My friend's son, H, stayed with us last week. He’s obsessed with all things Marvel, and his mother gave us permission to watch some of Thor: Ragnarok with him. You know, special treat, stay up late, see Thor shake his hair out of his ponytail a lot and lose his hammer.
At one point H looked up at us and asked, “But is Loki a good guy or a bad guy?”
I was tempted to whip out some fanfiction and go through all the tomes of creative work that have tried to answer that question. But the poor kid is still in pre-school, so I kept things a bit simpler. “Sometimes he makes good choices, and sometimes he makes bad choices,” I told him. I waited for the follow-up, but H became engrossed with an action scene. The conversation died there.
Then John McCain passed away yesterday, and the question of what makes someone a "good guy" or a "bad guy" is on my mind again.
John McCain has always been, from my perspective, a heroic figure fraught with complication. He was a war hero who was far, far braver than I could ever have imagined being. He put forward bills and government policies that I often admired and supported. In a political era where so many people seem unable to put the good of the country above their own power, he was frequently willing to do so. And, possibly most importantly, he was almost always able to work with those of other parties and other beliefs.
But there were also times when he seemed to make choices that were more in his own interest than the interest of the country. There were moments when he made choices that certainly hurt people, all in the name of supporting his own career or keeping his party in power.
Here I could start waxing poetic about how there are no good guys or bad guys and it’s all a matter of perspective, but I don’t believe that for a second. That type of thinking has always brought dangerous consequences to humanity. There is objective, moral truth in the world. Some choices Loki makes are objectively good, and some choices are objectively bad. Some choices John McCain made were good, and some were bad. Some choices I make each day are good, and some are bad. None of us are all one or the other, and none of our choices are exempt from being held to objective, moral standards.
Today I am very sad that John McCain is gone. I do believe he acted out of good intentions far more often than he acted out of bad or selfish intentions. When we look at the history of his record, that record reflects that he was a “good guy” more often than he was not. And I like to think that’s the measure we’re all judged on at the end. None of us will leave this world with perfect records. But what will our balance sheets look like? Which column will stack up higher? Loki will get to work on his balance sheet throughout the course of Marvel’s existence. (Unless Avengers: Infinity War never gets a sequel.) The rest of us only have a finite amount of time to work with. None of us will ever make all the right choices, and none of our heroes will either. But John McCain’s record shows, I think, that he was worthy of many of the capes people have placed on his memory.
RIP, John McCain. Thank you for working across party lines. Thank you for fighting for this country in ways most of us can ever imagine doing. Thank you for reminding us that we all must grow out of the phase where we see “good guys” and “bad guys” so that we are able to see people for their individual choice and moments--for their actions taken and not taken. Thank you for all of the incredibly difficult actions you took on behalf of others during your life.
I hope John McCain, like Thor and Loki, gets his own sequel someday, somewhere. In fact, I hope all of us do.
I definitely have the right friends in my life because no fewer than four of them shared the Cards Against Humanity call for contributing writers on their social media feeds this week. That’s right: if you’re witty enough, Cards Against Humanity wants YOU to create funny-and-potentially-inappropriate cards for their collection. They’ll even pay you to do it.
Obviously I was tempted to apply. Who wouldn’t want to get paid forty dollars an hour to make jokes about Greek yoghurt? Sounds like The Life.
There’s just one problem: I’m not actually all that funny.
This has become abundantly clear as I’ve been working on edits for my latest novel. The last three or so rounds of revision notes have all come back with the same notes over and over again in the comments—all from different people, I might add. Make this funnier! Add humor here! This line needs to be funny!
Gee, I keep thinking. I thought it was.
I’m fairly certain my husband is the only person on the planet who consistently appreciates my sense of humor and laughs at most of my jokes. It should be noted here that his sense of humor is just as bizarre and misunderstood as mine, and sometimes he tries to tally how many of his students actually understand the jokes he makes while he’s teaching. I do the same thing…and neither of our numbers are ever all that high. Basically, we spend a whole lot of time laughing at each other’s jokes to make up for the fact that other people aren’t.
Normally I’m not bothered by the fact that my sense of humor is about five steps away from everyone else’s. Editing this manuscript is the first time where I’ve actively worried that my inability to make jokes others find amusing may hurt my writing career. I can’t write angsty novels about people in deep dark pain for my entire life, after all. I’m not George R.R. Martin.
It’s not that I don’t hit an occasionally good punchline in real life or in my writing. It’s just that funny doesn’t really come naturally to me, and the things I do find amusing tend to hinge more on the sarcastic or punny. Sometimes this works. It’s just not working in my current manuscript, apparently.
(Sidenote: any other 80s children remember when Paula Danziger used to write entire novels in puns? I blame her entirely for my humor problems. Apparently if you binge-read too many puns in your tween years it permanently affects your sense of humor.)
So! I’m on an active quest to become as funny as I think I am. I’m planning an intensive study regarding which of my jokes do get laughs and which do not during the upcoming school year. (I’d apologize in advance to all my students, but the bad jokes were going to happen either way, so this really won’t change anything.) I’m going to pause my recent Dr. Who obsession for a moment—because I don’t think British humor is going to help me curb my sarcasm—and cue up more Melissa McCarthy on Netflix. And I’m going to apply for the CAH job. Not because I think I’ll get it, but because more practice can’t possibly hurt at this point.
