Category Archives: soapbox

Heat Advisory: Send Out The Kids

Something just happened that made me livid.

I had Buffy on her leash, and these two kids greeted me as I walked out the door. One asked me if I would take a tract. I took it as Buffy zoomed down the stairs to the grass to pee, and when she was done with her various business, I headed back up the stairs.

The kids were still there, dripping sweat and knocking on doors.

They asked where I lived, so I told them, and they wanted to ask me some questions on the tract.

I had read it while waiting for the puppy to do her puppy excrement things, and there was nothing on there I wanted to discuss, even with a couple of kids. As politely as I could, I told them that my life had taken a different path and offered them some water, which they declined.

“They have you out in this heat?” I asked them.

“Yeah, last summer was bad too.” They kind of laughed it off, but they were sweating through their shirts.

Not only were they out here distributing tracts, but they were doing so for a church that isn’t even in Maryland. It’s in West Virginia. What?

There was a phone number on the tract they gave me. I won’t mention the name of the church because I’m about to rip them up one side and down the other.

First of all, to have children out proselytizing in 106 degree heat is repugnant. Repugnant.

There is a heat advisory in effect until 8:00 pm tonight. Exposure to extreme heat can cause heat stroke and even death.

Secondly, sending children to proselytize is something of questionable morality to me as well. I could write a dissertation about how I feel about a child’s role in deciding his or her own faith, but now is not the time. Suffice it to say that it’s not the role of children to convince adults what to believe.

Finally? I thought for about thirteen seconds, then I picked up the phone and dialed this church.

A woman answered, voice chipper and polite. For about two seconds.

The moment I explained why I was calling, I could almost see spike-covered walls fly up and smell burning naptha above my head, ready to cover my body with boiling pitch.

This is what I said to her:

“Hi. Erm, I’m calling because two children just came to my door distributing tracts, and it’s over 100 degrees outside. There is a heat advisory in effect, and I feel that it is dangerous to have them out in this kind of weather.”

Her response: “It’s all volunteer-based.”

Me: “They’re children. It’s over 100 degrees.”

Her: “It’s the same as kids playing on the playground right now. Their parents signed permission forms and dropped them off. This was a pre-planned event.”

Me: “I’m sorry. That’s no excuse for them to be out there. I would hope the church would take responsibility for the safety of children put in their care and postpone or cancel events in the case of extreme weather. There are better ways to spread a message.”

Her: “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

What?

Anyone who’s ever had someone give that kind of bullshit apology knows exactly how bullshit it is. That’s not taking responsibility for wrongdoing — and do not mistake me, subjecting children to extreme heat in the name of proselytizing is wrong, wrong, wrong — it’s giving someone the finger.

“What, you don’t like it? Fuck you, then.”

Yeah. Not cool.

Volunteer or not, how much say do you think those kids had in doing this today? I used to be very active in church, and I can count on my fingers the number of times I heard kids their age chomp at the bit to go spread the gospel.  In fact, I can count on my fist.

Because uh, NEVER. Even in a thriving church like I used to attend, it was the parents saying, “Yep, you’re going to share Jesus with the heathens.” (They didn’t put it quite like that.)

Having kids hike up and down stairs going door to door to distribute tracts is not the same as playing on a playground — which, if I had kids, I wouldn’t allow during a heat advisory either — it’s more irresponsible and downright endangering them.

So am I supposed to believe these kids were sent out there on their own free volition? Apparently. Apparently I’m expected to think they waved their little hands around, hoping to be picked for the honor of such a mission.

Shame on their parents, and shame on their church.

Happy Holidays! Take 10%.

Maybe it’s the fact that Black Friday has begun to truly infringe on Thanksgiving. Stores opening Thanksgiving Day? Really? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a wee bit surly about approaching the holidays broke when my husband wants an inversion board and a few other expensive gifts. Maybe it’s the crumbling mountain of debt that lurks over my head or the giant, all caps “NON NEGOTIABLE, THIS IS NOT A CHECK” that I get every other week in an envelope with my paystubs, but last night at work, I noticed a phenomenon.

My tip average dropped about 7%.

Normally, I average between 18-30% tips. Yes, 30%. I work in a bar, so a lot of my sales end up being small ones, and people (generally) don’t give me less than a dollar even if all they bought was a $3 happy hour beer. Sometimes they’re downright generous when it’s regulars I’m serving.

I should also say that I am a very good server. I make sure my guests know I value their experience and that I care if the kitchen decides cheese is okay on a salad where I specified no dairy.

But it’s the holiday season, and aside from the reality that most of us in the industry face of working while people with “normal” jobs get to stay in with their families or go out on the town to celebrate the “most wonderful time of the year,” the last thing we want on top of that is to have our wages slashed. Which, if you didn’t know already, is what our tips are. Those are our wages. I’m not going to get into the whole thing about how the system is flawed because the restaurant/bar should be paying its employees and how messed up is it that  consumers are expected to pay our bills with tips when tips are optional anyway? I’ve heard all of that. Until you fix that system, tip your servers.

It’s the holidays. Not only are we expected to roll out with our usual level of excellence, but we are expected to be joyous and optimistic, bright-eyed and elfish in our interactions. Chirpy voices. Holiday cheer for all.

None of that is really faked with me most of the time, but when I open a check presenter to find that yet another person left me four dollars on a $37 check, it begins to turn charming little Cindy Lou Who into the pre-revelatory Grinch.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (film)

This is what I look like now. You're welcome. Image via Wikipedia

Also, around this time of year I know there are heaps of promotions and Group-Ons and Living Social yadda-yaddas to slice major bucks from your checks, but please remember that your tip is to be calculated by the full amount of your check prior to any discounts. Yeah. You’re still saving a lot of money, so tip your servers well.

Why, you ask? Partly because of that whole thing about us not getting paychecks except for what you write in the “tip” line on your credit card receipt, but also because if you ring up a massive bill, we are serving you a lot of stuff. Alcohol, appetizers, desserts, getting that mayo you want, switching out that drink you didn’t like twice, cooing at your baby, and just generally waiting on you hand and foot so you don’t have to do all that yourself. Tonight (this happened twice), people came in with $10 coupons. Their bills were each around $40 pre-discount. They each left me five, which is 18% of 30 and not a bad tip, but it’s 12% of 40, and that is insulting. Granted, $40 is not massive, but 20% of 40 is a lot more than 20% of 25, and it adds up fast.

