June 22, 2018

i used to imagine were i to get married what my wedding would be like. most of the time i envisioned it at a catholic church in the woodlands, not far from where i live, and because my father is who is and is so well-loved by so many, i doubt very much the guest list would've been fewer than two hundred people. it would've been big... not so much because i wanted big but because i would've felt a need to invite so many. more presents, right?

but what i really wanted was small and simple. i wanted to get married at my great uncle's monastery so he could be there. and because my faith was rooted in that place. and because i wanted to celebrate on the lawn at sunset with my family. i would've wanted my spouse's family to know the tranquility of that place, and i would've preferred that chapter of my life to begin in someplace quiet and content.

of course, the older i got the more difficult it was for me to picture this future. my twenties came and went. my thirties. i'm halfway through my forties. the older i got the more ridiculous the picture seemed to be.

and then the monastery closed last summer.

and my munkle died this week.

i broke down at work today because the thing i most wanted to give him -- the knowledge that i would find that kind of love and have that kind of a life... that all his hopes and prayers for me had become reality. i couldn't give that to him. 

an image of what that day could've been like came to mind so fully that i was taken aback. i gripped the counter for balance and then fell to my knees and wept.

thank god no one was in the store. no one came in while i was crumpled on the ground.

brett young's mercy was playing. if you're gonna break my heart just break it.

i don't know how many more times mine can break.

let there be light

June 9, 2018

my aunt killed herself on wednesday.

i have always viewed my brother's death as a suicide -- but his method was painstaking and debilitating. he drank and drank and drank until his body said enough, and it took about a decade for that end to come. i lost my brother a long time ago, but was fortunate, just before he left us, to catch a glimpse of the man i knew him to be.

this woman, she'd been gone for years. i was too young when she married into my family to appreciate her personality to the fullest, and as i aged, her character got dimmer and dimmer and dimmer... i did not know her. 

it's easier for me to cope with her absence because i didn't know who she was. i knew of her struggles, and i know how depression can intensify them so that light, faith, hope and love are altered or altogether lost. there's a part of me that knows relief for her now. it's done. she's no longer crushed under the weight of burdens too impossible for her to bear. 

that weight, though... it, like the darkness, has shifted.

it's easy to hate when this kind of death occurs. it's easy to be angry. all that darkness, despair, fear and hatred migrate from the body of the deceased to the hearts of the living. 

it's easy to attach blame. someone somewhere must've said or done something that caused so-and-so to break.

it's easy to say that person was weak and selfish and stupid.

then we immortalize the dead -- assuming we loved them, of course. kurt cobain and robin williams are some of the best examples of this. it's such a tragedy. such an easy topic for conversation. how sad! can you believe? why didn't that person reach out for help? did you know? her instagram is always so fun and upbeat; she couldn't possibly have been depressed. and then there are the pleas from the public to get help, to reach out. to stay. hell, i've made them myself. 

i have been depressed since i was eight years old. when i was in college, i gave a presentation in an education class on child suicide, and when i was done, one of my classmates -- a middle-aged black man -- asked, so you wanted to kill yourself because you weren't a good daughter, sister, student and friend? 

i wanted to slap him. i managed to maintain my composure and responded: when you're an eight year girl, your only responsibilities are to be a good daughter, sister, student and friend, and i was failing at all of them. i reminded him that during the school year as future teachers we would see these children more than their parents would. i insisted that it wasn't a teacher's job to judge the burdens a child carries but to help that child carry them, and if that's not possible then find someone who can.

it's easy to belittle someone's struggles. it's EASY to belittle someone's pain.

by the time i was ten, i had a plan.

i've had one for thirty-five years. several, in fact. i know all the ways it can be done. i know there's never been a day where i've not thought i want to be dead. i know i wouldn't leave a note. those who know me best know damned well why i would want to leave this place. 

i also know i would never do that to my parents and brother, to my niece and nephew. i don't want one of those children to ever have to say my aunt killed herself today.

my facebook and twitter feeds are raging with suicidal thoughts. i need this to stop. i need, so much, to see light and faith and hope and love in social media, now more than ever.

  please god, let there be light.

four things celebrated in may

June 4, 2018

one. dwayne "the rock" johnson was born on may second of nineteen seventy-two. watch one of his movies. share a couple of his lines you loved.

okay. i watched jumanji: welcome to the jungle. i did not love any lines of dialogue from the film. not a damned one of them was remarkable enough to recommend it here.

two. adam yauch of the beastie boys died six years ago on may fourth at age forty-seven. what's your favorite song of theirs? give me four reasons why it's better than the rest.

