Your season’s over,
For months you reigned, majestic.
Now? The curb. Oh, dear.
Your season’s over,
For months you reigned, majestic.
Now? The curb. Oh, dear.
My favorite shirt. I got it when we were in Colorado last summer. I don’t normally buy shirts with much writing on them, but this one spoke to me. The design, the colors, the fit, all of it. So, I bought it. When I wear it, I think about our trip to the mountains, and my soul feels instantly lighter. I know it’s not the shirt, but the memories it invokes.
Whether it’s the material itself or the memories I associate with it, it’s still my favorite. And, with Escape Artist emblazoned in bright yellow across the chest, it’s also relevant. I came to realize something the other day: I read to escape.
It’s not an entirely new revelation. I’ve had this thought before. The first time I actually consciously noticed it was in the months following September 11th, 2001. Most of you know that we lived in Manhattan, and we were there that day. In fact, if you’ve met me since then and have spent more than about ten minutes with me, I’ve probably brought it up in conversation. Like it or not, that event is a large part of me, of my history on this planet, and I carry my life experiences with me and rarely do I shy away from sharing them.
A couple months before the attacks, some of our good friends moved from Chicago to New York and actually moved into the building where we were living, one floor below us. We were quite close at the time, and I was relieved to have them there that morning. I hadn’t heard from Steve since the second plane hit, and I knew he was downtown in the middle of it. I didn’t hear from him for three hours, and those were the longest three hours of my life. Chris and Maria offered me updates and comfort that day and helped me manage in the months to come.
What does any of this have to do with books? Well, after September 11th, fear crept in and like tree roots searching out water, it wound its way into every thought, took hold of every routine, informed every action. Suddenly, I had tennis shoes untied and ready to wear under to my bed and we slept with the bedroom door locked – in our 16th-floor apartment. You know those little door locks that sometimes keep children and small dogs out, but pretty much everyone else can get past them in seconds? Yeah. I relied on that lock to keep the terrorists out of our bedroom. We kept our front door deadbolted and chained (nothing new there, actually). We also had go bags ready and waiting just in case we needed to make a mad-dash out of the city, fleeing terrorists. I took up running again. We carried our IDs with us everywhere and had them at the ready to prove that we should be allowed down our usual streets or into our own office buildings. We had a plan on where to meet if there was ever another attack and cell service was disrupted again.
Most days, all I could think was, how was I going to get back to Michigan? Or isn’t that plane flying awfully close to our building? Or, why is that plane flying out over the river, they don’t usually fly that path, do they? Or, oh, god, what’s that sound – we’re all going to die! – wait, that was just the subway passing under the street.
Everything changed. I can make fun of myself for it a little now, but at the time, I was scared. I needed an outlet. My friend, Maria from downstairs, provided that to me in the form of Harry Potter.
Before September 11th, I had heard of Harry Potter, but to the best of my knowledge, it was a kids’ book, and I didn’t have kids. I normally read crime novels and the occasional vampire novel. I liked suspense and action. I didn’t need to read kids’ books. But, after September 11th, I needed to get away. I needed to escape. I devoured the first four Harry Potter novels in a very short span of time and then kept looking for any book that might help me forget about real world problems. Gritty crime dramas seemed too real, I needed witches and wizards and vampires and werewolves.
I still love urban fantasy and vampire books but over the years, I’ve expanded my palette. Several years ago I started reading biographies of our founding fathers and early presidents. I love that period of our history. I love new beginnings. I’ve belonged to book clubs over the years and we’ve read some amazing books about heavy topics along with lighthearted essays and tales of adventure. I’ve read some of the classics: Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ve even read fantasy fiction books based on this classic, from Mr Darcy, Vampire (meh, not my favorite, surprisingly) to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (wow! I loved it!). I’m not trying to brag about my voracious appetite for reading. In fact, I read quite slowly compared to many of my peers. I am attempting to show that my interests are varied, and have changed over the years. I tend to lean toward science fiction and fantasy, but normally, I like to change things up. After a few romps around fantastical lands with fantastical creatures, I usually like to dip into a gritty crime scene and work out whodunit and how it went down. I like to throw in biographies and essays and classics to round things out – usually.
