Monday, April 28, 2014

Advice From Old Alanis Morissette Albums (I Changed My Mind)

Much of my young adulthood and womanhood was accompanied and impacted by female musical artists.  Alanis Morissette was key among these as I drove around my tiny town aggressively singing along to “You Oughta Know.”  When I walked away from my first marriage, I sat in my friend’s car listening to Alanis once again and realized how sorry I was that I had lost my identity to that relationship, relating far too much to the lyrics of “That Particular Time.”   I also felt assurance that my current relationship would endure as he was and is the man Alanis describes in “Everything.”

This past weekend, as I traveled across the state solo, I first loaded up my disc changer with that identifying music of my youth.  Without the children along, I would not be required to listen to The Fresh Beat Band and I could once again enjoy my favorite musical women – Alanis, Tori, Fiona, Dar, Aimee, and their kin.  Thanks to Alanis, I realized that I was making “Excuses” in regards to my writing.  If you are not already aware, I recently decided and announced that I would be taking a possibly permanent hiatus from this blog.  This decision was made due to the discovery of, and response to, this blog by an unintended audience of younger viewers over whom I have some influence.  I want that influence to be positive, and it was suggested to me by individuals of elevated position that perhaps some of the content, particularly the cursing, portrayed me in a negative light, devastatingly disabling my ability to be a positive influence. 

My desire to be a positive role model is absolutely sincere and it largely impacted my recent (clearly reversed) decision.  However, that wasn’t the only reason I made that decision.  I was annoyed, and frustrated, and scared.  I was sick of listening to the snarky comments made at barely audible levels when my back was turned.  I was sick of the disapproving looks by individuals who clearly had not taken the time to read the whole of my work, and understand all that I truly represent.  I was worried about my reputation and quitting was easy; it was safe and soft and I wouldn’t have to be strong and bursting with courage and conviction.  Alanis reminded me however, that while my excuses and my abandonment of my passion might have kept me safe, it would also keep me stuck.  I’m tired of being scared.  I’m tired of being so damn good at sabotaging my fantasies.  I could teach that skill in fewer than Alanis’ “Eight Easy Steps.”   

I know it’s going to be difficult and sometimes terrifying to remain exposed through my writing.  I know the whispers and glances will remain, but they were likely to persist regardless.  I cannot control how others will react to my words, and I know this now (thanks, Maggie).  What I do know, and have struggled with for some time (evidence abounds), is that my blog title has become an absolute misrepresentation of myself and my work, and it falsely steers folks toward negative judgment.  This blog will change its title and appearance, but I will not change. When friends and followers responded to my announcement, it was with disappointment and acknowledgment that I have been an inspiration by being authentic and unapologetic.  In my mind, the ability to know one self, and own every success and struggle, is the mark of an upright role model.  The fact that I curse on my blog need not necessarily make me a negative influence.  I’m not promoting rampant foul language; I still cringe when my husband mumbles “shit” in front of our kids when he trips on the rug (he does this a lot – why is he so clumsy?). 

I do promote courage in the face of outstanding struggle, forgiveness of one’s self for  past lapses, the ability to stand up when everyone else is sitting down, the passion and will to follow your dreams despite failure or judgment, and the will to rise and be resolute repeatedly. 
When I led my own classroom, in addition to knowledge of allusions, iambic pentameter, post-modernism, literary analysis, and the like, I am certain I also instilled lessons of empowerment and passion.  I led my students to be true to themselves, to stand up for what they believe in, and to be brave in the face of hardship.  If I were to silence my own voice, those lessons would now ring false.  I know I am not a perfect role model; I don’t know anyone who meets that definition.  However, I know myself and I am going to continue to represent every aspect of that self.  I am a positive inspiration, and I know this as my truth even if other vistas are in opposition.   I’m cheerful, impassioned, and kind.  I can also be angry, bitter, and enraged.  Sometimes I speak sweet poetry and sometimes I spew outrageous curses.  These elements are not mutually exclusive.  The most beautiful and fascinating people are a tapestry of roles and adjectives.  I am a mother, a sister, a best friend, a teacher, a smart-ass, a bitch.  I am strong sometimes and I am scared others.  I am also willing to let my readers see all these sides of me because words can make a difference.  They have the power to inspire and comfort.  I want the world to know that we don’t need to hide our ugly parts and we don’t need to pretend.  I write to connect and relate, and I strongly believe that’s why most individuals read this blog.  Therefore, in a reversal of my previous decision, my voice will not be muted and I won’t just walk away from my writing.

