Finally read "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor this morning and it was not what I was expecting. I guess I thought it would be about a woman looking for man? Maybe an old maid lamenting the lack of good beaus in town. So the ending was a bit of a surprise, to say the least. Not sure how I feel about it.
I heard a good piece of advice the other day. When considering a work of art you should ask yourself these three questions:
1) What was the artist trying to achieve?
2) Did they achieve it?
3) And was it worth doing?
(Supposedly these questions originate from Goethe in terms of the theater.)
The thing is, I have no idea what O'Connor was trying to achieve in that story, but I think that's more a reflection of me than anything. Ever have one of those mornings where you wake up feeling stupid? Maybe I'll blame this interminable sinus infection. Or maybe Netflix has finally rotted my brain.
It snowed a few inches last night. The air feels dryer than ever, and we've all been suffering these last few weeks because of it. My dog has scratched herself raw in places, and I've had a parched throat for days (no matter how much water I drink). It's since developed into a soar throat and sinus infection.
I blew my nose this morning and the tissue filled up with blood. Then my father told me I would never be able to blow my nose again, because now I would get a bloody nose every time. Or at least, that's been his experience. Apparently, he blows just one nostril now...
The other day I was in my photography class, printing a black and white picture of a horse. Another student commented on it and I mentioned that the horse was sleeping when I took the photo.
"Yeah, all three of them were," I told her, though you couldn't see the other two horses in the picture.
"Why were they sleeping?"
"It was sunny. I guess it made them sleepy. They sleep standing up."
I don't know why I told her that last piece of information. Maybe I sensed she didn't know. And I was right. She didn't and was suitably impressed. It always boggles my mind when people don't know things that you take completely for granted.
It's like this time I wrote a short story and described a character looking out their window at a duck blind on the James River. I read the story aloud to my writing class, and one of the comments I got back from my classmates was their confusion about the duck blind. That surprised me, because it had never occurred to me that everyone wouldn't know what a duck blind was.
But then again, there's so much I don't know or have only very recently learned. For instance, a friend once scolded me for getting out on the street-side of a taxi in New York. I guess it's easier to get hit by a car that way. And my New Yorker friends take this knowledge completely for granted. Yet they don't know that horses sleep standing up.
Sorry for the blogging break. It's been a busy few weeks. Good for my bank account, not so good for the blog. But let's jump back into it with a quick run down of a few things I've been enjoying lately.
First, I saw The Last Jedi on Friday and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a little long, and some plot elements dragged (too many storylines), but the scenes with Luke, Rey, and Kylo Ren/Ben blew me away. They just absolutely shine in this movie and I only wish more screen-time had been devoted to their characters. I'm probably going to see The Last Jedi again just so I can watch more of Mark Hammill. Maybe it's all the voice acting he's done in the last thirty years, but he's become a damn good actor and it wouldn't surprise me if he had a bit of a career renaissance after this movie. Anyway, that's all I want to say because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but go see Star Wars if you haven't already. It's a solid movie with some excellent scenes.
Next up, Alias Grace (the polar opposite of Star Wars). This Netflix miniseries is based on the novel by Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid's Tale), about a maid in 19th century Canada who is accused of murdering her employers. The story's told by the maid, Grace (played by the incredible Sarah Gadon), to a psychiatrist while she's serving a life sentence. What we don't know is whether she's telling the truth, lying, or is simply insane. The acting and cinematography completely sucked me into the story and I more or less binge-watched all six episodes. Now I may even have to read the book. It's hard to say exactly what makes it so compelling, because it's a fairly simple plot. A combination of excellent storytelling and acting, I guess. Some of my favorite books and movies are structured around a character telling a story to another character, so that's something to think about...
Anyway, that's two movie/TV show recommendations for you that could not be more different, but both excellent in their own ways.
