Something Else Sunday #12 – The Beginning of a Love Affair, Part 2

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Mid-yawn funny face. Still cute.

It’s Sunday again! I’m in the middle of a 24 hour shift at work (which basically involves sitting at a desk, being available, and awake…not a lot of actual work). Still waiting on the new domain to transfer over so I can start blogging over there…I’m sooooo excited and feel like I can’t possibly wait another day but wait I must. 😛

This week I’m continuing my story from last week’s Sunday. Like I said: I’m doing something a little unusual, a departure from my typical Sunday posts. Why? I just felt like something different, and this idea had been knocking around in my head for awhile. It’s my story, one that’s still growing, but the beginning, at least, I can tell because it’s over and done with. This part sounds kind of like a downer…but it gets better! Also, even if it’s depressing or sad, it’s still MY STORY and deserves to be told. If it can help even one person realize that they are worthy of happiness and fulfillment in life, than it’s worth writing.


(Read part 1 first)

The little girl was growing up very fast, now. Pain has a way of doing that.

People kept asking her what she wanted to do. She was good at writing. Or she had been. She loved books. But she wanted to go places, do things, and help people. She wanted adventure. Some people kept putting pressure on her to be a teacher, be a writer…but she knew in her heart that while she loved those things, she didn’t want to make a career of them. Reading and writing were her joys, her relaxation, her outlet, and to her it just didn’t make sense to make a job of it. Odd as it was, given her other interests – medicine, the science of the human body, and to some extent the biology of the entire world, was her real driving interest. 

About her junior year of high school, she started writing again. Non-fiction now, more than before. Her fiction seemed uninspired, and her lack of experience annoyed her. She felt she couldn’t write a good, realistic story – even of the fantasy type – without more experience with people and places than she had, and it frustrated her. 

It came time to make decisions about college, and she let certain people push her away from what she wanted to be her life work. She majored in English. 

About this time too, there was this guy. 

She was angry about a lot of things, and so was he. She was in love. She thought they needed each other. She thought they would make each other happy. So she married him. 

Turned out, he was really very bad for her. He cut her down in all kinds of little ways, and told her he was intimidated that she was good at – better than, he thought – he was at a lot of things. Like writing. He was a writer. He was going to be an author. And her writing – that she already thought was rather shoddy and miserable – intimidated him. 

She loved him. She didn’t want to make him feel bad. So she stopped writing all together. She wanted to be a supportive wife, so obviously making herself smaller or giving up part of herself for him was the proper course of action. 

Little did she know how far down a dark road that way of thinking would lead her, and how long it would take her to come back to the light. But this was still the beginning.

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She finished her degree, and was so tired of picking apart books and essays for hidden meanings that she quit reading almost completely for about two years. During this time she had developed a rather snobbish attitude about popular literature (no Twilight or smutty romances for HER, thankyouverymuch), so the idea of picking up something that might be lighter, easier, more FUN to read, was out of the question.

But she had graduated, and that meant she could go on to other things now. Things that interested her, that set her brain racing, that made her stretch her mind and grow new thought pathways. So she went to phlebotomy school – it was the only medical course she could afford. 

She passed with flying colors. Her patients loved her. She loved working with all the different people, learning new things every day, playing with all the different machines and tests. This, THIS was what she was made for.

The books – she still loved books. In a way she still loved writing. But nothing had made her feel alive like this before, even though her job was a very simple one. Funny thing though, working this job – rekindled her love of reading. It was as though working a job so far removed from books, writing, and the literary world in general, made it come back into focus for her. 

Slowly, she began to realize that she didn’t necessarily have to make a choice. Even more slowly, she began to realize that it was okay to good at something and be proud of that thing. But she still had a long way to go.

To be continued next week (final part)…

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Something Else Sunday #11 – The Beginning of a Love Affair

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Weekly cuteness overload, courtesy of Sir Tristan.

It’s Sunday again! I’m in the middle of a long weekend and am enjoying it immensely. I finished one gargantuan book and have spent a few hours listening to another while doing creative stuffs.

