Wednesday, July 31, 2013

process story

Lately, i've been going through old poems and revising them. I've done this many times before: in high school, i revised poems from middle school; in college, i revised poems from high school; in grad school, i revised poems from college. Now that i'm more or less post-grad school, i'm revising everything.

Usually, this process is largely one of deletion. I'll pull out a line or phrase from a poem that i like and throw the rest away as irredeemable trash. I'll scratch out the main themes of a poem, rearrange the stanzas, and throw out half of it. I'll throw away whole notebooks full of boring and embarrassing scrawls. But as the years go by, i've gotten better. I've trimmed away a lot of the bad stuff and built on a lot of the good. These days, the folder on my flash drive is about 80% potential, with only 20% fluff.

This makes the revision that much harder. When you have a whole sonnet that is absolutely perfect except for one weak line, and you have to fix it without disturbing the meter, and you can't just delete it because then you'd be a line short, it can take weeks and months and even years of work before the poem is solid. Sometimes you put it away for six months or so, and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Sometimes you delete the bad line anyway and decide that the poem makes a stronger statement as a partial sonnet. Sometimes you start dreaming in iambic pentameter and wake up sobbing, declaring that you will only write in free verse from now on.

I'm at the point now where i actually have two poetry folders, one marked "in progress" and one marked "ready". When i want to send in some submissions, i pull from the "ready" folder. In between submission periods, i work on moving things from "in progress" to "ready". Sometimes i find things i'd forgotten about. Sometimes i go looking for something that i can't find, completely forgetting that i renamed it on the last round of revisions. And sometimes, even now, i delete and delete and delete.

It feels strange to be so business-like about editing my work. I mean, my primary goal is simply to make each poem as good as it possibly can be, but i am aware that the better my poetry is, the better chance it has of getting published. And getting published would be pretty sweet. Despite my strong identification with Emily Dickinson, it would be nice to have some recognition while i'm alive, however slight and passing.

It just somehow feels like it should be against the rules or something, you know? It's like i'm grading my own paper. I'm sorting through my poems and reading them and deciding which ones are good enough to edit and which are not, and then i'm editing them and deciding which ones are good enough to publish. I've never had anything published in my life! It's not okay for me to do this! This is supposed to be someone else's job!

I mean, technically, just because i think something is good to go doesn't mean anyone else will ever agree. I've sent things out before that i thought were pretty good, that other people thought were pretty good, that published, award-winning poets told me should be sent out, and had them firmly rejected. So i don't have the deciding vote or anything, but i feel a little bit like the Chief of Staff, deciding what goes on the President's desk and what gets handled by an underling. And i'm like, I just registered to vote yesterday and I can't remember the difference between Congress and the House of Representatives. I really feel like there should be another layer of authority between me and the President. But apparently i'm a grown-up now, and i have to decide these things for myself. So if you see anything published under my name, thank Obama, i guess.

I think i lost track of my metaphor a little bit at the end there.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I don't actually remember MCI.

1. I envy Dianna her ability to turn her personal narrative into an essay on privilege and on all the negative "isms" that we try to pretend we've fixed. I envy it all the more because, aside from the fact that i am only 23, the following two paragraphs could easily have been written from my own life.

"At 27, this isn't exactly where I pictured my life, though it depends on age you examined looking forward. At 13, I would have told you that I would be a famous writer living somewhere exotic, like New Zealand or Australia. At 17, I would have told you that I would be the next Tucker Carlson (that was in the heydays of Crossfire on CNN). At age 20, I would have told you married, settled down somewhere, working from home (I never pictured a stay at home mom gig) while my husband took care of the kids. At 24, the dreams became fuzzy. All I knew was I wanted to write and I didn't care - still really don't - what form that took.

"Adulthood is a strange thing. Growing up, you think your parents have all the answers. I remember watching commercials for MCI (remember them?), wondering at all the choices adults made in their daily lives, and what would happen if you made the wrong choice (that, my friends, probably explains a large chunk of my anxiety issues). But the thing I've learned time and again in growing up and in learning how to Be An Adult, it's that I own myself, and I am responsible for myself, but my responsibility does not negate being able to ask for help."

2. This is a really interesting perspective on geek culture, and has some exciting info (Sandman Overture!!!).

"'I feel like every culture has a different version of itself sort of writ large,' Whedon said. 'In Japan and different Asian cultures, people are floating in trees and doing kung fu and here we dress up in tights and fight crime . . . it's just become part of our mythos, a genuine mythos, a real sort of evolving mythology.'"

3. I'm not sure how i feel about this poem, but it's interesting.

4. "Against my better judgment I've been doing a lot of reading on the purity movement. If you've never been exposed to it, then I'll explain. The idea is basically that you, as a father, are supposed to serve as the sole male influence in your daughter's life until she gets married. You 'guard her heart (and vagina)' because only you can be trusted with it. Certainly she can't. If God wanted women to be in charge of their genitals or feelings he wouldn't have let them be born in Texas."