And, naturally, I’ll keep writing blog posts that I think are hilarious. If my history is any indication, you won’t think they’re nearly as funny as I do. But you’re still reading this one at 583 words in, so maybe there is some hope after all.
Well, it’s happened again. I attempted another crafting project and failed miserably.
It’s cool. Sometimes the Mod Podge eats you, know what I mean?
So here I am, hands still covered in the dried stuff, trying to come up with a new craft project. I’m sure this next one will also involve Mod Podge. Because gosh golly, I may not be a success with the Mod Podge yet, but I sure am learning a whole lot of ways not to use Mod Podge.
It makes sense that I would be thinking about success and failure the week that my third novel, Thanks a Lot, John LeClair is published. Book releases are strange things for me. I realize a book release should be an incredibly happy and joyous occasion. But I’m an anxious person when I’m not putting giant pieces of myself out in the world, so for me they result in more deep breathing and therapeutic self-talk than dancing and singing. (Are there authors who dance and sing on their release days? Do tell, please.)
Like Mod Podge, book release days are often a reminder for me of what a fickle word “success” is. When you first start writing, you spend a lot of time waiting for success to appear. I remember thinking that the moment I signed my first book contract everything would be fine—I’d be published! My books would be out in the world! I’d be successful!
Only for most of us writers, I don’t think that’s how it goes. Probably Stephen King, but not so much everyone else. We get that first contract, and we go out and celebrate. Maybe the book sells, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it gets good reviews and wins awards, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it sells but doesn’t win any awards. Maybe it wins awards but doesn’t sell more than a hundred copies.
And if you’re small-pubbed like I am, you can spend a lot of time comparing yourself to other, big-pubbed authors and feeling like you’ll never be successful. Like you’ll never get the publicity or the book tours or the sales or the sheer number of reviews they do. And no matter what your publication platform, I imagine that most of us authors also spend a lot of time worrying we’re not doing enough. Not doing enough online promotion, enough events, enough anything. Enough writing the next book.
In other words, I thought I’d get to call myself a success the day I finally signed a publishing contract. But I still spend a great deal of time feeling like an utter failure. And I think that might be the case even for the Laurie Halse Andersons of the world—those authors I would never consider anything other than “successful,” because hey, I somehow ended up owning three copies of one of her books. (Absolutely true. Strange discovery I made while cleaning out my storage unit.)
That’s the weird thing about the definition of success: it’s fluid and means very different things to very different people at different times.
So here I am, having just crumpled up a large pile of failed Mod Podge, paper, paintbrushes, and Christmas ornaments—it’s probably best if you don’t ask—and thinking about the definition of success. There is no way you could call tonight’s project anything but an abject failure. And yet I actually had a lot of fun crashing miserably through that giant glue mess. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of fun when I take out the Mod Podge again. And though my highly anxious brain tries to tell me otherwise, I have a lot of fun putting words on paper.
Normally I’d end here with some very hopeful and meaningful comment about how in the future I’m going to try to remember that success is relative and it’s the journey that matters and comparisons don’t get us anywhere in life, but that sort of sentiment feels hard this week. So instead I’m going to quote something one of my characters says in the book Thanks a Lot, John LeClair. I wrote this quote a long time ago, because my characters and I needed to hear it back then—and now I’m going to quote it here in this blog, because I need to hear it again.
“Emmitt.” Coach smiles. “You think success is some trophy you put on your shelf? Some number you graduate high school with? Success isn’t something you hold up for other people to look at. It’s a life that’s filled with happiness. Hope. Meaning. Things like that. That’s what the goal is. You end up with any of those things, and it won’t matter how many trophies and numbers you had to show off.”
Coach is a smart guy. I’m going to try and listen to him more in the coming weeks. And yeah, that was shameless self-promo I don’t regret in the slightest. Here’s more.
Lately I've spending a lot of time thinking about all the things in the world that are terrible. And if my newsfeed is any indication, I'm not the only one.
There are plenty of things that suck in the world right now, but there are also an awful lot of things that don’t, and I'm tired of spending so much time talking about the first category. So today I give you: FIVE THINGS THAT SUCK and FIVE THINGS THAT YOU DO NOT SUCK AT ALL. Choose your own adventure, if you will. Should you choose to be mired in depression and sadness, read the top section. Looking for a little more brightness in your day? Scroll on down.
Peace and love, everyone. Or hate and despair. Whatever floats your boat.
FIVE THINGS THAT SUCK
1. Rapists who get less jail time than a dude selling a bag of pot, just because they’re white and well-off and the judge apparently had some kind of mental breakdown that day and decided rape isn’t actually a crime, not really.
There’s not much more I can say on this that hasn’t already been said better or more acutely by others, but I’d very much like to repeat one particular point. It bears repeating everywhere and in all the places. This is from the Huffington Post article "I'm Not Defending Rape, But...." by Tawny Engleman. Well said, Tawny.
It’s the ultimate first-world problem, folks! Aw, shucks, I have enough money to buy a house. Woe is me! Seriously, though. Have you ever actually bought a house? You know, without a million dollars to spend in cash? Between securing pay stubs and worrying about basement flooding concerns and trying to figure out school systems for the children I don’t have but future buyers might, I’m starting to wonder why any of us own anything at all. Ever.
