Happy Friday!

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Here is a picture my 2nd oldest/2nd youngest took almost 2 months ago at the beach- just wanted to share. Love the colors! Love the composition! So art-y!

Got a baby slowly talking herself awake over here- Happy Friday!

 

On Overcoming

There was a point when I was shy- or described that way, at least.

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The gradual loss of most of my sight from 6th to 8th grade played a big role in eroding my self confidence. Friends and I drifted apart.  Hormones betrayed me and I became super sweaty- even though I tried everything to not be. I was growing out a terrible haircut and had holes in my shoes and weird pants. I was 5′ 7″ and towered over everyone for a few years there. And I was more interested in space than in New Kids On the Block. From a peer perception standpoint all of those things matter in middle school. They matter a lot. It got to a point where my words just stayed constantly locked in my head and I started getting described as shy. And I was meek now too- because it’s hard to fight all of that all the time. Tiring. A boy I had a crush on spit on the ground in front of me once, so that he and his friends could laugh about how the weird girl stepped in spit. I just kept walking, head down and shoulders so slumped they might have been trying to meet in the middle. (Crushing- in the original sense of the word. At least I had the good sense to stop liking him after that) I was just generally having a difficult transition from child to whatever the hell it is that comes after. It’s hard being a teenage girl, let me tell you.

I had been an outspoken and strong willed younger child, I vaguely recall. But I had become really isolated and awkward. And one day- I decided to do something about it. I signed up for Theater Arts in 8th grade. I didn’t join because I thought it’d be fun- I knew it’d be a slog. I joined because I didn’t want to be like this forever. I needed to learn- not how to act differently- but how to be okay with being different, maybe? Something. I knew it’d help.

Now, I am NOT a theater fan. I have an intense dislike for it, actually. And oh, did my contempt show- that teacher hated me and I hated him right back. And I was so odd-man-out on that front because the rest of the students loved him. That was another revelation- I’d never disliked a teacher before. I’d never been disliked by a teacher before. I learned a lot that year, let me tell ya. (Years later I’d mention how much I hated that guy and people would gasp because he’d been their favorite. That happened more than once.)

But I worked hard in that class because I’d be damned if I was going to be behind the scenes- I wasn’t there to learn how to work lights or open curtains- none of that stagehand shit for me. So even with the teacher’s intense dislike of me… I could remember lines. I could project. I could do more then stare at the ground while grinding my toe in a circle… and so I got pretty prominent parts even if I’d ignore occasional stage directions. He never gave me the parts I wanted, mind you. Not even once. But what the hell did I care? I hardly wanted the ones I wanted, after all. And that part about ignoring stage directions? That’s why that teacher hated me. I remember once my character was some vapid movie actress- sister of the main character- but during this long ass speech I had to recite I wouldn’t use a compact with a brush to touch up powder on my nose like he wanted me to do. (Everyone knows you use a puff for that, you evil twink*) He threw a god damn desk because of it during practice.

The true lesson  was not that I was shy- it was realizing just that I had gone quiet. There was a difference, and it was an important one to learn.  I’d still be awkward for years though- don’t let me pretend I wasn’t. But “quiet” and “meek” got crossed off the list before I started high school. I was on my way. I’d learned my lesson.

 

*I am so liberal and don’t mock races or genders or sexual orientation. Also? He was a married straight dude- just want to make that clear lest anyone think I was casting other kinds of aspersions…

Random Friday Thoughts

“Turn of phrase” is my favorite turn of phrase. That stupid sentence has been running through my head on repeat for about a week.

I wear my Cracker shirt too much. Does anyone know that’s a band when I’m wearing the shirt? And I always realize I’m wearing it at really inappropriate times. Packed Mexican restaurant? Fan-tastic.

Eyelashes are there to keep things from falling in my eye… but the only thing that ever falls in my eye are eyelashes. Tidy little loop, that.

 

Books that made me

Here is a brief list of some of the books that made me who I am today.

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Image by Griszka Niewiadomski

Cosmos by Carl Sagan (1980)

I was in 6th grade when I first read Cosmos. I loved space and read about it constantly when I was a kid. How much did I love space? I was memorizing the orbital inclination of all the planets (holyshitnerd) in 6th grade. I REALLY loved space and so- it was a book on space that I thought I checked out when I got Cosmos from the library to read. And it was. And it wasn’t. It was history and humanity and anthropology and archeology and physics and tied all the world(s) together. It changed my life. Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot was also really good. Brocca’s Brain… emmmgh, less so.