And so begins an incredible list of ten things that one man plans to tell his daughter about sex. My dad is amazing and said most of this stuff indirectly over the years, but it would have been nice to have some of it made explicit. Regardless, i turned out okay.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: July through September

"I think Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew we were turning his letters into torah." -- F. F. Bruce (pg. 259)

I think about this all the time. When the New Testament writers talked about the importance of Scripture, they didn't mean Hebrews or John. They meant the Old Testament. And Paul, a Pharisee, had the utmost respect for the Scriptures and would never have presumed to think that anything he wrote (particularly personal letters to friends and specific churches) would be placed in the same category as the Law. Not that i have a problem with taking the NT seriously, but it does feel a little uncomfortable sometimes when someone takes one out-of-context phrase from the NT and uses it to contradict huge chunks of the OT.

". . . I've also never heard a sermon on 1 Timothy 2:8, in which Paul tells Timothy, 'I want men everywhere to pray, lifting holy hands without anger or disrupting' that included a universal dictum that all men everywhere must raise their hands whenever they pray (updated NIV). But I've heard more than I can count on 1 Timothy 2:11, just three verses later, which says, 'A woman should learn in quietness and full submission' that have included universal dictums that all women everywhere must submit to male authority in the church." (pg. 261)

If Paul was writing Scripture that we should obey, then he was writing Scripture we should obey. If he occasionally made suggestions and offered his own opinion and talked about specific situations bound by specific cultures, then he has room to be wrong. We can either pick out the parts of Paul that we like and think are good and ignore the rest, or we can take everything he ever wrote as a direct command from God.

Personally, i think that Paul was smart and had a deep connection to the Holy Spirit and was a human being who was sometimes wrong and even when he was right he may only have been right in a specific context and not in every situation in the world. But i'm a woman, so who the hell knows.

"Some rabbis say that, at birth, we are each tied to God with a string, and that every time we sin, the string breaks. To those who repent of their sins, especially in the days of Rosh Hashana, God sends the angel Gabriel to make knots in the string, so that the humble and contrite are once again close to God. Because each one of us fails, because we all lose our way on the path to righteousness from time to time, our strings are full of knots. But, the rabbis like to say, a string with many knots is shorter than one without knots. So the person with many sins but a humble heart is closer to God."

My boyfriend often cites a spiritual teaching from his mom, in which she compared faith to a rubber band. Sometimes we wander far from God, but when we do, the band is stretched tight, and the farther we wander the more likely we are to be pulled in again. In her metaphor, the connection is never broken, but the ideas are still similar. And i like that Judaism (or at least, some of its rabbis) give room for grace. It's funny, because grace is supposed to be the Christian thing. You know: the OT God was full of wrath and judgement and fire and brimstone, and the NT God loves us and wants to forgive us and have us all live in harmony and love. It looks to me,  however, as though God is just a little bit bigger and more complicated than whatever boxes we try to build for Him, and that He always makes room for grace.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

sticks and stones

I'm a poet. For a long time, i preferred the word "crap" to the word "shit" because i liked the sound of it better. It's like a slap: heavy and solid, it registers your frustration and disapproval firmly. "Shit", on the other hand, with its hissing sibilant and thin vowels, sounds like something a crotchety spinster aunt would whisper-scream at you in her fancy parlor. It's annoying and a little scary, but it can be ignored. But "crap"? Crap WILL be heard.

I'm a feminist. It infuriates me that so many swear words are feminine. I mean, we have "dick" and "cock", which are almost more comedic nonsense words than profanity these days. You can call your friend a dick in between bursts of laughter. And you can maybe do the same with "bitch", if the person is a very good friend. But "cunt"? No way. "Pussy" is a little tricky; if you're calling a person a pussy, it can be in a mean bullying way or in a joking fun way, teasing or harassing them for being a wimp, but if you're talking about getting pussy it almost always sounds gross (unless you read a lot of feminist, queer-friendly blogs, like i do. Those bitches can pull it off).

"Cunt", though. That's pretty much the worst one, right? "Fuck" is almost punctuation anymore, like the "like" of earlier decades. My first encounter with the word "fuck" was when i was two or three and i saw it spray-painted on the side of a building. I was with one of my older cousins, and i asked him what it meant. He told me that it was the king of all cuss words, and that i should never repeat it again, especially not to my mom. So i naturally went to my mom and asked her what it meant. Her definition was not much more satisfying, but she was certainly careful to make sure that i knew that it was the very worst word anyone could ever say and that i should never say it again. I heard it a lot more over the years, and saw it again and again in various places. I even began using it, daringly, when i was in college.

My first encounter with the word "cunt" was when i was about fifteen and caught part of a stand-up competition on Comedy Central. A female comic was talking about how someone had called her something rude, maybe "bitch" or "prude" or something; i can't recall. She said that they had clearly meant it to wound, but that she had barely registered the insult at all. "Maybe because I've been called **** so many times, I didn't even notice," she said. Comedy Central bleeped out the word so thoroughly that i couldn't even guess what it was. There were some startled noises from the audience, and some nervous laughter, and the comedian looked upset and uncomfortable. In an interview later, she said that she should have known better than to use the "C-word". I asked my mom what the "C-word" was and she flat-out refused to tell me. I ran into it again a few years later in a book and figured it out for myself.

In college, i had a friend who could out-cuss a Marine. She would say things like "the fuck-word" instead of "the f-word". If you tried to edit her for TV, she would barely be speaking in full sentences anymore. I have never heard her use the word "cunt". We did have a conversation once in which she referred to it as "the C-word", and explained that she hated it and refused to use it. In fact, i know lots of people (mostly women, but some men) who refuse to use that word.

