And What Exactly is the Melody of Love?

Lullabies by Lang Leav

This book was like a road trip with a friend that you should only really see for a lunch occasion, with another friend as a buffer. It was a mess of hurt to slosh through. Word to the wise, don’t read a poetry collection of love and heartache when you still have to listen to Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off” on repeat for the occasional evening.

I haven’t read any other of Lang Leav’s books, but I saw Lullabies all over #bookstagram, and who doesn’t love a lullaby?  I like listening to the rain when I sleep because there’s something about the whisper of a raindrop skimming a closed window.  This book, though, is a rocket taking off in your chest.  It makes you weep on pg. 3 and then you can’t get yourself together until pg. 37.  The very first poem, “Her Words” is written to every girl out there that ever wanted a boy to love the nerdy way she wrote his name in cursive in her notebook, circled in a collection of different sized hearts.

“Love a girl who writes
and live her many lives;
you have yet to find her,
beneath her words of guise.”

This is a poetry collection that gives meaning to Salinger’s famous quote, “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”  Lang Leav has constructed a collection for all the broken-hearted women, the story-tellers, and the girls who lunch gossips, the book clubs, and the girls who wish someone would ask them out in the produce section, the ones that the girl’s remember, and every single one they want to forget even though they can look at just something like windshield wipers and want to cry.  It’s a book, at the core, about love and the many ways we hold it, carry it or worship it.  Leav is clear in her mantra of love, but shows the ways too, that it can decay and sour.  I would argue that this book is best read just after falling in love, or just after leaving, which is all of us, all the time.

“Signposts” by Lang Leav

Post-breakup, I especially loved the poem “Signposts.” There was also the following line from “Thoughts of You:”

“There were times when I was with him and it was too much.  Does that make sense? When someone stirs a world of emotion in you and it’s so intense you can barely stand to be with him.”

A portrait of Woolf by Roger Fry c. 1917 (Creative Commons Wikipedia)

Other than feeling really loved throughout this text, I didn’t really pay attention to the structure of the book. I don’t really understand the sectioning and I think that’s okay.  I think the sections are more a symbol of Leav’s love life, and less something for the reader to hold onto as they read. I was very interested in her words and how she constructs the images, but less so with her rhythms and word choice.  She has constant images of the sea which I found cliche, even when she used them in a new way (love and the sea has been done before, and no one can compete with it more than Hemingway’s Old Man, Captain Ahab, and poor Virginia Woolf with her rock-filled petticoat pockets).  Her man should have just bought her a nice, straight robe.

A group of women window shopping in Toronto, Canada in 1937. via Creative Commons Wikipedia

Leav’s rhythm was often unexpected, but in an off sort of way.  You can’t set up the reader’s expectations with a set rhythm and then the last line throws that rhythm completely off.  Writers can do that when the line is meant to jar the reader with word choice, meaning, or conclusions, but just to have an off-set rhythm isn’t fair to the reader’s flow.  This is almost my only negative critique of Leav and I think that’s more because her content speaks to every high school heart that grows into a woman of boundaries, or window-shopping, of loose loving and rolled-up sleeves, or one of loneliness.  It’s hard to get a grasp on what kind of love you can give in all its forms and stages, but I think Leav’s volume, Lullabies, captures that unknowing.

http://www.wikihow.com670 × 503Search by image Be a Tomboy and Girly Girl Step 1.jpg via Creative Commons Wiki

The best thing I can say is that this book is that spirit of love.  There’s a poem for every single one of my ex-boyfriends, my dating trajectory and series of unfortunate events.  Down to the use of “thigh” in a poem, Leav read me like a stanza.   I immediately remembered one of my favorite ex-boyfriends (we had the best stories) who was stabbed and ended up with a lightning bolt scar on his thigh.  I constantly tell my students that it’s the specifics that make a poem, a reader doesn’t clutch at the general, but the small moment specifics that are so true to the speaker that they become true for the reader. Leav does this, and in many ways captures the loving feelings of a generation of girls that in all their willpower refuse to collapse in a world where we still have conversations about men being dominant.  Clearly, if we continue to write this poetry of the heart, our tomboyish flutters will win us a good conquer.

 

 


Newsday Tuesday

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Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • gif cat writing blackboard fast: It’s like this person knows the inner me.
  • christmas baking poems with figurative language: Some hot Mom is going to recite poetry in only her apron this Christmas. OR some teacher is baking figurative language into cookies.
  • marry the beast and get that library: I’m trying.
  • stress free quotes tumblr: There’s lotion for this at Bath & Body Works.

Book News:


“I always remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.”

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman @ Smithsonian Press

Everyone has favorite things.

Julie Andrews sang a whole song about hers as she floated around mountain landscapes and swung around light poles.

