Friday, October 31, 2008

Wallowing in Pity

Christmas Eve 2007: My mom passes away.
My Birthday 2008: I deal with pneumonia and a chemistry quiz.
Fourth of July Eve 2008: My brother is diagnosed with bone cancer.
Halloween 2008: We find out the chemo isn't working, his chance of survival plummets to 15%.

Not only do I have to deal with this shit, but I have to do it on days I'm supposed to be happy.

I am so fucking scared of Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The One Not To Forget

The other night I dreamt I was visiting an old friend. We sat on the floor playing video games all day, read comic books, and ate leftover mozzarella garlic bread for breakfast, because, as he put it, "Normal people make toast for breakfast, and this is like that but easier." On the tour of his apartment he couldn't explain why there were four bathrooms, one was just a shallow closet with a showerhead. Quirks like that usually tip me off that I'm asleep, but I ignored the surreal details. When I woke, I missed him so much my tummy hurt.

Why am I posting this? Because I don't want to forget. I've had two good dreams this year, the rest have been nightmares or hazy uninteresting crap. In the other dream I was trail-running on a perfect day, winding through a forest and by a river and over a stream, everything glowing in the presunset light. At the end of the path was a table full of pastries just for me. It was so wonderful I was inspired to use the treadmill at the gym. It didn't work out so well, with the burning lungs and all.

When I was a little kid I had dreams worth going to bed for. When I was 20 I had so many vicious nightmares that I was afraid to go to sleep, and sometimes put it off for a day or two. I've had some terrible nightmares this year that I wish I could forget. I cling to the memories of great days, and I do the same for my nights.

Monday, October 27, 2008


My father's decision to raise goats was met with general approval. "He needs a hobby," they said. "Staying active will do him good," they said. I know better. I know it's just a matter of time until the horror show unfolds and the FBI tries to hush it up, declaring it an act of terrorism or God or somesuch. When my daddy brought goats to the farm, he basically put out the welcome mat for chupacabras.

Don't believe me? Oh right, you just don't believe in chupcabras. You can afford to be dismissive, you're probably drinking a chai latte in an internet-café, making with the Facebook and texting your friends on the flipside. You can act all indifferent, the last time you were near a goat is when McDonald's was pimping the Mc-swine-brain-and-caprine-eyeball-Rib sandwich. Some of us basically live in a Denny's for urban legends, and we live our lives in fear.

My dad and I were standing over the latest bloodless corpse the other day, pondering the turning of the wheel of life while I found a poking-stick.
  "Dad? Can't you just get rid of the herd? Maybe raise pumpkins instead? No self-respecting chupacabra is going to attack a squash." (poke, poke)
  "It's too late for that. Now that there's an infestation, they'll move on to the next food source."
  "Oh shit, that's us, isn't it? My good turtleneck would get ripped to shreds, but I wouldn't be alive to care." (pokepokepokepoke)

So the problem remains, but not for lack of trying. I've tried trapping those goddamn suckers: I tied bait to a stick that propped up a box, labeled Chupacabras, Eat Here!! in black Sharpie. As it happens, that only works in cartoons, and I only got to try it once. The chupacabras ate my box. I tried exterminating: I climbed a tree in the pasture and waited with a gun. Yeah, even though it hurts real bad to shoot yourself in the leg (I'VE HEARD), surprisingly, pellet guns aren't as lethal as you'd think. I tried outsmarting them, but was prematurely thwarted: "Daddy! I have the best idea! The people can wear masks on the back of our heads, and the goats can wear masks on their asses! Just like the Indians do to prevent tiger attacks!" We did not agree on my idea's level of genius. I can't believe I wasted $40 worth of paper machie and tempra paint.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Now We Play the Waiting Game

I woke up early this morning, the sky was cold and gray and foreboding. I took my time getting ready and even applied some make-up the right way. I left early to visit mom's grave, I imagined what she would say to me and how proud she would be. A patch of blue appeared.

