Happy wagon: 10.06.13-10.12.13

Things that have made this week a little sparklier:

  • Jack, and the way he comes to me late at night to roll around and pur and be scratched, and the way he only sleeps with me in the earliest hours of morning, as though he can only bear to show real affection when no one, not even the sun, will witness it.
  • a new package from Wylde Ivy, which contained many things, the most important of which is a Pumpkin Masquerade-scented body butter. It is the best thing I have ever smelled and I never want to smell anything else. I recommend Wylde Ivy a thousand times over to anyone who likes natural bath and body products.
  • The first trip to the Halloween stores, whereupon I met a delightful new friend in this terrifying rag doll:

    rag doll and deady bear

  • Hours spent reading in the best weather combination: cool crisp breezes and warm sunshine. We finally bought outdoor chairs after years of telling ourselves we would get around to it any day, and I have rediscovered how vital being outside is to my self-care routine.
  • Catherynne M. Valente’s latest Fairyland book, “The Girl Who Soared over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two”, which is everything good and true and perfect, but more about that later when I can take the time to sit down with my thoughts and feelings about it and get them all down.
  • Thrifting and the two perfect dresses I found (pictures to come), and the comfort I have achieved with myself and my own skin to be able to wear dresses at all. An important piece of my identity used to be based on being a girl who did not wear dresses, and it feels good to shed that and branch out.
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Once upon a time in the wood

In August I bought this PDF journaling workbook”> from The Fable Tribe, which has thirty journaling prompts intended to be completed over a month, and I’m finally trying to get started with it. I definitely don’t promise to do one each day, but I do hope to finish all thirty eventually.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WOOD

Every good story begins with “once upon a time.” Often, we believe that our story can’t be re-written. That our “once upon a time” is locked forever. But each new day, our story begins. Start this chapter of your Enchantment Diaries with “once upon a time,” and write a single sentence (or a paragraph, or a page), setting the tone for your story, going forward.

How will your story unfold? You alone are the author of your life. Write it as you wish.

Once upon a time, a girl became. She became and became and became, becoming so many things that eventually she no longer knew what she was. Was she really a girl? Or was she a bird? Or a tree? Or the sky? Or was she perhaps not anything at all?

She felt her skin stretching, her bones warping, heard the whispers and murmurs all around her from those forced to witness her transformations.

“Better settle down,” they told her finally. “A girl is only a girl. She’s not a bird, or a tree, or the sky. No one wants a girl who doesn’t even want herself. No one wants a girl who doesn’t even know she’s a girl.”

The girl became afraid, and she became smaller, and smaller, and smaller. Until at last she could touch her face, her arms, her hair, and say, “Yes, I am a girl. Only a girl.” And she convinced herself it was good. She smiled. She was happy!

But she always felt the bird, and the tree, and the sky, and the whole wide world thrumming inside her, and she knew, even as she ruthlessly suppressed all that she believed she couldn’t be, that there was more for her, more of her. And when the bars of her cage had pressed and flattened her, when she had worn herself down to a stub of what she once had been, she cried out, a tiny, pitiful cry to the universe, to anything that was listening, and the universe breathed a sigh of relief and told her the secret of herself.

She was not a bird, or a tree, or the sky. She was not nothing. She was everything.

So she burned down her cage, and she burned down the little gray world she had made for herself with such care, and she rose from the ashes and set the whole world alight.

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Monthly roundup: August/September 2013

I’m brushing the dust off this poor neglected little blog, finally, for something I’ve been trying to do for several months. Here’s hoping this might mean I’m coming back to blogging here.

Combining two months into one since I was already working on this in August, I just didn’t get around to posting it then.