3. The last week of school.
If you’re a teacher, I mean. I don’t suspect students are all that about upset by the last week of school. And if you’re never been a teacher during a Last Week of School, I’ll just share this so you get a snapshot of what you’re missing.
4. This election.
Forever and always this entire election for all time until all human beings cease to exist. Even then, future species will find our remains and discuss how much this election must have sucked.
Recently, children's authors Kate Messer and Phil Bildner were both uninvited from school visits they were scheduled to do. In Kate's case, the school was concerned because her most recent book deals with drug abuse issues, and in Phil's case, it seems that he may have offended some people in the district when he recommended the book George, about a transgender child, to students in the district. In other words: adults have decided kids need to be sheltered from the world and are doing everything in their power to make that sheltering happen.
If this election has proved anything, it’s that the last thing we need to do is prevent our kids from seeing the world around them as it exists and thinking critically about what they see.
FIVE THINGS THAT DO NOT SUCK AT ALL
1. This view.
The husband found a new fishing spot, and last weekend I managed to proofread an entire manuscript there and re-outline another one. Because how could you not have fantastic productivity with this view in front of you? I love summer. Summer does not suck one bit. Nor does Colorado, and you should certainly visit if you never have.
2. #ReadProud month!
I love any excuse to find new books. If you’re looking for suggestions, check out Julia Ember’s blog, where she’s hosting a challenge and giving away prizes. I’m not participating because I can barely seem to remember to eat this month, but I’ll catch up with the rest of you in July.
And if you’re looking for #ReadProud suggestions, I’m currently giving high kudos to Stand Off by Andrew Smith. I actually thought it was better than the book it sequeled, Winger, and how often do you like the sequel more than the original? (And yes, “sequeled” is a verb. Because I want it to be.)
Love this #ReadProud badge from Julia's blog.
Cats do not suck at all. Especially mine
2. The Stanley Cup Finals!
What speed! What stamina! What rookies doing decidedly un-rookie-like things! I went into the playoffs fairly neutral, as neither the Avs nor Habs made it in this year (*sniff*), but these days I am completely on the Penguins bandwagon. You go, Phil Kessel. Get that Cup before some Toronto fan steals you back under the cover of night and you never see the likes of a playoff season again.
1. A woman being nominated by a major party to be the president of this country.
I will never argue that Hillary Clinton is the perfect political candidate. Nor that Bernie Sanders is. But less than one hundred years ago, women in this country couldn’t even vote in a presidential election. Or any election.
This momentous occasion was brought to us by so many people throughout history who petitioned, thought, worked, and lived for the moment when a women could be considered as the next leader of the free world. This moment deserves to celebrated, regardless of your political opinion.
Whatever your summer plans, I hope they're filled with things that Do Not Suck At All. Happy June, everyone.
So, BookCon! BookCon was last weekend in Chicago. To be perfectly honest, I had very little idea what I was getting into when I signed up to go. But hey. Can’t go wrong attending any convention with the word “book” in the title, right?
As it turns out: RIGHT.
BookCon was amazing and intimidating and fun and terrifying and all the other important adjectives that should describe any great life experience. For me, this year’s BookCon will go down as….
1. The time I gave out about a bazillion rainbow-colored hockey pencils.
2. The time I signed lots and lots of books and met readers from all over the country, including the fantastic mother-daughter team who came wearing THESE SHIRTS.
This is apparently what my face looked like when I first caught a glimpse of the line "spread those pages, baby."
3. The time I shipped home a giant poster of my own face after the publisher gave it to me, because ego, and also what better souvenir is there than a giant awkward picture of yourself trying not to look awkward? (And has anyone figured out how not to look completely awkward in a head shot? If so, I'd appreciate a how-to guide.)
4. The time I met so many amazing authors, including…
Julia Ember, internet and book guru extraordinaire. Also brilliant author of UNICORN TRACKS, which I’ve been looking forward to reading for so long now.
Audrey Coulthurst, whose fantastic sense of humor makes me want to read every book she ever writes. First up: OF FIRE AND STARS, which comes out in November. Here’s a picture in which two –hursts hung out.
Mia Seigbert, who also writes books about gay hockey players! I cannot wait to read JERKBAIT. Naturally, we battled with hockey pencils. Then I think she tried to talk me into becoming a Devils fan? Didn't stick, but points for effort.
Leigh Bardugo, who is super kind and told me how excited she was that my teacher friends are getting students into SHADOW AND BONE. She even signed something for one of said teacher friends.
Sherman Alexie, who I quickly fangirled all over. As one does. It’s basically just a miracle I didn’t cry as he signed my copy of WAR DANCES.
Matt de la Pena, who I accidentally met at a different event the next day. After reviving my inner fangirl one more time (she was so up to the challenge), I got to listen to him read from his amazing picture book THE HOUSE ON MARKET STREET.
5. The time I realized that no matter how often I feel like a failure as a writer, I am incredibly lucky.
I’m lucky that Elizabeth North, Anne Regan, and all the rest of the fine folks Harmony Ink Press took a chance on publishing my books in the first place. I’m lucky to go to places like Book Con where people who love the written word as much as I do want to drool all over books with me. I’m lucky to meet readers who actually want to read anything that I put on a page.
