Archive | April, 2017

Literary Love #1: Prince Char – Ella Enchanted

30 Apr

Welcome to my week-long celebration of my literary loves! There have been so many–so many men who shaped what I was looking for, who turned my world upside down before any real life man had ever even stepped into it.

Feel free to join me! I would love to hear your loves.

Inspired in part by this poetry series.

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Prince Char

(Ella Enchanted)

Love, love, love

One word. Three times.

The closing to all my letters

for years and years

 

 

From the book:

Dear Ella,

Impatience is not usually my weakness. But your letters torment me. They make me long to saddle my horse and ride to Frell, where I would make you explain yourself. They are playful, interesting, thoughtful, and (occasionally) serious. I’m overjoyed to receive them, yet they bring misery. You say little of your daily life; I have no idea how you occupy yourself. I don’t mind; I enjoy guessing at the mystery. But what I really long to know you do not tell either: what you feel, although I’ve given you hints by the score of my regard.

You like me. You wouldn’t waste time or paper on a being you didn’t like. But I think I’ve loved you since we met at your mother’s funeral. I want to be with you forever and beyond, but you write that you are too young to marry or too old or too short or too hungry — until I crumple your letters up in despair, only to smooth them out again for a twelfth reading, hunting for hidden meanings.

Father asks frequently in his letters whether I fancy any Ayorthian young lady or any in our acquaintance at home. I say no. I suppose I’m confessing another fault: pride. I don’t want him to know that I love if my affections are not returned.

You would charm him, and Mother too. They would be yours completely. As I am.

What a beautiful bride you’ll be, whomever you marry at whatever age. And what a queen if I am the man! Who has your grace? Your expression? Your voice? I could extol your virtues endlessly, but I want you to finish reading and answer me quickly.

Today I cannot write of Ayortha or my doings or anything. I can only post this and wait.

Love (it is such a relief to pen the word!), love, love—

Char

4 Minutes (Not The Madonna Song)

27 Apr

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It took about four minutes. Four minutes and 20 posts before I was utterly depressed.

I don’t follow certain types of bloggers for this reason. They are not aspirational to me, they are depressing.

Suddenly I’m looking at their tiny bodies in tiny bikinis, on everlasting vacations paid for by others. Suddenly their luscious locks and free clothing make my life feel like one giant slog towards death.

Suddenly the questions I ask myself are

Where did everything go so wrong

Should I make mac and cheese

Wouldn’t that be coping with food

You’re not even hungry

But it will make me feel better

Fine, you have no self control look at that tiny body

Suddenly I’m there.

The thing that bothers me most about these bloggers is that they are selling this as real life. It’s different than a fashion ad in a magazine where you know it is a model posed to sell the clothing. These girls are posing to sell clothing, but also under the guise of “sharing their life.” Here we are on vacation. Again. Best husband, best sunset, best life.

And when you make it personal like that, when you take away hey this just an ad designed to sell clothing and instead say hey look my life is so out-of-this-world, if you bought these things yours would be too, then it becomes dangerous.

No one gets a free pass in life, an existence smooth and wrinkle-less. We all have things.

Christine Amorose, a writer I follow, posted recently about travel bloggers. She said:

I’m friends with a lot of travel bloggers (both online and in real life), and there’s often this very obvious (or sometimes sneakily subtle) feeling of superiority because they travel regularly and make a living from it. Sometimes they even want to teach you how to do it too (!), as if the world needs fewer accountants and engineers and secretaries and is instead calling out for more people to get paid to take photos of waterfalls and post them on Instagram. Even as someone with her toes dipped in the industry, I have the very real sense that this whole travel influencer thing is all a huge bubble that might very well burst. And I see all of the ebooks and guides on “how you can do it too!” and headlines screaming about six-figure salaries while thinking: but is the behind-the-scenes as desirable as the highlight reel? Is that flashy salary paying for health insurance and 401Ks? Are you really as content as the life that you’re trying to sell?

