Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top Ten Albums

Two friends of mine recently did Facebook posts of their top ten albums that have affected their lives in major ways, and you know what, I took it as a challenge to compile my own list. And then I found out that it is OMG SO HARD to do this, since 1) I'm not really a huge music nerd, 2) I tend to stick with single songs as opposed to whole albums, and 3) I am horrible about making top whatever lists.

But here you go: Juju's Top Ten Albums, in no particular order.

1) Third Eye Blind - "Third Eye Blind"
This is one of those albums that I will listen to the whole way through, over and over again. It came out when I was in seventh grade and I remember just feeling so connected to the songs. I mean, I obviously didn't get any of the drug references, of which there were plenty (I was fourteen, you guys; give me a break), but there was this sense of raw anger and frustration and angst and loss that made sense to me. I don't really connect with that any longer, since I'm almost twenty years removed (WHAT??) from the extreme hormonal imbalances that affect every young teenager, but it holds a special place in my heart. And when I become famous, I will definitely find some way to use "God of Wine," "The Background," or "Motorcycle Drive-By" in a soundtrack.

2) Bruce Springsteen - "Nebraska"
I actually just discovered this album, since I'm not really that huge a Springsteen fan. (Well, that's not true, anymore. As I started listening to "Nebraska," I began my own research into Springsteen's career and found that, ha, some of his biggest hits came of his worst, most commercialized album.) It's kind of like a concept album in a way, and it's incredibly dark and bleak, but it's one of the most honest things I've ever listened to. In a time where we're listening to songs about wealth and partying all the time, it's strangely refreshing to hear something about the struggles of ordinary people.

3) Radiohead - "The Bends"
Yet another nostalgia trip for me, but whatever: "The Bends" is such a great album. For me, it's the most accessible thing Radiohead ever did. Sure, I enjoy their other albums, although I'm definitely on Thom Yorke's side on the "Creep" hate. Ugh.

4) Ani Difranco - "Not a Pretty Girl"
This was my introduction to Ani Difranco when I was in high school, and I fell in love with her musicianship with the opening guitar of the first track, "Worthy." I loved how unpolished it was, reminiscent of Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill," where Difranco wasn't worried about absolute perfection. The artistry was in the mistakes and slight scratchiness on the strings. She wasn't trying to be anything other than herself, and I appreciated that. The titular song really sold me since it just screamed "Juju, this song is about you!" at me, and that hasn't really changed.

5) Alice In Chains - "Unplugged"
Back when MTV was, like, good and shit, the Unplugged series was pretty amazing, but Alice In Chains was by far the absolute best. Seeing and hearing Layne Staley after such a long absence was such a wonderful (and at the same time, painful) experience. "Nutshell," which is my favorite AIC song, was just so beautifully done and actually made me cry when I saw it. See, now I wanna go watch this again.

6) Poe - "Haunted"
If you haven't listened to this album, stop what you are doing, go to Spotify, YouTube, whatever, it doesn't matter. Listen to the whole thing. This was a concept album that Poe did with her brother, author Mark Danielewski. Well, kind of. "Haunted" was based around a bunch of audio cassettes she found with recordings of her father's voice, but she also tied in her brother's book, House of Leaves, into the album, too. You can experience each song separately, of course, but it's best taken at one time, from "Exploration B" all the way to "If You Were Here." Her voice is magical, the lyrics are witty and heartbreaking, the music is (appropriately) haunting. It's as close to a perfect album as I think you can get.

7) "Macross Plus" Soundtrack
This one isn't as well known by the general public, but I suggest everyone check it out as soon as possible. Yoko Kanno, who did the music for "Cowboy Bebop" (which I almost used in this list), is just phenomenal. I actually cried when the CDs I owned were cracked, I didn't have enough money to buy them again, and the albums weren't on iTunes. I still have yet to purchase them again (there are two) and listen to the songs on YouTube, but eventually, I will again hear Sharon Apple's "Idol Talk" in my car.

8) "Star Wars" Trilogy Soundtracks
Okay, I'm putting these three soundtracks into one long albums because this is my damned list and I do what I want. "Star Wars" has been such a huge part of my life, both as creative inspiration and just unadulterated fun, that it would be wrong of me not to include it on this list. I mean, I have the tracks memorized and synced up to the movies, to where I don't even need to have the movie playing to know what's going on. I don't know if that's sad or awesome, but I choose the latter over the former.

9) Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra - "Theatre Is Evil"
Say what you will about Amanda Palmer. Yes, she can be obnoxious and pretentious and dismissive and yet is somehow married to Neil Gaiman (??), but dammit, this album is excellent. I love her confidence, her experimental approaches to lyrics and musical themes, etc. It's not Dresden Dolls (thank GOD) and she's shown a lot of artistic growth since 2008's "Who Killed Amanda Palmer."

10) "Mass Effect" Series Soundtracks
I know, I know, another compilation of several soundtracks (there are, right now ... at least six?), but I don't care. I listen to at least one song from one of these once a day. I'm not kidding. I will just put my ME playlist on shuffle and go. My only gripe is with the ME3 soundtrack, where Clint Mansell, an amazing composer in his own right, got a ton of publicity for writing a whole two songs, while the smaller names developed the rest, and although Clint's additions ("Leaving Earth" and "An End, Once and For All") were spectacular, there were only two. Sam Hulick, Cris Velasco, Sasha Dikiciyan, and Christopher Lennertz did most of the work, and Sam Hulick even co-wrote "An End, Once and For All" with Mansell. But that's all politics. This entire series should be listened to by everyone because it is amazing.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Life with Pets: Afternoon Without the Pets - A One-Act Play

It is Saturday, a day of much mirth for the Three-Juju household, for it is a day that the humans have a chance to get out of the house and be together. The animals, however, are used to JUJU, who is clutching her vintage purse (a gift from her wonderful grandmother) happily, being there at all hours, free to give pets, food, and entertainment (like children). ZOLA frets by the back door, which leads to the car and to freedom, and BITSY sits on top of the fridge, curiously eyeing THREE and Juju. 

JUJU: Okay, did we turn off the upstairs light?
THREE: We're only going to be gone a couple of hours, Juju.
JUJU: I know, but still! Electricity!
THREE: Do you want me to go double check?
JUJU: Maybe.
THREE: Sigh.

Three makes his way offstage, mumbling the whole way, and both KITKAT and BINA enter, glancing around the kitchen warily.

KITKAT: Something is off.
BINA: Are we moving? I don't like moving? I am hungry?
KITKAT: I don't like this. Wait, where is the smallest furry; I'll take out my anxiety on her.
BITSY: YOU CAN'T GET ME UP HERE.
ZOLA: What's that word I like? Ride?? I think it's ride. Mommy, are we going for a ride?? I LOVE RIDES!!!

Zola flails about aimlessly and nearly knocks Juju off her feet. Bina darts under the little console table next to the door, where the food is naturally, and Kitkat hops on top of the washer, sitting defiantly on top of just-cleaned laundry. She sees a lonely dime sitting on the edge of the washing machine and blatantly, while keeping eye contact with Juju, knocks it to the floor.

KITKAT: The thing is on the floor now. You can't leave.
BINA: Hungry?
ZOLA: RIDE!!!!
JUJU: Oh, come on.
BITSY: Wait, are you leaving??

Three comes back into the kitchen and grabs Kitkat from the washer, cradling her in his arms. 

THREE: We need to put her upstairs, too.
JUJU: Oh, that's right. Good call.

Since Kitkat has a habit of terrorizing Bitsy just because (Juju has come downstairs after hearing what sounded like death screams to a satisfied Kitkat and a scratched up Bitsy more times than she can count), she is usually banished to the second level with her own food and water bowls and litter box; oddly enough, she seems to prefer it, although she does scold Three and Juju whenever they return. 

KITKAT: Is this an "I'm taking you to give you a bath" carry or a "I'm sending you upstairs" carry? We both know what will happen if there is a bath involved.
THREE: Quit your bitching. You're going upstairs.
KITKAT: GOOD.

As she watches Three take Kitkat, Bina suddenly realizes what's going on. Her separation anxiety stems from her lack of access to food during the interim between leaving and returning.

BINA: But ... but ... hungry? Mommy? HUNGRY??
JUJU: I'll feed you when we get back.
BINA: I MIGHT DIE?
JUJU: Calm down. You'll be fine.
ZOLA: RIDE!!!!

Bitsy has since jumped down from the fridge and paces in front of the back door.

BITSY: Tyrannical Not-Friend can escape!
JUJU: You'll be fine, too. Three will shut the door nice and tight.
BITSY: I'll miss you! You are my mobile launching pad whenever you're in here!
JUJU: You jump perfectly well without my assistance.
BITSY: THAT'S NOT EVEN THE POINT.
ZOLA: RIIIIIIIIDDDDEEEEE!!!!

By this time, Three has returned, a few scratches on his arms.

THREE: She protested.
JUJU: Of course.
ZOLA: We are going for the ride now?
BINA: HUNGRY??
BITSY: MOMMYYYY!
JUJU: You guys have to stay here. We'll be back.

Bitsy climbs up Juju's leg and digs her claws into the purse.

BITSY: DON'T LEAVE!

Juju frustratedly removes each of Bitsy's talons from the purse and cuddles her, which seems to calm the little cat down. Bina sits stubbornly by the food canister and glances back and forth between it and her owners. 

BINA: Hungry.