The holidays are about giving. Thankfulness. Kindness. We tip our mail carriers, our trash collectors, our nannies to thank them for their services. Please don’t forget about the people bringing you your food, your beers, and cleaning up after your children when you leave. Please remember that while you’re out to dinner celebrating, we’re working. And most of us have to work all through the holidays — we’re lucky to get one of them off to spend with our families (and with Black Friday encroaching even more on Thanksgiving, more and more people are losing one of the only guaranteed days off per year). I’ll be working Christmas Eve and New Years Eve till the wee hours of the morning. I won’t get to kiss my new husband as we ring in 2012 or open an early present  before Christmas dawns, and neither will millions of other servers.

A lot of us do this job because we enjoy it — we like to provide you with an excellent, caring experience and a great atmosphere.  So please, don’t forget about us this holiday season. Help us look a little more like this:

I'd much rather look like this.

 

 

Forces of Destruction

Another insightful prompt from the folks at WordPress. I wouldn’t respond to this one, except it ties into a lot of what I’ve been keeping on the ponder burner all week about my characters. In writing, characters motivations are what make them believable. There’s more to it than that, of course, but if readers can’t understand what a character does or even predict what their next move might be from knowing that character, they won’t read till the end of the book. They’ll get frustrated.(You can read more about my novel writing process/progress here.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivations this week. For good or ill, motivation is what drives people. It’s what plunked me down in front of my trusty constipated dinosaur of a computer to write today. It’s what drags our butts off the couch to the gym (or in my case, the living room where my weights live). It’s what makes people mug someone on their way home or donate to charity.

What is the most destructive force of humanity? I would say it’s one of humanity’s largest and most powerful motivators: greed. I’m not talking about Scrooge McDuck polishing his piles of gold coins before diving into them in a sparkling splash. Such a cartoonish vision doesn’t do it justice.

To me, greed is the sense of wanting more than someone else has regardless of who it hurts. The qualifier I tacked on the end there isn’t actually separate from the desire to have more, because ultimately the desire for more will hurt someone. It’s why employee benefits are often the first things slashed when a budget gets cut. Not salaries at the top of the chain. It’s why people resort to stealing. It’s why people fight over resources. Not because they think it will make them have enough. It’s because they want more.

If there’s anything I’ve learned on this earth, it’s that people very seldom think they have enough. I’ve heard people complain that they don’t have enough money when they make over six figures every year. If you were to follow them home, you’d see a Lexus in their driveway, which is attached to a million dollar home. Very few could successfully make the argument that they don’t have enough. I think that someone living in a one room shanty in Peru might have a better grasp on what “enough” means than most of America.

Every day I’m thankful for my toilet. That might be a very strange thing to be thankful for, but I grew up without one for many, many years. We had a five gallon bucket with an old toilet seat attached to it that we kept in our kitchen. Yes. You read that right. Kitchen. It was my job as a young teen to empty this bucket into our outhouse, which I dug myself. As a Caucasian American, I understand that I am in the very distinct minority for having had this experience as youngster.

Having grown up with a lot less than most people in this country, I am always very baffled (and I’ll admit, less than sympathetic) when people who have a safe, comfortable home with their own bedroom, a car, food every day (more than once a day), and a pot to piss in that flushes think they don’t have enough. What greed stems from is a lack of perspective.

Recession or not, we live in a golden age. We are utterly dependent on technology for everything from heating our homes to doing our banking to finding knowledge. I always wonder what would happen if we lost that. I see what happens when the power goes out for a matter of days. We have no idea how fortunate we are.

Greed poisons us. I’m guilty of it as much as anyone. I want to provide for my family and give them things I didn’t have — though from my perspective, I don’t have to do much to exceed what I had as a child. In spite of that, I want to raise my children to know that for every one of us who has water, food, shelter, family — there are millions who have to fight every day to have a fraction of what I have.

A sobering fact that I think of often is that if the wealthy of the world really wanted to, they could probably wipe out world hunger. If we weren’t so concerned with financial profit, we could invest in people who have so much less. It wouldn’t be a quick turnaround, but the world would be a better place.

Just to clarify, I don’t think greed exists only on Wall Street or in the upper classes. It exists everywhere, like a noxious weed. People kill each other for clean water when they could probably find a way to share it. At it’s heart, greed is taking for yourself what you could share with others. Everyone might have a little less, but everyone would have something. As children, we’re taught that if we have two of something we should share. We’re taught that sharing is caring. That it’s the nice thing to do. The right thing to do. I feel like we all cling to our resentment of sharing until we’re adults and we can buck that dictate from our parents and finally say no, what’s mine is mine.

Greed is the most destructive element of humanity, because it cannot exist innocently. It always hurts someone. On a wide scale it destroys nations. On a small scale it hurts someone’s feelings. In The Kite Runner, the protagonist’s father remarks that all sin is theft. You take something that doesn’t belong to you, or you lie and steal someone’s right to the truth. You murder and steal their life.

I’ll close with a quote from Shusako Endo (paraphrased). “Sin is to talk brutally over the life of another and be oblivious of the wounds left behind.”

Strong Female Characters vs. Strong Characters, Female

I just read a quite interesting essay entitled “Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women.”  (If interested, you can find it here.)  I’ll admit it piqued my curiosity.  I tend to think a lot about how women are portrayed in cinema and TV, mainly because as a child and young adult, I remember getting very annoyed at all the damseling I saw.  In recent years, there have been a barrage of “strong female characters” to enter the silver screen and the boob tube (no pun intended).  However, many of these indeed do not fall into the categories of strong characters.  I still see damseling pretty much wherever I look.  Cute girl + charming/surprising/cliched strength + hero/shlubby everyman/nerdy audience stand-in = girl being rescued by dude by the end of the movie, almost without fail.  This is not to say there are no exceptions to this, but…how many times have we seen that scenario played out?

