Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ways I Am Not A Grown-up, The Seventh In A Potentially Infinite Series

I am 98% certain that the love of my life is this man:

You can keep your blackberry-sage foam bath and your pearberry-melon bath salts. You can totally have all the Calgon and let it take you away. Just let me have a few minutes alone with my man, and all is well in the world.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Deep Thoughts With Daughter-Only

A couple of weeks ago, Daughter-Only and I stumbled into an unexpectedly deep conversation when she began telling me about how disappointed she sometimes is with herself--with how she is sometimes too easily distracted from the goals she sets for herself, and the trouble she has prioritizing the demands on her time and her desires for how to spend it.

This is a sentiment I identify with all too readily and after she had shared her own concerns, I offered what little motherly advice and insight I could muster.

I said, "You know, I'm 43, and these are things I still struggle with as well. So the good news is you're probably not going to die from it. The bad news is--"

Daughter-Only cut in: "'re probably not going to die from it."


Monday, June 11, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail

Last week, I dropped my van off at the shop for repairs. The shop is located a mostly flat half mile or so from my house so I decided to walk home rather than having someone pick me up. Me walking is an event so notable and unusual that several people stopped along the street and asked me if I needed a ride. Surely my van had broken down or I was suffering some sort of mental or emotional breakdown. Please understand, this is exactly what I would've thought if I'd seen me walking along the street.

I am significantly overweight. This is an inescapable fact of my daily existence--one which I forget rarely and always at my peril. For whatever reason, I do not equate my size with my fitness (or lack thereof); I routinely underestimate exactly how unfit I am. My walk that morning was a great reminder--creaking joints, easily fatigued muscles, flushed face despite the almost chilly temperature.

I bring all of this up not in an attempt to flaunt my humiliation, but so that you can fully appreciate how absurd it is that as I was reading Wild, Cheryl Strayed's tale of her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, I could clearly imagine myself hiking right alongside her for all eleven hundred mountainous, sometimes treacherous, miles. This utterly absurd image of some version of myself hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is a testament not only to my own deluded imagination, but to the skill Strayed brings to the page.

In the mid-Nineties, when she was 26, Cheryl Strayed took to the Pacific Crest Trail after several years of devastating personal setbacks--the unexpected death of her mother; the dissolution of her marriage to a man she loved dearly, but could not stay with; a series of increasingly dangerous misjudgments on her part. She hoped that the solitude of the trail would give her time to figure some things out--about herself, about the world, about the direction she wanted to move in for her future.

In Wild, we cover both external and internal territory beside Strayed. From memories of her mother's last days to the sweeping vistas spread before her on the trail's peaks to the wrenchingly honest assessments of her own sexual promiscuity and the causes behind it to a snow and ice covered mountain trail on which a slip in the wrong direction could spell certain death, we travel alongside a woman on a suspenseful, life-changing journey. We do so in the hands of a writer with a tremendous talent for straightforward but deeply evocative prose.

I have rhapsodized about Strayed's work before--at least the portion of her work she's done under the pseudonym "Dear Sugar" on The Rumpus. Shortly after my ode to "Dear Sugar" ran, Strayed revealed her identity, in anticipation of the release of this book. If you read my "Dear Sugar" review, it comes as no surprise that Wild was on my To-Read List long before Oprah announced it as the first pick in her re-booted Book Club. I have mixed feelings about Oprah herself, as well as her Book Club--a discussion for another time, perhaps--but I am thrilled that Strayed's book will garner much-deserved attention.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Inspirational.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Eleventy Reasons To Love Blogging

One of the benefits of being part of our little blogging community is that when I'm feeling oh-so-uninspired (and I still am, a little, but I'm trying to drag myself out of the whiny pit), someone will come along with something to get the words flowing a bit again. This time, it was Sleepy Joe, who tagged me in a little question and answer game that's making its rounds. Many thanks, Sleepy Joe, for tagging me and thereby giving me some motivation to get up off the couch and back to the computer.

The rules: tell 11 things about yourself and then answer 11 questions posed by the blogger who tagged you. After that--and here's where we hit the snag: you're supposed to tag 11 others with your own list of questions. I run into the same problem I often do, which is that many, if not all, of the people I would tag have already been tagged by someone else (or even someone elses). So what I'm going to do instead is invite anyone who is reading this who hasn't already been tagged to play along. I'd love it if you answered my 11 questions (which will appear at the end of this post) and left a link to those answers in the comments here. While it may look like pure laziness on my part, I prefer to frame it as a great chance for some of the lurkers to come out of the woodwork and introduce themselves to the rest of our bloggy community.

So, now, 11 things about me--and not just any 11, but 11 I have not previously shared on some other numbered list of random facts about me. (Other lists can be found here, here and here.)

