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Vacation

I’m plum tuckered.

I know I haven’t posted since May 13th and SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED. Nothing too exciting, just a lot of life in the small expanse of the past two to three weeks.

We have our annual family “staycation” vacation this week with loads of picnics, swimming, and relaxing as much as one can with kiddos around.

I’ll see you cats in June.

#DIYSWAP15 Box!

surprise

It was a big box!

candy

One of two boxes of delicious chocolate-covered delights

cocoa

Cocoa!

pillow

A beautiful handmade owl pillow. I adore it.

prisma

Prismacolor markers. They are the best!

Thanks Heather for a spectacular box. I loved everything! This was so much fun and I loved seeing what everyone has made and received. *round of applause*

#BoutofBooks: Master Post

Bout of Books

I feel like I may very well be the last to the party. My last book was a drag and I wasn’t anticipating I would have the readerly gumption to make it through a week long readathon. Then I started an exceptional memoir and I’m hooked. Consider me all in for bout of books!

“The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team”

My goal for the readathon is to read three books. I’m on a roll, so let’s see if I can keep it up!

Day 2 — I didn’t participate in the day’s challenge, but I did make my reading goal for the day! I finished a memoir, Head Case and that was about 140 pages of reading. My goal for 05/13 is to read a good chunk of Station Eleven.

DAY 1 — Bookish Survey from Writing my Own Fairy Tale

1. How do you organize your shelves? First I separate items I collect. Virago and NYRB press books and then my penguin books that I collect (threads and horror). Then my non-fiction books are organized loosely by Library of Congress system. Fiction is alphabetical by author.
2. What is one of your favorite book that’s not in one of your favorite genres? The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum, I don’t read a great deal of science-based books, but this was a great one!
3. What is the last 5 star book you read? Fairest, vol. 1: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham
4. What book are you most excited to read during the read-a-thon? I am finishing up a memoir and then I plan to dig into Station Eleven.
5. What book do you recommend the most? Just, in general? The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

Two Reviews: The Lost Traveller by Antonia White and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

losttravThe Lost Traveller by Antonia White is a follow up novel to Frost in May. White changed her heroine’s name from Nanda to Clara and this odd quirk annoys me more than it should. The Lost Traveller follows Nanda/Clara’s life after leaving her Catholic school for financial reasons.

Throughout the novel Clara wishes for love, wrestles with religion, makes friends in her new school, forges an identity, tolerates her mother (she is awesome) and desperately tries to please her father (he’s an asshole). In short she is a teenager. The reader follows Clara on her search for meaning and purpose and eventually Clara settles on becoming a governess to a ten-year-old boy, Charles. Clara adores Charles and becomes friends with a soldier, Alfie, on leave.

Clara alternates between moodiness and elation, clear purpose and floundering for meaning. Her anxious self-analysis and yearning seem typical for a teenager. Also trapped in an adolescent-like reality are Clara’s parents. The Lost Traveller exposes the internal struggle each parent feels as they work through resolving their own identity and place in the world.

Writing about this novel is difficult. As far as subject matter and characters it was very much like an Elizabeth Taylor or Anita Brookner (dark, the internal struggle greater than outward strife, female characters, etc), BUT, the writing just falls a little flat for me. It took eons (hyperbole, duh) to make it through this book. I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading and I wasn’t invested in the characters. I felt as if White were telling me what was going on rather than experiencing it myself. Towards the end of the novel the writing feels stronger, but there are expanses of the story that feel like filler. I don’t mind if a writer puts in “extra stuff” for several pages to express mood and setting, but I’m going to need some beautiful writing. The writing was meh and made descriptions of farmhouses and dressing for dinner boring. Of course boredom means that shocking and exciting elements get a half-disinterested yawn. The poor writing and lack of a real build are most evident in both the mother and father’s various urges towards infidelity. It came out of nowhere, climaxed quickly and dissipated (and I am completely aware of the “that’s what she said-ness” of that description).

I’ll continue int he series, but this book was underwhelming and could have been effective in the hands of a better writer.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 27 April 2015

Finished: 9 May 2015

Pages: 320

Challenges: Virago Project, Classics Club Spin

Owned/Borrowed/Library: owned
Stars: 3 out of 5 stars

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Gilman the yellow wallpaper book

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one of the best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. My favorite thing about this short story is that one *can* read it many different ways. In some respects it reminds me of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. While James intended for that story to be a ghost story many people have read it to be about insanity, female sexual oppression, or really evil little children.

In the same vein most reader’s see “The Yellow Wallpaper” as representative of female oppression during the author’s time. I suppose you could make a case for something paranormal to be happening, but I really feel that the figure in the yellow wallpaper is allegorical. I, however, have read this story two completely different ways.

