Friday, October 30, 2009

Instead of writing about my life, I'm filling out a survey. Evidently I'm feeling philosophical tonight.

(1) Do you think it's fair that people who urinate outdoors have to register as sex offenders? Is that even true? Shoot, I pee outside all the time in the summer! But not in front of kids, or anything. I guess if someone whips it out in front of a kid, that would make sense. This is such a weird first question.

(2) When you have a cold what steps do you take to feel better? I don't really know what to do except complain and hope it goes away as quickly as possible. I try to drink water, sleep, do anything to unclog my sinuses.

(3) Have you ever witnessed a couple fighting in public? Yes, yelling, two or three times.

(4) What do you think about people who say they have no regrets in life? It seems to me that everyone must have at least a few regrets, but if anyone doesn't, then more power to them. I think anyone who truly has none, though, has none because they have decided to accept their past and move forward--not because they have ever made only excellent choices.

(5) What are you looking forward to the most in the upcoming months? Oh my gosh, Christmas. And Sara being home for a while.

(6) Describe what it was like growing up in your house? There is a lot of love in my immediate family, but a lot of pain, confusion, and frustration, too. But love, and humor, and forgiveness as much as possible.

(7) Have you ever ended a friendship because it wasn't good for your own well being? Generally speaking, I try not to start friendships that aren't good for my wellbeing. I haven't cut any off, but I've let a few drift--not that the relationships were intrinsically bad, but worrying about them was.

(8) Have any family recipes been handed down to you? Well, to my mom. I haven't gotten copies of them all for myself yet, though I should and I want to.

(9) If it made your mother happy would you wear her old wedding dress and get married in it? Her dress was lost in a move, or something. If we had it though, and she really wanted me to, and if it fit me, I would consider wearing it.

(10) If you're having a horrible day can people tell, or do you tend to try to hide it? I can hide it if I can forget about it.

(11) Hate is a strong word, do you honestly hate someone? No. This reminds me of that line in Ender's Game: "In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him." True, deep understanding of another person births a love for that person. It follows then that hatred stems from a lack of understanding. I don't tend toward hate, but when I dislike, I try to remind myself that I don't understand.

(12) Do you believe in psychics? I've never met or seen/heard any that I trusted, but I guess I believe in the possibility. I tend to believe things (in a vague sense) rather than disbelieve them, I guess. Also I've dreamed the future before (unfortunately, not in a useful way), so it's hard for me to completely write off weird mental "powers."

(13) Have you ever had a session with a psychic medium or clairvoyant? Nope.

(14) If they imposed a water ban in your town but it was 95 degrees out, would you really conserve water? Yes. Anyway 95 is annoying, but not that bad. Talk to me when it's 110 and I can't use water. Still though, I could just go to the pool. Or...turn on the AC...

(15) Have you ever let anyone live with you because they were having a hard time? I haven't, but I would.

(16) Would you vote on a law and pay extra taxes if they were trying to pass a law that would make all domestic animal owners spay and neuter their animals? No, because A) it would never happen, and B) we'd pretty much kill off a bunch of species, at least within the US. I mean, cats and dogs would be ok (as long as nobody wanted purebred anything ever again), but what about ferrets?

(17) Is there anyone who can tell how you're feeling just by looking at you? Sometimes it's obvious that anyone can. Even when it's not, though, Sara could probably tell how I was feeling by looking at my arm or something. It's crazy. Kelly sometimes, too. (More what I'm thinking, though--today we were driving somewhere and I saw some house decorations and gasped. She said, "Marie, those are Halloween decorations, not Christmas. They're orange." She read my mind, for real. I just saw twinkle lights and got all excited, before I registered the color.)

(18) Are you counting down the days to anything? I do sometimes, but not at the moment.

(19) Do you really think the world will end? Of course--everything ends, eventually. I hear that at the end of its lifespan the sun will swell and engulf the innermost planets. Hopefully we'll have branched out a little by then.

(20) Do you have a passport? Yes.

(21) If you're husband/wife had to go over seas for two years would you honestly wait that long for them? If my husband went overseas, I assume I'd be going with him.

(22) Does it get you angry when you see people who get public assistance - (food stamps - free housing etc) Buying expensive seafood and driving around in very expensive cars? I don't see that, but it definitely would. There are people who need monetary help, but I am pretty offended by people that don't need it and get it anyway. We don't have the resources for that crap.

(23) Is there anyone you would risk your own life for? Absolutely.

(24) Is there any part of your town that you refuse to go to because it's such a high crime neighborhood? There are some neighborhoods I wouldn't really want to visit even in the daytime without business, because I've been told by residents (friends of mine) that sometimes just being a stranger will put you in danger, but it's not like I wouldn't go there at all.

