Monday, December 2, 2013

Writing Log: November 2013.

Last month, I made a vow to start documenting my writings around the internets once a month on this here blog, so while I'm a couple days late, here's the stats for November.

At the Riots:

Both of these got good feedback/love, and a lot of people (either via comments or Twitter) mentioned things that I had forgotten to list in both articles, but more in a "I'm excited that these things exist and so want to share" kind of way, rather than a "How dare you forget these things, you awful human being!" type of way, mainly, which was nice.

- What's For Dinner: Sweet Potato Edition
- Take, Taste, Toss: Cheese and Beer

So I accomplished my two-posts-a-month minimum at each site, although both of the Food Riot ones are just columns that they post regularly and which didn't really require a lot of original thought (although they were still fun). What I'm still bad at is actually checking both sites regularly and reading everyone else's posts, because when I do, I find that I really, really like my fellow Rioters and am also inspired by them.

At the AfterEllen:

- Good Wife recaps: 5.6, 5.75.8, 5.9
- Last Tango in Halifax recaps: 2.12.2
- Generation Cryo recap: 1.1

Recapping three shows at once is kind of exhausting but also really fun. Last Tango in Halifax fans literally make up for every other bad thing that happens to me in regards to writing/comments because they are just so supportive and happy and really into the show (BECAUSE IT IS AMAZING) and the recaps and discussing things in a mostly friendly way and I love them.

- Last Tango Season 2 Preview
- Interview with Bree from Generation Cryo

This was the first one-on-one phone interview I've done, which is maybe weird because AE does interviews all the time but I never really put myself out there for them. I participated in a conference call style interview with Queen Latifah once but didn't even get to ask a question so I don't think that counts. Anyway, it was really fun.

- Black Lesbians on Reality TV: The Good, the Bad, the In-Between

DISASTER. I really enjoyed writing this but then the comments haunted me. Apparently I got everything wrong and am a dimwit who should never write about queer women of color again. Duly noted.

Group Posts: 

TwinningBooks We're Thankful For, Best Books We Read, Best Food We Ate, AE Gift Guide.

Other shtuff:

I started Tahnie's great Blogember challenge hardcore, doing it every day here on the blog for the first week, and then I crashed and burned real hard. I almost expected this, but I still feel slightly disappointed in myself about it. Because for those days that I did it, I really enjoyed it. It didn't even necessarily have to do with the specific prompts, but just knowing I was doing something I set out to do, and writing silly stuff just for myself. Because writing for websites, I get so wrapped up in what editors and readers will like/want/respect, that it's not Correction: I almost always enjoy myself in the actual act of writing, no matter what it is. But then all the other stuff gets wrapped up in it. But writing literally just for myself? Fun.

Still, even if I didn't necessarily follow through, I updated this blog 11 times, which is more than I have updated it in a month's time in, like, ever. There are a few prompts I didn't get around to doing that I really wanted to, so maybe I'll come back to them whenever I'm in the writing mood and need an idea.

Good Things About This Month:

I wrote a decent amount. And I was able to write a decent amount while also working a lot at my other jobs (transcribing and now substituting). I don't know if I will ever NOT feel like I should be doing more, but overall this month, I was pretty productive at life, and my paychecks reflected it, which feels good.

Bad Things About This Month:

Man, some comments really got to me. And I even maybe ticked off some editors who I previously thought really loved me? Basically, I screwed up some. And I know most of the stuff with comments is just people being meaner than they need to be, but at least part of it is also just me screwing up. I know these are probably fairly normal and boring complaints of writers, and also that I am probably being overly neurotic about some of it. But it's like, I can feel like I'm really in a groove and confident and high on life and then one little thing happens and I feel horrible about myself. I hate it.

I also didn't write a review for the Lesbrary, which is totally not a big deal, but a personal thing I like to do, and which I'm supposed to do once a month. I also sort of slacked off on the AE book club that I run. Meaning, I still haven't read the book, or created choices for December. Whoops? Getting on that soon.

Goals for December:

I had gotten into a few personal writing habits (like, on paper, away from the internet) in October that I slacked off on in November. I'd like to go back to that, because paper is cool. Like bow ties.

I'd like to update this blog a few times, and generally be as productive as I can with both writing and making money while also watching all the Christmas movies and making all the Christmas cookies and making Christmas memories and stuff. We'll see how that one goes.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Giorno Diciotto: Best moment of my life.

Okay, so the middle of the month with this whole Blogember thing went down the drain a little, which could've been expected, and I know that today is also the 20th and I'm doing Day 18 (Diciotto in Italiano!). But I really wanted to do this one, and the next string of prompts really, so I'm going to catch up, even if it's squeezing a few prompts into the same day.

It also may be silly that I want to do this prompt so badly because it is going to be SO. CLICHE. Like, so cliche I can hardly stand myself, but who cares because it makes me so happy. The best moment of my life was my wedding.

Kathy and I had a somewhat tumultuous year before our wedding, probably the hardest year we've ever had together. And leading up to the day, we had no idea how we were going to pay for any of it (which is why we had already delayed it for like three years), and then everyone kept telling us to prepare for things to go wrong because they always do, but then the whole thing was pretty much perfect. The weather was perfect, the people were perfect, the dancing was perfect, it was all perfect and we were just happy happy happy. And anytime I look back on it since then, I can't believe how great it actually all was, which I think is because so much stuff happens all at once during a wedding that it takes a long time to process it.

The night before after a family gathering at my amazing cousin's where my mom made all the cupcakes and all the food in general and there were all the babies and also cups with our pictures plastered on them, we went downtown to hang out with some friends in a loosely planned "bachelorette party" and then, like, everyone came. Like so many friends from all walks of life came and stayed out past the last T, even though many of them had flown and driven for many hours that same day. Sam and Steve made us t-shirts and organized what bars we'd go to and everyone bought us drinks and then we walked over the bridge back to Cambridge at the end of the night and it was all brilliant and hilarious and good.