I think it’s important to have favorite things, and even more, it’s important to have unusual things that don’t make sense to anyone but you because you’ve added some sort of sentimentality to the object itself.  I keep my grandmother’s strainer under the sink, not because it still works, but because sometimes I bring it out just to filter my kitchen light.  It’s got a star design of holes and it reminds me of a Christmas luminary.  Every so often, I need that speckled sunshine on my kitchen floors.

Used Chairs. Maira Kalman @ The Smithsonian

Maira Kalman wrote another fabulous illustrated memoir about some of her favorite things. Things she found in museums, in the muse of her childhood, on the side of old neighborhood streets, in fancy living rooms, books, embroideries.  In every Maria Kalman book I’ve ever read (even illustrations in current YA novels), she gives me some philosophy about life that opens the doors of my soul so I can hear the singing.  This one is no different.  My Favorite Things is built like a small gift, fabric binding, smooth hardcover, and vintage decorated inside cover and endpaper.

Teacup @ Smithsonian Press by Maira Kalman

I just think she’s so unusually creative.  She has an eye for quirky elegance like listing both Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh pages in her favorite things, as well as a collection of obtuse hats.  From a man lying in the park with a pug to Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, Kalman is looking at the world through the holes of a flower petal and the telescope of history.   This book originally began as a way to showcase the new Cooper Hewitt collection for the Smithsonian Design Museum.  However, it becomes this interweaving of life story, and how life story impacts the baggage we bring with us into a museum.  I might carry a large purse, but I find art compelling when it tells me something about myself, or my world.  It’s hard for me to connect to art when it doesn’t seem to deal inherently with me.  I’m sure that’s totally egocentric, but I think I match a typical American.  Art inspires because it smoothes and then oils the gears within us.

Embroideries by Maira Kalman after her mother’s death @ The Smithsonian

I think this is something Kalman has conquered with her favorite things, and her other books.  I am always inspired, I found myself turning the page just to see if we could share a story.  This is the best part of the book, it’s both memoir and trinket collection.  She tells the story of embroidery she stitched after her mother’s death, my favorite being, “my rigid heart is tenderly unmanned.” In another moment, she photographs a spoon with engraved initials, it says, “Before there were forks, there were spoons.  The spoon can be used by a baby, by a person eating soup.  Watching a person eat soup can break your heart.”

Hats by Maira Kalman @ Smithsonian Press

She even jokes about fringes being added to Lincoln’s pall that covered his coffin.  It’s both a story about the life of a woman, and the story about history as told through the eyes of the viewer, even the late-comer who views history much after it’s happened.  She is the eyes of the museum-goer, the photographer, the backpack traveler, the person who wants to reach out and touch the gold pot on the mantle in the Biltmore House, but resists just in case it trembles.  I adore Maira Kalman and I even almost used this book as a diary.  I wanted to write on the pages that she colored.  I’ve held back to keep it pristine, but I hope someone gets that close to this book.  It’s never a blush to get intimate with a good read.


“Cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”

20 days solves almost everything.

A month solves even more.

For all the girls out there struggling because they dated a turd, a douchebag, a Kanye West of social media, a guy who didn’t read books for fun, a guy that refused to let you change the lyrics in the car when you sang along, or just a guy…that wasn’t a guy enough for you.

A month post-breakup, my current relationship status is as follows in 31 reasons:

(and believe me, this is a magical transformation from LaFern):

1. Taylor Swift “Blank Space”

Currently, I feel like this, and tonight, I sang this into an egg beater and danced around in monkey boxer shorts.  Fromage also sang aloud which I think makes it both a little more sad, and a little less Risky Business.

“So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
‘Cause you know I love the players
And you love the game”

2. If you’re a subliminally cute guy that smiles at me, I’m simultaneously planning your death and all your future babies (and their names).

3. I told my students today.  It wasn’t pretty.

“Man, she better not be datin’ nobody.  Ain’t nobody hittin’ that.  Her fingers going to be stale.”

“What happened? Who are you dating next? ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED?”

“I totally have an older brother.”

Totally sang into this tonight.

4. My friends have resorted to trying to set me up, which resulted in texting a dude three times and then he cut me off because he had already banned girls from the city in which I live.  I think my small town gets enough nasty, but apparently, the girls suck too.

5.  I’ve stopped listening to Ariana Grande, “Break Free” on my run because there is no more SHIT to break free of. You’re welcome.

6. I no longer flail angrily when I run. Last week, on an early morning run, I actually stopped in the street and started dancing.

7.  I’m kind of thankful my whole dating life can be summed up in a Taylor Swift album.

8. I’m starting to believe in the beginning of the movie “No Strings Attached,” but I can’t be that girl.

9. During tug-of-war in my classroom today when we argued offensive arguments, mine was “Boys want girls with standards, but have none of their own.” Whoops. (PS.  This was really a teachable moment if you were in my classroom).

10.  If I had this man’s ex-girlfriends name, I could be going on a trip around the world (Thanks, darling)

11. I’m leaning very heavily on getting a dog.  I even went and looked today.

12. I can make fun of my single life on Twitter.

Buzzfeed makes the best gifs.

