Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books I read: 2011 edition

For the past few years, I've felt like I haven't been reading enough. I don't know what "enough" is, exactly, but I've definitely been reading less than usual.

And that's how I feel about 2011, even though looking at this list, I didn't do too badly. My big thing this year was that I had a hard time focusing on fiction. I told everyone I was on a huge nonfiction kick. And that's certainly what it felt like, even though that wasn't entirely true. I read a decent number of novels, some of which were pretty long.

I didn't read much poetry until just this month, when I discovered Mindy Nettifee. She gets special mention up here because her books inspired me to start writing poetry again. Read them.

But anyway, the list. As in previous years, I've added comments about a few, and links to longer posts that I wrote earlier this year about certain books.


In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (1994)

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)

The Man from Saigon by Marti Leimbach (2009)

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson (1989)

On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2005)
This book contains a brief reference to an early Tracy Chapman album. A+.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000)

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (2001)

Alfred and Emily by Doris Lessing (2008)

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell (2008)

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928)

The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi (1990)


Hope was Here by Joan Bauer (2000)

When We Were Saints by Han Nolan (2003)

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007)

Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan (2011)

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix (1996)
I picked this out randomly, because I love YA books. It contained a list of books by the same author, and although I hadn't recognized her name when I picked this up, I realized that she also wrote Running Out of Time, a book I read in elementary school and loved. So it was cool to accidentally stumble upon another book by the same author.


I Never Called it Rape: The Ms. Report on Recognizing, Fighting, and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape by Robin Warshaw (1988)
My one complaint about this book is that it's a bit dated. A lot of the scenarios therein chronicled women who found themselves trapped in a bathroom in the home of someone who had assaulted them. They then had to crawl out of the window to find help. Cell phones have changed that, so I think that a more current edition would be helpful, because unfortunately, this is still a very relevant issue.

He's a Stud, She's a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know by Jessica Valenti (2008)

The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr (2008)

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (1860)

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington (1901)

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts (1997)
This was the best book I read all year. It was published quite a few years ago, so I don't know why it wasn't on my radar until now. But it rocked. I could literally feel my brain growing and learning as I read it-- a lot of the information was hard to digest. It was totally riveting and I think that everyone interested in race, class, and reproductive justice should read it.

A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present by Howard Zinn (1980, 2003)
I actually started reading this last year and just finished it this spring. It's a giant beast of a book, but everyone should read it; it was first recommended to me by a high school teacher six or seven years ago. I think this particular high school recognized my political leanings before I was even aware of them, though, so I'm glad that I waited until college to read it.

Side note: I have a list of people I'd like to high five before I die. Howard Zinn and Lucille Clifton were both on it, until they died within a couple of weeks of each other. That's when I started to get serious about my high five list, and in November of that year, I tracked down Michael Franti after a show in Ann Arbor and gave him a high five. He also gave me a hug, which was AWESOME, but I digress.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to presentby Gail Collins (2009)

Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards (2000)
The one cool thing about this book for me is that the authors included a blurb about a student at the University of Michigan who started a feminist zine there in the 1990s. And the name sounded really, really familiar, so I Googled it, and realized that she teaches in the women's studies program at Wayne now. So I took a class with her this fall. :)

Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power in a World Without Rape edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti (2009)

Behind Every Choice is a Story by Gloria Feldt (2002)
As I've mentioned in previous entries, I did not always consider myself to be pro-choice. I only became pro-choice after hearing many women's stories and realizing that reproduction is not an area of life in need of government interference. This is not a book about abortion. It's a book about the difficult decisions that women make.

It was published quite a few years ago; I was bummed to find that many of the web addresses Feldt included don't work anymore. But other than that, it's a pretty good read. What I liked about it is that Feldt left it largely unedited, which allows each woman's individual voice to come through.

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry (2011)

How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America by Cristina Page (2006)
My problem with books like this is that the people who really ought to read them never will. This is yet another reason why I think the climate surrounding the "abortion debate" should be modified. The whole pro-choice vs. pro-life thing isn't effective. Talk to people. Respect each other.

A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women in America by Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson (1998)

The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz (1992)
This past summer, a former professor mentioned that she was reading Coontz's most recent book, and told me that she thought I'd really like it. Although I didn't go out and find a copy of the book right away, I kept the author's name in the back of my mind, and was surprised to find her work referenced all over the place (in essays I read, blogs, etc). So finally, I looked to see if the Grosse Pointe library owned copies of any of her books. And I found this one.

It's dated, and could benefit from some more recent statistics. But Coontz is a historian, so I still really appreciated what she had to say about American families in earlier centuries. I also really liked how objective she was. The book has been described as "myth-shattering," and I'm always skeptical of that label, because it's usually a euphemism for "hugely biased." But that really was not the case with this book.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963)
As mentioned above, I intended to read Stephanie Coontz's most recent book. But it was written about The Feminine Mystique, which I hadn't read. So, maybe because I'm completely insane, I decided to read it in its entirety. Lucy joined me, because a friend of hers recently wrote a capstone paper on it, which she found interesting.

I also wanted to read this book because, as someone who was born twenty-five years after it was published, I feel like I've been told how to feel about books like this one: It's outdated, not inclusive of women who aren't white/middle class/etc. And while those things are all pretty much true, these books obviously had a lot of influence in their time. So I like to read them to figure out why; they're not exactly assigned reading in my women's studies classes these days, and I'm fine with that. The focus of the program I'm in is to emphasize that feminism is still relevant today, and therefore, our readings are more current. But I like to read and think history is really important, so here we are.

That said, parts of it were definitely difficult to get through. For whatever reason, I wasn't expecting Friedan to spend so much time on psychology: Freud, Maslow, etc. To be honest, I don't like psychology very much. I used to. But after taking however many psychology classes at SVSU just because I found it interesting, I got tired of spending so much time in my own head, and decided I cared more about how people interacted with each other. And now I'm a women's studies major. It's sheer personal bias, but it still really influenced my opinion of this book.

A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz (2011)

Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010)

Inferno: A Poet's Novel by Eileen Myles (2010)
This isn't really a "novel," which is why I've placed it under the nonfiction heading. Creative nonfiction, that's it. Myles herself is the protagonist, and describes her time on the art/poetry scene in 1970s NYC. It was interesting to read this right after I finished Just Kids.


for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange (1975)
This is another one of those books I had a hard time categorizing. Should I have put it beneath the heading below? It's referred to as a "choreopoem," so. Here you go. I have yet to see the Tyler Perry film.

Crush by Richard Siken (2005)
Stephanie raved about this book, so I decided to read it. Also, I pretty much automatically love anyone who has ever won the Yale Series Prize for Younger Poets, which Siken did. This reminds me that Carolyn Forche gave a reading at SVSU back in March and I missed it because I live two hours away and had to work that night anyhow. I'm still really bummed out about that.

Late Wife by Claudia Emerson (2005)

Rise of the Trust Fall by Mindy Nettifee (2010)
What I loved about this was that it was both poignant and hilarious. Also, it inspired me to start writing poetry again, which is significant, because I hadn't written any in almost three years. Mindy Nettifee gave a reading at the West Side School for the Desperate (where Stephanie lives) back in October. It was on a Monday night, and I live all the way out in Michigan, so I missed it. And I'm so bummed about that, because Mindy Nettifee is one badass poet, and I would have loved to see her read in person.

Sleepyhead Assassins by Mindy Nettifee (2006)


M Butterfly by David Henry Hwang (1986)
Is this really the only play I've read all year? Gotta step my game up, I guess. I love reading plays. The idea of an entire story being told through dialogue = win, win.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Obligatory end-of-year summary

What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
Made a zine! Went to Lollapalooza! Did legitimate feminist activist work! Rode a Greyhound bus for 14 hours straight!

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Rose did. :) My cousin Sandy also had twins, but I don't know if that counts, because she and I are not especially close, and I haven't yet met her kids.

Did anyone close to you die?
My cat Mac. Really, though-- he was my very best friend and I miss him a lot.

Which countries did you visit?
The only country outside of the U.S. that I've ever visited is Canada, and I don't count that because I have citizenship there. I did visit a number of states, though: Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Illinois (for the millionth time), and Kentucky. In that order.

What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Some kind of job or extracurricular activity that actually pertains to my interests.

What dates from 2011 will you always remember?
Technically, all of them. My memory for dates is completely absurd. That said, some are more memorable than others.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
My grades this semester are AWESOME.

What was your biggest failure?
Being afraid to take risks. Wasting too much energy on people who don't care about me at all.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Other than menstrual pain, no. Really, though, my uterus developed such a distinct personality this year that I named her Maude, after the 70s sitcom. She is obnoxious, demanding, and opinionated, but means well.

What was the best thing that you bought?
Lollapalooza tickets. That weekend rocked. I'm being literal, of course.

Whose behavior merited celebration?
My mother's. Somehow, I managed to get her to jump on the organic food train with me (this can also be counted as one of my greatest accomplishments of the year).

Whose behavior left you appalled and depressed?
The haters. You know who you are. Wise up, fools.