What I want to see — and I think many women would agree with me on this one — are female characters with strengths, weaknesses, and well-rounded, fleshed-out character development.   I hope that the women in my writing are three dimensional.  God knows I try to make my characters as gritty and true-to-life as I can in spite of the fact that I write fantasy.

Sidebar!  Fantasy writers are among the absolute WORST when it comes to this topic.  What I see in most fantasy is: big breasted, nearly naked women with swords/bows/guns.  Did I mention the nearly naked?  Is that necessary?  Is it even remotely realistic?  I give props to Dragon Age for not only fleshing out the women in the story but um…covering their flesh with appropriate amounts of armor, to the extent that I can look at them without my normal dubious, “And she is protected in battle how?”  Not to mention that it’s one of the few fantasy games that allows you to be a female hero and save the world, the world being one wherein women and men are actually portrayed as having more or less equal respect and responsibility.  Kudos.  The rest of the fantasy writing/filmmaking/graphic novel/gaming world needs to get a clue — women read fantasy too.  Unless you’re creating a sequel to Lord of the G-Strings (yes, that is a real softcore porn movie), put some damn clothes on the women.  No one but a supreme idiot would try and fight demons half-naked.

One of my biggest peeves when it comes to this subject is that movies seem to be overrun with stereotypes.  The one that grates most obnoxiously on my nerves is the Shrew.  There are very few films that don’t have one of these in them.  You know her.  The woman who is constantly portrayed as an emasculating, overbearing, rude, spiteful killjoy who wants nothing more than to ensure that her boyfriend/husband/love interest does exactly what she wants, to ruin all his fun and make him a laughingstock of masculinity.  This ball-and-chain stereotype infuriates me.  And it’s everywhere.  Fannie in Sense and Sensibility (and Lucy Steele, for that matter).  Ed Helms’ wife in The Hangover.  Natasha in Bridget Jones.  I watch a lot of “dude movies.”  Because I like them.  But I hate when they portray women like that.  Yes, some women probably are like that.  But not nearly as many as Hollywood would make it out to be.

All that said, there are some remarkable women out there in fiction-dom.  If you ask me, the one that started it all and paved the way for strong characters (female) everywhere was Buffy Summers.  I’m possibly a bit biased on this count, seeing as how Buffy is one of my favorite shows/characters of all time, but before Buffy the Vampire Slayer came about, you would be hard-pressed to find a female hero.  In fact, if you can think of one, I’ll give you a cookie.  Not heroine.  Hero.  The one who saves the day.  The one who doesn’t have to damsel to get a man.

Buffy is flawed.  She is not perfect.  She is selfish at times, overprotective, stubborn, and a bit holier-than-thou.  But she risks her life (gives her life twice, for that matter) to save the world, to save her friends.  Her character grows and changes thoroughly throughout the show’s seven seasons.  She struggles and triumphs and falls short sometimes.  But she gets shit done.  And she kicks ass.  Sometimes she does so in baggy overalls and unattractive sweats.  Sometimes she gets the shit kicked out of her.  Sometimes she’s bloodied and bruised and not so hot.  She is a hero.  And she’s a woman.  The other women on the show are also strong characters with three dimensions.  So I applaud Joss Whedon and the writers for blazing the way for female heroes. Joss has explained the Buffy creation by saying that he was sick of vapid blondes who would run upstairs and get killed off within the first fifteen minutes of a movie — he wanted to see a woman who could not only hold her own, but was capable of greatness and heroics.

The Bride from the Kill Bill movies is also a very strong character.  Sure, she’s Uma Thurman and hot, but she also cries and gets beat up sometimes.  She struggles.  She keeps fighting.  She saves herself.  Go Quentin for that one.

Another new favorite of mine is Veronica Mars.  She’s clever, relentless, brave.  She’s also cynical, distrustful, and overly sharp at times.  She gets into trouble, but she gets herself out of it.

It’s not that there aren’t examples of strong characters who happen to be female out there.  it’s just that they seem to get lost in the shuffle of the Megan Fox’s of the world.  The damn damsels who are given a couple traits mainly to make them more appealing to the male world and then set up to fulfill the rescue fantasies of said males.  The icing on the cake for me is when I see a “strong female character” who has been set up to be strong and badass for the whole movie only to be suddenly put in peril and saved by some everyman — clearly a gratuitous gesture.  You’d never see Superman suddenly powerless, only to be rescued by that nerdy girl who lives down the street.  Male heroes don’t have to damsel 99% of the time — so why should the female ones?

Anyway, all that said, I’m just going to keep writing my characters to be people I would want to know.  Not characters who would make me want to headdesk.

Museless Maunderings

I wanted to spend some time writing my book tonight.  What did I do instead?  Took a “nap” at 4:30 and slept until 10.  That’s what I get for this sleep schedule — I run myself to exhaustion, and then my body shuts down and I pass out.  That is not a good thing. Tomorrow is going to be a long day; we have a meeting at work (awful), I have a doctor’s appointment for my treatment, then I’m meeting a friend about living together.  All that is a long day for me with this injury.

In other news, I’m thinking a lot about the UK election.  The Tories made some significant gains.  I’m not hugely well-versed in UK politics, but I know enough to get by, and I’m not a fan of the conservative party.  For one thing, they’re super anti-EU.  They say they’re not, but when they say they’re going to introduce a big referendum on UK sovereignty immediately, that speaks to some sentiments I don’t like a whole lot.  But then again, I’m not a huge fan of the political UK as it exists — I think that Scotland and Wales should have sovereignty over their own issues.

Specifically, about Scotland, I cannot imagine that they are happy with this new government and with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street.  Only 15% of Scots voted for the Conservatives, and that leaves a whopping 85% who didn’t want the Tories in power, yet because they are still subject to UK sovereignty in many ways, they are going to have the Conservative agenda imposed on them.  I find that hugely immoral.  Even in the reddest of red states in the US, democrats get a higher percentage than that.