This terrible word, too terrible to even be spray-painted on a building, too terrible to mention when choosing the "king of all cuss words", to terrible to speak aloud? This word means "vagina". So does "pussy", for that matter. And "bitch" just means female dog. "Dick" and "cock" mean penis.

A penis is, at worst, hilarious. A vagina is, at best, weak and cowardly and maybe a little gross. Maybe not even human.

I am a poet. I love the word "bitch". It has a heavy slap, like "crap", but it also has a slightly stabby quality. I love the word "pussy". I like the sputter of the "p", the derision of the "u", the slithery needles of the double "s". "Cunt" is deep and guttural and visceral, like "drunk" and "ugly" and "thrust". I love to say these words. I like to feel them in my mouth, to hear them in the air. I like the way they look on the page, the shapes they make with their black on white.

I am a feminist. I hate the words "bitch", "cunt", and "pussy". More and more, when i find myself irritated with someone (a bad driver, a terrible roommate, a character in Virtual Villagers), i find myself using the word "asshole". Everyone has one of those, so i'm more comfortable using it to express negative feelings. But i don't like that so much negativity is attached to the female body, and i don't like to promote that negativity on my own lips. Vaginas have just as much potential for comedy as penises. Penises can be every bit as weak and gross as vaginas. And both are capable of all kinds of ecstasy and beauty in the right context.

But "pussy" is really fun to say.

Monday, July 22, 2013

lots of poetry and art.

1. "~The first question was, who told you you were wrong
for breathing? Who tried to erase you?"

GodDAMN. Also read part two.

2. I was one of the fortunate ones who was not directly touched by 9-11, but i was deeply affected at the time. And the war triggered by that event cost my brother his leg and his peace of mind and his energy and his health and a lot of his skin and bone and flesh and blood and many sleepless nights and, for a little while, his dignity. And i am still one of the fortunate ones, for so many others have lost so much more. It's odd, the things that strike us, the things that hold our memories.

Ask me if I remember any of their far-away names,
those swallowed by that black September day.
I will say no, but I do remember hers.

3. The Oatmeal: proving, once again, that comics are more than illustrated jokes to hang on your refrigerator or cubicle. Read this whole thing, all six pages, and know that this last page was written straight out of my brain.

"And the buzzing roar of the world is nothing compared to the noise inside my head. I'm an introspective person, and sometimes I think too much, about my job and about my life."

Also, we definitely have the same demons. The first two in particular. Which is terrifyingly comforting.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: January-July

"Now, I've got nothing against aluminum poles, sex outdoors, "sacred stripping", and that sort of thing, but you should be able to tell your spouse that you'd like to try it in the backyard without insisting your instructions come directly from God. Poems were never meant to be forced into commands." (pg. 112) (emphasis mine)

Oh, Christian sexuality. We like to do this thing where we confuse descriptive with prescriptive. We also like to do this thing where we don't really understand what's being described, so it gets kinda messy. And not in the good way.

"Both Jesus and Paul spoke highly of celibacy and singleness, and for centuries the Church honored the contributions of virgins and widows to the extent that their stories occupied the majority of Christian literature." (pg. 179)

We have this narrative in the Church that behind every great man there's a great woman, that it is the role of men to be great and to do great things, and it is the role of women to support them in their accomplishments. Men are to go forth and do great things, and women are to have a clean house and warm meal waiting for them when they return.

But the Bible has a LOT to say about how great it is to never get married. So if men can do great things either married or single, but women have to be someone's wife in order to achieve something great, we are left with two options: men have multiple wives, or women marry each other.

For the first, while it is Biblical, it's mostly been rejected. But if we're talking about Biblical roles for men and women, i guess i can't really stop you. You just have to move to Utah.

For the second, it's a little dicey. I mean, here you have two women, married to each other, making their home an absolutely perfect haven of domestic bliss: clean, orderly, well-managed, with three hot meals a day and never any quarreling or bitterness or discontent or jealousy or anything. Just two happy, domestic, virtuous women being perfect wives to one another. They may not be preaching sermons or writing books or running businesses or ministering to the heathens in foreign lands, but they can certainly feed and clothe the the poor, and they can make their home open to those who need a place to stay, and those are all important Biblical things, too. In fact, hospitality is one of the things the Bible talks about the most. Definitely way more than homosexuality. Really, if you think about it, being a married lesbian is pretty much the highest calling there could be for a Christian woman.

Or, you know, maybe women can be allowed to accomplish things outside of the house and can even be praised for and encouraged in those accomplishments. "As a Christian, my highest calling is not motherhood; my highest calling is to follow Christ." (pg. 180)

"Traditionally, readers of the text have assumed that Jesus called the (Samaritan woman at the well) out on her loose morals, confronting the aberrant nature of her sexual history in order to convict her of her sin. But such a confident interpretation reveals a certain level of bias, for John never actually revealed the reason why the Samaritan woman had five husbands. It is just as plausible, therefore, to assume that her marital history was a tragic one -- women were not permitted to initiate divorce at that time, after all -- and that Jesus sought to acknowledge the difficult set of circumstances facing a woman in first-century Palestine. She may have been a concubine or a slave, which would explain why the man she was with was not her husband." (pg. 199)

The story of the Samaritan woman was an important one for me in coming to terms with my own sexuality, so i was very pleased to see an interpretation of her story that gives her a little more grace.