The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny (1970)
I skipped over this book many times on the library shelves due to the absolutely cheeseball covers (hello, Fabio-esque figure with a cape, no shirt, and a sword fighting a tiger sized Siamese cat. I’m gonna go see what’s new on the Piers Anthony’s shelf… mmmkayy?) But at some point I did read it and it was AWESOME. Barack Obama and John McCain both idolize Robert Jordan, the main character from Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (we’ll get to that one)- but he can’t hold a CANDLE to the strength, stoicism, cynical morality, and self deprecating humor while still maintaining a constant level of pride as Corwin. And the other thing I love is Roger Zelazny’s writing. This was one of the very first books I ever bought- at a used bookstore I used to bike to. And I loved the writing style, first person with a hint of conversationality. I actually loved Zelazny’s writing so much that in high school I had a notebook where I would write out particular sentences and passages from The Chronicles and analyze them to determine what is was that made me love them so much. Last I recall I had filled 10 pages. This is my favorite. If I’m ever asked what my favorite book is… this is it.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
I read this in science class. Not for a grade, mind you- but in middle school I often found myself surrounded by whole classes of kids who didn’t like school and gave the teachers a really hard time. I, by contrast, loved school and did not hassle teachers. In 7th grade science class I would often finish way earlier on the classwork than the rest of the class, and since I had no friends (…in that class. Yeah, that’s it.) I would grab a book from the shelf on the wall right behind my desk and read until the bell rang. I never asked the teacher if I could do it. She never told me I could. But she did have that shelf stocked…  must have been for that exact purpose. I read the entirety of a 1960s printing of the The Three Musketeers in 10-15 minute increments over the course of that year. And the author, Alexandre Dumas, is the man- did you know his dad rose from being a slave in the Caribbean to being a general for Napoleon? What. Didn’t ya know the author of The Three Musketeers was black?

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (1940)
Okay- I’m not a big Hemingway fan, honestly. The way he writes about love… it makes me think the closest he ever got was possessive lust and so that’s how he wrote it. But this one has a really quality ending. “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.” Exactly, Rob. Exactly. I hope you got that fascist commander before you died of your wounds. I like to think you did.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)
My grandfather sent me a set of tiny leather bound books from 1898 when I was 14. Mostly they were speeches from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson… but one was the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It really got under my skin- I can still SEE the writhing sea snakes to this day. And I was surprised 20 years later when I reread it that it was a poem. I had forgotten.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
I read this twice a year for almost 10 years straight- over Christmas break and summer break. Those old paperbacks with the almost monochromatic covers are the best. Did you know Tolkien drew those covers himself? Multi-talented guy.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1987) and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (1959)
I’ve bought both of these for my daughters, and so have recently reread them. And the writing… wow. It’s not that great in either. But these books absolutely captured me when I was a kid.

The Rats of NIMH  by Robert C. Obrien (1971)
I still remember reading this by Christmas lights while going to sleep under the Christmas tree- in high school. Goes without saying for ALL of the books on this list- but the book is much better than the cartoon/movie. This is the only one on this list with a female protagonist and she’s a damn mouse.

For a Breath I Tarry by Roger Zelazny (1966)
This is in a short story collection called The Last Defender of Camelot, and the short story that has the same title as the collection is pretty no bueno. BUT- another novella in the collection, For a Breath I Tarry, is vitally important to me. Sentient machines after man’s self destruction play out Faust on the post apocalyptical landscape of the North Pole. Dude. READ. IT.

“For a breath I tarry, nor yet disperse apart,

take my hand quick, and tell me

what have you in your heart.”

That’s a line from A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman, but I was able to write that just now by memory thanks to this book.

Mars is Heaven! by Ray Bradbury (1948)
I read this in a Ray Bradbury short story collection from the library when I was in high school. Freaking. Brrrr! It’s so scary, yet with all the scary bits hidden from view. Wowza. I still remember it, and wouldn’t reread it for almost 15 years due to how much it scared me the first round through. And I kinda wish I hadn’t read it again, because it haunted me anew when I did.

The Stand by Stephen King (1978)
I read this while taking a road trip through New England states and was in Vermont and New Hampshire right as the characters in the book are leaving the east coast. It was so cool. My husband couldn’t get through the first half due to all the written out coughing during the pandemic. I see his point, there. This one didn’t shape me as a person- it was a really enjoyable read though.