This month I:

Read:

Watched:

  • “Wilfred” (American version) s1 (3*)
  • “Into the Woods” [Original Broadway Cast] (3*)
  • “Insidious: Chapter 2″ (2.5*)
  • “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (4*)

Listened to:

  • Neulore – “Apple and Eve” (4*)
  • The Staves – “Dead & Born & Grown” (4*)
  • Eisley – “Currents” (3*)
  • Mary Lambert – “Letters Don’t Talk” (5*)
  • “Rooster Teeth RT Podcast” (4*)
  • “Welcome to Night Vale” (5*)

Did:

  • lots of pool swimming+one and only lake trip of the summer
  • park trip with parents and baby niece
  • forced myself to confront when I wanted to hide and survived
  • brought someone from another country/from the Internet to stay with me at my apartment for three weeks and also survived that
  • ate a lot of food and spent a lot of money on pretty things I really didn’t need
  • signed up to volunteer in middle school English classes, helping with reading and writing and vocabulary
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Self-care

Something I have realized about myself in therapy is that I have a very hard time making decisions for myself, based on my own wants and needs. When I make a decision, I make it based on how someone else will feel about it–my mother, my roommate, my friend, whoever. I don’t necessarily mean that I decide things by what my choices will make them think of me, although sometimes I do that too, but more that I decide them by how they’ll affect other people.

I think, will this keep everyone else happy? Will this inconvenience anyone? Will this make anyone angry? Will this cause conflict? Mostly that last one; conflict is what my boggart would be made of.

Very, very rarely do I initially think, is this what I want? Will this make me happy? Is this what’s really best for me? And if I do think that, and decide accordingly, I always feel guilty.

The thing is, I don’t tend to think of myself as an actual person. That sounds ridiculous and melodramatic, I know, but it’s the way my brain works. When I think of myself, it’s as an existence, a life, not as a physical person who needs things. I can’t think of any other way to explain it. I have theories about why this is, but they’re not important here.

All of this means that self-care is something I really, really struggle with. Doing things to make myself feel good and happy is not something that is a high priority to me, but, more than that, sometimes even the simple day-to-day things (brushing my hair, washing my face, et cetera) feel like more effort than I can put forth. This is obviously not a desirable state of things, and I obviously do feel better when I am actively caring for myself rather than relying on other people’s caring to give me good feelings. So, I am writing up a kind of self-care cheat sheet that I can look at when I start to feel like I need it, to remind myself that there are a lot of things I can do to make myself feel better and not all of them require tons of effort. Some of them seem very silly and/or superficial, but they help me and that’s what matters.

Physical

  1. Indulge my seemingly frivolous obsession with bath and body and hair care items. Stop denying myself, even if I have the money, simply because I don’t really need them.
  2. And, then, provide myself plenty of time to put them to use. Take the time and effort to make myself feel pretty even though it usually feels like too much effort, not for anyone else’s pleasure but for my own. I feel better when my exterior does not reflect the useless lump I often feel like I am.
  3. Regularly spend time outside. Sunshine and fresh air are sometimes more important than seclusion, and I always always feel better after being out among growing things and flowing things for a while.
  4. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Vital for stress and anxiety management, and so incredibly difficult for me to consistently maintain.
  5. Eat regular and filling meals, and occasionally put something healthy into my body. My eating habits are worse than my sleeping ones, two small meals a day if I’m lucky and if they consist of fresh, non-fast food it’s a miracle.
  6. Go to sleep early enough to get as much sleep as my body needs (ten hours) without waking up at noon and beyond. I don’t know why this is such a struggle for me, but it is and it has gotten truly out of control recently.

Mental

  1. Read, widely and often. This should not be something I need to remind myself about, as voraciously as I have read all throughout my life, but in the past year or so I have severely neglected it, along with most of my other former pleasures. Books are one of the best personal medicines I know and I miss them.
  2. Write, also widely and often. Once upon a time, I used to write journal entries in multiple journals, short stories (as silly as they were), poetry, lengthy emails … any possible excuse to write, I grabbed it. Now, I’m lucky if I write one blog post a month and a handful of status updates. Maybe I don’t need it the way I used to anymore, and definitely I no longer want to make a career of it, but I still miss it and feel that it’s the best way I have for expressing myself. even if it’s just a paragraph a day, I would like to get back to it.
  3. Do the things I need to do to manage anxiety, without worrying about how other people perceive those things. I am fortunate that I have far fewer instances of focused anxiety than I did even two months ago, but it’s still there sometimes. Whether it’s controlled breathing, or making a crazy person safety checklist in case of a break-in, or carrying around my pillow pet to stroke (a technique endorsed by my therapist because I am very texture-focused and repetitive actions are soothing to me, so I’m not as weird as this makes me sound), if it helps, it helps.
  4. Allow myself more time spent alone than time spent with other people, without feeling guilty about it (this seems to be a theme with me).