But now, I’ve found myself feeling the need to escape again. It’s only just dawned on me that that’s what’s been happening. I’ve been reading urban fantasy, and only a handful of different authors, continually for at least a year now. Probably longer, but I can’t remember exactly what I’ve read and when. My son and I are reading the Percy Jackson series, and these stories are some of my very favorites in recent times. Reading these books reminds me of how I felt when I started reading Harry Potter, but now I get to share that sense of adventure and excitement with my son.
My world isn’t as tumultuous or as dramatically changed as it was after September 11th, but I do find that I cannot deal with our new reality all the time. My husband recently bought me biographies of Dave Grohl and Alexander Hamilton and I am excited to read both, but I can’t seem to pull myself out of these fantasy worlds that I escape to nightly.
Not yet, anyway.
What about you? What are you reading? Do you read to escape?
It’s the time of year when we sit down and think about what’s coming in the year ahead. It’s a time for fresh starts and do-overs because it’s the first day of a 365-page book! It’s a time for re-energizing and grabbing life by the balls because you’re a badass and you can do anything! It’s a time for feeling guilty because you’ve totally overindulged these last few weeks (months, years) and now your jeans won’t fit! It’s a time for being completely overwhelmed because now you’re not sure where to start with all the fresh-starting and the ball grabbing and the badassing! It’s time, too, for well-meaning people in our lives (and in our electronic devices) to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do and all the ways we should or shouldn’t accomplish all the things we need to do or to stop doing, in the year ahead.
I’m not here to do that.
I am here to say, that this year, I am not starting at the start. And, I’m not going to ask for a do-over, and I’m probably not going to be engaging in much badassery. But, I have spent a fair amount of time over the past couple weeks thinking about what I want to accomplish. Last year, Steve and I dubbed 2016 “The Year of Do,” that meant if we said we were going to do something, we would do it. For example, we said we were going to travel more, and we did, a lot as it turns out. We said we were going to get blinds for the windows and get those put up – we did that, too. Not everything in The Year of Do was glamorous, but we did many of the things we said we wanted to do, and that felt good. There were many other things still left on the to-do list on December 31st, but that’s okay, we’ve got 2017 to be: The Year of Do, Part Deux.
That said, I’ve come up with a main overarching principle for the year. An idea that will help guide all my other ideas and shape my hours and minutes this year. This year, I want to focus on nourishment. We hear often about food being fuel and the things we watch and read fueling our lives and our directions. To me, fuel is something you need to get you from one place to the next. It’s not pretty, it doesn’t smell great, and the act of fueling up is not generally a pleasant experience. Necessary? Sure. Pleasant and joyful? No.
I prefer pleasant, if not downright joyful. So, I choose nourishment. I intend to utilize the idea of nourishment to inform my choices. Will this food nourish my body? Will this video nourish my mind? Will this experience nourish my soul? If the answer is yes, then that is the direction I will encourage myself to take. If the answer is a resounding no, then I will need to re-think that choice. I don’t expect 100% compliance, and I don’t expect 100% perfect achievement, but I do believe that by changing my mindset, I will be able to make changes, some big, some small, that will help me nourish my mind, body, and soul, and that will lead to a happier and healthier life – not just for 2017, but for the future, too.
I am in charge of my life. I will make choices that support the kind of life I want to live. (I feel like I should be chanting: “I am one with The Force, The Force is with me,” and that works, too.)
Now, for the list part. I do love a good list. And with the principle of nourishment in mind, here is an incomplete list of goals, some nebulous, others concrete, that I have for myself this year:
There you have it. That’s how I’m shaping my 2017. Am I still going to eat cake? Yes. Am I still going to have days that I choose mindless television over engaging activities? Yes. But I know that those are my choices, and if I want to be better, I’ll have to choose better.
What about you? Do you have plans for 2017?
Say what you want about the internet…sometimes you actually can find vital information out there!
Today, I wanted to know if the word “newbie” existed in the 1990s. I can’t remember saying it back in high school but I wasn’t much of a gamer then, or now either, actually. I mainly only remember using the terms “psych,” “not,” and ever-so-briefly-because-it-never-took-off-no-matter-how-badly-we-wanted-it-to, “n’t” (you know, an abbreviated form of “not.” Duh! [we tried, Tina, we really did]) So, I did what anyone my age would do, I asked Google. And the very first return was an article titled, “THE ORIGINS OF NEWBIE, NOOB, AND N00B.” (Link provided for the curious.)