"In the biblical narrative, hierarchy enters human relationship as part of the curse, and begins with man's oppression of women -- "your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you" (Genesis 3:16). But with Christ, hierarchical relationships are exposed for the sham that they are, as the last are made first, the first are made last, the poor are blessed, the meek inherit the earth, and the God of the universe takes the form of a slave.

"Women should not have to pry equality from the grip of Christian men. It should be surrendered willingly, with the humility and love of Jesus, or else we miss the once radical teaching that slaves and masters, parents and children, husbands and wives, rich and poor, healthy and sick, should "submit to one another" (Ephesians 5:21)."

*slow clap*

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

So there's a thing that exists that is bad and scary. Well. There are a lot of those things, but only one that i'm talking about right now.

That thing is "pro ana" culture. "Ana" is short for "anorexic", and "pro" means exactly what you think it does.

There are people who believe that anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, are perfectly fine and valid and healthy ways to live. In fact, at the very far end of the spectrum, there are people who speak directly to "Ana". You could say they worship her. They ask her for the strength of will and body to deny themselves food. They believe that they have been chosen for something special. And they look down on those who try to emulate them, calling them "wannarexics".

In middle school, and in high school, and in college, and this week, i am and have been a wannarexic.

I lack the willpower and physical strength to deny myself food entirely. If i skip a meal and do not snack, i am shaking and nauseous and dizzy and seeing spots by the time the next meal rolls around. One meal is all it takes, and i'm falling apart at the seams.

I used to be angry with myself for this. I used to be angry that i couldn't hold out for more than one meal a day, angry that i could rarely go more than a few days in a row before i stopped skipping meals and ate regularly, angry that i couldn't just stop. Stop everything. Stop being fat, stop being ugly, stop being awkward, stop feeling uncomfortable in my skin, stop feeling uncomfortable in my head, stop saying and doing embarrassing things, stop being lonely, stop being afraid, stop being sad, stop being numb, stop being.

When i got a little older and a little wiser and learned a little more about myself and nutrition and mental health, i developed a healthy fear of that anger. I figured out better, healthier habits that would actually result in weight loss without making me physically ill. I climbed mountains, i swam oceans, i lost the "freshman 15", i gained the sophomore/junior 20ish, i lost the senior year haven't-even-been-weighed-in-years-but-all-my-pants-keep-falling-down, put on the real job with an actual paycheck and car now-i-can-afford-food-and-don't-have-to-walk-two-miles-for-it. And none of it bothered me that much. I would like, even now, to jiggle a little less. I would like to feel healthier and happier in my skin. But i would also like to eat all of the chocolate cream pie right now please, thankyouverymuch, and then you can bring me the fresh bread with butter and the beer and the buffalo chicken waffle fries with extra cheese and then maybe a bowl of whipped cream. To dip my peanut butter cups in.

Anyway. I'm mostly in a much better place, and things were going well for a while, and then i lost my gym momentum and while the ten pounds i lost in the first quarter of the year have stayed off, none of their friends have joined them.

And lately i've been depressed and anxious, what with all the uncertainty about jobs and student loans and will i even be able to afford groceries this winter and oh my God what if something happens to my car and everyone in my family keeps getting rushed to the emergency room and my boyfriend and i keep having uncomfortable conversations and i can't sleep and i really wish my thighs were a little slimmer, a little firmer. I wish my stomach was flatter. I wish i didn't have the tiniest shadow of a double chin. Because somehow, if i could magically become super hot and fit overnight, that would obviously fix all of my terrifying life problems.

And then i start to feel out of control.

And then i start to wish that i was chosen. I start to be angry at myself for my lack of control, for eating more food when i really wasn't hungry (even though the "more food" was fresh veggies, or raw almonds with dried fruit, or chicken lettuce wraps). I'm angry about my lack of motivation to go to the gym. I'm angry at my apathy. I'm angry at my depression. I'm angry at my body. I'm angry at Ana.

This week, i have honestly and legitimately had a lot of work to do, and it's been hard to go home for lunch. And every day, there's been some fresh disaster on top of the huge piles of work that i didn't get a chance to finish the day before. And ordering out is, unfortunately, not in my budget right now. So i really don't have a lot of options.

But i could still leave my desk and go eat lunch. Nothing i do at my job is so urgent, so crucial, that delaying it for an hour would spell the downfall of Western civilization. It wouldn't even spell the downfall of my job. And i could still pack myself a lunch to eat at my desk, knowing how hard it will be to get away and go home. I don't have a lot of options, but "not a lot" is more than "none".

And yet.

I keep skipping lunch. I skip lunch and i eat a spoonful of peanut butter at my desk, and then i go home and eat a snack and get busy until it's too late to eat a full meal, so then i go to sleep hungry. And then i wake up hungry and don't have anything fast and easy, so i eat a spoonful of peanut butter at my desk, or some almonds and dried cherries, and i drink a lot of water and tea and pretend that the hunger pangs are dehydration.

I don't have anything clever to say about any of this. I don't have any hope to offer. I don't have a light at the end of the tunnel. But it is two o'clock now and i am heading home for lunch.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Year of Biblical Womanhood, introduction-December

"'The only people who enjoy potlucks are men,' she used to say. 'The women do all the work.'" (p. xvii, introduction) This reminded me of my old church, where we had a long-standing tradition for mother's and father's day celebrations. For mother's day, a small sum of money was set aside from the church budget, and a small gift was purchased. I remember one year, it was a pretty refrigerator magnet. Another year, i think it was a book. Little pretty gifts for each mother in the congregation. For father's day, all of the women in the church baked pies for the men to eat.

