Monday, December 23, 2013

BookTubeAthon Wrap-Up . . . Or is it?

Officially, the great Holiday BookTubeAthon ended at midnight yesterday.  If you were around late last week, you will remember I set a goal of completing three books and pledged to donate one book to Books for Africa for each book I completed, as well as a bonus four book if I reached my goal.

When midnight had come and gone, I had completed two books off of my TBR (The Crying of Lot 49 and The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War-- reviews to come!) and was more than a little disappointed that I had not completed my third books; worst still, I felt a great deal of guilt at the thought of short changing Books for Africa.  It's one thing to not meet your goal and it's another to think you have let someone(s) else down.

Since this is the season for love, warmth, sharing, and giving (or so the internet tells me), I have decided to extend my BookTubeAthon until the stroke of midnight on Boxing Day morning.  Yup, that's right: I have three more reading nights to reach my goal (and one pesky Camus novel in my way) and donate some much needed reading material to folks in the developing world.

If you'd like to donate to Books for Africa, check here.  If you'd like to follow my progress in completing that last novel, check in with me on Twitter.

Cheers,

j.
Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday BookTubeAthon: This Weekend's Truncated TBR List

If you're a Booktube dilettante like myself-- spending your evenings watching other people's book hauls, book reviews, book talks, and comparing your monthly TBR list (To Be Read) to your favorite vloggers--  you may have heard about the
ChristmasHoliday BookTubeAthon.



For the uninitiated, the Holiday BookTubeAthon is a three-day marathon reading session beginning at midnight on Friday December 20 and ending at 11:59 on Sunday December 22 where participants read as many books as they can make room on their TBR list for the books they expect to receive in the coming days.  Prior to the commencement of the reading challenge, participants set a goal and attempt to meet or beat that benchmark before the stroke of midnight on Sunday.  This BookTubeAthon has a focus on completing works that you may have started  this year . . . but, for one reason or another, not completed.



My own goal is to complete three books before the challenge period is over.  These auspicious reads are:

[caption id="attachment_692" align="aligncenter" width="199"]The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (1966) The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (1966)[/caption]

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (1966): I began this book right before Thanksgiving and have been working my way through this mind-bending novella on postal conspiracies.  I received this book on an Inter-library Loan and I have to return it tomorrow before I come home from work; so, time is of the essence.  This, unquestionably, will be the first book I complete.



[caption id="attachment_693" align="aligncenter" width="194"]The Fall by Albert Camus (1956) The Fall by Albert Camus (1956)[/caption]

The Fall by Albert Camus (1956): Camus has long been one of my favorite authors (along with Kurt Vonnegut and Virginia Woolf, among others) and though I count The Plague and The Stranger as some of my favorite books, I have never been able to finish reading The Fall.  I've started and and put the books aside more than half a dozen time over the past fourteen years.  This weekend, I am determined to scratch this elusive classic off of my TBR list.



[caption id="attachment_694" align="aligncenter" width="197"]The House of Wittgenstein by Alexander Waugh (2010) The House of Wittgenstein by Alexander Waugh (2010)[/caption]

The House of Wittgenstein by Alexander Waugh (2010): This absorbing look at the fabled Wittgenstein family melds the glamour of the Viennese Renaissance, the romanticism of an intellectually gifted family, and the duel tragedies of madness and war.  Somehow, despite my enthusiasm for 20th Century Thought and History, I have started and sat aside this engrossing read.  With a little bit of luck, and a few sleepless nights, I should be able to complete this book.



While the BookTubeAthon is meant simply to be a challenge for reading enthusiasts, I thought, since this is a generous time of year, that I would use my goals for good.  I pledge, for every book I complete during the BookTubeAthon, I will donate a book to Books for Africa.  If I complete my challenge, I will donate an additional book to the organization.  If you would like to know how to donate yourself, check here.



If you would like to learn more about the BookTubeAthon you can follow the challenge's twitter feed, or  check out videos from Katytastic, Little Book Owl, and Ariel Bissett explaining what it's all about and sharing their own goals for this weekend.



Keep your eyes on this space, or on my Twitter Feed, to see how I progress over the next three days.