Where did most of your money go?
I gave it all to Trader Joe! In exchange, Trader Joe gave me food and cute tissue boxes with cute sayings on them.

What did you get really excited about?
My birthday, because I'm not-so-secretly an overgrown child about that every single year. Other than that, there wasn't much to get excited about, because most of the awesome things I did this year occurred pretty spontaneously. "What? You guys are leaving Saginaw for Pittsburgh RIGHT NOW and will be at my house to pick me up in less than two hours? Okay-- I will be ready!"

What song will always remind you of 2011?
My taste in music is so varied and questionable that it is quite impossible to answer this question. Ask me which 1,000 songs will make me think of 2011, and then we'll talk.

Compared to this time last year, are you:
Happier or sadder? Much, much happier. Much better-adjusted, also.
Thinner or fatter? Thinner. One of my mom's reasons for giving in to my demands for organic food was that I apparently refused to eat anything in our house, and she became concerned, because I lost a lot of weight.
Richer or poorer? Financially, poorer. My life feels a lot fuller than it did at this time last year, though.

What do you wish you'd done more of?
Reading. Risk-taking. Speaking up.

What do you wish you'd done less of?

How will you be spending the holidays?
Quietly, at home, in a food & wine coma.

What was your favorite TV program?
The Golden Girls. This, I'm sure, will remain a constant throughout my lifetime.

What was the best book you read?
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts. If you're interested in race, class, and reproductive justice, I highly recommend that you read it. It'll break your heart and fill you with rage. But it's worth it.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Penny Loafers. They're an a capella group I discovered via Pandora Radio this year. I think they're cool because instead of singing without instrumental accompaniment, they use their voices to create the background music. It's really interesting.

What did you want and get?
FRIENDS! The beginning of this year was rough because I'd transferred schools but didn't know anyone on my new campus. The people I've met through the women's studies program have made things much better, and I'm so grateful for their friendship.

What did you want and not get?
A pony and infinite naps.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 23. I kept things pretty low-key because my birthday fell on a Thursday during finals, so not only did I have things to study for, but I had to babysit, because I babysit every Thursday. Also, I had the worst cold ever. It turned out great, though. I got a pair of warm slippers from my parents (seriously guys, they're awesome), and the kids I babysit teamed up with their mom to surprise me with all kinds of goodies, too. It was really sweet.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Well, see, that's just the thing. I lack a fashion concept. I wear whatever's on top of the clean pile. And those things don't always match and people assume I'm mismatching on purpose and trying to make some kind of statement. But I'm not a hipster. I'm just lazy.

What kept you sane?
I don't really claim to be sane, but talking to people who care about the same issues I do really helped me to feel better about things.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I think most people are aware by now of my huge-o celebrity crush on Emma Stone.

What political issue stirred you the most?
I don't know how anyone could turn away from the Occupy movement. Also, all of the anti-choice bills pushed through congress this year really got my ire up, of course.

Who did you miss?
The many friends I met at SVSU-- I haven't visited Saginaw very much this year. Also, Stephanie and Sarah, because I always miss them (I got to see them more times this year than I usually do, though, so that's good). And my cat, who died in August. :(

What new friends did you make?
At WSU: Lura, Kali, Alie, Kaitlyn, and Ashley. And then there's Stef, who I met via the Intarwebs. She lives in New York. I haven't yet met her IRL; maybe that'll be a goal for 2012. :)

Share a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011?
Warm slippers will make your life immeasurably more satisfying.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Today I am 23.

Which isn't any kind of milestone. And please don't remind me about that one Blink 182 song.

In the past 23 years, I've written countless poems and published some, written a ton of stories, but published none of them. And I've written a bunch of other things. Blog posts, letters, birthday cards for my pets. I've edited two school-sponsored art & literary magazines and then had this (poorly developed) idea to make my own zine. It'll get better someday.

I had something like a 20% chance of survival at birth due to my failure to adjust to the idea of breathing outside of the womb. But then I conquered that obstacle and screamed for three months (sorry about that whole colic thing, Mom & Dad), thereby developing one hell of a set of lungs. I've since used those to grow into a singer who has danced onstage in horrible shiny pants. And then later I became a loudmouth feminist. I wonder what's next.

I've read a lot of books. And I think I wrote a novel when I was fifteen because accidentally, out of nowhere I realized I'd created a 237-page Word document-- a story that went on way longer than I had intended it to.

I had knee-length hair as a child because my mom couldn't bear to part with my baby curls. So I've gotten my hair stuck in an escalator and also pooped on it. And then I wrote slam poems about those things and performed them at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and won a swanky trophy.

I've lived in the suburbs and also in a cornfield, but that's really it. I like to make birthday cakes out of healthy foods.

I am kind of a square, mainly because I'm the only person of my generation who uses the word "square."

I've seen Chantal Kreviazuk in concert three times. I also met her and was a little bit bummed out when she spelled my name incorrectly.

I floss compulsively but still get reprimanded every time I go to the dentist. I'm convinced that dentists are just used to reprimanding everyone for not flossing enough.

I've developed some really embarrassing celebrity crushes and some not-so-embarrassing ones. My most recent one is of the latter variety, so I'll spill: Emmastoneemmastoneemmastone!

I've skinny dipped at 4 a.m. in Higgins Lake and napped in the sunshine. I've had way too many dreams about having sex with people I really shouldn't ever even think about have sex with.

I've mastered the art of fighting with soccer moms in SUVs over parking spots outside of the elementary school at dismissal time. Because I babysit a lot.

And yet I've never had kids and can't ever picture myself having any.

I named my uterus Maude. I like to tweet about it.

I've flown to Colorado on Christmas Eve. And have had pizza and vodka for breakfast on Christmas morning. We mixed the vodka with Powerade because that's all we could find at the gas station, which was the only place open on Christmas morning.

I think Karen Carpenter's voice is totally gorgeous, even if no one my age even knows who Karen Carpenter was.

I got in big, big trouble with my mom one time because I decided to stop at the candy store on my way home from school one day in the second grade.

I've injured my sister badly enough to have her sent off in an ambulance... not just once, but twice.

I've developed and maintained a pretty impressive coffee addiction. And memorized a lot of random facts and dates and numbers. I'm fairly certain I know the birthdays of just about everyone I've ever met.

At sixteen I attended a summer writing seminar because I'm a nerd and it completely changed my life. And then I went back every summer for years.

I wish I could do that with everything I love. But I hear that living in the past is unhealthy.

So, I'm off to be 23-- which, for the immediate moment, means babysitting and getting some last-minute studying in for an exam I've got tomorrow morning. And also eating cake. And telling my cat that I love him even though he's asleep and can't hear me and doesn't even speak English anyway.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wait... what?

By writing this, I run the risk of sounding whiny and ten years younger than I am. But I'm going to put it out there anyway, because it's something that's been on my mind all semester.

Where did I come from, and what the hell am I doing here? I live with my parents and sister in the epitome of white, middle class suburbia. All three of them smoke. Though they deny it, they're pretty racist. They drink as much Pepsi as I do coffee and don't consider a meal complete without a decent-sized portion of red meat. They don't believe in turning off the TV-- ever. They each own a car and drive everywhere-- even to visit friends who live around the block in the middle of summer. Neither of my parents went to college and my sister's dropping out of community college after this semester.

Don't get me wrong, they're pretty accepting of my feminism and lesbianism and commie/hippie tendencies, even if they'll never understand any of it. I even got my mom to jump on the organic food train with me (although she says she only did it because I literally refused to eat anything she cooked and lost about ten pounds).

But I just don't understand where I got any of this; they're different from me in every way possible. I want to say that I came to believe what I believe because of outside influence: friends, teachers, whatever. But that's really not the case. I grew up here, in Grosse Pointe, and moved to Saginaw for three years before moving back into my parents' house.

For me, it's always just been a matter of common sense (emphasis on the word always). Maybe all kids are born with this mentality and most outgrow it, but I just didn't? I don't know. But I remember being a little kid and feeling totally floored when I learned that my parents paid a water bill. I didn't understand (and I still don't understand) how anyone could put monetary value on a substance that makes up about 70% of a person's body. And I've applied that mentality to food, too, or anything people need to survive. Like a place to live. Around the age of nine (fearless little thing that I was), I told my friend's dad that I thought it was wrong of him to own a vacation home on Lake Charlevoix, because it was vacant most of the year. What a goddamned waste.

I don't know. I've always surrounded myself with like-minded people, of course. That's what we do. And it's made life bearable-- even enjoyable. But I can't say that I grew up thinking one thing and then went to college and met people who changed my way of looking at the world. Because, as illustrated above, that just didn't happen. I've always felt this way. And then I got to college and was disappointed because I still didn't really feel like I identified with anyone.

I've been kind of angry at myself lately, mainly due to my lack of involvement in things like the Occupy Movement. It's right up my alley and yet I'm utterly absent from it. I justify this to myself by pointing out that I live near Detroit, and Detroit is vastly different from Wall Street, where this protest originated. But that's really no excuse; this isn't the only thing I've (cowardly?) shied away from. There's also some other activism that I'm not as involved in now as I was just a few months ago. And although I'm generally pretty good at following the news and being aware of what's going on, I'm certainly not posting witty commentary on everything the way many of my friends are.