October is Rachel's month to learn gentleness. Gentleness has an unfortunate association with spinelessness. For Christian women in particular, gentleness is often contrasted with assertiveness, confidence, and an unwillingness to back down when opposed. But as Rachel learns to meditate, she learns something new. "I don't know for sure, but I think maybe God was trying to tell me that gentleness begins with strength, quietness with security. A great tree is both moved and unmoved, for it changes with the seasons, but its roots keep it anchored in the ground. Mastering a gentle and quiet spirit didn't mean changing my personality, just regaining control of it, growing strong enough to hold back and secure enough to soften." (p. 16)

Bad Bible translation does so much harm. The passage in Genesis describing the creation of Eve usually calls her a "helper" or "helpmeet" or something similar, all of which carry sidekick connotations. But a Jewish woman wrote to Sarah and gave her some helpful translation notes: "For the record, in Bereshit (Genesis by you) where it talks about the "helpmeet", the Hebrew is not just Ezer, but Ezer k'gnedo, which means "the help that opposes." The Rabbis explain this term like two posts of equal weight leaned against each other. They stand because of equal force." (p. 68)

From the same source: "Christians seem to think that because the Bible is inspired, all of it should be taken literally. Jews don't do this. Even though we take the Torah literally (all 613 commandments!), the rest is seen differently, as a way of understanding our Creator, rather than direct commands." (p. 87) In college, i took a course about science and religion (technically, i took two, but that's a story for another day). One of our major points of discussion was the great Evolution/Creation debate. As we discovered the science and theorized about how to reconcile it with the Bible (and as one student prayed for the souls of me and the professor), we looked at some pages in the Bible. The Creation story takes up approximately two pages. Fewer, in some Bibles, and if you have some kind of pocket-sized, large-print edition, i suppose it could take up as many as five. I have a pocket-sized Bible on my desk that is 1140 pages long. In this Bible, the Creation story takes up two pages and a few lines on a third page. The whole rest of the Bible is about the purpose of creation, about God's relationship with His creation, about "a way of understanding our Creator". Let's not get distracted by the little stuff, okay?

"The Proverbs 31 woman is a star not because of what she does but how she does it -- with valor. So do your thing. If it's refurbishing old furniture -- do it with valor. If it's keeping up with your two-year-old -- do it with valor. If it's fighting against human trafficking . . . leading a company . . . or getting other people to do  your work for you -- do it with valor."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


It's been a tough few months for writing.

I thought i had an artist for my comic book, but she's realized she's too busy to commit to this project and has gracefully backed out. I'm not mad at her or anything, and i completely understand (and was half-expecting) her refusal, but it's still really disappointing.

My workshop group hasn't met in ages. We kept getting delayed by various things: work commitments, school, migraines, lack of new things to review, weather disasters, holidays, and so on and so forth. I really miss that weekly gathering of creative intellectuals, as well as the motivation of a deadline.

I found a journal of women's environmental poetry that was looking specifically for prose poems, and i was all geared up to send them a submission, when i realized there was a reading fee to do so. Never send out anything you have to pay for; there's no guarantee of publication, and there are plenty of places that are more than happy to reject you for free. Hypothetically.

There's a lot of really emotional stuff happening for me right now, but it's happening right now, so it's hard to write about it clearly.

Since discovering Netflix, i'm much less inclined to sit reading or writing in the evenings, and much more inclined to knit and binge-watch Dr. Who. Which, while good for my knitting projects, is bad for my writing.


Two of my roommates have moved out, and have been replaced by only one person. And it is absolutely worth the $100/month increase in rent to reclaim a little more peace, stability, and room in the house. We are hanging superhero posters in the hallway and organizing a library/bar/office in the corner room. The one with roof access.

I've been living in a nest for two years because i was too afraid to put my things in the house, because of what might happen to them. There also wasn't a lot of room, with four people crammed into a three-bedroom apartment. Now i'm de-cluttering my room and living like a human adult, instead of a magpie. My desk is in the library bar, in front of a window, with elephants and pictures of Boyfriend and Christina Hendricks for inspiration.

I have a shiny new phone that i mostly don't hate. (I've been resisting the smartphone upgrade since the debut of the Blackberry, but there's no escape now. The Samsung Galaxy Stellar, however, isn't terrible. If i have to have a smartphone, i'm glad i got this one.)

I have a nerdy friend who is going with me to the Neil Gaiman reading and signing this weekend. I am going to the Neil Gaiman reading and signing this weekend.

I have another nerdy friend who wants to have a sewing and cooking and drinking date with me soon. I'm really excited at the prospect of getting back into sewing.

I have a sexy, smart, caring, wonderfully weird boyfriend who snuggles me and is patient with me and goes on adventures with me and helped me make sangria last week. (My sangria recipe is amazing, by the way. I'll have to post it some time.) Sometimes i write terribly sappy poems about him and then send them to him through snail mail. Isn't that so cute you want to vomit?

I have, like, six different jars of fancy honey in my kitchen waiting for me to eat them. I also have an ice cream maker. I see honey-sweetened ice cream in my future.