Emotional

  1. Stop unnecessarily interacting with people I don’t even like. Life is too short and there are too many people who will enrich it to keep bothering with people who don’t.
  2. Talk to people occasionally, real talking, not just in text. As much as I don’t generally like to do it, I have found that it actually makes me feel more grounded. I have a tendency to isolate myself in my own head and convince myself that no one else in the world has ever felt the way I’m feeling, and that is an unacceptable trait in anyone who is not fifteen. Plus, it’s just nice to know that verbal communication is not in fact entirely beyond me.
  3. Stop and check in with myself on how I’m doing occasionally, acknowledge when there is a problem, and actively work to fix it. Usually, I ignore what my mind and body are telling me because I’m just lazy, or overdramatic, or silly, and I’ll get over it. Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes it’s not and it’s okay to say so and treat it seriously.
  4. Be kinder to myself, in general. The self-talk I practice in my own head is terrible, there is no way I would tolerate being spoken to that way by anyone else, no reason to tolerate it from myself either. I am never going to get better if I don’t even think there’s anything to fix, or that I am worth the fixing.
  5. Set personal boundaries, and don’t allow myself to feel guilty for enforcing them. I did an exercise a couple of months ago that required me to write down instances when I set boundaries and stuck to them when they were pushed, and in every single case I felt guilty afterward. I am so sad about that, it needs to stop.
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Find Your Spot

Find Your Spot is a website that gives you twenty-four possible locations you might like to move to, based on a series of questions about your living preferences–the climate and geography you prefer, your feelings about taxes and politics and religion, what you like to do for fun, housing costs, et cetera. Each location has its own page, with more information about it than you probably really care to know. Unless you’re me, in which case you’ll waste hours reading through every one. It appears to be only geared toward the US, which is a shame, but it’s still interesting.

The information is broken up into sections, and they are:

  • a general overview section
  • At-A-Glance: map data and statistics about population, average July highs and January lows, annual precipitation and snowfall, closest big city, health care, cost of living, and housing cost
  • Climate: more in-depth climate information for each season
  • Art & Culture: what each city has to offer in those areas–theater, live music, museums, galleries, et cetera
  • City Recreation: what there is to do for fun in each city–fairs, festivals, sports, restaurants, et cetera
  • Education: educational opportunities in each city, from childhood to university
  • Housing & Cost of Living: where each city’s cost of living ranks with regard to the national average, typical prices for homeowners and rentors, childcare costs, et cetera
  • Crime & Safety: what sorts of safety measures there are and where each city’s crime rate ranks with regard to the national average
  • Earning a Living: employment opportunities for each city, what the most popular industries are, et cetera
  • Health Care: how many and what kinds of hospitals each city has and where other nearby hospitals are located

My results:

  1. Fayetteville, AR
  2. Heber Springs-Greers Ferry Lake, AR
  3. Mountain Home/Bull Shoals, AR
  4. Salem, OR
  5. Charleston, WV
  6. Sheboygan, WI
  7. Eureka Springs, AR
  8. Kankakee, IL
  9. Johnson, VT
  10. Berkeley Springs, WV
  11. Elkins, WV
  12. La Crosse, WI
  13. Cherokee Village, AR
  14. Holiday Island, AR
  15. Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
  16. Hagerstown, MD
  17. Middlebury, VT
  18. Eau Claire, WI
  19. Hot Springs-Hot Springs Village, AR
  20. Quincy, IL
  21. Elkhorn, WI
  22. Fort Atkinson, WI
  23. Monroe, WI
  24. Oshkosh-Appleton/Neenah, WI

I specified that I do not like deserts, beaches, or long, hot summers, and that I do like forests, lakes, and very cold, snowy winters. Hence all the Wisconsin results. I also wanted places with strong LGBT presences and lots of cultural things, museums and so on, pet-friendly places, and no big cities. I am unsure how I feel about all the Arkansas results, since that’s pretty close to where I live now and if I were going to commit to moving, I would want to really move, and it’s just somewhere I’ve never been interested in living, but that’s the whole point, to give you options you hadn’t considered before.

