Predictabilitrix

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I am a redoer. A rereader, rewatcher, relistener. You pretty much have to trick me to get me to experience something new. Honestly, I don’t know how I ever did anything the first time. Maybe it was in my wild youth. Maybe I tried stuff willy-nilly. At some point, though, I found what I liked and said, “This is good. Really good!”

Once I love something, I love it to death. I wear it out with my love. I roll in it and make it threadbare. I love how things become softer the more they are enjoyed. Pages of books, images in film, my blanky.

When Jeff and I were first together, he used to ask me when I was going to get sick of him. I said, “I’ve slept under the same quilt for over a decade. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.” Sadly, that quilt finally fell apart from rewashing a few years back, and I have yet to find one I love enough to replace it. (Thankfully, Jeff still has plenty of washings left in him).

Many people would be horrified by this way of living. I believe it would make them feel trapped and bored to the point of madness. These folks feast on adventure and need the new and different to keep them feeling alive.

I imagine them shuddering and saying, “I could never do that! I would be too afraid of missing something.”

Aha!

Me too!
That is exactly why I do what I do.

What if I miss a cool transition or a secret little lyric slipped into my favorite songs? What if I miss the chance to belt out the words (with authority) and feel like I’m right there with the band? What if I miss a clever joke or camera trick in a movie or show?

And books. Oh man.

As an author, I’m my own worst customer. We need people who read lots and lots of books to keep us in ink and paper. If everyone was like me, the business would go belly up.

But I like to think my beloved authors would appreciate the way I read all the same. First, I read the story. If it captures me the right way, I go back. What did I miss about these characters? Ahhh… Don’t I just love her. Okay, brace myself, here comes the scene where my heart gets ripped out. But now, weeee! here comes that part where we all fall in love. Wait – go back again. Hey! There’s a tiny tie-in from chapter 4 to chapter 34. That sentence. Can I just look at that sentence again? She could have picked any word to go there, but that one was just magic. Well, of course, I have to read it again.

Every few seasons, I’ll take inventory of my hoarded beloveds and make adjustments. “Ok,” I’ll assure something, “I will always love you, but you need a rest.” And I’ll set it aside to (tentatively) try some new stuff. I always feel a little panicky when I find something new to love.

“Dammit!” I said, with my eyes glued to Sherlock. “Where am I going to find a month to rewatch this forty times??”

I used to be sheepish about this aspect of me. I suppose I am a little still. I know there’s so much out there to discover. Shouldn’t I feel a little ashamed for not wanting to get out there? But mostly I’m fine with it. There is also so much right here to discover. I think it just makes me feel like part of a world team. Some of us see the most stuff. Some of us see stuff the most. Let’s work together so we don’t miss anything.

 

 

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Back to the Roots of This Thing

Do blogs have roots?

I initially started this blog because all my friends were doing it. I admit it.

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No, I wasn’t peer pressured or any pressured, really; I was inspired. Holy crap, do I know some creative people. It has been so fun being part of the blogging community, and I’m telling you, that kind of inspiration is intoxicating. And I have written some really earnest stuff, that people like – ok, my husband likes it (bless him).

Lately, though, when I’ve opened my mouth (so to speak) to say something, nothing happens. There are a bunch of reasons why: The world seems to have gone mad. Politics are lunacy. It’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

I’m finding myself trying to put in black and white (or brown and sepia) what isn’t black and white (or brown and sepia). Writing usually helps me understand, but when every single answer is a continuum, what is there to write? People are weird. Shit is crazy. Carry on.

Besides, there are these voices out there that just wow me with their words. And what’s wild about it, is so often it’s not some published article or even a blog post, but a random thought shared on Facebook or a tweet, of all things.

Honestly, if you want insight into truth, spend some time on Tumblr (where I am an old lady). These young people blow me away with their observations and their stories and their open hearts. I’m not even wanting to shake my cane at them or tell them to get off my lawn. I love how these brilliant thoughts are jotted down with no concern for regular punctuation or capitalization, because goddammit they need to be written RIGHT now. And you get that – the breathlessness of the idea, “hey fuckers – listen up…” And yup, I just got schooled by a 16 year old. Plus, the swearing is exquisite. How I have relished the chance to entreat someone to “eat my entire ass.” (Generally in traffic).

With that kind of beauty in the world, what can I possibly add?

The point of my blog was to talk about things that make me smile. And things that make me cry. And I am moving back toward that. Frankly, I need more smiles, things being the way they are in the world. And I need more weepy, “holy crap that’s beautiful” cries.

I’m going to follow the sage advice of my father who would shout (generally from behind one of his five slow-moving children), “DO SOMETHING EVEN IF IT’S WRONG!”