Three and Juju make eye contact and nod. Three basically runs to the door and swings it open, blocking Zola's access to it with his foot, and Juju tosses Bitsy back onto the fridge and makes a break for the door. On his way to shut the door behind him, Zola manages to wedge her head far enough through the frame that he can't close it, and when he tries to push her head through, she barrels toward the car with glee.

ZOLA: RIIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDEEEEE!!! YAYYYYYY!!!!!
JUJU: Zola! Get BACK here.

Zola doesn't hear her and instead runs spastically around the vehicle, trying to guess which door will magically open the world of Car Rides. 

THREE: Dammit.
JUJU: I'll get her. ZOLA.
ZOLA: Mommy?

Zola's ears flatten on her head and her eyes widen, like she's been caught eating cat shit out of the litter box again. Juju points to the back door, and Zola sighs as she plods back through it, disappointed with the lack of a ride. Juju shuts the door again, and she and Three smile happily. As they walk away, they hear a few knocks and the scratching of claws. When they turn around, they see Bitsy, dangling by her front paws as she stares out the back door's window and calls out to them desperately.

BITSY: Come BAAACK!! I HAVE NEEDS AND AM SMALL AND ADORABLE!

Juju and Three shrug and hop into the car, going on a date to Burger King.

THE END


Friday, November 1, 2013

Life with Pets: Walks - A One-Act Play

It is dusk - a time of wonder and also less hot than other times of the day. JUJU puts on her running shoes and places ZOLA's collar around her neck, preparing for yet another jaunt into the wilds of rural Tennessee. Zola is giddy because the collar and leash, which hangs in Juju's hand, always mean something good, and she bounces around like a rubber ball. 

ZOLA: OUTSIDE TIME ZOMG.
JUJU: Stop moving, I'm trying to attach this leash to you.
ZOLA: ZOMGZOMGZOMG.

The kitties, KITKAT, BINA, and BITSY stare curiously at the spectacle, as they have never understood Zola's enthusiasm for anything - except obviously food. That is always an exciting time. Bitsy sees Juju go over to the door and runs to it, wishing to escape to the outdoors and then to clamor when she wants back in because it is scary.

BITSY: I WANT TO BE ON THE PORCH.
JUJU: No, Bitsy, stay inside. I'll be back in a bit.
BITSY: BUT TYRANNICAL NOT-FRIEND WILL ATTACK ME.
JUJU: She probably will, but you've run your drills and you know where to go where she can't get to you.
BITSY: FINE.

Zola, having forgotten that a walk outside is imminent, has taken to smelling Kitkat's butthole, but once Kitkat discovers her transgression, she immediately swats at the unwitting bulldog, who gleefully believes the older cat desires playtime. 

ZOLA: ZOMG I FORGOT WHY I WAS EXCITED WE SHALL PLAY.
KITKAT: I am having none of this. Where is Small Furry so I can attack her.
BITSY: FLEEEEEEE!
JUJU: Why is this my life?

Once the cats seemingly settle, Juju proceeds to take Zola for her daily walk around the neighborhood, first stopping in the back yard so the dog can do her business. 

JUJU: Come on, Zo. Poop and pee, please.
ZOLA: I do not have to. I would like to go walk now!
JUJU: We do this every time, and you always have to go when we get less than five steps away from our yard.
ZOLA: Not this time. I promise.
JUJU: Well ... okay. Let's go.

Oddly enough, Zola does not try to drop her butt to poop or pee after they leave the front yard, leaving Juju to nod her head in surprised approval. Instead, the dog pulls her along, trotting aimlessly in a sort of tracking way, which is strange, because ... well, bulldog. Not really a tracking animal. Zola nonchalantly surveys the road and the other yards they are passing, dragging her front paws like a lion and scraping her just-cut claws on the pavement. A block or so into their walk, the two pitbulls chained in a yard that usually bark at Juju when she's on her runs decide to do the same to Zola.

DOG 1: PERSON AND OTHER DOG YOU ARE CLOSE TO US.
DOG 2: HELLO YOU ARE CLOSE TO OUR TURF.
DOG 1: THAT'S WHAT I SAID.
DOG 2: THERE'S NOT MUCH ELSE TO BE SAID.
DOG 1: TRUTH.
ZOLA: Friends?
JUJU: Come on, Zola.
ZOLA: But ... friends?

Once she is sufficiently far enough away that she no longer remembers that there are other dogs/friends, Zola is back to sniffing and looking at her surroundings. Then she gets an all too-familiar look in her eyes and sets her ears back on her head. 

ZOLA: I have to poop.
JUJU: Zola, keep on walking. We do not poop in other people's yards or in the street.
ZOLA: But ... but ... poop!
JUJU: NO.
ZOLA: Sigh.

She arches her back a bit to keep herself from pooping, glancing sadly back at Juju, who just glares at her. Suddenly, a little turd pops out and she cowers a bit. 

JUJU: ZOLA.
ZOLA: I AM SORRY I HAD TO POOP I AM SORRY.

Juju stops and fiddles through her jacket pocket, trying to find one of the little poop baggies she had stuffed in there. Unfortunately, the jacket she is wearing is not the one with the baggies in it, so Juju simply stares at the lone glooble on the side of the road. 

JUJU: Dammit.
ZOLA: I am sorry, Mommy. I had to poop.
JUJU: Well, we should turn around now and go back to the house so you can poop there.
ZOLA: (forlornly) Okay ...

The entire walk back, Zola walks like a duck, trying to hold in whatever feces are trying to escape (you have to say it like Dory in "Finding Nemo" - ES-CAHP-AY). She doesn't even notice the two pitbulls/friends that bark at them as they pass for the second time. It's only a short trip back, but it looks as if she might just pop, so Juju speeds up their pace. Zola perks up as the yard comes into view and starts to run. As they cross the threshold, Juju stops to let Zola off the leash, and the bulldog gleefully scampers into the yard, turns around, and plops into her play stance. 

ZOLA: We RAN! FUN! PLAY!!
JUJU: Don't you have to poop?
ZOLA: NOPE!!

She runs to the porch and bounces a bit.

ZOLA: I can have food now?

Juju facepalms. And of course Bitsy, in an attempt to see outside, has ripped down the front door's curtain and is dangling by her front paws to look out the window.

THE END

Friday, October 25, 2013

Life with Pets: Sneak Attack - A One-Act Play

As the early Saturday morning sunlight beams through the edges of the blanket that hangs over the window close to the bed, JUJU sits up and yawns, stretching contentedly. THREE groans and pulls their comforter over his head, grumpy at both the early hour and the fact that he'd have to fully wake himself for another twelve-hour shift at his job. ZOLA, lying blissfully unaware at the end of the bed, pops her head up and begins to pant happily.

ZOLA: Mommy! It is food time!
JUJU: Come on, Zozo-bean. You hungry?

Hungry is one of the only words the Zola knows definitively, and she jumps off the bed in excitement, causing Three to groan again. BINA, sitting on Three's chest, perks up, as she is also attuned to this morning routine.

BINA: I am hungry?

Juju gets up out of bed, amused at these two animals, when a small white paw darts out from underneath the bed and attacks her ankles. 

JUJU: (angrily) Bitsy! Ow! That is not okay!
BITSY: (still underneath the bed) I AM A TIGER. 
JUJU: Ugh. 

BITSY pokes her head out from underneath the bed to investigate the goings-on. 

BITSY: Where is Tyrannical Not-Friend? I will not attempt to leave my spot unless I know it is safe. 

KITKAT sits atop the banister surrounding the steps leading downstairs, licking her paw. She rules her domain with an iron fist, unless Three or Juju remind her that she is simply a feline that is significantly smaller than they are. Although Bina does not seem to recognize her reign as anything more than, "Whatever, I'm going to boop your head, Kitkat," both Bitsy and Zola tread lightly around her. Kitkat notices Juju arising and meows in greeting.

KITKAT: I assume you will feed me now. My bowl is only half full, and this is not acceptable. 
JUJU: Come on, Kitkat. 

Juju makes her way down the stairs, with Kitkat and Zola following behind. Zola, of course, defers to Kitkat's path and allows her to descend first. Between the slats in the banister, Bina reaches out her paw to swipe at Juju's head as she walks by. 

BINA: I got you! I am hungry? 
BITSY: (from behind Bina) Is Tyrannical Not-Friend gone?
JUJU: Come on, you two!

Bina dutifully follows Juju's instructions, but Bitsy remains upstairs, warily awaiting another attack from Kitkat. 

In the kitchen, Bina nearly causes Juju to trip, an act that Zola completes by being (as always) in the way. From the living room, Bitsy peeks around the corner to survey the scene, as it has been nearly four hours since she was last assaulted by a dominating Kitkat. Bina plaintively mews as Juju scoops cat food into her bowl, and Kitkat merely glares. 

BINA: I am hungry? Hurry?
JUJU: Give me a second!
ZOLA: Food time yay!
JUJU: Zola, go sit over there!
KITKAT: Peasants. 

Once the food is in place, all of the animals are preoccupied with stuffing their faces, although Bitsy is nowhere to be seen. Juju goes to investigate. From out of nowhere, Bitsy flies at Juju with her arms and legs spreadeagle, launching at Juju's leg with her claws. 

BITSY: SNEAK ATTACK!
JUJU: OH MY GOD OW! 
BITSY: HAHAHAHAHA! WHEEEEEE!