I should also back up and mention that a few weeks before this all happened, we had a Portland Love Ceremony that was also perfect and super sweet and full of wonderful people and DOGS! and buffalo wings and Mt. Tabor and a cake from our favorite bakery which is now out of business (RIP Sweetness) and which I can't find a photo of now but it said "Love is all you need" because Beatles. And a week before the Boston ceremony, we got to hang out in New York and do a bunch of our favorite things in Boston and basically just do awesome things, I mean when I wasn't crazily trying to make personalized mix CDs for people because I thought that was the most sane idea for wedding favors, so who even needs a honeymoon?

Our hotel suite where we stayed in Cambridge was amaaaazing, and the day of Shane helped us organize the music and Manda helped Kathy get ready and my mom did my hair and I kept worrying about being nervous but then I was just happy. Also did I mention my mom made my dress because she is incredible?

And then the food was good and the cake was pretty and the toasts were perfect and we danced our first dance to Stevie Wonder which is the only obvious choice and people were practically shoving each other in order to reach us and say how much they loved the CDs and then everyone danced and danced forever on the humongous dance floor that we had requested. There was a pizza hat and inappropriate touching and photo boothing and three playings of Call Me Maybe and a dance circle and sweat and bruises (sorry again, Sam).

We also had random tourists from Georgia tell us that they were so happy about our gay marriage, and while our actual wedding coordinator at the hotel had been just so-so, the lowly hotel employees who probably make way less money than her who gathered all of our stuff up at the end of the night were so friendly and happy for us too and no one kicked us out even though we stayed past our time and then lots of people hung out in our suite where there was honest to God champagne and chocolate covered strawberries and a sombrero and gorgeous nighttime views of the Charles and Boston and we only got yelled at for being too loud a few times.

And yeah, this was basically just an excuse to waste way too much time looking through our wedding photos again and maybe it was vain, but it was totally worth it. The year and a half since then has been one of the best year and a halves of our lives, and every day I am just so happy to be married to Kathy Dougherty.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Giorno Dodici: My first pet.

Our family's first pet was a little schnauzer mix named Casper and he was a terror.

He was picked out by my brother when I was only a very tiny person, because my brother was the oldest and got the first pick. He picked poorly. Hence began a long line of pet tragedies in the Guccini household.

Maybe I'm exaggerating; to be honest, I have very little personal memories of Casper in our house. As I mentioned, I was a very tiny person. I just know he was mean. The famous Casper story goes like this: one of my brother's friends came over one day during winter before going skiing. As Casper often did with guests, he decided this friend was evil and bit his leg. But Casper didn't play with his bites, and this one went through snowpants. Through jeans. Through long underwater. AND THEN HE BROKE THE SKIN.

Eventually, our family must have come to a general consensus that he was just too mean for a sane family with three children to own, so we gave him to my grandma. Haha! Which sounds weird, but for some reason, my grandma was the love of Casper's life. And like most small, mean dogs, Casper lived forever from that point on, protecting my grandma from harm for many, many years. Their love for each other was pure and true, although it did make giving my grandma a hug a somewhat dangerous endeavor for a long time.


The first pet I owned as my own adult person, however, was a sweet gray kitty from the Animal Rescue League of Boston. She was surprisingly heavy in the cardboard box as I lugged her through the uneven cobblestones of the South End to the T, where she rode the train back out to Brighton. Kathy had to work that day, and was worried Lily would be hiding in a corner once I opened the box and set her free. I texted her to let her know that Lily was, in fact, snuggled in bed with me. Kathy always talks about it as one of the bestest and happiest texts of her life.

Lily; bedroom.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Giorno Undici: 3 (or 10) (or 15) Albums You'd Take to a Desert Island.

Okay, so I slacked off for the last two days of Blogember, because every streak has to end sometime. But there's no way I couldn't hop back on the bandwagon for today's prompt, because MUSIC. We're supposed to list three albums we'd take to a desert island, and after long, hard consideration, I have come to the conclusion that only picking three is impossible. Seriously. IM-POSS-I-BLE. 

So I'm going to narrow it down to 10, but only TALK ABOUT my top three. This is a decent compromise, right? RIGHT. I can do what I want! We eat what we like!

1. Simon & Garfunkel, Greatest Hits

Paul Simon will be the best songwriter of all time forever in my mind. I know every single word of this album and always will. I can listen to it happy or sad. Every song is perfect.

2. Fleetwood Mac, Dreams

Born out of passion and drugs, this will always be legendary to me. I never think of it as a collection of individual songs, even as much as The Chain stands out, or as songs from individual artists, as big as their personalities are and as much as I love Stevie. Anything from this album is a part of a greater whole; in my mind it's all just Rumours. The album is the thing.

3. Hanson, Middle of Nowhere

So this selection is obviously influenced by nostalgia (but most of these choices are), and I had a hard time deciding between MON or This Time Around, since I never can decide exactly which one hit me the hardest. But this will always remind me of a time in my life when I felt so much so acutely. And I still like all of these songs, even from a more adult and critical eye. This is a good album.

And the rest:

4. Radiohead, The Bends

5. Sleater Kinney, One Beat

6. Brandi Carlile, The Story

7. Pearl Jam, Ten

8. Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life

9. Counting Crows, August and Everything After

10. Florence and the Machine, Lungs

For the record, I still feel completely unsure about pretty much all of them. Ugh. This isn't fair.

Okay. I mean. If I HAD to choose more, I'd then probably go with:

11. The Beatles, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heartclub Band

12. Van Morrison, Moondance

13. Sarah McLachlan, Surfacing

14. Billy Joel, Greatest Hits 1973-1985

15. Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head

Make fun of me for the Coldplay and Billy Joel; I don't care. And I'll stop now, and not mess with it anymore. But still, this is HARD.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Giorno Otto: Time.

The prompt for Day Eight of Blogember is to write for five minutes about time, and because I am neither a physicist nor in the right mood to be philosophical, let's talk about what a great song "Time" by Hootie & the Blowfish is. Because RIGHT?

I will sometimes wake up and for no reason get this song stuck in my head and sing it as I'm eating my breakfast. Like, now, in 2013. I don't know why! But tomorrow's just another day, you know? And I don't believe in time.