Writing isn’t a perfect business, and it sure isn’t an easy business. Three days out of seven I wake up and wish I’d gone into accounting. But then I get working on a solid chapter and I think holy crap, I can’t imagine how this life could get any better.
And then I get to go to places like Book Con and hang out with other people who love writing and reading as much as I do, and somehow it does.
So maybe Book Con will mostly go down as the time I remembered to be grateful for everything I have. Especially on days when being grateful is hard.
And it will definitely go down as the day a FedEx worker and I had an intense conversation about the facial expressions teenagers make when they see West Side Story for the first time while she boxed up a three-foot tall picture of my face and prepared to ship it across the country. We agreed our favorite verbal reaction is this: “But they’re fighting…so why are they dancing?”
Then she packed my face into the box and Book Con was over.
I already can’t wait to go back.
David Bowie died, and I’ve already found a way to make it all about me.
This will surprise no one who has ever met me. Or any other human, probably. We’re inherently good at taking things that are not about us and making them all about us. I consistently manage to bring this skill to new levels.
Anyway, David Bowie died, and I was immediately all I will never change anything or affect anyone the way that man has. And truthfully, I probably never will. The amount of creative work he produced in his life lifetime is astronomical. I watch way too much TV to even come close to accomplishing what he did. (And no way am I about to give up Top Chef, dudes.)
Today was also the day that the American Library Association announced a host of book awards, and all kinds of authors that I tremendously respect and am inspired by were on the list, and I haven't even written much to speak of recently (well, there was that one grocery list), and then I was all everyone is doing all these great things and David Bowie did ALL the amazing things and I am not accomplishing anything because I try to do too much and THAT IS BAD.
This is a serious concern I’ve recently developed: that I am involved in too many things instead of focusing on one pursuit, and therefore I will never achieve as much as I could if I just did the same thing all day long.
I’ve also recently discovered that I am probably what Elizabeth Gilbert would call a hummingbird. Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray, Love (which I’ve never read, but I hear good things), and Big Magic (which I’m kind of obsessed with right now and reading super slowly so I can savor every word). Gilbert argues there are two kinds of people in the world: jackhammers, who are obsessive in their passionate quest of one pursuit, and hummingbirds, who flit from pursuit to pursuit based on curiosity and interest.
I’m a flitter. There was a time when I might not have been able to recognize that in myself, because once I flit to something I tend to jackhammer it right into the ground. But I like a lot of things, and I want to try a lot of things, and I tend to move back and forth between them all. I have multiple careers because I can’t seem to give up either teaching or writing, and I also like to write curriculum so I’m always trying to do that on the side, and I like skiing but I’m not about to give up running except when I decide to do yoga for a few weeks in a row. I even do this flitting thing within my writing. I move back and forth between manuscripts and projects, jackhammering at them periodically and then moving on to something else. I meet deadlines because I know do know how to jackhammer things when I have to. But I’ve never been good at picking one direct pursuit and just hammering at that for years on end.
So this morning I was thinking about how David Bowie must have been a jackhammer who just made things happen and worked and worked and worked at music, and I was bemoaning that I will probably never be like that…only then I remembered more about Bowie. He was a lot of things. He was a movie star and a cultural icon and within his music he played with genres and moved around in his various pursuits of artistry. Maybe David Bowie was a hummingbird after all. Gilbert argues that the power of the hummingbird is in our ability to weave ideas in and out of different fields and different passions—spread the pollen, you know? If anyone knew how to spread ideas between sects of humanity and different creative endeavors, it was David Bowie.
I don’t need to be the next David Bowie, but I do need to remember that there is value in my hummingbird instincts. Sure, I might never accomplish as much as some of the jackhammers of the world, but I genuinely love all the different ways I spend my days, and I love that all the ideas and passions I have travel with me wherever I go.
RIP, David Bowie. Thanks for all the marks you left across this world.
Recently I was asked to appear on a local cable show to discuss my books. I’m always thrilled to talk to one of the five people who’ve read my work (hi Mom!), so I gave myself a quick self-five in celebration and said yes.
Normally I’d spend at least five days working myself into an appropriate panic about a public appearance like this, but life has been busy for the last few weeks (writing deadlines, trying to eat all the cheese in Italy), and I wasn’t able to give this TV appearance too much thought until the morning of filming. So this past Friday morning I found myself with a mere seven hours to work up an appropriate panic attack.
I started with the old stand-by, worrying frantically that I wouldn’t know what to say or that I’d say something stupid. This fear didn’t hold as much water as it has in the past. Of course I’d say something stupid; I’m human. But I’ve improved my stupid-to-nonstupid ratio drastically over the past few public appearances I’ve made, so all signs suggested I’d at least be able to nod and say “yes” at the correct times.
I quickly moved on to being worried about what to wear. And this, naturally, led straight to the question that’s been panic-inducing for me since high school: do I look fat in this?
Like most American women born after the popularization of Vitoria’s Secret, I am constantly confused regarding how I am supposed to feel about my body. As near as I can tell, I have three options:
1. Get incredibly thin and then everyone will love me and think I’m pretty.
Yes, this idea has occurred to me before. Frankly, though, my body type doesn’t go for this option this as easily as some others. Also: cookies.