What are your reading goals for this weekend?



Cheers,



j.
Monday, October 21, 2013

Scatter Shot

Long time, no text!

 

Before I get started, I am not going to make apologies for being scatter shot over the summer or absent for the first bit of fall.  I started back to work at full capacity in late August and have been working forty hours a week while still going to between 2-3 medical appointments as well.  I’ve been busy, folks.  Life happens: sometimes you have to work like mad, sometimes you have appointments to attend, other times you have to learn how to walk again.  Shit happens and you hobble on. Se la vie.

 

Anyway, I am back to blogging form now that life has started to even out a little bit.  I am not going to commit to any post amount or post types because, let’s be honest, I can’t keep to those; I’m lucky if I remember what my middle name is half the time.  In any event, I will post as often as I can, when I can, and will always post content that is interesting (at least to me!) and edifying.  I’m a bossy know it all, so it only stands to reason that I should impart that wisdom on my dearly loved readers.  Stay tuned.

 

I’ll be back again shortly.  For realz this time.

 

Cheers,

 

j.
Saturday, July 6, 2013

What I've Been Watching Lately: The Lone Ranger and My Continued UneaseWith Media Depictions of Native Americans

Since breaking my ankle a couple of months ago, I haven’t been getting out much.  For weeks, my days have been filled with physical therapy appointments, doctor visits, and watching Me-TV while icing my swollen joint.  Needless to say, when an opportunity to leave the house that isn’t medically necessary arises, I jump (albeit metaphorically) at the chance.  This, dear readers, is how I ended up watching The Lone Ranger.


Admittedly, The Lone Ranger isn’t the type of film I typically watch. Primarily, my tastes skew more towards Ingmar Bergman (serious, Scandinavian) than Gore Verbinski (action-packed, mass-appeal), but for free and for Armie Hammer I can happily leave the art house behind for the afternoon.


Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger, based on the radio and television show of the same name, tells the familiar tale of the masked vigilante: After surviving an ambush that killed his brother and four other Texas Marshals, Deputy Texas Marshal John Reid (Hammer) is left for a certain death until Tonto (Johnny Depp), a Native American from the Comanche Nation, nurses him back to health.  At Tonto’s insistence, Reid dons a black leather mask fashioned from his dead brother’s vest to conceal his identity and begins to hunt the man, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), responsible for the ambush.  A wrench is soon thrown into the pair’s seemingly straightforward search for justice when Cavendish is also implicated in a series of raids on a white homesteads, for which the Comanche have been blamed, and involvement in a corrupt railroad expansion project.  As you’d expect, the duo triumph over evil once they are able to resolve their personal and existential conflicts.


At first blush, The Lone Ranger is a typical Verbinski action film, filled with slapstick humor  (the Ranger’s horse Silver’s peculiar antics steal the show) and fight sequences that boggle the mind; however, much to my surprise, The Lone Ranger has some depth, particularly as it relates to the treatment of Native Americans.  The film opens at a county fair in 1933 San Francisco, where a young Lone Ranger fan encounters an elderly Tonto in an Old West show, displayed for audiences in an exhibit titled “The Noble Savage.”  Tonto then recounts the Ranger’s origin story to the enthralled, and slightly unsettled, youngster.  From this first scene it is readily apparent that this film will be unlike most Westerns as it is told from a Native American character’s point of view.  Further, the depiction of an elderly Tonto working in an Old West show, as a curiosity in an exhibit that labels him as a savage, highlights the exploitation and decimation of aboriginal nations across our continent.


Throughout the film, Verbinski encourages his audience to empathize and identify with the embattled Comanche Nation against both the United States Cavalry and the Transcontinental Railroad.  The Comanche are fighting a losing battle against Manifest Destiny, as Chief Big Bear (Saginaw Grant) frankly tells the Lone Ranger.  Yet, however quixotic this fight may be, the audience recognizes moral justness of the Native American cause and feels their defeat acutely.