(25) If you slept with your doors unlocked at night would you really feel safe? In the area where I currently live, sure. But there are a lot of areas (probably most) where I would not.

26) Do you consider it sexual harassment if a co worker told you a dirty joke? That would really depend on the existing relationship and on the attitude of the coworker. I've been told a lot of dirty jokes that did not constitute sexual harrassment, but I've been told a few that absolutely, most definitely did.

(27) Do you know anyone who was accused of a sexual crime and they were later found innocent? No.

(28) Do you think most parents overreact about pedophiles and sexual offenders? I don't really know how parents act about pedophiles and sex offenders, but personally I feel like pedophiles are pretty close to the lowest of the low, and I would not want any to be anywhere near my kids. That being said, I really feel for people who did something stupid like sleeping with a 17 year old when they were 21 or whatever, and then get stuck with the "sex offender" gig for the rest of their lives. I don't think that is in any way fair or productive. In that sense, I don't think it's a black and white thing at all.

(29) Do you think first time drug offenders that are severly addicted to narcotics should be given the chance to rehabilitate themselves before going to prison? Yes, definitely. The key word there though is chance--there's no point in their going to rehab if they don't feel like they have a problem. And rehab is expensive, but so is prison--and prison doesn't solve any problems.

(30) Have you ever been part of a jury? No.

(31) Do you think someone who kills another person in self defense should be charged with murder? I think that should probably be a case-by-case thing, though obviously precedent should have a lot of influence. I mean, people in two nearly identical situations should not get different sentences.

(32) Do you think Barbie & Ken are a positive or negative influence on children? I don't really know. I never played with Barbie and Ken. I guess if girls are going to try to look like her, then yeah. Honestly I think pop stars and "Bratz" are a lot worse.

(33) What do you miss most about your past? I miss living closer to more of the people I love.

(34) Have you ever purposely called someone and hung up just to hear their voice? No..

(35) Are you afraid of going to the doctors because you may hear bad news? That's not a fear so much as a certainty. Usually though, the reason I don't want to go for stuff is because I'm sick of getting told stuff I already knew and then getting charged for it. What? That's a weird looking rash? No shit. Here's 50 bucks. This sort of thing has happened to me multiple times. At this point I've decided that if I can't figure out what it is, and it doesn't seem life-threatening, I'm not going, because odds are they aren't going to know what it is either.

(36) Would you donate one of your kidneys to a family member? Absolutely. Or a friend. Or whoever came to me and needed it.

(37) If your sister couldn't have a child Would you carry a baby for her? I'm not sure. I have this terror about childbirth. But for Chloe, yeah, I guess I probably would.

(38) Have you ever protested anything? Not in a "going to a protest" sort of way. I don't seem to have the emotional energy for activism. Conversations, yes. Evangelism? No.

(39) Have you ever considered a life of crime? No.

(40) With which family member do you have the strongest relationship? I'm not sure. Probably my little sister, at this point. I love her more than just about anything.

(41) Do you donate the blood? Every time I've had a chance, there's been some reason I can't do it! I think my blood is legally clean now though, since I haven't been to any malaria-infested countries recently.

(42) Have you ever gone to a benefit dinner? I think so.

(43) Have you ever helped raise money for your church? Some? But not for a long time. I haven't really had a home church for a long time.

(44) Do you believe everything happens for a reason? In terms of cause and effect, yes, absolutely. In terms of God causing all kinds of shit to happen as a part of his plan? Not really, no. I don't believe, for instance, that I dropped my power converter on the floor this morning and cursed as a part of some grand scheme. I don't believe that my friend Chris was supposed to kill himself last week to make way for anything. But I think I do believe that things are the way they were always going to be. I think that there's a God, up there, somewhere, all around and through us, and although I don't think he wanted Chris to end his own life after only 21 years on Earth, I think he knew that Chris would. And he sent him to us anyway, to live here and bless us for twenty one years and eleven days. I guess I think the gift of free will made us almost like partners in the planning of the world, you know? Obviously we have the freedom to make choices. I chose (though it didn't feel that way at the time) to fight with my mom this morning. I don't think anything outside myself made me do that. I don't think it happened for a reason in that sense. But I think it was always going to happen.

(45) Do you think that you're really never given more than you can handle? This is a question I turn over in my head a lot. For me, it all comes down to your definition of "handle." What does that even mean? That I haven't killed myself, so it must follow that I haven't been given "more than I can handle?" If, on the other hand, "handle" means "bear easily and with grace," then yes, I have been given more than I can handle at times. But as nice as I sometimes think it would be if the adage were true and read "God will never give you more than you can bear easily and with grace," I'm not sure that's what it means.