With the Scottish National Party in power in the Scottish Parliament, I really wonder what will transpire in the future.  It seems to me like this election is a decent chance for them to push their agenda, which is an independent Scotland.  I’m a big fan of devolution, and if independence is the right route for Scotland, I would support it wholeheartedly.  As long as her people want it, I say go for it.  I’d like to see a free and independent Scotland again.  I think she got bullied into signing the Act of the Union in 1707 and was treated infamously in the 18th century and into even the 19th and 20th centuries.

That said, I don’t think it would be as easy a route as the SNP would like it to be.  Even though Scotland does provide the vast majority of the UK’s energy between North Sea oil and other sources, it would necessitate a lot of very careful and diligent planning, as well as an attention to the actual needs of the people, which I’m not wholly convinced any government can really do.  We’ll see where it leads.

On a fully emotional level, the thought of an independent Scotland is enough to bring a lump to my throat.  I hope I live to see it happen;  honestly, I think it really is just a matter of time before it does happen.  I just don’t know if it will happen as soon as the SNP wants it to.  I’ve heard tell of a possible referendum as early as next year — if that’s the case, then wow.  We’ll see though.

Sigh.  I’ll admit, the biggest issue I have with the new gains of the Conservatives in the UK is what I’ve read about their stances on immigration.  What is it with conservatives in any country that immediately think slashing numbers of immigrants is the way to go?  It’s not a cut and dried issue at all, but in general, I think immigrants benefit countries.  It’s a large scale indicator of prosperity — if people want to move there, you must be doing something right.

Anyway, that’s really all I have to say about that.  I feel a little foolish dabbling in others’ politics, but those are just my two cents, unsolicited.

follow your bliss

This morning, I asked my student to reflect on the following:

“The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are…follow your bliss.   The heroic life is the individual adventure.   There is no security in following the call to adventure.”  (Joseph Campbell)

I figured that since I am trying to keep up my average of words per day, I would complete my own assignment. (I already hit 1,000 working on my novel today, but a bit more never hurt anyone.)

I’m going to break this down sentence by sentence and see what comes pouring out through the cracks.

The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are…follow your bliss.

I heard once that up until about puberty and a few years after, you spend your life trying to fit in, blend with others, be like everyone else.  In high school and the years after is when people become desperate to delineate what separates them from the rest of the world, to be an individual.  But how far do people really go to do that?  So many people spend their lives doing things that make them unhappy or at the very least, bored.  They spend their lives with people who make them unhappy.  They follow the status quo because they feel some sort of obligation to do so or need security in some way.

It took me a long time in my life to come to terms with who I am, and in a lot of ways, I’m still on that path.  It has taken a lot of failings in order for me to get to where I am now.  I wrote not long ago in a letter to someone that I feel like years ago, I was perched on the edge of a chasm.  I could see where I wanted to be on the other side of it, but I had to make choices to decide how to get there.  The first route was the tried and true slow descent down one side and up the other, maybe on a burro.  I could plod doggedly down and up and eventually get to the other side, but I knew that if I took that route, I might end up miles down from where I was aiming.

The other route was the most direct geometrically.  And it stretched out directly in front of me, a rickety rope bridge with punky boards full of dry rot and tattered ropes holding it together.  I gritted my teeth and stepped out onto the bridge, with nothing but those flimsy boards between me and a long drop with a sudden stop.  Looking down at the well-trodden safer path below, I could see people’s mouths agape as they watched me take my fumbling steps out on that bridge.  Some even yelled up at me, “You’re crazy!  You’re going to fall!”

I haven’t fallen yet.  Granted, there have been a few close calls.  A couple of those boards were rotted through and disintegrated beneath my feet like crumbling clay.  Occasionally, circling vultures would swoop down and attack, seeing I was vulnerable.  But each time, I clung to the most solid things I could find and held on tight.  I’ve made a large number of big decisions in the last few years, and they have all propelled me forward.  And the farther forward I go, the closer I get to the other side.  I can’t see the other side from where I am; I have to focus too much on putting one foot in front of the other and staying alive to get there, but I know it’s there.  I can sense solid ground in the distance, getting closer every day.  I don’t know how many steps remain before I get there, but I know there is even more adventure awaiting me after my feet touch the earth again.  And the only way I’ll get there is if I keep following my bliss.  This journey truly has been amazing, and making the choices I have made really are the privilege of my lifetime.

The heroic life is living the individual adventure.

I feel like it would be way too arrogant to call my life heroic.  I could say resilient or bold and maybe go as far as intrepid, but regardless, I feel that my life has been full of adventure.  In spite of all the moves (or maybe because of them), I’ve managed to hold onto some semblance of cohesion within myself.  Sometimes I feel stuck within the confines of what society deems normal, namely the need for money (ew), but I have still managed to get where I needed to go, regardless of how rough the road got.  For that I am both proud and thankful.  Proud that I haven’t completely had a nervous breakdown yet (although I’ve gotten close this year…sorry, John) and thankful for the people who have been there along the way to hold out their hands and help me along.  I wouldn’t be here without them.

I’m certainly not done with this adventure yet.  In fact, I might be setting out on another leg of it shortly, depending on what I decide in the next 24 hours.  There is a big wide world out there, and I haven’t seen enough of it yet.

When I think about it, I often tell my friends that they are heroic for following their bliss and doing their thing, so perhaps I ought to do myself the same courtesy and bestow the label upon myself as well.  I do have a tendency to be much harder on myself than others are.   I should be more mindful of that and stop Emmie-bashing.

There is no security in following the call to adventure.

This one rings so true — I think about the people I know who are pursuing the things they truly love, and very few are actually making any money.  Of course, money isn’t the only way to measure security, but I think that is sort of what Joseph Campbell was referring to.  That and the fact that the term “starving artist” did not evolve without some sort of precedent.  I’m okay with being poor.  I’ve never really had any money, so I actually tend to just give it away when I do have it.

Anyway, all in all, I think it’s clear that I have to do some things for myself. Dolly Parton said to find out who you are and do it on purpose.  I’m not one who usually looks to Dollywood for wisdom, but I won’t turn it away when I come across it.  I know a lot about who I am, but I need to make some purposeful strides into really letting that person shine through.

On that note, kiddies, sleep tight.  Bite the bedbugs and smile at your neighbor.

we are beggars all.