Pssst….reminder again, only a couple of days left on the giveaway for The Woman in Cabin 10…click through for the original post!

This week I’m doing something a little unusual, a departure from my typical Sunday posts. Why? I just felt like something different, and this idea had been knocking around in my head for awhile. It’s my story, one that’s still growing, but the beginning, at least, I can tell because it’s over and done with.


Once upon a time, there was a little girl. 

This little girl’s favorite thing in the world, was a good story. Before she could even speak, she was carrying books around, begging anyone who would take notice, to read stories to her. To tell her stories, if books weren’t handy, but books were her favorite. Her very favorites were ones with pictures of dogs and puppies. She learned to read quite early – possibly the result of her mother growing tired of the ceaseless “read to me, one more?” entreaty. Books…books before toys, books before friends, books before EATING. 

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This is STILL me at the end of a good book. 

She was 4 years old when she wrote her first story. It was only 3 or 4 lines, something about a girl named Mary that was cold because it was winter. It was written on the huge lined paper children use to first practice their letters.

A few years later (in about…1995?), she was using her dad’s fossil of a word processor to type stories when she wasn’t reading them. And she read A LOT. To the point of hiding books between towels in the bathroom so that she could read when nature called. She was frequently caught in school with books between the covers of her textbooks. Her mother always checked for flashlights after she went to bed. She was MOST PUT OUT by the age recommendations on books, because they always seemed ridiculously patronizing and on more than one occasion caused her mother to take possession of a book before she was finished reading it. THE HORROR OF AN UNFINISHED STORY. It started early, people. 

Most of the stories she wrote, at first, were fanfic – even though she didn’t know it! She just knew that she loved the characters in her favorite books and she was so sad to not be a part of their lives anymore, that she just HAD to continue their stories. The first of these was some version of The Boxcar Children. It has, mercifully, been lost to the ravages of time. 

Not too long after that, she discovered how much FUN it was to make up her own stories! She was forever starting books (though finishing them…that’s another thing), usually revolving around some girl or boy with a giant family (she was an only child until the age of 12) of multiple sets of twins that may or may not have had the same parents. When other kids were out biking around the neighborhood, she was typing away in her own little world. 

Eventually, people noticed that she didn’t only like to write, she was halfway decent at it. In school she was pushed into entering some fictional writing contests, and lo and behold – she was always shocked – she won. Not once, but 3 times. Her family – especially her paternal grandfather and grandmother – was thrilled. They were always asking to see her newest stories. Not that she surrendered these very often…she liked keeping her daydreams private, for the most part, but gradually, she realized…she liked the thrill of writing, liked this telling stories to others. She was good at it and it brought her joy.

She was also well on her way to becoming an obsessive book collector. For every Christmas and every birthday, her only request was…more books. Some poor misguided members of her extended family always thought that “books” translated to “clothes.” Sigh. At times she wondered if no one else spoke English, or if there was something wrong with her. Other kids definitely thought there was something wrong with her. But then, eventually she realized it was just easier to pretend she didn’t care what they thought. Pretend, because she did care, and the teasing hurt, but…there were always books.

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Then one day, her grandfather – the one who had always told her she could do whatever she put her mind to, the one that loved her writing and told her not to listen to the people who said it was a waste of time – died. He was 69. She was 15. It was a sudden, swift heart attack, with no precursors or warnings. The little girl, who had been painfully, slowly growing up, was devastated. One of the pillars of her world just suddenly vanished.

She thought she would never be able to write again, because every time she sat down at a keyboard, she could only cry. For the first time in her life, words brought her no joy. 

To be continued next week…

 

Banned Books Week!

Sometimes, living in (or under, if not necessarily in) a country that has very little government regulation of printed material, it’s easy to forget about all the places in the world that keep strict hold of their publishing houses. As an adult no longer involved in the education system, it’s easy to forget that there are people actively working to keep certain books out of schools and universities. It’s easy to forget that in some places, people are jailed, abused, their entire lives stripped away, because they wrote something contrary to either their government or the religious majority.