(46) What is something you'll just never understand? Darkness. In the metaphorical sense. Obviously that's a really vague answer, and of course there are aspects of pain and darkness that I DO understand, at least to a point. I guess it's the whole concept. Why does it have to exist? I get that it propagates itself, but why did it have to start? There's the eternal question of what separates humans from animals, right? Here's the answer: humanity is the race that fucks itself up. Lately I've been blaming it on language. Language is Pandora's Box. I could go on for a while about that, so I guess I'll shut up on it for now.

(47) Are you easily confused? Depends on the territory. In general though, I don't think I am.

(48) Do you follow politics? Not as much as I should. (Actually, not really at all.) I know it's important, but I can't seem to make myself care, most of the time.

(49) Who do you think the next President of the United States will be? How should I know? A lot can happen in four years.

(50) Do you tend to ask a lot of questions when you don't understand something? That depends. If it's something I don't really care about: no. If it's something I feel like I should know already: depends on how comfortable I am in the current company. If it's something I do care about, then sure. I'd be more likely, though, to just look it up at home later.

(51) Do you think the staff at nursing homes are mostly caring or mostly cold hearted? I'm sure there are a lot of people who work there because they have a passion or a love for the work that they do, and I'm sure there are a lot of people who just need a job. I can't really speak for "most."

(52) Where do you think prison inmates get most of their drugs from? Never having been in prison, I really couldn't say. Hidden in packages? Snuck in by visitors? Bought off crooked guards? I don't know.

(53) Have you ever cried because of the misfortune of someone you didn't even know? Almost certainly, though I can't remember a specific instance right now.

(54) Do you think people who abuse animals should be given the same punishment that people who abuse people get? I don't think either of those groups gets the punishment they deserve for the lasting pain that they inflict.

(55) If you could have a five minute conversation with Michael Vick what would you say to him? Hey, what's up? Your name sounds familiar. This is some weather, huh? Hey where'd you get those shoes?

(56) What time of the day are you at your best? I don't think there's any particular time. I tend to be more creative after midnight, though.

(57) How do you make the best of a bad situation? Sometimes I just have to walk away. Sometimes I can talk myself through it. Sometimes I disassociate from my emotions.

(58) Have you ever had to choose sides? Yeah, but generally I try to avoid that, and either just stay out of it or mediate instead.

(59) Should smoking be banned, even from households and cars? Honestly, even though I sometimes find myself thinking it sexy in some way, smoking is disgusting, dirty, expensive, and unhealthy for everyone in the vicinity. I wish no one smoked at all, but passing a law wouldn't accomplish that.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The end, I guess.

His funeral was last night, at a place in Knoxville that seats 400. There wasn't even standing room. There were people six deep outside the building. While we were going through the line to hug his family before the service, I was looking around at the flowers and the people and the slide show of pictures of Chris, and fighting against my instinct of denial, trying to get myself to believe what was happening. Then I glanced toward the front of the line and there he was, cold and grey in the open casket. I just lost it a little bit when I saw him. I'm having a hard time really keeping it together now. Even though, even as I write this, I still can't wrap my head around what's happened, when I saw him lying there I knew for that moment that it was all real, all undeniably true, and it was unbearable. It is unbearable. I literally can't bring myself to think about it for very long.

He was in some debt, which evidently seemed insurmountable at that moment.
He and his girlfriend, with whom he was in love and with whom he was very angry, had broken up.

He had been out drinking.

He hanged himself in the garage after he came home, and was found by his mother when she returned from the gym in the morning.

I think his youngest brother (Paul, 14 and normally effervescent) put it well when he spoke at the funeral: "Chris William Duncan would never do this--" but the alcohol messed with his head, I guess. It was just so completely out of character that it seems almost impossible, even in retrospect. I don't think any of us knew a friendlier guy. He made everyone feel like they were valuable and special. I wish he would have done the same for himself.

He was cremated this morning, at 8:30. He was wearing the same beat-up khakis he always did, and his basketball shoes--the ones that matched Paul's and his dad's.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chris's death

Even after all this crying, calling, planning, and aching, every one more minute I live is just one more confirmation like a kick in the gut that it's true, that this isn't a dream, that I'm not going to wake up and find him still alive, smiling and laughing like always. I want to vomit. I want to vomit. I want to vomit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Obviously I was never an advocate for suicide, but as someone who's considered it in the past, I've always sort of defended the idea, a little bit. I can understand the constant rollercoaster of emotion, dipping down further, longer, steeper than it climbs up. I can understand the feeling that life just isn't worth it. I can understand feeling as though you're less than nothing--feeling like a negative space, a waste of resources, a drain on everyone around you.

But when Chris killed himself yesterday, it wasn't about that, at least as far as I know. All I know is that our hearts are smashed and running all over the floor.