Today I have been listening to and thinking about this song, the lyrics of which will be interspersed through this post.  The song is called “The Weight,” and it’s by the band Thrice.  My boyfriend brought it up the night he gave me my magic wand, and though I couldn’t think of how it went right then, I had heard it before and was taken in by it.  I honestly think I have never heard a truer expression of what true love is, and I am deeply touched thinking about it.

There’s many who’ll tell you they’ll give you their love,
But when they say “give” they mean “take”.
They hang ‘round just like vultures ’til push comes to shove
And take flight when the earth starts to shake.

Someone may say that they’ll always be true
Then slip out the door ‘fore the dawn,
But I won’t leave you hanging on.

Another may stay ’til they find someone new
Then before you know they’ll be gone,
But I won’t leave you hanging on.

No, I won’t won’t be that someone.

This will likely be a very candid blog — not that I am ever anything else, but you know.  Just a disclaimer.  I have often felt like a beggar.  In many ways, my life has been that of a vagabond or a drifter.  I’ve moved 33 times in 25 years.  I have gotten where I am today because of intensely hard work and because of the help and charity of others.  I use the word charity not to imply a sense of pity, but in the almost spiritual sense of giving out of the need to pass on the blessings one has been given.  More about the act of giving than the perception of need implicit in the receiving end of such a gift.

And come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

Some talk of destiny, others of fate,
But soon they’ll be saying goodbye,
But I won’t leave you high and dry.

‘Cause a ring don’t mean nothing if you can’t haul the weight
And some of them won’t even try,
But I won’t leave you high and dry.

I won’t leave you wondering why.

In love as well I have often felt the beggar.  I have often felt myself unworthy of real love — I have been tossed aside often enough that I am supremely unused to having anyone stand by me.  I have always been at the whim of others’ convenience — there when it suited them and cast off when it stopped being convenient for them.  I think because of this, I don’t understand why anyone would want me when I am the mess that I am.

And come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

And storms will surely come,
But true love is a choice you must make and you are the one.
That I have set my heart to choose
As long as I live, I swear I’ll see this through.

I spent quite a long time waiting for my current boyfriend.  We knew each other for a year and a half before we started our official relationship, and I won’t pretend that some of that time wasn’t incredibly difficult for me.  I still wrestle with the idea that I’m either not enough or too much or both at the same time.  I think everyone feels that way sometimes, but I have it honed to a fine art.  Which is why I think that this Thrice song is such a resonant depiction for me.  I’m not used to a love like this.  As one of my favorite gods said in one of my favorite books (by David Eddings), “Thou wilt warily give love, but you must also learn to accept it.”  I’ve never known a love like this, but come what may, I will see it through.  In the words of another, newer favorite song, I’ve got nothing left to lose.

Come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and I see no end.

Come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

In other news, my beloved city of Nashville, Tennessee is under water.  If you haven’t heard about it, the Cumberland and Harpeth rivers that both run through and around Nashville gained about 26+ feet over the weekend, causing catastrophic flooding and billions of dollars of damage to homes and businesses.  I-24 became a raging river, and the water was forceful and deep enough to detach homes from foundations and even sent a modular school building floating down the interstate.

One of my closest friends had to be emergency evacuated from her apartment — she’s very lucky, and it turns out the water only got ankle deep and her car even still works, but thousands of others were not so lucky.  My old boss had to sit and watch from his home as a man was stranded up a tree in his Forest Hills neighborhood — Tom couldn’t get to him as there was fast moving water that was far too dangerous to move through, and I’m told the man was stranded there for at least 20 hours in the pouring rain.  There are thousands of other stories like these.  I’m dismayed and disappointed that the national media is paying only cursory attention to this disaster.  Almost 30 people have died so far, and countless others are without power, clean water, and homes.  If you are at all able, please text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the relief efforts.

I only lived in Nashville for a year, but it is a truly lovely city full of warm and inviting people.  To see loved ones and colleagues entrapped in this disaster and also being nationally ignored is heartbreaking, and I wish I could do more to help.  I don’t get a ton of views on this blog, but hopefully enough people will read this and be moved enough to spare $10.  If enough people do it, it really does make a difference.

Please help.  We are beggars all.

❤  Emmie

zombies, gender stereotyping, and really soggy feet

so today finds me contemplating any number of important factoids.  for instance, i’ve remembered precisely why i gave up on white socks so many years ago (my feet got soaked and the socks got stained/ruined), discovered quite the fascinating array of fungi to appear after a maryland rainstorm, and have guzzled nearly a gallon of green tea, which is a lot.

but onto more important things.  this blog entry will encompass two very important subjects that have been weighing heavily on my mind in recent days, so do prepare yourself for some deep thinking.  i’ll go in alphabetical order, and since both subjects find themselves rather toward the end of our 26-letter string, we’re starting with w.

women in pop culture
can i just say….annoying?  i can’t count the number of times i’ve sat down to watch a movie recently and been utterly pissed off by the obnoxious depiction of 21st century women.  allow me to sum up.  according to hollywood right now, women are:  whiny, overbearing, controlling, manipulative, obsessed with fashion, obsessed with shopping, vapid, obsessed with shoes, obsessed with being attractive to men at the expense of their personality and individuality, and generally really fucking annoying.  the message is that women only care about securing a man, pussy whipping him, and then keeping him on a leash and forcing him to give up his hobbies whilst she whines about shoes and spends hundreds of dollars on pointless designer crap.  and whines in general.  where on earth do these women come from?  i suppose they exist in real life.  actually, i know they do.  but we’re not all like that, for god’s sake.

i saw the hangover last night.  after the first scene involving stu’s girlfriend melissa, i cringed.  when phil made some pompous remark about getting away from his wife and kid, i cringed more.  doug’s fiancee had this martyred, pitiful expression in the opening scene as well.  i braced myself for a movie that would continue to depict that women are nothing but clingy, whiny creatures who wish nothing more than to keep their husbands/boyfriends from having any amount of fun whatsoever, to the point that to escape their grasping tendrils, the poor, downtrodden men must lie to get away.  i was pretty relieved that it didn’t really go that way and ended up being an awesome movie, but it made me think about how a lot of women have been portrayed in movies lately and in pop culture in general.

