Friday, January 29, 2010

Judgey Jeudi - Haiti and one day late

Today I read a facebook status that read thusly:
"Shame on you America: A country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and veterans without medical treatment yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations. 99% of people won't have the guts to copy and repost this, but I do!!!!!"

I stared at it for a moment, thinking "There's no way someone can have posted this. No way." But they did. Apparently, many people share this opinion, and I can't help but wonder: What the F***? (I do not curse, but I will certainly imply it in this situation).

The status has the laughable audacity to compare the situation of the poor in our own country to that of the poor (read: everyone) in Haiti. That comparison is ridiculous at best. There is a system in America for the poor, for the elderly, for the veterans. Is it a perfect system? Of course not, but at least we have a government in place to try and correct the failings in those systems. On any given day, in any cty in America, the homeless of our country can find a place that will give them food, shelter, clothing, free medical care and , in many places, the opportunity to gain an education. Will all the poor in our country avail themselves of these things? No, but the point remains that the resources exist, and are free to those who would come. The elderly have resources from the government as well, and while Veterans do find themselves tied up in beuracratic red tape, their medical care is FREE.

In Haiti, especially after the earthquake, there is nothing. Nothing. In place of a soup kitchen, they are recieving food drops that sometimes have to sit on the tarmac because there is not enough manpower to transport them to hungry mouths. In place of medical care, the sick and injured are in tents, on the ground, with scant medication and fewer supplies. The infastructure that could have provided for the destitute and displaced is gone, crumbled to the ground by the earthquake and aftershocks. This is not New Orleans after Katrina, which had an entire country of fellow Americans to help them rebuild. Haiti is not just one city, but an entire country that now has to start from square one. They have no fellow Haitians that were unaffected by the disaster to help them rebuild, and if we, America, with some of the wealtiest citizens in the world, do not help, who will? Should we stand by in our comfy homes, watch them suffer and say "We've got problems of our own!" right before we flip on the XBOX?

The American method for caring for our poor and elderly is far from perfect, and sadly, there are some who slip through the cracks in the infastructure. But the point here is that there IS a system. There IS help available, wheras in Haiti, there is nothing, and to refuse help, based on the argument of our own poverty, is nothing short of ignorant, ethnocentric and hypocritical. Without assistance, the entire country of Haiti will slip through the cracks, leaving America standing sheepishly by, saying "But we had our own poor!".

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


As a child, I loved to read. I loved it. I read everything I could get my hands on, and, with very few exceptions, I was allowed to read anything I wanted, with never a mention of reading levels or something being too mature for me. I read things that were too old for me (Outlander when I was 14) things that were about right (All the Chronicles of Narnia at 9 - 12) and things that were too young for me (The Mary Poppins books at 13). I was picky about the genre of the books I read, but that's alright when you're young. It's probably what kept me away from the Stephen King and Tom Clancy on the shelves. I loved fantasy and romance, as well as silly books that made me laugh. I loved the written word, and was highly encouraged in this by my mother, who had been reading to my sister and I since we were infants.

I read a great deal up through high school, but tapered off once I got to college, and very nearly stopped when I got married. Marriage makes you poor, and I could no longer afford to go to the bookstore and buy whatever by heart desired. This year though, I have rediscovered a beautiful thing: The public library.

I have become a frightful addict to this institution. No more than two days goes by that I am not in the library, returning, borrowing or picking up one of my many holds. I know the librarians by sight now, if not yet by name, although, if this habit of mine continues, I could see that happening very soon.

Somehow new steps have been added to my routine. When I walk out the door, I check, not only for my keys and cell phone, but for my library card as well. My daily internet rovings include The Nest, Facebook, Blogger, and now Goodreads and the Public Library Site, to look for and reserve new books.

I had forgotten how much I adore reading. With this new, constant stream of literature, my mind, which had begun an alarming descent into slushy disuse, now buzzes with activity, thinking of what I have been reading, what will happen next, and when I will get a chance to sit and read a bit more. Reading not only transports me while I read, but throughout my day. It is, cliche though it may be, an escape, but more than that, a tool for keeping my mind busy as the monotony of the day drags on. It is something that is indescribable to a non-reader, but those who have found themselves lost in the written word understand.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Elfland is waiting.

What I am reading now: I, Robot (audiobook) by Isaac Asimov; Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin; Elfland by Freda Warrinton

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I waited a day because I really wanted to review World War Z, and I only finished it ten minutes ago.