2. Be proud of my body the way it is, eat what I want, and don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.
I want to go for this one. It seems like the healthiest option from a self-confidence perspective. But I’m not sure that eating everything I want to eat is actually going to allow me to live past the end of The Simpsons. And when Amy Schumer tried this, Hollywood basically took away her lunch. (Luckily she’s Amy Schumer. Lunch won.)
3. Worry about getting strong and toned, not thin.
I recognize that this is probably the optimal choice for a variety of reasons. But it also requires me going to the gym every time I say I’m going to, which is hard when you already have two jobs and a cat and a husband and other things. And then there’s the cookie problem. And hubs just perfected his homemade pasta recipe, sooo…yeah.
By the time I’d run through all three options, all while standing in front of the bathroom mirror and examining my thighs to determine if they looked any more cottage-cheesy than the last time I looked, I’d certainly worked up five days’ worth of panic. I couldn’t go film. I couldn’t be on TV, not even local access. People would see that I look like I eat lunch! People would realize I don’t always go to the gym when I’m supposed to! People would realize I don’t actually love my body just the way it is!
After quickly hyperventilating, I spent a quick shower contemplating an article I recently read where “real women” posed like the swimsuit models from the Victoria’s Secret catalog. Like any glutton for internet punishment, I’d foolishly read the comments on the article. Some of them were ecstatic, lauding all the women featured and calling them beautiful. Some were angry, calling out other commenters on basically encouraging obesity and, therefore, unhealthy lifestyles. And from what I could tell (although I did stop reading due to nausea, so who knows), not one commenter mentioned that the original models weren’t exactly the picture of health themselves.
In a world where there’s so much noise about body image, it’s no wonder I struggle with how I’m supposed to look and how I’m supposed to feel about my body. It’s no wonder so many woman—and men—struggle with eating disorders, weight issues, and food issues. It’s no wonder commenters on the internet are at war over this topic. It’s no wonder the media saturates us with images and words purporting competing ideas on what the ideal body is.
Did I come to some kind of epiphany that day about body image that carried me through the television shoot? No. I did the TV spot, had fun, and I only worried about how I looked once every seven minutes or so. I’ll call that a win. But this morning, as I putting on my own bathing suit to go for a swim at the rec center, I thought about the models who pose for Victoria’s Secret. And the women who posed for that accompanying article. And I wondered if the answer to being happy with my body and my life is a balance of equal parts gym time, cookies, and not worrying what anyone else thinks.
But that’s a balance that’s often easier to imagine than to strike.
First of all, you need to know one thing: I really, really like food. Really. I watch TV shows about food when I’m not eating. I take leisurely strolls through Costco on the weekends just to try the samples. I’m on a constant personal mission to find the best chile relleno in Colorado.
And pancake. And pizza. And Pad Thai. And pretty much every other food group one can eat.
So the other night, I was doing what I do best and plowing through some cheap Chinese food. All was fine until a few hours later…when the toilet and I suddenly developed an impromptu and highly necessary relationship.
I’d been betrayed. Likely by the cheap Chinese food I had once so loved.
I woke up disgusted and discouraged…and brainstorming. Odds were I had just cleared my system of, well, pretty much anything that might have been in it. And food certainly wasn’t sounding very appetizing. Maybe this was the perfect time to try something I’d been thinking about doing for a while: a 24 hour fast.
I know, the idea sounds crazy—especially if you've ever met me. But hear me out! I’d always heard how fantastic short fasts could be for exorcising your body of its toxins and rejuvenating your metabolism. I hadn’t eaten anything in thirteen hours at this point anyway, so all I had to do was get through the next eleven hours. And how hard could it be to go without food for eleven hours? People did it all the time for religious reasons. Health reasons. How bad could it actually be?
Below you’ll find the rambling thoughts and roller coaster of emotions I experienced during my eleven hour period of not eating. I’m warning you now: it isn’t pretty. And most of it sure isn’t logical. But it’s definitely…well, it’s something all right. I’ll let you decide for yourself.
And yes, I’m well aware of exactly how many times I used the word “pancakes.” Highly, highly aware.
I am so impressive right now. I haven’t eaten anything yet…and I’m barely hungry! This is amazing! I’m going to be so proud when I finish this. I bet my skin glows and my body finally finds ideal metabolism and I never have to diet again! This is totally going to be worth any pain and struggle I inflict upon myself.
*Finally does such actual internet research about fasting.* Hmmm…so, I’m not supposed to be drinking this Vitamin Water Zero thing, huh? Well, it has ZERO calories…and vitamins…and it’s water…so surely that doesn’t count. I mean, I need some kind of taste to keep myself from remembering that I’m fasting. So I’ll drink Vitamin water and water and tea (no sugar or milk, obviously). Yup. This is totally going to work. I’m going to be fine.
Yoga people say fasting is great. I haven’t gone to yoga in a while, but maybe this is the way back into a life of better mind-body connectedness. I should definitely find a new yoga class tomorrow.
*Looks at Pastry Crisp wrapper I carelessly left on the couch last night* You know…pastry crisps are only 100 calories…NO. NO. You said you were going to do this! You will not fold! You will not phone this one in! Ignore that pastry crisp wrapper! You’re better than that!