Because within this narrative of exotic travel equaling the dream life, there’s a latent disdain for a life of commutes and offices and mortgages and “the real world” in which many of us live. Speaking as someone who regularly deals with train delays and arbitrary work hours and exorbitant rent payments, I can say quite honestly that there are certainly days in which I would prefer to be sipping a margarita while staring at a turquoise sea instead of dealing with “real life.” But as someone who travels fairly regularly for work and for play, I can also say that real life has a way of catching up with you, no matter where in the world you are. There can be joy and heartache and arguments and the feeling as if everything is finally clicking together at home or the office or while stuck in traffic on your way home just as much as it can happen on vacation.

I so appreciated this, and I so appreciate this writer. She is someone who gets paid to travel, she’s always honest about it, and she never makes her life into something it’s not. I never stare at her and think why not me?

The truth of the matter is, I’ve never wanted to switch lives with someone I know. As soon as you know someone, you see their struggles and realize, oh, ok, no thanks. But it’s the allure, the illusion of perfection of someone you don’t know who convinces you that others out there. They are experiencing a smooth, wrinkle-free life!

Another writer I love says it this way:

Chances are, if you are reading this, you’re noticing a bit of a chasm between the life you lead and the life you want to lead, and here’s a secret: we all have this chasm. We all have this gap. There is nothing broken in you that is not broken in everyone. We are each conditioned to want something different than what we have been given. And so, you have two options: (1) Chase someday, or (2) Accept today. I recommend the latter. Remind yourself that you are here, breathing, alive and well(ish). For now, let that be enough.

I think what’s missing for me in (many) of these types of bloggers is the “we all have this gap” aspect. I read stories and write stories to assure myself that what I feel is normal, that we’re all in this together. We have chasms, we chase after things we shouldn’t. But there is nothing broken in me that isn’t broken in everyone.

I spent four minutes of my beautiful, flawed life looking at someone’s fake, flawed life and it was not a good use of my time.

But I am here, breathing, alive and well(ish). For now, that’s enough.

(And one day, I’ll forget to look.)

Some TV For You

16 Apr

Every time I finish a show I really like I sit around and pout. Why is there nothing good on? Why don’t I ever like anything?

The truth is, there’s a lot of good things on and I do like a lot of things and this post is to remind you of that. Wait! I mean, remind me.

1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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This is Amy Sherman Palladino’s new show and you can watch the pilot on Amazon. It’s got the classic Palladino rapid fire dialogue and quirky characters. (Remember Drella from Gilmore Girls? She’s like a major character in this.) And lest you fret, it was picked up for TWO SEASONS by Amazon (a first), so go Amy and go go go Rachel Brosnahan who shines bright like a diamond through every single bit of this experience.

2. Search Party

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Yowza! It’s 10 sitcom episodes so you can blow through them all in the time one Bachelorette episode takes. Another show about hipsters in New York, just what we need! But it’s self-aware and the characters are alive and I had this moment where I laughed so hard I surprised myself. It’s unexpected to laugh like that. And then there are places the show goes I had no idea where it was taking me and whoa. Yowza!

3. Catastrophe

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A romantic comedy about two people who end up having a baby together after only knowing each other for a weekend. It’s so realistic sometimes you want to cringe. Like this is how people are. These are what fights look like. It’s also really funny and has Carrie Fisher in her last role.

4. Younger

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By the creator of Sex and the City and (the original) 90210, Younger stars HILARY DUFF. What more do you need?? (Pretend that was in all caps, I didn’t want to be obnoxious.) Hilary is great, as expected, so is Sutton Foster, who plays a woman in her 40s pretending to be 26. There’s a love triangle and let me just say, since when did we hate love triangles? I live for love triangles hi Pace. It’s just fun and frothy and such a nice break from reality.

5. Love

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My latest love, hardy har har. Paul Rust plays a neurotic man everything thinks is Jewish (my type) and Gillian Jacobs shines as what could have been a MPDG, but has turned into a really nuanced, beautiful performance. It’s a romantic comedy at its core, and it’s smart and genuine and really, really compelling.

6. Riverdale

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There’s a new teen soap in town and I’m keeping up largely because of Luke Perry being cast in the above role…and Cole Sprouse. What? Also, for the first time in history, when faced with the “bad girl/good girl” dilemma I am the Betty. I think Betty just kills her role as the overachiever with issues and I’m the Cosette this time, the blonde good girl WHAT.