What about your life, Chris? What about your little brothers? What about your mom and dad? What about us? What are we supposed to do now? I keep hoping it's some kind of sick joke. I keep waiting to wake up, or for someone to tell me it didn't really happen. I just can't believe that it's true. How can it be true?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh! And! And!

I got my car back! Temporarily. Or, semi-temporarily. Who knows. My uncle has had it because he was going to fix this leak in the radiator, and, you know, time has passed. He's got a lot going on, I can (strictly speaking) survive without it, my parents owed him some money, etc. I was over there helping out today, and discovered that I'd need the car (fif he could send me home in it) this weekend, and he fixed it! Or patched it, more like.

See, actually the leak wasn't technically in my radiator--it was in my heater core. However, as the radiator fluid runs through the heater was still causing me to lose all my radiator fluid. And I do mean all. So today what we did was bypass the heater core, thus essentially removing the leak. That doesn't make sense, but you know what I mean. The fluid doesn't circulate through there anymore, so it doesn't leak. Also, I don't have any heat in my car. Or, a defroster. But that's ok! Because I can drive up to see David! Hell yes.

Why I Love XKCD (Blogger exhibit A)

This is me and David, I'm pretty sure:

Hovertext: "I mean, seriously, NOWHERE? For starters, there are like a thousand species of dinosaur."

Some backstory here:* I have a small collection of dinosaurs in my room, one of which I fashioned out of papier-mache. He is a Stegosaurus, and his name is Roger. He was our sophomore year mascot in college. I love to talk about dinosaurs (in a non-factual way--I don't know anything.) David bought me the Dinosaurus, a rather large textbook of dinosaurs, when he was in Turkey. So, yes. Dinosaurs.

*Sometimes I get a little colon-obsessed. Grammatically speaking.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And another thing.

This dog really is cute. She just stared up at me from the floor, and the second I spoke to her, she jumped up and settled down against my leg.

That being said, Faith really cannot (or will not) stand her. Earlier I cautiously let Miley out into the living room where Faith and Little Bit (other, much older dog) were curled up in front of the fire, reasoning that I'd just grab Miley and separate them if she misbehaved. But she was good! She was a little interested in Faith, but when I told her to leave the cat alone, she did. Faith, on the other hand, growled almost constantly, increasingly so, every time Miley was anywhere near her. Eventually Miley came a little close to Faith's chair (in the process of retrieving a ball), and Faith freaked and started swiping at her. Of course this got Miley upset at her, and she started jumping up and barking. What the heck, Faith? I know you're an old cat and everything, but the dog was almost completely ignoring you. Chill.

Anyway, this really upset me. I am aware that my reaction was over the top and kind of ridiculous, but I started to cry a little a few minutes later, in the middle of an attempt to eat a bowl of cereal. I guess I'm not over whatever it is that's been making me weepy and dramatic. Stress, I guess it must be. Over this new dog and her not getting along with the other animals, and over living with my parents and not being able (so far) to find a good job, and feeling like a failure for it, and over being so far away from so many of the people that matter most to me. Kelly and Jr and a few others, all of whom I should see more often, are in town, but several of us don't have good transportation and some of us don't have much money, and some of us don't have much time, and I've always been terrible at socializing with people. It just doesn't come naturally to me. Usually it doesn't even occur to me to call. But still, I miss so many people. Lindsey and the babies are in New York, John's in NoVa, all the Ericksons are in Arkansas (except one, who's in Boston), Fran and Susannah are in Pa, Katie's in Fla, Victoria's off at college in Western Va, a bunch of people are in Fredericksburg, Sara's in L.A., and David, of course, is in Front Royal. I know it could be much worse, but still, it can be more than a little frustrating.


I apologize for the horrendous disjointed and nonsensical nature of the previous entry. Clearly I was paying more attention to the fact that I want to go back to bed (at 1:47 pm. Want to know when I got up? 11.) than to what I was writing. Oh well. Just insert your own transitional phrases.
It looks like we have a new puppy. Or maybe she's not really a puppy--maybe jack russell terriers are permanently psychotic. It's hard to say. Anyway, sweet as she is, I'm not all that excited about her arrival, but she's my brothers and I guess he has the right to love an animal for his own if he wants to. Her name is Miley and when you let her run, it's honestly as though you've pushed "fast forward" on her legs. It's crazy to watch, and crazier to try to keep up. She does make me laugh, but she can be pretty exasperating. And our cat, Faith, is of course not a big fan.

Actually, I've just Wikipedia'd the name (not being in the practice of discussing dog breeds, I wasn't sure about the capitalization), and it turns out that she's actually just a Russell Terrier, and that Jack Russell aficionados can get a little uppity about the difference. Pardon me. My mistake.