the four reasons are in the lyrics:
a. they be staring at their radios
staying up all night
so like a pimp, i'm pimpin
i got a boat i eat shrimp in
got arrested at the mardi gras for jumping on a float
my man mca's got a beard like a billy goat

b. making other records cause the people they want more of this
suckers they be saying they could take out adam horovitz

c. but i rock well...
the patty duke show...
and then i bust the tango
got more rhymes than jamaicans got mangoes
that's my peg leg, that's the end of my stump
shake your rump

d. never been jumped
cause i'm the most mackinest
never been jumped
cause i'm the most packinest...
running from the law the press and the parents
is your name michael diamond?
no, mine's clarence

three. george lucas will turn seventy-three on may fourteenth. solo, the latest film in his star wars franchise, will be released on may twenty-fifth. rank all the films best to worst. where does this one fall on the list and why?

empire strikes back
return of the jedi
a new hope
the force awakens
solo: a star wars story
rogue one
revenge of the sith
phantom menace
attack of the clones
the last jedi

because i loved seeing the history of his character; i liked how none of the characters, save chewbacca, are reliable; i love alden's portrayal of han solo; i liked how the story tied in with the rest of the series; and i enjoyed it more than all the ones listed afterward.

four. emily dickinson died on may fifteenth, eighteen eighty-six. read this poetry foundation article. what are five things you learned about her from it?

a. after her death, family members found her hand-sewn books, containing nearly eighteen hundred poems.

b. the first volume of her poetry was published in eighteen ninety, four years after her death -- eleven editions were published in less than two years.

c. a complete volume of her poetry did not appear until nineteen fifty-five, but the poems were edited.

d. the first edition that reflected her order, unusual punctuation and spelling choices was not published until nineteen ninety-eight.

bookshelf scavenger hunt

May 23, 2018

one. a book whose title begins with the letter n: now write! fiction writing exercises from today's best writers and teachers edited by sherry ellis.
two. whose cover is mostly brown: the catholic prayer book compiled by msgr. michael buckley. (my cover is brown.)
three. based on a true story: it's been a good life, dad: my son's struggle with cystic fibrosis by jerry e. hendon.
four. whose story is told in multiple perspectives: wonder by r.j. palacio.
five. read last year: caraval by stephanie garber.
six. most recently purchased: tell me three things by julie buxbaum.
seven. whose cover you find unlikable: beyond shyness by jonathan berent.
eight. that is a retelling of a story: the once and future king by t.h. white.
nine. that is also a film: the help by kathryn stockett.
ten. that was published this year: killers of the flower moon: the osage murders and the birth of the fbi by david grann.
eleven. that is nonfiction: skinny bitch: a no-nonsense, tough love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous by rory freedman and kim barnouin.
twelve. that you have recommended to others: the language of flowers by vanessa diffenbaugh. (SERIOUSLY! READ. THIS. BOOK!!! it's AMAZING!!!
thirteen. that has a tree on its cover: the book thief by markus zusack. (there's a tree on mine.)
fourteen. whose author's name (first, middle or last) is the same as yours: come to the garden by jennifer wilder morgan.
fifteen. that you have read more than once: the fault in our stars by john green.
sixteen. that you didn't finish: the noticer: sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective by andy andrews.
seventeen. with a character who is a king: inspire bible nlt: the bible for creative journaling published by christian art publishers.
eighteen. whose cover beneath the dust jacket (the bookboard) is purple: it wasn't always like this by joy preble.
nineteen. that you will read by the end of the year: the one-hundred-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by jonas jonasson.

i snagged this idea from beverly at confuzzledom. what books on your shelves can you find to suit the categories?

tuesday topics: one. plot twist in literature, television or film

May 14, 2018

the "abduction" of lyanna stark in game of thrones

(belated) tuesday topics: two. unusual costumes from films

May 10, 2018

elizabeth banks as effie trinket in the hunger games series.

that's all i got. sorry. i feel like i've let yall down with the posts this time around.

four things to celebrate in may

May 6, 2018

one. dwayne "the rock" johnson was born on may second of nineteen seventy-two. watch one of his movies. share a couple of his lines you loved.

two. adam yauch of the beastie boys died six years ago on may fourth at age forty-seven. what's your favorite song of theirs? give me four reasons why it's better than the rest.

three. george lucas will turn seventy-three on may fourteenth. solo, the latest film in his star wars franchise, will be released on may twenty-fifth. rank all the films best to worst. where does this one fall on the list and why?

four. emily dickinson died on may fifteenth, eighteen eighty-six. read this poetry foundation article. what are five things you learned about her from it?