However, even this seemingly sympathetic portrayal of the Comanche Nation rings a bit hollow within the film’s greater framework.  The Lone Ranger’s central Native American character, Tonto, is played by an actor who, by his own admission, is only ⅛ “Cherokee or Creek.”  Native American actors, as is Hollywood Custom, are relegated to the cinematic periphery. As refreshing as it is to see a mainstream depiction of westward expansion that acknowledges the horrors perpetrated against Native Americans, this dark chapter of American history still serves as a means to give credence to our hero, our great white hope’s campaign against evil. Similarly, the audience’s established kinship with Tonto doesn’t erase the film’s dependance on stereotypes that cause even the most imperceptive of audience members to at times cringe. The Lone Ranger is a Disney film, after all.


Nonetheless while it may be too much to expect The Lone Ranger to be both historically accurate and politically nuanced (remember Pocahontas?), the Haus of Mouse can and should do better than this.


Adieu,


j.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Injury Post #1: Don't Stand So Close to Me

[caption id="attachment_648" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Sitting on my walker seat, waiting for a bus in my cam walker (i.e., the boot). Sitting on my walker seat, waiting for a bus in my cam walker (i.e., the boot).[/caption]
On May 9, 2013, a month ago last Sunday, I fell off of a ladder and sustained a compound fracture to my right ankle.  The injury has been the most physically painful and gruesome  experiences of my life.  While I have been making steady progress in my recovery, I am still looking at two months of physical therapy and toddling around in a cam walker.  If I had been forced to comment, prior to my accident, on the look I would be sporting this summer, I probably wouldn’t have extolled the beauty of wounded dinosaur chic . . . because wounded dinosaurs are not cute nor are they chic.


I, dear readers, am a wounded dinosaur.


Sadly, styling a cam walker isn’t the biggest challenge I have been facing as of late.  Perhaps the biggest challenge I have had encountered as of late has been other people-- not in an existential sense (always a problem), but in a physical one.  Literally, people are super rude and careless around me and it’s a danger to my well-being.


Since getting fitted for my cam walker last week, I have been making small sojourns with my mom (and sometimes THE FOOSA) around my neighborhood.  These little journeys, while certainly not far, are vital to rebuilding my physical strength and are necessary in building my confidence.  While I’ve quickly taken to the cam walker and have become adept at using my four-wheeled walker to get around; I’ve noticed that my impaired mobility is less an issue for me than it is for other people.


When I toddle down the sidewalk or hobble down an aisle in a store I am keenly aware of the space I am taking up, so I try to keep to the right. I know my walker is clunky and I know that I hobble around at a sub-snail pace; I know all of these things.  So, I try to keep to the right and out of other people’s way as much as I can; I’m not oblivious to the needs or concerns of others, I am a (partially) functioning member of society.  This non-negotiable courtesy I extend to others, this essential component of the social contract, isn’t reciprocated.



[caption id="attachment_649" align="aligncenter" width="251"]The road warrior. The road warrior.[/caption]
Within the past week, I have been crashed into more times than the wall at Daytona.  For whatever reason, I am either invisible to other people or my compromised physical condition and gimpy-gait mean nothing to some folks.  If it weren’t for my tank-like walker and my mom spotting me, I probably would have taken a tumble on several occasions.


Before my accident, I can’t say that I was particularly cognizant of people with limited mobility myself.  When you don’t have any difficulty getting between points A and B, you think nothing of zipping around someone leaning on a walker or puttering about in a wheelchair, these individuals are nothing more than a physical obstacle to avoid when you’re on the hunt for discounter dryer sheets.  In “normal” day-to-day life, where you don’t have to be hyper aware of your movements and anxious about where other people are at any given moment, “slow” people are like debris on the metaphoric road of life.  You try to avoid hitting one of these “obstacles” so you don’t cause yourself damage or the insurance headache, but otherwise give them little to no thought.


Honestly.


The next time you are in Target, train your eye on an elderly person with a walker and pay attention the people walking around them; odds are, people will get really close to said-hypothetical-pensioner before cutting in front of them at the last moment-- like they would avoid a discarded muffler on the highway.