So, to kick this blog rejuvenation off, I will FINALLY complete the assignment given to me by my beloved Hedgefriend over at the Hedgeblog, with a list (hurray for lists) of 10 things I love.

  1. My son’s laugh. He is developing a delightfully twisted little sense of humor, and I love it when I make him laugh.
  2. Talking big talks with my brilliant supportive husband. I am a lucky woman.
  3. The really wonderful, amazing people in my life. I am so very fortunate to have these zany, special, hilarious, caring people to call friends and family.
  4. Visits home to see my family, and games of Cards Against Humanity with my siblings (who are all my good friends). I won, by the way. My favorite winning hand: “Fuck off! I’m literally  finger painting   right now.
  5. Coffee. Oh, coffee, I love you so. And I just want to tell you, coffee, and the world, that sometimes you are the reason I get up in the morning.

    perc

    My latest coffee making gadget. I’m thinking of asking it to go steady.

  6. March days that are soft and perfect. I can forgive Florida a lot on a gentle March day.
  7. I was ABOUT to say cats, but then our newest addition almost sent our television crashing to the ground. Now, I’m not so sure… Ah but he’s cute, though.latest kitty
  8. Books, especially ones that have magic in them. And really, most are just made of magic.
  9. My bed. You have no idea.
  10. My favorite “scruffy minstrals,” as the Hedgeblog proprietress calls them. Big love to Frank Turner, Andrew Hozier, Will Varley and To Kill a King.

 

More soon. And more frequently.

 

 

Accurate

hamster

Oh, hi!! Um, won’t you come in? Wow. You look great.

Aw, thanks. Well, I’ve been really taking care of myself. Eating right, exercising.

Where did you get that tiny little waist?

Zumba! I’ll tell, you I love it! It has changed my life.

Zumba…? But, I mean, forgive me, but you were never really that coordinated.

I KNOW, RIGHT? But this, it just clicked. I’m teaching classes now.

No…

Yes, it’s true!!

That’s so…unlike you. Then you gave up writing?

Oh no!! No, I teach the classes for fun. I donate all the money to charity.

So, are the books finished?

Yup! Finished the series, and they are doing great! Especially in Switzerland, for some reason. I just got a huge advance to start a new series.

I’m…dumbfounded. Wait a minute…how do you look younger than me?

OH! It’s my lifestyle change! No sugar, no dairy, lots of water, and my secret is green juice! I look younger than I did when I started.

Well… That doesn’t sound very fun, though.

You know, at first it was hard to adjust to, but now, I just love it. It makes me feel so alive! There’s something so relaxing about chopping greens. And my energy is through the roof! Way better than coffee.

You don’t drink coffee?!

Please! I may be a total fabrication of your imagination, but I am not giving up coffee.

Thank goodness. So, I mean, it’s really great to see you… I mean me. And see us so successful and happy, but…well, why are you here?

To inspire you of course. You see… This is kind of difficult for me to say… But, well, I’m having a hard time existing. And I thought, maybe you could help me along?

Me?!

Of course! Who else?

Oh, you got me all wrong. I’m on your side if anyone is. Look– I just finished a bowl of steel cut oatmeal with bananas and cinnamon. I’ve had my coffee with soy milk. Check this out – my to-do list: Workout. Write for one hour. Research juicing.

Then why…?

You are talking to Eleven AM Jen. I’m full of great ideas and inspiration. But I’m at work. In a few hours, I have to hand the reins to Six O’Clock Jen.

So, I should talk to her?

Hah! Good luck with that. That wine-swilling, ice cream-eating, sweatpants wearing napper is not going to do either of us any favors. Look, I’ve gotten her all set up. I’ve made extra coffee, took B12, put shoes on her, given her a clean, quiet place to work. I’ve created playlists and laid out her workout clothes. And the second I hand things over to her, she’s on the couch eating a block of cheese and watching Buzzfeed videos.

Maybe she just needs some support and understanding. Have you tried talking to her?

*snort* Why don’t you go try.


So, what did she say? When you told her about the green juice and Switzerland and Zumba?

She told me I should relax.

Wait – what do you — put that down!

No.

Did she give you that? You can’t eat a whole cheesecake!

So good!! I forgot it was so good!

Are you DRUNK?

Drefine Dunk.       Scoot over.

Hey! I’m working here. See? Writing time – Give me my laptop!

Wai-wait! I just want to show this video. Look-look! It’s a little hamster, in a fleecy sleeping bag, eating a carrot disk. HE’S SO HAPPY!

Hey – oh, she’s here?