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny (1993)
Third of Robert Zelazny’s work on this list. This one is just fun, and my husband and I read it every October. The chapters coincide to the days of the month, and it’s fun to restrain yourself to the early days with just a paragraph each on some and stretch yourself on the longer later ones. So fun.

And many of these are out of print- a lot of Zelazny’s are, for sure. But I now buy many books on Ebay. For cheap. I’ve gotten 1896 editions. 1912… all for about $5. I have a Kindle,  but it’s nice to have hard copies of books I really love. I read once that seeing someone reading a book you like is that book recommending the person, and I like that.

Random Words and Random Thoughts

Let’s dust off the ol’ random word generator again:

Fugitive– When I was little we were members of the Irish Cultural Society. Which- let’s talk about this. We’re mutts. Sure my grandmother is an O’Shannessy, but we’re SMALL percentages Irish (my Dad maybe a quarter, me at most an EIGTH)- it’s odd to me that we so picked and chose to play up only certain bits of heritage. Other members of the larger family emphasize the German, even smaller percentages. I guess we all want a bigger connection, but we did it through the denying of other parts of our heritage. It’s weird. And feels like a put on, actually. But at 6 I had no idea about any of that- and so gladly attended Irish Cultural Society meetings. And my parents befriended a guy from Ireland named Jody at the meetings. Who once got blitzed at our house and drunkenly admitted that he was an IRA member and was on the run because of it and that’s why he left Ireland. Now I, to this day, can never figure out if an IRA fugitive was smart to join an Irish Cultural Society (“I’ll hide out in plain sight!”) or if he was just rock stupid. So. Yeah. Weird, right?

Prayer– Never done it. Not even when my daughter was in the hospital over Christmas many years ago, seriously and  frighteningly sick. I never cried out for a higher power to save her, save me, save us. I never reached out even questioningly. I knew any questing for a higher being would just be the crying out of a scared child, alone in the dark, for a parental figure to make it all better. But there is no sky parent behind the veil of darkness. There was only us, doing our best out here on the mortal coil. And I was strong enough to face that. It was that experience that made me an Atheist with a capital A.

Blinking– I wear contacts because I am BLIND without them. 350/20 blind, last I checked. Can barely see the line under the big E on eye charts blind. And contacts are amazing. Truly, the change they make in my life- it’s up there in the miracle department. But that means even the most innocuous blink can be fraught with danger. I take care with my blinking. And eye rubbing. And swimming. Because blindness… it’s only a blink away.

Dancer– I am an AWFUL dancer. I have no sense of rhythm at all. It’s a problem. I actually think that comes from growing up with a Dad who was a musician and lead vocalist in his band. I grew up listening to his words in songs- it’s still how I listen to music. And yet other people listen to baselines in music, or the music as a whole, turns out. It’s hard to dance to the words, I guess. Or maybe it’s because I never had a Dad to teach me to dance, because he was always the one on stage? Maybe a little of that to. But I try. Also, Dancer was the name of the miniature poodle I had when I was a kid. First example of “I’m a big dog person” turns out- because she and I never much cared for each other. The little shit.

 

 

There is a kids’ story or two in here somewhere…

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away… I remember helping my cousin Jennifer collect bugs  once for a school project. And now that I think of it- she was homeschooled so how the hell did that work? Anyway. I caught a huge red wasp in a tupperware container- and it beat against the lid like a drum. And there were a few beetles, maybe a June bug? All I remember is the wasp really (for obvious, scare the hell out of you reasons) and that I was SO good at catching bugs she put me in charge of the jar. (Gee… thanks? Is white-washing the fence fun too?) But anytime she would point out a butterfly I’d only pretend to try to catch it and shoo it away instead. At the end of the day we had enough bugs for her collection and not a single one was a butterfly. I was 10.

And today not only do I grow plants in my garden to attract and feed the adult butterflies I love so well, I grow host plants for their caterpillars to eat too. And while some of the caterpillars are cool, some really display the depth of my devotion because they… well they’re not cute. I have a key lime tree which is the host to my favorite butterfly, the Giant Swallowtail. Who’s caterpillar is basically bird poop. Think I’m kidding?

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Boom. Evolution is wonderfully specific at times.

And then that thing turns into this…

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My Precious!

And I really don’t know why the story was about an ugly duckling turning into a swan… because bird poop turning into a butterfly wins that competition ALL day long.