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Tuesday, October 29, 2013


In three days time, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) will start. The idea is to write every day, and basically produce a novel or its equivalent, the goal being 50,000 words during the month. James is participating. So is Daphne. This year, I am not.

I "did" NaNo last year. We were at the kick-off at Dragon's Lair, and that was very cool. Every day, for the most part, I wrote up to the goal and I ended up somewhere in the 80k range, I believe? I don't remember exactly, and I'm not going to look it up. Daphne did a good job, at 30k words, her own goal based on some recommendations made by the kids' program.

Why not give it a go again this year?

Several reasons. The biggest is that I felt burnt out and eaten alive by December 1, 2012. I had a story idea, and I wrote that for the first 50,000ish words. Then I ran out of idea and hadn't developed it enough to keep going. Instead, I wrote essays. Every day, or every writing session, I would give myself a topic. I ended up plumbing some pretty dark depths and felt like I had been through the ringer. I haven't gone back and looked at what I wrote. I am pretty sure I hate it and never want to see it again.

I realized that there are demons that shouldn't necessarily be exorcised onto the page. Sometimes, you've already buried them, and digging them back up is an emotional zombie apocalypse.

Another reason I'm not doing it is that I don't need "motivation" to write. I write a lot, and although my writing frequency and manner has changed over the years, I'm happy with it. I used to update my personal blog a lot more frequently, as in every few hours sometimes. The Facebook Status Update has done away with most of that fluff, so I only write when I have something to say. (This is based in importance as I rate it, not you, see.)

A third reason is that the mentality of "write as much as you can, get it on paper, don't think too much and don't edit" doesn't produce my best work. I like to craft as I go, and that can be slow. But I'm also competitive, and I liked to win the writing sprints, so I'd just babble. You're not supposed to care whether what you wrote under these circumstances is crap, but I care. I don't want to waste my time producing crap. (Insert disgusting biological humor here.)

So, I've designated myself the official snack-provider and cheer-leader of NaNo 2013. I can't wait to print out the "winner" certificates for my family and to see what they come up with. And I'm betting that this year, I'll have a lot more fun than I did last time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This is a quote from "The Lottery of Birth" and I love it, but can't post it on Facebook because it will be taken as an attack. Still, I want to remember it:

"If you have a society, it's going to have certain roles and certain positions available. That's just inevitably the case. That'll be true forever, as long as we have societies. So, education you can view in one of two ways: You can say that education is this process by which people arrive at the capacity to use their skills and talents maximally and enrich their lives and so on -- a positive view of education. Alternatively, you can say education is a process which prepares people to fit positions in society. It gives them the information and the attitudes, the personalities, the inclinations, the expectations that are consistent with the positions that they are going to fill in society. 

"Now, actually, the second is inevitable, but you want the first. So to have the first, it must be that the positions that people are going to have in society need for people to be their most fulfilled and accomplished and capable selves. But that's not the case for typical societal structures that we now have. So the school system has to teach you to endure boredom. It has to teach you to take orders and to obey. And so that's what it does for 80%.

"So there's a contradiction between fitting the slot and being the best you can be, so to speak. To have good education, to have liberating education, society has to have slots that are for free people, that are for initiating and caring human beings."

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Girl I Mean to Be versus My Life as a Reality Show

Everyone has a self-concept, right? Here's how I see myself: I am a young-at-heart middle-aged rabid writer, authority-resistant libertarian, creative wanna-be nerd without any math skills, keen sense of humor, tending toward bouts of selfishness but trying to do better, clever planner, socially sort of awkward but hopefully affable enough to make up for it, woman who really does want to love Jesus a lot more than I do. There are probably other facets, like, of course, that I'm a mom who loves my kid... but I don't think that one's up for a lot of debate. Same thing about the fact that I am a wife who is absolutely devoted to my man.

Tonight, I was having a conversation with that man about my lingering self-consciousness from the complete mental/physical freak-out storm that I tossed the weekend before our wedding... when his brother and sister-in-law were here. I am ashamed of that whole episode, and want to protest, "But it's not fair to judge me by that! I hadn't slept more than 2-3 hours at a time in nearly two months! I was in chronic pain, I was sleep deprived, and I was losing it! But that's not *me*."