Alanis is also correct when she sings “you live you learn; you love you learn; you cry you learn.”  This blog is an expression of that learning.  I may have done as Alanis advised at some times by “sticking your foot in your mouth at any time,”  but I’m not really sorry.  Alanis also told me “we could just hide our heads in the sand, just call it quits.”  I won’t be that women though.  I might become temporarily entangled in struggle and doubt, but I will get back up.  The mistake is not in the falling down.  Failure only comes in the staying down.  My head is out of the sand.  I know who I am, and that woman is genuine and good, so she won’t be silenced and ashamed. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

You Guys Like Me -- And I Have an Award to Prove It!

If you follow me on facebook (which you should do right now if you haven’t yet – check out that right-hand side bar folks!), you might be aware that I have been having what is now an annual event to be here out referred to as “I Feel Bad About Myself Because I Said 'Fuck' on My Blog.”  I know, it’s kind of a long title, but suck it.  That event was yesterday, and I’m over it already and back to being unapologetically me.  One of the reasons the guilt is gone is the reminder that you guys like me – you really do like me (and I love you for that, by the way). 
To signify the fact that there’s still love for this blog, I gratefully accept the “Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award” from the ever so kind, independent, intelligent Karen at Splat-ospheric (whose blog you should totally go check out right now because she too is a strong, sincere, compassionate individual).  So, thank you Karen! I know it took me ages to actually write my acceptance post, but my gratitude is no less sincere – winter just sucks the creativity right out of me. 

If you’re not aware, a lot of blogger awards also come with stipulations.  Okay, so, yeah, they are really more akin to chainmail than any kind of shiny, earnestly fought for, emblem of achievement (but I still want awards -- give me more awards!).  Given such, there are a few rules that accompany this award. 
1. Provide a link to, and thank, the blogger who nominated you.
2. Answer the ten questions provided.
3. Nominate ten blogs to receive this award.
4. Provide links to your nominated blogs, and kindly let these bloggers know they have been nominated (and you think they kick ass!). 
5. Include the award logo within your post.
P.S. - I added the kick-ass part, and I don't know what this damn green bar is here for and I can't make it go away.  Aaargh.
Having accepted these rules, I now provide my responses to the ten questions:

1.       What is your favorite color? 

As it is the color of royalty, and I am the Queen Bee, purple is naturally my favorite color of all time.  Purple coat. Purple purse.  Purple jewelry.  I’m like that kid in your elementary class whose lunchbox, pencil box, tennis shoes, and scrunchy had to totally coordinate.

2.       What is your favorite animal?  

My favorite animal is easily the dog.  Dogs are our family and our best friends.  Cats, on the other hand, are shady mother-fuckers.  Sorry, cat lovers.

3.       What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?  

Who wrote these questions? Seriously, I want to talk about wine.  I refuse to answer this question, but wine is good.

4.       Do you prefer facebook or twitter?
See Example A: I hate twitter.  Reference Example B: I want you to follow me on facebook. You can even earn an entry to win the Baby Sideburns book by becoming a new like!

5.       What is your favorite pattern?
Uhm, I like swirly things. 

6.       Do you prefer getting or giving presents?
I prefer giving presents.  I like to see the happiness on other’s faces.  However, if the gift is large sums of cash, I prefer that.  Please send me large sums of cash – or bottles of wine.  Wine is good.

7.       What is your favorite number?  

I’m going to answer twenty-two.  I don’t really have a favorite number, but I still considered this question and thought, I was so damn hot at age twenty-two.  I should be twenty-two again.  I just really want those abs and ass again.  Let’s all lament the loss of my tight body before proceeding to the next question.  Thanks for that moment.

8.       What is your favorite day of the week?  

My favorite day of the week is Saturday as my husband usually lets me sleep in late and then serves me a home-made omelet, orange juice, and bacon (yum, bacon) upon my awakening.  I got myself a keeper.

9.       What is your favorite flower?
I adore lilacs.  That smell is heaven to me.  When I smell lilacs, I feel such a deep sense of blessing and I know that life is good.  I know that sounds cheesy as hell, but that fragrance really speaks to me.

10.   What is your passion?
It’s right here, folks.  My passion is writing and communicating.  It’s books and words – the deep, universal truths that can be found in fiction – those tales that restore our faith and remind us we are not alone.  I’m also deeply passionate about promoting empathy and education.  Oh, yeah, I also like wine.  Wine is good.


And, finally, (and this is the part where the award resembles a chain letter), I present my list of “Sisterhood of the World Bloggers” nominees.  I hope that you each choose to proudly participate.  I have selected these individuals not only because they are skilled bloggers with great voices and true talent.  As this particular award speaks to sisterhood, I have more specifically selected those women who have inspired me either through their stories or their comments and support of my own work.  I know I can be an unintentional “blog-hole” at times as my life becomes overwhelming and I don’t get to visit and comment on your work as often as I would hope, but I want each of you to know that you are admired and appreciated.  I’m sending you each lots of love, and I hope you receive some new readers who check you out due to your appearance on this list. 