1. When I was younger, I was absolutely certain I would grow up to have triplet daughters and name them April Mae, Mae June, and June April.

2. I am practically giddy about the fact that so many of my favorite authors have new titles out or coming soon.

3. I frequently plan out exactly what I would do with a major lottery jackpot; I very rarely buy a ticket.

4. The two non-negotiable facets of my "dream home" that I will buy/build with the lottery winnings from the tickets I never actually buy are a library and a pool.

5. Sleep deprivation and the resulting fatigue impact every single aspect of my life. It has gotten worse, not better, as my kids have grown up.

6. If self-doubt ever becomes an Olympic sport, I'm a shoo-in for the gold. Probably.

7. I hate my current cell phone, but I'm too lazy to do anything but whine about it.

8. I should probably not do lists about myself when I'm exhausted and cranky.

9. I love cabbage.

10. When I was in my late teens or early twenties, I woke up with this phrase in my head: "It's like a wilderness of mirrors, everywhere you look, there you are." I'm still kind of convinced it means something more than it seems to.

11. I love toads and frogs. Especially itty-bitty ones.

Now for my answers to Sleepy Joe's questions:

1. Who is your literary hero? I don't know that I would call her a "hero" exactly, but the literary character I most identify with is Nelly Dean, the housekeeper in Wuthering Heights, from whom the traveling Mr. Lockwood hears most of the story of Catherine and Heathcliff's disastrous relationship.

2. Why? The first few times I read Wuthering Heights, I saw her as just the delivery system for someone else's story, but later came to see that there are points at which she plays a role in trying to save certain characters from themselves and one another. I identify with her non-flashy way of trying to come to the rescue as well as her failure to do so--and, of course, I identify with (and envy) her observational skills. Nelly Dean, who would likely have been barely literate in her time and place in the world, nevertheless took outstanding notes.

3. What is your favourite children's story? Hands down, the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Especially These Happy Golden Years, when fifteen-year-old Laura ventures out into the world to teach school.

4. Are you a closet reader, are there some books that you won't admit to reading?  Since I never leave the house without whatever I'm reading, I'm pretty much an open book when it comes to books. That said, I would say celebrity memoirs are my biggest guilty pleasure. I like to think of them as the literary equivalent of a palate cleanser between the more nutritious and satisfying main dishes.

5. Do you have any regrets in life? I have this theory about regret: it's pointless. You can't change the past and even if you could, to change the tiniest detail would be to put everything else up for grabs. The thing about theories, though, is that they are so theoretical. In reality, regret is probably unavoidable. For example, sometimes I regret adopting that theory about regret.

6. Name one ambition, not including getting your writing published. I've always kind of wanted to be the person my mother-in-law seems to think I am. I don't see her often (which is probably key here), but she is always so sweet and complimentary that I feel I should be a better person just to be worthy of her praise.

7. Heels or flats on a night out? It's a little embarrassing to admit (one for the "Ways I'm Not A Grown-Up" file, for sure), but I would have to purchase heels or flats for a night out (not to mention the entire rest of the outfit). I currently own two pairs of shoes: sneakers and a pair of men's flip-flops I bought on clearance at Kmart four years ago. This is not an exaggeration.

8. What is your comfort food? I am in a passionate and highly dysfunctional relationship with food in general so it's very difficult to narrow it down, but I guess I would say potatoes. With the exception of fast food fries, which I detest, I love them no matter how they're served up.

9. Normal clothes or comfy PJ's? My "normal" clothes are pretty comfy so the distinction between the two is a fine one; I don't really feel qualified to answer this question.

10. What is your favourite film? Hmmm, another one for the "Ways I'm Not A Grown-Up" file. I've never really thought in terms of favorites, but the movie I've rewatched the most number of times and would absolutely watch again right now if it happened to be on TV is that high school angst-fest The Breakfast Club.

11. Coke or Pepsi? If my beloved Diet Dr. Pepper is unavailable, my fall-back is Diet Coke. Pepsi is icky.

And, now, at long last, patient readers, my eleven questions for anyone willing to play along.

1. If time travel were possible, where would you go first? The past? The future? A specific time?

2. If you could claim any existing literary work as your own, what would it be?

3. You come upon a group of extraterrestrials disembarking from their ship in a deserted field. What is your first thought? First action?

4. I once read that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory. Which scent most strongly brings back childhood for you?

5. If you could rewrite the ending of a favorite book or movie, which one would it be and why?

6. Speaking of childhood, what food or foods make you wrinkle up your nose even now that you're a grown-up?

7. Who is the friend who's been in your life the longest? How did he or she come into your life?

8. Who has been your greatest teacher (inside the classroom or out)?

9. Do you have or have you ever had a nickname? Love it? Hate it?

10. What would the teaser on the back of your autobiography be?

11. Though you've no doubt been warned, do you nevertheless judge books by their covers?