I found what looked like little chalk marks all over my black pants. WTF? Some flicking and saliva did wonders, and I found a bathroom where I could check the seat for stupid white marks. I wore my friend's suit jacket like a hug. I almost looked grown up.

I had a brief meeting with my host, and had a chance to ask general questions about the college. She smiled a lot, and seemed sincere. She was a good person to start with.

I had exchanged emails with the next person I met, and hoped she didn't remember me. I had sent her a dozen questions about the minutiae of my application. I asked her many of the interviewees were accepted, and she danced around the answer. She informed me I had to write an essay, and led me to and adjunct professor's office. The man next door had a loud, lengthy phone conversation; I heard every word. After a while I started using the highlighters and colored-ink pens belonging to the adjunct prof. I felt only a little bad when I lost a cap.

For the essay I had to read an article about how poverty affects health, summarize the important points, state my reaction, agree or disagree with the authors, ask a question of the authors, describe an answer that would change my mind, and give an example of information that would solidify my initial reaction. WTF? I analyzed it well, and disagreed with the authors. They stated poverty causes poor health, and providing food security and housing stability through a community-based program would treat the root of it. I argued that JOBS are what get people out of poverty, and food banks and homeless shelters are short-term band-aids. My answer was inspired by F-bomb's crusade to employ the population we served. The analysis was good, but the actual wordage sucked. I sent an email asking for my notes to be considered as well.

The interview was about 20 minutes long, and I could have done better. I couldn't give examples of how I've shown leadership, and sometimes I forgot the question I was answering and had to cover. I asked my interviewer a lot of questions at the end, which usually earns points.

The college gave me a free meal, but all my stomach could handle was a smoothie, even though I really wanted pizza. I spent almost all of my lunch waiting in line. I got back just when the first campus tour left. I toured it last February, but the weather had improved and I wanted to enjoy it before my financial aid meeting. I had to wait for the next tour group, and sat next to a girl dressed just like me: black pants and jacket, blue shirt, briefcase. I struck up a conversation and confirmed she was there for the very same reason. A guy joined us a few minutes later. He was also dressed like us and there for a PT interview, but his shirt was red. I took it as a sign he would get rejected first.

The tour guide seemed awfully young, but she tried hard. I let off nervous energy by making random observations, but few appreciated my humor. I didn't care, nothing really mattered to me at that point.

My financial aid meeting was very short. I was informed of the sole scholarship I would be eligible for if I was accepted. I couldn't even get a Legacy Scholarship. I wished I could take the three semesters of free ride my sister-in-law had forsaken for work as a glorified secretary chiropractor's assistant. I tried to think of questions, but it's all moot until I know if I'm accepted.

Which I could know in three weeks.

It's gonna be a long three weeks.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I can has intervyoo?

Thursday is the day that strangers will pass judgment on me, and it will affect the rest of my life. I lie awake for hours after going to bed, anticipating their questions and trying to come up with awesome replies. It hasn't been working out so well. I borrowed Bel Canto from the library, so if they ask about my hobbies I don't have to fess up to reading Brisingr, and I can say "I'm reading a great novel recommended on NPR about internationally-diverse hostages in South America who find common ground with music," rather than "My book has dragons and made-up words in it!" I am afraid I will pee my pants during the interrogation. And afterwards, I will be on tenterhooks until I find out if I'm accepted. Between this and my brother's chemo recovery, I will probably be drinking this week.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How to Write a Romance Novel, Part The End

Your romance novel is nearly complete. Before you start shopping around for men to bare their chests and abs for the cover, you'll want to write an ending you can be proud of. Since the beginning we all suspected that the lead characters would find a happily ever after. At least, that's where the book ends. You'll want to stop writing the story BEFORE your leads get the herpes or are arrested for tax evasion. Your tale should end with a wedding or a proposal, and you have the option of adding an epilogue wherein the characters create some spawn. It's important to give your readers the standard white picket fence imprisoning two children in suburbia. The audience for this crap doesn't respond as well to the characters escaping corporate Americana to raise goats and sell homemade soaps or moving to Harlem to bring music and happiness to underprivileged children.