And yet, I know that I've always expected way too much of myself, so I'm trying to look at the whole picture. Given my upbringing and current living situation, I'm pretty strong. I may be taking a million years to get through school, but I haven't quit. And even though I get really effing overwhelmed by the news and my readings for class and the harsh realities of the kind of stuff I'm drawn to, I haven't turned away from it. I can't.

Here are some of the things I've got going for me: I'm more aware of things than I've ever been; if I wasn't, I wouldn't be reading almost compulsively, and working so hard to drag my family into the twenty-first century. I'm on track for a straight-A semester, so I must be doing something right, something productive. I have a job for which I earn money. I get out of bed every single day.

I realize that by writing this, I'm beating myself up for not doing this and that and the other thing, which tells me that I'll be back to it eventually. As Audre Lorde said, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."

We all do what we need to do.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"It's hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off."

- Sarah calls me "green bean" because we both love YA literature and there's a character in the sequel to _Stargirl_ who's five years old and instead of saying "human being" she says "human bean." So, green bean because I am one of Sarah's favorite "beans" and green is my favorite color.

- I have another friend, also named Sarah, who sent me a coffee mug in the mail for my birthday yesterday. She is always doing random nice things for people, and I love her for it. She sent me a condolence card when my cat died this past summer, too, complete with a full color photo of him that she printed off of my Facebook page.

- I am currently obsessed with this song (this live on SNL version in particular because Florence Welch just looks so happy).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I don't think there's anyone on this planet who hates driving more than I do. I'm nearly twenty-three years old, but have only had my license for a little over three years. I only sucked it up and got one because my inability (or unwillingness, really) to drive angered my dad to the point where our relationship suffered; he just could not understand why the hell his sixteen-year-old daughter would shy away from something that he had always considered to be a teenage rite of passage.

At nineteen, I finally took (and passed!) my road test. As a reward, my dad bought me an old Kia Spectra to drive around Saginaw, where I was living at the time. But when I moved back to Grosse Pointe a year and a half ago, I sold it. Why own something that I don't need? There's a bus stop a block and a half from my house, and a bus to Wayne State passes through once every half hour. I work within walking distance of my house, and on the rare occasion that I need a car, I can just borrow my mom's.

(If I may be perfectly honest, when I was weighing the pros and cons of transferring, I said to myself, "If I moved to Detroit, I could sell my car and never drive again. That would be AWESOME.")

Within the past few months, though, there's been a lot of talk about making cuts to the SMART bus service in metro Detroit. Even when I was voting absentee from Saginaw, I paid attention to what was going on with the bus system; public transit has always been really important t me. So this time, I really did my homework. And I discovered that my own route to and from school would be eliminated.

Actually no, I should rephrase that. The route itself won't be eliminated. But it will end before the Detroit city limit. And I use it to get to downtown Detroit. Isn't that mainly what everyone else uses it for, too? The route passes through the financial district before continuing on to Wayne State.

These changes will officially go into effect on Monday, December 12.

I can't blame myself for this. I spoke the fuck up: posted about it on Facebook, answered surveys put together both by SMART and Wayne State, signed petitions, and wrote letters. There was a rally organized by students at WSU, too; I missed it because I had to work. But the fact that they had one tells me that I'm not the only person affected by this.

What they're telling us to do is transfer to DDOT, the bus system that runs solely within the city of Detroit. But that will be a huge hassle, especially given that my previous route went straight to Wayne State. I'd not only be transferring buses, but bus systems. That would undoubtedly make the commute even longer than it already is. And don't even get me started on the issue of overcrowding. DDOT is facing its own set of cutbacks, and won't easily be able to accomodate all the SMART riders from the 'burbs who would need to transfer over.

So now I'm just really bummed out. And I'm not sure where to go from here. I guess I could find myself a cheap car, but, as I've said, I hate driving and have no desire to own a car: maintenance, gas, and parking at Wayne are all expensive.

But what choice do I have? Society makes me feel shitty enough for being in my 20s and living with my parents; I don't want to rely on them for transportation, too. And besides, they've got their own places to be and won't have time to drive me to and from school each day.

My friends keep telling me to move to Detroit; they know how much I dislike living in Grosse Pointe. But even though it's a bit of a commute (twenty minutes by car; more like thirty-five by bus), I don't have to pay rent here. And I have a job here, too. So I have a number of decent reasons to stay.

Please correct me (and help me raise hell) if I'm wrong about this, but I get the vibe that people around here are way more complacent than they should be about bus cuts. Detroit is notorious for its inadequate public transit. But one of the things that I think makes a big city thrive is access to these services. And we've clearly got the foundation already; I've proven that by managing to get around pretty much solely via bus. By making these cuts, we're destroying something that we should only be building upon.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Greyhound adventure

Yesterday I woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning, rode a Greyhound bus for fourteen hours, and almost got stranded in Cincinnati.

It's the type of adventure I've wanted to take for a long time. Many of my friends (especially the ones who are writers) think it's one of the best ways to find something to write about.

Sarah was in Michigan for Thanksgiving and her birthday (which was that week as well). Then she planned to drive to Bowling Green, KY to visit her boyfriend. So she invited me to come with her, and picked me up along the way. She's driving back to Oklahoma today, so I had to find a way to get myself back to Michigan.

Amtrak was out because there aren't very many Amtrak stations in Kentucky, and the ones I did find were nowhere near Bowling Green. So I decided to take a Greyhound bus.

I purchased a ticket less than a week prior to the trip, and because of the Thanksgiving holiday, decided against having it mailed to me; I wanted to make sure it arrived on time. So I opted for a "will call" ticket; I'd show up at the bus station half an hour before departure and pick it up at the ticket counter.

Except when we got to the bus station in Bowling Green, it was closed. I assume that's because it was five o'clock in the morning. So Sarah and Kevin waited with me for the bus to show up, which was nice of them. It was dark and rainy.

My lack of a physical ticket turned out not to be a problem, so I hopped on the bus and rode it to Elizabethtown, then Louisville. In Louisville, they made everyone get off the bus and then get back on. And my internal monologue was like, "Oh shit, I should probably go to the ticket counter and get a ticket." But there really wasn't any time to do that, so I tried to re-board without one, and didn't have any problems.

So then we rode to Cincinnati and repeated the process of getting on and off the bus. I was slightly irritated by this policy, because for one thing, I'd been riding the bus for about six hours by that point, and was tired of accounting for all of my things. And secondly, we were only expected to get off the bus at the big, busy stations. I've posted before about my spatial impairment; because of it, I get really overwhelmed by crowds and signage and whatnot. And it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so everyone was out and trying to get themselves home after the holiday.

But whatever. When I got off the bus, I took my purse with me, but left everything else near my seat (duffel bag, coat, library book). But then I wasn't allowed to re-board the bus as I had been in Louisville. I knew that lack of a ticket would catch up with me sooner or later. But why did it have to happen at a busy, crowded bus station right when everyone was boarding?

[Insert headache here.] I was pissed off and upset (if the station in Bowling Green had been open when I arrived, this wouldn't have happened). But I maintained my composure and trudged over to the ticket counter. Except I was right behind a cranky alpha mom who was trying to get a ticket for her teenage daughter. And the lady at the counter wasn't too pleased about having to deal with her. And let's face it: I look like a teenager myself. So she snapped at me about how I should have gotten my ticket in Bowling Green and then muttered something about having to work at the Greyhound station during the busiest travel day of the year.

And then I looked out the window and saw my bus pull away. With most of my shit aboard with it.

At that moment, I sort of wished that I had a pushy alpha mom to stick up for me; I saw the teenage girl line to board a bus to Chicago and shot her a dirty look. And then I started crying and called my mom to let her know what was going on. The conversation went something like, "People are assholes and my stuff is on its way to Detroit but I'm not. Instead, I'm stranded in a city hours from home where I know no one. Fuck, fuck, fuck."

She told me not to start any fights with anyone (lulz?) and to maintain my composure and if worse came to worse, she and Dad would drive down and get me.

It was kind of comforting to know that there are people in my life who love me enough to offer to drive all the way to Cincinnati from Detroit to pick me up on the busiest travel day of the year. Since I knew my bus was gone anyway, I took my sweet time calming down. I went pee and found some coffee and got myself into another long ticket line to see if I could get onto another bus to Detroit.

As I was waiting in line, I received a text message from my Dad asking if I knew yet whether I needed him to come get me; he was looking at maps online to figure out the fastest route to Cincinnati.

For the record, I hadn't planned on taking my parents up on their offer. I was exhausted anyway; I figured that if I was indeed stranded, I'd get a hotel and take the earliest bus the next day. But I have to hand it to my dad. I complain a lot about how he's the family patriarch; he's protective as fuck, and I'm pretty independent. But he'd do anything for me.