I was particularly taken with the idea of Elkins, WV, ‘City in the Forest’, which sounds like everything I have ever wanted. It probably isn’t, of course–I don’t imagine any of the cities it lists are quite as idyllic as it makes them sound–but it’s still a nice daydream. I haven’t actually stopped travel daydreaming since I started reading my results. Heber Springs-Greers Ferry Lake, AR, perhaps, ‘A Natural Paradise’, host of the World Championship Cardboard Boat Festival. Or Kankakee, IL, ‘The Midwest’s Rising Star’, one of the best places to raise a family according to Reader’s Digest, which boasts some of the best antique shops in the state and probably more antique stores than any other Illinois City, and has a dinner cruise on the river and several houses turned restaurants. Or Monroe, WI, ‘America’s Swiss Cheese Capital’, where there is a Cheese Days festival every other year, nuff said.

Or, or, or. *dreamy sigh*

Note to screen reader users: There is a tricky little capcha at the very end of the quiz, and there is no audio equivalent, so you will either need something like Webvisum for Firefox or sighted assistance. I found this out the hard way, after I had already answered all the questions. Don’t make my mistake.

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Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

This is just a quick little post to say that in addition to National Poetry Month, April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, which is something that I am very passionate about, and if you are too, there are things you can do to help.

RAINN has some suggestions, including that if you make a donation to them this month, it will be doubled by a group of donors, up to a maximum of $30,000.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has a campaign that focuses on healthy sexuality and its connection to child sexual abuse prevention, with lots of resources for community members, parents, advocates, educators and preventionists, as well as ways to start conversations about these things, event ideas, and more.

Surviving in Numbers is a project that offers students a way to tell their stories and be heard, focused on college campuses but an idea that could be adapted for just about anywhere.

There is a Presidential proclamation on National Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Month, 2013, and you can read it here.

And if you are in need of resources to get help dealing with your own sexual assault, you can call 800.656.HOPE, which is a free, confidential hotline, or use online.rainn.org.

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A few good men

My god. How many ways are there to love men? It’s enough to break a heart open.

The images in my head and heart. I know what they are. I do. They are a family album. It is possible to make family any way you like. It is possible to love men without rage. There are thousands of ways to love men.

–Lidia Yuknavitch, “The Chronology of Water”

This is a post dedicated to the warm fuzzy feelings I have about John Scalzi and Jim C. Hines, and the appreciation I feel for their presences on the Internet and all that they do.

I have a very difficult time with men. Perhaps because I am such an active user of the Internet, I have seen so much of the worst of what they are and what they offer–the misogyny, the sexism, the mansplaining, the nice guy syndrome, the Reddit. I know, logically, that this is not how all men are. I might even allow that it is not how most men are, on a good day. But I already harbor my own distrust of strange men, my own discomforts when dealing with them, without having all their uglinesses shoved in my face on a constant basis.

You might say, well, maybe you should take a step away from the Internet. And it would be a valid point if you did. But it wouldn’t solve the problem completely, because it’s sometimes so insidious. It isn’t always the ludicrous caricatures of human beings that make up the GOP, or the circle-jerk of rapists crying about their pathetic existences on Reddit (huge trigger warning for … everything). Sometimes, it’s our own fathers, brothers, friends, random strangers on the street, reenforcing the damaging, offensive messages they have been taught all their lives to reenforce, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it doesn’t really matter.

So, lately, my solution has been to try to counteract some of the hatred and general grossness with better things, or, more specifically, better examples of men who view and treat women as actual human beings worthy of their respect. Anything to help remind me that hating men as a group is neither productive nor really necessary. They are depressingly difficult to find, but, for now, this is where Scalzi and Jim Hines come in.

At Scalzi’s Whatever, he blogs about, well, whatever. There isn’t a specific theme, but he frequently posts about things that make me want to cry with relief that someone gets it, someone other men might potentially listen to, or at least more than they would listen to a silly hysterical ladyblogger. His best of 2012 post is a pretty good place to start digging in, including such things as A Fan Letter to Certain Conservative Politicians (giant trigger trigger trigger warning for rape), An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping, Speech and Kirk Cameron, Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is, and Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be (on the ‘fake geek girl’ phenomenon). If you are a straight white male of a certain variety (this variety is seen in most comment threads on posts like the ones linked above), you may not find some of his writing as delightful as I do, and, being a person with many privileges myself, I may very well be blind to problematic elements of the things he says. But I find him consistently funny, insightful, honest, and refreshing. And, in the instances when he has been called out for something, he always listens and seems to genuinely consider what is being said, which is all I ask of people and so wonderful to see from a reasonably prominent member of a group that routinely fails (read: willfully refuses) to do it.