13. I joked last night that clubs and bars should play a “Single Gentlemen” parody just so chicks can tell who’s single (Where’s Beyonce when you need her)?

14. I have a LONG list of requirements for the next guy, it’s the one I should have written when I was seven, but now number 1 is “motivated lumberjack man.”

15. I’m a great and safe date to weddings in the near future to all my guy friends.

16. I can drive to Charlotte on a day off and see my best friend and eat french baked goods and then not feel bad about it later and have to force myself to go to the gym.  (This might be the best one).

17.  I can send rude texts to boys without feeling many repercussions.

18. I can put boundaries on my love. Which everyone should do. Stop peeing with the door open, that’s not a sign of love, it’s a sign of roommatedom.

If this isn’t a reason to be single, I don’t know what is.

19.  I’m single just in case Charlie Hunnam is looking.

20. I’m way past “cry in the shower” stage.

21. My male cat is so much happier being the almost number one man in my life (Daddy will always take that slot).

22. No one can say my ex-boyfriend helped me win fantasy football (he played no part).

23. I was a cause of concern for my brother.  He even used the word “pussy” as an adjective to my mother.

24. I can go to graduate school without concern for time management.

25.  I have so much more time to dedicate to my students WHO ARE HEROES.

26. I got to name the copy machine at work that always breaks down and is missing toner constantly by my ex’s name.  He also doesn’t save trees. Scum.

27. All my dishes go in the dishwasher as soon as I finish with them.

28. Remember that bathing suit he didn’t like because it “showed too much,” I’ll be in that suckaaaa ALL summer (okay, so maybe that’s a bit of hateful left).

INTERNET HIGH FIVE. YOU’RE MY HERO.

29. I can be picked up for a date, and brought flowers, and wined and dined, and romanticized. Line up, men folk.

30. When fresh out of a relationship, your friends constantly tell you how amazing you are.  We should build walls up around these things.

31. My Mom officially said, “Think of all the fun you’re having.  You’re really doing okay,” as if she actually believed it today.  And she should because life is TOO WILD.

 


BYON: Build Your Own Nook (on a budget).

The door knob to my book nook glowing in books.

The door knob to my book nook glowing in books.

I have a shed in my backyard that hasn’t been gifted with my whimsy yet, but this weekend, my Mom and I added whimsy to a seemingly useless closet in my library.  AND IT WAS RELATIVELY EASY.  Unlike Wiki-how, I don’t have a set rule of instructions, but my Mom got everything we bought on sale except for a cute coffee mug shelf ($9 at Lowes) and the shelves that we used as the seating area (Target).

So, here’s a (po’ man’s) instruction manual on turning a closet into a reading nook.  Good for any age of imagination.

lampFirst, we painted the closet one solid color because it was dirty, and smelled of old coats.  And we get enough smell from used books that we don’t need someone’s pocket lint looming over our experience.  I had this creamy beige that I had left over from painting my living room so we used that.  And since there’s no light in a closet, it brought out the natural light in the room.  I painted above the shelf and the entire top of the closet, Irish Green because we got a $3 can of it at Lowes that someone had returned.  My dad found this eccectic, antique globe lantern at the thrift store.

door

Chevron wallpaper and painted door

After that, my Mom bought $14 chevron wallpaper at Target and we wallpapered the back wall for a statement as well as the bottom of the shelf that was already in the closet.   It was a sticky process, but it was a stick and re-peel, so every time we messed up we just tried, tried again.  My Mom and I don’t have passed-down patience genes so it was pretty funny to watch, I’m sur.   I recommend not getting wallpaper that’s geometric.  I would love to make another one of these in my future that has like vintage stationary/vintage parisian wallpaper.   I also painted the door using blue tape with a purple can of Valspar that was on sale for $1 and a can of pink that was on sale for $3.  I wanted to make the door really funky fresh so it felt like you were walking into a different world when you went in.  I think I was successful in that although we have like nine patterns going on.

My Mom had already picked out a cushion from Pier One ($19.98) to sit on.  We tried to design around the pillow when we were thinking of what to do.  Obviously, she let me just go insane with the door.

tree

Cheery Blossom Wall Decal ($9 @ Target)

I had the feather pillows already and we just liked the way they fit.  My Mom also picked up a pretty wall decal at Target and we put it on the wall that I would look at while I’m reading.

We put a few final touches on it, and overall it was a really awesome project to do together.  There’s a corner shelf where I can put coffee and the bookshelves (2) we bought to sit on, we turned sideways so they would fit “stuff” aka “more books.” I’ve stacked my TBR pile in there and one of my favorite elephants from my Dad.  Here is the “almost” final reading nook.

This also is an exclamation that there’s no limit to your bookishness folks.  There are no caves too damp, or clouds too light for your bookish flavor.  It can always grow.

Fro REALLY likes the nook.