Example:"Oh Damian, I'm so happy your attempts at homosexuality failed miserably!"
"So am I, Angeline. I knew it was a sign that I'd think of you, even when making out with Rico. I just had to find my way back to you."
"I'm so happy your STI tests came back negative! We can be together forever now!"
Damian pulled a velvet box out of his blazer pocket and offered his love and a princess-cut diamond-encrusted ring to Angeline. "Does that mean you'll marry me?"
Angeline undid his pants with her teeth and grinned slyly, "Marrying you is just the beginning, baby!" With that, she proceeded to do things to her beloved that her mother would not approve of.


Damian and Angeline married in Hawaii before an intimate gathering of family and friends. Two years later, Angeline gave birth to twins. Damian never doubted the paternity of his children, because Nickolai was hit by a train during their honeymoon. No one missed him, not even a little.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How to Write a Romance Novel, Part IV

If romance novel characters knew what was good for them, they'd stay in bed. They would just keep fucking each other until they didn't care if one used to be a child prostitute or a great big jerk. Once the sex is over, the real trouble begins. Just when the reader thinks the lead characters have found love, the author adds a twist to make you doubt the Happily Ever After.

It's a good idea to throw something into your novel that ties in with the original problem. If the man was afraid of fatherhood, create a pregnancy scare. If the woman had a broken heart, make her even more vulnerable. If the man was a scarred recluse, have a mob of villagers storm his castle with pitchforks and trebuchets and flaming cows.

Example: Damian walked into a bar to meet with his best friend, Jim Beam. His balls shriveled in horror when he spied Angeline and his brother Nickolai in an intimate booth. "Nicolai!" Damian shouted, suspicion and rage boiling to the surface.
"Damian!" Nickolai replied!
"Angeline!" Damian exclaimed!
"I knew it! I knew women couldn't be trusted! Women I love always leave me for Nickolai!"
"It's not like that! When you pushed me away, I had to find someone who knew about your past! I need to save you before we can be together!"
"Angeline didn't come here for me, Damian, she came here for information about you! Though I have been slipping her date-rape drugs!"
"You lie! You both lie! I hate you all! I'm never going near another woman!" With that, Damian ran off, crying like a little bitch.

You have to really convince the reader that this could be the end, or they'll notice the twenty pages remaining and the jig is totally up. So ramp up the suspense, already!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How to Write a Romance Novel, Part III

Now that you've introduced your characters and kept them apart through weak plot devices, it's time for the climax. Not the part of the story where the reader knows who will win the conflict, because we all know how these works of tripe end. Rather, it's time for the mutual climax. Bow-chicka-bow-bow!

It's important to provide the appropriate setting for the sex. It should be relatively vanilla, so think luxurious four-poster bed rather than semi public pool table. Since you're writing a novel to blend in with the genre, the kinkiest situations will be no wilder than doing it doggy-style in a hot tub. Leave out handcuffs and blindfolds and don't even consider throwing a vibrator into the mix.

Watch your language. Your readers may be reading your book at least in part for the sex, but they don't want to be shocked with words like hard-on, cock, clitoris, fuck, and other terms that normal people use to describe boinking. I've read many books that completely avoid ass and substitute derriere or some weak shit like that. You're probably asking yourself who the Hell talks like that. Guess what? YOU will. It may be histrionic and insipid, but try to think of it as a writing exercise. Some assholes write books without using the letter E, you can work up to this level of grandiose frivolity by omitting penis from your sex scene.

The acts itself can be boiled down to five steps: passionate kiss, foreplay, she pants/begs "Now!", vaginal penetration, mutual orgasm. Throw in some adjectives and you're good to go.