We're fond of Zombies right now. First it was Ninjas, then Penguins, then Pirates, and now everyone is into Zombies. Zombies are both comical and terrifying. Comical because, in a movie, nothing is funnier than the living dead shuffling after some poor sap, arms raised, moans loud and pathetic. Terrifying because, really, if a killing machine was coming at me, bent on the goal of eating my brains, I would literally pee my pants.

World War Z is an account of the fictitious zombie war, which takes place in an alternate present day. Rather than being a narrative, it is a collection of interviews with survivors of the conflict. The result is an account that is at times heartwarming and comical, but mostly just terrifying. I actually had a dream last night that my family and I were trapped underground with zombies closing in around us. I was bitten and woke up right after realizing that my husband would have to shoot me so I didn't become a danger to everyone else. That is what this book does to you. That said, I recommend it to anyone. It is incredibly well-written, engaging, and exceedingly hard to put down. The writing is so realistic that it makes you a bit paranoid, watching the trees a bit and checking your backseat for the undead before climbing into your car.

This is one of the best books I've read this year, and definitely makes the top 25 I've ever read. Even if you aren't a typical fan of Zombies, this is a good read.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lesson Learned

I must remember in the future that, while it is perfectly acceptable to scavange one's house topless while looking for a clean shirt, people too poor to afford blinds (ie: me) should avoid doing so downstairs, as flashing the neighbors is completly unacceptable.

Monday, January 18, 2010


My computer is sadly broken, which means that my only blogging, nesting and/or facebooking moments are going to be caught at work when the baby consents to an actual nap. It's almost the end of January (sort of), and I'm reevaluating a few things.

Coupon-ing. I didn't blog about this, mostly because it is le boring, but I've finally begun, and hopefully it will save my sweet husband and I a great deal of money. My emplyers have agreed to give me their coupons from the Sunday paper (suckers) so long as I agree not to take any of the coupons for baby things...for the baby I don't have. The best discovery so far: EGG coupons!! For EGGS! I have now made myself very sad with my own boringness.

50 books in 2010 - I've already read 11, so I feel like, at this rate, I may have read all 50 of them by May, and then I have nothing to aspire to for the rest of the year. So I am upping the number (again) to 100 books. I also discovered audio books recently, which may be the greatest thing ever. I don't much enjoy listening to music in my car, and the "law" says that I can't read while I drive. But ha-HA to the law, because I can have someone read TO me while I drive. It's my own personal way of sticking it to the man.

Blogging - I rather enjoy this blog. I don't know that anyone besides my mother reads it, but I enjoy logging on and talking abot whatever I feel like talking about, without all the pesky interruptions that come with conversation.

Babies - My husband made the mistake of pointing out the wittle baby shoes when we were in Target yesterday, which is hardly fair. My ovaries are now weeping.

Ah well.

BOOK REVIEW: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I've never actually made it all the way through Pride and Prejudice, though I have been assured that it is literary gold. Luckily, I was able to make it through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a watered-down, though largely still Austen-written version of the classic story.

The plot is much the same as it was in the original. Mr. Bingley arrives at Netherfield with his sisters and Mr. Darcy, who immediately alienates Lizzie Bennet, only to fall in love with and marry her against his better judgement and the wishes of his family. The largest addition is the presence of a disease in England that is turning people into the undead, of which the Bennet sisters are prolific killers.

The book is very dry, but still a lot of fun, especially if you are familiar with the basic plot of the original. It does get a little old toward the end, in a "OK, enough zombies already" kind of way. Unless you are a quirky hot topic kid or someone who truly loves zombies, this book probably isn't for you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I'm rather bad at them, actually. I'm still not sure how I managed to hook a husband, and such a dashingly handsome one at that. Men are simpler, I suppose.
Regardless, the point remains that, while I am happily married, I lack the natural ability to nurture and maintain friendly relationships.
I think it stems from two things.
Firstly, I am not very conscientious of others. I like to talk about myself, and I forget that other people exist for reasons other than being my own personal sounding boards. I also forget to be interested in their lives. I am a forgetter of birthdays, medical conditions, things I have been told only moments before, and life experiences. I am often both prone to second-guess people's reactions to my words while I remain hyper-aware of their body language and facial expressions, leading to an awkward dance between reading the people around me and not over-analyzing them and assuming that they are thinking of ways to ostracize this loud, obnoxious newcomer. I speak long before I think of what repercussions could come from my words. I am abrasive and do not adjust my speech and tone for various situations and people. Conversation for me does not flow easily unless I am with someone I know well or one of those lucky few who could talk to a brick wall and make easy conversation. The subtleties of polite conversation escape me, and consequently, I tend to either say nothing or say everything that is in my head. I am not rude, precisly, I'm just not what one might call very considerate.
Secondly, I never lost the idea that I am an awkward person. I was incredibly awkward in high school and somehow, though I have been assured that I am not, I still see myself that way, and that insecurity leads me to second guess myself before I approach people, before I call people, before I send messages and comments on facebook and message boards. I will begin to dial or type and then think to myself "Who needs to hear from you?" Self-depracating? Yes. Can I help it? Nope.
The knowledge of the first only exsaserbates the existance of the second, leading to a young woman who rarely puts herself in social situations and has trouble maintaining friendships that she has somehow stumbled into.
It's not sympathy I'm after. It just feels nice to get it out of my head. It's noisy in there, and I'm in school. I need to make room.