Bitsy tears away into the kitchen with her tail held high and her ears back. However, she stops dead in her tracks when she catches Kitkat staring at her from atop the fridge. Her eyes widen, and she bolts at the Kitkat's instantaneous pursuit. 

BITSY: IT'S TYRANNICAL NOT-FRIEND. FLEEEEEE!

Seemingly satisfied with herself, Kitkat returns to the kitchen to finish her breakfast, but as she passes Bina, Bina taps her head in punishment. 

BINA: That was not necessary.
KITKAT: I'm a cat. Nothing ever is.
BINA: True. Carry on.
ZOLA: NOMNOMNOMNOM. 

It is now close to Three's wake up time, as it takes him nearly forty-five minutes to fully awaken from slumber, so Juju creeps upstairs, trying to keep the stairs from creaking with every step. Bitsy, who has taken refuge on top of the banister, eyes her curiously, as Juju crawls on her hands and knees across the floor toward the bed. Three is snoring again, and Juju peeks over the edge of the bed and sing-songily whispers to him.

JUJU: Oh, hoooooooneyyyyyyyy ...
THREE: mumblegrumble

Juju launches into the air.

JUJU: SNEAK ATTACK!!!!!

THE END.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Life With Pets: Dog Soccer - A One-Act Play

It is Saturday morning in the Three-Juju household, and THREE is happily making breakfast, whisking gluten-free pancake batter (thanks, Bisquick!) in a gleeful frenzy. However, he notices that he might need some more rice milk (shut up, Juju has food allergies and does not drink that shit because it tastes good) to aid in the making of Awesome Pancakes and makes his way to the fridge. 

ZOLA, the lovable yet clueless bulldog, takes his movement as an invitation for pets. Completely out of his line of sight, she lumbers toward him and gets tangled in his steps, sending both sprawling onto the freshly mopped floor (shut up, Juju doesn't always think when she does things). 

THREE: (as he falls to the ground) Dear GOD, Zola!!
ZOLA: Daddy is petting me with his feet. Yay!!
JUJU: (off stage) Are you okay?
THREE: Yeah ... call the dog.
JUJU: Zola!
ZOLA: Mommy!

As easily distracted as she is, Zola looks toward Mommy's voice but realizes that Three is standing up. She again trots in his direction, directly in his path. When he accidentally kicks her, she stops and stares forlornly at him. 

ZOLA: Daddy?
THREE: Zola! Get out of the kitchen!
ZOLA: He said my name! I do not know the other words, though. I shall stay.

The three cats decide to investigate. BITSY, the youngest, leaps onto the counter, both intrigued by the making of food and desirous of avoiding KITKAT (aka Tyrannical Not-Friend), who follows close behind. BINA, who realizes that there is nothing in the kitchen that is of interest to her, turns around to go back to bothering Juju about cat food and head scratches. 

BITSY: Hm, I wonder if this white stuff tastes like Glucerna*.
THREE: Bitsy, no!

He bops her on the head with a towel, and she argues with him in the only way she knows how. She insistently keeps poking her head in the bowl and meows in protest when he pushes her away.

BITSY: I WANT FOOD.
THREE: YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY OF THIS.

Three goes to pick her up and take her into the living room, but Zola has yet again placed herself in his way. For the third time, he trips over her, this time his shin coming into contact with her head. This obviously means play time. 

ZOLA: (crouching) Daddy!
THREE: Zola! GOD!! Go ... that way. I don't even care. Just get out of the way!
ZOLA: Daddy!!

When he does not start playing with her, Zola begins pouting and plops on the floor, sighing. Unfortunately, her choice of spots is, again, in Three's path. Again, he nearly tumbles to the ground but catches himself, while Zola is knocked about a foot away. And again, she is thrilled that he is petting her in some way. 

THREE: Okay, seriously. Zo. La. You need to move!
ZOLA: Excitement!! I will run in circles around you!!

Three tries frantically to balance himself as Zola whirls around the kitchen, occasionally knocking her head into his shins and calves, which only whips her into a further frenzy. JUJU finally comes in from the living room, holding a rather content Bina in her arms. Bitsy is thrilled to see her, as Juju is the one who initially saved her from two giant tomcats who wanted to make her into a meal, and jumps from the counter to greet her.

BITSY: Mommy!
JUJU: Hey, Bitsy. What's going on in -

Kitkat has seized the opportunity to launch herself at Bitsy.

BITSY: TYRANNICAL NOT-FRIEND! FLEEEEEEE!

Both Three and Juju watch after them and feel secure after Bitsy leaps onto a high spot where Kitkat will not follow, and Kitkat seems appeased.

JUJU: So what's going on in her?
THREE: Zola has helped me invent a new sport: dog soccer.

THE END

* Juju once spilled some Glucerna because of Bitsy's playfulness and created a monster. Now everything that comes from a bottle could be Glucerna and the six-pound kitty will battle you for it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

MINORITIES!

As a person of color in the U.S., do you wake up in the morning, wondering what bit of injustice you should be irrationally mad about that day? Should you rant against appropriation of your culture at Halloween or go with the old standby of institutionalized racism? Are you put off more by the way your race is portrayed in the media or by how you are assumed to have a certain job because of your ethnic background? Do you bang your head against the wall when choosing between stop-and-frisk and voter registration laws?

Well, worry no more, our friendly non-white brethren! We are here to help! For only two installments of $29.95, you, too, can own a hardback copy of "Minorities: It's Only Important When White People Say It Is!"

Through comprehensive interviews with white people and extensive research into what white people think, we will ensure that your morning routine of being ridiculously irate can be narrowed down to one thing, and perhaps even completely eliminate any rage you might feel at any point in the day! There are even removable lists from the back pages that you can laminate and keep in your wallet or back pocket.

Helpful hints include: 
  • If it doesn't affect white people, it's not important! Ignore!
  • If in doubt whether or not something should be discussed in regards to race, ask the closest white person. They will undoubtedly be willing to help you with your conundrum. 
  • Talking about the privilege that white people are culturally given makes white people uncomfortable, so obviously, anything that touches on that subject shouldn't even be talked about. 
For a free chapter to see if "It's Only Important When White People Say It Is" is for you, just send an email to whitepeoplesolveracism@yourewelcome.com with "Free Chapter" in the subject line, because we all know you people of color like free things, amirite, or if you want to go ahead and start your journey now, email reverseracismistotallyathing@dontmakemefeelbad.com with "Order Now" in the subject line.

And that's not all! If you order the full book now, you'll also get a FREE poster of "The Help" and an "ethnic" CD of your choice*! 

Be sure to check out the rest of our series!
  • "Felons: Why You Should Be Punished Forever"
  • "LGBTQRSTV: Why So Many Acronyms and Why Do You Even WANT To Get Married?!"
  • "Women: You're Supposed to Be the Gentle Sex, So Act Like It! "
  • "The Poor: You Should Probably Forget Healthy Food and Just Buy Ramen Noodles and Also BOOTSTRAPS"

* We currently offer Motown, some Bollywood soundtracks, and New Age music. More to come!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

This is new ...

I have only been depressed at one time in my life. Like, for real depressed, not like the Buzzfeed-dedicated-to-food-mishaps depressed. It was a relatively short period of time, from around December 2005 through May 2006, right after my boyfriend of two-and-a-half years broke up with me over the phone fifteen minutes before my 22nd birthday while I was sitting in my car on my parents' driveway. Looking back at it now, it wasn't so much the fact that he broke up with me that turned me into the walking dead, but the idea that I'd planned my entire life around a guy I didn't love and had no idea what else to do. How I managed to graduate from college the following May is completely beyond me, although I did have my wonderful roommate to convince me to leave the dorm room to, you know, go to class and shit. It wasn't so much that I was crying all the time, although I did get through that step after about a week straight of bawling my eyes out*. I just felt numb, which is such a bizarre experience for me. My entire world is filtered through my ability to connect emotionally with it: sunsets, people, wind, etc. And my creativity is directly attributed to my emotional state; if I can't feel, I can't draw, write, or paint. Art is such a huge part of my life, and it was weird, knowing that, if I had been in the right state of mind, it would have killed me to know that I wasn't able to create. But it was just that one time ...

Well, that used to be the case. If you haven't noticed, I haven't been posting as much, and when I do - other than Life with Pets, obvs, which I have had so much fun writing - they've been much more sober. I guess I should have been prepared to take a dip, emotionally, at least, when I just started feeling low for no reason whatsoever. I couldn't explain it. I guess I noticed it back when the recruiter from the National Guard stopped contacting me with updates after I found out that psoriasis was a cause for rejection from the armed forces, but I just chocked it up to disappointment. But I was still in this weird, paralyzed sort of funk that I again attributed to my fear of possibly not getting into the military because of itchy skin. I was feeling tired for no reason, and my period only lasted for two days, which was both a "yay" and an "uh-oh" for me. Then, a few days ago, I got a coupon for a free chicken sandwich at Burger King (with the purchase of a small fry and drink, of course) and walked all the way down there from my house (it's a hefty hike) with $3.50 in quarters, all excited about this sandwich. But when I got there, I found out that, oh, no, the full price for a small fry and drink was $3.93; I was forty-three cents short. The poor cashier, new to the job, had no idea what to do when I started tearing up, so I graciously accepted the coupon back and shuffled out the back door, hoping that no one had seen me. The whole walk back home, I tried to figure out what was wrong with me. It was just a sandwich, for God's sake. And I didn't even care about it once I'd gotten out of the building, but the feeling of sadness lingered. This sort of continued for the next couple of days, during which I forced myself to be happy. I even tried writing a bit and congratulated myself on not being For Real Depressed since I was able to scribble down a few sentences. And then, last night, I kinda broke. 