I take issue with the fact that people who post job ads on Craigslist do not, generally speaking, respond to applicants. Even when they specifically state that they will "respond promptly" to applicants. I mean, come on, people! Do you want to hire someone or not? If the position has been filled, it isn't that hard to let me know. Or to simply remove the ad.

I, like many people (and, I suppose, unlike many others), think that fall is pretty great. However, I think that I would think everything was pretty greater if I had a damn full-time job. And my own freaking car back. I'm just saying.

"I do have a test today; that wasn't bullshit. It's on European Socialism. I mean really, what's the point? I'm not European, I don't plan on being European, so who gives a crap if they're socialist? They could be fascist anarchists for all I care. It still wouldn't change the fact that I don't own a car.
It's not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter--isms, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an ism--he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: 'I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.' A good point there. After all, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus... I'd still have to bum rides off of people."
I was going to write who said this, but then again, if you don't know already, I probably don't want to talk to you.*

Thanks to my lack of money and dependable transportation, and also the fact that one of my favorite people lives 2.5 hours away and another lives across the country in L.A. at the moment, there is next to nothing going on in my life right now. My apologies for my utter lack of anything interesting to say.

*That's a total lie. Anyway, Ferris Bueller said it.

Sofas: switched!

There is just nothing like rearranging furniture. I love it. I haven't been using my camera much lately though (and also I don't really want to be complaining about things very much), so this is shaping up to be a pretty boring entry.

The end.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Folk Festival

In case there is anyone out there who is not aware of the fact that the Richmond Folk Festival, held annually on the river at Brown's Island and historic Tredegar Ironworks, exists and is amazing... there you go. It does, and it is, and you should go. If you are nowhere near Richmond come October and you are lazy/busy/not rich, then there are actually other folk festivals around, as well! Good times can be had by all! The best part about this festival, I'd say, is the freeness of it. That you get to drive to downtown Richmond, park someplace where you will (hopefully) not get towed, and walk straight into the festival. There are people at the entrance, but they are handing out event schedules and telling you to have a good time. It is fantastic. Three days of sunny (mostly), free, friendly musical awesomeness. Also, if you've lived in Richmond forever, as I have, you will probably be running into a bunch of people that you know. That's pretty great, too. Of course, David's being there two out of the three days didn't really hurt, either.

Richmond Folk Festival 2009 Slideshow |

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Not to put too fine a point on it, but... FML.

I applied for a writing/editing position today, and eventually received this reply:

 "You need to know that when you send an experienced editor a resume, any spelling or grammar flaw is going to be noticed instantly."

I knew this! I know this! I proofread! But, evidently, not well enough to catch "Universty."


I am mortified. I nearly cried.


Scratch that, I did cry. Good and hard, but as quietly as possible, considering that there are other people in the house, and I don't want any sympathy or anyone around when I'm crying, generally speaking. On the upside though, I was able to wash my face until it cooled down enough to pass without notice at the dinner table for a good ten minutes, and by then I apparently looked normal enough to shrug off the one comment that was made.

I've given myself this pep talk: I will not believe that I am a failure. I will not believe that I am worthless. I will not allow myself to believe that I will never get out of this. I will not despair.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The world is a strange place, and I'll never understand any of it--not really.  But I hope that "from space" (metaphorically speaking), there's more beauty than horror.

"...And every time you feel like crying, well I'll try and make you laugh. And if you can't, if it just hurts too bad, then we'll wait for it to pass, and I will keep you company through those days so long and black. And we'll keep working on the problem we know we'll never solve, 'cause in love's uneven remainders, our lives are fractions of a whole. But if the world could remain within a frame, like a painting on a wall, I think we'd see the beauty, then, we'd stand staring in awe at our still lives posed, like a bowl of oranges, like a story told of the fault lines in the soul."

(Bright Eyes, Bowl of Oranges)

Forgive the odd punctuation, if it is in fact odd. The phrasing in the song is strange, so it was a little difficult for me to decide where I should put the commas. Commas aside, though, those are some of my favorite song lyrics. Sometimes they give a lot of comfort.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Favorite Foods* (a work in progress)

chips and salsa (I'm not that picky).

peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

toast soaked in "soppins," aka juice from whatever meat was served at dinner.

...steak (medium) and eggs (over easy) with hash browns.

grits with cheddar cheese, bits of country ham, and salsa. maybe with some egg, too.

hard boiled egg smashed up with butter (or smart balance!), salt, and pepper.

ramen noodles, but with the water drained before adding the flavoring, and some milk and butter. (so healthy, right? I know.)

tuna salad with onion, apple, celery, pickle relish, mayonnaise.

black tea with too much sugar.

tropicana orange juice with calcium and vitamin d.

lahmacun and mercimek corbasi from adana.

fresh crab, straight out of the shell, with butter, old bay, or mayonnaise (preferably homemade).