In terms of reading, the best books I've read lately were Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng and Winesburg Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, both recommendations by my friend who leads our book club. Winesburg Ohio is a series of interconnected vignettes that explore the darkness of small town America and the people who live there. Apple pie Americana this is not. If you want to learn how to write and build characters, and how to use details to surprise and unsettle the reader, then Winesburg Ohio is your book.
Everything I Never Told You is also a character driven novel as well as a thriller about a family grappling with the death of their favorite daughter. As they seek to find out why she died, we see how deferred dreams and wishes have affected the parents and their children, and what it's like to be Asian American and a biracial family in a predominately white community. I really felt something for each character in this book, which speaks to Ng's skill as a writer. My only criticism is that the ending wraps up a little too quickly and neatly, but I think that has more to do with the failings of the thriller genre than anything else. I speed-read this book, so if you're looking for a compelling, well-written novel, Everything I Never Told You would be a great choice.
Well that's it for today. See you again next week and Happy Holidays!
I wrote my previous post about Bumble on Friday, and then on Saturday morning I started wondering whether I hadn't been a little too dismissive of my date. It takes time to get to know someone, and surely it's better to let feelings develop slowly rather than be controlled by initial gut reactions.
October was a crazy month. Too much work, too little time.
So for a little escape, I started messing around on Bumble (an online dating app). Mostly just to see if I felt ready to meet someone new after splitting up with my husband this past spring. I'm pretty happy being single right now, but there are definitely times when I would love to go out for a drink or a movie. I've started making some new friends in the area to do exactly that, but occasionally hanging out with a guy sounds nice too.
Dating apps (or even apps for that matter) didn't exist when I first started dating my husband back in college. So my experience with Bumble is totally new, and I have to say it's a little horrifying and a little addictive. I really dislike this idea of swiping "left" (rejected) or "right" (interested) based on only a few pictures and maybe a sentence or two of information. And then there's the volume of people on the app. It can make finding someone nice feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. So I've had to come up with some "deal breakers" to make the process of a little easier.
Here's what will cause me to swipe left:
-If you're smoking a cigar
-Wearing boat shoes
-Posing without a shirt.
-Posing for a selfie in front of Machu Pichu.
I think the guys who do this think they're really unique and cool for having visited there, but they have no idea how insanely common it is on the app. Seriously, probably 1 in every 10 profiles I look at has a selfie from the exact same spot at Machu Pichu. No shade to the place, I'm sure it's amazing, but when that many people start doing the same thing - I start getting a douchey vibe.
Also, I don't think traveling inherently makes you an interesting or good person. Sure, I like to travel, but there are other things I like to do too. Yet for some people travel is a really high value for them. So clearly, we wouldn't be very compatible. That's kind of my real reasoning behind rejecting those Machu Pichu-style travel pictures I keep seeing.
I asked a guy friend who's on Bumble what it's like from the male perspective. He said way too many women post images of themselves using snap chat filters. Frankly, that sounds worse than too many Machu Pichu pics. What a strange world we live in.
But you'd be proud. I messaged a few guys and have gone on one date already. He seemed perfectly nice, polite, cute, smart, etc., but I have to say, I didn't "feel" anything. By any measure, the date was a success - we talked non-stop for 2.5 hours. But afterwards, I felt like if I never saw him again, I wouldn't care. I didn't dislike him, I just felt indifferent, even though on paper we had a lot in common.
Maybe that means I'm not quite ready yet.
Do you use Bumble? What are your deal breakers? I mean, it's a superficial app, so you're going to have superficial deal breakers, right?
Do you ever have those moments when out of the blue your brain remembers something that is so intensely embarrassing you have this cringing reaction that's almost physically (and certainly emotionally/mentally) painful?
That happens to me about 5 times a day. For no reason at all, something will happen in my life that triggers a memory where I somehow embarrassed myself, and it takes everything I have to push past it and not let myself crumple into a ball of shame. The Lexapro has helped a lot with these episodes, they're much less intense, but they do still occasionally happen.