I like to think that the loss of control was an outlier. That's not who I am. I am a pretty calm chick who isn't genuinely thrown by much. Right?

And then I think back to my screaming on the phone at someone who had been my closest friend for a couple of years, because I was so angry and hurt at our situation, and there was no one to blame except maybe myself, but you can't holler and swear at yourself, or else people look at you like you have a screw loose.

I like to think that I don't abuse my friends, but I did this multiple times to this person, and I used the stress of our situation, which was actually *my* stress within the confines of it, as my excuse to indulge in my worst impulses to lash out, to hurt as badly as I was hurting.

But that's not my norm. Is it?

When I think about it, I'm not even sure... I consider my inability to make and maintain friendships (especially with women), about people who have told me that they've blocked me in their Facebook feed because it's "too much," or have unfriended me outright and I don't know why. I think about all of the relationships that have fallen away over the years, and have wondered why I haven't really made many of those "lifelong" alliances. I remember the fits, and the near- and outright-hysterics. I ponder angry tears, and easy jealousies, and conclusions jumped to without much examination.

I realize that I fail as a human being so frequently that this failure literally defines me. And I thank God for my husband and my daughter, who love me not just in spite of but even including these screw-ups. Because, if I take a cold, hard look at myself, I am forced to the conclusion that I alone am responsible for people who have flown from my life, for any negative reputations I might have (and the nature of that negativity varies depending on the crowd).

In truth, I want to be hurt and righteously indignant at the slights, the snubs, and the outright dumpings. But, in fact, all I can do is strive toward the person I want to be, this still-flawed but better version of who I am now, and hope to avoid any more collateral damage.

This is a struggle. Because, honestly, I'm emotionally exhausted already. I'd much prefer to stay home, with my two loves, where I'm accepted and comfortable. I want not to care what anyone else thinks. I want to know so much that they're wrong, that even the haters don't bother me. But I'm not there. I don't think I'll ever be there. So I have to do better. I have to be better. And I will be. So please hang on.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: Trader Joe's PB&J Milk Chocolate Bar

As you know, if you have been paying any attention whatsoever, I really like chocolate. I like it by itself, and I like it when imaginative people put fun things in it.

A year and a half ago, I did a review of Patric Chocolate's PBJ OMG bar. Whereas it has a hint of "jelly" in the fruity tones of the chocolate, this bar - 

- actually contains a jelly of sorts. According to the ingredient list, it's raspberry juice, raspberry flavor, and some sugars.

The bar is sectioned off; there are 6 portions, so you could eat the bar in different sittings, if that's how you roll. When we're talking breakfast, that is *not* my M.O.

The center has a strip of peanut butter and some gooey raspberry liquid. While the bar is certainly superior to, say, Palmer candy or other cheap-o chocolate imitators, it's basically just a milk chocolate bar, on par with more recent innovative grocery store chocolate.

The milk chocolate *is* made with cocoa butter and real vanilla; there is even extra cocoa butter in the filling. But it's too sweet to work with the jelly. It would have a more interesting flavor profile if the chocolate were darker.

Additionally, the jelly is so extremely sweet (and I'm a "there's no such thing as 'too sweet'" gal), it overwhelms the peanut butter. It might as well just be a raspberry-filled chocolate bar.

It's tasty, but I probably wouldn't seek it out again unless it were on sale, the same way I do with other "grocery store" chocolate bars. Although I loved the idea of having actual peanut butter and jelly in the chocolate bar, I would choose Patric Chocolate's PBJ OMG bar in the future. It is definitely more balanced and flavorful.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Walking Around: Castle Hill's Graffiti Park

Today was a gorgeous one in Austin!

I was sitting out on the porch with my laptop, planning for our Christmas video, when James came out, taking a break from work stuff, and asked if I wanted to go on a walk. Why, yes! I did! But it had to be a wobbly walk. Because here in Austin, we might rock steady, but we...

So, we headed out and, less than half an hour later, were here:

This is the Graffiti Park at Castle Hill (see the castle behind it?), part of the Clarksville community. 