*mayo haters need not apply.

The sort of thing my mom makes up on the spur of the moment:

Ritz cracker with homemade horseradish-and-srirachi sauce mayonnaise, homemade horseradish, olive-oil-and-vinegar-soaked garbanzo beans, and raw red onion. So delicious.

About the weekend:

Kelly and I drove up to Bethlehem, Pa (by which of course I mean, Kelly drove and I rode up to Pa) Friday afternoon, shortly after I lost my drivers' license and didn't realize it. We finally got to Susannah's house around 9 or so I think, just before Susannah got back from the airport with Sara and Brian. (Yay!) We all hung around for a little while, I made everyone look at my new boots, we ate at McDonald's (since all non-fast-food places were closed at that point), we came back and started planning wedding things. Sara, being the ridiculously in-control person that she is, has made Susannah a wedding folder with sections for each category that needs to be planned, and has also made an enormous all-inclusive time line of everything that needs to be done before the wedding. This is, of course, in addition to buying wedding-planning books and wedding magazines. (Also, we watch "Bridezilla," "Say Yes To The Dress," and other wedding planning and cake decorating shows. For research purposes, of course.) So Sara and Susannah went through parts of Sara's list, talking about things to be done and making decisions where possible, which occasional interjections from Kelly, Brian, and myself. Most of Brian's interjections were groggy confusedness, though, when we tried to talk to him--he was jet lagged and had been awake for a very long time.

Another main feature of this weekend was everyone teasing me about my upcoming marriage to David. We are not engaged, by the way. There was some teasing directed at Kelly, regarding the extent to which she and Jr are meant for each other, but she seems to have adopted the "go along with it" approach. That cut down on the teasing quite a bit, I'd say. Anything directed at Sara couldn't really qualify as teasing, since she and Brian really do plan on getting hitched as soon as they can afford it. That pretty much left me. It wasn't bad, though. I think the scariest part was the extent to which wedding planning seems to make girls go wedding crazy. Or maybe just me. Or me, Kelly, and Sara, since Susannah's other two college-friend bridesmaids didn't seem to be very much affected. Still, at the moment, I think that's what I'll chalk it up to.

Saturday we slept in, then ate out at a microbrewery, where I realized that I didn't have my license. It was good times. Then we went grocery shopping and ran back to Susannah's house to meet Betsy and Jen, her other two bridesmaids. Sara (and Kelly and I, some) worked on more planning and Betsy and Jen worked on the guest list, and Susannah tried to split her attention between both groups. Wal-Mart was briefly visited. Beauty and the Beast was watched. Wedding shows are liberally scattered throughout the weekend. Beef and chicken tacos were had by all.

Sunday we again slept in, though less so (much to Susannah's and my chagrin, as we were sharing a room and had talked until 4:30 am). We brunched on delicious sandwiches which were, as was most of the cooking, compliments of Sara, and then piled into two cars to go try on bridesmaid dresses. The stipulations were: satin, cornflower blue, length somewhere around the knees. Also, they all ended up being strapless. Kelly and Betsy both picked a pretty a-line that fell below the knees enough that they will need hemming, Jen picked a shorter a-line dress, and Sara and I picked separates that I can't describe well because I suck at this sort of thing. There are pictures, but they're on Kelly's camera. I'm a little sad that mine will be blue when they ship it to me instead of the red I tried on, but I should still be able to wear the top and skirt again separately, so that's nice. (I have heard that brides always claim that bridesmaid dresses can be shortened and worn again, but I think and hope that this time, it's actually true.)

After dress shopping came shoe shopping, despite the fact that it is currently fall, and we needed spring shoes. Sale rack to the rescue. I found three pairs--one of which was hot pink. Go figure. (The pair for the wedding was white though, of course.) We went to the Lehigh Valley mall for lunch/early dinner, which doesn't have a food court. Instead it has restaurants scattered around the mall. What?

Susannah's accessories had come in to David's Bridal, so back at her house we got to see her all decked out in her beautiful dress, sash, veil, and tiara-thing. She looked amazing. Betsy had to head home shortly thereafter, and Sara, Brian, and I all turned in relatively early, since we were all planning to leave before noon the next day. Kelly, Susannah, and Jen stayed up and watched the game.

Monday morning we all finished off the sandwich fixings and headed out--Kelly and I first. As I mentioned, I had been hoping to go stay with David for the week, but apparently that wasn't meant to be. We visited Kelly's paternal grandmother, whom I had not seen since early childhood, hung out for a few hours, and came home.

Here lies the end of another whirlwind adventure.