Well I had an epiphany last night that these shame memories are uniformly characterized by one thing: instances where I wasn't perfect. Which is so stupid.
I know I'm a perfectionist, but I don't want to be one. And I'm actually pretty good about controlling it when it comes to my work. But for whatever reason, I can't seem to do the same when it comes to my perfectionism about social situations. These cringe-worthy memories almost always have to do with a time where I misplayed a social event or interaction and feel like I've embarrassed myself.
Cognitive behavior therapy helps in reminding myself that just because I feel a certain way doesn't make it fact. In all likelihood, I'm overthinking these events and didn't embarrass myself at all. But even though these episodes aren't quite as bad as they used to be, they're still there. And I had a thought - maybe I'm going about this all wrong? Maybe instead of trying to tame my brain purely with psychology and SSRIs, I should also make an effort to have a little fun with it.
Like instead of struggling (and failing) to never remember an embarrassing memory, when it happens, maybe I should have a little laugh about it? And then I thought, hey! I have the perfect venue to do that! What better place to tell silly stories than on my blog?
So here's one:
When I was 17, I applied for a job at my local library. I aced the interview, and then they took me out to the stacks with a cart full of books and left me alone to put them in dewey decimal order.
Somehow, I interpretted this instruction to mean I should put the books back into the shelves. So I went around the library, putting the books away, feeling like .a boss. And then about half-way through, I realized I had made a grave error as it occured to me that they had only wanted me to put the books "in order" (as had been clearly stated) within the cart. Like, just shuffle the books around until they were in dewey decimal. And I couldn't fix my mistake, because I had no memory of which books I had been putting away.
So I sheepishly confessed my error to the librarian as soon as she returned and I'll never forget the look on her face: just dumbfounded that I had been unable to follow such a simple instruction, and had now likely mis-shelved several books, making her life even harder.
Needless to say, I didn't get the job. Usually if I get an interview, I smash it out of the park, but this was one instance where I just totally fucked it up.
And for the longest time, it was this embarrassing memory for me. Like how had I managed to misunderstand her extremely clear instructions that badly? I think I was just a little too excited. And I was definitely bummed I didn't get the job, because it was kind of my dream at that age to work in a library.
Ironically, one of my best friends applied for that same job, unbeknownst to either of us, and got it. And then she hated it! Said it was the most frustrating thing to spend all this time putting books away in the kids section only to have them ripped out again a matter of minutes later by a mob of preschoolers.
And this hardly relates to my story, but my friend ended up quitting that job in a matter of weeks and started working at the pet store across the road. And she told them from the very beginning that she could work every day, except this one Friday a month later. The manager said that was fine. And my friend reminded her of this date, several times. Meanwhile, she made all this effort to learn about the different animals they were selling, which she said was really hard because there was a lot to know, but the manager required it so she could answer any questions from customers. Well then that Friday rolls around and my friend sees that she's been scheduled to work that day. So she tells the manager, reminding her again that this is the ONE day she can't work. And the manager fires her!
I didn't learn about this latter half of the story that has almost nothing to do with me until several years after it happened, but I think it makes my failed job interview even funnier in retrospect. Like if I hadn't messed up so badly, maybe my friend wouldn't have gotten the library job, to then quit it, and eventually get fired from a pet store for a pretty bullshit reason.
By the way, my friend went on to have a very successful career in the Air Force and is now married with two beautiful kids, so it all worked out and we laugh about this. So it's really not an embarrassing thing at all. If it hadn't happened, we wouldn't be able to make fun of ourselves about it.
So this is what I'm going to try to do more often. Instead of cringing about similar memories, I'm going to make effort to laugh.
If you have an embarrassing/funny stories, please feel free to share in the comments!
