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?