On behalf of all of the hypothetically discarded mufflers of the world, let me just say that it sucks to be treated like an inanimate object, worse yet an inanimate object without worth, feelings, or a sense of pain.  When I had my accident, I lost some blood but not my humanity; to have people I don’t even know try strip me of my human dignity-- to not even afford me the space I need to safely move in non-confined spaces and sneer at me when I say something about it-- is infuriating.  Worse yet, I am ashamed that I have been guilty of the same offense against others in the past.  Your pace and your personal worth aren’t correlated; having limited mobility doesn’t make you less of a person or make you disposable.  Just because I’m slow doesn’t mean you get to push me over to get a bag of cotton balls!


Do me a favor: the next time you’re out and about and you see someone with limited mobility-- be they elderly, disabled, or just injured like me-- please give that person some space.


And maybe a smile.


Adieu,


j.
Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Depression Post #3: Dealing With a Major Injury

[caption id="attachment_611" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Busted ankle, perfect pedicure! Busted ankle, perfect pedicure![/caption]
A few weeks ago, while decorating for a school event, I took a fall off of a ladder and suffered a compound fracture of both my tibia and my fibula just above the right ankle.  I was taken to the hospital by ambulance-- my first journey (and hopefully my last)-- and had to have two surgeries in three days to clean, set, and repair the bones.  Total, I was in the hospital five days, again it was the first time I ever had to spend a protracted amount of time in the hospital.


In addition to being the most frightening and physically painful experience of my life, my injury has caused me a lot of psychological trauma, the effects of which I have only just started to process.  If you have ever experienced a major injury, you’ll know that your first few days are spent in a fog, in shock or loaded up on heavy pain medication; the next few days are spent focused on recovering  enough physically to go home.  When you’re hospitalized, your days become monotonous and surprisingly goal oriented: everything you do, or cannot do, is focused on getting discharged as quickly as possible.


The real recovery work, however, begins once you’ve gotten home.


My first few days at home were rough ones.  We quickly learned that  I was sensitive to the pain medication I was prescribed; my pain in my ankle would be blunted, but I would quickly develop a migraine and grown nauseous.  The migraines were were worse than the pain in my ankle, so I had to go off my prescription and make do with Tylenol Arthritis until my scheduled checkup with my orthopedic surgeon.  Needless to say, the Tylenol wasn’t cutting it with my post-surgical pain; coupled with the itching and pulling from my staples and stitches, this pain has me in hysterics, especially at night.  Even now, with a more suitable pain medicine at hand, I struggle to sleep because of the tightening feeling at my injury site.


What makes my pain hardest to bear is knowing that there is nothing I can do about it other than taking my medication and ignoring it.  For the most part, pain medication doesn’t get rid of your pain, it just tempers the ache.  At two in the morning I want to be unconscious, not half-heartedly watching an episode of Mission: Impossible because my ankle feels like it is shriveling.   It’s maddening.


What’s worse, however, is the psychic pain.  In the days following my discharge, I started having flashbacks, seeing my impact whenever I closed my eyes. I can still hear the screams of my colleagues and students when I fell.  Like any traumatic experience, I am sure the chilling effect these memories have on me emotionally will dissipate with time and by talking about them, but the memory is still very fresh in my mind.


Moving past this trauma is made all the more challenging because my life veritably stopped when I fell off that ladder; I haven’t been able to resume my life as I lived it previously.  Instead, I’m stuck in limbo waiting until I am healed enough to ease back into small parcels of normality.  While I have been able to do some of my non-instructional work tasks from home, not getting up every morning and trundling off to work-- not seeing my students or falling into my routine-- has been very difficult.


At present, what has helped me the most to manage my injury-related depression has been my mom and my pug.  My mother is my rock and has been my lifeline throughout the entire experience, looking after me just as she had when I was a toddler (seriously, when you suffer a major fracture basic life functions are nearly impossible to complete on your own).  Without her emotional and physical support, I’d be living in painful squalor.



[caption id="attachment_445" align="aligncenter" width="300"]THE FOOOSA: a gentlewoman and a scholar.  THE FOOOSA: a gentlewoman and a scholar.[/caption]
THE FOOSA, my pug, has been a tremendous emotional support.  When I was in the hospital, all I could think about was getting home to THE FOOSA.  Since I’ve been back, she’s been my little furry shadow, cuddling up to me as I recline on my bed or sit on the couch; she even spots me as I scoot around the house with my walker.