For reasons I'm not going to get into, I found myself crying ... no, not crying. Sobbing. I was screaming at Three, telling him that I was worthless, incapable of finding a job or selling my writing/art or housecleaning or having babies or loving him properly or cooking or running or having perfect skin or being a good partner/daughter/sister/friend/tenant/etc. It was the most naked I've ever felt, and it had nothing to do with the fact that I was standing there in a towel, having just gotten out of the shower. A deep loathing just seeped out of me, and I couldn't think of anything except that I had no value. Three tried to comfort me to the best of his ability, but in all honesty, there was nothing he could say. He cried with me, and then, for the second time in my life, I felt absolutely nothing. 

It's strange to be numb. Even as I write this, I am having to pause and think of the right words, when I'm usually bursting at the seams, trying to type every thought that comes through. It's not like I'm living in a haze; I see everything clearly and I am oddly very connected to how my body feels right now. I am feeling aches and pains in places that have no business feeling those things (the tops of my feet? what??). But I don't have an emotional attachment to anything, not even when I remember feeling so hopeless but a few scant hours ago. 

So here I am, in this new, yet familiar place. I don't even have the money to see someone about this, so I just have to sit and wonder if I can figure out how to get myself out of it. Maybe? I don't know. What I do know is that all I want to do right now is sleep but can't manage to even take a decent nap. Sorry if this is disjointed; not much about anything is making much sense right now. I think I'm going to go get an iced tea or something and try to work on another Life with Pets sketch? 

* This even occurred when my family took me out to eat for my birthday, in an effort to cheer me up, which hahaha not happenin'. I just sat there, staring at the faux-wood grain table and trying to hold back the deluge of tears that threatened to come bursting out at any moment. The poor server brought me dessert and was all, "Happy birthday!!" and even told me he'd bribed the rest of the staff into not singing to me. And I just sat there some more, this time fiddling with the icing on the shitty carrot cake with my fork. It was ... awkward. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Life with Pets: Goodnight, Zeus - A One-Act Play

Nearly three hours after the evening began, our heroes, THREE and JUJU, lie on the floor in a makeshift pillow fort they've made in their living room. Upstairs, where the couple usually sleeps, has been quarantined to allow insecticide to work its magic against little invaders known as fleas. This means that Juju, Three, and their animals (KITKAT, BINA, BITSY, and ZOLA) are all having to share a fairly small area of the house because life is awesome. To make matters worse more interesting, a few days before, a wasp had gotten into the house, and Three had chosen to battle it with his fists, breaking a window in his campaign. Of course, because the couple is poor, they had not yet been able to pay for a repair, so instead, painters tape and several pieces of cardboard had been used to cover up the hole. In other words, the past few weeks has been ... interesting.

Three is asleep after three weeks of his dumb job changing his schedule around, and Juju is watching Star Trek: The Original Series on Netflix. Bina trots up to Juju and meows at her.

BINA: I am hungry?
JUJU: You just ate.
BINA: Pet me?
JUJU: Fine.

Zola, sensing that pets are being administered, lumbers in from the kitchen and pushes Bina away from Juju's hand.

ZOLA: Mommy! Pet me, pet me!
JUJU: Zola, Bina was here first. Lay down.
ZOLA: What is a Bina? I want pets.
BINA: I am hungry? Again?
JUJU: Dammit, I just want to watch "Space Seed" uninterrupted for once, you guys.
ZOLA: Pets!
BINA: Hungry?

Behind them, a war erupts between Bitsy (aka Esther) and Kitkat for no reason because they are cats. And probably because Kitkat is a giant asshole. 

BITSY: You were walking past me!!
KITKAT: You showed fear!!
BITSY: Mommy!! Tyrannical Not-Friend is hitting me!! And so I have pooped on the floor!!
JUJU: Good GOD!

Three jerks his head up, his eyes droopy. 

THREE: Huh?? Whasgoinonnn?
JUJU: Nothing. I've got it. Go back to sleep.

As Juju cleans up the cat shit, Bitsy jumps on her shoulder and glares at Kitkat, who seems unmoved.

KITKAT: I was only asserting my dominance.
JUJU: If there wasn't insecticide upstairs, I would throw you up there right now.
KITKAT: Whatever.

Suddenly, the obviously not-well-constructed covering for the broken window starts moving, and all of the animals, plus Juju, stare at it, completely baffled as to what is going on. Even Kitkat doesn't care as Bitsy inches past her to further investigate. 

JUJU: Ummmm ... Three?
THREE: [snore]
JUJU: Great.

Juju approaches the window with a spray bottle, as it was the only weapon she could think of at the time, but then a little orange and white kitty head pokes through. It is ZEUS, the outdoor cat who has taken a liking to Juju because she a) feeds him and b) lets him sit on her lap when she reads outside.

ZEUS: Hello!
JUJU: Zeus, you can't come in here.
ZEUS: Why not? I figured how to break this barrier, so I should be rewarded thusly.
JUJU: That's not how this works.
ZEUS: I am a cat; therefore I do not care.
JUJU: Fuck my life.

Three raises his head again, even less coherent than before. 

THREE: Zeus is in the house? Ask him for pie.
JUJU: ...
ZEUS: What is pie?
BITSY: I like pie! I stole some yesterday from Mommy's plate!
ZOLA: Friend from outside!!
BINA/KITKAT: INVADER!!!

Bina stands on her hind legs to sniff Zeus but quickly scampers away, hissing. Kitkat does the same, except she has no idea how to respond when Zeus does not either flee or attack her. He, instead, just stares at her. From the entertainment center's surface, Bitsy reaches over and boops Zeus on the head, and he is equally unresponsive. 

KITKAT: Do. Not. Like. I want to go upstairs but cannot. DAMMIT.
BITSY: What is this bodiless kitty head?
JUJU: Zeus, get back outside. I'll bring you out some food to the front porch, okay?
ZEUS: That is acceptable.

Juju tapes the cardboard back on the window and goes to the kitchen to get a cup full of cat food. Once she places the nibblets outside for Zeus, she returns to all four animals sitting in a row. 

KITKAT/BITSY/ZOLA/BINA: Hungry?
JUJU: You guys JUST ate.
KITKAT/BITSY/ZOLA/BINA: So?

Zeus again pokes his head through a hole of his own making.

ZEUS: Can I come in now?
JUJU: NO.
THREE: Goodnight, Zeus.

THE END.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Town Is Kinda Like Night Vale??? MAYBE???

So I was a bit late getting into the Welcome to Night Vale party, because ... well, I don't know. I kept hearing about it on Facebook and Twitter (I even followed their Twitter feed and was completely confused about what they were posting) but just never followed through on figuring out exactly what it was. And then I binge-listened to the whole series so far, and GOD, I LOVE THIS.

And then I started noticing things around the little town that I currently call home.

They were small things at first, like the orange mist that surrounds my house in the early morning before the sun rises*, or the seemingly sentient way the stray cats (of which there are numerous, but hey, it's small town America) look at you as you walk by (more on one specific one in a moment). But then even weirder occurrences popped up. For a few weekends in a row, random gunshots rang through the air, but no one seemed to respond. Not even to be like, "Hey, gunshots!" And they all looked at me strangely when I called the police, who never gave me any inclination that they were even looking into it. And the police seem to drive up and down my street at an oddly frequent rate, even though I don't live in a dangerous area**.

And speaking of the police, there is a surprisingly large number of cars that appear to be unmarked police cars, with those little attachments to the side mirrors on the driver's window.
What the top red arrow is pointing to. There's probably a word for it, but I am too lazy to Google it.
Image from http://gmtminusfive.blogspot.com
Every time I either ride or drive our car, about half of the cars we pass have these. So either the police department auctioned off a bunch of cruisers they no longer used or my town has its own Sheriff's Secret Police, which is staffed by some of the gangliest looking people I have ever seen.

Of course, there's also this person speaking over a loudspeaker from the high school at night, and this is probably the weirdest aspect of living here. At first, I thought it was an announcer for the high school football games, and one evening while I was cooling down from a run, I figured, "Well, I can go watch the game, I guess?" As I got closer, I noticed that the sound wasn't becoming crisper, but hey, this is a small town and they probably don't have the best sound equipment, right?? When I finally got to the field, only one of the lights was on, like someone had forgotten to turn it off, and the bleachers were empty. To be fair, it was a Wednesday, so nobody being there is understandable. But I could not, for the life of me, figure out who was speaking and from where and what they were actually saying. I immediately called Three from my cell and asked him to talk to me as I walked home. I still hear the loudspeaker every time I go run, but I probably won't go back there, even when there is a game.

Shudder.

Anyway, about two blocks down from where I live is a house that has a perfectly manicured lawn and creeping vines ... and a small cactus in the middle of the yard. There isn't any sand or desert-like material surrounding it. It's just sitting there in the grass, taunting me with questions. I've wanted to ask whoever lives there about the cactus, but I never see anyone coming or going. Then again, I never see any cars parked there, and yet, the grass stays cut and the shrubs trimmed. I always get a weird vibe when I pass it, either jogging or driving, but I'm too scared to ask any of the neighbors, out of fear that the house or the cactus (or BOTH) doesn't exist or something.