More recently, at least in the United States, books are ostracized or banned because they “are often about people and issues which include LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities—people or issues that, perhaps, challengers would prefer not to consider,” according to a blog post by Maggie Jacoby. Words that make the majority uncomfortable. Words that might challenge the status quo.

The American Library Association started keeping track of books that were repeatedly being flagged in the 1990s. Since then (and throughout history) there has been a shift in what calls a book into question. It used to be more focused on race, sex, and language. Now it’s more about diversity in lifestyle and realism in children’s and YA books.

To me, the point of Banned Books Week is to celebrate the freedom for everyone to express themselves. If my beliefs or my lifestyle is so unstable that I can’t even let people READ a book that shows another path of thought, that might just mean I need to reevaluate. Books that challenge our preconceived ideas have been some of the most instrumental in history, helping to shift thought on racism, sexuality, religion, and a myriad of other topics. I’m linking below to several interesting lists of books that have been banned or censored…some of the titles totally surprised me, I had no idea some of these were controversial at one point in time! Of course, I totally remember when the religious right was convinced Harry Potter was the end of the world and my mom refused to let me go back to one family’s house after seeing the books on their shelves. Haha. I’m sure this didn’t at all affect my desire to go out and read every book on these lists. 😛 Rebellious child, much?

Banned Books That Shaped AmericaThe Red Badge of Courage, seriously? I must have missed something when I read this years ago. The Call of the Wild, too? And Moby-Dick? Who knew.

Banned or Challenged ClassicsLord of the Rings??? *wide eyes*

Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2015The Bible, haha…well, I guess THAT has come full circle. While I understand objecting to being forced to read a religious book as a standard for living, I personally don’t object to them as literature. It’s a frame of reference. It helps (maybe?) me understand where people are coming from. This goes for ANY religious text, in my opinion.

Frequently Challenged YA Books – this list really needs to be by title, not author…my eyes are crossing, but it’s extremely thorough, haha. Since when is The Handmaid’s Tale a YA, though? And The Witch of Blackbird Pond, really, how dare they. One of my favorite books from childhood…somehow I managed to get this one past my mom and I swear I read it 10 times at least.

Best Banned, Censored, and Challenged Books – as voted by GoodReads users. No real surprise here…best way to make a book popular is to attempt to ban it, I swear.

I’ll have at least one more Banned Books post this week. This is a topic really near and dear to my heart! What’s your favorite banned/censored/questioned book? Have you read very many from these lists?

 

Odd Places

Today feels like a very weird day. It should be a good day…somewhat sunny outside (read: cloudy but bright), it’s Saturday, I didn’t sleep in too late, had delicious coffee and the husband made bacon for breakfast. Tristan has been super snuggly and lovey.

That little face.

That little face.

Husband is playing on the PS4, I have a handful of lovely letters to reply to AND about 3 books I’ve been dying to read, not to mention the journal and scrapbook I’ve been itching to make. And the knitting project. And the hibernating quilt project.

Letters!

Letters!

Knitting project.

Knitting project.

Yet I’m in some kind of odd place mentally and none of those are appealing. I’m not bored. Just…my brain is shooting all these different directions and can’t focus on any of them. I feel like a honeybee with ADD. In my head, anyway…physically, it sent me to the couch, to the computer, and to the bathtub. Where I decided the logical thing to do was to write a blog post about it, and then either make myself a drink or take a nap. Not sure which is more appealing right now.

I really want to be outside. But I’ve managed to injure my hip somehow and am on strict doctor’s orders to rest. Which means sit. And stretch. And walk a little. But no climbing or hiking or carrying packs…which rules out all the fun weekend stuff we had been planning to do. Hopefully just for about 3 weeks, but still…do you know how HOT it will be in a few more weeks? Also, I found, after more than a year of looking, potting soil…which means I could start a few container plants…but then, we will only be here less than another year and can’t take them with, so what’s the point?