Also, children killing in the street, dying for the color of a rag--I mean, there just aren't enough lyrics in pop songs about gangs these days. Even aside from that, everything about this song is perfect. The spare, dramatic opening, the super catchy chorus--TIME! TIME! TIME!--the sing along melodious quality in Darius Rucker's voice that allows me to remember all the words to this day even when I haven't actually sat down and LISTENED to this song for years. Until tonight, when I just looked it up on YouTube to embed in here. And listening to it, it totally stands up to my memory. Overly philosophical and a little morose while keeping a steady drum beat: pop music. Also, the classic '90s trick of ending a song by repeating the very first line. I miss that trick!

You ain't no friend of mine! He's just wasting! Wasting! Wasting time!

In other news, a future prompt this month for Blogember is to write about your first concert, and spoiler alert, mine was totally Hootie & the Blowfish, which means I will presumably be writing about Hootie & the Blowfish on my blog TWICE in one month. Discuss.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giorno Sette: A day in the life.

7:40: Slept in later than I should have. Last night I stayed up too late reading, and had also drunk some beers, both of which make waking up difficult. (Haha what am I talking about; waking up is always difficult.) Was finally forced out of bed when JP jumped up on it while whining full throttle, which she only does when she really, really wants me to get up.

Woke up feeling good. This is an important part.

7:40-8:30: Woke up, fed all the animals, gave JP her meds, took JP on her walk.

8:30: Watched a few minutes of last Saturday's Melissa Harris-Perry while eating cereal. Read a few more pages of A People's History of the United States, a project I've been working on since early summer. (I'm on page 469!)

9-11: Transcribed a file about fair labor laws.

11-12: Took a shower; started to get myself ready for a Day Full of Errands, one of those really nice days that working from home allows me to fit in sometimes. Had especially a lot of errands to do because Manda is arriving tonight, and I wanted to get things ready for her and Georgia.

12-3: Errand central, with JP in tow in the car. Went to: the library, the post office, Goodwill to drop off a bag of clothes, Home Depot, Target, the bank, the hardware store to make some copies of keys. BOOM.

2:50: Contemplated whether or not I should get a burrito at Taco Bell on my way home even though I've already eaten Taco Bell this week and there are leftovers are home that are going to go bad if I don't eat them soon.

2:55: Got a burrito at Taco Bell.

3-6: Transcribed a British cooking show about vegan cheesecake. Did laundry. Got Manda & Georgia's room ready. Put away Halloween decorations. Cleaned the bathroom.

6:00-6:30: Took JP on a walk; put real pants on again.

7-9: Trivia at Bare Bones with Kathy and Erica. We lost!

Right now: Made box mac & cheese, something I often get an urge to do after trivia; watched the Portland Timbers v. the Seattle Sounders (Timbers just won!); about to do dishes.

Sometime today, also: Started J. Courtney Sullivan's The Engagements. Watched 10 minutes of an episode of Torchwood. Got rid of an old chair via Craigslist.

In about an hour: Will drive to the airport to pick up Mandaaaaaaa!

I don't know if that sounds like a really boring day or a really awesome day to everyone else. But I thought it was pretty awesome.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Giorno Sei: Cinque Favorite Apps.

Day Six of Blogember involves listing our five favorite apps, which is sort of like a HAHA in my face right now, since I have been phoneless since Friday when I dropped it. Mind you, I have dropped it a million times in the past--I even once faceplanted while running and used my iPhone to break my fall, which it did beautifully, and survived--but this one little drop from my chair made its screen display blue stripes of death. I can't afford the $200 to get a new one until this weekend, so I've been going around phoneless, trying to tell myself it's a good thing, that it is OKAY to not be checking my phone every five minutes like I've gotten used to. Like I would maybe have some moments of human clarity like Louis CK rants about. Because I feel you, Louis.

But the truth is when I'm out and about without my phone, I feel anxious. What if something has happened to Kathy and she hasn't been able to get a hold of me? What if I lose track of time? What if something happens to ME? And maybe I have had a greater center of gravity: I've spent more time reading books in my spare time than checking Twitter and Facebook and being on my other favorite apps. I've been less connected, and maybe there are positive aspects to that, but I do also LIKE knowing what's going on with people I care about. I feel slightly guilty that I've been a little out of the loop this week.

Anyway, the point is, so what if I'm a creature of the 21st century. Technology isn't all bad, okay? Sorry, luddites.

So here are five of my favorite apps that aren't just Twitter or Facebook or Gmail:

1) Duolingo. I just blabbed all about this in another blog post a couple weeks ago! Embarrassing. Duolingo aggressive. Follow me, tho. Language!

2) Instagram. I know, boring. But...I've really missed being able to Instagram. :\ Because I sort of really love it. :\

3) Gojee. Just a really beautiful food & recipe app, although I took a couple steps away from it recently after realizing that the recipes I kept making from it were maybe not turning out super great, because they are maybe from chefs who are above my league? Hoping to come back to it though when I've either learned more cooking skillz or am better at discerning what will or will not work just by looking at the recipe.

4) Untappd. Beer.

5) The Multnomah County Library App. HAHA, what a nerd, but okay, I have been using my library's app a lot recently and it is awesome. I used to put books I really wanted to read on my to-read list on Goodreads, where they would then sit forever unlooked at again. But now when there's a book I really, really want to read, I immediately type it into the app and put it on my holds list on the library. That way, even if it's months from now, when it becomes available I will HAVE to read it because the library will be like "THIS BOOK IS WAITING FOR YOU, BITCH." Which has now led me to a somewhat obsessive checking of my holds. Anyway, it's a good app!

Yeah, okay. I want my phone back now.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Giorno Cinque: Una ricetta.

We'll be flying to my hometown for Thanksgiving this year, a holiday that I love deeply and that I actually can't remember the last time I was home for. I am real excited about it. At the same time, over the years when we've been away from family, we've started to develop our own holiday traditions, which I love equally. In particular, the last few years we've spent our Thanksgivings in Oregon in Eugene with our friends Kim and Cliff, and in honor of my mom's legendary pie tradition at home, I got into the habit of always bringing a couple of pies, one of which was always my mom's Chocolate Fudge Pie. Because why put things like fruit into a pie that might give you at least a smidgen of vitamins and nutrients when you could just have chocolate instead.

One of the only photos I could find that included the chocolate pie.
Kathy has long hair, as a sign of how many years I've made it.