1.       Whoa! Susannah

2.       Ericka Clay (and Tipsy Lit)

4.       Disorderly Wanderlust

5.       Larks Notes This

6.       Kim Ulmanis

7.       That Cynking Feeling

8.       Seeker of Fun

9.       Michigan Left

10.   Outlaw Mama

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Little Lucy Pevensie: A Celebration of International Children's Book Day

When I was young, my mother bought me a beautiful leather bound illustrated edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.  I suppose such works might be considered rather dark for an eight-year-old girl, but I devoured and adored those tales.  It was probably this book, more than any other, which made me fall in love with the world of fiction and all its wonderment.  Actually, she bought this book for my brother, and gave me the Arabian Nights, but I preferred Poe, just as I too prefer to tell this story slant.  Regardless of who was truly the recipient of that book, it remains a treasure of mine, and now sits on my bookshelves. 
My brother and I were both avid readers in our youth, sharing all the childhood classics like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  She also bought us annotated versions of classic tales such as Moby Dick, Treasure Island, A Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice, and the like.  It was a charming and appropriately age adapted collection that I was so sad to learn she had donated to Goodwill years ago.  I would have been positively delighted if my children were now able to read those very same editions.  Despite this one disappointment, I cannot possibly thank my mother enough for instilling a love of reading in me.
International Children's Book Day is a day to inspire and ignite a love for reading no matter how old or young you may be. 

What book from your childhood made you the bookworm you are today?!
What was your favorite childhood book?
I believe it is incredibly important that we read to our children, and I have most certainly made this a priority in our household.  As today celebrates International Children’s Book Day, it is an appropriate occasion to reflect upon my own memories with the written word, as I now continue to build a strong adoration of literature in my own two children. 
Although she is only age three, I have already introduced Emily to Tolkien and Lewis.  She was a very attentive audience as I read The Hobbit aloud to her, asking quite insightful questions about the dragon, and continually requesting, “You let me see that map again, Momma,” turning to the front of the book and analyzing the illustrated cover pages, “So this where that dragon live, Momma?”  Only once did she bore of the story and wish to retire to bed early, stating, “No more this Bilbo story!” 
Currently, Emily and I have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia together.  We are on book five of the seven book series.  She will race into bed with me at night and ask, “Can we read some more about Shasta and the horsy, Momma?”  During books two and three, this question was, “Momma, you ready to read to me about Reepicheep?”  Her excitement and enthusiasm over these tales gives me immense delight.
Emily is my little Lucy Pevensie, with a heart and mind full of the wonder of youth and the wisdom of age.  She constantly amazes me, and I wish I could capture her innocent wonder and trust, just as C.S. Lewis captured the valiant traits of Lucy on the pages of his beloved fictional books.  
As you are likely aware, the world of Narnia was also captured on film with the 2005 release of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, starring Tilda Swinton.  It was this past weekend that I first viewed this film.  My parents had a copy of it among their DVDs and my daughter noticed it and requested to watch “the Aslan movie.”  The film has slightly more exposition than the novel, beginning with scenes of the Second World War, and the Blitz bombings which led to the children’s evacuation to the countryside.  As the scenes rolled across the television screen, Emily informed her grandfather, “Grandpa, I think this the wrong movie.  Where is the magic?  Where is Aslan?”  We told her to be patient, and her beloved Aslan did soon appear, much to her great excitement.  “It’s Aslan!” she squealed in delight, “There he is!”  When the youngest Pevensie first appeared on screen, she eagerly asked, “Is that Lucy?  Lucy is my favorite!” 
Lucy is my favorite too.
As the film closed and the credits began to roll, my daughter looked to my spouse to question, “That’s it, Daddy?  I don’t want this movie done.  Where is Reepicheep? I want to see Reepicheep!”  Reepicheep, the mighty mouse, does not appear until the tales of Prince Caspian in the second book of the series.  However, I found it extremely clever and so deeply endearing that my daughter remembered these characters and made such comments during the film.
While my daughter rules my world and melts my heart on the daily, I did not compose this post merely to brag about what a kick-ass mommy I am and what a “totes-adorb” toddler I have (she is so damn cute, though, you guys). I do not believe or mean to propose that she is a child genius or savant.  I do strongly believe, however, that reading has enhanced her imagination, her academic aptitude, and her whole life.  I know reading has imparted unto me such rich rewards.   A beautiful, bold imagination and a curious, sharp mind are not unattainable skills bestowed only upon the most genetically brilliant.  A child need only to be provided with the offering of reading and he or she can too possess a daring imagination and tireless thirst for knowledge.  Therefore, this post serves as a public service announcement requesting that all parents bequest onto their children the vision, creativity, and ingenuity that are yielded from a love of reading.
Go forth and read, my friends!