Fro REALLY likes the nook.

closet2

A full view of the (almost) finished product.

 


This Book Comes With a Side of Cheese[y]

Card @ Someecards

Card @ Someecards

I’m a glutton for punishment.  What is that the third deadly sin? I have it.

My first Penguin Random House Proof

My first Penguin Random House Proof

I said yes to a book about love from Plume (my first Penguin Random House imprint – AH, they’re a duo)! I know, I know, kick me while I’m down.  It could be worse.  My students could spread a rumor that I didn’t get dumped, I got engaged! And then when my most favorite thug comes in he yells, “Ain’t nobody hittin’ that, her fingers going to be stale!” Oh wait, that did happen to me last week.  I should probably not share my relationship status with my students because, let’s be honest, they’re worse than Facebook.

The Look of Love by Sarah Joi (Goodreads Cover)

Anyway, I just finished The Look of Love by Sarah Joi.  She’s written like 729 books, but this is the first one I’ve read and that’s probably due to the fact that I usually avoid cheese, with a side of swiss, like this book.   Guys, I have quit so many books this year.  If I had a blog for the books that I only read some of in 2014, it would be SO MUCH better than this blog right now.  I’m not even sure I read a book in October…that’s really sad, isn’t it? I guess it just took “a little bit of love, a little bit of love is lovely.” Just a little New Edition for ya.

Photo by me @ Ashevile

Photo by me @ Ashevile

This book wasn’t bad.  It was just SO cheesy.  Here goes the plot: a girl named Jane (typical) is about to turn 30.  And we all know that the eve of 30 is the worst time in a woman’s life because for some reason we feel like we’re officially old (and brittle) by the time we’re 30.  I literally announced to my best friend last week, “Oh my God, I’m closer to 30 than 20.” What is wrong with us, women? Anyway, Jane gets this odd birthday card about a gift she has.  She goes and sees Colette and Colette informs her that she has the ability to “see love.”  As in, when love is around, her eyes fog over and she has to find the nearest bench.  The deal is, she has to use this gift to find the seven types of love: agape, storge, pragma, philautia, phillia, ludus, and ero, or she will be forced to live without love for the rest of her life. You can imagine where this is going. It wasn’t A Walk to Remember, or P.S. I Love You, but it was intriguing.   It gave me all kinds of insight about women in love that I knew, but buried deep somewhere and hoped I would never have to face.  It reminded me what we’re willing to sacrifice for love, which is both scary and comforting.  There are people in the world that believe in that soulmate, star gaze, romcom shit still.  It’s kind of heart-warming going into a holiday season.

Flower by me from Biltmore House

Flower by me from Biltmore House

Sarah Jio, I think I can say, probably writes mostly women’s fiction, and she doesn’t have any terribly moving lines.  There were a few quotes that made me realize how much I want a boy to send me flowers.  Can we get that back? And now girls, don’t lie…you don’t dislike flowers just because they die.  I know we’ve all said that when we get a weird look from some judgmental jerk we’re dating, but every girl loves a flowery something. She used Fitzgerald’s epic line, “I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything.”  However, my favorite moment is when Jane is talking to one of her friends who thinks she’s found true love in the man across the street, problem is, she’s already married to the biggest sweetheart ever, she says, “I’m not saying anything.  I just think you should own that love and not be apologetic about it.”

Blackoutpoetry @ Instagram

Blackoutpoetry @ Instagram

And that’s the line that stays with me. As woman, after a break-up, we always sit around and rehash the situation.  My autocorrect turned rehash into rehab and I think that’s an appropriate word here too.  Our girlfriends help us spell out all the awful adjectives that describe those former loves.  Ugh, he didn’t even like his Grandma.  Or Ugh, he couldn’t even fix my car when it broke down, what kind of man is that?  But here’s the bottom line, you loved that smelly, unfixable, heartless, throbbing, boy wonder, and you need to just own it and move on. No time is wasted even if you poured used cat litter on his pictures.  Life is precious, isn’t that the OLD old saying?  Let’s just keep it that way and own the precious. And then remind ourselves that we’re not together with that man anymore, not only a. because we dated another douchebag, but b. because the world has bigger plans for us…maybe not romantic plans, but just plans, and they’re big, moon walk right into them.

http://www.buzzfeed.com625 × 318Search by image fallentomato / Via Flickr: fallentomato / Creative Commons


#NaNoWriMo

I’m diving in.

Taking the turn.

Flashing the mob.

Dancing in the rain.

Turnin’ this truck around.

Checking it twice.

Hollerin’ if you need me.

Gold diggin’.

Okay, I give up.  When you have to think longer than three seconds, you just let it go.

My creative writing students have been ragging me to write my novel.  I ask them to write everyday from funky prompts, unlimited imaginings, and on top of it I make them watch Marcel the Shell videos for first person narrative inanimate object help.