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This is the kind of day it feels like it should be.

Books and More Books

This year, I’m really rediscovering my love not only of books (never doubted that one) but of writing. More on that later, but in the meantime it’s long overdue an update on my Reading Challenges for 2016! I just updated the “Books to Read 2016” page, which is my list of owned-but-never-read books that I am attempting to finish this year. I’m very bad at staying focused, so while I have read a total of 45 books for the year, I’m only at 15/45 from that list. Yikes! Need to work on that. But, while I do have reading goals, I am trying to follow the advice of my new mug and read what I love!

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Lovely mug courtesy of the Bookworm Boutique. Besides the shop, she has a beautiful Instagram @bookwormboutique and a book review blog.

Squirrel! Anyway, back to the reading challenges…

The challenge I wrote about doing with some friends is still going strong! Out of 50 categories (my original goal was 12, I’ve since raised it to 36) I’m at 26. Some of them are kind of stretches for me, but it’s fun. We’re not making the list public at this point, but it’s kind of like the PopSugar 2016 Reading Challenge.

I’m going to get back into doing book reviews. For the above challenge, in order to be able to officially list a book we had to write at least a brief review of it on GoodReads, and writing those has motivated me to write more detailed ones. I’ll be posting them here, and on GoodReads, and some on LibraryThing. I’ve been pretty lucky to be selected for a few ARCs from the Early Reviewers group this year, and it seems to be a fun, easy way to score a free book. And since free books don’t feel like failing at my book-buying ban…score! Besides the ER group, I’m expecting my first book from Blogging for Books soon (soon being a relative term  – overseas media mail shipping takes almost 6 weeks, usually) and can’t wait to get on reviewing from them too!

Reading Life

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New year, new goals! I knocked my 2015 reading goal out of the park, the first year I’ve ever actually reached my number goal, which was 25. I read 69. Sure, the goal was low for the speed at which I normally read, but considering that in 2013 I only read 13 books (for real), and 2015 was going to entail some MAJOR life changes like moving to the other side of the world, I thought it was reasonable. Then I had more free time on my hands then I anticipated, and wham. Almost triple. Whoohoo!

So this year, my number goal is 50. I don’t anticipate moving this year, but we do plan on doing as much traveling as possible, and I have all these other hobbies that intrude on my reading time. My other goal is to finish every book I’ve bought and not read. Towards that end I’ve created a new page with that list. Enjoy my extremely random library (the whole thing is cataloged here…still working on the audiobooks and ebooks). This goal was inspired by my husband wincing over a new box of books arriving in the mail not too long ago, and the reminder that when we DO move back to the States they are the biggest contributor to our moving weight limit. Eeep. So I either read them, or give them away. And, I am going to attempt – key word – to go on a book-buying diet until I have finished the ones I have. All 45 of them (since I already went through and cleared out the 10 or so that I decided I didn’t want to read anymore). I am allowing myself a subscription to OwlCrate…I’ve enjoyed quite a few YA reads in the last year, and I am in absolute love with the literary goodies I’ve seen in pictures of boxes. And I’m just a sucker for subscription boxes in general.

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I’m really kind of bummed I missed out on the Poe zipper pouch.

My last reading goal is a challenge I’m doing with a bunch of pen-pal friends. I’m choosing 12 challenges out of a list to stretch my reading horizons. Books a little out of my comfort zone.

Will I go over 50? I sure hope so! But I wanted to set myself up for success. What are your reading goals for 2016?

Thoughts

I hate living overseas. Experiences and cheap flights to the rest of Asia be damned. I’m horribly, horribly homesick and I just want to go home.

Apparently baking is a perishable skill. I attempted to make buckeyes last night, and having neither microwave nor double boiler, tried to melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over boiling water. It ended in lots of negative feels, burned chocolate, and a headache.

Autumn is slow to come here. The trees are still green. It’s cooled off some (yay no more 90 degrees + 80% humidity days), but the air still doesn’t have that little nip that says fall. I. need. autumn.