I got to the ticket counter and tried to stay calm as I explained what had happened. The woman took my debit card and ID and once she realized that I wasn't some kind of blubbering incompetent teenager and that it was Greyhound's fault I was trapped, she apologized and got me a ticket for the next bus to Detroit (which turned out to be not too far behind the previous bus I'd been on). Then she called the bus station in Detroit to tell them to hold my stuff for me when I got there. I was happy to know that the problem had been fixed, but still irritated by the fact that people only treat you kindly if they know that you've given them money.

Anyway, I boarded a crowded bus and called my parents to let them know that I was fine and would be home in a few hours. The guy sitting next to me overheard my end of the conversation and said, "It sounds like you've got a long way to go."

"Detroit," I said. "And I'm traveling from Bowling Green, Kentucky."

The lucky bastard got off in Dayton and a whole slew of new people boarded. We repeated this process in Lima, Findlay, and Toledo. The Toldeo-to-Detroit leg of the trip was the roughest for me. Between Findlay and Toledo, the bus had been pretty empty, and, beyond exhausted, I'd put my purse beside me and greedily took up as much space as possible. I had sort of intended to do the same between Toledo and Detroit; by that point, I'd been Greyhounding for thirteen hours and wasn't in the mood to interact with anyone. But as more and more people boarded, it became obvious that I'd have to give up the seat beside me.

"Stop being a dick, Amelia," I told myself, and cleared the seat beside me. And instantly, another passenger appeared and sat down in the seat. He was a friendly old man who wanted me to teach him how to use his very basic cell phone. I took a few deep breaths and mustered all of the patience left inside of me. Normally I would have been happy to help someone with something like that. But hours ago, my internal monologue had started whining about how it just wanted to go home and eat dinner.

An hour or so later, we finally arrived in Detroit. I picked up my things and waited outside for my mom to pick me up. I was actually glad that she was running late; it felt good to walk around in the cold air for a bit.

When I got home, I took a shower, changed into my pajamas, ate some eggs and toast, drank a cup of tea, and fell asleep with my kitten at my feet. I never thought I'd be so happy to be in Grosse Pointe.

Weird and stressful as this experience was, I'm glad I did it. And I think that my writer friends were correct; I sort of think that everyone (writer or not) should spend fourteen hours on a Greyhound at some point in their lives. The world would literally swell with interesting stories.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Life lately

It's been a really dreary fall in Detroit. I don't think I've ever suffered from seasonal depression, but I'm definitely feeling weird and apprehensive about the coming winter months. I've spent the past few months feeling hungry for sunlight; I can't seem to get enough-- not that there's much to get around here these days. It's rained a lot, and now that we've turned the clocks back an hour, it gets dark around 5 p.m.

But I'm still pretty excited about things. Namely that:
  • Sarah will be in Michigan this coming Friday, November 18.
  • A week later, on Friday, November 25, she and I are driving to Bowling Green, Kentucky (where the guy she is dating lives-- Sarah will be moving there too after she graduates next month). We'll spend a couple of days together there, and the 27th, I'll take a Greyhound to Michigan and she will fly back to Oklahoma.
  • I may visit Saginaw the first weekend in December, but this is still dependent upon my friends' schedules. We'll see, but if that works out, it'll be good, because so many people I care about live there, and I miss them.
  • On December 10, I'm going to see Tori Amos in Chicago with Lura (which is ridiculous because I've already seen Interpol and gone to Lollapalooza this year, but whatever).
So much random travel. And somehow I keep winding up in the South, of all places. More important is who you're with, though, and I'm so excited to spend time with Sarah. We haven't seen each other since January, when I flew to Oklahoma to visit her. The other day we had this weird "Internet slumber party" where we got on Skype and braided our hair pig-tail style while drinking (bourbon for Sarah, beer for me), if that tells you anything about what our friendship is like. We are ridiculous, but she means a lot to me. Everyone needs friends like that.

In other news, I'm finishing up the first edition of my zine; I'm glad that I actually made one. I was kind of afraid that I'd talk about wanting to make one, but never actually do it. But it's coming together quite nicely, actually.

I spent this weekend working more than usual (I had to babysit on both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon), so decided to treat myself to Han Nolan's newest book. I'm almost done with it; I love YA literature so unreasonably much. The stuff I have to read for my degree program gets depressing sometimes. YA lit is also kind of depressing (the book I'm reading now addresses issues such as teen pregnancy, infidelity, and suicide). But I feel like it's easier to deal with because I've been there already-- it's only been four and a halfish years since I graduated from high school.

Just trying to keep myself grounded, I guess.

Friday, October 28, 2011

"The world spins madly on."

Yesterday was weird. Really weird. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and got online. The first thing I saw was a tweet about Occupy Oakland, and my immediate reaction was to just start sobbing. This inevitably led to more of that-- half an hour of it, exactly.

Then I made a pot of coffee. After I drank it, I attempted to start my day over again, so crawled back into bed for a bit and pulled my four-month-old kitten close to me.

Back on the Internet: Read, cry, rinse, repeat. So much for starting over.

One of the things I found was an article in USA Today titled As NOW marks 45 years, is feminism over the hill? Never mind that Shelby Knox, now 25, was the subject of a documentary on the importance of comprehensive sex education. Or that Katie Stack, 23, who won this year's Speak Out for Choice Award from NARAL, is the president of a chapter of NOW which consists mostly of young women. Or that my good friend Stephanie Sutton, 22, was one of the main organizers of SlutWalk Chicago & then traveled to New York City, where she bravely shared a poem she wrote about her sexual assault in front of ~4,000 people gathered there for SlutWalk NYC. And if I may connect this to the subject of OWS, my friend Stef--who lives in Brooklyn and can't find a job even though she had a master's degree by the time she was 22--has been actively involved in OWS and sent me a text message yesterday that said, "I'm running Occupy Student Debt on FB and @OWSDebtDay on Twitter to help have a Generation Debt rally on 11/12 at all OWS events!"

So here's the thing: I actually think that the USA Today article is directly linked to what happened in Oakland earlier this week. If people truly think that no one really cares and it's all just a game, then yeah, cops are going to get away with sneaking up on people and beating the shit out of them. It's not that no one's working hard to change things. It's that it's simply more convenient for people to say that no one gives a shit so that they can continue to uphold the status quo.

Anyway, by that point it was well after 10 a.m. I decided to get some homework done. I actually tend to do better on schoolwork when other stuff is stressing me out, because I use it to keep myself distracted from reality. Except um, I'm a women's studies major. So basically, I'm getting a degree in not turning away, in caring too much. "Distraction" really isn't part of my vocabulary these days.

I had to babysit at 3:30-- pick up the girls (ages five and eight) from school, help them with their homework, feed them dinner, bathe them, and put them to bed before their mom got home. So on my way out the door, I went to grab a book to bring with me; I'd have time to read it after they fell asleep. And I have tons of reading to do for school, but I couldn't decide on anything. My options were to read about this kind of oppression or those other people over there who are being discriminated against or all this other heartbreaking shit that's going on in the world.

And that's when I lost it. Sat in my car outside of the elementary school and cried until the dismissal bell rang. During that time, I used my cell phone to post the following to Twitter:

I really can't cope with shit today. I don't know what my deal is, but I feel like all the work I'm doing will amount to nothing. #mope

Between my women's studies classes & the news & other activism, everything is disheartening. Idk. I don't feel very strong today.

Other thoughts that were running through my head: Why do we bother? History just keeps repeating itself; this obviously is not the first time that there's been news of police brutality at a peaceful protest. And not only that, but it turns out that if we do care and we do work hard and we refuse to give up, PEOPLE WILL STILL FAIL TO ACKNOWLEDGE US.

And then I think of the kids I work with, and how I can't deal with the fact that they're growing up in a world like this-- where they're told that they can be anything they want to be when it flat-out isn't true. The government doesn't give a shit about them. They can grow up and work their asses off and, like Stef, have master's degrees by 22. But then what? They could, like so many already have, realize they've been lied to all along. And then they could protest and raise hell but it won't matter. They'll just be ignored.

I'm posting this because I think that if you deny that you feel helpless and desperate, you'll never be able to work past those feelings and make something good out of it. And, if I'm going to frame this as a response to that USA Today article I read yesterday: Maybe people are failing to recognize that we're here because they're looking for burning bras and rage but THERE ISN'T ANY LEFT RIGHT NOW because feminism has changed over time and currently takes the form of despair.

I'm a young feminist. And I'm angry. But I'm also profoundly sad. The problem isn't that young people don't know what's at stake. All you need to do is take a brief look around to realize that. Instead, I think that because of the current political climate, compassionate people who believe in equality are, in some cases, shamed into keeping their mouths shut. And those who are brave enough to speak out just aren't being heard over the noise of those who insist on holding all the power.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shifting gears

There are a lot of things I've been thinking about. And writing about.

But not here.

I've kind of neglected this blog recently. Sure, I've updated from time to time, but mostly just to say that I'm still alive and (miraculously!) haven't burned down the kitchen in my attempts to keep myself fed.