I have Netflix! And tons of yarn! And, currently, not a lot going on in my life! This equals SWEATERS!!! It doesn't get much better than handmade sweaters in New England. (Unless, of course, it's July and they keep posting heat advisories. But i'll be glad of them in the winter, which is probably when they'll be finished, anyway.)

I have an awesome tattoo idea that will, someday, when i have money again (when i die), be an awesome tattoo.

I got fan-ish mail yesterday.

My cat is super cute.

Monday, July 8, 2013

slutty sluts, pubes, and babies eating lemons

1. This is so accurate it's almost not even funny. Almost: The Comment Section for Every Article Every Written About Intimate Grooming

2. This was a really important epiphany for me today.

3. Birth control is such a touchy subject in America, even in this day and age. Just a few weeks ago, i heard someone call "keeping a nickel between your knees" contraception. If dumb nasty slutty sluts could just keep their legs closed and not murder their tiny innocent babies, we'd all be better off, and if you want to take my tax dollars to pay for some slutty slut's sinful choices, you'll have to pry the cash out of my cold, dead hands!

Except that "Family planning could prevent up to 30 percent of the more than 287,000 maternal deaths that occur every year, by enabling women to delay their first pregnancy and space later pregnancies at the safest intervals. If all babies were born three years apart, the lives of 1.6 million children under the age of five would be saved each year.

"That's a lot of children's lives.

"At home in the US, a study conducted among people most likely to get abortions has found . . . that free birth control dramatically cuts the rate of abortion:

"4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall.

"For me, these are compelling reasons to consider widely accessible subsidized birth control as a moral imperative: It saves lives -- lots of them, and allows for the flourishing of those lives. That's why it's been written into laws, and funded by taxes."

Birth control is not just about nasty slutty sluts being sinful and slutty. It's also about a responsible, married couple who have a decent annual income and one baby, but want to wait a little while before they have another baby, to make sure they can still budget for their family in an uncertain economy, and to give them lots of time to figure out this whole parenting thing while they're still stacked 2-1, but they're young and in love and can't keep their hands off each other. It's about a woman with health issues that demand treatment (such as chemotherapy or antidepressants) that may be harmful to a baby, or a couple who has trouble conceiving and who has suffered one too many miscarriages and wants a break from that pain for a while, or a rape victim who doesn't want to have to choose whether or not to keep her rapist's baby. And yes, it's also about the slutty sluts, because this is America, and everyone can make their own choices, even if you disagree, even if they are wrong. (Plus, sluttiness is just so much fun).

The reality is, you can't control everyone's behavior, and there simply aren't enough nickels or aspirins in the world to keep everyone's knees together, especially the teenagers and young adults and regular adults and even old people who aren't even your kids or part of your church, and whose choices you therefore have absolutely no sway over. The reality is, you have to choose which is less objectionable: lots of women having lots of abortions, or almost no one even having to make that choice. Birth control SAVES LIVES. If you oppose abortion, the only sane position is to make sure that safe and effective birth control is available to everyone. Even if they need to take your tax dollars to fund it.

4. I'm pretty sure i don't want any babies myself (and certainly not for another ten years or so), because of reasons. But then i see something like this, and i want ALL THE BABIES. But just for a few hours, and then i want to send them home where someone else can change their diapers for the third time in an hour or try to get them to stop crying at 3 am or spend thousands of dollars on absurdly tiny shoes and sun hats and winter coats. I just want to play with them and feed them lemons.

5. I really, really, really, really, really wish i'd had this Barbie to play with when i was a kid.

Friday, July 5, 2013

"A Year of Living Biblically", concluded

First and foremost, A.J. Jacobs is a great writer. Smart, self-deprecating, witty, and observant, he could write about anything and i'd be hooked. (Which explains why his first writing project, "The Know-It-All" did so well, despite being about him reading the encyclopedia.)

As far as great spiritual/religious wisdom goes, however, it's difficult to pick out any great, shining gems. First of all, his journey was so gradual and personal that you really have to read the whole thing to get anything major from it. I could quote some bits at you, but they wouldn't really give you a sense of what he's like, or how the Bible transformed his behaviors and mindset. I can tell you that there was a transformation, though.

Secondly, this is not a book written by someone spiritual/religious who was looking for deeper meaning or a higher purpose or anything like that. A.J. was not trying to expand his Biblical knowledge or firm up his theology or anything like that. He walked into this experiment as an agnostic-ish Jewish-ish New Yorker, and he was basically trying to see if walking the walk and talking the talk would do anything. It does some stuff, but if your heart's not in it there's a limit to what you'll experience. To his credit, he realizes this and acknowledges it.

Anyway, there are two things i'd like to take note of before moving on to the next book. The first one comes from one of A.J.'s many interviews with religious leaders and laypersons. "'Let me drop an atom bomb on you,' said this Karaite . . . 'You can't follow all of the Bible literally because we can't know what some of the words mean.'" We can make really good guesses about a lot of them, but for many words, guesses are all we really have. If God cared about us following the Bible literally, don't you think He would have provided a decoder ring?

The closing thought comes right after A.J.'s wife, Julie, gave birth to their twins. Reflecting on a Bible story that reminds him of his sons and of his crazy roller-coaster year, A.J. says this: "The Bible may not have been dictated by God, it may have had a messy and complicated birth, one filled with political agendas and outdated ideas -- but that doesn't mean the Bible can't be beautiful and sacred."