So for day five of Blogember, which involves sharing a favorite recipe, since my mind is all wrapped up in the upcoming holidays, I figured I had to share the chocolate pie recipe. Kim and Cliff, feel free to make it if you miss us. (We'll miss you!)

Also, it is one of the most simple things to make in the world.

In a small pan, melt over low heat:

1/2 cup margarine or butter (one stick)
3 squares (1oz each) unsweetened chocolate [SIDE NOTE: The baker's chocolate we always get has now started packaging theirs in 1/2 oz squares, which I personally think is buuullshit because you get way less per package, I mean WHAT EVEN. But so with the new bullshit packaging you'll probably need six squares. Which are thinner and flimsier and hence break off more unevenly, like a crappy Hershey's bar. Ugh. Yeah, breaking off the 1oz squares was near impossible sometimes, but that added to the satisfaction of it somehow.]

Remove from heat. Stir in:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup Karo syrup
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt [I also feel the need to note that in my mother's recipe for this pie that she sent to me, TEASPOON is spelled out and capitalized because one time when I was a youth I made this pie with her and put 1/4 tablespoon salt in, and we ended up with chocolate salt pie, which was not as good. So, don't do that.]

Stir in:
3 eggs, slightly beaten

Pour into a 9 inch graham cracker crust, and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

My one tip for the pie, as I've made it several times at this point with varying results, is to not overbake it. You might keep sticking a knife in it and it'll keep coming up gooey, but if the top is set, take it out anyway. It'll thicken as it cools, and then it'll be nice and fudgy. It'll just be tougher otherwise, which is still good, because it will still be chocolate pie, but not quite as amazing.

Also, if you have more than one piece of this, you might feel like your stomach is suddenly made out of lead and you will want to die. But before that feeling, man, it is delicious.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Giorno Quattro: Liberta.

Day four of Blogember is to write for five minutes about freedom. And maybe this answer will make me sound really insufferable (I am also really cranky and tired right now), but:

Whenever I think about the word "freedom" nowadays I just think about how many people still don't have it. Rich people are more free than poor people; people who are born a different color are less free than other people; people who happen to be born in a different place are less free than others in other places; women are less free than men (and men can be less free than women in certain areas). And maybe that sounds like I'm taking too literal of a reading of it, because "true freedom lies within," which I know is true, to a point, but sometimes that can just be a privileged view of the world. If people always talk about dying for our freedom and stuff, I really feel like those same people ought to really think about freedom a little harder, because I think some people really want it for everyone but some people only think freedom is okay for some folks. And if you fall into the category of just not thinking about it that much, you're in the second category.

That said, I feel so grateful for all the freedom I have, which is a lot.

(That was cheery, wasn't it!)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Giorno Tre: 5 Favorite Blogs.

Giorno tre of Blogember is your five favorite blogs, and I'm going to do this in a sort of weird way so as to actually include more than cinque because I am sneaky.

1) My fave Hanson ladies: I suddenly realized yesterday how neat it is that Tahnie, Manda, Cat and I are all writing in blogs together for this thing, just like it's 1998! Except via Wordpress and Blogger instead of Angelfire and Geocities! It warms my little heart. So thank you, Tahnie.

2) Hyperbole and a Half. Because, obviously?

3) Tumblrs from people who aren't really my friends but I like to imagine we are: Richard Lawson and Rachael Maddux. And I don't mean their Tumblrs in the way of reblogging GIFs and quotes about self-confidence, which I also really, really like, from everyone, but I mean their Tumblrs in the way of sometimes they write long personal things on it and I don't just scroll through it all until I find the next GIF, but actually sit and read every word, because they both write the way I would like to write. I like Richard Lawson's self-deprecating yet hopeful writing about New York and pop culture and horrible people, and I like his nostalgic rambles during trips home to Massachusetts, and I like how everything that Rachael Maddux ever says about music or politics or writing is always somehow perfect, like what my brain would say if my brain was better at saying things, and how she is like a year or two younger than me but is in fact at least ten years wiser, and funnier. Also she and I used to both like Hanson, and Richard Lawson went to college with my cousin, so, you know, we are all pretty much BFFs.

4) Looks and Books. Back in the day during what seems like a long time ago now, Jill D. (who is now ALSO a Jill G.) and I worked together, and while we live on opposite sides of the country now, she and I continue to have a heck of a lot of the same interests, including both books and fashion, which she mixes and mingles really interestingly on her blog. Okay, I don't know a TON about fashion, but I admire it, and you know my Project Runway feels. But seriously, Jill has been keeping up this blog pretty consistently for years, and it is always really well written and great, and I admire it/her.

5) My wife. So my wife has a blog, and she is also pretty great, and yeah, she's only written in this blog three times this year, but the point is that she is really a really, really great writer and I feel like sometimes people don't know that about her. And maybe putting her on this list will encourage her to write in it more. Because as we all know, publicly pressuring the other to do things they don't actually have time to do is totally part and parcel of a successful marriage, right? Yep.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Giorno Due: Favorite Quote.

It's day two of Blogember, and I have decided to use the titles of these blog posts this month to help me practice my numbers in Italian! Because I am learning Italian and you would think knowing numbers would be a basic thing when learning a language, but I still don't really know them!

So, giorno DUE is a favorite quote. I love a good quote and always tell myself I should keep a quote journal, but instead I read a good quote and say, "That is a good quote!" and then it immediately erases itself from my head. So for this one, I'm going to pick one that I know is a bit overdone, but it is one that I still really like and that I can't ever forget because it's on my fridge.

"To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!" - Emerson
I like this because I feel like it pretty much sums up, like, everything. I didn't realize until I typed it up that it even includes the "false friends" part that I babbled all about yesterday. And I like that it sits on my fridge surrounded by things that affirm it: amazing family members laughing at our wedding, a flyer for our first black president from way back in 2008 (speaking to the "intelligent people" and "leaving the world better" part), among a whole bunch of other things. And while it's pretty self-congratulating as a whole, the "appreciation of honest critics" part is really important, and really hard. 

PLUS, this quote makes me feel that whenever I garden in my little gardening space, I am doing something REALLY MEANINGFUL AND IMPORTANT. So, whether Emerson said all this stuff or not, who cares, I still like it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Blogember, yo! Day 1: A life lesson.

