsy global boho funk."

Since living in California, I've had five different bedding ensembles (okay, just typing that, I realize how absurd that sounds), but none of them really blew my skirts up, not even when we moved to Casa de Cricket and I tried to make the bedroom itself feel like a gypsy caravan. But I'm still hoping...still saving money every paycheck for the next attempt...still looking for the best fit for me and my weirdo (middle-class bohemian) tastes.

Chelsea Paisley Quilt and Accessories from JC Penney: Right now, this is one of my top choices. There's maybe a little more lime green in it than I care for, but the paisley, purple, and turquoise make up for it...

Bethenney Paisley Reversible Comforter from JC Penney: This has a lot of purple in it, probably too much. But I can't say no to it completely, not yet..

Tracy Porter Bronwyn Quilt Collection from Macys: I'll have to probably rule this out strictly on the basis that it's from Macys, and I don't have a firstborn child to sell in order to afford it. Still, this might be the most "bohemian" of the lot...

Viola Comforter Set from Kohls: This one may be a bit too understated for me (I read somewhere that bedroom colors should be soft and soothing and light, but I say nonsense! Give me bold and sensual) but it is still in the running. The delicate combination of greens, white, and blues is a bit mesmerizing...

Home Classics Skye Comforter Set from Kohls: This one might be a little too monochromatic for me, considering my preference for a riot of colors. But if I have a hard time getting Mr. Melissa's buy-in, I reckon this one will be a good fall-back option...

Magical Thinking Medallion Ophelia Comforter from Urban Outfitters:At this point, this is the one I am favoring, even above the first one, from JCP--I quite love the colors and design. Let's just hope it's available by the time I've saved up for it!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Magic Mondays

My space (MySpace! ha!), my special space, is rarely in any kind of order. It's a small space, filled with books on crafting and Wicca and DC and Marvel comics and Victorian History and self help, and also filled with about two dozen craft projects and the supplies for twelve dozen more. It's got a lot of stuffed animals and other paraphernalia from my childhood, too. And amidst all this chaos is a certain recurring motif of paisley and peacocks, stemming back from the days when I actually dreamt this could be a decorated and functioning craft room. 

Turns out I could only choose one. Guess which I went with?

Anyway, so it's cluttered and chaotic and a shrine to consumerism, but it's my happy place. 

Unfortunately, it's on the west end of the house, and every summer, from about May through September, I am exiled from that room because it simply gets too motherfucking hot in there. But October obligingly brought in some abating temperatures, and so I have roosted in here once more. I'm surrounded by my books and my clutter and my history and my half-realized dreams and brainstorms. It's still messy and poorly organized, but it's my lovely, lovely happy place.  

And tonight, I caught a tiny corner of orderly magic in my happy place.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Week in Review

Well, the black dog is still lurking, but he (of course it's a he) isn't any worse than he was at this time last week. Is it better? Hard to say. What I do know is this: I was able to move through the week taking comfort in the fact that I did things to take care of myself.

 In fact, I managed to hit most of my goals over this past week: I went to the gym three times, I abstained from drinking from Monday until Saturday evening (and one of those nights, it was very difficult to remain sober; do you have any idea how hard it is to be the only sober person in the house?), I took my vitamins and meds every night, used my various lotions and potions and beauty supplies. I did do lunges, but didn't do core. I didn't write in my journal, but I did do some blogging. I drank a lot of water and I read two books and I didn't cry at unexpected times, or any time, really.

Here's what I've observed with my self-care

Drinking: When I don't drink, I don't go snacking on crappy food. When I don't drink, I'm not as sluggish. When I go several days without drinking, it takes less for me to get tipsy when I do drink again (more cost- and calorie-effective). All of these things are good incentives for me to keep up with this curtailing of the drinky-poos.

"Me" Time: Anyone who knows me knows that I need a hell of a lot of down-time, unscheduled times where I can just putter and do my thing, whether it be reading or straightening up my never-ending clutter or folding laundry or accomplishing world peace. Going to the gym after work really bites into this time. I'm going to need to work on thinking of gym as me time, or I'm gonna end up resenting it so much I never go.

And here's the goals for the coming week:

  • Go to the gym a minimum of three times
  • No drinking Monday-Friday
  • Continue taking vitamins and medicine
  • Do core and lunge exercises
  • Continue using various lotions and potions
plus some new goals...
  • When I step on the scale tomorrow, and when my trainer measures me, I promise NO MATTER WHAT not to berate myself but simply do better in the week ahead.
  • Eat breakfast every day
  • Read three books
  • Keep blogging on...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Magic in the Mundane, Issue 1

Today feels like one of those days that are absolutely blah. Filled with mundane nonsense and obligations, and all around just feeling like another day in a workweek that just doesn't seem to end. So, time to dig deep into the day and recall some of the hidden gems...