Is my hand shaking?
I’m feeling lightheaded, too, but the internet says that’s totally normal. I just need to remember that you can actually survive for weeks at a time without food. I don’t NEED food right now. My brain just wants my body to THINK I do. I’ll just sit here and distract myself with work. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. More work.
*Watches Gilmore Girls* Suki and Michael are so funny together. I love when she doesn’t put the proper amount of blueberries in his pancakes…you know, those pancakes look good. It’s been awhile since I had blueberry pancakes. I could really go for some blueberry pancakes. IHOP has all you can eat pancakes right now, I think…NO! NO AGAIN! STOP THIS! YOU DO NOT WANT PANCAKES! After you conquer this Everest of yours, THEN you can have pancakes. Then you can have all of the pancakes you want. The pancakes will be a great reward. Look forward to it. Pancakes tomorrow and no earlier.
You know what sounds good right now? Chinese food. That leftover Chinese food in the fridge. Wait. WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? Do you not remember what that Chinese food DID to you last night? That Chinese food is what got you into this mess! Don’t do it! Just don’t do it!
*Still watching Gilmore Girls* That dinner they’re eating looks great…I wonder what it is. Probably something fancy, like goose. Goose sounds good right now. I’ve never had goose before, but I bet it’s great. Or duck. Duck would be nice too. Or some very fancy chicken….I should probably turn off the TV, huh? Or possibly stop watching an episode of The Gilmore Girls that’s so centered on food. Which probably means I need to stop watching The Gilmore Girls altogether…nah, I’ll just power through. Wait, did Sookie just say she has pumpkin hands? Pumpkin sounds good right now….
My stomach is growling. Loudly. Like, super loudly. And this Vitamin water is boring. Is this fast really worth it? Why am I doing this? What’s the point? Food is GOOD for you. People are supposed to eat food. Otherwise, they STARVE. That’s what I’m doing—starving myself! WHY AM I DOING THIS?
Stay calm. You can do this. Remember the goal: cleanse the body. Rejuvenate. Connect body and mind…or something like that.
Boy, I have NO energy. Even writing this is hard right now. I’m going to have to go back and rewrite everything once I have, you know, calories in me. Because nothing fruitful or useful is NOT going to happen today, that’s for sure. I don’t understand how people do this consistently! Why would you ever want to go a full day without eating pasty crisps? Why? What did the pastry crisps ever do? It makes no sense.
Walk through the kitchen carefully…carefully…no, don’t look at those granola bars. You’ll only hate yourself later. Pretend they’re not there!! Sure, it might SOUND like your husband is chewing in the other room, but it’s really mice. Or termites. Yeah, termites. That’s it.
So, if a fast should be 24 hours, I can end it right around 8 o’clock and eat right before I go to bed. Right? So I don’t have to go to bed hungry? That’s only 7 more hours. I can go seven hours. Or wait…am I supposed to go all the way until TOMORROW MORNING? Isn’t that more like a 36 hour fast? Seems a little extreme. Is that even healthy? *Googles best length of time for a fast.* What?! People fast on nothing but water for TEN DAYS? WHO DOES THAT? Seriously, what do they do—lock themselves in cabins and avoid humanity for ten days?!
Well, these people all seem to disagree about whether you should stop at 24 or shoot for 40. I guess I’ll see how badly I want pancakes at the 24 hour mark. Odds are I’ll want them pretty badly, though.
Ten minutes later: Well, I’m definitely not waiting until tomorrow morning. No way. This fast is right at 24 hours, no matter what. Then there will be pancakes. All the pancakes in the world. With lots and lots of blueberries.
Well, only five hours to go. Just five hours. I can do this. I absolutely can. Maybe I’ll watch a movie…that’ll take up two hours. And it’s not like I have the energy to get off the couch anyway. The internet says some people do this everyday?! How is that possible? How do they interact with other like normal human beings?!
A NAP. That’s what I need. A NAP. When you’re asleep, you don’t notice you’re hungry! That’s why they call it breakfast, right? Because you’re breaking a fast you didn’t know you were on! I’ll take a nap.
Or I could turn the movie back on. Or find a new book to read. Or do a little more walking. Gently, of course. There are plenty of things to do. Maybe I should go to a yoga class right now—it might clear my mind.
Or I could just sit here. Turn the movie back on. Think about…what I’m going to eat after 24 hours is up. Those pancakes still do sound REALLY good. That diner not far from here has pretty good pancakes. We could totally go eat there. I’m definitely getting pancakes…but their California benedicts are pretty good too…no that’s probably too heavy for right after a fast. Wait, are pancakes too heavy for right after a fast? Hmmm. I should probably stop fantasizing about the food I’m going to eat in 4 hours and 27 minutes, huh?
I’m going to have to edit soooo much of this.
I don’t look any skinnier yet. Why don’t I look skinnier? I HAVEN’T EATEN IN A WHOLE TWENTY HOURS. Why isn’t this working?
Just go for a walk with hubs like he suggested. Surely nature will take your mind off your hunger. You like nature. You like walking.
*Plans dinner menu with hubby during walk*
I’m so excited that hubby and I planned the dinner menu for tonight! Now that I know he’s making pancakes…and they’ll be ready exactly when this stupid fast expires…
I can do this. Only three hours left. Only three hours left. Just a movie and…well, a TV show? Oh, good! Pitch Perfect is on. Surely all the vomiting will help me lose my appetite.