YOU!! Look what you’ve done! She was our inspiration. She finished the books! Look at how fit she is…was.

Oh, she’s fine.

What are doing here? It’s not even noon.

I just wanted to let you know, I made some fudge last night. It’s in the fridge.

…. What kind?

Peanut butter.

Oh my God! You are awesome. All I’ve had all morning is this chewy flavorless oatmeal.

 

When the Trolls Are Silenced

I started following the Humans of New York Facebook page, not only because of the incredible photographs and arresting captions, but because the comments section was so positive. It was this big upbeat community, and it was like a miracle. How amazing that people are able to rein in their nastiness in support of HONY’s subjects, who are really making themselves vulnerable by agreeing to be photographed.

It wasn’t long before I realized the comments must be moderated. I’m no stranger to comments sections, and people’s behavior in this one was atypical. Sure enough, Brandon addressed it himself.

“Been getting some emails from people who have been banned…the moderators have very clear instructions: ban anyone who is attacking the subject…feel free to joke. We aren’t stiff or prudish. But we do know the difference between being funny and being a dick.”

That was written last year, and as far as I know, he hasn’t addressed it again since. At the time, HONY had 5 million followers. It’s now up to 16.3 million. In other words, not allowing commenters the freedom to be an absolute shit to someone is not limiting his readership. It is helping it.

The beautiful thing about this is that HONY moderators are setting a standard of behavior that the members of the community help enforce. If someone says something nasty that gets missed by the mods, the community members chastise that person. We love our safe, supportive, troll-free space, we love to read people’s stories. We want people to pose and talk when Brandon shows up with his camera, not run screaming.

I’m a member of a women’s writing group. The group has guidelines, and it is moderated. It is another troll-free zone. The moderator, Barbara Bos (who runs Booksbywomen.org, in addition to this writing group) is smart, dedicated and no-nonsense. She has said she has zero tolerance for trolls. She doesn’t announce that something will be deleted or call the person out; she just makes the comment disappear (and, I assume, the commenter sometimes.)

We are none the wiser, and that’s okay. If I knew, if she hinted, I would feel myself wondering,“Who? What was said? What happened?” It would make me a little outraged and feel a little more guarded. But we don’t know. It’s rarely mentioned, and I don’t have to wonder.

The result is a warm, compassionate and supportive group of writers. When I joined, there were under 1000 members. Now we’re nearing 7000. Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t mention how safe and supported they feel in this group. I have met some amazing people and made dear friends in the space because I felt safe there.

A lot of people say,“You need to toughen up and learn to deal with criticism.” I wonder how often the people who say that are ones who are fond of criticizing but who are upset when others push back.

Yes, there are some areas in our lives when critiques are necessary: when we are learning something new, when we are on the job, and (most importantly) when we are voicing opinions about other people’s realities.

But I really think the last thing this world needs is more toughened people. I feel like that “toughen up” cry is just a bunch of bullshit said by people who don’t want to be called bullies so they can keep bullying. The fact is, this world is starving for more compassion and less toughness.

The smallest acts of kindness, the unexpected shows of compassion, the little pictures and videos that make us smile, these things are trending now. This is what’s going viral.

In Western culture, we are sold the lie that toughness equals strength. That’s more bullshit. That is demanding that people change their reactions to attacks instead of demanding a stop to the attacks.

Toughness in the face of constant, unrelenting and unrepentant negativity isn’t strength; it’s a tragedy. It demands that we disconnect ourselves from our hearts and our feelings so people can’t hurt us. That is expecting that the good parts of ourselves should be changed, damaged or denied so trolls can’t get to us.

And guess what: You can never be tough enough for a real troll. If you don’t react, there will always be escalation until you do.

Actual strength is being authentic and vulnerable, and understanding that it is right to be hurt when people are hurtful. Actual strength comes from allowing others in the space to be authentic and vulnerable safely, as well.

There are people in this world who thrive on negativity, who feel like they can only make an impact with their fists, who feel so threatened when someone challenges the status quo, that they have to stomp on that person. Their voices are not meant to share an idea but to stop other people from sharing. They demand the freedom to deny others a voice through intimidation.

But a funny thing happens when you silence trolls. People start opening up, sharing their experiences more, seeing different points of view and supporting each other. I know I do.

When I know I can speak without getting stomped on, I will speak. Maybe I don’t need to. Maybe I can and should keep myself to myself. But it feels good to connect and share. It feels good to read someone saying, “ME TOO!!” It makes me feel less alone. It makes me feel inspired and hopeful, the opposite of the way I feel when I am in a space overrun with negativity.