7. Big Little Lies

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But what more needs to be said, really?

 

Things I’m excited for: The Handmaid’s Tale and the final season Veep coming out this month hey.

Also Golden Girls on Hulu hey-II.

Also anyone watching 13 Reasons Why? Seems like it’s up next.

A Moment of Clarity

13 Apr

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Earlier this year I found myself at an English lecture I didn’t particularly want to attend. There was a guest speaker that day, and enough people that everyone felt safe pulling out their phones and laptops under the guise of taking notes.

I looked around me at the man on the front row playing a game on his phone. How rude, I thought, as I pulled up an ebook.

At least have the class to hide your disinterest.

It was in that moment that I had a flash of light.

That woman, the guest lecturer, had taken her time to come to this classroom. She had put together a presentation, she had invested her thought and expertise and bad jokes into this. The very least I could do was give her the courtesy I would want to receive.

Attention. A laugh. A raised hand. A thank you at the end.

I put away my ebook and my laptop and dutifully listened for the next two hours.

The content wasn’t anything that overly interested me, and the presentation itself didn’t change me much. But that choice, that moment of light, did.

It feels like the type of thing Anne Lamott would write about. She would say something along the lines of–as human beings in this broken world, all we can do for one another is show up.

All we can do is listen attentively, to give our time and interest to another human being. To treat them with respect, even if it’s slightly unenthusiastically at first.

This is where grace and mercy and healing starts.

I understood that, for a moment that day.

It took me 29 years, but I understood it then.

My Friday Night

12 Apr

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Tonight, some time after the sun went down, I finished a big project I had been working on for weeks. It was a nasty boil of a thing, one that drained me and irritated me in every way and suddenly it was Friday night and I was done!

What would I ever do with the freedom?

I decided I wanted blackberry tart frozen yogurt and pot roast. In that order.

I wanted to finish S Town and Swing Time.

I wanted another Diet Coke.

And so I set off in my car, surprised I had the energy to drive across Malibu.

The night unfolded much like I thought it would, and then nothing like I did.

I ran into some cat callers in the parking lot who harassed me and scared me and I hate that. I hate that those men think they have the right to make comments about my body and get into my personal space. I hate that it’s so commonplace.

I hate that we elect men who act the same way.

The pot roast was good.

So was the frozen yogurt.

In reverse order.

Swing Time! I have thoughts. The primary relationship reminded me a bit of Lenu and Lila from the Neapolitan Novels. That rich, female bond that yields the chocolate mousse of relationships. Says Holly Bass in the NYT review,

There’s something beautiful about the way young girls choose their best friends. A swooning, love-at-first-sight experience, it rarely takes into account social hierarchies, societal expectations or even basic commonalities. And it can be surprisingly decisive, cementing a relationship that persists for decades without any logical basis.

Chocolate freaking mousse.

And then S Town. Holy cow. I didn’t know what I was in for with S Town, but I’m still unraveling it in my mind.

That was genre bending, so much more than what I thought a podcast could be. That was journalism, but that was also a story, a Great American novel, a Southern Gothic with an eccentric protagonist up there with the best, saying hi to Ignatius J. Reilly. A protagonist who exemplified the complexity of the human experience. Who mirrored the complexity of the world he was so worried about.

There is, of course, the question of ethics with S Town.

But, selfishly, right now, I want to ignore that. I want to bask in that story, in that work of art.

Holy cow.

I want another Diet Coke.

My 2017 Newbery Picks

11 Apr

If I were in charge of picking Newbery Honor books for 2017, I would have chosen the following five books. Look, the ones chosen were nice, but these ones. These ones were a cool breath of air in the midst of a neverending Arizona summer. Stick-your-head-in-the-ice-cream- freezer-at-Ralphs-on-a-120-degree-day kind of refreshing.

I loved them all dearly. Was it a spectacular year for children’s books or what?

1. The Best Man by Richard Peck

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The children’s librarian in charge of the New York Public Library’s Best Books For Kids List said this was her favorite children’s book in 2016 and she immediately started reading it again after she finished. That was enough recommendation for me, and I, too, found myself mesmerized by this story of family, ultimately. I love when children’s literature writes really loving, supportive, complex, human, wonderful families. So often in middle grade or young adult literature families are absent or dumb, but this family was solid and warm and caring. I need to read it again.

2. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

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If you have ever been a teacher, or know someone who is a teacher or wanted to be a teacher you should read this book. If you haven’t ever been a teacher and don’t know someone who is a teacher and have never wanted to be a teacher I still recommend it completely. I guess I recommend all of these completely so that isn’t exactly the best measure.

3. It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

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Very…real. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was based on the author’s experiences growing up Iranian in Newport Beach in the 1970s during the Iranian hostage crisis. It’s the universal middle school story of being uncomfortable in your own skin, with the backdrop of political and social turmoil. NYPL named it as one of their most recommended books of last year after I had already come to this conclusion so I felt 1) validated 2) ahead of the times, which are my two best feelings.

4. All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

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Perry grew up in a minimum security prison and is removed from this home by a well-meaning member of the community to go into foster care. Heart freaking warming and breaking and feeling. I tweeted this out to Rainbow Rowell as a recommendation, that’s how strongly I felt! (She was not even asking for recommendations!)

5. Ghost by Jason Reynolds

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Jason Reynolds is The Man. He is able to capture characters and experiences so well and Ghost just might be my favorite thing he’s written. It’s the story of a young boy on a track team. There’s more to it, obviously, but it begins there. A young, scared, cocky, kid on a track team.

Hallelujah Anyway

9 Apr

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Last night I dreamt of Manderley.

Of my own Manderleys, I should say. Last night I dreamt of some of the most painful times of my life. They swirled back and forth, the hurts that live inside me and come alive when my body rests.

I woke up exhausted.

Anne Lamott says of her father’s death,

I’m not positive we ever got over it, in the way that the world assured us we would, and hoped we would, although with these badly broken psychic legs, we learned to dance again, to hike again, with limps and weird orthopedic shoes.

I put on my weird orthopedic shoes and went for a limping walk. That’s the solution to just about everything. Drink some water. Go on a walk.

Remember no feeling is final.

Malibu is bubbling and bursting and blooming these days. I reminded myself of the good things I have. Of this perfect town I live in. Of the man I love–my funny, kind, favorite human. Of flirting flowers and powerful stories and afternoons off. Of a body strong enough to go on walks, of an ocean breeze and a spring sun.

One has to be done with the pretense of being just fine, unscarred, perfectly self-sufficient. No one is.*

I caught up on my podcasts and made myself a meal. A meal with meat and fruit and a side of homemade guacamole. A meal while Dear Sugar played in the background.

I took out my trash.

The ancient Chinese had a practice of embellishing the cracked part of valued possessions with gold leaf, which says: We dishonor it if we pretend that it hadn’t gotten broken. It says: We value this enough to repair it. So it is not denial or a cover-up. It is the opposite, an adornment of the break with gold leaf, which draws the cracks into greater prominence. The gold leaf becomes part of its beauty. Somehow the aesthetic of its having been cracked but still being here, brought back not to baseline but restored, brings increase.

I put on my most comfortable dress and opened up my laptop to finish reading my friend’s book. She has a book deal with HarperCollins, this friend. These words will be published one day. They will be bound and sent to bookstores and libraries everywhere. Her words, her world, her story, once in her head alone—they will enter the world.

I’m mentioned in it.

That is so un-American. Most of the time we throw it out, cover it up with a doily, or patch the crack so we can still sell the item. This other way is to save our valuables with our own hands, to pass on to our children, nieces, and nephews Auntie’s chipped Inuit carving. Uncle Will’s journals. And if they toss Uncle Will’s journals, rich in memories and minutiae of this family’s story? That’s on them. Not our fault, for once. (Reason enough to get out the gold leaf.) We are invited to be part of creation, like planting shade trees for children whose parents were born last week.

As the sun hangs heavy in the sky I yawn and curl up for a nap. It’s my favorite time of day to be still and drift away for the moment.

The sky turns gold around me.

It’s a dreamless sleep.

 

 

*Quotes from Anne Lamott’s newest book Hallelujah Anyway