Like I said, vital information.
I read the article, and while it’s probably more to my son’s interests, I found the information I was looking for, and I discovered what an insult it is to be called a noob, compared to being referred to as a newb, which is the more playful version of that term. And now you know, too – see you’re no longer a newb.
Anyway, after reading about the evolution of the term newbie, I followed a few more links just to be sure, and they seemed to cement the idea that I could safely use the term “newbie” in a dialog taking place in the 1990s, and still sound era-appropriate.
I walk my dog every day, well nearly every day, my husband does it at weekends and in the evenings. Anyway, in the mornings, I walk my kids to school and I take the dog with us. We live in a suburban master planned community. It’s lovely, it really is. Lakes, trails, clean sidewalks, big houses – lovely. Really.
It’s particularly lovely during the holiday season. Most houses have lights, and it looks like (to use the words of my mother), “a gingerbread village.” Again, lovely. Many people will also put various decorations in their yards; everything from those inflatable Santas and Frostys to lights in the shape of the American flag staked in the yard, and any festive idea you can think of in-between. One relatively common decoration is the plasticy-wicker deer. You know the ones, they’re life-size and sometimes they have lights and they proudly stand guard in their front yards, protecting their families inside from….overeager delivery people?
I don’t know.
Anyway, those deer have made me laugh every morning for the last two weeks – yes, since before Thanksgiving: we’re in the suburbs, the lights start to go up the day after Halloween, and the decorations increase incrementally (exponentially?) over the following days and weeks. If you’re not fully-lit by Thanksgiving, you’re late.
Back to the deer. So, do you ever crack yourself up? Like, you think something in your head and you snicker and shake your head and think, “man, I’m funny.” But, really, you’re just good at telling your own self dad jokes. I do it. I know you do it. C’mon, you know you do it.
It’s been a little windy here. Sometimes, the wind knocks over the deer. When the dog and I walk past those fallen creatures, I think to myself, “oh, dear.”
And I laugh, and I laugh.
A winsome twosome? An unlikely pair? Whichever your view, I’ve been doing some thinking about the results of our recent election, and I am ready to talk about those with you now.
I’ve been playing my thoughts over and over in my mind and I’ve been trying to figure out not only what I think, but also how I want to convey those thoughts. My initial reaction was to post something like, “this space left intentionally blank” on facebook. Clever, but ultimately meaningless. Then, I thought about posting about how I have been following Thumper’s Mother’s principle…I didn’t have anything nice to say, so I didn’t say anything. That didn’t feel quite right either, though I must say that I believe it’s a pretty good principle to reflect on before actually speaking/typing.
I realize that my silence might be misconstrued for complacency or apathy, but that’s not it. I’m overwhelmed. I haven’t wanted to make anyone upset, so I haven’t said anything. I know, it sounds weak. Maybe it is. So…I’m speaking up now.
I’m not happy with the outcome of the election, and that’s putting it mildly (see below re: optimist). I’m sad for our nation and I am particularly concerned for the safety and well-being of my friends and family who are in any way marginalized in our society (I feel like pretty much everyone I know falls into at least one category). I’m concerned for the safety and health of all of us – this feels like uncharted territory and I think we are all at least a little bit scared or apprehensive about what’s going to happen in the weeks, months and years ahead. But, what really is getting to me is the way some people have reacted to the outcome. On any side. Politics, frankly, doesn’t matter at this point. If you’re being cruel, destructive or otherwise causing pain to someone who is not exactly like you or your ideal of what you think an “American” is, and you’re feeling bolstered by the outcome of this election to engage in these types of actions or comments, then shame on you. It’s 100% on YOU. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with who won, who lost, who’s a crybaby, whatever. If you’re using the outcome to justify destructive, violent actions or to cause pain, whether it’s verbally, emotionally, physically, or a combination, you are making poor choices and you are impeding on others’ abilities to live their lives to their fullest. That is wrong. You are in control of your actions and your words, and you are also in control of your clicking finger. If you click “like” or share memes that perpetuate these destructive actions and divisive words, you are contributing to the problem. Nobody else is responsible for your actions or words. Just you.