Most recently, he has launched a Counteract a Bigot Drive, wherein money is donated to charities supporting LGBTQQIA people, people of color, women, and those who have been sexually assaulted every time a particularly persistent and disturbing troll mentions Scalzi’s name on his blog. This person is deeply obsessed with him, so their is potential for a whole lot of money to be donated, especially since tons of other people joined in with wishes to donate, too. I lost track of the official tally, but I know that over $50,000 was pledged. This has made it to national news sources, and I am just so happy about it, even if I am not entirely happy about all the charities he chose.

He also frequently posts about his animals, his family, science fiction, and churro waffles, so, there’s that. And he tweets, and following him will better your Twitter timeline, I promise.

I am less familiar with Jim C. Hines, mostly because he is not quite as active on social media platforms as Scalzi is, but what I do know about him is more than enough. He spends a lot of time discussing and attempting to counteract sexism in cover art for science fiction and fantasy novels. He is a trained crisis counselor and has an entire page on his website dedicated to rape (trigger warning for rape, obviously), which contains articles about consent and how sleep is not equivalent to it, writing about rape and ways published writers get it wrong, how rape can affect those close to a survivor as well as the survivor themselves and how to handle that, and vicctim-blaming and the ridiculous ways the media perpetuates it, among many other great and worthwhile things. I am overwhelmed with feelings about this that I don’t even know how to articulate here. these are issues that are very close to my heart, issues that so, so often are handled terribly by pretty much everyone, so to see, again, a man who is a reasonably prominent member of his community speaking out so emphatically about them means a great deal to me and makes me feel a little less crushed and exhausted by the world.

In addition to his website, Jim Hines can also be found at LiveJournal and Twitter, although he is not nearly as active there as I wish him to be.

Honorable mention goes to Charles Stross. Honorable mention only because I know nexxt to nothing about him, and have not spent a sufficient amount of time reading his blog to familiarize myself with his style or content. But I do know that he sometimes has guest posts by women, about women, he is entertaining, and he lists racism, sexism, religious evangelism, and homophobia as things he finds objectionable. I’m pretty easy; I don’t require much more than that. Plus, I seem to recall that Catherynne M. Valente once guest posted for him, and any friend of hers is a friend of mine. Or … whatever the equivalent statement would be for people I don’t actually know. Stross’s blog posts tend, for whatever reason, to break my brain a little and challenge my attention span a lot, but I still plan to read more of him in future and you probably should, too.

Note: Yes, it would be fantastic if the issues of women, POC, LGBTQQIA people, et cetera could be addressed by those who are actually affected and then if those not affected could listen to our voices and care about what we have to say. It would be fantastic if we did not have to rely on straight white men to speak for us and/or share their straight white man platforms to boost our voices. But, a) I recognize that this is the world we currently live in and so I am not going to refuse their voices simply because they are straight white men when they are trying to do some good, and b) as I said up there, I am trying, for my own personal reasons, to come to a peace with men as a whole and this is a post specifically about that.

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All girls allowed

I have been noticing a disconcerting trend more and more recently, not exclusive to the Internet but definitely helped along by it, to split girls into two neat categories: girlie girl and cool tomboy. Just one more way to find us wanting, one more set of impossible standards that not every girl can reach because, as amazing a concept as it seems to be, girls are not just one homogeneous group. The example I see most often based on my own interests is the ASOIAF/GoT fandom, where Sansa is insulted and ridiculed for being a young girl who is interested in boys and clothes and songs about knights and chivalry, and Arya is held up as the ideal because she is tough and feisty and cares about swordplay and fighting and wants to be one of the boys. Traditionally feminine things are stupid and pointless and embarrassing, and traditionally masculine things are good and admirable and what every girl should strive for.

I have kept quiet for a very long time because I figured there are already stronger voices than mine covering this issue better than I could, but I have reached a frustration level that requires an outlet. And surely one more voice can’t hurt.

So, dear world, we are all different. We are flawed. We are multi-faceted. We do not fit neatly into a simple equation, a+b = girl. If you already have in your head what it will take for a girl to be worthy of your respect, if you think earning your respect should motivate any or all of our actions, you are doing it wrong. We are people, not objects for your pleasure.