  • Closing the front door this morning, I saw a great big black spider decoration hanging at eye-level. Apparently, one of our housemates decided to help contribute to the seasonal fun.
  • I did all my arm-and-shoulder circuit training at the gym today without my trainer, for the first time! Although it doesn't feel like I worked as hard...I was barely sweaty. Still, I silently cheered myself through each of the machines, and rightly so. 
  • It's Opposite Day here at Casa de Cricket--everyone but me was tipsy tonight. Weirdest damned thing I've seen in a while.
  • One of the tipsy housemates decided that tonight was the perfect night to demonstrate how he's mastered the percussion for the Def Leppard song Hysteria. Gotta admit, I enjoyed sitting back in the chair and listening to Win jam out to this beloved song.
  • Mr. Melissa keeps the parakeets' birdseed on the dining room table. Several times, I've caught my marmalade cat Indiana tearing into the bag and eating the seed.
Now, it's off to bed with me, and here's hoping tomorrow is a little less on the blah side. And if it's still blah, here's hoping I can still find some sparkling moments of loveliness.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Here at Casa de Cricket, we're ready for October. The fall decorations have been up for a month, in order to fool ourselves into thinking that it was autumn. (Verdict: Fail). But it IS October, and I no longer sweat like a hog on slaughter day when I step outside, so I'm gonna call it: IT'S AUTUMN.

It's also the beginning of a new month, so it's time for new goals! Here's what I've got on tap for the month to come:

  • Go to the gym 15 times
  • Read 12 books
  • Do something for my boss on boss's day
  • Reorganize my desk
  • Get better at applying eyeliner
  • Consistently take my iron so that I can start donating blood again
  • Learn how to sew a button
  • Schedule an appointment with my GP
  • Move back into the Craft Room
  • Make a Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie
  • Have a picnic in Oak Glen and get some of their lovely cider
  • See The Judge
I've got lots of other goals on the agenda, but these are the Big Ones. I'm going to do my best to make this a ROCKTOBER. What about you? Now that we're on to the best time of the year, what do you have for your goals?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ex Libris: The House We Grew Up In

Late last week, I finished this novel. Then, I wasn't ready to write about it. I'm still not sure I am.

My summary: Lorelai was a remarkable woman--vivacious, filled with joie de vivre, charismatic, and determined to make magic wherever she went. Together with her husband Colin and their four children, they spend many years in their idyllic Cotswold house.

So how is it that Lorelai is now dead, having spent her last years estranged from her family and her last minutes in her car along the side of the highway? Her eldest daughter Meg is forced to ponder this when she returns to her childhood home to sort through Lorelai's effects, but this is complicated by an ugly, nasty complication: the once-beautiful home is practically in ruins, having been stuffed with the results of 30 years of Lorelai's worsening hoarding issues. As Meg begins the painstaking process of trying  to clean up the house, as well as rounding up the rest of their estranged family, she is forced to delve deeper into the family's collective memories to try to finally understand how her mother lived and died the way she did.

My verdict: God, this was a hard book to read. I mean, come on: A charismatic, semi-agoraphobic woman with a severe hoarding addiction, who goes downhill with age and alienates most of the people around her? It could have been about my mother. It felt like it was about my mother. And of course I ended up being so angry with Lorelai, so resentful of her. It was very, very difficult to be the reader, witnessing Lorelai's gradual decline into The Crazy, and it made me want to go home and throw out everything I own. (For the record, I am NOT a minimalist, so this book was quite unnerving.) There was a hell of a lot of bloated melodrama with Lorelai's family, and it should have been absurd, but somehow, it lightened the content of the book just enough so that it wasn't completely dark and troubling. Perhaps a bit like a mixture of Maeve Binchy and Jodi Picoult, with a certain flavor all its own--bittersweet.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Daily Dispatches: Monday, 9/29

Today, I...

1. Am so very grateful for Admiral Bill McRaven's UT Commencement speech. Terrifically inspiring as well as delightfully practical: "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed...

2. Am ridiculously proud of the fact that yes, I did make my bed this morning. 

3. Am on page 130 of Charity and Sylvia: A Same Sex Marriage in Early America. Slow reading. Leave it to an academic to make lesbian sex kinda dull.

4. Am pondering how much I can donate to Team Harpy. Seriously, why must people try to silence women when we start calling people out on harassing behaviors?

5. Am embracing the knowledge that I did everything I possibly could to beat the black dog today. 

6. Am smiling as I remember the roadrunner that was hanging out by my car late this afternoon. That's something I'll always love about the desert. Seriously, people, roadrunners.