Going to try hard this month to follow through with my friend Tahnie's Blogember challenge, because she is awesome and so am I. 

The first prompt is one of the best lessons life has shown you.

Hooey, which is kind of a tough start, because if it was a LIST of lessonS, I could throw out a list of more concrete things like: move across the country if you want to! Never feel "guilty" for eating ice cream! Don't be afraid to be gay! Take as many road trips as possible even if you know all that driving is bad for the environment! Read National Geographic! Read the paper! Always realize that there are people out there who make less money than even you do and being poor is hard, so have empathy! Stuff like that.

But breaking it down to just ONE brings the pressure. But I've been thinking about this for a day, and this is what I've come up with.

People in your life are going to change a lot. 
But you have to always be okay with yourself.

When I was an angsty teenager, all I ever thought I needed/wanted in life was someone to love, someone who would love me back. Since I am the luckiest person in the world, I have found that, and it is indeed important. It is the most important.

But what I feel like I didn't know was all the hurt that would come from friends changing. Friendship, in general, is never given as much attention in books and movies and stuff as romantic love, but it's just as much a part of any worthwhile life. And I thought that friendship drama would mainly be relegated to the teen years, to that weird transition in middle school where people who used to seem like Normal Kinda Girls were suddenly Super Cool Girls who acted weird, and you didn't want to act weird, or rather you DID want to act weird, and not normal, and so you split off. But it was fine, everyone got over it, it's cool.

But what no one tells you is that you may be, oh, I don't know, 30 years old, and driving around your town where you now live and where you are so happy, and you will still sometimes think about that friend that has known you forever, that suddenly decided within the past year that you are an asshole, and cut you off without ever saying a single thing to you about it. In fact, after a lifetime of being a pretty innocuous person who always tries to be kind to strangers and a good friend and stuff, as you move swiftly into adulthood you'll find more and more people who think you are an asshole. And you will tell yourself, whatever, you don't need people in your life who think you are an asshole, because clearly they never knew you anyway, so it's fine, and all that, but still, it will always seem kind of weird to you.

At the same time, the strangest, kookiest assortment of folks will end up forming the people you admire most. Like, random kids from your class in high school who turned out to be super awesome people, whose Facebook posts you secretly adore, who you wish you had been better friends with back in the day, who you feel stupidly proud of even if you're not actually like, friend friends. You will meet people who don't know anything about your past but still welcome you openly. You will meet people who are just so, so interesting and passionate and great. You will meet people who are uncomprehendingly funny. People you went to college with will end up being super successful, with their names flashing across your TV screen, and you don't necessarily feel proud of them like the people you went to high school with, because the connection wasn't the same because "people I knew in college" is probably the most superficial and flimsy type of connection you can ever have, but still, the fact that you know the human beings who are now writing and acting on TV shows reminds you that life is crazy and weird. And then the people who you knew in college that you actually DID know, like in a deep way, like you never really knew what friendship was before you met them way, they will continue to be awesome, and love you, and often feel like the closest people in your life, even when they live really really far away.

So the change can be bad, but it can also be good. They both seem remarkable to me.

The being okay with yourself part mostly has to do with the first group, the ones who change in weird ways, or the ones who decide they don't like you anymore. And being okay with yourself isn't really just saying, "C'est la vie, screw that." Because sometimes you HAVE done something wrong. Not always; sometimes people are just disappointing. But owning your shit is part of being okay with yourself. Being okay with yourself is saying, right, that thing I did wasn't great, and I can see that now, and I should have done that better, and I am always striving to do things better.


I am still not an asshole.

Because in the end, that is the important thing to know, and that is the thing that the second group, the group of people that surprise you and that will always believe in you, they're the ones that will help hold you up if you start to doubt it. So I guess this is my life lesson: 

Never let anyone make you believe that you are an asshole.

Because seriously? You are probably pretty great.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Writing Log: October 2013.

Back in late spring of 2012, I wrote a couple of blog posts here entitled Trying To Do This, where I contemplated the pitfalls of, and simultaneously committing myself to, the Life of The Writer. Except I didn't call it that because I'm not an asshole. But as my life has wobbled forward from that point, I've been contemplating how I'm doing in that whole vein lately. 

I think back then, when I really felt like I was committing myself to it, to writing being my life now and curse the real world who will never consider it a real job! etc etc, I imagined it would be a progressive thing, moving up the rungs of some invisible but satisfying ladder, getting better and better each day. And I have seen other colleagues of mine doing that: their TV recaps get funnier and funnier. They somehow find time to frequently blog in a personal blog while still writing great articles for the commercial sites we work for. They keep coming up with great ideas for posts, and then executing them well. Ideas bloom for novels in their heads and they actually start writing them. They sign up for Nanowrimo. Their Twitter followers continue to tick up. Even though, BLEGH, the writing game on the Internet so quickly becomes about popularity, a convoluted, smoky egotistical bubble where it becomes hard to breathe. And while every now and then I do suffer from pathetic little bouts of, "But I just don't know why people don't like me as much as they like them," which is embarrassing to admit but I'm feeling stable enough at the moment to admit it so there it is, most of the time I realize the grossness of it all--whenever I leave the house and do a job in other spheres of the world where no one is worried about whether people like their witty sentences or not, I'm always like, "Oh, that's right! This is better."--mostly, my somewhat stagnant social media life isn't a sign to me that I'm not likable, because I think I am, but just that I'm not DOING enough. I'm not putting myself out there enough. And if I've been writing for paid online gigs for what feels like quite a while at this point, shouldn't I be on some type of schedule where I'm getting better at putting myself out there?

But I'm not. I envisioned rigor and routines in my Trying To Do This posts, where I would go to coffeeshops, write every day, write as soon as inspiration struck me. But the truth is, my writing life is pretty much like it always has been: I go through extremely manic episodes, a day or half of a day, where I write a bunch and feel like I could keep writing for all time! Every single idea feels writable, and in fact, I wonder why I HAVEN'T yet written about the people who live on my street, or that one road trip, or my thoughts on what those actors in that TV show mean to society. Near the end of these manic episodes, I sometimes start to feel, "Oh God, am I writing TOO much? Does the world want me to shut up now?" But it is still a type of euphoria.