Then there's my house. First, it's across the street from a small apostolic church (whose pastor was kind enough to let use their lawn mower that one time), so we frequently have to deal with ... energetic displays at times. And fabulous Sunday suits and dresses. And the regular misting that only appears around the church right at sunset. We are located at the base of a small valley, but the other houses (including my own) don't get the mist.

Now, our house in particular was built in the 1930s and is generally awesome, even if it doesn't have closets. But there's something ... off about it, and it manifests in the wildlife. When we first moved there, about fifteen feral cats roamed in the furthest part of our yard, and they were all ruled by this giant tabby tomcat, who was easily twenty-five pounds, if not heavier (this is the specific stray I was referring to up top). We still have some strays, one of which is our beloved Zeus-y-boo, but that tabby? Looks like he's gotten bigger, and I fear that he has devoured most of the others. He's scared of me, though, but that's because I chased him into the woods when I got irrationally livid when I saw him humping Zeus out of dominance***.

But it doesn't stop there. Every single animal around here seems to be larger than normal. Horseflies are giant and frequently fight each other; a spider that I named Shelob had a body the size of a quarter; slugs are at least two inches in length, have lived so long that their skin is no longer smooth and resembles a cucumber, and sometimes form giant masses or cover my trash bin outside. The other day, the big ass tabby was attacked and chased off by a fucking squirrel, who nonchalantly strolled away after the cat bolted, like that shit happens every day and what of it, human? I once had a staring contest with a fox that I could have sworn was testing me for something. What? I have no idea because I am not a fox. Well, not that kind, anyway.

I actually just started a little diary of random things in my town that I notice because I feel like I should send in some ideas to Night Vale. Or hell, I may even start a "My Town Is Real Life Night Vale" tumblr or something. Or they might find out what I'm doing and silence me forever. Who knows?

* Okay, it's because of the street lights, but STILL.
** Well, yeah, I did live next door to a drug dealer, but his were mainly pills and he's currently in jail for it. They also moved out about two weekends ago, which was OMG DRAMZ, and my landlord, who also owns their former domicile, was like, "Yeah, they're losers."
*** Which, I know, CATS, but it pissed me off. Severely.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Life with Pets: A One-Act Play

It is dusk, and the pink and golden hues - the last breaths of the sun before it takes its leave from the world - filter through the window upon the bed of THREE and JUJU, married for nearly three years. It has been nearly two weeks since these two have been able to enjoy each other's company, as his work and her sleeping schedule tend to operate on opposite ends of the spectrum, time-wise, and now is an opportunity for sexytimes. 

THREE: Seriously, sex with myself can only keep me going for so long.
JUJU: Don't I know it.

Mostly naked, both stop as they hear labored panting coming from the side of the bed. 

JUJU: We didn't close the door, did we?

Both lean over the edge of the bed to see the goofy grin of a slobbery ZOLA, English bulldog extraordinaire. 

ZOLA: Hi, guys! I'm bored!
JUJU: Zola, get in your crate. Mommy and Daddy are having alone time right now.
ZOLA: That's okay! I'll get up into bed with you! You won't even know I'm here!!

Zola jumps up, landing squarely on Three's ass, and proceeds to sit at the very end of the bed, head tilted and tongue hanging out happily. 

KITKAT (off stage): HEY!! I AM ALONE AND DON'T KNOW WHERE EVERYONE IS!!

KITKAT (aka Tyrannical Not-Friend to Esther aka Bitsy/Bitty/Little Shit), the oldest and most ornery of the Three-Juju household, trots into the room frantically. She follows Zola's clumsy example and leaps effortlessly onto the bed.

KITKAT: Well, here you are. I was alone and not happy about it. I shall stay here so that never occurs again.

Three angrily flops over on his back and growls. 

THREE: Are you kidding me?

BINA, the middle kitty, comes in a few seconds later, curious about all the noise. 

BINA: Are there pets being given? And also food? Because I am hungry? I shall sit on your chest, Mommy!
JUJU: Seriously? Animals, we cannot have sex with all of you in here!

Juju tries, fruitlessly, to remove the animals from the bed, only to have them either deftly maneuver out of her reach or simply jump back onto the bed. Three pulls at his hair in frustration. ESTHER (aka Bitsy/Bitty/Little Shit), the youngest cat and undoubtedly the most rambunctious, pokes her head not quite all the way through the door.

ESTHER: Mommy? Where is --

Kitkat and Esther lock eyes, and the younger one immediately hisses, turning as quickly as possible to flee. 

ESTHER: IT IS TYRANNICAL NOT-FRIEND!! FLEEEEEEEEEE!

Kitkat is already in pursuit, thrilled with the chase, but as she tears after the littlest kitty, her claws rip across Juju's stomach, leaving bloody scratches in their wake. Both Kitkat and Esther have left the stage. 

JUJU: For the love of -- FUCKSHITDAMN! What is wrong with you?? (to no one in particular)
THREE: Are you okay?
BINA: I need to go mediate between the two other kitties! Esther is probably hiding and will need comforting, and Kitkat will need a boop on the head.

Bina merrily skips off stage. 

JUJU: I am going to kill her.
THREE: Kitkat?
JUJU: YES. Shit, these hurt.
THREE: I'll go get the first aid kit.

Three exits stage whatever, for some reason putting on sweatpants, leaving Zola, still panting at the very end of the bed, seemingly unaware that anything out of the ordinary has happened. Which to be fair is kind of accurate. Juju lies in bed, grumbling curse words to herself, when Zola hops over and puts her head right on Juju's boob.

ZOLA: Hi, Mommy!

She lays a horribly sloppy kiss right across Juju's mouth and breathes directly in her face, blissfully and absent-mindedly glancing around the room.

JUJU: The mood is ruined. (sighs)

THE END

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Well, that escalated quickly.

First off, it's been a WHILE since I wrote anything here, and for that I apologize. It's been a crazy past month or so, and it's been such a mixture of crazy that I just haven't really felt like writing anything. That includes my third novella, although I made some sort of progress over the last few days.

Anyway, I need to explain a few things. The last year of my life has kind of been an experiment. I don't consider it a failure, since I've learned so many things about myself, which I'll get to in a second, but it is a little disheartening. When I left DHS back in August 2012, I was totally focused on my writing career, even if I didn't get anything "published" for almost four months. I actually got further than I expected - two novellas and an almost published short story (the jury is still out on that experience since it's been over two months and I have yet to hear anything), submitted my watercolor paintings to an art show at a local convention, started working on a future webseries and another novella/novel series, etc. I'm actually kind of impressed with myself, in the least arrogant way possible.

But through this experiment, I realized something. Being a dependent spouse is difficult, to say the least, particularly when you are as Independent Woman as I am (thanks, Bey), but I guess I couldn't have predicted how much it would affect me. I mean, I think if everything took off like I'd hoped it would*, and I was at least somewhat contributing to our household expenses, I wouldn't have been nearly as stir-crazy as I turned out. However, I was constantly reminded that, because of my decision, we were back to how things were before we filed for bankruptcy. Well, we were able to pay our bills, but yeah, that's about it. We were living hand to mouth. Our meager savings disappeared, and Three was trying to find ways to make sure that we could occasionally, you know, buy food that wasn't ramen noodles or canned chicken. It was nearly killing him, truthfully, and all I felt was guilt, despite the fact that I was putting out more creatively than I had in years.

This constant bug in my ear - "Look at you, you lazy slob; your husband is exhausted and it's all because of YOU" - was enough to drive me nuts, but it wasn't just that. Being a Sagittarius means that, despite my sometimes introverted nature, I am most definitely an extrovert. I need to be around people, at least some of the time. Living in a more rural area than I was used to wasn't really that big of a deal in the beginning; I'd been living in the city for so long that a break from all the humans was a nice reprieve. But then throw in the fact that we didn't have a second car (thanks, old landlord bitch!) meant that I was even more tied to the same four walls with nothing but three cats and a dog for company**. And I was most definitely not staying sane. Three noticed it right off the bat, but I was not necessarily willing to admit that I wasn't completely happy. I convinced myself that I was just going through a phase and that, once things picked up, I'd be okay again. When Three's job started acting dickish***, I started worrying. There was no way that I could support us on what nothing I make from my writing, so I went on the hunt for some type of job.

And really, it could have been anything. I was even searching for part-time work, mainly in the same area where Three works so it would be easy to carpool. Plus, it would have been fairly easy to find a job there, since it's mainly retail and I figured, "Hey, I wouldn't have to emotionally invest in this because, ha, retail****, and then I could still focus on writing! Win/win!" Somehow, though, I found myself looking at armed forces jobs. Because why the fuck not? I was just researching and no harm could come from that. Except that, as I went further into it, I felt drawn.

Now, I grew up in a military family. Both of my parents were officers in the Air Force, and both attribute a lot of their current success to serving in it. And honestly, I kind of miss that life. I know that the military doesn't always have it easy, and there are a lot of issues within the community that have yet to be resolved (hi, sexual harassment!), but for the most part, the good greatly outweighs the bad.