This site was supposed to be condos. They were funded and the foundations started in the 1980s... then the site failed some structural tests and building stalled. Back in 2007, more feasibility tests were done, and it was "upzoned." Here is a site plan for it, in case you're interested.

So far, though... just cool stuff.

There were people there weeding, and picking up trash, and painting over stuff to make blank canvases to put their own art. The spray paint fumes were deliciously noxious.

I have to agree with this sentiment, especially given the foreground.

How about all of this graffiti-based encouragement?

Even the drainage ditch was all painted up.

You could look for hours, and then come back in a few weeks, and there would be different art to observe.

To get here, go west on 12th from Lamar, and take the first left onto Baylor. You can't miss it!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Music Men

When I was in elementary school, I lived caddy-corner across the streetish from a schoolmate, Eugene Kersh. One year, after my mom had gone back to work as a teacher, my sister and I would hang out at his house after school until mom got home. The two things I remember most about these afternoons are: 1) that he had a Doberman who liked to catch popcorn in his mouth, so we spent a lot of time tossing kernels at the dog, and 2) the day that Eugene told me he had this very funny record I needed to hear, and it was the single "Eat It."

I was hooked. As soon as I saved up my money, I bought "Weird Al in 3D." And subsequently every album (except for "The Food Album" and "Polka Party") that Weird Al ever produced from 1984 until now. I have been to five "Weird Al" Yankovic concerts in my adult life, two of them by myself! I love his shows. I love the mixture of older people, families, and college guys. I love his music. I think that he is a brilliant writer, and he's obviously hanging around a lot longer than the artists he parodies.

So, when I found out that he was going to be wrapping up his Alpocolypse tour in San Antonio this month, I was keen to go. Too bad we don't live nearer to Tulsa, because that is actually *the* last stop of the tour, and it includes a 25th anniversary celebration of the movie "UHF," which was filmed in Tulsa. James suggested that it might be worth it to drive up there for that.

James, who has no interest in Weird Al, that I know of, is game for a weekend trip that will involve seeing a really terrible old movie and going to a concert (which I have to say I can't imagine not liking) for an artist of whom he knows but of whom he has not historically been a fan. Why? Because he loves me.

When I was in college, I would rush home from my afternoon classes to watch "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" I felt pretty stupid, that those little kids knew more geography than I did, but I got better as time went on. Mostly, I wanted to hear the house band, Rockapella. I would sit right by the television to closely listen so that I could transcribe the theme song's lyrics, back in 1992 before the internet was necessarily an in-home thing for all people.

In 1998, when I realized that Rockapella was still together and that they were touring, I was ecstatic! I bought a bunch of their albums and listened to them religiously, then I went to my very first concert in Redding, California. Somehow, they were even better live.

The next three years of fandom were an interesting, fun, harrowing experience that I won't go in to now. Those of you who have known me all of these years know what happened, in as much as anyone can really know what happened. The highlights of all of that were twofold: 1) The awesome friends I made through traveling to concerts and the Yahoo! message boards, and 2) My sister's and my inclusion in both the concert video that PBS released in 2001 and the live CD that came out that same year. (Generally, I dislike hecklers; in this case, it happened to work.)

Eventually, in order to save something that was important, I sold all of the CDs, stopped going to concerts, and that was that.

This morning, I found out that Rockapella is going to be in Austin at the beginning of December. The concert is on a night that James typically has blacked out, but he immediately said he'd go with me. I have a male friend who said that he doesn't think men have it within them to like a cappella music. And maybe they don't. But James wants to take me to this concert because he saw how important it is to me. As in, when I saw the notification pop up in my Facebook feed, I started crying. I didn't think they were going to be in this area for this tour. But they are. And I'm going. With my family.

I'm excited about spending an extended weekend with my family, going to the State Fair, attending the Weird Al weekend, and meeting James' niece. I'm looking forward to dinner and a concert in December, too; I'm hoping they play some Christmas music. But primarily, I am grateful for my life and for my amazing husband. I have never been to one of "his" concerts. I hope I get the chance to be as gracious about his interests and passions as he has been with mine. I am so thrilled finally to be "home."