So, in order to get my Dad the Lexus I promised him (at the age of 9) upon the publication of my first novel and then later wrote that story down as my personal statement to be accepted to college at NCSU, I think it’s time I just shut up and did.   I wrote 30 pages of swamp narrative when I took a hiatus from blogging (which still hasn’t come back yet from that vacation, still in recovery).  It was swamp/roadtrip narrative to be honest and my Dad told me it had no plot, so I should probably buy a book for plot structure …

I’m participating. #NaNoWriMo.  For the first time ever.

It’s a cause for goose bumps.

Let’s be buddies: BookishCassie

If you’re considering participating, please join me in battle.  We can go down together and I’ll carry you out of the dead heat of a lazy afternoon, if you do the same for me.  We can be partners in crime, a comedy team, a silent prayer.  I need people with posters on the sidelines.  I need to stop waiting for my new diary to arrive and just write my words down on the page.

I’ll be writing in Omm Writer which I find to be the coolest tool ever.  I will not let the music play however, but I do like the typing sound.  Saturday. It’s on. Less like Donkey Kong than I think it’s going to be.  Let’s high five this sucker out, after our hands cramp up from all that writing.

Does this mean I can get a cool shirt?

 

 


“It’s Okay to Feel Like LaFern (Your Classroom Plant)

So, I got broken up with this week. (There should be a verb for that.  If you know another language – do they have a verb for that. Teach it to me in the comments). It pretty much happened just like that.

“How was you day? Okay. How was yours? It was great, except I don’t think we should date anymore.”

Milk @ Med Health

Milk @ Med Health

And I had milk stuck with sweat to Walmart plastic bags in the car, some eggs, a few lunchables for days when I just can’t pick out what to wear and I need an easy lunch to grab because I’m running late.

Like other twenty-six year old girls with two cats, emotional baggage, this idea that they’re good luck chuck, a wall of closets, and people who have been texting them all day checking to make sure they eat, I decided to compose a list for this blog about things that happen when you g[r]o[w] through a break-up that isn’t your fault (or anyone ones really, the universe just deems it necessary). AND THEN MAYBE, I can read this whenever I feel like it’s too overwhelming.

And by list, I mean I’m going to start with one and end wherever I feel like it’s complete, which may be 32 or 79.

1. It’s okay to throw every picture of him into the trash and pour used cat litter on it.  (And for those sticking frames, send them to the bag too).

2. It doesn’t make you a sad lump of wet dead leaf to check your phone every twenty minutes on the off-chance that he thinks he made a mistake even though you would have to sit there for three hours deciding whether to text back if he did text you because you know that half this feeling of sadness is a gut of relief.

3. Sometimes cereal for every meal is necessary.  As my coworker said, “did you eat it with bourbon.”

4. It’s okay to text people and tell them you’re about to sleep for a really long time. And then remember that sounds like death and say “This is not a metaphor for death.” And they can respond about your last meal if they are particularly Biblical or find the whole conversation similar to the death penalty.

5. Probably don’t send a group text to your brother and cousin who acts like a brother.

Fantasy Football Flyer @ The Collaborative

6. Don’t delete the ex from your fantasy football league.  That’s trivial. And then you get to beat him which causes underlying satisfaction.

7. It’s okay to feel sorry for your newest cat (two years old) that now she only has a single mother.  You’re a damn good single mother. Beyonce should write a song about THAT shit.

8. Don’t throw the perfume he liked away because it’s expensive, and you smell good.

9. Buy yourself those new Nike Air Max.  Then you can use the box as the “break-up box” and hide all those picture that you saved from wet cat litter death.

10. Pray he doesn’t have, or get, social media.  If he does, block him and don’t look back.

11. Don’t think you’re going to be “friends.” Ain’t nobody ‘wanna’ be friends with you, boo boo.

12. DO wag your finger when your students say, “Someone did you wrong, who do we have to kill” and you say, “my. EX. boyfriend,” because all the girls already have hits out from the seven family members they have in and around the area that your ex is located.

13. Do not get overwhelmed by the plans you made with his face in them because there will be new faces.  You were happiest in the moments you were single at camp and you’ll be happy in these single moments too.

14. Always have noise in the background. Or else you’re crying.

15. Don’t carry tissues.  They’re just a fluffy excuse to cry.

16. Watch “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” like 729 times, or the equivalent of how many times you said, “But …I love you” when you were trying to salvage the relationship you were just in.

17. Shave your legs in the winter.

18. Let the weather dictate your emotions for a while so that you don’t have to think about it.

19. Let the weather also dictate your clothing because no one needs to think about that in a breakup.

20. Hug your cats. Think about getting a dog. Don’t.

Frosted Flakes @ Theicecave.org

Frosted Flakes @ Theicecave.org

21. Eat more cereal.

22. If you’re sleeping, you’re already more successful than 59% of the people that go through a breakup. (72% of statistics aren’t true).