Anyway, I requested further information from all branches, with the Air Force being my first choice, but the National Guard was the first who called. When I got into contact with the Navy, the officer recruiter made a big deal about my age (the ancient number 29), even though I have a good three years before I'd be ineligible because of it. The Air Force never called me back, despite the multiple times I called AND requested to be contacted via the interwebs. And I was a little wary of the Army, since I'd have to go to officer candidate school on or before my thirtieth birthday*****. The Guard was a lot more flexible, and I'd still be able to become an officer, since their age requirements aren't as strict.

I went ahead and took the ASVAB, which I later found out was a test for high school students, so if I didn't score highly, I would have felt like a complete dumbass. Luckily, I did really well, which opened up a lot of opportunities as far as job options go (I'm wanting intel because who the fuck wouldn't?), and now I'm just waiting to go back to MEPS to get my physical done. And all of this happened ... in the past month? Two weeks? Who knows? I sure as hell don't. I mean, I'm still looking at the Army, since the benefits are better with active duty officers, but I'm pretty sure I'm going Guard. Plus, there's always the option to go active, although that's determined by need.

To be honest, everything really is up in the air right now, but I know that I'm going in the right direction. For now, I'm just going to breathe and bust my ass physically so I will at least be somewhat prepared for the fun that is morning PT. Ugh. Wish me luck.

* Although, to be fair, I am HORRIBLE at marketing. I hate constantly scrolling through some of my self-employed friends' posts on Facebook, reminding me of their awesome sales (granted, most of them are working for, like, Scentsy and Avon and shit, but still), so I assume the same of them. It's why I created my own author account so if they wanted to get updates, they could. Maybe this makes me an awful person, I don't know.
** They are fabulously fun, and I wouldn't change our arrangement for anything. There's something about watching their personalities interact that just makes me giggle.
*** His company was run by morons. Seriously. I could write a whole series on the clusterfuck that is that company, but quite frankly, that's a lot more effort than they put into operating their business, so whatever.
**** I'm not saying that people with retail jobs don't love what they do. But for me? Not really. I look at retail as a way to pay the bills.
***** Which is fast approaching and I can honestly say I'm super excited about it, although that's probably because I'm planning a dinosaur themed party in honor of myself.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hugs, chocolate and Pamprin ...

I have actually thought long and hard about posting this, since it's still incredibly close to me, but then I remembered that I'm me and that I can't really hide anything deep within the recesses of my brain for too long because it just pops out like a cork under too much pressure.

So, here goes.

I'm not going to lie: when I was ten, I was positive that I wanted to have five children, and I even had ten full names for them all, depending on whether or not I had girls or boys. I'm sure my list is somewhere in my boxes in storage up in the attic, written in my full preteen self's handwriting. As I got older, much to the amusement of my mother, I whittled the number down to one, where I firmly stand. First of all, kids are damned expensive, and secondly, I'm not sure I would really want to deal with any more than that. Granted, this could probably change at some point in my life, but a lot of that kind of depends on whether or not Three and I can have children.

We've been trying since we got married to get preggo but with few results. Although it was never confirmed by a doctor, I do believe that I had a miscarriage about a year ago, thanks to the most extreme period that I've ever had (and hoo boy, do I have some Extreme Menses [TM]), and I've been tracking my cycle like a damned hawk. I even downloaded TWO period trackers that had a different ovulation day, (ick alert) monitored my vaginal discharge, took prenatal vitamins, etc. etc. etc. Still, we got nothin'. Around seven or so months ago, I nearly had a breakdown. Poor Three was just joking when, after a full two weeks of daily sexytimes (and then three days' rest because, shit, sex is a workout and he was working 12-hour shifts), he asked after he found me unwrapping a tampon, "Aw, honey, what's wrong with your uterus?" I saw the transition in his eyes from "haha I am jokes" to "OMG WHAT DID I JUST SAY TO HER I AM HORRIBLE," and I knew that he wasn't trying to be cruel, but that didn't stop me from bursting into tears and bawling, "I am broken!" He felt like the worst husband on the planet and spent the next four hours consoling me with hugs, chocolate and Pamprin.

I've been told by several medical professionals that because I have regular periods (yay and boo, obvs) I am probably fertile, but that they wouldn't be able to say for sure until I got tests done and HAHAHA ARE THEY KIDDING THOSE ARE EXPENSIVE. Fertility tests and treatments are not covered by insurance, understandably, I guess, but it's very discouraging and, honestly, super depressing.

Then I ran across this website that is dedicated to celebrating what they call "Not-Moms." At first, I was a little skeptical because I am still not entirely comfortable with the idea that I may or may not have Teh Bebeh, but reading a lot of the articles that they posted actually got me thinking about why I was so desperate to have children. A quote on their "Famous Not-Moms" page is as follows:
In particular, this list exists for any woman who mistakenly believes that without giving birth, she will leave no legacy.
I don't think that this is necessarily the entire reason that I want to have at least one kid. Part of me wants to raise a child with the knowledge that I would try to make sure that they understood that they are loved and accepted for who they are, even if they don't follow my prescribed set of values or desires. Another part wants to live vicariously through someone who is just experiencing things for the first time, to feel the joy and terror and skepticism and thrill of learning something new, so I can get a new perspective on things. There are a thousand other reasons why I'd like to give birth to a kid, but yes, I would like to leave a legacy of sorts. To know that somehow, a bit of me lives on and can affect other people even when I'm gone. Not that I don't believe that my art or my writing won't do that, but there's a certain static nature to that sort of thing. But with a living, breathing person? The possibilities are endless! Which yes, I know can also lead to hahaha I'm the great-grandmother of a serial killer! Wheeeee!

So of course I'm torn. Of course I still feel a little stab of jealousy when I see my friends' status updates about the cute thing their two-year-old did or when the media does nothing for a few days but cover the birth of the future king of the UK. Of course I start to count the ways my life would be just as fulfilling without a child as it would be with one. And I'm still young, so of course my current childless existence may change, save an early menopause (for which I am at high risk, THANKS, GENES). But this little voice in the back of my head lets me know that I'm not really ready to accept that I may never bear crotchfruit (and I say that with the highest regard possible). I may never be okay with it, but at least I'm taking the time to think of it, I guess?

All I can do right now is live my life as it currently is. I can't change what's going on in my uterus obviously, whether or not it has to do with me or with the husband, which THANKS, LACK OF MONEY. Today, I took the time to read the Beatitudes, a piece of literature from the Bible that I think Christians should want in our courtrooms instead of the Ten Commandments, and found myself reading further into the Sermon on the Mount. Even though I don't hold the Bible to the same level of sacredness that a lot of Christians do, it is a book that I've read through several times, and this verse was the one that stood out to me: "Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day." Oddly enough, I felt a lot better. THANKS, JESUS!

I may be childless now, and I may forever be known as the Lady Who Has No Kids, but I really shouldn't worry about that right now. There's no point. And really, that's all I really needed to hear.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

As a writer, I'd like to think that I paint all of my characters, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or skin color, with the same brush: well-rounded, complex, etc. They're all kind of like my children; I know their backstory, what their dreams are, and where they are hopefully headed. Growing up, most of my characters were white because, hahahaha, I'm white, and well, you know, you're supposed to write what you know, correct? When I got older and became fascinated with anime, several Japanese characters would occasionally pop in to populate the woefully whitewashed casts of my stories, and then my interests delved into social anthropology (which is such a cool subject) and linguistics (I swear, this does fit in!). Lo and behold, new characters of all sorts of colors, creeds, sexual orientations, etc. started playing much larger roles in my narratives, and honestly, I felt super proud of myself that I'd learned how to create a diverse universe. "Mad props, Juj," I'd congratulate myself.

It's helpful, in my case, that most of my characters live in worlds that are different from my own but are nonetheless familiar. For instance, Ren, the main character in my "Legion" series, is from a city-state that I modeled somewhat on Sri Lanka, and my mind's eye pictures her as Tamil. Another character from the series is Captain Koca, who I initially believed was kinda Irish looking, has instead revealed herself to me as having Japanese or Korean features and culture (although she still has her flaming red hair and height). The only character in that series right now that is white is Mason, who more or less serves as the straight man among all the strangeness. In other stories, like my short story, "Waking Up," the characters are not really described as having a skin color; instead I focus on how they dress, their attitudes, etc. Part of this is because I want to eventually make it into a movie and I don't want to limit myself to certain people for the characters; I'm a big fan of open-ended casting, like Shonda Rhimes approach when finding actors for "Grey's Anatomy." It wasn't until the actors had been selected that they gave them last names. Pretty inspired, if you ask me. How the show developed beyond that point ... well, I'll just leave you to your own opinions on that one.

Now, I hate to say things like "I'm colorblind," because, let's face it, folks, it's incredibly disrespectful (and reeking of privilege) to even think it when talking to a person of color. Other better bloggers and journalists have covered this topic before (Google it!), so I won't delve too deeply into it. But when I watched the following video, I had to really think about how I handle race (and all other issues and words related with it) in my writing:
I highly encourage everyone to watch the whole thing because it's pretty incredible. I actually teared up a bit, as I just cannot imagine what it's like to see your race/ethnicity/whatever caricatured*, even if it's done by a seemingly well-intentioned person like I believe J.K. Rowling was**. Since I am very much a white woman (Polish, French-Canadian, Native American - we think Cherokee, if our family tree can be trusted - and a smattering of a bazillion other things because hahah I'm several generations into the whole "American" thing), it's important for me to truly examine why I started putting men and women of color into my stories. Was it to just "add color" so I couldn't be accused of being racist? Or was it because they just happened to be that way?