While I am still in the early stages of my recovery, I know that despite my occasional sadness,  I have the love and support I need to get back into fighting shape.  Eventually.


Adieu,


j.
Thursday, May 23, 2013

Eternal Optimist: The Pedicure That Just Won't Quit

[caption id="attachment_611" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Busted ankle, perfect pedicure! Busted ankle, perfect pedicure![/caption]
The evening before I went plummeting off of a ladder while hanging prom decorations, I painted my toe nails a creamy dusty rose pink-- Essie’s Eternal Optimist ($8).  Originally, the shade was meant to add a soft, neutral color to my toes and complement the early 1960s outfit and makeup look I had selected for my chaperon duties (yes, I take such things seriously).  Then I had my accident and the polish became emblematic of my experience and my recovery.



[caption id="attachment_612" align="aligncenter" width="147"]Essie Eternal Optimist Essie Eternal Optimist[/caption]


Generally speaking, I am not an optimistic person; my mind usually skips to the worst case scenario right from the get go.  Any time I get a paper cut  I automatically think I am going to get a staph infection and lose my arm. I really don’t have a middle ground: I’m either doing well or on the verge of a tragic death.  Since I am such a hypochondriac, it’s deeply ironic that at the time of my fall, the worst health crisis I have ever experienced, I was wearing Eternal Optimist on my tootsies.


Strangely enough, despite suffering a catastrophic injury in the ankle region, there was absolutely no blood on my feet (maybe because my foot was bent in the opposite direction . . . ), in my shoes, or on my socks.  Similarly, after five days in the hospital and two surgeries, my pedicure was in tact.  Two weeks after my accident, my toes are still painted Eternal Optimist-- my original pedicure.



[caption id="attachment_613" align="aligncenter" width="167"]Two coats of Eternal Optimist on a nail wheel. Two coats of Eternal Optimist on a nail wheel.[/caption]


What is remarkable about Eternal Optimist, however, is not its longevity (though two weeks is incredible for a pedicure!), but its symbolism for my recovery.  There have been very few moments where I have felt sorry for myself or doubted that I would get better.  On the contrary, I have thrown myself into the recovery process, learning the basics of orthopedic injuries, working out my recovery timeline, and generally taking an active role in my medical treatment.


It’s easy to become dejected when you’re facing a health crisis, especially if you allow yourself to remain passive.  Passivity is natural enough: when you don’t feel well, you certainly don’t want to advocate for taking your own medication from home or insist that you be prescribed a walker to take home-- but you have to press the point for your own good.  Your best advocate for your own care and your own cause is you.


Perhaps my pessimistic streak has been kept at bay by my tenacity and determination to get better, maybe it’s an elaborate form of self-denial.  Whatever the case may be, I’m keeping calm and carrying on . . . and so is my pedicure!

Adieu,

j.
Sunday, May 19, 2013

What I've Been Reading Lately #2: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls byDavid Sedaris

[caption id="attachment_599" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Bedside reading. Bedside reading.[/caption]
In the days leading up to the Great Humpty Dumpty Schonda of 2013,I had started reading David Sedaris’s latest collection of essays Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (Little, Brown, and Company; $27).  Since I possess Jedi-like library skills (if there is such a thing, and I am inclined to believe that there is), I was able to snag a copy of the book from the country library as soon as the delivery of the books came in-- you really have to time the book’s release date to the library’s order date and entry of the book into their online catalog . . . Anyway!  After getting released from the hospital earlier this week, I returned to my reading and was happily able to finish the book Saturday afternoon.


As with all Sedaris books, I enjoyed Owls a great deal: Sedaris is at his best when speaking about his own foibles or the pitfalls of being an American abroad.  An avowed Sedaris fan, I’ve read all of the author’s books since discovering them during my sophomore year of college; coincidently, Sedaris gave a lecture at my university during my sophomore year . . . but I was off having my Razor’s Edge experience and was totally unawares until more than a year after the engagement (waaah!).  It is within the context of this tremendous admiration and fandom that my mixed feelings about the book must be considered.  As a general collection of humorous essays, I LOVED Owls; as a David Sedaris collection of essays, I was mildly amused.