23. Talk to every old lady in your life. Old ladies give the best advice.

24. Write your book. It’s almost NaNoWriMo and you have all this time on your hands.

25. Eliminate all the time on your hands by filling it with a. cereal, b. loud noises, c. going for a run, or d. being awesome.

26. Don’t text his Mom that you’ll miss their family.  This is a give-in.

27. Be shocked.

28. Sleep with a large number of pillows until you can ween yourself off.

29. Obsessively clean him out of your house. Or don’t.

30. Look at the empire you’ve built without that fool and remind yourself that you’re awesome.

31. Listen to Pharrell. Both on The Voice and on The Youtube.

Crown Clip Art @ Fotor

32. “Lift your head when you’re down so you don’t drop your crown.”

33. Read really intense quotes by Washington Irving about tears.

34.  Mindlessly cipher through Buzzfeed lists.

35. Don’t hug your cats because…they don’t like hugs.

36. Don’t wear anything but waterproof mascara because you will cry when you’re alone and you will cry hard. And black smudges on your sweatshirt cuffs just aren’t that cute.

37. Forget to change the laundry over for three days because, whoops. I should do that.

38. Wear purple lipstick.  Hell, wear red.

39. Praise your celestial being that you didn’t get his name tattooed anywhere on your body (and that you never thought about it).

40. Don’t replay the last conversation like it’s as important as the last supper.

41. If you make it through one day, you’ll make it through 17. Just keep swimming.

42. Listen to your students when they say “Hocus Pocus” will be on ABC Family tonight and revel in the goodness in that.

43. Let your friends tell you their problems so you don’t have to think about your own.

44. Get your cards read.  Checked that off my box yesterday and it was exactly what I needed.

45. Don’t read your horoscope.  That stuff just makes you live in fear.

46. Don’t miss an opportunity to go out somewhere.

47. Have crushes on guys on television (Sons of Anarchy – HELLO).

48. This is the one time in your adult life that it’s okay to watch WWE because you need to slam something.

Sunflower_Metalhead64_edited-149. It’s also okay to bash sunflowers against your outdoor banister because you bought them with him. How dare he ruin sunflowers for you.

LaFern the Classroom Plant

LaFern the Classroom Plant

50. It’s okay to feel just like LaFern, your classroom plant. Sometimes your drowning, and other times you need someone to prop you up.

51. You don’t need a significant other to make you or break you. You just need to put your big girl panties on and hold that crap together.  Except it’s not crap. It’s beautiful and sometimes hesitant, but now it’s definitely broken-in and it will be loved by all kinds of people.


Newsday Tuesday

It’s back….in BLACK (ink).

DSC_09732

Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • autograph for friends in english: Do I smell a penpal?
  • compare and contrast the hunger games venn diagram: I love that teachers google and get my blog, although I rarely put lessons up here.  I do have a teaching website, I suppose I could share it?
  • yesterday i devirginized my own story: This sounds both gut-wrenching and gut(tural)
  • thees girls make you drool.com: I feel like an eight year old googled this who isn’t ready for this stage in his own maturity.

Book News:


Story Anthologies That Don’t Suck | O. Henry Prize Stories 2014

I have to confess that I don’t subscribe to any literary magazines.

I’m a hypocritical book mongrel.

I rally for the short story form, even flash fiction if it’s done right, but then I don’t actually support the magazines that provide and establish authors that try to keep that form alive.  My only way of giving back is to read as many anthologies as I possibly can, particularly contemporary fiction anthologies.  I also try not to stick to the ones that Barnes and Noble carries because they never actually choose any weird ones.

Usually, when you read an anthology it’s because you either A. like the genre, B. you are starting your own small marathon of writing flash fiction to the early morning, or C. you want to know what the “best of” contains for that particular year, or in this case, century.  (Yes, be alarmed, someone actually believed they could put together a fair and righteous anthology of fiction for the CENTURY).  I would turn that book over in bookstores, hoping no one would buy it.

The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014

Anyway, also per usual when reading an anthology, not all of the stories are good.  There are few that really spark and then only because one particular line changed how you viewed the world.  Then you read everything by that author hoping to get that sick feeling again (like a woman in a bad relationship) and it’s all for naught. Those feelings come quickly, and spaz out before we can even realize what’s happened.

Westinghouse Time Capsule @ Wikipedia Commons

This is NOT the case for The O’Henry Prize Stories of 2014.  There were only two stories that I didn’t feel were up to par and the rest were brilliant.  I found myself unable to physically write down (due to hand cramping) all of the quotes that I highlighted.  And the stories are new and fresh.  They don’t center around one genre, or one betrayal from the world. They are like a little capsule that we can fling into space and hope that some extraterrestrial with a sense of compassion finds to explain this world of love gusts and expectations that don’t meet fantasies.

Or we can bury it, for the future. I’d be willing for this book to be my message to the next world along with a long composition of why they should try to recreate the dinosaur, read Emily Dickinson, and take up Twitter.