ten things celebrated in april

May 2, 2018

number one. ayatollah khomeini calls for an islamic republic in iran on april 1, 1974. read (some, if not all of) reading lolita in tehran: a memoir in books. what's the first word on the nineteenth line of the seventy-fourth page? what are four things you loved about the book?

the first word on the nineteenth line of the seventy-fourth page is in. 

i read (some of) this book about fifteen years ago in a creative writing nonfiction course at the university of texas at san antonio. i hadn't been writing much. one of my friends says that one of the things she loves most about me is my willingness to be open and vulnerable and how easy it seems for me to be that way. it's not easy. i spent a lot of my youth visiting with counselors who tried to get me to talk, and i wasn't interested. for that class, though, we had to write responses to the assigned texts. i wrote this one, and that essay gave way to this poem, one of the few i'd crafted that i actually like.

i like the way the author writes; she's clearly intelligent, and i like that she doesn't dumb her language down or bungle it with big words, so the reader can appreciate the story, and her narrative is almost conversational.

i love the way she describes her friends: the one to the far right in the second photograph is our poet, manna, in a white t-shirt and jeans. she made poetry out of things most people cast aside. the photograph does not reflect the peculiar opacity of manna's dark eyes, a testament to her withdrawn and private nature (page 4).

i would say that i love the author's fearlessness, have always considered her so... but i'm conflicted on this now... if your country is a war zone, and all the bright ones who could make that world a more beautiful place leave it, then how can it ever get better... on the other hand, that brutal territory could kill the brilliance, so... anyway, while she was in tehran, i do like that she welcomed these women into her home to read stories that were prohibited.

number two. maya angelou is born on april 4, 1928. share four lines of your favorite one of her poems.

from prayer

for those who have no voice, we ask you to speak
for those who feel unworthy, we ask you to pour your love out in waterfalls of tenderness
for those who live in pain, we ask you to bathe them in the river of your healing
for those who are lonely, we ask you to keep them company

number three. edgar allan poe's murders in rogue morgue, the first detective story, is published april 14, 1841. read it. what's the fourth word on the eighteenth line of the fourteenth page? share your favorite line of text.

the fourth word on the eighteenth line of the fourteenth page is take.

favorite line: i was surprised, too, at how much and how widely he had read; more important, the force of his busy mine was like a bright like in my soul (page 1).

number four. geoffrey chaucer's canterbury tales characters begin their pilgrimage to canterbury april 17, 1387, according to scholars. which of the tales do you like best; share four reasons why it's better than the others.

the monk's tale because villainy makes for the best stories.

i like that's it's broken up into sections so it's easier to read.

i was imagining someone like my great uncle doing the telling -- that someone so good would be interested in the stories of those so bad is intriguing to me.

and also, i imagined someone like the bishop in robin hood: prince of thieves doing the telling -- that someone so false would fail to see his own fall intrigues me, as well.

number five. jennifer garner is born april 17, 1972. watch draft day. which line(s) of hers do you like best?

i don't really get jacked; i just manage the cap.

if i do my job and we haven't spent more than $125 million on players by the time the season starts, i get excited.

how is it that the ultimate prize in the most macho sport ever invented is a piece of jewelry?

they said the same thing (he's a winner) about ryan leaf when he was the number two pick in '98. no one said that about tom brady when he went 199th. there's no such thing as a sure thing. at the end of the day all that matters is what you think.

sometimes the correct path is the tortured one.

number six. first crossword puzzle book is published april 18, 1924 by simon and schuster. find an s&s puzzle book and do one of the crosswords.

i tried, yall. those things are hard. i usually cheat at these things, and stopped before i got carried away with that.

number seven. deepwater horizon drilling rig explodes on april 20, 2010, killing eleven and causing a massive oil discharge into the gulf -- an environmental disaster. watch deepwater horizon. share four things you learned about the event from that film.

(this is what the film says was so; i realize movies like to twist shit up...)

bp supervisors robert kaluza and donald vidrine, played by brad leland and john malkovich, were indicted for manslaughter, but those charges were dropped by 2015.

the deepwater horizon was a semi-submersible offshore drilling rig with a crew of 126, located 41 miles southeast off the louisiana coast and free-floating 5,200 feet over the gulf floor. it was 43 days and about $50 million over budget.

transocean chief electronics technician mike williams, played by mark wahlberg, told kaluza and vidrine that the rig has 390 machines -- almost ten percent -- in need of repair, including the bop (blowout preventer) pods, telephone systems, wireless internet and smoke alarms. in testimony given to congress, of which clips are heard at the beginning, williams said he was on the phone with his wife at the time of the explosion and alarms did not sound.