But much more often, writing down to sit an article is something I almost have to force myself to do. Not because I hate doing it, but I just can't get in the right set of mind to want to do it. And then every sentence feels forced and awful and I hate it. But if I don't do it, then I hate myself for not writing it. I have let simple 600-word articles drag around behind my conscience like a ghost for weeks, when they would only take me a couple of hours if I just sat down and did it. But somehow I can't, and just thinking about trying to write when I don't feel like writing exhausts me. I don't understand people that literally write all day every day for a living. They must have some type of hyperactive mind that achieves more motivated consistency than mine does. I know a stereotype for writers is that we write all the things when we're sad, but I literally cannot write when I'm sad. I need a super clear head that both has the energy and the confidence to propel words out of my brain like they matter, or to believe that the sentences I think are entertaining are actually entertaining.

So while I've been working from home again for the last few months [although this will be coming to an end soon], I really spend most of my time transcribing, both because it gives me more money and because it is a type of mindless work, one that I actually can set deadlines for, that I can block out squares of time and say, "I am going to do this thing then," and then do it, the comfort of a 9-5 life. And there have been a whole lot of days over the last few months when, whether it's transcribing OR writing, I feel so goddamn happy, and so goddamn lucky to do cool things, that I can't imagine forcing myself to do anything else. But I feel like it's beginning to get to that point again where I'm getting jumpy, wondering if any of this is enough, wondering if I'm making a difference in the world with my life, and also wondering if working from home ironically makes me write LESS. Because it's going out into the world that actually stimulates my mind, no matter how much my gut just wants to be on my couch all day.

And this has all turned out to be a million times longer than I expected, but I ain't going to apologize because I ain't going to apologize for anything on this blog anymore. But I MEANT for this to just be a quick explanation for something I've been meaning to do for a while: at the end of each month, I will collect everything I've written for the Internet into a little list here on the blog. This may seem egotistical, but I think it will be a good way for me to asses how I AM in fact doing. Because maybe I'm berating myself for not doing enough but when it all stacks together at the end of the month, I can tell myself, hey girl, you're doing all right. And I can point out which posts I wrote that I actually was proud of, and remember them, while also thinking about where I can improve. And, you know, all the people that love me can have a place to catch up if they've missed all my obnoxious Facebook links.

I promise each month won't have such an intense analysis about my writing state of mind. But hey, maybe it will! Who knows what the future holds.

Me on the interwebs, October 2013:

One of my biggest failures this month was that, somehow, I didn't write ANYTHING for Book Riot. Which is a shame, because I really, really like Book Riot, and I had also committed to them when they hired me to write two posts a month. So, I suck and need to get back into a nerdy frame of mind. However, this older post was re-published there at the beginning of the month during The Best of Book Riot, which was nice:

- When You Realize You Can't Read All the Things

My favorite writing moments this month were at Food Riot, and I continue to have the most ideas and enthusiasm for posts there, which is interesting.

- My Spice Collection Makes Me Feel Like a Grown Up
- 10 Reasons Why Squash Brings All the Boys to the Yard

A big thing that happened this month too was that the silly spice article was published on The Huffington Post. Articles from either of the Riots are actually picked up to run on HuffPo somewhat frequently, so this wasn't entirely groundbreaking or anything, but it was the first time it happened to me, which elicited mainly a feeling of relief, like, OK, I'm not doing something wrong. And all my family and friends were super excited about it for me, which was the best and still makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

- At the Lesbrary, I reviewed Carol Anshaw's Carry the One, which was more kind of a "I don't know how to review books that depressed me!" review.

- Reading in the Rainbow: Ann McMan, Jeanette Winterson, Joanna Hoffman: I was really happy to get this one done, as these were all books that were mailed to me by the authors or press people a long time ago. Book reviews are definitely very frequent ghosts that follow me around for too long.

- Good Wife recaps! I really, really love recapping this show.

- Diane Keaton to Remake Last Tango in Halifax in America: In which everyone agreed that it's a horrible idea, and no one agreed with my casting choices.
- AE Book Club November Choices: In which I learned that I should never include opinions about lesbian romance novels.

Group Posts:
- The Best Thing I Ate, October Food Riot Round-Up 
- The Best Book I Read, October Book Riot Round-Up

On the personal front, I wrote two entries on this here blog, which is not bad considering it has been neglected pretty much all year. I am planning on doing Tahnie's Blogember starting tomorrow, though. I know, I know, best laid plans and all that, but her prompts seem really fun so I swear I'm going to actually make a real effort to keep up with it.

So, overall? October wasn't bad. But here's my vow to make November better.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

10 Random Things I Like A Lot Because Random: October 2013 edition.

1) This cheesy and/or AMAZING Halloween owl thing that I got at Walmart for $2.50. Yeah, I know, okay, Walmart is evil and it's only $2.50 because some poor person in a sweat shop made it and I really really do care but I love holiday decorations something fierce and also it's adorable.

2) This crazy neighborhood cat who likes to run up to huge dogs and rub against their legs like they are BFFs. I mean, I also freak out each time it happens because I have no idea if my dog will eat her or not, but I have never seen another cat do such a thing and I want to hug her and steal her. Although I haven't seen her in a while. I am hoping it's not because a big dog like mine ate her.

3) Duolingo. The older I get, the more determined I become to learn all the languages in the history of the world, because I like sensible goals, especially when my brain becomes less and less likely to actually be able to carry them out each day. But anyway, Duolingo is the best app of all the apps ever created. You can use it on your phone or just online, and it is free and I want to marry it except I am already married.

4) These mums. I have wanted to put a nice plant in a nice pot on our very very fancy steps forever, and I finally made it happen with some mums. It is this bright pop of color every single time I open the door and it makes me so flipping happy.

5) "Diamonds," The Boxer Rebellion. 