The only thing that makes me feel better is making things. Not sure if this is due to distraction or sense of accomplishment it provides.

I miss Alfie so badly. He’s never even lived here with us and yet I look for him everywhere. I keep reminding myself it was better FOR HIM to stay in Virginia but part of me isn’t convinced.

Draken had her little dragon. She’s beautiful. The sleep sack I knit for her is the only project I’ve finished lately.

I want to go home.

 

Ghosts

Do you have ghosts from your past that just seem to just pop up out of nowhere, just when you thought they were gone for good? I do. Mine seem to come in the form of words. No surprise there, really, I guess. Considering how much I love words, it’s only fitting that my ghosts should take that form as well.

My husband will be here in a week. I’m way beyond excited. But, as has happened every time we’ve been apart, I’m starting to get nervous little butterflies. Mostly when I look in the mirror.

Does he really find me attractive? With my out-of-control hair, pale skin marred by scars from too many breakouts, ass that’s there but not as firm as it could be, nearly non-existent boobs? Is he really going to want to put up with my books everywhere? My dislike of doing the dishes after dinner or folding the laundry after washing it? My obsessions with making all kinds of things, my stashes of supplies everywhere? How can he roll over and want to kiss me first thing in the morning, when I squint at him and put on thick glasses so I can even see the clock next to the bed?

I call these ghosts because they’re the remnants of a toxic relationship, where I heard things that shredded what self-esteem I started out with and still struggle to get back, on a daily basis.

Put on makeup to go out with me. You’re ugly.
Can’t you wear something other than jeans and t-shirts? You’re ugly.
Go shave your legs before I touch them. You’re disgusting.
You’d be pretty if you tried. You’re ugly.
You could be hot if you worked out. You don’t turn me on.
Don’t knit in front of people, it’s embarrassing. You’re embarrassing.
Why do you do that (quilt, knit, spin, whatever)? Only grandmas do that. You’re weird.
You shouldn’t feel that way, you’re wrong. Your feelings don’t matter.

When we’re together they occasionally pop up, but Matt is incredibly good at silencing them. After we haven’t been together for awhile, they all start swirling around in my head again. Nevermind he’s now been with me both at my thinnest (yikes!) and heaviest weights, he’s seen me lose a third of my hair, and he’s seen me puke more times than I care to remember (still can’t handle my liquor). And he’s still moving all the way to the other side of the world to be with me. Nevermind I’ve never felt wanted the way he shows me in my entire life. I’ve never felt accepted like this. Leg hair, old t-shirts, messy hair, un-made-up face…just normal, plain me. Sure he appreciates it when I dress up, but he’s not embarrassed to be with me when I’m just normal me. He’s not embarrassed to introduce me to his friends. He likes me. Just me.

Trying to convince myself? Maybe. Remind myself? Sure.

It’s kind of not helping right now. Maybe if I turn all my mirrors to the wall. All I see is an ugly, tired-looking woman. Just a ghost.

Things We Take for Granted

So of course everyone has seen this enormously adorable video by now, of  a little 10 month old girl seeing the world clearly for the first time.

I’ve watched it about 5 times and ended up in tears every time. Because I know how she feels. While my eyes aren’t as bad as hers (holy cow, a +7 and a +5, and now mine come in somewhere around a +4 and +5, not sure what they were originally), they also weren’t caught as young. I was 4 years old when my parents took me to see a Sesame Street show, where I (a normally very calm, quiet child) got more and more frustrated and upset because I simply could see nothing of the show from our seats. My parents well-meant assurances that I could see just as good as everyone else from that area only upset me more. I remember – and don’t anyone tell me a 4 year old can’t remember – being extremely upset because I could literally see nothing except maybe an occasional blob of color – hello, Big Bird? They took me to an eye doctor within a few days, where of course immediately glasses were prescribed.  I was allowed to pick out my own frames, and I chose a pretty but awful-with-my-skin-and-hair-tones blue. I asked my mom later why the heck she let me pick those, and her response “There was no way you were going to wear them if you didn’t like them, and if you picked them out that excuse was never going to fly!” Hehe. Smart. But since I am quite legally blind without them, I’ve honestly never once been tempted to try going without. I’ve sometimes wondered if NOT being able to see things clearly led to my obsession with all beautiful things…because I could finally, FINALLY see what pretty things actually were.