This is a far cry from what I was doing with this blog a year ago, at which point I was an active participant in feminist blog carnivals (This is What a Young Feminist Looks Like, NARAL's Blog for Choice Day, and I Stand with Planned Parenthood, among others). I also wrote posts reflecting on books I read, and shared my thoughts on things like education, young adult literature (because I will not-so-secretly always love it-- no matter how old I get), and general 20-something-type stuff: feelings of inadequacy, uncertainty, etc, etc.

But I think it's important to put those posts against the backdrop of where I was at in life last year. At the time, I'd just transferred colleges, moved in with my parents, and was--even though I was hesitant to admit it then--incredibly lonely. My self-indulgent blogging habit (as I came to call it) helped me not only to organize my thoughts and figure out what the hell I was doing, but also kept me connected to people who shared my interests.

And some of those online connections turned out to be far more profound & long-lasting than I would have ever expected. This year, I've had the chance to meet and work with feminists from across the country, and have gotten involved in a couple of projects that I'm really excited about.

(And yes, I've also made some friends at my new school. I couldn't be more glad about that.)

Anyway, I've thinking of making a zine. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got the idea from my friend Lucy, who, in the editor's note of her inaugural issue, explained her reason for replacing her blog with a zine: "Every time I try to do a blog it ends up feeling like I'm pulling teeth to say what I want and make it politically correct for any future employment. This zine is created on my terms and with my own words."

I have been very busy and active-- infinitely more so than I was a year ago. As I mentioned, I'm incredibly excited about the stuff I've been doing, and have a lot to say about it. But here just isn't the place to share my thoughts on those things.

So I've been looking for a more appropriate venue for sharing my thoughts with a few friends and fellow activists. And just as I was pondering that, a copy of Lucy's new zine arrived in the mail.

I've spent the past couple of weeks reading up on zine-making. Lucy's also given me a few tips. She and I are both former editors-- she of the student newspaper at NMU, and I of two art/literary magazines (Looking Glass in high school and Cardinal Sins at SVSU). And yet this is an endeavor very much unlike either of those publications. I have some graphic design know-how, but don't really intend to use it. Lucy's zine was a mix of things: typed stuff that she photocopied, pages of handwritten material, and a few images. She took pages of 8.5 x 11" computer paper, folded them in half, and stapled the pages together. I will likely do something similar. I like that what she made looks very much like a scrapbook. That, I think, is well-suited to what I hope to accomplish by doing this: something tangible to show for what I've been up to lately-- a more interesting way of communicating with people than Facebook messaging. Maybe it'll eventually evolve into something a little bigger than that, but who knows; it's all a big experiment for me right now.

I'll still update this page from time to time; unlike Lucy, I have no plans to delete my blog anytime soon. When I joined Google+, for example, I didn't leave Facebook. I just post whatever's most appropriate for the audiences on those respective sites. Same thing with this. Assuming my zine actually materializes, it'll certainly have a much more limited audience than my blog does. Therefore, it'll contain different information.

Anyway, that's all for now. See ya around, Internet.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things I think

This past weekend, I received a zine in the mail from my friend Lucy. It was really cool; she mentioned in her "editor's note" that she'd been inspired in part by the Riot Grrrl movement to create it. Parts were handwritten, others were not. And then she'd photocopied pages from books she's been reading lately. And there were a few images, too.

My favorite page was one where she'd written "Things I think" at the top. And then she just listed stuff. From reading it, I learned that she'd growing out her hair and that she's taking an Arab Islamic history course right now that she loves.

One of the things she really emphasized was the importance of not just embracing chaos, but creating it. That spoke to me because even though I hide it well, I'm pretty uptight, and panic if I feel like I'm not in control of a given situation (even one that I'm not supposed to have control over in the first place).

In an attempt to loosen up a little, I'm going to make a list of things I think. Here goes:
  • I really want swoop bangs like Mary Weiss (lead singer of the Shangri-Las), circa 1965. This is something I've been thinking about for years now, so maybe I should just do it already.
  • I want to go back to creating music. Singing & playing piano were two of my very favorite things when I was younger. I'd like to go back to it.
  • Sometimes I take a deep breath and remind myself that I will not be babysitting forever, because the kids I watch will not be children forever.
  • Iron & Wine-induced naps are so, so great.
  • Some days I wish that the Internet didn't exist so I'd be forced to get up and go after what really matters to me. The web is the only way I stay connected to the people I care about, most of whom live far away.
  • "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj is my happy song.
  • This is slightly morbid, but just like anyone else who writes, I have to admit that I think about death a lot. And I'm convinced that traditional funerals are unnecessarily expensive (I feel the same way about weddings, but that's another rant for another day). I think a great way to stick it to the man would be to research exactly what a traditional funeral would cost and then give that amount of money to a cause that the deceased person was passionate about. And then instead of having a normal wake, just cremate the person and gather at someone's home to reminisce.
  • The sound of people talking over each other makes me really anxious and panicky. I don't watch TV for this reason, or listen to radio talk shows. Everyone in my family loves to watch TV though, and there are often several TVs on at one time. It's overwhelming and awful and sometimes I wonder if there's something physically wrong with me, because other people seem to be able to handle a shitstorm of noise. But I just can't.
  • I'm constantly being made aware of my own blinders, my own preconceived notions about things and people. I live in a notoriously conservative town. So when I decided to wear overtly political pins on the strap of my tote bag, I assumed that I'd get nothing but shit for it. While I have gotten some (a lady at Kroger told me that she'd pray for me), I've also gotten into great conversations with like-minded people because of the pins I wear. Shame on me for making assumptions.
  • Public transit > driving.
  • I have a thing for 80s sitcoms. My favorite show of all time is The Golden Girls. I spent my summer watching all 7 seasons of Family Ties on Netfilx (yes, really).
That's it for now, I suppose. I've decided to stop making excuses and just write as much as possible, because no matter how much I try to deny it, writing is and always will be extremely important to me. I need to write more often. And maybe I'll post some of it here; I've kind of neglected this blog lately. :-/ I've felt annoyed with myself because I've had this blog for over two years now and still don't know what the hell I'm doing with it. Can't seem to focus.

But maybe that's because I care about a lot of things. And that can't be bad. Embrace chaos. Create it.

Thanks, Lucy. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall 2009 semester, two years later

Those who know me even remotely well know that I have a pretty astounding memory for numbers, especially dates. I don't know why this is, exactly, but it usually comes in handy. Like on people's birthdays, for example.

There's a downside to this, however. And that's that I remember bad things, too.

For the past couple of years, October's been rough. This is because in October of 2009, I was going through a really hard time. But I'm not going to get into the details, because it's been done before.

Thanks to my memory for dates, I spent October of 2010 replaying everything that had happened a year prior in my head. It sucked. I woke up on October 1 of this year and started to do that, but decided that I just couldn't waste a whole month on that again.

So I've decided to write down everything that happened that month, sans anything negative.

And I've come up with quite a bit. :)

As background, I'll say this. I was twenty years old and in my third year of school at SVSU. I was majoring in creative writing, and working as the editor-in-chief of the campus art/literary magazine.

Friday, October 2: I drunkenly stumble into a Saginaw coffee shop and loudly declare (to friends of mine who are gathered there for a poetry reading) that I'm a lesbian (which, at this point, is something that very few people know). My ex-boyfriend's mom (of all people) drags me out of the coffee shop, puts me in her car, and takes me to her house, where I run into my ex-boyfriend. Because I'm classy, I throw up all over myself. And because he is a saint, he washes my puke-covered clothes for me.

Monday, October 5: My friend says to me, "You know how you bite your nails when you're stressed out? Well, I couldn't help but notice that all ten of your fingers are bleeding."

I see that my friend is right; I am stressed out. So that night when I get home, I decide to dye my hair bright green. It turns an awful chlorine-shade of yellowish green instead.

Wednesday, October 7: The Director of Media Relations (otherwise known as the guy who interviewed me for my editorship) runs into me at Starbucks on campus, takes a close look at my head, and says, "But according to your Facebook status, it's supposed to be green. This doesn't look very green to me."

I shudder and tell myself to be more careful about who sees what I post on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 14: I run into an English instructor who tells me that I look stressed out, so should come to her office for chocolate sometime.

Thursday, October 15: I show up in aforementioned instructor's office for chocolate and a pep talk. I end up doing this several times throughout the semester.

Friday, October 16: I'm eating pancakes at my friend's apartment when her roommate says that she wants to be an atheist for Halloween because atheists are scary. So I look her in the eye and say, "Boo."

Saturday, October 17: The same friend who invited me over for pancakes the day before comes to my apartment to cook me dinner and bring me a bottle of Witches Brew. I tell her that I think I want to change my major. She looks surprised and says, "Never saw that coming. The next thing you know, Travis [our extremely responsible, conservative, predictable friend] will come rolling in on a motorcycle and tell us that he's joining a commune."

Sunday, October 18: I post the following Facebook status: "Amelia is having that crisis she assumes everyone has at some point in their lives. You know, the one that goes, 'Oh no! I don't want to be doing this for the rest of my life, but it's too late to change things!'"