The Meridian Through the Circle

In my recent Internet explorations, I came across something that I may have to mark up to THE Internets Find of the Year:

For a Hoosier exile, for a person who continuously pines for the Midwest in general and the Circle City in particular, who recalls with perhaps a little bit of drooling the too-few days she spent meandering the residential areas of Indy, poking around the somewhat-busy streets of downtown, driving near 38th Street and wondering how in the world certain areas "go downhill", who looked at countless buildings and houses and wondered about their heritage and history, this website is a godsend. The best thing going, really,a website that plunges into the history of the city, into newspapers and phone directories and god only knows what else, to bring to the masses really priceless information.

Last night, on HistoricIndianapolis, I came across the Crown Jewel, as far as I'm concerned, of this website:

A very very old postcard of Meridian Street, "North Meridian Street at Night", postmarked 1916.

The coloring of this postcard, the illumination of the full moon, literally made my heart clench a little in my chest. There's something viscerally alive, something real about this image--I swear I can imagine the slight breeze that might be rustling through those trees. I bet the moon really lit the place up--I can only conjecture, but I reckon light pollution wasn't quite the problem then that it is now. I can just imagine how quiet the streets probably were. It's something of a far cry from the teeming dirt of Middle Western City of Booth Tarkington's <i>The Magnificent Ambersons</i>, but I'd like to think Mr. Tarkington would approve of this rendering.

Meridian Street is still there...and frankly, it doesn't look that much different, especially north of 38th Street. The street seems narrower now than it was in this postcard, but I wonder if it's because the imposing, leafy trees in my memory--the ones that seemed to crowd so close to the street--were the same ones as the ones in these pictures, only much much bigger. Who knows? There's so much that I will never know about this city. So much of it that I never had the chance to get to know and love. HistoricIndianapolis helps my ignorance, just a little, and enables the Circle City to dig a little bit deeper into my heart.

No matter how much I change, no matter how much Indianapolis changes--and god, of course it does, it's supposed to--I will always have my memories. And now I will always have this idealized rendering of my equally idealized city.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Don't Feed the Dog

Last week was a bit rough...the last couple of weeks, to be honest. The black dog decided to bark again, and I think that I must have been hormonal on top of that. I suppose you could say that I was volatile, or that I was in an uncertain temper, but the cold hard truth of it was that I was in a high bitch of a mood. I squawked at our housemates, resented my husband and carried on the silliest screaming matches with him in my head, and dissolved into tears on more than one occasion. AND it was, like, 106 degrees most days. 106 degrees, at the end of September. So of course I spent far more time than necessary thinking about life in more normal climates, thinking of regular seasons and their attendant rituals...

Let's just say it. This last ten days or so have been absolute shit...because I let them be. Guess I just decided to embrace my inner grump and run with it.

And yet...yesterday morning, when I woke up, there was a change. Outside I could hear the winds blowing through the trees and tinkling the wind chimes, and my husband was going on about how we could switch over to the swamp coolers because it was cold outside.

It was the low 70s. Most definitely not cold. But certainly pleasant enough for us to open up the house and feel, finally, the relenting of the heat and humidity that have plagued us, as they Always do, during the summer months. It was pleasant enough for me to take on some fairly significant projects--namely, purging old cosmetics, and organizing the kitchen. I was able to do these things without breaking out into a miserable, eczema-inducing sweat.

(Of course, busting out the champagne and undertaking these projects while tippling certainly didn't hurt. Have you ever swilled champagne--even bottom-shelf Cooks--whilst cleaning? If not, I strongly recommend it.)

This temperate tease of fall won't last, I just now realized. We're supposed to be back up in the low 100s by the end of this week. But it was a badly-needed respite for me, and hopefully I've got my head back on straight enough to fight the black dog. He's still scratching at the gate, begging for attention and notice. If I start to pay him the least bit of mind, he'll take the encouragement and start digging a hole under the fence and won't stop until he's on the porch, peering and leering in at me and silently mocking my efforts to strengthen my home's defenses against his poison.

The black dog will always be there at the edge of my mind and spirit. By now, I'm pretty used to it. All of my goals and lists and projects and expectations, and all the Prozac and wine and Cheetos, can only comfort me so much. But I know it can only get worse if I allow it to. So here are the structured ideals that I'm going to strive for this week, as a way to keep me focused on the inner light rather than the outer darkness:

-Go to the gym three times
-No wine or alcohol between Monday and Friday
-Vigilantly take my various vitamins and medicines
-Use my lotions and potions, as it were, to boost my confidence and feel put-together
-At home, work on my core and lunging exercises
-Write in my journal at least once

Here's hoping we all have a successful week, no matter what our goals are...

...Except if your goal involves bank robbing, kidnapping, weapons of mass destruction, or other naughty things. Then I hope you fail epically.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

So I Guess You Call This Autumn...