[caption id="attachment_601" align="aligncenter" width="201"]Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (LBC, 2013) Image c/o The Christian Science Monitor Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (LBC, 2013) Image c/o The Christian Science Monitor[/caption]


For many Sedaris fans, myself included, consider all of the author’s books since his masterful Me Talk Pretty One Day (2001) to be anticlimactic. Me Talk was so humorously off-kilter and touchingly relatable that none of Sedaris’s more recent work can live up to the brilliance of that book.  Really, it’s unfair to consider the rest of Sedaris’s work in comparison to Me Talk, but it’s also hard not to compare the works.


That being said, Owls is the best collection Sedaris has released since Me Talk. In particular, I enjoyed Sedaris’s wild take on eating during a vacation in China, an entry that has caused some controversy but one that I, as a member of the pearl-clutchers brigade, relate to wholeheartedly.  Similarly, the author’s discussion of his French dentistry experiences and the fallout from having his computer stolen in Hawaii had me laughing out loud in the most awkward of circumstances-- thank you, David.


Where Owls, and all of Sedaris’s work, falters are in the short stories which strain for laughs, often launching themselves into blue-territory, and, for the committed reader, are best plowed through rather than savored.


So, while imperfect, Owls is a fun read, particularly for commuters accustomed to having short reading spells.  However, would I have shelled out my hard earned teacher shekels for the hardback at full price . . . probably not.  I’d advise adding this one to your library hold list.
Thursday, May 16, 2013

Where Have I Been: Busted Ankle Edition

I keep having these posts on my blog: explaining apologetically where I have been recently and promising that I will be more diligent in my posting in the future.  Then, as with anyone, things happen and I fall off for a while  . . . then I come back, ad infinitum.


This time around, however, I have a good excuse for my absence: I BROKE MY ANKLE!



[caption id="attachment_584" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Day 1 in the hospital after my accident. Day 1 in the hospital after my accident.[/caption]


A week ago today, I fell off of a ladder and landed square on my right foot-- then my foot went in one direction and my tibia and fibula (the two bones in your lower leg) went in another . . . piercing the skin.  I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance (a first for me!), had two surgeries to repair my leg/ ankle, and stayed in the hospital for five days recovering from the physical trauma.  Today marks my second day back home after the experience.  It’s been a hot mess.



[caption id="attachment_583" align="aligncenter" width="300"]What passes for bling among the hospital crowd. What passes for bling among the hospital crowd.[/caption]


Since I can’t walk on my ankle or use my walker for long periods of time, I am off work through the end of the school year, instead working from home on administrative tasks and keeping in touch with students.  Soooo . . . since I’m home . . . I actually will have more time to blog, writing about films, books, beauty products, my dog, and anything that catches my interest while I am stranded on the sofa. And yes, I will be returning to Mascara MAYhem ASAP.



[caption id="attachment_582" align="aligncenter" width="300"]At home on the sofa recovering. At home on the sofa recovering.[/caption]


My blogging goal during my recuperation period is to blog at least five times a week, taking time off for the weekends; since that’s a lot of content, please feel free to email any topics you’d like me to tackle (reviews, advice, etc.) to misssunnyjim@gmail.com.


Adieu,


j.
Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Depression Post #2: Recently . . .

In yesterday’s post, I talked about my struggle with depression and anxiety and the ways in which I have been able to keep both conditions-- for the most part--in check.  I also alluded to the fact that I have been having a rough go of it the last few months and promised to discuss these challenges in more detail today.


Many of the challenges that I have experienced are, in large part, connected to my having a Type-A personality.  I’m a notorious workaholic who likes to take charge and organize everything; I’m conscientious, organized, and goal driven.  When you have a project that you need to see though, I’m the person to call.  While these qualities are all well and good in the workplace, they have a major downside for me personally.