Postpartum Depression: The narrator expresses that she misses her baby and that the baby is being cared for my someone else. She is also trapped in a nursery. In fact, in the Victorian era childbirth was thought to often be a “trigger” for insanity and some women were even institutionalized for insanity after giving birth.

This last reading of “The Yellow Wallpaper” has me thinking that this short story is really about domestic violence. The narrator’s husband keeps her child away from her, bars visitors, is away all the time yet monitors her every move, keeps her in an isolated area of the house, forbids her to write, tells others that she is insane, and gaslights her by repeatedly telling her she is ill. She must even keep the “freeing and escape” of the figure in the yellow wallpaper a secret. The most telling sentence for me that this is a thinly veiled story of domestic violence occurs after the narrator refuses for her to have guests because of her illness, “there is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.” A page later, in talking about the wallpaper, “and it sticketh closer than a brother – they must have had perseverance as well as hatred.” The narrator feels trapped and sees everything around her as threatening violence. Only when “she” is nearly “free” does she feel in control. If you are doubtful that this story could be read as a tale of domestic violence, then read this about the signs of an abusive relationship. John has many of the traits of a abuser and our narrator has many traits of a victim.

(Note: If you enjoyed this story then I think you’d like The Victorian Chaise-Longue; it reminded me very much of “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Here is a link to my review.)

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 21 April 2015

Finished: 22 April 2015

Pages: 64

Challenges: Virago Project, Read-a-thon Read-along

Owned/Borrowed/Library: library copy
Stars: 5 out of 5 stars

Operatrion Fig Pluck, or, The Post with All the F-bombs

figs-751_640Yesterday I found a small pocket of time after work and decided to write in my journal. I found a cozy, quiet, cool spot and emptied out my bag of felt tip markers. I wrote. I wrote so much. My aim was to try to wrestle out an articulate way to discuss a recent a-ha moment. What seemed so clear, round and precise proved to be a messy tangle of half- thoughts. There is hesitation and doubt, loads of deconstruction and second-guessing and moments of brilliance and freedom. In short, this post is not a neatly ordered animal. I’m about to cough up a hairball of personal navel-gazing.

Why not keep it in my journal? A journal is pretty much designed for navel-gazing; all my trailing thoughts would safe between pages. Quiet. Still. It would be nice to have nary a ripple to disturb whatever amusing and happy stuff I could be writing about in this space.

The problem is that a lot of us women (and some other folks too) are navel-gazing and we don’t like our navels. We don’t like our legs. Or stomach. Or back rolls. Or chin. Or hips. We don’t like it and we feel badly for not liking it. I know I’m not the only one wrestling with being healthy and accepting my large body. There must be others struggling to find a brand of feminism that allows me to like being a girl, but resent the way girls are treated. I feel like more than ever “the personal is political.” I’m writing about this, because I cannot be the only woman dealing with this shit and feeling like a grown-ass woman who still hasn’t figured herself out. On one hand I feel like I should love my fat body, dress it up, make it fancy, and celebrate the sexiness. On the other hand, I feel like that still gives power to a patriarchal, consumer-controlled idea of femininity. I shouldn’t care about what I wear or how I look. That’s what “they” want. The nebulous “they” of society tell me to choose: fat or healthy, girl or boy, feminine or feminist.

All of the semantics, hand-wringing, and indecision remind me of Esther Greenwood’s dream in The Bell Jar. She’s dreaming that a lush fig tree is bursting with fruit and each one is a major life direction: wife and mother, athlete, writer, lover, etc…. She can only choose one and she cannot make up her mind. The fruit slowly rots and falls away and Esther is left with nothing. She couldn’t limit herself to just one thing. She wants it all and, frankly, society wasn’t made for ladies who want it all. Part of me wants Esther to give a big fuck you to the fig tree and refuse to pick something because she doesn’t want only a little happiness. The other part of me is screaming for her to run and grab as much as she can before it is all taken away.

I’ve identified the problem and it is aptly expressed, in part, in this essay. “In Praise of Women Who Give All the Fucks,” by Emma Gray, celebrates women who care, champion, and seek to create a better society. Gray highlights that the current female media darling is the woman who “doesn’t give a fuck.” The glamorous, bird-flipping, gonna-do-what-I-want-woman is epitomized in the media as one who doesn’t even need a label, she is her own bad-ass self.

I’m here today to say that we need both. In fact, I must be both women. Ladies, we must give all the fucks and not give a fuck. Let me illustrate:

You’re gonna troll me on the internet because I’m fat and want to wear pretty clothes? You think it is shallow if I want to buy dresses and shave my legs? I don’t give a fuck. I’m going to look how I want because I get to decide how I want to dress independent of your opinions. You don’t get to decide what makes me valuable. Fuck your conditional acceptance of my body.