is that how we want to live, women?  really?  i for one don’t want to ever be those women.  i never want to be so insecure in myself that feel the need to curtail my significant other’s life in order to feel like i’m in control.  i’m my own person.  i don’t want to be defined by a relationship — god, no — i want a relationship in which i’m more a partner in crime than a distressed damsel.  i’ve never been one for damseling.  what on earth is wrong with being yourself?  i do desire love, but it’s not all i desire.  and i believe pretty firmly that if you’re being yourself, doing your thing, you’ll meet people who like you for you.  that’s the most important bit.  too often i think people (not just women, this applies to men as well) try so hard to fit themselves into a mold they perceive as attractive to the opposite sex that they lose themselves and end up miserable and misunderstood.  i mean, what on earth do they expect in that scenario?   i’ve done it before.  i only hope i’ll never be stupid enough to do it again.

i’m intensely fed up with seeing women in movies who have no aspirations greater than obtaining the newest louis vuitton handbag.  how utterly assinine it makes them look.  women are so much more than that.  i would love to see a movie with women having an adventure that doesn’t revolve around fashion or shoes or whining about men.  in fact, i’d like to see a bromance style comedy where the women are fun, interesting, and there for the ride, not sitting at home with a quivering lip wondering why their significant others would rather be off doing anything (and anyone) but them.  look at the cool women in movies — princess leia is a perfect example.  she’s got a mind of her own.  she’s doing her thing, trying to save her world, having an adventure.  she doesn’t take any shit, but she doesn’t try to beat anyone down, either.  and the untameable han solo doesn’t have to get tamed.  they can have an adventure together…which they do.  that’s what i’m talkin’ about, ladies and gents.  less lovelorn damseling, more independent kickassery.

seen fanboys yet?  zoe is a perfect example of said independent kickassery.  she’s fun, smart, and no-nonsense.  she doesn’t sit in the corner sniveling about how things aren’t going her way; she jumps in the fray and does her thing, not wanting to miss out on the action.  and she’s awesome.  so there.  and for all you dudes out there, which sort of girl would you rather have in your life and your bed?  the one who freaks out if you don’t call her every hour on the hour and only cares about paris hilton and/or gets pouty and resentful when you want to do something cool?  or the one who’s out doing something cool anyway and wants to join in?  in the end, i’ll tie this subject into my next subject by saying that for me, the ideal dude to have around would be someone i’d want by my side (not shielding me and pushing me behind him, mind you) in a zombie apocalypse.

zombie apocalypse
that brings me to the meat of my ruminations for today.  i’ve been reading a pretty kickass book called world war z: an oral history of the zombie war, on loan from someone who — let’s face it — i would actually want around during a zombie apocalypse.  and it’s gotten me thinking.  in case of a zombie apocalypse, one really oughta have a game plan.  because it could totally happen.

this strategy is in its early stages, and it operates on a few basic assuptions:

  • the dead are reanimated due to some scientific phenomena as opposed to metaphysical
  • decapitation will effectively stop a zombie
  • reanimation of corpses will not grant them any sort of preternatural strength or powers
  • the condition will be contagious via saliva or other bodily fluids making contact with a heretofore uninfected person’s bodily fluids (probably biting)

operating on those assumptions, a zombie apocalypse would feasibly take place through the prolific spread of infection, and most of the world would be fucked.  most of the world would panic, and panic would be tantamount to a death sentence.  so here’re my brilliant musings on the subject.

first, be practical.  a massive pandemic of zombies would cause mass hysteria and send people fleeing for the hills.  because of this, the zombies would most likely follow the crowds who would gather and get stuck on blocked interstates.  think rush hour is bad?  put all those people plus some and add a healthy dose of extreme blind panic.  the freeways would be blocked with wrecks in no time at all, and what better place for an all-you-can-eat zombie buffet than streams of people packed up like lunchables in their stationary vehicles?

you’d be better off barricading yourself in a secure location, as most people will flee and get eaten/bitten/otherwise zombified.  it’s not foolproof, but the hordes of undead would be most likely acting only upon sheer primal impulse and driven for one thing only, therefore following the most likely and easily accessible food source:  the fleeing masses.  my rationale for this is that zombies would probably lack any higher brain function, meaning they wouldn’t be able to perform the kind of deductive reasoning that would lead them to go, “golly gee whiz, that thur’s a house.  i bet it’s full of crunchy human delectables just locked away and waiting to be eaten.  come on, guys!  let’s go check it out.”  probably more like, “food run that way.  me follow food.”  so if you have to leave your hideaway at any point, just don’t be a fucking dumbass and lead them back to it if you happen to encounter any of them during your excursion.

so what sort of supplies would you need?  here’s what i’m thinking.  you want function, portability, and efficiency.  obviously food is a given, concentrating on high energy non-perishables.  get a stash of multivitamins and ration them to avoid scurvy or malnutrition.  concentrate on survival first.  fill your bunker with as many supplies of clean water as possible.

in terms of weapons, ranged weapons might be effective, but a gun’s only as good as your aim, and it’ll only last as long as the bullets you have.  firing randomly will accomplish a fat lot of nothing.  a sword on the other hand doesn’t require reloading, and although it does take a certain amount of skill, it’s a lot easier to aim than a firearm.  assuming that zombies would be dependent upon a functioning cerebral cortex, if you can sever the head, the body will die.  messy, but effective.  grenades would probably be a pretty solid idea, but let’s face it — who the fuck has access to military-grade weapons?  besides, an inexperienced person with a grenade has probably just as much chance of blowing his or her own ass to kingdom come as an advancing horde of moaning undead.

a radio is always important, along with a supply of batteries or some other way to charge it in case of electrical failure, which will probably happen.  technicians getting eaten, etc.  some quality rope, a compass, and a good map would be good as well.  basic survival gear is a given.