We are social animals, and we tend to take our cues from one another. If a community is mostly positive and welcoming, the expectation is that others will be positive and welcoming, as well. Most people there are already that way. Some people will begin to act that way because others do. Some people who are that way naturally will be drawn to the environment. And some people will not conform and will be negative. Often when this happens, the existing community members will speak up to maintain the benefits of their positive environment.

A while back, there was a TED talk given by Monica Lewinsky. Nadia Goodman and three others had the unfortunate task of deleting the negative comments on the Facebook feed. She said it was some of the nastiest most vitriolic stuff she had ever read. But after several hours of boosting the positive comments and deleting the vitriol, the trend began to shift. A lot more supportive and positive comments started being posted.

People who moderate spaces and make them safe from trolls often experience outraged push back. “How DARE you silence me?! This is oppression!! You are being cowardly by not allowing a lively debate!!” they might be heard to shriek.

veruca_salt

No, Veruca. That’s not how this works. When has this ever been the way things work? In what area of the real world, are you free to storm into a community conference and call the presenter a stupid fuck? When was the last time you were invited into a women’s meeting to weigh in on whether or not you believed them to be a bunch of uptight feminazis? At work, are you encouraged to publicly provide your opinion on your coworker’s attire and if it makes her a slut?

Freedom of speech is the freedom to express your opinions without being arrested. That’s all. It is not the freedom to enter people’s homes, studios or businesses and shout your opinions in their faces. If you want to talk about it in your own space, talk about it. But don’t expect to be welcomed in and handed a cup of tea and a microphone.

I have found myself becoming relieved when there are no comments sections, especially connected to articles and posts about women’s issues. These are a lightning rod for nastiness, as well as dismissive and violent rhetoric. Not having a comments section makes me feel safer as a reader. It saves me from my own sick compulsion to view the opposition to the very simplest of women’s concerns, which are my concerns, being a woman and all.

Recently, my mom was telling me about the people she met on a cruise and how wonderfully kind and friendly they were. She was high on humanity. Then she asked how I was, and I said I was depressed by how miserable everybody was.

Mom was like, “But haven’t you been listening? They’re not!! I just met a whole ship full of good, nice people.”

I was being influenced by all the nastiness I was seeing everywhere. But the nastiest people are not a representation of the whole world. They are just the loudest. It’s really hard to remember that.

Yes, I know I’m comparing the outside world to the internet. But we can’t keep pretending that online is something separate from real life. There are still human beings on the end of these wireless signals. A lot of people ONLY interact with others online. Some are lost and hurting, maybe waiting to see which way the tide is turning: hatred and vitriol? Or positivity and compassion?

So what will I do? Well, first of all, I need to spend less time on the internet. But beyond that, I will stay in safe spaces and help build safe spaces. I will promote the positive and try my hardest to disregard the negative. I will ignore outright nasty trolls, but speak up when I see bullying. I’ll share the good stuff and not give a voice to the trolls.

Mommy! Mommy! Look at me!

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Watch this! Look what I can do! Did you see that??

I have a kid under ten, so I hear some version of that about a hundred times a day. I look up (patiently, and/or excitedly, I hope) every time to witness the clever, odd, incomprehensible, hilarious or frankly alarming things my child does. Sometimes, with the “Did you see that?”s I say, “Yes! That was awesome!” But I didn’t. I know, I suck, but that’s probably not the worst lie a parent can tell.

It does get a little tiresome, especially when I don’t really understand what I’m seeing: tiny action figure performs tiny stunt mostly hidden by tiny cupped hands. “Wow! How did he do that?” I ask, which is the parenting equivalent of saying someone has a great personality.

Or when I have seen it a thousand times.

Or when I’m sure “it” will result in an injury. “Look!” he says jumping off the chair onto his knees in the carpet. “Be careful!” I call again and again, because in my mind the chair is fifty feet tall and the carpet is made of stones.

I’m not complaining. I know that too soon, he won’t care if I’m looking, and too soon after that, he will very much NOT want me looking. So I look, I see, I watch.

Honestly, I can’t look enough anyway. His cheeks are so chubby and cute, and his eyes are so bright, and his laugh is so infectious. And he’s always changing.

Every time I look, I can feel the minutes slip into days and splash into years, and I’m always trying to re-memorize him.

I marvel at my irrational soul that manages to be as eager for my boy’s independence as it is heartbroken at the prospect of it. I wonder if all parents feel the same. I wonder if mine did.

A few days ago, my mom called to say she didn’t think she and dad were going to be up for the journey to see us this winter. I totally understood and wasn’t really surprised. Dad had back surgery recently, and Mom has joint problems that make traveling hard. We would just plan to go see them instead. No big deal.

But.

