Monday, December 30, 2013

Book List 2013

I typically try to out-do myself every year with how many books I read. 2012 claimed 72 books, so I knew it would be difficult to beat. However, I did not think I would fall so utterly flat. Right now I'm sitting at 33 and 3/4.

For part of 2012, I was still in school full-time finishing up my Bachelor's degree. I was also working part-time. My quick reading pace from 2012 built up some momentum and carried me up until March. Then no progress for six months. I know what was going on for me during that time, but it's no excuse. There shouldn't be that large of a gap. And now that I've been unemployed for almost three months, I should have made it up much faster than I have. I will do better next year. Enough hemming and hawing though; I need to post my list.

The ones with asterisks are recommended. Anything in parentheses are requirements for reading or general commentary.)

If you have any questions about these books, please comment or shoot me a Facebook message or text.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams* (Yes, it's by the Hitchhiker's Guide guy)
Nerd Do Well - Simon Pegg* (Must be die-hard Simon Pegg fan)
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk - David Sedaris
Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin*
A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin*
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl*
I Am America and So Can You - Stephen Colbert* (Must love America and satire)
Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection - Don Roff (There's some amazing watercolor in this one)
Gossamer - Lois Lowry*
American Psycho - Brett Easton Ellis* (Prepare for the violence; no matter what you do, you won't be prepared)
Breakfast at Tiffany's Truman Capote*
Valis - Philip K. Dick* (Only if you're going to read the whole trilogy, and please do)
The Divine Invasion - Philip K. Dick (See above)
The Transmigration of Timothy Archer - Philip K. Dick (Ditto)
A Dance with Dragons - George R.R. Martin*
A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula Le Guin*
Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathan Lethem*
Cosmos - Carl Sagan* (If you love the beauty of space and won't get too bogged down by the lingo)
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls - David Sedaris*
The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman* (I'm surprised this one hasn't received more praise)
i, Robot - Isaac Asimov*
Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden*
Onepiece volume 1 - Eiichiro Oda
Onepiece volume 2 - Eiichiro Oda
Onepiece volume 3 - Eiichiro Oda
Sacre Bleu - Christopher Moore*
Blackbird House - Alice Hoffman
'Tis - Frank McCourt* (If you've read Angela's Ashes)
The Sandman Vol 1 Ch 1 - Neil Gaiman* (Read all of The Sandman. All of it!)
Popgun War: Gift - Farel Dalrymple*
Coyote Blue - Christopher Moore*
I Am Pusheen - Claire Belton* (Everyone can use more adorable in their lives)
Some Assembly Required - Anne Lamott* (Should read Operating Instructions first; don't be like me)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Breaking Tradition

During the planning of a wedding, the couple has a lot of choices to make, and not just about what color they want the tablecloths at the reception. How do you want your ceremony to go? Will you use a minister? Practice handfasting? Jump the broom? Throw rice? These are all traditions represented still in modern weddings, even handfasting, literally tying the knot, and jumping the broom. These last two are among many ancient wedding rites coming back into practice today in order to make the ceremony more unique or to bring the couple closer.

So, what will we do? We decided a while ago that our wedding will be small. This will mean we won't get to invite absolutely everyone we know. My fiance has a big family, and I have a fairly large circle of friends, so we have some more choices ahead of us.

My fiance has been great with wedding planning so far. He and I tend to have very similar taste when it comes to style, so we haven't run into any disagreements, and our communication has been open.

We don't oppose tradition, but there are some traditions we will be doing without. I mentioned the size of our wedding so this next statement isn't so strange. We aren't going to have a wedding procession. Right now, it's just us. The bride and groom, and whoever we choose to officiate the ceremony. So, my husband-to-be will go up to the front, music will play, the guests will settle, I will walk up the aisle, the officiant will welcome everyone, and the ceremony will proceed. In my mind, it's simple, flows well, and suits us. But, it's leaving some things out. I tried to mention it casually, so let me bring it to the forefront for emphasis now. I will be walking up the aisle by myself.

I love my parents very much, and I would never do anything to hurt them. But the thought of being "given away," hearkening back to a tradition of women being treated like chattel, unsettles me.

While this tradition has become something deeply sentimental in modern weddings, it still rubs me the wrong way. And since it is usually a part of modern weddings, it can make talking to people about leaving out this detail a little difficult.

It's not that I'm not sentimental. I'm a wedding photographer! Most people don't see it because I make myself blend into the background to do my job, but I cry at weddings. When couples say their vows, the people sitting down don't always get to hear what the couple says, but I do. And it's rare that I witness a ceremony in which my eyes don't at least well up a little. In fact, my wedding will probably be no different. I will try my hardest to remain composed, but I will also use as much make-up primer and finishing spray as I can get my hands on, because most likely I will cry.

However, just because something is sweet or done in a loving capacity doesn't mean it doesn't come from a longstanding tradition that represents an awful facet of society, such as women being treated as property. I've been doing some research to see how people get around this because, well, as nice as the moment is whenever the officiant asks, "Who gives this bride in marriage?" it's essentially just flowery verbiage for a sales transaction.

Since we live in modern times, tradition isn't necessarily at the forefront of all weddings as it used to be, and gender roles are happily being cast aside in light of social equality. But, I still can't find an example of when a groom's parents have stood up and given him away. They might escort him down the aisle in the processional, but nobody gives a man away. It just doesn't happen, and I find that striking.