WHAT WAS HUBS THINKING LEAVING THAT MINI-WHEATS BAG OPEN?!? CLOSE THAT IMMEDIATELY. Don’t cave. They’re just mini-wheats. Just mini-wheats. You don’t want to give up over mini-wheats…
Okay, Pitch Perfect helped a lot! We’re almost there! Just a few minutes to go…less than an hour!
Stop counting the minutes. That won’t help at all. Read! Or something!
Only 24 minutes left.
Only 23 minutes left.
*Counts every single minute until time is up*
*Flings self into kitchen*
So there you have it. My encounter with fasting. What did I learn, you ask, because you are an incredibly thoughtful person who wants to ensure my experiences are all meaningful and fruitful?
Well. Clearly, I learned how much I like pancakes. And that “hangry” is not a great color on me.
The whole experience definitely got me thinking about the myriad of people in the world who don't have enough to eat. While I certainly didn't grow up rich, I've always been one of those lucky people in the world who's never had to worry about where my next meal is coming from. Doing this challenge highlighted exactly what hunger does to your body and your state of mind.
I'm starting to think every teacher should try something like this once--just so we all know what our students are feeling and thinking when they didn't get dinner the night before or breakfast that morning. Of course they're short with us. Of course they're cranky. Of course they're having trouble concentrating.
And most of them don't have pancakes to look forward to when time is up.
I’m about to do that trick where I start talking about one topic and end p on a completely different one. Get excited.
The good news is that it all starts here, with one word: ECCENTRICITY.
Yes! Eccentricity. So, I’m visiting my parents right now, and I love them very much. I am less crazy about their house, which is filled with piles of old newspapers and magazines and boxes and prettymuchanythingelseyoucanimagine because my father dislikes throwing things away. Strongly.
The word “hoarder” has been bandied about. On more than one occasion. Last time I visited, I told him I wasn’t too worried—I’m pretty sure that if he is a hoarder, he’s low-grade. (I’d been watching a lot of TLC at the time.)
Today, as Dad was fishing some boxes and packing materials out of my brother’s old bedroom, so that I could mail a gift, he informed me that I don't need to worry anymore—he heard a psychologist on the radio talking about hoarding, and according to the guy, Dad’s not a hoarder. He just has hoarding “tendencies.”
“Actually,” Dad informed me, “the psychologist also said that in the old days, I just would have been considered eccentric. I mean, I’m not keeping trash in the bathtub or anything. Here, I found some of those bubble sheets that will keep the fragile stuff from breaking.” He then also proceeded to hand me a perfectly-sized box, and I felt like a huge jerk. Because really? I never have proper packing supplies handy and available when I need them. I would have needed to make a trip to the store.
All of which got me thinking about the word “eccentric.”
What does “eccentric” really mean? I tend to associate it with people society has deemed as being outside of the definition of “normal” in some way. Like my father, because he won’t throw away old packing materials. Or sometimes my husband, because he smokes a pipe (corncob even, on occasion), and is wont to go on forty minute treatises about topics like the true definitions of the words “fate” and “freewill.” (And please, don’t you even get him started.) But if that’s what eccentric really means, then we’re all eccentric by some definition—it just depends on who’s writing the definition of normal in the first place, correct? I mean, I’m the one who can never find a box to mail things in when I need one, right? Who’s really the normal one here?
Later on, I was reading emails and thinking about a few very important discussions I’ve been having with various people lately about diversity in literature—what diversity really is and what is now considered mainstream in literature (particularly YA literature) and what still isn’t. I started thinking about what incredibly important conversations these are, because so much of this whole discussion is, at times, relative to people’s definitions of the words normal.
I float in a lot of different corners of this world at different times. In some corners, a YA book with a gay white character has become so mainstream that it’s a given such a book would end up in a public library. It’s not even worth talking about. People in those corners of the world want to know when they’re going to be able to find more books about gay people of color and intersex people and other groups of people that are still woefully underrepresented in literature. And these questions need to be asked—they’re extremely important questions that must be asked. Because in those corners of the world, normal has been redefined already, and it needs to be consistently redefined to be more inclusive and less marginalizing.
And then I was thinking about how in other corners of the world, normal isn’t necessarily redefined yet, and how a lot of libraries (Singapore, I’m looking at you at your hatred of penguins) are kicking out books with characters that even remotely touch the alphabet-that-shall-not-be-named. And how in those places, the people defining what normal is still need to see as much as they can of any other version of normal outside of their own. So those are the places where just getting any queer character into a public library is important. And meaningful. Because it gets people thinking. It changes beginning definitions. It opens up conversations to further definitions of the word "normal".
So I hope we—and by “we” I mean readers, writers, teachers, librarians—keep having lots of difficult conversations about what diversity in literature (both YA and otherwise) really looks like. I hope that we continue to disagree with each other and push each other to see different points of view on the subject. I hope that we continue to support each other when that support is needed. But mostly, I hope that we just keep talking about the need for diversity in literature.. Because that’s the best way we can ensure that all readers and writers out there keep redefining and thinking about what the word "normal" really means.