First of all, I have absolutely no patience for laziness, ambivalence, or anyone who doesn’t work as hard or to the same level as me.  As a result, I take on more than my fair share of a project so it’s “done right.”  Then, because I have been doing everything, I feel taken advantage of because I have been doing everything.  When, as it inevitably happens, someone (or someones) become critical of me or the work I have done, I become deeply hurt and resentful of the critique . . . and I break down.


The past few months, I have taken on the challenge of planning two big school events.  While I have had lots of administrative support, it’s been a challenge to corral all of the kid’s ideas and plan events that are both affordable and obtainable.  Moral and financial support aside, I have been putting these events together by myself; anyone who has ever managed student groups and budgets simultaneously can speak to the difficulty of this task and the mercuriality of teenagers.  Suffice it to say, about a week ago, I was at the end of a very frayed rope when a handful of snotty remarks made me snap.  I lived a teacher’s worst nightmare: I started crying in the middle of class-- a torrent of crocodile tears that took several minutes and some pep-talking to pull me out of.  Luckily, I had a regularly scheduled therapist appointment that evening and was able to get slowly back on the right track.


The problem with being a Type-A personality, the problem with being a highly-motivated perfectionist in general, my therapist told me is that you give too much of yourself and others aren’t inclined to return the efforts.  When you keep taking on projects and become the person that everyone relies on, you are the person that EVERYONE relies on.  There is only so much one person can take on before, like me, they begin to feel badly done by and resentful.


At my wit’s end, my only course of action, my therapist told me, was the delegate tasks and not take on any additional project or task unless they are personally enjoyable to me.  In my instance, the key to successful delegation is to pass the task to someone who is capable and then divorce myself from the task; I can’t be overly critical of how the task is completed (if its to my specifications or not) because I gave it to someone else to do.


Over the past two weeks, this is exactly what I have done.  What tasks I have taken on have only been ones that are personally enjoyable for me, tie into my strengths, and come with some concessions that make the project less taxing on me personally.


While I still don’t feel as though I am back to “fighting shape,” I don’t feel as taken advantage of either.  Though it’s difficult to say “no” or to pass a task off to someone else, it’s important to know your personal limitations and to respect them.  When you don’t observe your own boundaries, you cannot expect anyone else to observe them either.


In my own case the desire to have everything done PERFECTLY often overtakes my need to take care of my basic needs (eating right, getting enough sleep, remembering to take medicine, remembering to take a bath, etc.).  To keep the two in balance (perfectionism and simple life functions) isn’t simply a matter of “living my best life” Oprah-style, it’s about the necessity of living PERIOD.


When you’re completely spent-- exhausted from project after project-- you of no use to anyone, including yourself.  Certainly, this is a lesson that I have had to learn (and relearn) the hard way.


Adieu,


j.
Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Depression Post #1: My History

I’ve been struggling to write this post for the better part of two months.  I have always thought of this post-- ephemerally, anyway--as partly a way to contextualize my flakey blogging ethic and partly as a way to share my experiences-- both for my benefit and the benefit of others.  So let’s give it a go, shall we?


Let’s start with the basics: I, along with a sizeable portion of American adults, have depression and anxiety.


As any Wikipedia Sigmund Freud can tell you, the two disorders often go hand-in-hand, feeding off of one another in a vicious cycle of emotional misery: you’re depressed because of x, then you start to worry and twist yourself in knots over x, then you feel even more depressed because of your anxiety over x, which just makes you more anxious about x-- with these two buggers around, you can take an emotional nosedive quickfast.


Both disorders run in my family, so I have a strong genetic predisposition to them, though, through therapy, I have been able to trace both back to traumatic experiences that began early in my childhood.  Since my triggering events happened very early in my life, just as I was beginning to form an identity, there is no telling what my personality would have been like without the depression and anxiety.  In many ways, the disorders are as much a part of me as my freckles or fingerprints.


I treat my depression through a combination of medication and therapy; it took many, many, many years to find the right medication and dosage for me and a bit longer still to find a therapist who was the right fit for me as well.  In the past, I use to have bad months, bad years; with my current care plan in place I only have bad days or, at the very most, bad weeks.  While I am sure  that still sounds dire, it’s a tremendous improvement for which I am very grateful.