Honoring my family is extremely important to me. I love them so much, and through marrying my fiance, I will be incorporating his family into my life too, so I'll have even more people to love. And I'm thrilled! My fiance and I are the people we are because of our parents. I'm more grateful for that than I can say. And I have also been extremely humbled recently, because my parents have given us a substantial financial gift for our wedding.

Because honoring our parents is important to us, we are going to have something in the ceremony that will incorporate each of them. It's still almost a year away, so this may change, but I think having a candle-lighting ceremony would be lovely. My mom, my dad, his mom, and his dad would all go up and light one candle, symbolically lighting the way for our future together.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaNoWriM--Oh No

Well, it's day six of National Novel Writing Month, and I'm four days behind. Instead of making excuses I'm forging ahead. I don't know if this writing month will only be about the novel for me though. I hadn't written in a long while until just a few days ago, and things are starting to loosen that need to be let out. I need to write some poems I think, or at least just the one that's been tumbling around up in my brain. And I need to journal, desperately.

I'm shooting for the 50,000 word count to be a "winner" at the end of the month, but my long work is not the only thing I'll be working on. I was not prepared for this month in any way, shape, or form--and not just when it comes to writing. The past month and a half of my life has been topsy-turvy, to put it nicely.

It all started when I fell down my stairs. Well, it started much before that I suppose, but this was the catalyst. When I slipped and fell down the stairs, which were fortunately plushly carpeted, I bent and bruised my tailbone. Because I was unable to sit up or do much of anything, I could not work. At my job, I was on the last step of disciplinary action for absences (because I worked for big, corporate doo-doo heads). So, whenever I was able to come back, I would be subject to termination. I decided to use of the rest of my paid time-off and after the very last paid moment passed, I resigned. I'm hoping it will look better for me to have resigned my position rather than having been forcefully terminated for absenteeism.

Quick side note.

Here's what made up my disciplinary points over the course of six months: half day because I was throwing up, full day because I was throwing up, full day because of allergic reaction, half day because of throwing up, half day because of anxiety attack AT work, and a missed punch. Yes, a missed punch on the time clock has the same weight has half a day of absence. All this, followed by my butt-bruising, would culminate in me being let go.

I've forgotten to mention until now that the day I fell was a Monday. On the Friday of this particular week, my fiance and I had planned on moving in together.

So, I fell down the stairs, nearly breaking my tailbone and rendering myself absolutely bedridden for five weeks, losing my job, having to cancel plans of moving in with my fiance (which affected him and his family in an alarming number of ways, which thankfully have mostly been mended), my dog became unwell, I got sick, she got better, I got better, and then she got much, much worse. We, my parents and I, made the decision to put the dog down. We raised her for eight and a half years, from when she was a very small puppy. I can't begin to describe how hard this has been on all of us.

I read Memoirs of a Geisha for the first time today. In it, I found a quote about grief I found poignant. "Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it." None of us has found that day, I don't think, so we still pull a blanket over our shoulders and try to keep the window closed.

Shortly before my dog became so ill, a close friend of mine suffered an immense trauma. I had to balance how I dealt with everything in my life before I could think of helping them. I still have to, and it's a constant tightrope walk. Clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder have a way of bringing the world crashing down even when it's not. But when the world is a little wobbly to begin with, well, those little storm clouds don't exactly help things much.

In this span of time, my mother's health has declined. We are relieved to have a diagnosis and are proceeding as cheerfully as possible with trying to help her get her diet in order to get this thing licked. It's a tall order. With as much as I've been through in these past few weeks, she has had an infinitely harder fight. I can't help but marvel at her strength, even though I know she does not feel strong in any way.

*EDIT* My mom is okay! I've had a lot asking after her her well-being after I posted this, and I can assure you she really will be okay. She's had some major digestive issues, has undergone a lot of testing, and now we're learning how to help manage her diet to reduce discomfort and to get keep her healthy.

I am sick, again, but I am mending. I'm going to persevere and keep writing--in my journal. It may be pieces of my long work, a poem, about a particularly disturbing dream I had, or just thoughts that need to be laid out and put to rest, but it will be something. 50,000 words at least by the end of November. And I will continue journaling beyond that into the months to come.

Thank you for bearing with me through all this.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Excuses are all I have to offer for this post, really. Since the new year dawned, I've been writing less than usual. I finally started a short story I've had rolling around my head for about a year and got 1,700 words to it, but I haven't picked it up since that first burst of creativity. I was just complaining to my writing group that most of my inspiration seems to strike me at awfully inconvenient times, most often when I'm driving down the highway on the way home from work, with no way to record the images attempting to sear my brain and prod me into action. I promise myself I'll write what I can remember of it when I get home, but other things inevitably come first--cooking food, eating food, etc. It seems I'm rarely inspired when I'm at home or anywhere near paper or pen or computer in general.

Aside from that one unfinished short story, I have the first draft of a very short poem I wrote today. I'm really rather fond of it because it began from one of those stark images that impressed itself upon me. Fortunately, I was in a place to set to writing immediately when that happened.

I have another image in my brain still half floating around, a ghost of what it was when it first appeared, as I was driving down Highway 169. Perhaps it's fitting. I think it was supposed to be about things lost, things forgotten, fog, mist, the past.