A friend comments with, "Dude, you are TWENTY."

So I take a chill pill.

Tuesday, October 20: After class, I head over to my friend's apartment. Her sister works as a hair dresser, and has offered to give me a free haircut. While I'm waiting for her to show up, I check my email, and receive a really upsetting message. So I spend half an hour lying on my friend's lawn, sobbing. She takes a picture of me, which, to this day, pops up on her cell phone every time I call.

Saturday, October 24: I plan to spend the day in my office, laying pages for the semester's issue of the art/literary magazine. Because Starbucks is closed on the weekends, I bring my coffee maker with me to the office. I am absolutely certain that this is the best idea I have ever had. When my roommate wakes up an hour or so after I leave and discovers that the coffee maker is missing, she is not pleased with me.

Monday, October 26: After a day of classes, I walk out to my car and find a note tucked under my windshield from a friend who senses that I need a bit of encouragement. This makes my whole month.


People took such good care of me. I forgave the friend who took a picture of me having a meltdown on her lawn because she's also the one who invited me over for breakfast and then invited herself over to my apartment the next day to cook me dinner. Plus, she's the one who made the comment about my bloody fingers. And she frequently refused to hang out with me because she was worried that I wasn't getting enough sleep.

And they let me cry. I didn't mention that every afternoon, I called my mom from the backseat of my car, where I'd sit between classes and cry. One afternoon, I called her at the same time I always did, but for whatever reason, was in an uncharacteristically good mood. I was surprised by how exhausted she sounded when she answered, like she was bracing herself for another meltdown of mine.

She could have ignored the call, but she didn't. She always picked up, always listened.

So many people did that (see above). So maybe I should stop thinking of it as the worst time of my life.

I'm not going to look back at that time and beat myself up for being an ungrateful brat. I was far from ungrateful, and I do think that I had every right to be as angry/confused/depressed/frustrated as I was. But I am, from this point forward, going to try to focus more on the lovers than the haters. That's the mistake I made then. Instead of ignoring the people who were trying to bring me down, I spent my time trying to please them. I should have known that I wasn't going to win that battle. Instead of spending what little energy I had crying, maybe I should have focused on the areas where I knew I could succeed.

I can't go back in time, but at the very least I can say that that's what I'm doing now.

People have noticed that I've fully embraced a "Haters gonna hate" philosophy. I guess they assume that I did it because the cartoon guy who struts around saying it is totally adorable. But the real reason is that I learn everything the hard way.

Which is better than not at all, I suppose. :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kitchen experiments 2 and 3

Because I'm tired of eating like a 40-year-old bachelor, I ordered two cookbooks online. This one, which is full of vegetarian crock pot recipes, was recommended to me by a friend. I figured it'd be perfect, given my schedule: I work from 3:30-9:30 p.m. When I come home, I'm hungry, but too tired to cook.

The other book I ordered seems pretty cool, too. It's full of recipes that use ingredients that can be found at Trader Joe's. I love Trader Joe's, and there's one a couple of miles from my house. So when Sarah saw it online, she thought of me, and told me about it.

Neither of the books have arrived in the mail yet. But I felt like eating something a bit more interesting than Annie's mac & cheese. So I consulted the Internet, and decided to make a couple of things.

1) Nutella cookies

I saw a recipe for these online a few months ago and was, not surprisingly, intrigued. They're super easy to make and probably dangerously unhealthy, but fuck it.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees. Then I mixed a cup of flour, a half cup of sugar, an egg, and a cup of Nutella into a mixing bowl. And then I smashed it all together with my hands like some kind of little kid digging playing with dirt in the backyard.

Then I rolled the dough into little balls and put them on a cookie sheet. And I flattened them with the bottom of a glass. And then I popped 'em in the oven for about 7 minutes.

I have little to no self control, and will eat all of the cookies on the baking sheet unless someone restrains me. And I figured that since these are made with Nutella, I'd devour them all quickly.

Not so. And that's not because they aren't delicious. They are. They're just seriously the richest things I've ever tasted. I can only eat one at a time.

Which is fine by me. Means they'll last longer. :)

The only thing I'd change if I were to do this again (and I probably will): I'd bake it for a few minutes longer than recommended to see if it'd dry out the cookies a little bit. Because they're made with Nutella, they're almost a little bit "greasy." I can't think of another word that would accurately describe the texture.

But overall, this was a win. Recommend.

2) Epic tuna/rice thing

I didn't consult the Internet for this one, which is why it's got such a decadent-sounding name. :)

But once upon a time, my friend Katrina came over and we decided to cook dinner. We soaked salmon in a mix of honey and soy sauce, then broiled it, and served it over rice. It was pretty delicious.

I didn't have any salmon in the house (sad day). But I did have tuna steaks (I hate the word "steak" because I hate normal steak, but anyway). I decided to eat it.

I decided to cook it on the stove, and let it swim (pun totally intended) in a pool of soy sauce and honey. While that was cooking, I made the rice. But the last time I made rice, it tasted really bland. So this time, I cooked it in chicken broth instead of water for added flavor.

I served the tuna steaks over the rice. It turned out really well. But I should have added some vegetables.

So, win all around. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today, didn't start and fires, and lived to tell about it. Also, I didn't starve.

I am slowly working my way toward becoming a real adult. The next step is to learn that dessert is supposed to come after dinner.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On living honestly

"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood." - Audre Lorde

I'm very tired. Partly because it's 3 a.m. and partly because this week, I've come to a very important (and scary) realization.

I'm still living in the closet.

I say this even though I told my parents that I'm a lesbian nearly a year ago. And I say it even though a quick glance at the tote bag I carry everywhere will tell you what my political views are; it's covered in buttons and pins.

Last year, I transferred to Wayne State from SVSU. And because my parents live about six miles from downtown Detroit, I decided to move in with them (because hey, not having to pay rent = win). I was pretty miserable growing up in Grosse Pointe. But I justified moving back by telling myself that because I'd no longer be enrolled in the school system, it'd be different. Easier.

But then I got a regular babysitting job.

I've written a little bit about it before. Three days per week, I pick up the kids from school, feed them dinner, bathe them, pack lunches, help with homework, and put them to bed-- all before their mom gets home at 9:15.

I have to admit that early this year (February, March, and April, especially), I started to feel really down about it. Because I'm a transfer student, I didn't have any friends at Wayne State. Living and working in Grosse Pointe (especially on Thursday and Friday evenings) made it damn near impossible to meet anyone.

And yet I was taking these 5000-level English and women's studies classes that were completely blowing my mind. It was damn near impossible for me to keep what I was learning contained to a classroom setting. And I think the whole point of classes like that, if I may say it, is to bring that knowledge beyond the walls of the classroom and into the real world.

I had all this energy and nowhere to put it, no one to share it with. And I was angry with myself because I'd wanted to transfer, but it wasn't working out. I was optimistic, hopeful, and somehow, mysteriously, profoundly unhappy. But I was afraid to admit that to anyone because I didn't want people to think that I regretted my decision to leave SVSU.

So I kept it mostly to myself, which only made things worse.

The feeling caught me entirely off-guard. It was very overwhelming and strange; even now, it's hard to write about. I've always been a bit of a hermit, and had not expected to need people that much.

I somehow managed to pull myself out of my funk, reach out to people, and make a couple of friends. And I even decided to keep my babysitting job. After all, I need to make money, and this sure as hell beats working some bullshit dead end job for a corporation. By being a reliable babysitter, I'm helping someone-- a single mother who's on welfare, at that. Every feminist bone in my body tells me that I've made the right decision by sticking with it.

But it's not enough.

The other night, the kids' mom came home complaining about an argumentative writing class she's taking at a nearby community college.

"This kid tried to tell me that homosexuals are oppressed in this country," she said incredulously. "Can you believe that? I think it's celebrated; everywhere I look, I see rainbows."

I stood there feeling stunned, offended, and unsure of how to respond. My internal monologue, meanwhile, had plenty to say: Well, maybe if homosexuals weren't oppressed, your babysitter would feel comfortable telling you that she's gay.

Not that my sexual orientation matters all that much in the context of my relationship with her. But it'd be nice to be able to feel like I can the truth when she tries to make small talk with me about my plans for the weekend, you know?

I'd also like to explain to her kids that it's okay for women to fall in love with other women, and men with men. Recently, the five-year-old declared that she's "in love" with a little girl who lives down the street. The eight-year-old piped up with, "No. You can love her, but you can't be 'in love' with her, because you're both girls. Girls can't fall in love with other girls."

I should have said something, but I didn't. Because for some reason, I was afraid to, even though something I believe very strongly is that the world isn't going to get better unless we teach kids not to believe everything that Disney tells them.

Looking at those incidents, I realize just how much of myself I'm hiding from them. I spend three evenings per week with those kids, and have been for over a year. And yet neither they nor their mother knows that I'm a lesbian, a feminist, a women's studies major.

And what's wrong with any of those things? Why the fuck should I hide the most important aspects of my identity, especially when I'm also trying to build a career out of it?