Part 2 of the Ice Girl is the continuing story of Lora, an American who has just left her Czech hockey star boyfriend and gone to stay with friends in Russia. Promising herself she's done dating hockey players, she finds that's easier to say than to do, especially now that she's living with two KHL players. Here's the book blurb:
Lora's new life in Russia is going about as well as can be expected. She's picking up the language and enjoying her job as an ice girl with the local KHL team. But living with two hockey players (and one in particular) is getting to be difficult. One minute she and Lev are fighting like cats and dogs, and then the next it feels like they're ready to jump into bed. But what Lora really wants to know is what Lev is doing playing in the KHL in the first place. Has he been drafted by the NHL? And if so, why isn't he playing there? Find out in Part 2 of The Ice Girl, a serialized novel, published chapter by chapter. New releases every two weeks.
If you like ice hockey and will they or won't they romances, then check out Part 2 of the Ice Girl: When in Russia. It's just $0.99 on Amazon, but if you sign up for my mailing list (top of the page) I'll let you know when I'm running free downloads. If you read it and happen to enjoy, I would so appreciate a review because it really helps my author ranking. Thanks!
(If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.)
So Trump and his lackeys seem incapable of sending adequate and timely disaster relief to Puerto Rico (or possibly, they just don't care), which means we've got to step up and do our part.
I just donated to UNICEF, who are distributing water purification kits and sanitary supplies to residents of Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria. Given that the island may be without power for several months, clean water is going to be an issue for a long time. Disease outbreaks from unsafe drinking water conditions are often where the most deaths occur after disasters, which is why aid workers prioritize sanitation when establishing shelters and relief. You can help too by donating to UNICEF. 90% of your money goes directly to helping children in need and these funds are being channeled specifically to Puerto Rico.
Thanks for donating whatever you can.
Good morning! How're you doing? Lots has been going on with me lately, the most exciting of which was I saw Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie give a talk (pictured above). No surprise, she was amazing.
I've also been reading lots of books, flipping back and forth between what I feel like reading (The Door into Summer, by Heinlein, which was meh) and what we're discussing in my book club. Right now that's White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, and once I got passed the confusing prologue I've been completely sucked into the story, which is about pica, twins, and family ghosts in a bed and breakfast in Dover. It's very gothic in the best sense of the word. Be on the lookout for a review soon.
My other big news, in case you missed it last week, is that I published the opening story (chapter?) to my serialized novel, The Ice Girl, on Amazon, which is exciting. I'm editing part 2 now and will post it next Sunday, in case anyone's in the mood for a story about moving to Russia and working as an ice girl in the KHL (Russia's version of the NHL hockey league). I like to think of it as When Harry Met Sally crossed with a slightly more serious version of Slapshot. It's got a will-they or won't-they romance going on, and if that's your thing, you might check it out. Available to download for just $0.99.
Ok, but on to what I really wanted to talk about, which is the amazing Adichie.
I love going to author talks because they tend to be some of the most eloquent, interesting people on the planet. I guess that makes sense when you make your living on words, and Adichie was no exception. She talked about everything, from her first novel Purple Hibiscus (my review here), to racism in America as assumptions on how you believe a person is or will behave based on the color of their skin (so true), and how the fight for gender equality isn't over. She also spoke about her struggle as a writer, which was the recurring anxiety that the day's writing wouldn't go well. I think a lot of us feel that way when we sit down to write.
The talk seemed to end way too soon because we were totally engrossed. I bought a copy of Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions and got it signed. It's a short read and a great roadmap for how to raise feminists (both boys and girls) and make sure you're applying those same lessons in your own life. I would definitely recommend it for new mothers, which is why the book was written after one of Adichie's friends asked her for advice on how she should raise her daughter to be a feminist. If you're interested in the subject, I've also linked to Adichie's seminal TED talk "We Should All Be Feminists" in a previous post. It's worth watching.
Have you read any of Adichie's work? I still need to read Americanah, and will admit that I'm a little intimidated by its length on top of my other reading commitments (and after a long day of editing, sometimes the last thing I want to do is read more, which is a shame). Still, sometimes you just have to put on your big girl pants and do it, because you know it's going to be good.
Have a great week and see you next Sunday!
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