Right now, it’s 66 degrees in Salem, Massachusetts.
69 in Buffalo, New York.
78 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
65 in Falls  Church, Virginia.
In all of these cities, the late days of summer are gradually lessening their grip. The heat is still perhaps punishing, the air stale, but people can breathe a sigh of relief—the end of summer is in sight. And with their backpacks and their pencil boxes and vague feelings of apprehension, children are returning to school.

Labor Day is just around the corner—and once that passes, people across the country will be making the transition to fall, with the attendant autumnal colors, cooler weather, references to Halloween, hot  beverages, ghost stories, snuggly blankets, and the like.

Here in the deserts of Southern California, it’s not fall, not even close. In fact, the monsoonal humidity makes the 105 degree temps almost—but only almost—worse than the dry 115 degree temps. And yet, summer is passing—soon we’ll be in one of the liminal seasons that I feel like are a hallmark of California. The air will be hot, the skies will be sunny and cloudless, and without a calendar handy, without the 115 degree summer temps or the flash-flooding winter storms, one would be hard-pressed to tell what season it is.

It’s not fall, not by a long shot, not like I knew it in Indiana, but it’s close enough for me to pretend. When the heat abates from 115 degrees, down to a cool 97 degrees at a quarter til 8 in the evening, that’s enough for me to sit outside and watch the last pink rays reach from the Western skies, and listen to the cicadas (an odd and familiar consolation, they are—noisy little fuckers have been everywhere I have lived) mourn the inevitable passing of the summer, and make promises to myself. I’ll start wearing makeup again. I’ll cook. I’ll move back into the craft room. I’ll organize the closet. All things that it’s simply too hot to do now. I’ll read some ghost stories. I’ll put up the fall decorations.

It’s NOT fall. But it’s enough.

At least for now.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

It's a Magical Place

Mine is not a life filled with a lot of externally-inspired magic. Certainly, there is magic in the books and words and ideas that surround me in my job, and there is magic in the laughter that I try to find in my daily life, and there is magic in the beauty that I manage to find if I look hard enough. But let’s face it—I’m a white-collar working woman living in a working class city of Southern California, in a decently-sized but modestly-furnished house filled with people and cats and a very, very pronounced slob of a husband. I’m not exactly living in beautiful surroundings, worthy of being repined a jillion times on Pinterest.

But this weekend, I am able to pretend that mine is a life filled with those kind of surroundings. This weekend, I am in Point Reyes Station, in Northern California, in a house straight out of my dreams. 

We descended on the Blackthorne on Thursday afternoon, a group of ten of us--Mr. Melissa and his mother and myself, along with seven friends. We rented this dream of a house, nestled up in the wooded hills of Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, and in this four-level structure, which is something of a treehouse, we can gaze out into the trees and hills and listen to the gulls and jays screech and cry.

It's a deceptively big house, with doors and stairs and decks and balconies leading all over the place. There are 6 bedrooms, and I had first dibs, and at first I thought I'd go for the fascinatingly octagonal room, glassed in on seven sides. I was enchanted by its view, its exotic furnishings, its appealing Romantic remoteness.

Of course this room was lovely--but a little too sunny, a little too warm. A little too far away from the nearest bathroom. A little too difficult to reach after one has indulged in a few glasses of local wine. A little too much precarious tottering about on the precarious staircase:

So, ultimately, practicality outweighed Romantic notions, and I took a more sensible, comfortable, and appealing room:

This house's charms, they seem to have no end. I'm almost loathe to go wine-tasting and exploring, because it seems a shame to not stick around the house as much as possible, enjoying the nooks and crannies. I've claimed my throne in one of the corners of the living room, settling deep into an enormous and enormously comfortable armchair that groans each time I shift in position:

And here, I sit quietly. I read from time to time, or work on my budget, or blog, or simply just gaze and think and ponder. At night, the fire crackles in the fireplace. All the new age stuff I've ever put on my iPhone plays over the speakers.Some of us play cards, others paint with the supplies I brought along, my mother-in-law does Angel Card readings, and we all talk and share our stories and engage in armchair politics and philosophies. Russia may terrorize Ukraine, ISIS may continue to be the bane of the President's existence, Missouri may be rioting, but here in our corner of Northern California, we have retreated for one long, magical weekend. 

The weekend passes. The line of "dead soldiers", as I have learned to call empty wine bottles, grows.

I sleep on the couch in the middle of the day, lulled by the breeze that borders on chilly--so strange to think that what would be Christmas weather in Florida is just another summer day here. I wake up in the late afternoon, and more than one person remarks that I look "pretty...well-rested."

I take a soft throw and retire to the deck and watch the late-afternoon sun sink behind the trees. 

I read and drink my wine and call my sisters and hear them tell how much they miss me, and I try not to wonder if I would be any happier if I left behind the desert forever--not to return east of the Mississippi, but to move to this magical place.

But maybe--in fact, I have to hope that it's likely--that this time and place are so magical because they are so rare.