Monday, October 5, 2009


 The paragraphs below were written via text messages to my email inbox while riding home in the car from a bridesmaids' weekend in Pa. I had planned to visit David, as I thought we'd be taking the route back that would take us past Front Royal, and Kelly had agreed to drop me off, but as the afternoon progressed (and I desperately held on to my hopeless hope of a visit), it finally became clear to me that for multiple reasons (Kelly didn't feel well, we were visiting her grandmother and so not going near Front Royal, David has a cold, Kelly needed to get home to take care of her dog), I wasn't going to be able to go. He and I haven't seen each other in about two weeks, and I had a little emotional crash--pulling my hood up and curling into a ball, and trying not to cry loud enough to be heard. Possibly an overreaction, but to put it mildly, I had really been looking forward to the visit. Anyway, I found myself going to that "this just isn't worth it" place. Later, in the middle of reading an essay about aging, death, and dying from Best American Essays 2006 (of which, so far, I can only say that I hope the book was misnamed), I texted this to my email address:

Writing every day doesn't seem to be an activity at which I excel. I tell myself that all these daily devotions, writings, exercises, prayers, somethings will simply come easy when I 'get on a schedule,' but when will that ever happen? Maybe by the time I die, or maybe by then I will have given in to the mental exhaustion that accompanies constant working to Be Better. Or maybe I will have finally learned to "go with the flow"--to live and love, and to genuinely enjoy life, instead of thinking of giving up whenever I slide* into this "life just isn't worth the effort" mode. Why is it so easy to suddenly find myself there? How can I build a buffer? Will time help? Habitual happiness? Is that something I can find or build? I have been working so hard at it. I have been doing so much better. But "not worth it" is, apparently, still just a state of exhaustion and a disappointment away. How could I give myself to anyone, without being able to trust myself?  Knowing that I might slip away forever at any time?

But maybe I should be grateful for and hopeful over the fact that I have been doing so well, and that I am only bored and tired ("not worth the effort"), and not flashing to ashes inside. You know, knock-on-wood.

*What I was meaning to say was that I need to stop sliding there.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Some things.

Last night I turned out my light, fell backwards onto my pillow, and my mattress collapsed. There's sort of a jury-rigged (jerry-rigged? I wonder this every time) setup going on with my bed frame--there's a cast-iron frame that was my mom's when she was a girl, and then set inside of that is a piece of the bed frame my sister used to use, which is antique and doesn't actually fit any non-antique mattresses, but is supposed to have a mattress sit inside of it rather than on top, and then on top of that (not inside) is a mattress set from my great-aunt's estate. It seemed all right when we put it there, but apparently it's a little precarious. Anyway at 2 am, in my pj's with no contacts, I had to pull out the stuff from underneath my bed, slide into the space that was left, and bench-press this ridiculously heavy mattress back into position. It was a good time.

Also: that hot pink silk jacket I was all upset about? It was still there. I got it. It is mine.

Off to Pa for a weekend of bridesmaidey things!

The Prerogative of the Essayist

Everyone, by which I mean a handful of essayists whom I have read and or had the honor of being taught by, seems to enjoy pointing out to me that, in the essay, actual facts don't actually matter. As an English major, hypocritical and spotty perfectionist, and person interested in science, this assertion really irks me. Of course facts matter. They are facts. I don't see the disconnect here.

However, in the interest of exploration, magnanimousness, and self-entertainment, I have decided that I plan to write an essay with little to no regard for actual facts. I will misuse words, misquote my sources, and prod the universe into whatever jello mold my fancy demands.

Considering my record regarding the carrying out of my grand spur-of-the-moment plans, and the fact that even writing the above paragraph makes me wince, this essay may not happen.

But then again, it might.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Rude Reawakening.

Emily Bernard says in her essay "Teaching The N-Word" that, as a black woman living in America, even as a black woman married to a white man, she still finds herself fearing that the word "nigger" is hiding at the back of white people's throats. She writes,

"Here is a story for your [African-American Lit] students," John tells me. We are in the car, on our way to Cambridge for the weekend. "The only time I ever heard 'nigger' in my home growing up was when my father's cousin was over for a visit. It was 1988, I remember. Jesse Jackson was running for president... 'I'm going to vote for the nigger,' my father's cousin said. 'He's the only one who cares about the workingman.'"
John laughs. He often laughs when he hears something extraordinary, bad or good.
"That's fascinating," I say.
The next time class meets, I tell my students this story.
"So what do we care about in this sentence?" I say. "The fact that John's father's cousin used a racial epithet, or the fact that his voting for Jackson conveys a kind of ultimate respect for him? Isn't his voting for Jackson more important for black progress than how his father's cousin feels?"
I don't remember what the students said. What I remember is that I tried to project for them a sense that I was untroubled by saying "nigger," by my husband's saying "nigger," by his father's cousin's having said "nigger," by his parents'--my in-laws'--tolerance of "nigger" in their home, years ago, before I came along...It's an intellectual issue, I beamed at them, and then I directed it back at myself. It has nothing to do with how it makes me feel.