Example: Angeline saw the lit candles and rose petals Damian had scattered about the room, and an excited tingling erupted in her nether region.
"I've wanted you for so long, and tonight you will be mine,"
Damian kissed her with such passion and tenderness she melted in his arms. He took advantage of Angeline's backless dress to run his warm hands up her spine, her skin tingled in his wake and she pressed her body against his arousal. He slowly and expertly unbuttoned her gown, peeled the crimson fabric away from her breasts, and brought his mouth to her peak. He laved her skin with his tongue and Angeline moaned with pleasure. His hands worked her over and soon she was wearing nothing but high-heeled shoes and a smile. He massaged her moist womanhood and to her delight explored the depths and folds with an artful intensity.
"Please, my darling, I need you now."
He slipped his tumescent manhood inside her, and she gloved him as if they were designed for one another. He meant to be gentle, but his desire magnified and his potent love-making soon took them over the edge and into each other's arms, together.

I wrote this piece of crap in roughly 90 seconds, which, coincidentally, was as long as Damian lasted. Zing! I just blended what I thought sex would be like when I was an eighth-grader with some suggestions from Trust me, there is some terrible writing out there, so nothing you create will be worse than what has already been published.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How to Write a Romance Novel, Part II

At this point in the book there is no whoopie. This is the time to develop sexual tension, or something like that. You can't write that they immediately jump in the sack, this is what differentiates your book from erotica or pr0n. Your characters should be kept apart, so give them an obstacle like a long-standing family feud, a working relationship to uphold, a disfigurement that drives one to seclusion, or secrets from the past. These problems cannot be worked out through acting like rational adults or counseling or flipping a coin. Only marinating your characters in hot, id-based sexual attraction will smooth the way to a happy ending.

Your romance novel should have a sense of longing and unrequited affection from at least one of the characters. Often the emotionally stunted one is completely unaware of their true emotions. If you don't have enough material to bridge the gap between page one and the inevitable sex, just repeat yourself a lot.

Example: Damian's expression revealed his tormented soul, which only made Angeline love him more. "My past is too difficult to talk about. I should go."
"No Damian, your past is the weight on your shoulders no man should bear. Let me help you discard it." Angeline's spirit ached to make him whole.
"What's done is done. Rehashing the details won't undo this pain. All that matters now is that I will never let another woman hurt me again." Even as he spoke, Damian felt his heart slowly unfold to Angeline. She looked so vulnerable and unhappy, his skin burned at the idea of kissing the pout off her lips. In truth, he was more afraid of hurting her than himself. She needed a man who could commit, and he couldn't deceive her into believing he was that man. He closed his heart towards her, and generally acted like an angsty middle-schooler.

Monday, October 6, 2008

How to Write a Romance Novel, Part I

When I have to read a lot of heavy, non-fiction material, I get the urge to rot my brain with vodka. Since I'm trying to cut back on that, I reach for a trashy book instead. These are terrible, terrible books. Just the plots, characters, and style are crappy. Of course, this leads to a numbing of the mind and eventual necrosis. Hooray!

I thought it was time to share my talents with the world on how to write one of these salacious tomes. Why? Because my credentials are impeccable. Not only have I not had a damn thing published, I haven't even written one. And what is worse than failure (besides a plague of locusts)? Right! Not even trying! To create a terrible book you need a terrible author, and I can't think of anyone worse than me.

I've noticed that romance novels follow a more predictable formula than a buddy-cop movie. First we meet our leading man and lady. They are attractive and one or both is independently wealthy. It's like a soap opera, the storyline is going to get bogged down if you focus on plausibility so only include careers if they have something to do with falling in love. One or both characters is emotionally fragile and has sworn to never love again. Then an obstacle keeps them from requited love, they have sex, a misunderstanding parts them, and they finally get married. If they were already married, you can make them renew their vows at the end. Same thing.