Next up: "A Year of Biblical Womanhood", by Rachel Held Evans. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

So i bought an ice cream maker.

I love ice cream a whole lot, but i don't really eat it that often. Buying those tiny Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry's pints is delicious, but SO pricey. I could buy a whole gallon of Edy's for the same price, and let's face it, Edy's ice cream is pretty fucking delicious, too.

Honestly, it costs about the same to make my own ice cream (depending on whether i'm making a plain vanilla or something with flavors and chunks and swirls). And it makes about two quarts, which is a nice compromise size-wise. I had to put up some money initially, of course, for the machine, but i think of it as an investment in deliciousness.

I found this recipe for a toasted marshmallow coconut milk ice cream that sounded STUPID tasty. I mean, coconut and toasted marshmallow? And the pictures looked amazing: the meltiest, fluffiest, creamiest ice cream i had ever seen. Absolute perfection.

Here's the problem: something went wrong with the recipe. I don't totally know what; i suspect i didn't freeze the ice cream canister for long enough. I followed the user manual, but the ice cream turned out hard and icy. It tastes great, it's just the wrong texture. Kind of like a toasted marshmallow coconut milk ice pop. Which, you know, still cold and flavorful, which is all i really care about on a hot July afternoon, but it looks like i have some tweaking to do before i have any real ice cream.

In the meantime, i'll be drooling over recipes online.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

perfect love casts out fear

One of the things i like least about Catholicism is confession. The veil in the Temple was torn at the hour of Jesus' death! We no longer have to appeal to any other person for access to God! For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all Creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! I don't like the idea of being compelled to tell my sin to anyone but Jesus, to have anyone but the Holy Spirit tell me how to make amends for what i've done. I don't like being told that someone else has more clout with God than i do. And my shriveled little feminist heart is REALLY pissed that confession must be to a priest, who is necessarily male.

One of the things i like best about Catholicism is confession. We are to live in community with one another, to hold each other accountable, to rejoice and mourn together. It's important to show each other our wounds, our scars, our vulnerabilities, our imperfections. It's important to struggle together, to lift one another up. I love the acknowledgement that no one is so holy that they have nothing to confess (except maybe the Pope. I'm not really sure how that works out.). Everyone has someone to confess to, and something to confess, and you should go regularly, because you're going to fuck up regularly. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Confession requires a level of self-awareness of our flaws that does not come naturally, and that must be practiced and learned. Confession teaches that self-awareness, as well as humility and contrition.

Lately, i've been confessing a lot. Mostly i've been confessing my fear. I'm afraid that i won't find a part-time job to carry me through student teaching. I'm afraid that i won't find a full-time job when i'm done student teaching and that i'll be skating through life by the skin of my teeth forever. I'm afraid that there will be some huge emergency (i'll get cancer, my car will explode, my apartment will burn down), and i'll be unable to work for a while/unable to get to work and student teaching/homeless, and will have to wipe out my entire savings account just to survive, which will then prevent me from finishing my student teaching and then i'll be back to square one, trying to finish this damned degree and become a teacher and start the new chapter of my life.

I wish i could tell you that this confession comes from a desire for a more holy and transparent life and all that other stuff i was talking about above, but that's simply not true. It's mostly because i am too desperately afraid to hide it any longer. I can't keep pretending that i'm blindly optimistic about the future. I can't keep smiling when i talk about leaving my steady, dependable job that pays my bills. I can't hold back the floodgates any longer. 

I'm also confessing out of a tiny, slim hope that one of these times, when i'm telling someone about how badly i need a job, they will say, "My best friend was telling me about an opening in her company that sounds exactly like what you described! She owns the company, so she can hire anyone she wants, and she trusts me, so she'll hire anyone I tell her to, and you're awesome, so I'll tell her to hire you!" And then i'll be editing magazine articles online on my own schedule, or cleaning someone's house, or sorting mail, or flipping burgers, or spreading manure, or telemarketing, and bringing home $250/week, and getting through this scary, uncertain chapter.

But mostly it's fear. It's a clinging, clawing black parasite of fear and anxiety that climbs into my body and squeezes my heart and ties my stomach in knots and keeps me awake all night in terror and nausea and anxiety. It whispers in my ear that i will be homeless; that i will have to work as a stripper; that i will have to move back in with my mother; that i will never be able to leave my current job; that i will ruin my credit; that i will die at forty-seven as a cashier at 7-11, coughing nicotine tar out of my lungs and telling hobos and drunk teenagers about how i was going to be a teacher and a poet; that my boyfriend will tire of my anxiety and depression and will leave me to pursue his own happiness; or that worst of all i will do it, i will make it through and get my job and student teach and then get a real teaching job and i'll be living my dreams and i will hate the reality, it will be even worse than the terror i live in now and all of the worry, all of the stress and anxiety and work and hardship, it will all have been for naught.

And so i confess. I tell my friends that i have not been sleeping at night. I tell my co-workers that i don't really have a plan, and that it's freaking me out. I tell my parents that i'm stalling. I tell my boyfriend that i've been sending out applications since January and have only had one interview and that it didn't go anywhere, and i'm starting to lose hope. And when it's late at night and i can't sleep, and the parasite is all twisted up inside of me, i whisper to God that i am afraid, i am so afraid.