This, really, is a part of my happiness equation. As uncomfortable as I am in the social spectrum, being with people I know and love makes me happy, and I cannot know and love people if I do not first allow myself to meet them.

Goal # 1: Make a phone call, a girl date, and a lost connection.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No Judgement this week, only this...

Pray for the people of Haiti. It is hard to understand why God allows this kind of thing. It is what challenges my faith the most, and yet I know we live in a world fallen by the actions of those who came long before us, and that God allows, but does not cause, permits, but for a purpose. Perhaps this earthquake and the terrible loss of life will shed light on a country that has been broken and hungry for so long. Haiti has been largely ignored in the grand scheme of things and now perhaps we will allow our eyes to be opened to the third world deprivation that is going on only a short plane ride from our comfy homes.

What can you do? What can I do? How can we lend our help?

I haven't said a word all week...

Except Monday, and that hardly counts, as I wrote the blog itself on Saturday.

Anyway, I have learned some valuable lessons this week. Would you like to hear them? Of course you would.

1. Sexually repressed Southern Baptist girls rarely understand why plastic phalli do not belong at lingere showers. Typically they will excuse this breach of all that is classy by saying "But it will be funny!" Not when 50 year old church ladies show up.

2. Our educational system is not doing enough to teach our children geography. We need to be teaching kids that Alaska is, in fact, a part of the United States, and they do not have perpetual sunshine, 12 months a year. If we don't, they end up making themselves look dumb on facebook while I silently judge every teacher they ever had.

3. You can't always bring your baby everywhere, and nobody cares that "all MY friends are fine with it! They would never DREAM of saying my baby couldn't come!" Yes, well, no one cares, all the other mommies have made their peace with it, and you never show up to functions anyway, so hush. To be fair, I didn't learn this one. Neither did the perpetrator, unfortunatly.

4. Timothy Zahn is a big nerd. Like, a really big nerd. But he sure can write a book.

5. The cover to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies freaks me the eff out.

Have a great day!

Monday, January 11, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Shutter Island

LOOK! It's a new feature! Literary Lundi, Lundi meaning Monday and Literary meaning...well, literary. If you don't know what that means, you really shouldn't be reading this blog. You should be coloring.

Anyways, today's discussion (or not so much, as I am talking and you are...well...not) is about Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. There are spoilers. Maybe. I don't know, I haven't written it yet. But there might be, and that is my point.

I read this book as part of the Nest Book Challenge. One of the Challenges (for 15 points, no less) was to read a book in a genre that I normally do not. What is something I do not read, other than Botany Books? Thrillers. Also Mysteries. Luckily enough, Shutter Island is a mixture of both.

By way of plot summary, Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall, and his new partner Chuck Aule are sent to investigate the disappearance of an inmate at Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane on the creepily named Shutter Island. As the story progresses, there is the mystery, not only of the missing inmate, but of the mysterious inmate 67 and of cruel and inhumane surgical experiments going down in the obligatory onsite lighthouse. The plot gets deeper as Teddy begins to question the motives of everyone around him and the likelihood that he will ever leave the island.