also, i was thinking about clothing.  if you have to leave your bunker, you’ll want tight fitting clothing with little room for grasping onto so the zombies can’t grab you and bite you.  leather would be good, because the human jaw isn’t really capable of biting through something so tough unless you plan on holding still so the zombies can gnaw through it.  leather pants, jacket, and gloves.  matrix-style.  or, you know.  evil knievel.

so those are my basic survival thoughts in case of a zombie apocalypse.  hunker down, lock yourself up with provisions, only venture out if you must, and never follow the herd — hordes follow herds.  also, get a badass sword and start practicing.  so that’s my plan.  it’s probably got some holes, but what can ya do.  at least i’ve got an idea of what i’d do.  and if worse really does come to worse, well.  you know what they say.  if you can’t beat ’em…a non-life of shambling cannibalism might not be all that bad.  just be sure to go out swinging.

quirks, quips, faults, and foibles

this is something i’ve been thinking about for some time now.   what i’m talking about is a combination of things, really.  firstly, it’s made up of those little idiosyncrasies that everyone has.  foibles, quirks, oddities.  the second part is more serious — it consists of what people like to term as “issues.”  both of these things are parts of what make us who we are, some more negative than others.  the former can generally be considered endearing (or irritating).  the latter can cause some major problems.

the little quirks and foibles are just little habits, mannerisms, likes, dislikes — anything ever-so-slightly outside whatever is considered “normal” human behavior.  everyone has quirks.  they’re really what makes each of us a perfect, unique little snowflake of a person.  i have heaps of them.  for instance — i tend to go out of my way to look at animals or interesting bits of nature; i have a flair for — what i hope is — humorous hyperbolic melodrama;  i have what could be considered a compulsion to “lay my cards on the table,” so to speak;  i have numerous little phrases to which i am rather attached;  and i (subconsciously) bounce when i’m excited — i tell myself that i’m not really bouncing, that rather i’m standing dynamically, but there it is.  there are more than that, of course, but those are the ones i’m aware of.  they’ve been brought to my attention sometimes positively, sometimes unkindly.  i didn’t really notice my tendency to stand in dynamic fashion until an old roommate one day started laughing in the kitchen, where i was excited about some bit of food or another — i do very much enjoy muffins — and said, “aaaand you’re bouncing.”

i love finding other people’s quirks.  my best friend has a way of ending long monologues with a single word that sums up her sentiments about the whole story — often “dead” or “jackass.”  my roommate lets out a long sigh whenever he comes through the door after work.  another friend has the tendency to sing my name on my voice mail, and yet another has a penchant for smiling in the most evil possible way in every photograph.  the office manager at my current place of business talks back to her voice mail aloud.

to continue my fascination with good will hunting, robin williams’ as sean says at one point, “people call these things imperfections, but oh, that’s the good stuff.”  that sums up my feelings on the subject quite well.  i’m very much inclined to agree with him.  the difficult bit is finding people who feel that way about our little idiosyncratic ways — whether they’re sending a picture message of a particularly tasty cookie or taking a native rock from each new beach we visit.  some people will inevitably find our quirks annoying, but you know you’ve found a winner of a friend when your various foibles only make them like you more.

the second part of this is the subject of issues.  by “issues,” i’m referring to the deep-seated emotional hang-ups all of us have gathered — usually unsolicited — in our lifetimes.  from fear of commitment and lack of trust for others to the paralyzing fear of abandomnent or rejection, these are hard, heavy, and most often come complete with painful associations.

the sad part is that they’re seldom of our making.  usually they are due to what has been done to us, things we would have much rather avoided if we’d had a say in the matter.  my own in this category tend to be abandonment, rejection, and trust, with a healthy spattering of commitmentphobia for good measure.  fear of judgment and censure rounds out the bouquet of badness in my emotional cask of bitter wine.

i’m willing to bet i’ve got others.  in addition to that, some things i personally consider to be strong points can be taken negatively by others.  my candor can be seen as hurtful, and my forthrightness can be taken as a tendency to overshare.  my independence can make me seem aloof, and my sarcasm can make me seem angry or uncaring.  that really can’t be helped, although i do my best to ensure that i utilize tact and pay attention to the comfort levels of others when it comes to more personal things.  doesn’t always work, but i try.

when it comes to this second half, these gaps, these “faults,” the most important thing in my opinion is to recognize them for what they are.  we are, all of us, the products of our experience in the world.  our interactions with other imperfect people often leave us scarred and in pain, sometimes frightened and gunshy.  sometimes angry and bitter.  sometimes an intricate combination of all of the above.

the important thing, as i said, is to recognize what issues we carry in our repertoire and to try and figure out where they come from — although sometimes that’s painfully obvious.  that way, when we have one of those crazy-making moments we all get, we can take a step back and a deep breath, figure out if what we’re thinking or feeling is stemming from the actual situation or if it’s a product of past experience projecting itself upon our current lives.  it’s not surefire, and we’re bound to occasionally feel utterly nuts, but as long as we are honest with ourselves about our issues, we can work on them and work through them.

i’m also a firm believer in open communication.  if we’re trying to have a relationship of any kind with another human being — no man is an island, etc., etc. — these issues can cause some serious problems.  i try to be as up front with my own baggage as possible, in context of whatever situation in which i find myself.  for me, it provides at least a modicum of extra accountability.  that way, someone else can let me know if i’m acting crazy (hopefully with a bit more tact than that), and i can stop for a second to figure out why, then get over it and move on.

it’s a way to strive for a sort of complementary interdependence (as opposed to unhealthy co-dependence) in any kind of relationship.  not sure i succeed, but i’m trying.  and i do recognize the issues i have and make a concerted effort to resolve them as best i can, or at least limit the sphere of their influence so they don’t fuck with my head too much.  everyone has issues.  as long as we recognize them for what they are and take a proactive stance in dealing with them, they can’t get the better of us and ruin our relationships further.  in the end, i think that’s all we can ask of ourselves — just to strive, grow, learn, and find others who want to come along for the ride.

or maybe we could go somewhere and eat a bunch of caramels

after the post-modernist revelation that was my blog from last night, i figured i would maybe write something ever-so-slightly more concrete.