Example: Angeline surveyed the party, her eyes rested on the handsome figure across the candlelit room. She savored the sight of the tall, broad-shouldered man. The tailored suit indicated sophistication while his alpha male posture cast an air of rugged machismo about him. Her champagne flute slipped through her fingers, for she was distracted by the thought of running her fingers through his thick black hair and fucking his brains out. Startled by the sound of breaking glass he turned to face her, and when his gunmetal gray eyes met her hazel green ones she realized she was staring at her elementary school sweetheart.
Damian's breath caught in his throat when he noticed Angeline. He had not seen her in twenty years, and he remembered the innocent joy of childhood love. The warm, soft emotions surprised him, for he had not felt his heart sing for seven years, not since his college girlfriend aborted her fetus and told him the father was none other than his nemesis and bastard brother Nickolai. His body urged him to gather the sultry form of this familiar stranger in his arms, to discover what time and puberty wrought, to pull her long auburn hair back and ravish her mouth, but his heart said "Nope."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

As If You Even Care

I had been thinking about doing a 100 Things (all the cool kids are doing it!) post for my 100th post, but then I lost track and didn't. So now it isn't special at all.

100 Points of Banal Minutiae

1. I went vegetarian when I was 15 and stayed that way for nine years.
2. Three years ago I added poultry and fish to my diet.
3. I'm that friend that gets real excited when a new Wes Anderson or Christopher Guest movie comes to theaters.
4. The family dog of my childhood was a golden retriever, and I would dearly love to have one of my own.
5. My job as a social worker for the mentally ill made me doubt the existence of God.
6. I had a speech impediment as a kid.
7. So I had to have speech therapy and a surgery to fix it.
8. Since the surgery, I have been terrified of needles.
9. Also, I came to hate the sound of my own voice.
10. I really hate how I sing.
11. Though my mom said that as a kid I had a British accent when I sang, so that was probably entertaining.
12. I have an unnatural affinity for glitter, Taco Bell, and martial arts movies.
13. The smell of dry rot makes me feel all nostalgic.
14. I don't really understand hockey, but I like watching it.
15. When I'm really bored, I make up ice cream flavors and new state mottoes.
16. I have many fears.
17. I've been birding since middle school.
18. I won the award for Best Art Student when I graduated from middle school.
19. I was the best Spanish student my high school ever had (my sister was the best German student). Though maybe someone has outdone me since I graduated.
20. I wish I hadn't forgotten so much of it.
21. I plan to relearn it when I'm not taking career-related classes.
22. I also want to relearn how to play the piano.
23. I am a certified SCUBA diver.
25. I have a first degree black belt in taekwondo.
26. I can't whistle.
27. I have threatened to keel-haul my husband on many occasions. Someday he'll learn I'm not bluffing.
28. I have yet to make a real Internet friend, but I'd like to.
29. I have saved all the letters I've received since I was itty-bitty.
30. I have difficulty discarding magazines in general.
31. I REALLY cannot get rid of a National Geographic. I've lost a couple, but I've been keeping them since 1990.
32. I am drawn to images of lone trees, including the Connecticut quarter and Days of the New album covers.
33. I totally dig black and white photography.
34. I like to cook, I love to bake.
35. I prefer baths to showers.
36. I refuse to carry a purse except for formal occasions.
37. I've been suicidal twice.
38. I have problems navigating through doors. I push when I should pull, or push on the wrong side of the door, or hit my shoulder on the way through.
39. I also have problems opening locks. So picking the lock on my car was a major moment for me.
40. Many people misread my mom's facial expressions (including me), and many people misread mine (including my mom).
41. I love road trips SO MUCH.
42. Early morning is my favorite time of day, but I often sleep through it.
43. I routinely got four hours of sleep a night in college.
44. Now my body demands I get nine.
45. The first three years of college were the most fun of my life.