Growing up in the South, race relations have always at the forefront, even if you don't actively seek to talk about it. It just comes with the territory, where the culture is still dealing with the aftermath of the Civil War (we are, and anyone who disagrees with you is either lying to you or to themselves or possibly/probably both), so naturally, race is going to come up when I write anything. I live with it every day. This is not to say that the rest of the U.S. and hell, the world, has moved into that supposed eutopia of post-racism because BWAHAHAHA ARE YOU DUMB, but in the southern United States, it's just more visible because of the history. Now, this is not saying that there aren't racists in the South; hahaha of course there are. There are racists every-fucking-where, but it's just kind of expected from here. Cue: giant eye-roll.

Anyway, it's no surprise that I would take a different approach to race whenever I write someone who isn't white, but I'm starting to wonder if it's enough. I don't have the experiences, upbringing, or biases that would adequately prep me for writing a character of color, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I should just not try. And when someone approaches me (because someone will - and I don't mean that in a sarcastic way; it's just an understanding that you have to come to when you deal with the public, that you aren't going to please everyone and that, yes, you may even offend them), I'm going to listen to them earnestly about their criticisms. That's all I really can do. The above poet actually did a follow-up vlog about a lot of the outcry (both positive and negative), apologizing to anyone she might have offended and opening up further discussion and thoughts on the topic, which I find both brave and incredibly encouraging. If you should feel so inclined, I highly suggest you look up her response on Youtube.

At this point, I'm just rambling, and haha it's because I haven't really slept very well the past few days thanks to a long bout of playing with my new art tablet (thanks, Mommy!) and getting a short story ready for submission to an anthology. So with that, I bid you all adieu and good night! Or morning, since it's now 04:17. Sighhhhh. 

* Yes, I know there are caricatures of white people, but please remember that this is privilege we're talking about here. You don't see white people playing the same character in every.single.show that they are in, unlike a lot of minorities. 
** I honestly don't think that Ms. Rowling went in wanting to create a flat character or a stereotype when she created Cho Chang (hahahaha Garcia Sanchez - that's my favorite part of the video), but I also don't think she thought it all the way through. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tampons are NOT anti-feminist, you flapjack.

Look, as most of you know, I'm a lady. I have lady parts. Those lady parts bleed once a month for about four to five days because my uterine wall is an asshole (and also wants to make sure that I can have behbehs). As a matter of fact, I'm on day four as we speak. And yes, I use tampons because I think that pads are gross. I'm lucky in that I can use them, because I am friends with several women who cannot due to various reasons. There are also women who prefer pads to tampons just because. So whatever. Who the fuck cares?

Apparently, The Daily Beast does. I spent so much time arguing aloud with this article that I actually woke my husband up all the way upstairs. My childhood (and well, adulthood, too) was filled with fun conversations that involved all sorts of body functions - just part of the bliss of having a colon and rectal surgeon as a father and a nurse practitioner as a mother. So perhaps I never understood the stigmatization of my menstrual cycle because I never had to deal with it. My father would go buy me tampons like it was no big deal, and both of my parents gave me the "this is what's going on with your body" talk. Any boyfriend that I had was never, "OMG EWWW YOU HAVE BLOOOOD?" Yes, I've even had awesome sex when I was having my own personal shark week. That was my first problem with the article.

When the author, Soraya Roberts, brings up two people - Giovanna Plowman and Carina Ubeda - that have eaten a tampon or painted with her menstrual blood (respectively), I pretty much screamed, "That is because it's fucking disgusting!" I'm a bit more lenient with Ubeda, since as an artist, I can see where she's trying to be ... artistic, but still. I'm not going to buy a painting that has human blood on it, regardless of its origin. I would have the same reaction if a man ate his butt plug or used his semen to sculpt an exact replica of the Millennium Falcon. It's GROSS.

Moving on. I'm going to skip the "but periods aren't in movies and TV" section because, well, unless it serves as part of the plot, it's kind of unnecessary, and step directly into the history of tampons, which were kind of like what access to The Pill was like just a few decades later: freedom for women. Like I said above, pads are not the most fun to wear, especially if you don't want to feel like you're wearing a diaper. And as someone who has severely heavy flow, this happens pretty frequently, and I can just not even imagine what it was like for women who had to wear cloth as a sanitary napkin. At least pads are designed to be absorbent. I am thankful that I live in a time where I can go to a supermarket and pick up a box of Tampax Pearls.

While all of this information was ... well ... informative, then the author just kind of goes off the deep end. Like, I'm not even sure she knows what point she's trying to make.

This quote from Sharra Vostral made me so mad I had to get up from my computer:
The assumption is you have to touch yourself, and kids, and especially prepubescent or virginal girls, should not be doing that ... If you're a virgin, you're supposed to use a pad. Otherwise, you should use a tampon.
OMG, YOUNG WOMEN KNOWING AND UNDERSTANDING THEIR BODIES AND THEIR SEXUALITY BEFORE ACTUALLY HAVING SEX WHERE ARE MY PEARLS FOR THE CLUTCHING. Fuck that. I was using tampons by the time I was twelve, and I didn't even have sex for the first time until I was 19. Now, I don't know if Vostral was saying that this is the assumption or that she actually believes this absolute crock of shit, so I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that she's just reporting what she's heard. But the fact that this is actually something that people in general think bothers me waaaaaay more. Who's business is it if I choose to wear a tampon or a pad? WHO'S??

Grumble, onto the next part, which actually brings me a lot more rage. And I quote (it's long):
Tampons aren't a bloody mess; pads are. They put your fluid on display, they can smell, and you can't flush them down a toilet - in short, they are visible. 'Part of the stigma is the need to hide [the menstrual blood] right away and not feel it against your body,' [Ingrid] Johnston-Robledo says, and adds that she thinks women who are more comfortable with their bodies 'would be more likely to use products where you really have to look at and interact with your fluid as opposed to clogging your body with a tampon and just tossing it into a toilet.' She considers pads the middle of this continuum, with a menstrual cup being the polar opposite to the unobtrusive O.B."
You, my lady friend, are making some pretty big fucking assumptions about women who use tampons versus women who use pads. So a woman who uses a tampon isn't as "secure" in their own body? How about maybe I actually just don't want to

Basically, this, along with Xbox assholes being all "OMG A LADY IS NOW A BIG WIG UGH I DON'T WANT TO PLAY BAKING GAMES," has just pissed me off for the rest of the day. And honestly, I don't even know what this Roberts is trying to do with this article. She doesn't really make any sense, since tampons really do seem to be more empowering than sexist and "keep the woman invisible." While I agree that menstruation is looked at by many people, men and women included, to be a taboo subject - although I do not count myself or the majority of my friends in this group - this is not the way to go about it. Education is important; boys and girls alike need to know more about how their bodies work so that way they don't freak out (this has never happened to me, so I'm just guessing that some people respond this way??) the first time they realize that, yes, Virginia, women do have periods and, yes, they need to have some way to keep the blood from going everywhere.

The only positive thing I brought away from this article is that I now know of Genesis Be and my new favorite song, "Tampons and Tylenol." So, thanks for that, Daily Beast. You fail everywhere else, though.

So I totally forgot that I signed up for Klout.

I got an email today that was like, "CONGRATS YOUR KLOUT SCORE WENT UP," and at first, I was all, "Wait, huh?" However, I followed the link and, indeed, I had signed up for Klout. My score is piss-poor, from what I am to understand (35 hahahaha), although somehow I had a 90-day high of 47.whatever. Which ... huh?

Like, seriously, how the fuck does Klout work (and also, why do I have such a hard time typing out Klout?)? I get that it takes your social media accounts and then calculates your score based on if people respond or retweet or whatever, but beyond that, I am kind of wondering what the hell it actually does. Even their "How It Works" page is unclear. INFLUENCE! Okay ... But what if people read whatever you post all day and are like, "Hey, that influences me in some way," but they don't actually take action on it? It just ... it baffles me.

And obviously, I care tremendously about it, since I cannot even remember when I signed up for it (and connected my Facebook, Twitter, Google+, AND Instagram accounts).

So I guess my question is this: is anybody else just as ambivalent as I am about this? And actually, follow-up question: does anybody actually have more insight as to how Klout is supposed to help people?

DISCUSS.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I'm moving backwards in time ...

When I threw out my portable phone nearly three years ago, I'd have told you right then that I would never again have a land line, and because life kind of has a way of making you eat your words, I'm thankful that no one ever asked. Last week, the husband and I downgraded to one cell phone and exchanged the other for a plug-in-the-wall land line phone. It's been ... a transition. Yeah, that's the best, least loaded word.
You know, I wish we'd gotten this phone.
Now, I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not married to my phone. I'm not on it at all times, and I even put it in my purse when I drive because nothing pisses me off more than turning my head to glare at the person who's been swerving in and out of their lane and they are fucking texting or whatever. I specifically wanted a smartphone because I figured, well, I want to have a media presence, and if I'm not at my computer, what will I do then?? Huh? HUH?? Wait until I get home to tweet about my awesome experience at Logan's Roadhouse? I THINK NOT. If you ask any of my friends, they'll tell you that the longest they've ever talked to me on the phone is about five minutes. Maybe. Three minutes is usually my max, because I've gotten distracted by something else or I honestly have nothing more to say and don't want to drag the conversation into awkwardsauce territory. So of course, my phone was mainly used for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I even downloaded the Blogger app, but hahaha, yeah, I never used that.