And God reminds me that He has called me to this, and that He does not call without a purpose. He reminds me to trust in Him, that when i graduated and had no direction, He provided a full-time job making more money than i could ever have hoped for, a job in the same building as my classes and within walking distance of my apartment, He provided that apartment and a generous lender so i could pay my deposit, He provided roommates who could move in exactly as the old ones moved out, He provided friends to buy me dinner when i couldn't afford to feed myself and an almost free car when i needed transportation, He provided cash when i needed a bus ticket to see my brother before his deployment, He gave me a window between classes so i could see my brother when he was hospitalized, He has provided second and third and fourth jobs and paid internships and cheap chocolate flavored wine and teacher friends to learn from and a support system at home and at work that i can confess to, not a sparrow falls that He doesn't see it, and though i stumble i will not fall down, because His hand is upon me.

And He reminds me that even if things don't work out the way i thought they would, even if my fate is to live out my worst fears (though probably not the stripper one; that's unrealistic. I'm a terrible dancer.), even if i never do the things i want to do, He has called me to try, and He does not call without a purpose. If my fate is to be a cashier at a 7-11, and if i have to get a masters degree in education to get there, it's because that's what God wants, and He will be there with me. I will find Him wherever i am, because He goes before me to lead the way.

Bless me, Father, for i have sinned. It has been far too long since my last confession. I have let my heart be ruled by fear. I have failed to trust in You. I have forgotten Your promises. I have believed that fate and luck were more powerful than Your will. I have held my fear close to my heart, closer than Your word, closer than my friends, closer than my memories of what You've done for me before, closer than You. I have pretended to be self-sufficient. I have pretended to be certain. I have not cast my cares on You. I have not taken Your yoke upon me. I have worried about tomorrow. I have believed that no one could help me, not even You. I have believed that You would let me fail. I have doubted Your purpose. I have doubted my calling. I have doubted Your perfect love. I have forgotten the sparrows. I have been afraid, so afraid.

For these and all the sins of my past life, I am truly sorry.

Monday, July 1, 2013

i'm too sleepy to think of a title

1. "For a long time, I've puzzled over those two lines from that bikini post that everyone's been talking about. Is it really that simple? I just . . . save some extra cash from baby-sitting? Are we living in the adult world? With adult women who pay bills and work jobs and have to feed themselves and pay back student loans?

'It's just a little extra cash' has me scratching my head. If there's anything that solidifies modesty culture as the domain of the suburban, middle class, white, evangelical church, it's this 'it's just a little extra cash' attitude."

This one hit me hard. First of all, i'm a "curvy" (fat) double D. I have big, full breasts and round hips and my gay boyfriend recently told me that my ass was amazing. I have a lot of skin to cover up, is what i'm saying. I have hundreds of camisoles and tank tops, because if i don't layer them under my shirts and dresses, i show too much cleavage and/or midriff. I have tights and leggings to cover my legs under skirts. I wear the longer-cut shorts from Old Navy to keep my thighs in check. I spend a lot of money on clothes, and on modesty clothes (like tank tops and leggings), and i have a whole complicated system for figuring out what i can wear to work, vs. what i can wear to church, vs. what i can wear on a date, vs. what i can wear at my boyfriend's parents' house, etc. It's a lot of time, and a lot of money, and a lot of fabric. Packing for a weekend is an ordeal. Packing for longer than that requires medication (which i can't afford, so i buy  $7 bottle of chocolate flavored wine and call it a day). So now we're talking extra baggage fees, carrying heavy suitcases on the train, buying a larger suitcase in the first place, and so forth. And that's just packing. I haven't even touched on clothing storage in my own house. In other words, it's not just a little extra cash to buy the more modest bathing suit. It's a little more cash for every garment you ever own, plus extra cash to find places to put all of those garments.

Second, a little more cash for me right now is the difference between eating fresh veggies, pasta, chicken, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, salmon, eggs, mushrooms, salads, and drinking water and coffee (and yes, the occasional $7 bottle of chocolate flavored wine) for three healthy, satisfying meals a day, and eating rice and beans twice a day. Notice i'm not talking about preparing gourmet feasts of veal steak and oysters and toasted Brie and ordering sushi and pizza every weekend. I'm talking about eating real, healthy food that i prepare myself. I've lived on rice and beans before. I'm not eager to go back to that. It's only a couple of extra dollars for this one bathing suit, and only a couple of extra dollars per tank top to layer under your clothes, and only a couple of extra dollars per cardigan to layer over them, and only a couple of extra dollars for the longer shorts, and then suddenly your bank account has nine dollars and seventy-three cents left in it and you haven't bought groceries yet. I have lived (and am living) this reality. Modesty is sometimes purchased at the expense of physical health.

2. "Figuring out my stance on homosexuality felt like a life and death decision. When I described the intensity of my concern to other Christians, most would say, "but, why? You don't even have a gay family member." This response was very confusing to me. Isn't the whole point of Christianity that we are all family? . . .

And while we're at it . . . that still, small voice suggests to me often that He'd appreciate if Christians picked up a couple more issues other than homosexuality and abortion to address. You know, maybe a couple He actually mentioned . . . like care for the poor and sick and lonely and hungry and imprisoned and widowed and orphaned and recently immigrated. Maybe we should all be required to pick an issue that requires US to change and not OTHERS to change. I think that'd be good."

3. Shame has no place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Let's not get into the habit now.

4. Yup, this is pretty much Jesus.