Did you just say that if I’m fat I must not care about my health and I’m perpetuating a harmful way of life by being fat and not dieting? I give so many fucks about my health that I’m not limiting it to just what you can see. Health is more than my weight. Health means getting my annual pelvic exam, seeing a therapist to help me become mindful, visiting the eye doctor and the dentist, and advocating for my right to reproductive choice and healthcare for all. I. Give. So. Many. Fucks.

There it is. A fig tree exists and it does force women to choose. What we’re forgetting is that we are so many. If all of us head straight for that fig tree, knock it down, and take what we want we can have it all. This will take both not giving a fuck and giving a fuck. We have to not care what everyone thinks about us and we have to care about ourselves. Imagine the wild rumpus at the fall of the fig tree! Branches down, we can pluck the hell out of those figs. I’ll help you get to the figs you want. I get the figs I want. Hell, we may even share a fig or two. We may pick one fig and decide we don’t like it and then pick another. We will get to decide on our own figs and we won’t be judging the figs of others.

My big ole fig pile at the end will have three kids, a husband, tattoos, pretty clothes, loads of written articles, a professional career that thrives, and the knowledge that I can do whatever the fuck I want, but I don’t have to do it alone. Your harvest may be vastly different and that’s cool, too.

That is Operation Fig Pluck. Obviously I picked that name because of that scene in The Bell Jar and I thought maybe I should not use the f-bomb all the time. I’m aiming to care less about doing what I’m told and caring more for myself and my community. Now get outta my way, I’m going fig hunting.

Goodbye April, Hello May

birthday card from Sam / Atticus painting / Persy Jane is upset she has marker on her face / coffee shop flowers

birthday card from Sam / Atticus painting / Persy Jane is upset she has marker on her face / coffee shop flowers

A week into May and I am only now getting to my monthly wrap-up. April was super busy for us. The library had longer hours and student demand was high as classes wrapped-up. Sam had final exams, papers, a research symposium presentation, and art projects to complete. Atticus was prepping for a ballet recital this month and Hope finished her track season with a trip to South Carolina State. Even Persy Jane was busy growing 2-year molars and perfecting her “I can dood it” tantrums as she asserts her autonomy in the household.

Here are some other highlights:

  • Easter was great. We had a long weekend off and the kids went to several egg hunts.
  • Sam and I squeezed in one date this month. We enjoyed Thai food, coffee, and hanging out.
  • Our big unexpected plot twist of the month involved the transmission completely dying in our old van. This prompted the purchase of a new-to-us 2007 mini-van, spending $2,000, and financing a car payment when we were less than six months away from completely paying off the old van. Ugh. Also, catalytic convertor has already died in the “new” van and I am 100 shades of pissed. Moving on.
  • I read so much in April. I finished eight books and had a blast with Read-a-thon. My short story I was writing is stalled, but that’s because of some other writing-based things that came my way. Knitting has been my go-to stress buster, although I didn’t complete a project in April.
  • On April 27th I celebrated my 35th birthday and it was pretty wonderful. In addition to thoughtful cards and gifts, I gave myself a huge present; I had an epiphany about myself and my future. It was so weirdly crystal clear. I don’t know why this only happened a few weeks before hitting 35, but some things clicked into place and I have big plans for this year. My goal is to have more details posted tomorrow. Operation Fig Pluck… it’s happening.

May is already off to a great start. Sam’s classes are online for the summer and that allows him to work a bit more. Hope will be done with school in a few short weeks. Atticus has his recital May 17th. Work is trucking along. Books are being read and yarn is being knit. We have a family staycation planned for the end of the month. This is a season of motion and growth. I’ll have more to post tomorrow, but suffice it to say I think May, and the rest of the summer, will be a big month for me.

Works in Progress: 29 April 2015

works in progressYarn:

I’m still working on Sam’s scarf. No rush as it won’t be cold until October. I am about halfway done with this three-skein scarf. Sam is built like Hagrid and I wanted it to be long enough for him to wrap it around his neck at least once.
image

Thanks to a four hour and 45 minute meeting yesterday I was able to complete rows 41 to 56 of my dishcloth for the DIY and Local Swap.

image

Once I’m done with the dishcloth I’m going to focus on making a pinboard of summer projects. I have a gob of friends having babies in autumn and I need to get a head start on Christmas stuff. I’m also itching to pick up a quick embroidery project of twelve. We’ll see what happens.

Writing and Other Projects:

My blogging may be a bit sparse for a few days. I’m working on a project I cannot talk about yet, but it is taking a fair amount of time. Let’s just say I could use some prayer with this project. I want to make sure I am doing the right thing. My short story is on hiatus right now while I muddle through said secret project. I promise I’ll reveal more when I can!

What are you working on this week?

inspiration Monday