i have a lot of friends expressing various degrees of angst about the dating world lately.  i have my own general gripes as well, but in recent days, i’ve had a lot of people coming to me, teeth gritted, slightly growly, going off on how they don’t understand this, that, or the other,  so i thought i would maybe try to boil some of that down into word soup.  better yet, a nice, reduced stock word demi-glace.   some of this is my own confusion, but most of that is just barely sprinkled in amongst the recent traumas of my social circle.  so on that lovely note, chew on some parsley, and bon apetit.

oddly enough, the main complaint i’ve heard recently (sometimes from my own mouth) is that no one seems to have a clue what it all means.  are we alone in this confusion?  is there some dating handbook that explains all this ridiculous terminology to the uneducated masses?  if so, i think a lot of us missed the sign-up sheet for the mailing list.  what does it mean to be dating someone versus seeing someone?  when does that magically transform into coupledom?  if the point of dating is to get to know someone, what do you do if you already know that person?

it’s all very confusing.

another major gripe i’ve heard recently has been about games.  and not the tiddlywinks sorts of games, either.   a friend told me earlier today that the guy she likes has been “claimed” by a girl at church.  that word alone made me perk up my ears and twitch an eyebrow.   last weekend, this girl (who is actually a 27-year-old woman, for shame) turned around and informed my friend that she was going to the upcoming dance, and this guy was “taken” — and that my friend would have to “find her own date.”  (the irony of the locale of this exchange shouldn’t escape you)

i sat there in startled shock for a moment before composing my elegant reaction of “?!?!?!?!?!”  followed by  “WHAT.”

really?  she said that?  who says that?  i mean, who beyond the hordes or hormone-induced cattiness that are made up of pubescent pre-teens.  but a 27-year-old woman?  really?  my head is reeling.  are human beings musical chairs now?  “sorry, this one’s taken.”  *smug smile*  it’s about as emotionally mature as saying, “i got there first,” with a “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” thrown in for good measure.

it’s a game.  a nasty game, at that.  she obviously went out of her way to try to get my friend to back off — something rather funny, considering my friend is hardly the type to throw herself at someone.  in addition to this one incident, apparently this girl has also “fake-married” this guy to stake her claim (again, musical chairs…apparently).  to use an internet meme…wtf.  actually, all that merits having it spelled out.  what.  the.  fuck.

maybe the subtleties of the female species elude me.  odd, because, you know.  i am one.  maybe i’m just more direct than most.  i personally think it’s better to just lay my cards on the table rather than slip poison into someone’s martini or bare my claws at the slightest sign of competition.  a lot of my friends are the same way as i am.

are the women who act like that really that insecure?   because to me, that’s what it says.  they see a threat, so they bare their claws and try to make the threat go away, hoping to get a rise out of the competition.  i think it’s probably because they know, on some deeper level, that they’re not going to get what they want.  i suppose sometimes they do get it, but even if the men in question are spared the barbs of these little exchanges, they’re not stupid, and they’ll probably see glimpses of cattiness through the facade.

i think it says an awful lot about the women willing to say something like that to someone, beyond insecurity even.  they obviously don’t feel confident.  but beyond that, they need to win.  farther, it seems to me that they need to put someone else down to feel better about themselves.  no one could tell me words like that wouldn’t sting — so they have to know damn well what they’re doing.

personally, if you have to resort to telling someone to back off like that for absolutely no reason, completely out of the blue, it shows you think the other person is a threat — probably because they sense the other person isn’t that into them.  for me, i don’t want to date anyone who doesn’t want to date me.  which is a mind-bending concept, i know.  but really.  when it becomes only about “winning,” people really start missing the point.  the point being finding someone you connect with who you want to have as a part of your life and be a part of theirs as well.

i’ll be the first to admit i’m not perfect.  i have my hang-ups like everyone else does.  i might be too blunt.  i tend to just blurt things out and then feel really awkward half the time.  but in my memory, i’ve never done anything like that to someone else.  and i wouldn’t.  it’s rather beyond catty and into mean-spirited, i think.  and in my book, that’s just really not okay.

i think it all boils down to communication.  a while back, i wrote a long post on honesty.  i think people are afraid to say what they think, because they’re afraid of getting hurt.  there’s a certain vague comfort in the agony of not knowing.  if you take that step out there on that limb and actually ask for what you want (god forbid) or say how you feel (the horror!), you risk rejection.  which is painful.  and scary.  but ask yourself this — if you like this person that much, first of all, one would hope that they’re worth the risk; second, if they don’t feel the same way, don’t you want to know so you can move on?

all of that said, i just don’t get it. the whole dating world is full of mysterious games and odd rituals.  you go out five times and you’re a couple — or something — at some point it’s “exclusive,” there’s probably sex in there somewhere, and you spend more time asking your friends what the hell is happening or how it’s gonna go than you do talking to the person you’re trying to smush your life together with.  it’s that pesky communication thing again.  no wonder we’re all messy.  there’s a reason we euphemize talking things out as “clearing the air.”

the people who have been coming to me with these stories lately are pretty straightforward people themselves — they’re doing their best to communicate and are running into brick walls right and left.  or, in one case, just minding her own business only to have someone stab her with a salad fork.  like i said, it’s all very confusing.  and apparently violent.  and, as will says in good will hunting, really pretty arbitrary.  it might be a necessary sort of arbitrary; i don’t know.  but to me, all the bizarre and inane dating concepts rather elude my grasp.

so that kind of brings me to say fuck it.  i just want somebody i can go somewhere and eat a bunch of caramels with.

Skylar: Maybe we could go out for coffee sometime?
Will: Great, or maybe we could go somewhere and just eat a bunch of caramels.
Skylar: What?
Will: When you think about it, it’s just as arbitrary as drinking coffee.
Skylar: [laughs] Okay, sounds good.

(quotes from good will hunting)

EDIT:  apparently my friends and i are not alone in our confusion due to dating nomenclature — a quick google search comes up with several confused forums trying to suss it out.  it seems like most people have their own ideas of what the hell everything means.  makes my caramel idea sound pretty good, doesn’t it?  screw the terminology.  i’m just along for the ride.

and just for all of your giggling pleasure, here’s some dating terminology humor.