Perhaps I shouldn't be writing this yet, because I haven't finished reading the essay, but since I'm already writing anyway.. so far this has been hard for me to read. It's been hard for me to be reminded that this is a constant issue in people's lives. Two of my best guy friends are black (please excuse me for writing that sentence--it's isn't meant as the typical white-woman "I'm-not-racist-because" excuse), and I see it in their lives, but, like so many people I suppose, it's easy for me to forget things that I don't want to remember. Sometimes.

One of these guys gets pulled over on a regular basis. Once he was pulled at three o'clock in the afternoon, by two cops at the same time, because one of his front headlights was out. And there is no pretending that that isn't racist bullshit.

I was lucky enough to grow up until late in high school thinking that racism was a problem that had been dealt with and conquered during the civil rights movement. My parents are pretty good about judging people based on things other than their socioeconomic status or their skin color or religion, and I grew up going to a summer camp that had, if not equal parts black and white kids, more black kids than white. I never noticed until I was on staff. I have always known that there were disproportionate ratios in terms of race across the socioeconomic spectrum, but I always attributed that to the fact that it takes a little while for people to work up in the world, and assumed that the issue was on the way to correcting itself. I wish I hadn't been so wrong.

When I read of Bernard's fears, my immediate reaction, other than sadness, is to think, "That's awful! Why would she think that?" Next to question myself, but before reading this essay I'd have no more thought to call anyone "'nigger" than I'd have thought to call Andromeda a minnow. It wasn't even on my radar. It wasn't even on a list of  "things not to do." It hurts and angers and confuses me to realize that there are so many people all over the world for whom that isn't true.

A normally very sweet (to adults, anyway), respectful, well-behaved Chinese boy at the dorm last year told me that he was a little scared of black people. He got along fine with all the black kids in the dorm, of course (my observation, not his)--but he was frightened by the 'ghetto' culture. I guess it's all too easy to see any culture and think of the people that compose it as legos--all identical, all for no purpose but to comprise the culture in question--and even to see all people who look similar to those living in a certain culture as legos as well. Really though, that's like saying "I hate movies. All movies. Because theaters have bad lighting and that freaks me out." Not all movies ever show in theaters. Not all theaters show the same kinds of movies. Even in one theater, a vast array of completely different movies play. And anyway, a theater is just a venue. Usually, the movie itself doesn't have anything to do with the theater at all.

Honestly, forget worrying about who "discovered" America first and whether to teach religion or science in science class (btw, I'm Christian and I still say "science." Religion for religion class, science for science class. How is this even an issue?)--grab those kids the second they hit the school system and make sure they understand that, biologically speaking, they are no different from any other human. Yes, a lot of complicated questions arise when we start talking about differences between cultures and which cultures and dialects are preferred and whether or not that's fair or right, but let's not enter into a single one of those discussions until we understand this: we are all the same. We are all brothers and sisters.

How did I get to be so weird?

Alright, so I've been thinking of a couple of things I wanted to say since whenever it was I last posted on here, and the first is this: I like pink. I mean, I'm really starting to like pink. Anyone who doesn't know the ridiculous details of all my little eccentricities would probably be thinking at this juncture something along the lines of "Yeah? So?" And I understand that. But speaking as someone who has for the last fourteen years or so steadfastly maintained a dislike for pretty much anything strongly associated with frilliness or femininity, the fact that I'm pretty upset over missing out on this one blindingly bright pink baggy silk jacket at the thrift store is more than a little weird for me.

Second, this (not the "pink" thing, but another weirdity) has been something I've recognized as an issue for a long time, but have never (that I remember) been able to put my finger on until last night: I am embarrassed about having emotions. Obviously, logically, I know that pretty much everyone has emotions, and therefore it is safe to assume that everyone I meet, should they assume anything about me, safely and rightly assumes that I also have emotions. But still, for example, I sometimes get this twinge of embarrassment when I'm affectionate toward David in public, especially if there's someone else around that I know. And it is not even a little bit about David-- it is about me being ashamed to admit that I have romantic feelings for another human. You know what's one of the things that worries me most about being married someday? I worry about getting pregnant. Right now you're probably thinking that I don't want kids, or if you know me a little better, that I am terrified to the point of feeling ill when I think too closely about childbirth. (Despite the fact that I want to have kids, I am that terrified sometimes.) Those aren't the reasons. Here is the reason: should I become pregnant, people will know how that happened. Specifically, people would know that I was the sort of person that has sex. Ignoring the verb tense issues in that sentence... I am a freak.