Dear girls, it’s okay. It’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to like what you like, it’s okay to look how you look.

If you want to wear no makeup, or layers of makeup, it’s okay.

If you want to wear dresses and heels, or jeans and flats, it’s okay.

If you want to have long flowing locks, or short choppy ones, it’s okay.

If you want to have all the sex, or none of the sex, or something in between, it’s okay.

If you want to have it with a person or people you don’t know, or a person or people you know very well, or something in between, it’s okay.

If you like One Direction, or Bob Dylan, or neither or both or anything in between, it’s okay.

If you like My Little Pony, or Ninja turtles, or Powerpuff girls, or Star Wars, it’s okay.

If you want to be the princess, or the hero, or the sidekick or the maid or no one at all, it’s okay.

If you present as traditionally feminine, or traditionally masculine, or androgynous, or if your presentation is fluid, it’s okay.

If you want to wear revealing clothing that shows off a body you have every right to be proud of, or if you want to cover yourself from head to toe, or anything in between, it’s okay.

If you are interested in boys and clothes and pretty things, or if you are interested in books and sports and video games, it’s okay. These things are not mutually exclusive interests. Believe it or not, girl brains are capable of holding more than one thing at a time.

You do not gain girl cred by being one type of girl over another.

Likewise, you do not gain girl cred by tearing down one type of girl in favor of another.

Slut-shaming is not okay.

Gender stereotyping is not okay.

Gendered judgments of any kind are not okay.

Sexism and misogyny are not okay.

It is not our fault we are part of a society where playing to male interests is the most guaranteed way of being taken seriously, of earning even a modecom of respect. It is completely understandable that some of us might find security in doing just that. But when playing to male interests requires tearing down other girls who are not doing the things we have been told we must do to be accepted, it is not okay. And it is a false and fleeting sense of security, anyway, because really nothing is good enough. We are too feminine, too ‘girlie’, but then when we move too far in the other direction, we are mannish, butch, and thus no longer appealing to the male gaze. It is a lose-lose situation, so we might as well stop trying to win and just start being ourselves.

There is plenty of room for all of us. Come on in.

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2012 in books

2012 was a terrible year for reading. I don’t know why, but for months I just couldn’t make myself read anything, and then I started several books and neglected them all less than halfway through. My focus was not good. I have set a reading goal of thirty-six books for 2013, which works out to three books a month, so I am hopeful that this year will be better. I wanted to try for fifty, but that felt too ambitious.

So here, as always, is my end-of-year booklist. My favorites (which means five-star books only) are bolded, and if you would like to read my reviews for any of them, they can be found on my Goodreads.

01: “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman
02: “Psyche in a Dress” by Francesca Lia Block
03: “A Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin
04: “A Clash of Kings” by George R. R. Martin
05: “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James
06: “Fifty Shades Darker” by E. L. James
07: “Fifty Shades Freed” by E. L. James
08: “A Storm of Swords” by George R. R. Martin
09: “The Dead Zone” by Stephen King
10: “The Chronology of Water” by Lidia Yuknavitch
11: “The Drowning Girl” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
12: “The October Country” by Ray Bradbury
13: “Spindle’s End” by Robin McKinley
14: “The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There” by Catherynne M. Valente

I actually finished “The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland” twenty-two minutes into 2013, but I decided that was a small enough margin to still include it on my 2012 list, since that is when I read the majority of it. I did not include Joe Hill’s “20th Century Ghosts”, even though I read most of that in 2012 also, because I started it somewhere in the middle of 2011. But yes, that is something else I read and really want to write about here, eventually.

Lidia Yuknavitch’s “The Chronology of Water” was absolutely the best book I read in 2012, by miles. It is holy, a definite desert island book. Books have a way of finding us at just the moment when we need them most, and this was the case with this one. I recommend it fiercely to everyone, everywhere. I love it like burning.

The worst, of course, were the Fifty shades trilogy. I am as susceptible to hype as anyone and my curiosity was piqued after all the talk started, and I like to have full knowledge of something before I express an opinion about it, so I forced myself through all three books. That is valuable time I will never recover. They are terrible in every way books can be terrible. I recommend them only if you, like me, revel in awful things that are really, unrelentingly awful (see also: the joy that is “Troll 2″).