6) These blue dishes. I know these 10 Random Things lists always devolve into materialistic and shallow shoutings of things I've acquired lately, but whatevs. While on vacation in Leavenworth, Washington a few weekends ago for my birthday, Kathy bought these for me after I told her she should at some hip antique store, and we are not typically antique store shoppers, and I never knew that I wanted things like old dishes, but apparently I do. (One's from England; one from Japan. Blue!) When we got home I actually purchased plate hangers, because those things exist, and put them up in our kitchen, and this is the worst picture ever, but sometimes I lean against our sink and stare at them and feel just pretty damn proud of myself.

7) This American Life. Get ready for some 30-year-old-white-girl talk, but I've been reconnecting with the world of podcasts, and This American Life is just always so good. Okay? Okay. That's all. Also, everyone I know, you've probably already had someone else shout this at you but NEVER TAKE TOO MUCH TYLENOL, OKAY?!

8) Silver Falls State Park. Silver Falls is the largest state park in Oregon, outside of Silverton and close-ish to Salem, and I've only been there twice, one trip of which was with my dad last week, but it is one of my favorite places. I've done the same short hike each time and seen two magnificent waterfalls, but there are TEN in the main hiking loop altogether. TEN! My dad and I both committed to returning sometime and doing all ten. And when I complete that goal, I will write about it in my boring hiking blog and I will feel like I have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail like Cheryl Strayed! Except not really because the Pacific Crest Trail is wayyyyy longer and wayyyyy harder.

9) This extremely unhealthy buffalo quinoa. I've been cooking a lot more recently, partly inspired by the other writers at Food Riot who clearly know way more about cooking than I do. I've actually been thinking each month that I should do a monthly post recapping my favorite meals on here, but then the end of the month comes and goes and I forget. But one of my favorites from the last couple of months is this buffalo quinoa "mac and cheese" although if I made it again, I'd probably add some chicken and a little more quinoa, because it was REAL saucy, although I am not necessarily complaining because I like things as saucy as you can get 'em and I shoveled it in, but my digestive track was sort of like "hahaha this concoction is ridiculous what are you doing to me." Because the recipe is basically like a quarter of a bottle of Frank's Red Hot and a whole lot of cheese. Like, that's pretty much it. BUT QUINOA SO HEALTHY. (Not healthy.)

10) Shakira. Okay so we've been watching The Voice, even though it is no longer the Dream Team of coaches, and Christina actually isn't annoying me THAT much. I mean, like, it's tolerable. But I miss Shakira talking Spanish to me on TV each week. And sometimes recently "Poem to a Horse" will come on my iTunes shuffle when I'm running and it just makes me want to listen to Shakira all night and day.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Turning 30.

Friday morning was rough. I had an interview later in the day that I wasn't 100% prepared for or excited about. And while I am typically a throw-on-some-shit-in-two-seconds-and-brush-my-teeth type of gal, I took forty-five-minutes to settle on a damn outfit Friday morning. Luckily it was 45 minutes I had, but it was 45 minutes I could had spent, like, eating breakfast, or reading the paper, or taking my dog on a longer walk. Instead I started tossing clothes onto my bed like a madwoman after each and every one either didn't fit or made me feel uncomfortable and gross, because I have become fat, or at least fatter than I was two years ago, and I don't necessarily see fat as a bad word so it's fine, but each one was like NO NO NO. Because going into an interview, you want to look cute. Each time I had an idea of an item of clothing that could possibly fit the feeling-cute bill, if it didn't fall into the NO NO NO category, I discovered that it was in fact crumpled in a heap beside/underneath my bed, every square inch of wrinkle covered in an impressive array of animal hair. The shoes I thought I could wear were lying underneath my sneakers on the shoe rack, covered in cobwebs and cat vomit that appeared to be centuries old and fully cemented. Add on top of this my conflicted feelings about this interview in the first place and what it signifies for my life, and it was just not a good scene. 

A few hours later, as I worked at the library and was really enjoying my shift at the library, I glanced at myself in the full length mirror in the bathroom and discovered that what I ended up with did, in fact, look cute. A patron complimented my hair even though it's been at least a month since my last cut and I barely brush it in the mornings. Another library volunteer brought in shortbread cookies and I ate at least five. Things were looking up.  As I made my way to the interview, I felt like I wanted to puke and my hands became clammy and my heart beat too fast and all the other awful things that happen to you at interviews, and I worried that my shirt was riding up over my fat ass, and that you could see my cleavage through my second-shirt-layer, and I reminded myself once again that I hadn't really prepared for this at all, and then I went into the room with the two women. And I realized that most of the questions were similar to the questions at all the other interviews I had this summer for jobs I didn't get, and that all that failure actually helped me at that moment, because suddenly I was calm. I gave the same answers I'd already given multiple times to other interviewers, but suddenly they came out the way they sounded in my head. I worried that at points I was getting rambly, but perhaps it was just because I had a lot to say about it all, and my brain was actually allowing me to say it. They seemed to have positive feedback about my answers, and at the end of it, I said, I am patient and compassionate. And those two things are important. I can be an asset in this, because of this and that and this. And as I walked back to my car, I still felt totally neutral about whether they would call me back or not, but I felt this huge sense of relief for myself. That I actually sold myself like I know I should sell myself. Because I am patient and compassionate. Because I can be asset. And I do care about this thing, even if I am constantly conflicted about whether this thing is the right thing because I also care about so many other things and my heart can never settle on one, so that even at age 30, I am still tussling around, scraping by, forever unsettled.

Then I went home and I made a good dinner and I watched TV with Kathy and I cleaned the house like a madwoman for my dad's arrival the next day and I felt happy because I love doing all those things and I am so lucky to be able to do all of them.

And I realized at the end of the day, this day-after-I-turned-30, that this is probably what my 30s will be like. I will spend 25% of my day feeling like a complete failure at being a grown up, in a hazy space where I don't have the right clothes or the right job or health insurance or savings or a solid writing routine or exercise plan or diet or sufficient motivation. But the rest of the 75%, I will feel pretty damn good. I will care about things and do things that I am proud of and at the end of the day I will still be so, so happy because I love my apartment and I love my animals and I love Kathy and I love my things and I like the way I fill up almost all of my seconds of breathing. And maybe some days it will be off; I'll feel 90% fuck up all day, or 100% Killing It At Life all day, but the overall mean will still be the same. So in other words, it will be pretty similar to my 20s. But maybe with a slightly altered percentage. Maybe it will actually be more like 15% fuck up, 85% proud. And maybe within those numbers, it will also be slightly less selfish. 