Despite all of this, I teetered between mania and relief. What? I can't take another picture of Zeus, the stray cat that I've apparently adopted, and post it on Instagram? Whee! This "new" corded phone (we bought it for $2.99 at Goodwill, betches) makes me feel all nostalgia-y! Wait. I can't text people?? OMG. MOAR RITING TIME!! Huh. This means they'll have to a) email me, b) message me on Facebook or Google Chat, or c) call me on the land line (although none of them have the number). This definitely limits the amount of time I'll have to talk on the phone. Right? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I am spazzing out, where's my wine? I didn't realize how much of a connection to the damned piece of technology I'd made, although I'd like to think that it was mainly because of Spotify. The first day that Three took the phone to work, I felt off and even went about trying to find my old iPod so I'd have something that resembled my phone. And I did find it in a box of shit I'd completely forgotten about, in all its chunky glory.
Yep, this bad boy. It feels so heavy now.
As the week went on, though, I kind of liked the fact that I wasn't constantly reminded that I had a new email or that a telemarketer from Utah was trying to sell me a vacation cruise. I'm sure they'll get our new number eventually, but for now, it's nice. And I've found that not having my iPhone with me when I go on walks actually is refreshing, since I get to hear the birds and cars driving up on me before they honk, redneck-style. I don't know if I need a cell phone now, although there's a little part of me that just cringed.

Maybe I just need more time.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Thirty Days of Buffy, Day 30: What I Think Made Buffy So Great

Yay, I'm finally done! Getting to write about Buffy as a whole is actually what I've been waiting to do since the beginning of this exercise, which I've been woefully inconsistent at updating, but you can blame that on my being a Sagittarius. (I do.)

Anyway, Buffy, for me, was my first introduction to fandom. At that point in my life, I hadn't ever gotten so engrossed in a story that I wanted to tune in each week to find out what would happen to the characters that inhabited it. That trend continues to this day (with the exception of Orphan Black, which seriously, you should check out because it's amazing, and the Mass Effect video game series), although it is not due to a lack of me trying to find something. Perhaps it was the outcast angle, where all the main characters were both embracing and rejecting their Otherness, that I caught onto the most. I wasn't necessarily the school pariah, but I definitely didn't fit into the little box that my high school's culture wanted me to. It took until the 10th grade for me to be like, "Wait, I only have to deal with you guys for two more years. Why do I care what the fuck you think about me?" And of course, I was presented the wonderful Anya in that same year, who, like we all know, replaced Willow as my spirit animal, and that really only cemented my love for the show. I wasn't too pleased with how the story went, but I was willing to go into Season Five, which was brilliant (and part of me wishes that it had ended there, since Buffy's story was technically done).

Now, I was not always sold on Joss Whedon being Nerd God Descended from on High (TM), since there were a lot of things that he got wrong (race, female empowerment, homosexuality, etc.), but the fact that he approached these topics in the best way he knew how? That's pretty big. And the series really turned gender roles on their heads: all of the male characters played a support role, and actually, that theme was explored with a lot of them (Xander, Giles, Riley-yuck). Buffy really did stand on the shoulders of giants (Bewitched, Xena, Barbarella [hahaha], etc.), but it in turned paved the way for new female protagonists like Katniss, Hermione, and even characters like Blake Lively's (I don't know the character's name and don't care to) on shows like Gossip Girl. That's pretty impressive, methinks. And I think, also, that Buffy will be one of those series that is referenced by future media creators, not only as an inspiration but also a primer on what not to do, particularly race and gender identities (I have a hard time believing that Willow was 100% gay because of her relationship with Tara, but that's another topic entirely). The show was an important step with television, showing that a woman could be the lead role and could get a mass of followers that would trudge through the bad and revel in the good and, to this day, have an entire academic study dedicated solely to the topics that its creators delved into throughout its run.

So yeah, good show, Mr. Whedon. (Also, thanks for not making her like Kristy Swanson's version. Ugh.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Thirty Days of Buffy, Day 29: Episode I Hate the Everyone Else Loves

I'm basing this on the time that Buffy fans were given the option to rank their favorite episodes back when Logo had a fan favorite marathon, and I found myself a little aghast at their choices. Number 24 was "Grave," which just left me thinking, "Whaziwhaaa?"

I mean, I've already made it quite clear that I really hated the Dark Willow storyline because it just reinforced stereotypes about lesbian characters and because magic as a euphemism for drug use was just so eyeroll-worthy that I nearly gave up on the series when Whedon and Co. decided to go there. Plus, Giles magically overwhelming Willow with humanity (Huh? What? How ... you know what? Whatever.) so Xander's little "Yellow Crayon Willow" speech could reach her was such a deus ex machina that I actually screamed at the television. Then, there's Buffy's "I want to show you the world" comment to Dawn had me reaching for the remote. Really? Buffy's entire arc of hating the world because she was in heaven is going to come back to this? Why didn't they just stick her on a magic fucking carpet and give her a genie lamp? GOD.

How is this supposedly a fan favorite? Like, I realllllllly want to know. It was the culmination of lazy storywriting that just continued into the next season, which we all know is just rife with that kind of shit. This does really have me questioning Buffy fandom because ew. HATE this episode.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Uggghhhhhhhhhhh ...

Being a Sagittarius, I tend to go into all situations with a hopeful attitude, even if I know the probable outcome of the endeavor. It makes me seem a bit foolhardy to most, sure, but meh. I prefer to think positively instead of expecting the worst possible scenario. Sometimes, though, even I have to draw the line.

Last night, I had the wonderful opportunity to go over to a friend's apartment and chill out while talking about everything under the sun, including my own writing, Dax Riggs, religious in/tolerance, and erotic horror (there are connections to all of these, I promise, but uh, you'd kind of have to have been there?). Oh, and there was beer.

For those of you who don't know, I have lots of food allergies, the most recently developed of these being a gluten sensitivity. I can still eat some breads, but they have to be whole wheat, and I can't have a shitload of it - a slice or two, maybe - or else there'll be tummy rumblings and general grossness. The funny thing is, beer is kind of how I found out that I was sensitive to gluten, kind of like how I found that I was allergic to latex through condom use. I would wake up after a wild night of wildness, which included a whopping, like, three beers, and feel like absolute shit for nearly half a day, while others who'd drowned themselves in a case were all bouncy and like, "OMG, we should drink again tonight!" Needless to say, parties in college were not a huge staple of my social diet.

Anyway, last night. A friend brought some Rolling Rock, and I thought, "Hmm, I probably shouldn't drink this in huge quantities or very quickly." So I took one and nursed it for several hours, figuring that I'd be okay. Ha. Hahahahahaha. This logic has never worked for me in the past, and I have no idea why I thought it would be any different, but whatever. Around two or three hours after we got back to the house, as Three and I were lying in bed, I felt this weird airy hardness in my stomach that traveled up my esophagus. I groaned because I knew exactly what was going on and what I needed to do, so I kissed Three on the forehead and went downstairs to the bathroom, where I proceeded to experience this horrible set of bodily functions: sweating, gas, diarrhea, vomit, etc. I have no idea how long I was in the bathroom, since I fell asleep with my head resting on the toilet seat and woke up on the floor.

All of that, and only ONE. DAMNED. BEER. Today has been a recovery day, and I keep looking at all of these projects around the house (aka laundry, brushing my teeth, cleaning up the dirt on the kitchen floor that I tracked in when I half-assed took out the trash, etc.) and just thinking, "I don't wanna." It's even kind of taxing to sit and think about what to type next. I don't even think I could watch mindless television right now. It's times like these that I'm glad that I am 1) self-employed and 2) work from home. I'm going to go guzzle a whole glass of water now. Wish me luck, friends.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Thirty Days of Buffy, Day 28: Character You Love to Hate

I do serious hate-watching in Season Five (and some of Season Four) so I can sit and complain about Riley. It's true. Ask my husband. He comes on screen and I just start seething. However, this would just be a rehash of my least favorite male character, so I suppose I'll have to pick another character, and I think I'm going with this lovely:
Faith Lehane
Now, she made it hard for me to totally hate her, especially when I saw how gleeful she was when she was treated like a person who matter by Mayor Wilkins, but there were some episodes where I was just like, "GOD, BUFFY JUST KILL HER ALREADY." For example:

  1. When she tried to remove Angel's soul.
  2. When she shot Angel with a poison arrow.
  3. When she took over Buffy's body and tormented her friends (and Spike).
  4. When she didn't know what Achilles' heel meant and made it a point to sound really stupid. 

I get that she's damaged and that she hasn't had the best hand dealt to her, which is part of the reason that I can't bring myself to place her in the Riley category of loathing, but sometimes I feel like Whedon was just pushing the envelope on how to make a future-redeemable character. Like with Bela in "Supernatural," except that was a completely failed experiment and they undid their mistake by killing her offscreen. Faith nearly got to that point with me, and I must say that, in the comics, I quite like her. I am not a fan of the writers attempting to sound "edgy" with her speech - calling Giles "G" and always ending with "you know?" but I tend to let that slide, since she does have a very complex, well-planned arc that mirrors Buffy AND Angel at the same time.
I do this IRL.
Sorry, fangirling. I'm back now.
Faith and Spike: making it hard for me to keep cigarette-free.
Ugh and this has me thinking that maybe this isn't really a love-to-hate situation so much any longer. Dammit, I have failed. Oh, well.
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