In 2013, I intend to read the two remaining books in GRRM’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, Catherynne M. Valente’s “Palimpsest” and “Deathless”, Stephen King’s “11/22/63″ and either “The Tommyknockers” or “The Stand” or perhaps both if I am feeling very daring, Kij Johnson’s “At the Mouth of the River of Bees”, Anis Mojgani’s “The Feather Room”, and hopefully Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and Joe Hill’s “NOS4A2″. There are many, many more books on my ‘to read’ list, but these are the ones I have decided will be definites. I would also like to fit “My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me” in there somewhere, since it has been sitting on my bookshelf for nearly a year now. We will see.

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What a bright time

Christmas Day. It is wonderfully cold and snowing outside, and warm and cozy inside, and I am curled up with cookies and candy from my stocking.

Christmas is my second favorite holiday, and yet, for the past few years I have had a very hard time getting in the Christmas spirit. I’m not sure what it is, maybe the absence of the youthful exuberance brought on by Santa Claus and writing out extravagant present lists and waiting impatiently for Christmas morning to come? The ‘yes Virginia’ mentality sadly does not work for me, as nice as it is, and so it just becomes another day. with presents and good times with family, but still, just another day. Or maybe it’s that as we all get older we take on more responsibilities and lead lives that take us in different directions, and it becomes more difficult to carve out enough time to really make the most of holidays. Everyone is always hurrying on to the next thing they need to check off their to-do list. Or maybe, this year, it’s that I was unable to buy anything for anyone because of finances and while, yes, there is much more to Christmas than commercialism, picking out the perfect things and the excitement of giving them is my favorite part of this time of year.

Whatever the case, I wanted to reflect on my many blessings today, because my lack of enthusiasm makes me feel ungrateful and I have so, so much in my life to be grateful for. Friends scattered across miles and miles who still take the time to shower me with packages filled with their love and care, and the Internet which connects me to those farther away and allows me to feel less alone in a place where I am surrounded by people who don’t really get me (please ignore the pretension of that statement and focus instead on its sincerity). Health, which is especially nice because this time last year I was terribly sick and it was pretty miserable. A family so loving and supportive that I am honestly not sure where I would be without them, who all still manage to come together for the holidays despite being busy and far apart geographically, and who fill it with silliness and laughter and all the best things every holiday should have. A warm home to shelter me from the elements and provide the peace and quiet I need at a time that requires so much socializing. A precious, perfect kitten to cuddle and purr and destroy my hands, and the means to pay the pet deposit and provide for him. I have wanted a cat of my own for years, so I am thrilled to have him.

And, of course, the presents. My parents bought all the supplies I needed for the cat, whose name is Jack Kittington, and we agreed that that would be most of my Christmas, so I really wasn’t expecting much. But I still got a lot of wonderful things.

"The complete Grimm's Fairy Tales" purse

My best present that I can’t really use. It turned out to be narrower than I realized when I fell in love with it more than a year ago and I can’t fit even half of what I usually carry in my purse in it, so I cant carry it unless I just take it out for the occasional evening or carry another one with it, which would be ridiculous … right? I love it so much and am still so happy to finally have it, though. It came from this Etsy shop that sells tons of book purses.

tea set

Second best present. It’s so cute. I have wanted a tea set for so long, but I could never find a full set I really liked. I hate tea, so I will use it to drink other things.

Slytherin shirt

My sister bought this one for me, because she liked it’s design the best. I consider Ravenclaw my main Hogwarts house, with Hufflepuff a close second, but I will wear it happily in solidarity with Snape ;)

owl Scentsy

From my aunt. We aren’t allowed to burn candles or incense or anything like that in our apartment, so scentsies are our only option. We have one in every room except the living room/kitchen, which makes this perfect. It was a very owly christmas for me this year.

There are more presents that are not pictured here. I didn’t want to turn this post into one giant present inventory, but know that if you are reading this and your present is not here, I still love it and you very much and deeply appreciate every single thing I have received. I am so spoiled and so grateful and so humbled that people think of me at all, let alone spend their time and money on me. I am a happy, lucky girl.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, or happy holidays, if you don’t celebrate it. I hope your days have been warm and bright and that you have an equally bright year ahead.

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