I mean, if you’ll forgive the cliché metaphor ending here (I just can’t let one go), sometimes we need to be reminded that our version of eccentric is someone else’s version of normal. I could never live like my father. I like space, and order, and I would rather go out and buy packing materials every time I need them than be surrounded by them. But my father isn’t me. He likes having things at his disposal. He likes not spending the extra cash and time to go buy something he could already have. Still, I’ve spent a lot of years raising my eyebrows every time he refuses to throw a magazine away.
Sorry, Dad. Thanks for the perspective. And the mailing labels.
A long time ago I went to a talk given by the phenomenal YA author Gordan Korman, and he said something I’ve never forgotten. He said that when he’s coming up with an idea for a novel, he tries to ask himself a “what if” question. As in, “What if a mobster’s son fell in love with the daughter of an FBI agent?” (That’s the premise for his novel Son of the Mob, in case you’ve never read it. And if you haven’t, you should. Stat. As well as everything else Korman’s ever written.)
So I play with that question a lot in my head when I’m coming up with story ideas. Recently I was playing around with it in my head as I was going through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, catching up on what I’ve missed while Hubs and I were on vacation this weekend attempting to ignore the world. (Don’t worry—I’m sure I’ll find a way to work pictures into this blog.)
Anyhoo, I was going through my social media life and playing the “What If” game, and I started to wonder…
What would happen if people were physically unable to be passive aggressive on social media?
YOU ALL KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT. Those insanely aggressive-yet-not-outwardly-so status updates and posts. We’ve all seen them from time to time. Heck, we’ve all made them from time to time. All of the examples below are made up by me, of course, because if they weren’t...well, that would make me pretty passive aggressive.
Made-Up Example #1: Ugghh!!! Why are people so annoying sometimes?
Made-Up Example #2: Just don’t understand why some ppl can’t mind their own business.
Made-Up Example #3: The world has way, way too much anger in it. (P.S. That’s TOTALLY the type of post I’m likely to put up somewhere. In case you were curious.)
Okay, to be fair, there’s plenty of outright aggressiveness also out there in social media. But still, I like the “What If” game…so I began playing, and here’s what happened. Again, this is all made up. Duh. Because it could become part of a book plot. Who knows?
So in WHAT IF PEOPLE WERE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO BE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA world, here’s what happens to Made-Up Example #1.
Alexis Maryland: Uggghhhh!!! My annoying ex-best friend Jamie Louis keeps talking to my ex even though she said she was on my side!
Jamie Louis: Did you seriously just post that?
Alexis Maryland: Oh…uh…oops. I meant to just say that people are annoying.
Jamie Louis: Yeah, but you didn’t. You said that I am.
Alexis Maryland: Well, you ARE. Why were talking to Brian in the grocery store?
Jamie Louis: Because I’m an adult, and he’s the father of my godchild? What are you, twelve?
Alexis Maryland: You’re the one having this conversation on Facebook!!
Jamie Louis: Yeah, because you started it here!!
Alexis Maryland: Look, just PM me.
Jamie Louis: Why didn’t YOU just PM me?
Maggie LeBruin: Ladies, you guys are BOTH awesome. This is all just some kind of misunderstanding!! Call each other. I’m sure everything will be fine.
Jamie Louis: Maggie, thanks for trying to keep the peace. I’ll take this off of Facebook because I have some manners and Alexis doesn’t.
Alexis Maryland: Oh, real nice, Jamie.
Jamie Louis: Wait!! I wanted to say that I have some manners, unlike some other people!
Maggie LeBruin: How is that really any better, Jamie?
Jamie Louis: Because I didn’t want to say her name!!
Maggie LeBruin: Yeah, but she still knows it’s about her. Wouldn’t you have, Alexis?
Alexis Maryland: Of course I would have!!
Maggie LeBruin: Right. Just like Jamie probably would have known what you meant if you just said “People are annoying” instead of saying her name. Or she would have figured it out eventually. Or wondered if it was her.
Alexis Maryland: So what?
Maggie LeBruin: So….never mind. You guys carry on. I’ll see you both around.
Yeah. So I was going to play “What If” with the other two made-up examples as well, but frankly, I’m already exhausted.
For this record? Playing this game in my head likely won’t actually reduce my own passive-aggressiveness on social media in the future. Because, as the above exchange indicates and reminds, aggressiveness on social media can be really tiring. But this whole thought experiment sure has made me wonder about the point of social media in general. Why would I ever tell hundreds of people, some of whom I know much better than others, that “the world has too much anger in it” instead of just coming out and saying that I don’t like the way people on both sides of the Common Core Standards argument are treating each other? (Oh, don’t worry teacher friends—that blog is totally forthcoming.) And if I’m really worried about seriously peeing off people I respect and like by just directly saying that, why don’t I talk to those people directly? You know, as opposed to talking indirectly to them in front of hundreds of others?
Great. Very helpful game of “What If” there. Thanks, Gordan.
NOW, I’m off to play “What if George R.R. Martin stopped writing 50 pages before he finished the final installment of Game of Thones?”
KIDDING! JUST KIDDING!
Oh, and here’s a picture taken in the mountains above Ouray, Colorado, which is one of the places Hubs and I visited this weekend. Doesn’t this just put that entire fake social media exchange into perspective?