Something occurred to me after I hung up that put a little chill in me and made everything a little grayer: What if she didn’t just mean “this winter?” What if she meant “ever again?” It’s not like traveling long distances gets easier with age.

I have recently (fortunately) found myself with more time on my hands. I had vague plans to use some of it beautifying my home. Or at least making it seem more like a home than a gigantic toy box. I thought about rearranging furniture, getting some new accessories, painting (that last one might have been a bit of a stretch).

After talking to my mom, my ideas seemed drab and pointless, and they didn’t really feel worth the effort. I realized that all of those plans, like so much of what I do, had centered around the thought, “What would mom think of this?”

So there it is. Thirty something years later I’m still saying , “Mommy! Mommy! Look at me!”

As a mom, that comforts me. He will never not need me.
As a mom, that terrifies me. He will never not need me.
As a daughter, I am sobbing into my pillow. I will never not need her.

I’m No Doctor, But Your Throat is Probably Fine

overreacting

People are really super concerned about their throats lately. Specifically, they are worried about things being shoved down them. Rarely a day passes when I don’t hear about someone’s worry over their throat. It is generally worded like this:

“I get it, you’re trans; you don’t have to shove it down my throat.”
“I’m for equal rights, but don’t shove your feminist agenda down my throat.”

These statements suggest that it is perfectly okay to be whatever and whoever you are, as long as you keep it really quiet and feel ashamed about it. And don’t rock the boat.

A gay couple touching in public might be described as “shoving it down my throat.” In actuality, a gay couple holding hands is only likely to do your throat any harm if they are really tall, and they are running right at you, with their arms stretched at throat level. And they clothesline you. In the throat.

Possibly, people are being less literal than I assume.More figuratively, then, I would not define, “shoved down your throat” as being required to acknowledge that there are people who are different from you because you see an example of one. I’d describe “shoved down your throat,” as having laws made about what you can do with your body or where you can go to the bathroom, or which consenting adults are allowed to marry.

Being exposed to the issues or even the existence of a group of people who are different from you is unlikely to do any harm to your throat. In fact, it might even help it! Tolerance strengthens vocal cords and open-mindedness contains antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and riboflavin*.

*These claims have not been tested by the FDA.

So don’t worry, your throat is probably fine. If it actually hurts, though, you may want to get it checked for strep. You don’t want to mess with that shit.

Spirit Shredder

*Click*

*Click*

*Click*

*Click*

This is me, constantly these days.
I don’t know why I’ve gotten worse. Or obsessed. I don’t know why I’m clicking more, and clicking right where I know it will upset me most. I don’t know why I read and respond to shitty comments from shitty people. Even reading their words gives them more power than they deserve. There is no winning an argument with someone whose only purpose is to be nasty. There’s no convincing them to be nice. Being nasty makes them feel good. There’s no compelling reason for them to stop.

I don’t know how to tell the difference between news I need to know and news that is just shredding my spirit.

I care. I want to know. Knowing has helped before. Hasn’t it?

Maybe. Probably not.

My husband asks me, “Did you hear about ___?” “Did you know ____?”

Yes. Yep. Yeah. I did. I hear about everything the minute it happens, whether I need to or not, whether it makes a difference or not. Thing is, it does make a difference. It upsets me, and keeps me from delighting in life.

I used to click to connect and be entertained and to know what was going on with my loved ones, and to see pictures/videos of cats. That is so little of what I read now. Even the cats are down 90%. Now if I see animals, they are homeless or abused. More outrage. It helps, right?

I don’t know how to be objective about this anymore. I am not cherishing life. I’m cherishing outrage, and there is so much of it to be had. I’m getting sick and fat on it.

So, I’m putting myself on an outrage diet. I know from previous attempts at this, it won’t be easy to quit cold turkey. There will be starts and stops, but I have to take the first step, and be firm with myself when I stall.

The news I need to know is: 1) Is there real danger in my area? 2) When is Frank Turner coming to town?

I can count on my beloved friends to tell me either of those things.

Now, I need a little outrage antidote. Maybe you do, too.

If so, please enjoy:

This AMAZING story about wolves changing the river
wolves

Patrick Stewart dressed as a lobster sitting in a bathtub

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A porcupine eating a pumpkin

Do yourself a favor here, and watch with the sound on, because there has never been anyone happier eating anything than Teddy Bear is eating this pumpkin.

Porcupine Eating a Pumkin

Jack White showed up to his neighborhood potluck, and NOBODY recognized him! 

jw

Frank Turner singing Reasons Not to Be an Idiot

(or honestly, anything else)

reasons

I will add to this. There is a lot of outrage to undo.