The story is intriguing and engrossing, and has almost no discernible plotholes. The story is imaginative and the plot twists and turns until you aren't quite sure who is on what side or, more importantly, whose side you are on. Unless you're good at anagrams, in which case you'll have it figured out within the first three chapters.
It does, however, make you want to sit facing any and all entrances to your home, as, about three chapters in, the fear of criminally insane women with cleavers starts to infiltrate your mind. It's not scary, per say (perse? purse hay?), but there is a definite skin-crawl factor, and while it doesn't necessarily keep you guessing, it isn't quite as easy to figure out as it could potentially be, and for that, I must give it points. Not real ones, obviously, but the shiny imaginary kind, which incidentally, would work out fine for the subjects of the story

It's not a difficult read, and it is definitely worth a look. It took me about four hours of solid reading, simply because I didn't want to put it down.

Also, for the record, Dennis Lehane looks like the biggest creeper ever on the back cover. Just a thought.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Generally Happy

I am a generally happy person, I guess. Other than the psychosis that makes me mildly cynical and a little panicky, but I'm sure everyone has something like that. We're all a little nuts. If you can't tell, the last two books I read were about mental facilities and crazies. Due to the fact that my life starts, in my own mind, to resemble the books I read, I've been thinking myself crazy the last two days, not the least because I identify just a little too strongly with Susanna Kaysen. Not as much with Teddy Daniels, but definitely with Susanna Kaysen.

Anyway, whether or not I am crazy is not the point. If I'm not, my brain will, as it always does, figure itself out in a few days. If I am...well, there's not much to be done about it now. The point is, while I am generally happy, I am one of the least mindful people I know. Some people live life deliberately. I can't define what that looks like exactly, but you know those people, the ones who live deliberately. Watching those people, I often find myself wondering if I couldn't be living a happier, fuller life. So I made a list. I love lists.

Things That Make Me Happy

1. Spending GOOD time with my Husband
2. Dancing
3. Reading
4. Having a challenge or goal to aspire to
5. Running
6. Shopping
7. Talking to Marian
8. Laughing
9. Traveling and New Places
10. Writing
11. Decorating/Creating/Building

As far as I can see, happiness is like an equation. Things that make you happy = X, Amount of Happiness = Y. The more I do things that make me happy, the happier I become.

Mathematics of Emotion.

Friday, January 8, 2010

More about the reading

I'm on my third book of 2010, which, as it is the eigth of January, makes me wonder if 25 is a laughably easy goal. At this rate, I should finish around 15o books this year. But I won't. That's just silly. I am, However, upping the goal to 50 books this year. And Dammit, I've lost my point. I had one, but now I've forgotten. Phenomenal.

Libraries! That was it.

I recently found my library card and remembered that there is, in fact, a library only a few blocks from my house. This startling discover came after I spent half th day worrying about how I would afford to buy all these books. Then I remembered: there's a magical place that will just let you take them for FREE.

But not until I pay off my $20 fine. I have a tendency to borrow books and just go ahead and keep them. Forever.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

About this whole running thing...

I have a love-hate relationship with running. On th one hand, I love to run. I love the high I get when I run, and the sense of personal accomplishment. On the other hand, my knees were shot all to hell when I did colorguard in high school, and now running makes my knees want to move out and fin an owner who will take better care of them.

Every few months, though, I ignore my knees pitiful cries for mercy and decide I'm going to run. I download music, I put on my running clothes, and off I go. This usually lasts about three weeks before I'm back at square one.

It's the new year though, and I need to be a better person. Which means, really, that I need to get in better shape. I'm teeny tiny, it's true, but skinny does not always = healthy. It just means I don't eat a lot. My muscles are the consistany of ricotta cheese at this point, and I feel like that just isn't acceptable. So, the goal now is, as it always is, to run a 5K. The Ortega River Run is February 27th, and it's as good a time as any to try a 5K, and it's roughly nine-ish weeks away, which gives me time for the Couch to 5K program.

I'm going to try and run tonight. It's supposed to be in the 20's though, and I only own one glove. If I layer though, maybe it will be ok.

Judgey Jeudi - The Santa Scheme

Christmastime is over, but I have given it some thought, and I've decided there is just to much darn hypocrisy around Christmas. Not the commercialism. I mean, that's a little ridiculous too, but talking about that is just beating the proverbial deceased horse.

No, I'm talking about the man in the red suit. St. Nick, Chris Cringle, Papai Noel. In other words, Santa Clause. He's a beloved figure, bursting with good cheer and last Christmas's cookies. He's even based on a real person, sort of. You can get the story of St. Nicholas and his Modern adaptation here and here. I would tell you all about it, but frankly, it's late and I'm lazy.