And I deal with this shit all the time. A few weeks ago, I took the girls to the park. They made a new friend on the playground, as kids often do. At one point, the little girl's mom had to go to the bathroom, so approached her daughter and said, "Come with me for a second." Then she pointed to me and said (loud enough so that I could hear her), "I don't trust that punk."

I'm just so very tired of keeping my mouth shut. Why the hell should I? For one thing, I seem to be the only one in this town who doesn't feel comfortable enough to speak her mind. And secondly, I act only out of love-- always. So why should I be ashamed of what I think and do? My wish is not to "get back" at the people who have hurt me. I'd just like to feel like it's okay to express my opinion in the town where I live and work and spend most of my time.

I've been using Facebook as an outlet. I don't really know where else to turn, and besides, most of my friends are there. Yesterday, I posted a pro-choice "vlog" update from Katie Stack. Not surprisingly, it sparked a debate between a few of my Facebook friends.

Afterward, I had a long discussion with the person who had originally objected to the post. It went well; I'm going to post some of what she said here, because it meant a lot to me.

If this is what you're passionate about and what's on your mind, you shouldn't feel guilty about putting it on FB-- that's what it's for. I'm just having a hard time dealing with hyper-focused Amelia on this topic. That's my problem, not yours, if I'm honest.

If these are your genuine beliefs and you feel strongly about them, you shouldn't have to cater to other people being offended.

Repression causes reactions. I get that. Be you, Amelia. You deserve to be heard, partly because you're my friend and I love you, and partly because you're a sensible person who can engage in a discussion without being a complete ass, and partly because you're level-headed and thoughtful, and those people deserve it most.

That's all I really want people to understand. That I don't want to hurt anyone. That I'm not a bad person. That yeah, I'm angry. But it's healthy to get angry.

And I have to add that it was nice to be able to try this out on someone I respect, and know respects me, even if our views differ.

I just want to talk to people and feel like they're listening. And since I'm here, I really ought to make the most of it instead of hiding in my room and feeling miserable and lonely.

If moving back to Grosse Pointe has taught me anything, it's that I need people a lot more than I ever thought I did. And it's pretty hard to interact with anyone when you're afraid of what they might say and/or do to you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kitchen experiment #1: Peachsauce?

Most of the people who know me know that I don't eat red meat. A lesser known fact is that as a middle/high school student, I didn't eat white meat, either. I started eating it again when I started college and moved in with my friend Tracy. I'm kind of lazy, and really enjoy food. Therefore, I'm perfectly content to let someone else cook for me (hint, hint). And Tracy's a damn good cook. So, because I didn't want to be a picky pain in the ass, I started eating white meat when we moved in together four years ago.

But since moving back to my parents' house little over a year ago, I've been on my own a lot for meals. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) I work in the evenings, so frequently miss dinner, and 2) My parents, unlike me, enjoy normal American cuisine (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc).

So I've been living off Annie's mac & cheese. And since I'm so often on my own food-wise anyway, I figure I ought to get creative: spend some time experimenting in the kitchen, and maybe go back to a meat-free diet.

It's not exactly "going vegetarian" because I refuse to give up seafood. (What kid of seafood enthusiast would I be if I did that?) But I still think that it'll be healthier.

And more interesting.

My plan is to make something new every week or so, and record my thoughts here.

Starting right now.

Today I made some peach/ginger soup. It's served cold. I got the idea from my friend Sarah, who made some for a potluck she went to recently. She lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma; it gets unbearably hot there at this time of year.

The recipe calls for the following:
  • 2 and 1/4 pounds of fresh peaches-- peeled, pitted, and chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup, 2 tablespoon, and 1 teaspoon of heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon rum
But Sarah told me that she replaced the cream with coconut milk and the rum with white wine, so I did the same. Replacing the cream with coconut milk made it vegan (my whole point in doing this was to be healthier). And wine costs a lot less than rum. Win, win.

I spent a million years chopping peaches. Note to self for the future (because I will totally be making this again): Find a more efficient way to chop things.

Anyway, once the peaches were chopped up, I ground some ginger, and tossed them both into the blender. I have this handy "puree" button, so I pressed that until it turned to mush. Then, I mixed it in a bowl with the coconut milk and wine, and stored it in the fridge.

A couple of hours later, I ate it.

It had the same consistency as applesauce. I understand why people make this in the summertime; it was super refreshing.

The only thing I'm sad about is that I made only four servings-- I was afraid to make more in case it sucked. But it didn't suck. And I want some more.

I'm glad that my first kitchen experiment turned out well (I know, I know, I didn't use the stove and therefore didn't even have the opportunity to burn anything). But I'm encouraged anyhow, and will be back at this again soon. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Happy birthday to my tote bag. :)

If you've seen me at all within the past year, you've undoubtedly also seen my tote bag. It has become a staple of my wardrobe and therefore deserves its own blog post. It celebrated its first birthday this week.

I bought it last summer in Yellow Springs, Ohio because I thought it was cute and I love tote bags.

No, really. I fucking love tote bags. I own about a zillion of them, and until this time last year, switched them out pretty frequently.

Some of my favorites:
  • the white one covered in spoons
  • the mustard-colored one with a record on it (love both mustard & music)
  • the Chantal Kreviazuk one (as I said, I love music)
  • the Theodore Roethke one (because I also love poetry)
This tote bag, though, has topped them all. I'm not sure how this happened. Maybe it's that it fits over my shoulders in such a way that I don't feel like I'm carrying it; instead, I feel like I'm wearing it. Or maybe it's that the straps are so wide that there's plenty of room for me to add personality to it with buttons.

Some buttons that have lived on my bag within the past year:
  • a pink breast cancer awareness pin
  • a pin that says "I <3 pro-choice girls" on it
  • a pin with one of my favorite Audre Lorde quotes on it: "Your silence will not protect you."
  • an LGBT pride ribbon
  • a pin with the original cover of _Beloved_ by Toni Morrison on it
  • a silver ribbon "Trust Women" pin
Or maybe I just love it because I don't have to worry about whether it matches my outfits-- the damn thing doesn't even match itself.

It looks a little more tired than it did a year ago, but it's still goin' strong. The zipper's broken and there's a little hole on the front of it. My cats decided that the tassels make good cat toys, so those are pretty frayed, too. And the inside is filthy, thanks to the frequent explosions of mini lotion bottles.

But I still manage to get compliments on it pretty frequently, in strange places to boot. A few months ago, I was walking to work. And I was crossing the street in front of a car parked at a stop sign. The woman driving the car rolled down her window, told me that she loved my bag, and asked me where I got it.

This question often leads to interesting conversations, because Yellow Springs is yarnbombed and wonderful.

I work as a nanny, basically. I avoid using that word because it makes me feel a lot older than I actually am. But it's a more accurate term than "babysitter," because it's a regular, structured gig. I take the four-year-old with me to pick up the seven-year-old from school, feed them an after school snack, cook them dinner, bathe them, and put them to bed-- all before their mom gets home at 9:30.

The tote bag has come in handy on multiple occasions-- usually on trips to the playground. People seem to think it's hilarious that I've pulled juice boxes, children's books, and toys from a bag that's so weird-looking and, thanks to my buttons and pins, loudly political.

Especially in a town like Grosse Pointe, MI.

Maybe this is my way of yarnbombing a town that really needs some color and life and fun and ridiculousness. I do my thing and it's fuckin' weird but people seem to like it.

It's strange, the things that'll end up making your day.

Or entire year, in my case.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lollapalooza and other Chicago adventures

Aside from the fact that I came home from Chicago to news that my cat had passed away while I was out of town, the weekend was fucking awesome.

Going to Lollapalooza was my friend Toni's idea. She spent last summer campaigning for someone who ended up not getting elected, so decided that this summer, she deserved to have as much fun as possible.

So I spent months being a hermit in order to be able to afford to go with her.
And damn, was it worth it.

Toni was excited for Lollapalooza itself, as was I. But I felt oddly luckier than her, because I had another good reason to visit Chicago. My friend Stephanie lives there. I've written about her before-- a fellow feminist and poet, she has long been a great source of sanity for me.

A few months ago, she started a literary collective called the West Side School for the Desperate, and offered to let Toni and me crash there for the weekend. I'd been really curious to see it; from talking to her, I knew that it wasn't a normal apartment. But I didn't really know what to expect.

As it turns out, the WSSD is actually listed as a commercial property. It used to be a Good News Bible Church (lulz), and before that, was a bakery. Now, Stephanie and her roommates use the main area as a performance space. Near the back of said performance space, there's this tiny door leading to a kitchen. There's a bathroom back there too. And they sleep in what I guess used to be closets. The walls to those rooms don't go all the way to the ceiling. It's hard to explain without a visual. But it's really interesting and open.

The night Toni and I arrived, Stephanie and her roommates were hosting a poetry workshop at the WSSD. So we sat in on it. It was a weird experience for me, in both good and bad ways.

One of Stephanie's roommates Julie (who also went to high school with us) has a background in visual art, not poetry. But she still wanted to find a way to contribute to the workshop. So she handed each of us a piece of surrealist art and had us write poems about them.