46. It was the #1 party school in 2002, but I rarely partied.
47. The older I get, the less I like chocolate and U2.
48. I have visited 4 foreign countries and 34 states. And Graceland.
49. On my dad's side, I'm the last of 40 grandchildren.
50. On my mom's side, I'm the last of 16 grandchildren.
51. My siblings and I are the fifth generation to live on the family farm.
52. I can't pick a favorite ice cream flavor, it'd almost be like picking a favorite sibling. I love them each in their own way.
53. I grew up wanting to be a marine biologist specializing in sharks. I kept that dream alive for eight years, then got to high school and college and changed my mind a brizillion times. I've almost narrowed it down!
54. At least since 2004, my personal Christmas seasons have sucked salty balls. I'm really starting to dread December.
55. Canoeing is my favorite activity, but I usually turn to reading, a much more portable hobby.
56. I prefer to be barefoot.
57. I'm a pushover for tiramisu.
58. I entered kindergarten wearing an arm sling, and I graduated high school wearing a back brace.
59. I am not afraid of spiders.
60. The older I get, the more I like cream cheese, Peanuts, and PBS.
61. I only wear make-up a couple times a year, and that's usually only some lip gloss. If it's more than that, someone else has to put it on me 'cause I just don't know how.
62. My favorite book is Where the Wild Things Are.
63. I'm an INFP.
64. I was born on Earth Day in 1981.
65. That means I'm a Taurus born in the year of the Rooster. So I was born a bull cock.
66. I have had too many jobs to list them all on my resume.
67. My favorite tree is the river birch, my favorite flower is the daffodil, my favorite color is blue.
68. Sometimes I do things that are out of character just to see what it feels like. Sometimes I do them to shock my husband.
69. I usually have more than one best friend, but only one has been on the short list for over nine years. That's the longest I've ever had one!
70. I wish I didn't have to wait so long to find out if I did the right thing.
71. I think I would be an alcoholic if I didn't fight the temptation.
72. I have a thing for baked egg dishes (you know, like frittatas, quiches, and flans).
73. I am sort of embarrassed about how much I'm enjoying Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series.
74. I love camping and backpacking. I'm not embarrassed about that at all.
75. My favorite smell is a man's jacket infused with smoke from a campfire.
76. My second favorite smell is baking brownies.
77. No one knows all of my secrets.
78. I hate shopping. Sometimes I cry when I try on pants and have to look in a mirror. Then I have to part with my money, and that's not cool.
79. I can hold a grudge like it's my job.
80. I love pumpkins! They are so huggable and happy!
81. I lose my hair when I'm under a lot of stress.
82. Sometimes I do things just because it scares me to do them, and I like that rush.
83. I feel loneliest in a crowd or at a party.
84. I am very grateful for the friends I have.
85. I can sing Frère Jacques in four languages: English, French, German, and Dari.
86. I have a pet rock named Lucky from when I broke my back. The nurses found him on the long spine board when I got scanned.
87. I yell at Jeopardy! contestants when I know the question and they don't.
88. The key to my heart is cereal-based goodies: Rice Krispies Treats, Indoor S'mores, and Special K Chewies just rock my world.
89. When I was a kindergartner, I decided that since the biblical creation story didn't include dinosaurs, it was a make-believe story.
90. I miss my mom every day.
91. I really like hugging people.
92. I considered becoming Buddhist in high school.
93. My AP Lit teacher tried to convince me to major in English or Creative Writing. I used to be a decent writer, but I lost my skillz somewhere in college. Gosh, I'm so glad I majored in something as useful as Psychology.
94. Saying I'm not exactly fashionable is an understatement.
95. The first time I voted for President (2000) I cast my ballot for Ralph Nader.
96. I want a hobby farm.
97. I can't stand loud noises. Mom reported this aversion goes back to my time in the womb. I take ear plugs to the movie theater, fireworks displays, and the like.
98. I haven't had a professional haircut in eighteen years.
99. I worry too much.
100. If I win the lottery, you won't see me for a while. I'll be traveling.