How bad is that kind of astigmatism? It can vary depending on the person’s other vision problems. I’m also near-sighted, but my main issue is the astigmatism. With my right eye, I can just make out the edges – very faint and blurry – of the giant letter E they put up on the vision test. With my left, I can’t tell anything is there at all.

I think vision problems are written off or belittled a lot. I know I try to downplay mine. A lot of people I work with aren’t even aware I have trouble, until they happen to look at me sideways in the sunlight. Sure, it’s correctable with glasses. Giant, thick glasses that make me look like I have tiny pig eyes. I do have contacts now, thank god, that actually correct my eyesight to 20/15. People always ask why I don’t just get laser eye surgery, especially since my job would actually pay for it. That’s awesome and everything, except laser surgery doesn’t really help astigmatism. So I’m stuck with lenses of some kind until science comes up with a better alternative.

My job requires a certain amount of visual acuity. Not joking. And not too long ago my lack of it was put on display for the entire company to see. A combination of eye strain, bad lighting, and general nervousness made for a horrible presentation on my part. Thankfully my boss knows I’m usually a perfectionist with everything and always come through, so he pulled me aside and asked what had happened. My only explanation was that I couldn’t see. Couldn’t. Effing. See. Even with my lenses. I’d try to focus and no matter what I did, how many times I blinked, nothing would come out of pure, outraging blurriness. Every two seconds I was fighting off a wave of panic, embarrassment, or anger. Or all of the above. I wanted to cry but that REALLY wasn’t going to help. I felt like everyone was looking at me like I had 3 heads and someone was sitting on my chest so I couldn’t breathe. And nothing I did helped. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling and I went back to my room and I did cry.

I’m eternally grateful to whoever invented glasses. I’m glad I’m an adult now, so (usually) no one makes fun of how thick my glasses are, on the VERY rare occasions I have to wear them. I’m so glad that now there’s technology that allows babies the age of little Piper up there to get glasses so much earlier. I hope no one ever makes fun of her for wearing them. I hope she knows that she’s beautiful no matter what she’s wearing on her face or her body. I hope she treasures every single beautiful thing she sees, every color, every person she loves. Never stop smiling, Piper.

Motivation

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This is me, pretty much all the time lately. About everything. I’m struggling with feeling guilty again. About…everything. I’m not sure why. I feel like something must have caused it, but I’m not sure what, unless it’s just the stress of new job/new place/new life. But usually that would make me happy, so…I don’t know.

Anyone, tonight my back was aching and felt like a stretch would do some good. I was sitting eating dinner and thinking about the Pilates classes I used to attend, how much I missed them and what good some of the moves would probably do my back. Then I got the idea to look at YouTube for some Pilates videos…long story short, I stumbled onto Fightmaster Yoga. And for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling reasonably inspired to get off my ass. Leslie has a Yoga Fix 90 series that….well…feels doable and challenging at the same time. I have more time on my hands than I know what to do with right now. I can only write so many letters and stitch so long before my twitchy self loses patience. I’m seriously considering trying to make this 90 day challenge my new thing. I’m not sure if trying 90 days in a row is a good idea, because knowing me, something will distract me partway through and if my goal was 90 in a row I’ll be devastated at missing a day. On the other hand, most of the workouts are less than 45 minutes. And it’s yoga. Yoga is amazing, unlike most other forms of working out, which are usually just disguised torture.

Hmm. Hmm, hmm, hmm. I want to measure and plan, but on the other hand, some part of me says I should just jump in. But, I don’t have a mat! I want a journal to record each day! I need a motivation image! I…I just need to do something.