bp refuses to test the 500 feet of cement that separates the rig and the men to make sure it holds. offshore installation manager jimmy harrell, played by kurt russell, said the test would've cost about $125 grand and insinuates a company worth $180 billion (vidrine corrected him -- 186 billion) is cheap, but bp has already let schlumberger leave, so harrell calls for a negative pressure test, which evaluates the well's integrity. that test shows 1395 psi -- enough pressure to split a car in half -- but if there was an issue, there would be mud, and there isn't any. vidrine assumes it's a faulty reading due to a sensor issue and asks for a second test to be run, but on the kill line rather than the drill pipe line and that test comes back normal. so they start cleaning out the mud... and hell breaks lose.

screw bp. i thought it at the time of the incident, and again when i watched this in theaters, and now and forever. also this film made me hate john malkovich. and i was struck by the thought that ten percent of the rig's machines were broken, and ten percent of the crew died.

number eight. shakespeare's macbeth is first performed april 20, 1611 at the globe theater in london. the first performance of his merry wives of windsor takes place april 23, 1597, with queen elizabeth the first of england in attendance. his death occurred on april 23, 1616. read one of the plays; share twenty words from the text you liked.

twenty from macbeth: hurlyburly; swarm; minion; valiant; smack; thane; flout; lavish; swine; ronyon; thither; dwindle; doth; aught; fantastical; bubbles; sovereign; prithee; quell.

number nine. prince rogers nelson died april 21, 2016. what's your favorite prince song? share four lines from it that you love.

how can you just leave me standing
alone in a world that's so cold
maybe i'm just too demanding
maybe i'm just like my father, too bold

number ten. rc duncan patents pampers first disposable diaper on april 27, 1965. donate a package of diapers to an assistance center.

i donated three packages of varying sizes to the spring/woodlands location of pregnancy assistance center north, a facility staffed by some of the most caring women i've had the fortune to know. that place is a godsend.

tuesday topics: three. unusual characters from television

May 1, 2018

one. abby sciuto played by pauley perrette in ncis.
two. cosmo kramer played by michael richards in seinfeld. 
three. corporal maxwell q. clinger played by jamie farr in m.a.s.h.

tuesday topics: four. unusual locales of novels, tv programs and/or films

April 25, 2018

i got nothing. but ericka does. check out her list here.

tuesday topics: five. unusual characters from literature

April 17, 2018

one. luna lovegood - harry potter and the order of the phoenix by j.k. rowling. one could argue that every character in this series is unusual, and i would agree, but i was most impressed with the uniqueness of luna lovegood. i admire her idiosyncrasies, loyalties, keen powers of observation and, most of all, her strength. 

two. pat solitano - silver linings playbook by matthew quick. this guy's just WEIRD. 

three. victoria jones - the language of flowers by vanessa diffenbaugh. i love how strong she is, love how she'll give flowers to people and the people think she's giving them to be kind, but the messages in those flowers are not. she's angry, and so, so justified in her anger. but she creates such beauty despite this, and that ability, i think, is remarkably rare.

four. rhett butler - gone with the wind by margaret mitchell. it takes a certain kind of dude to really love scarlett o'hara. i admire his tenacity and dedication to himself and those he respects, his ability to outwit others, to say screw you and get away with it every time.

five. august pullman - wonder by r.j. palacio. this kid, yall. DAMN. he is the STRONGEST character i've had the pleasure to meet in any book. hands down. ain't no way in hell i could've lived through the kind of shit he's had to endure. i love, LOVE his resilience.

tell me three things

April 15, 2018

why i wanted to read it: fuck if i know. it was on a table. i was buying GREAT books to go into a care package i'm sending to some girls i met when touring my college's campus during its founder's weekend celebration. somehow, and i really can't say why, it caught my attention. maybe it was the waffles on the cover. maybe it was the title. maybe it's because i can be, at times, a stupid girl. and this was definitely one of those times.

what i liked: it's been 747 days and still i have not learned how to talk about any of this. i mean, i can talk about how i bought the toilet paper, how we were broken, how i was broken. but i still haven't found the words to talk about my mom. the real her. to remember who she was in a way that doesn't make me keel over.

i don't know how to do that yet. 

sometimes it feels like i've forgotten how to talk altogether... if i was going to be held captive by a wicked stepmother, surely there are worse places i could have ended up than living in the pages of architectural digest... the problem was that mom wasn't here. that she would never be anywhere again. when i thought about that for too long, which i didn't, when i could help it, i realized it didn't matter much where i slept (page 38).

rut seemed too small a word for grief... sometimes when scarlett says i'm strong, i think she really means i'm numb (page 40).