I hadn't written a poem in a very long time, and doing so felt really good.

Workshopping others' pieces was another story. Toni realized just how much of a nerd I was in high school, because I explained to her that that's all I did in my free time. But I hadn't taken part in a productive workshop session since early 2009, so when Stephanie put me on the spot and asked for my opinion on someone's piece, I stumbled through a response. It was weird, because that's something I used to feel confident about.

After the workshop, we all wound up at a nearby karaoke bar, and after a couple of pitchers of beer, Stephanie and I sang "Fuck and Run" by Liz Phair together. It's good to know that even though I've not been active on the poetry scene lately, Stephanie and I are still close-- even though our interest in poetry is the reason our friendship developed in the first place.

The next day, Toni and I finally headed off to Lollapalooza. But not before a delicious lunch at a sushi place across the street from Grant Park.

I love hanging out with people who love seafood as much as I do.

That day, we saw The Kills, The Mountain Goats, Crystal Castles, and Ratatat. The last one was probably my favorite. The only group that was sorta disappointing was Crystal Castles, if only because they stopped playing abruptly and disappeared forever and no one knows why or where they went. :-(

I think Toni and I were both surprised at how utterly exhausted we were after our first day at Lolla. Having been on our feet all day, we literally limped back to the West Side School for the Desperate-- arriving, appropriately, both looking and feeling pretty desperate. We slept for 600 years that night. It felt awesome.

The next day, Toni caught a train to Oak Park to meet up with her aunt for lunch. This gave Stephanie and me some time to spend alone, which was nice.

A few years ago, Stephanie and I got together on Christmas Day and watched a few episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." One of the episodes we saw was the one about the Larry David Sandwich. In it, Larry has a sandwich named after him. And he's disappointed, because the sandwich is made up of whitefish, cream cheese, and capers. And who the fuck likes those things?

Stephanie and me, that's who. We were like, "Man. People need to stop hating on the Larry David Sandwich. That shit sounds delicious."

We proceeded to raid her parents' fridge for fish. This was especially hilarious because her family had just eaten Christmas dinner, so there were piles and piles of delicious leftovers for us to eat. But did we want any of it? No. We wanted whitefish.

For the record, we didn't find any, and ended up eating leftover ambrosia instead (mmmmm). But since then, we've said that we'd someday eat seafood sandwiches together.

Soon after that, Stephanie discovered a classy sandwich shop in her Chicago neighborhood. She has been nagging me for literally years now to come visit her so that we could eat delicious sandwiches together there.

One in particular is named after Alice Walker. It contains salmon, avocado, cucumber, feta cheese, and wasabi mayo.

So, needless to say, we officially (finally!) declared Saturday, August 6, 2011 "Sandwich Day," and went to this sandwich shop together. And I ate an Alice Walker sandwich and my life was forever changed.

After that, I met Toni downtown for more Lollapalooza madness. We saw the Black Lips, Death From Above 1979, Ellie Goulding, and Beirut. Again, the last one was my favorite, mostly because they played an encore, which is virtually unheard of at Lollapalooza.

Sunday was pretty intense. Stephanie took us to a classy breakfast place for crab benedict. Except they were out of crab benedict. :-( So we ate various other delicious things instead. And then Toni and I headed off to Lollapalooza, day 3.

We got drenched, and our electronic devices (namely my cell phone and her iPod) were taken as casualties. But it was my favorite day of the festival.

We saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. in the blazing sun. They did a rock cover of "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston, which was the most hilarious thing I have ever experienced.

And then the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped 10 degrees. During that time, I ate a delicious vegetarian wrap thing that completely blew my mind.

All I care about is food. Don't judge me.

We headed off to see the Arctic Monkeys, and that's when it started pouring. It poured for at least half an hour, which was long enough to turn the ground to muddy mush. Also, our clothes were completely soaked through.

I danced in it, because I have no shame. You have not lived until you've experienced an outdoor concert in the pouring rain. Just sayin'.

But that was just the beginning. The skies cleared (there was even a rainbow), and once the Arctic Monkeys finished their set, we wandered over to another stage to see Explosions in the Sky.

After that, the skies darkened again and it poured even harder than it had the first time. The whole park flooded. We watched the Foo Fighters from a distance and then got delicious falafel pitas. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, more food.)

We heard the Cold War Kids playing nearby, but didn't stick around long enough to figure out whether they played "Hang Me Up to Dry." It would have been extremely appropriate.

We found our way back to Stephanie's, where we took turns showering. Stephanie had milk and cookies out for us, which was super cute, and then we went to bed at 11 p.m. because we're old and boring.

And that, my friends, was my Lollapalooza/Chicago adventure. It was both excellent and delicious, even if it ended badly.

I'm not just referring to the death of my cat.

When my mom heard about my waterlogged cell phone, her solution to the problem was to dig through drawers until she found my very first cell phone (circa 2005). She took it to Verizon and got it activated for me.

So until it's time for an upgrade, that's what I'll be using, I guess. Lollapalooza and Mother Nature teamed up to force a reunion between me and my 16-year-old self.

Never thought it would have ended that way, but okay. I still count the weekend as a win.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

RIP Mac, 2002-2011

I spent the weekend at Lollapalooza in Chicago, so had been planning a pretty epic post about that. And maybe I'll still write it. But not right now.

Because when I got back to Michigan yesterday, I received some terrible news. My mom picked my friend Toni & me up from the train station, and of course, the first words out of my mouth were, "How's Mac?" Just a few hours earlier, I'd updated my Facebook status with, "I'm on a train now, headed toward home. Although I would have liked to spend more time in Chicago, I'm very excited about reuniting with my cat."

My mom told me that she knew I'd ask about Mac, and then said that she'd been dreading me doing so. She pointed to a box of tissues by my feet and told me that Mac had died over the weekend.

Although I knew she'd never joke about something like that, I spent a few moments in the "Are you fucking serious?" stage. And once it sunk in that it had really happened, I cried for what felt like ages. I felt guilty for not having been there when he died, of course. And the night before we'd left for the train station, Toni and I had camped out in my basement, watching Bette Davis movies on TCM. So Mac hadn't slept in my bed with me like he usually does. It had crossed my mind to go upstairs, find him, and make him join me on the couch. But I didn't.

So it helps to know that he didn't suffer. My dad found him dead near his litterbox on Sunday morning. It actually looks like he had a heart attack after taking a huge shit. Last night Toni said, "Your cat was a badass. He died like Elvis."

We've actually long suspected that Mac had a bad heart. His breathing has always been noticeably labored. And he lost a lot of weight over the past few months. We took him to the vet back in June, but he found nothing wrong with Mac, and just said that he was underweight and dehydrated (weird, given that Mac has an impressive appetite). But we took the vet's advice and put him on a high-calorie diet of super delicious kitten food that Mac loved.

He was always a very enthusiastic eater, just like me. :)

Waking up this morning was hard, not only because Mac usually sleeps with me at night, but also because I usually feed him first thing in the morning. I'm one of those people whose glasses live on her face unless I'm asleep or in the shower. So Mac knew not to bother me if my glasses were off. But the moment I took them from the nightstand and put them on my face, he'd start begging for food. Loudly.

He was very vocal. When I moved to Saginaw, I took him with me. And he'd howl in protest all the way up and down the I-75. For a guy with a bad heart, he sure had great lungs.

And he charmed my friends with them. Talked politics with people who came to my apartment. At one point, my friend Tracy said, "Dude, you're going to hate this, but I'm pretty sure that your cat is a Republican." She had a number of solid reasons for this, but my favorite was that he was an old man from Grosse Pointe.

Political disagreements aside, he loved Tracy's cooking. And everyone's cooking, for that matter. As I said, he was as enthusiastic about food as I am. My mom told me that he devoured some leftovers from Olive Garden with her the night before he died. I'm glad that he had a great last meal.

I've had many pets throughout my lifetime, and losing them isn't new to me. My dog Wylee died last year. My cats Poe and Smokey both died while I was in high school. And I've also buried two hamsters.

But Mac was my favorite. And I guess that's just because he decided that I was his favorite human, and was loyal to me even during the two years I spent living on campus at SVSU and couldn't have him with me.

I even had my senior photos taken with him when I graduated from high school. And he had his own Facebook page ("Mac the Feline," just in case you'd like to check it out).

People keep telling me that I'm handing this really well. I don't know about that, really. I'm a mess. But even though I wasn't here when Mac died, I know that he was well cared for. My parents and sister had a tendency to spoil him with affection whenever I wasn't home.

And everyone else knows how much I loved him (see the part about the senior picture and Facebook page), and has been really good to me, too. It helps to know that despite how obnoxious I've been about how much I love my cat, people seem to accept the fact that I'm a giant cat lady. Mac was kind of the center of my universe.

RIP, Stinky Head. That was kind of a dick move you made, leaving without giving me a chance to say goodbye. But you made up for it by being awesome in every other way possible, and I just hope that I will someday meet a cat who is as wonderful as you were.