I made goals for the Year 30 benchmark over the last decade, although not huge ones in the long run: to have a "real job," to travel to places I didn't travel. And part of my mind is just transferring those goals over, to do all those things before Year 40, if I'm lucky enough to make it that far, but really I think just the goal of sticking with that percentage is okay. Because that percentage is really a rather good place to be.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Addendum: Macklemore & Mary Lambert.

This is much delayed, but my latest post here, which I then slightly modified to publish on AfterEllen, stirred up the most attention and debate of any article I've written in a long time, and also made me think even more deeply about a lot of the murky topics I brought up. I wanted to expand a little bit on some of it, even though it all happened weeks ago, because I've been thinking about it ever since. The main thing is this.

1. Let's be clear: Appropriation is a thing.

Trying to take a critical look at things is tricky because there will be people on both ends of the spectrum that totally misconstrue what you say. For instance, some people thought that my defense of Macklemore was somehow me silencing both queer people and people of color. Which, you know, could've expected that. On the opposite side, some took my paragraph about how we ALL appropriate things in one way or another and how that is not always a bad thing, to mean that we should stop making a big deal about appropriation in the first place because nothing is original anyway, etc etc, which disturbed me a little more.

I feel like that paragraph is the most troubling part of my whole original article for me, because I believe in it so strongly but I feel like it's so easy to twist and turn what I was saying. So first and foremost: yes, appropriation is a thing, and it must be something we never sweep under the rug as just being this "natural" way the world works. Because a lot of times, other people influencing how we live and how we make art IS a very natural, positive relationship. But the relationship between black art and white society is not one of those relationships. White people have been stealing black people's art for a long time, frequently getting rich off of it while the actual talent gets close to nothing. I feel like the forces at play in this arena aren't as horrid as they were in the past, but they're still there, and even if they weren't, I'm not really one of those "get over the past" type of people anyhow. This type of thing should be talked about, and talked about as much as possible.

Here's the part where I feel like things get tricky: just because society and history are shitty, this should not prevent any one person from following whatever path speaks to them. Meaning, white people can rap if they want to. White people can sing the blues if they want to. Just like black people can do whatever want to. Because anybody can do what they want to! There is this attitude I see in radicals a lot where it's like, NO ONE CAN DO ANYTHING UNLESS THAT THING IS ASSIGNED TO THE CULTURE YOU'RE BORN INTO or you are being disrespectful and privileged. And it feels so much more harmful than good. I know that that may seem like I'm simplifying things, but it drives me crazy because all it does is put up more and more and more and more divisions and walls between us. So yes, I do think Macklemore has profited off of black culture, and I think he thinks that too, but no, I do not think he is silencing black culture through his success. It's not all one way or the other! It's not all good but it's certainly not all bad. The fact that the world is so full of grey shades and nuance and complexity is what makes it so awesome.

I also don't think that Macklemore thinks that because he wrote "White Privilege" and talked about all these thorny issues, that he is OFF THE HOOK and never has to talk about racism and privilege again. People who think that: why do you believe in people so little? Every single thing I have seen and heard from Macklemore shows me that he's smart, thoughtful, and sensitive. He wants to continue the dialogue of this very real reality that he is a part of, moreso than any other white rapper I can ever think of, and I think that is important, which is why I included "White Privilege" in my post. It is not MORE important than what black rappers are doing, but I think it's important. Yeah, I know Tumblr thinks about white privilege a lot, but I bet you a whole shit ton of people who might listen to "White Privilege" have never really thought about it that deeply. So it increases the conversation. It is good.

Anyway, now I'm veering back off into my own rant that I've already ranted. But I just really didn't want to give off the message that appropriation is cool and okay. Because it's not.

2. Talking about race is hard and often makes me feel weird but I'm going to try and keep doing it anyway.

It's funny because I still completely 100% agree with what I said about queer stuff in my post. Macklemore is an awesome ally, and pretty much all queer allies are awesome, in my opinion. Queers who don't feel the same way, we are just going to have to agree to disagree probably forever. Maybe this has something to do with the idea that it's always easier to criticize a group you belong to, whereas when you talk about groups you don't belong to everything gets all tip toe-y. I'm not sure.

I do know that I always feel hesitant to write anything about race as a white writer, not because I don't think it's important but because I'm afraid of messing up. I felt especially hesitant in this case, but I felt I had to because race, obviously, got so tangled up in all the other arguments. And some of the things I said weren't perfect, obviously, and a lot of people of color who commented made me think about things and change my view on a few things, which was neat, and which I was really appreciative of. But some people still got angry about it, like some people will probably always get angry about it when I try.

It's a tough thing, because on the one hand, I hear the argument from people of color when they're like, "White people, please stop speaking for us, we can speak for ourselves, just shut up and listen." I totally get that. And I want to listen! I am listening.

On the other hand, I read a quote in the paper recently, funnily enough about a conflict between the white queer community and people of color here in Portland, which said that there is no such thing as being a passive anti-racist. She summed up the plight of white people quite clearly: we read things, we see things on the news, we go, OH HOW SAD, THAT IS HORRIBLE, and we go back home. We do nothing. More and more recently, I feel like I am reading a lot of things and getting really upset and then doing nothing. I don't want to be that person.

So I struggle, between that idea of just listening, and that idea of not being passive. And I have a platform on AfterEllen, where the majority of the writers are white, where the majority of topics covered are white, where the audience is pretty (queer) mainstream. I try to write about race and people of color as much as I can, because I feel like I don't see enough of it on the site. I'm not trying to speak FOR anyone; I am speaking for me, and the things I care about.

And sometimes I get stuff wrong, and sometimes I say things that offend people. And people will read the very worst angle of me. For instance, someone will read this and think, "Oh, how nice, another white girl tries to write off her white guilt so she can feel better about herself," instead of seeing me just really honestly trying to work through thoughts in my head. Fine. I know a lot of people saw me defending a white rapper and just saw me silencing black rappers, but oh well. I'm going to keep trying, and keep feeling weird about stuff, anyway, because deep down, I know that I should.