i bet i would have liked him better then, when he read marvel comics instead of sartre, when he didn't wrangle with all the hard questions and come out the other end sad or angry or tired or whatever it is he is (page 58).

what sucked: pretty much everything else. boy decides he's too afraid to speak to the new girl, but really wants to so he (somehow) gets her email address so he can counsel her on who to know and how to cope. i knew who the dude was before i'd read a fifth of the story. so much for secretive. but then, maybe i was supposed to figure it out. still... i would've preferred the surprise. i do love surprises. it's about about a gal coping with the loss of her mother and being uprooted from chicago to california after her father comes home from what she thinks is a business trip to announce he's married someone else. there's GOBS and GOBS of shell shock here. EXCELLENT material for conflict, but it's SO watered down, the storytelling so pitifully executed that it feels more like middle grade fiction than a young adult novel.

having said that: the author, who lost her mother at a young age so she knows that of which she writes (and should have done a MUCH better job because of this), addresses the reader in a letter between the concluding page and the acknowledgements: i decided to combine the loneliness of first loss with something much more magical and universal: the beauty of first love. she should've tried harder, for there's neither magic nor beauty to be found here. it's mediocre at best with regard to the writing and the story, horribly cliched and predictable as hell.

the good fight

April 11, 2018

the other day a friend asked me to help her tweak an essay she'd been asked to write for her work. it was about repainting some metal planters, about how the task had enabled her to see that sometimes we are like those planters, weathered and rusted by life, and how when we let him, god can give us fresh coats of paint, restore our spirits.

i've mentioned that bible study in which i'm taking part before. in romans four, paul talks about circumcision. when i'd first read it, i thought that doesn't apply to me. but then in the lecture, our group leader talked about how our hearts need to be circumcised, that the scar tissue makes it difficult to live like god had intended us. in romans three, paul says their throats are open graves... their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness... ruin and misery mark their ways.

these words have haunted me ever since. my voice will be the cause of my death. somehow. morbid, right?

today a woman came to ship something to a friend. she had shoulder-length, glossy, straight black hair, wore black-rimmed glasses, a black blouse with yellow details (i wish i could tell you what they were... flowers, maybe? but that doesn't sound right) forming vertical stripes about an inch apart, bell sleeves, black slacks. she was blessed with beautiful features: good skin; symmetry; wide, dark eyes. her face was flawless. she was talking with my boss about how she'd just come from an interview, that it had gone well -- the man with whom she'd spoken had said that he liked her and wanted to hire her, but he had to conduct some other interviews and would be in touch. and then, maybe five minutes later, she said he was probably going to hire her because she was pretty... and how she couldn't help that.

i was jealous. i was also angry. i know i shouldn't be.

it took me the better part of a year to convince my boss he should hire me. this woman has an interview that probably lasted no more than fifteen minutes, and she will most likely get the job because she's pretty. when she's in conversations with men she won't reveal that she has a boyfriend. she takes advantage of her beauty. she uses it. i think that's what makes me the angriest. it's a tool to her. she wields it like a weapon.

how many of you do that? how many of you brag to others in front of women who aren't as blessed with physical beauty? i had to leave the room because i couldn't stomach the conversation any longer.

i'm writing this in my room, surrounded by the things i've collected and received over the course of my life: the chicano visions book sent to me by cheech marin's public relations team for his latin art exhibit, the prints and paintings i got from my grandmothers, the woodwork fashioned for me by my great uncle, the stories in which i have immersed myself... tales that have taken me out of my often bleak internal landscape -- as unsettling to me as my reflection is -- the hope i've found in them, however shortlived it may be.

but the things to which my eyes are most frequently drawn are the red patent leather shoes my mother thought i might like to have in my room. shoes worn in my toddler years. shoes worn when i could barely walk. shoes worn, most likely, with ugly metal braces that she was quick to throw out once i no longer needed them. i am reminded how lucky i am that i can walk... because so many with medical histories like mine can't. those shoes... and that ivory ceramic mug bearing the crest of my alma mater and the year of my graduation from high school. i am reminded of the teachers and the principals who thought i would fail to do so. most of the time, i look at those two things and remember my strength. most of the time it works, and i regain my balance, my perspective.

those fights, though... struggling to walk and learn the state-mandated curriculum... those were easy. those were good.

tuesday topics: six. unusual book titles

April 10, 2018

one. the geography of madness: penis thieves, voodoo death and the search for the meaning of the world's strangest syndromes. frank bures.
two. the island of the day before. umberto eco.
three. tree of smoke. denis johnson.
four. the illustrious dead: the terrifying story of how typhus killed napoleon's greatest army. stephan talty.
five. assassination vacation. sarah vowell.
six. termite hill. tom wilson.