And you know what? That sucks. I’m an optimist, a glass half-full kind of girl. But lately, I’ve seen so much pain, and fear, and anger, and hate; it’s disconcerting. It’s hard to look at all of that ugliness and still find good, and meaning, and a path to the right side of history. But, there it is, and I had to acknowledge it. Now, it’s time to move through it.
The reason I decided to finally write, and let you all read, my thoughts is because I found a way that I can contribute positively to the conversation. I don’t think I have anything to say that’s going to be profound and change people’s minds, and if you’re reading this, I expect you probably already see things in a way that is similar to me, at least to some extent. If you gave up on reading this when the opening paragraph didn’t immediately reflect the title, then you’re missing out because I’m getting there now.
I titled this fiction and politics. The reason is because fiction draws many of its finest characters and moments from real life, real people and real situations. Sometimes, real life even turns around and reflects the fiction that had been reflecting real life before it. It’s all intertwined. And, it can be beautiful. Think about your favorite stories. Even the most fantastical stories have a foundation in real moments. Real moods, real feelings, real relationships. A friend posted the other day about how someone else had posted about being totally upset by the hero in a story being a bit of a dirtbag. He’s the “good guy,” how could he possibly be a dirtbag and be the good guy? Because, people are more than what we label them. It is easy to fall back on labels when dealing with someone or some idea that you don’t like or don’t agree with. Easy, but not helpful.
You’re a republican? Those elitist liberal leftists! They’re the ones to blame! You’re a democrat? Those backward rightwing conservatives! They’re the ones to blame!
Finger pointing. Labeling. Placing blame. Not helpful.
We teach our children to see their friends for who they are, not for what they look like or where they come from or what groups they belong to. I think we should remember to do that as adults. From the early stages of this particular election, if I posted about politics, my main point was one of inclusion, and embracing the other. I believe this is still important.
We must build bridges now.
We must find the things we love, like, or can at least tolerate, in each other. Just like most well-written fictional characters have many layers, and many traits – positive and negative – so do real people, and you may not agree entirely with the ideals that someone supports or with their view on certain topics, and here’s the kicker – that’s OK. It really is. I know a lot of my friends and I see many things in a similar way, and that’s great, but I know I have views that they might not agree with, and I’m certain my friends have ideals that don’t reflect my values. That’s ok. We aren’t all cookie cutters or carbon copies of each other, nor should we be.
I’m not suggesting that we gloss over the things that have happened that are wrong, or look past things that we don’t like and just hug everyone because: peace and love, man. People who have made poor choices need to own those choices and make amends. That’s how we fix things. We need to face our challenges and deal with the consequences – good or bad. But, what I’m saying is that simply because someone has different labels than you do, doesn’t mean that they are only a manifestation of those labels. Maybe you know someone who sits across the aisle from you politically, and until a couple months ago, you considered that person a friend. Try to consider that their labels do not define them. Just as your labels do not define you. Find some common ground, and start (or re-start) there.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got right now. It’s not huge, it’s not profound, but it’s a positive contribution to the conversation. I truly hope people try to find their way back to some sense of harmony so that we can move forward as a unified nation.
And, if you want to speak up, or speak out, or do something for the good of our country, I’ll be there to support you, even if it’s only with a click or a smiley face, for now.
There have been a lot of 90s references in my world lately (@midnight 90s edition, anyone? Check out the Pound Sign Wars for a laugh), so I thought I’d add to that by breaking out my flannel shirts, my Dr. Martens, and resurfacing an Mtv reference that we all knew would change the world (or, at least it made us all feel really grown up at the time):
Rock the Vote!
Can you hear the music? Can you feel the GenX energy in the air?
Anyway, this is not a political blog, and I’m not trying to sway anyone in any particular direction…other than to sway to you register, and to vote. It’s important, and as American citizens it is our civic responsibility.
To help the process, here’s the link to Rock the Vote’s list of registration deadlines per state. Make sure you’re registered in time.
T-shirt Image from meMel Etsy Shop
Rock the Vote logo from Media Confidential
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