Santa is a beloved holiday figure, and with good reason. Kids love him because he brings them toys. Parents love him because he's an awesome bribe.

As I get closer to having my own children, however, it occurs to me that by perpetuating the Santa Claus thing, we are doing something that we scold and berate our children for: We're lying. Now, now, don't argue. There's no way around it. Santa Claus is fictional. He isn't real. He's fake, and yet every year we call him real and tell our children that Santa brings them presents. Every single year, we participate in the largest conspiracy ever concocted, and for what? For a lie on this scale and of this magnitude, one would think we were hiding something so damaging, so disturbing, that tiny minds would be driven to insanity if they knew the truth. But we aren't. We are hiding that Mommy and Daddy buy the presents, which strikes me as pretty far from a damaging reality.

Laying the lying thing aside, the Santa thing provides difficulties to tiny minds. Firstly, all kids stop believing at some point, and all kids know that they will stop believing at some point. It's just this tiny, niggling knowledge that sits in the back of their minds. Even 4 year olds know they won't always believe. They've seen Polar Express. They know how this stuff works. Interestingly enough, The Year, the year any given child stops believing is met with sadness and bittersweet memories by most adults. Any other person finally figuring out that they had been lied to for 8 to 10 years would be applauded for finally seeing through the ruse. That critical year, though, is like initiation. It's the year older kids are let in on the lie and we ensure that our grandchildren will have the tinsel-covered wool pulled over their eyes as well. We seal that sweet little deal with the whispered words "Just don't tell your sister!" The threat of "Or I'll maim you" is implied. Secondly, children, especially in public school, will notice that Santa doesn't bring as much to the poor kids, or, that if you are a poor kid, Santa brings more to the rich kids, and he doesn't visit some kids at all. Thirdly, most kids are at least vaguely aware of the fact that the mechanics don't make any sense. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and they notice all the holes in the Santa scheme, but don't say anything, because there is always that silent threat that, once you stop believing, Santa stops bringing. I noticed all the difficulties at four, and struggled with them, as much as a child struggles with anything, for the next six years, because even though I got Mom to admit to me that Santa was fake, we still perpetuated the Santa thing for years, and I couldn't wrap my head around the discrepancy.

What I don't understand is why? What are we hoping to accomplish by telling our children about Santa Claus? And really, where is the problem with children knowing that presents are given because we love one another, and not as a reward for good behavior from some Benevolent Peeping Tom? Imagine Christmas without Santa, or with him as a fun movie character, but out of the spotlight. Maybe instead of Christmas presents as a bribe and as a reward for good behavior, they can be an example of kindness when maybe we haven't been as nice as we should that year. It's a tiny analogy for grace, really. We could teach our children about gratitude (because who is really thankful to a mysterious omniscient stranger who lives with penguins?) and about giving of ourselves.

PS: Parents - Your kids notice that Santa doesn't bring you anything. Biggest hole in the lie, exhibit A.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

25 Books in 2010

I'm not usually one for goal-making. After all, I'm not usually one for goal-keeping, so what's the point? However, I hav decided, against my better judgement, to read 25 books in 2010. It doesn't sound like a lot, but that's roughly 2 1/12 books a month, or an entire book every two weeks.

The reason I know I am probably doomed to failure is that, as with Couch to 5K, I find myself saying "Two books a month? Easy Peasy". Somehow I think this will be more challenging than I imagine. And on the off chance that it isn't and I breeze through 25 books in the next 6 weeks, I'll have to up the ante to 52 books in a year. Or not. But it's a thought. Anyways, here we are.

1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (completed Jan 4)
2. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (Completed Jan 7)
3. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (Completed Jan 8)
4. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (Completed Jan 9)
5. Gulliver's Travels (In progress)

Books I want to read this year:

It Sucked, and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong
Emma by Jane Austen

After that, I have literally no idea. Maybe I'll reread the Abhorsen Chronicles. Is that cheating, to reread?

I'm running out of things to be judgey about.

I know, it shocked even me. Take a moment to collect yourself.

Whenever you're ready.

Anyway, I've decided to not just let the judgemental juices flow whenever I feel like. I have to limit myself. So, from now on, We will have Judgemental Jeudi (which means Thursday in French, in case you were smarter than me and took Spanish, aka a useful language, in high school). Point being, I'll still post a lot, but more about boring stuff like my life, and the Thoughtful stuff will happen on Thursdays. Stay tuned. We're talking about Santa tomorrow.