  • The collection begins with mounting tension when two boys play with a gun.  One without a mother, and one who holds secrets tighter than he can hold a fist.  I’m not sure now which is which because they both blend together as children, and only when they become adults do they realize their differences (as most of us do with our childhood friends).  My favorite thing about it is that it repeats itself multiple times, through multiple ages of childhood and adulthood.  There is a “cathedral of silence” during every year of this man-boy’s life.  He faces this silence like an open wound and it leaves him questioning who he was, and who he is now.

“Later when he tells the story to people they won’t understand.  Why didn’t he run away? His friend had  a loaded gun.  He will be repeatedly amazed at how poorly everyone remembers their childhoods, how they project their adult selves back into those bleached-out photographs, those sandals, those tiny chairs.  As if choosing, as if deciding, as if saying no were skills like tying your shoelaces or riding a bike.  Things happen to you.  If you were lucky, you got an education and weren’t abused by the man who ran the fife-a-side.  If you were very lucky you finally ended up in a place where you could say, I’m going to study accountancy … I’d like to live in a countryside … I want o spend the rest of my life with you” (“The Gun,” Mark Haddon, Granta)

  • The next story, “Talk” by Stephon Dixon (The American Reader) plays with the idea of point-of-view in a story, the inner voice that we all communicate with after we stop trying to talk to our cats for most of a lonely day. It also plays with growing old when that inner voice might be the only person that we talk to in a day’s time.  Even when you think of talking to someone, that inner voice can hold you back, be it the voice a friend or a foe.
  • Art by Sejnow @ Deviant Art (Creative Commons)

    “Valentine” by Tessa Hadley (The New Yorker) just made me never want to have a daughter.  I’m not too far away to remember what I put up with from boys in high school, but I am too far away to meet that girl and shake hands like an acquaintance.  The girl in this story doesn’t “do bad all by herself,” but “does bad” for the boy with all the wrong angles.  He’s a writer, but he’s a wanderer.  He’s a bit grunge, but he’s haughty in philosophy.  It really just tells the story of the girl before the boy, during the boy, and then plays with the idea that you can go back to the girl who was the “before” version of yourself. (Hint: You can’t).

“There was a rare blend in him of earnestness and recklessness.  And he seemed to know instinctively what to read, where to go, what music to listen to.  He was easily bored, and indifferent to anything he didn’t like” (Tessa Hadley).

  • “Petur” by Olivia Clare (Ecotone) broke my heart more than a little.  It’s a mother and son story, the son is an adult on a vacation with his mother when a volcano goes off in Poland and they are forced to live in ash.  The ash becomes symbolic for their relationship and his mother’s scattered mind as she walks through the (not wreckage) but fall, and he watches her own odd unfurling.

Sparks Royalty Free Sparks Images (Creative Commons)

“Nights after her afternoon walks, she’d sit with a field guide.  I have a bird heart, she’d say, your mother, the bird.  Precise knowledge of a fjall’s origins, or of the call each bird made, was the closest she felt she had, she said, to wisdom, because lang, because details, were important.  They were solid and finite and felt infinite” (Olivia Clare).

  • Abuse. Roadtrips. Racism. Lingering unresolved, but unpracticed feelings. Old towns. Father’s who still protected their daughters from men who drank too much and leaned too crooked over stoves thinking. Trees with names. Tradition.

“You remember your mother saying you had to learn to use the Lexicon because words were both tools and weapons and the difference between the right one and the almost-right one was like lightning and a lightning bug, and when you said the lectern was higher than you could reach she showed you the step stool hidden underneath” (“You Remember the Pin Mill,” David Bradley, Narrative).

  • “Nemecia” by Kirsten Valdez Quade will stay with me the same way the movie, “Black Swan” stays with me.  They both have similar disturbing skin scenes.  Nemecia is an almost older sister to Maria, but in the end, they become neither sister nor friend.  It’s really the story of how grief creates competition in us.

Black Swan by It’s Too Dark @ Deviant Art (Creative Commons)

“Nemecia had an air of tragedy about her, which she cultivated. She blackened her eyes with a kohl pencil” (Narrative).

  • Most disturbing story in the collection is easily “Trust” by Dylan Landis (Tin House).  I was so uncomfortable with this story.  It felt a little bit like someone giving you a creative writing prompt like “If your house burned down, what would you take.” And immediately you start to live through your house burning down, and how the flames flicker, but they don’t flicker and you realize you’ve never experienced a fire and they probably gust like a parachute.  It’s just like that except it’s a teenage robbery and I just wanted it to end (in a good way…in a good writing way).  It’s also like every Law & Order episode that you live in fear of, except this is MID-DAY and you start to realize that this could happen at anytime of day, not just when you’re sleeping (which is terrifying).
  • “Old Houses” by Allison Alsup (New Orleans Review) tells the old neighborhood folktale from the perspective of a barbecue.  It’s just creepy enough to not really affect you personally, but add an edge to your day that wasn’t there before.  It wasn’t as strong as the others in the collection, but it did stand tall.
  • My favorite story in the entire collection is “Fatherland” by Halina Duraj (Harvard Review). I think that’s because I thought it was just going to be another World War II story, but it was beyond me giving you any account of why it’s so good.

“I tried to stop my father’s words at my ears but they would not stick.  I knew they weren’t meant for me, but I was half my mother, my father had said so himself.  Like any good soldier, my father shot bullets through the air toward a target, but did not understand collateral damage” (Halina Duraj).

  • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show @ Wikipedia Commons

    “West of the Known” by Chanelle Benz (The American Reader) was the story that has stuck with me beyond reading the last story in this collection days ago.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s the quick moves between innocence and horror.  It’s (strangely) a Wild West story, but it doesn’t have any of that gun-slinging bullshit.  Well, it does, but it’s believable.  It ain’t no John Wayne rodeo if you know what I’m sayin’. At the end of the story, something bloody terrible happens and it’s truly believable.  I can feel the rope burns still.

“For in the high violence of joy, is there not often a desire to swear devotion? But what then? When is it ever brung off to the letter? When they come for our blood, we will not end, but ton on in an unworldly fever” (Chanelle Benz).

On second thought, maybe I like this story so much because it uses the word “brung” which I obsessively, and unconsciously used for the majority of seventh grade, while my father corrected me every single time.

  • Finding who you are in the grace of picked flowers, that’s “The Women” by William Trevow (The New Yorker).
  • Snake Handling @ Wikipedia Commons

    “Good Faith” is about snake handlers during a revival and how sometimes one person can’t change the ideals instilled in us since birth.  It’s a fantastic story, truly.  It might be one of my favorites from the collection because the ending is beyond powerful.  It’s the longest story in the collection and I wouldn’t mind if it was transformed into a novel. I would read these characters again and again.

  • Guy dates Asian girl.  They disembody one another. Life goes on.  A short summary of “The Right Imaginary Person” by Robert Anthony Siegal (Tin House).

“Parents and teachers agree to forget that children are in fact lunatics, and that what we call growing up is just learning to hide it better so nobody will lock us away” (Robert Anthony Siegal).

  • “Nero” by Louise Erdrich (The New Yorker) was just depressing.  I didn’t really fall for this story, but the dog got to me.
  • Golden Light @ Pixa Bay – Free Illustration (Creative Commons)

    The way light is fractured through a window is retold in the story “A Golden Light” by Rebecca Hirsch Garcia (The Threepenny Review).  It’s one of the rarely hopeful, but then hope-squashed stories in the collection.

  • “Fairness” by Chinelo Okparanta is a disturbing story that immediately made me worry about my students and the “salt and ice challenge.”  It should be read after reading a “Cosmopolitan” magazine or obsessing over people you don’t know on social media.  Or, just listen to some Beyonce and then read this story.  A girl is obsessed with lightening her skin based on the standards set by overseas societies. BLEH.
  • I hated “The Inheritors” by Kristen Iskandrian (Tin House).  I’d almost even skip it if reading this book again.

“I like being sad, which mystified her; I like it until I reach the nadir where sadness changes, as if chemically, to repulsion and self-loathing, making me wish that I was “capable” of “handling” things instead of turning away from them in disgust until my disgust disgusts me, and my anger at my inadequacy as a human being angers me, and all of that pure, easy, delectable sorrow gets squandered” (Kristen Iskandrian).

  • “Deep Eddy” by Michael Parker (Southwest Review) is the only flash piece in the collection.  It’s about virginity and dating and how both of these things make us question everything.

“She’d lost her flower with the first of a string of boys and she liked me only in the way girls like those boys who make them forget, temporarily, some pain I hoped was only temporary” (Michael Parker).

  • The next story was kind of sad because the girl character was the worst version of myself. It’s set in Venice (I think, but I’m questioning myself now), called  “Oh, Shenandoah” by Maura Stanton (New England Review). I often say to my boyfriend, “I just want to hug you so hard it hurts” when he does something incredibly annoying.  This chick is like me in that situation, but to the extreme. And the boy, just daydreamy and unable to understand any of her cues.
  • “Opa-locka” by Laura van den Berg (The Southern Review) is about a team of sisters who fulfill their childhood hopes by becoming personal investigators. At the time, they don’t understand their need for this odd job, eating gas station snack foods on roofs in a stake-out, but as the story progresses, the reader is clued into their past and why they might need these rooftop rendezvous, for each other and just for themselves.

This O.Henry Prize Collection is one of the best I’ve read in a long time.  Not only were most of the short stories meaningful and worth the read, but I can mostly remember each one even though I read some of them as long as a month ago.  This is a collection of stories that linger and each story gets redefined as you think of it again.  I HIGHLY recommend this book. HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY, Mountaintop.

 

 

 


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