This talk of improvement, however, isn’t to say that I have magically be cured of my depression or that my anxiety has magically disappeared.  As I said before, my mental health concerns are a part of who I am-- though perhaps the freckles analogy is a bit too flip.  If I am completely honest, depression, in my experience, is a chronic illness that I have to carefully manage. I’ve no Pollyanna-ish hope that I will one day be cured; you can’t wait for some nebulous pipe dream to become a reality and make things better for you.


No, if you have depression, chronic depression-- tempered with a particularly crippling anxiety-- you have to be vigilant and strategic with your care plan: take your medicine regularly, go to your medical appointments, when you’re having a bad day use the strategies you have been taught to mitigate the low.  For me, these self-help strategies include taking a relaxing bath (with soothing salts or bubbles), using a face mask, watching a movie, cuddling my pug, or . . . just playing Angry Birds.


This year, however, I have hit a bit of a rough patch and it seemed that even my tried and true care plan was coming apart at the seams.  I was crippled.  I also know that it was my own fault for not being vigilant with my own care and for not paying any mind to my personal limitations.  I’ll talk about these in my next post, however; this entry is getting a bit long winded . . . so until tomorrow . . .


Adieu.


j.
Sunday, April 7, 2013

What I've Been Watching Lately #1

In my last post, I mentioned my burgeoning love for The Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus.  As much as I love Netflix and its ability to connect a cinephile with their beloved obscure fare (i.e., me with any weird art house film from 1970s Czechoslovakia that catches my fancy), their on-demand selections leave much to be desired.  Unless your tastes are pedestrian, you aren’t going to find many rarities available for streaming on Netflix, you’ll have to put the film in your queue and wait a few days for it to arrive.  Now, that setup is well and good-- I still have a Netflix mail order subscription-- but sometimes you want to watch a movie about the Yakuza at nine pm on a Sunday.  It’s at times like these that my trusty Hulu Plus subscription comes in handy.


Here are some of the weird bibs and bobs I have been watching on Hulu during my downtime:


Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce , 1080 Bruxelles

(1975, Belgium, dir Chantal Akerman)



[caption id="attachment_540" align="aligncenter" width="213"]Image: Criterion Collection Image: Criterion Collection[/caption]


The film follows the titular character through the highly regimented activities of her day-to-day live: cleaning the house, preparing meals for her son and . . . prostituting herself.  Jeanne’s strict routines slowly begin to unwind themselves, leading to a shocking and violent conclusion.

While hardly graphic, the film isn’t for the faint of heart-- it has virtually no dialogue, subverts traditional narrative structure, and is nearly over three hours long (four if you take potty breaks, like me).   If you don’t pride yourself on watching challenging cinema, you won’t stand a chance with this film.  Truth be told, this was my second time trying to watch the film; the first time, I checked out after five minutes, this time I stuck with it!


Rome, Open City

(1945, Italy, dir Roberto Rossellini)



[caption id="attachment_539" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Image: Criterion Collection Image: Criterion Collection[/caption]
I only watched this film two weeks ago and it has already risen among the ranks of my favorite movies.  Rome, Open City is the first film in Rossellini’s War Trilogy, a set of films that can be read as a visual manifesto for Italian Neorealist Cinema.  The film follows the efforts of a group of resistance fighters who bravely stand up to Fascist forces and pay the ultimate price for their ideals.  As with all Neorealist films, Rome, Open City is maudlin, but somehow the film isn’t less gripping for all of its melodrama.


House

(1977, Japan, dir Nobuhiko Obayashi)



[caption id="attachment_538" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Image: Criterion Collection Image: Criterion Collection[/caption]
This film was ridiculous.  Imagine, if you will, if the original Evil Dead and a Sailor Moon cartoon mated and they had a cat name Blanche-- that would be this movie.  It’s worse than you think.  AVOID!


Tokyo Drifter

(1966, Japan, dir Seijun Suzuki)



[caption id="attachment_537" align="aligncenter" width="202"]Image: Criterion Collection/ IMDB Image: Criterion Collection/ IMDB[/caption]
Honestly, I don’t know what has possessed me to watch two Japanese films in a row, but it’s been a trip, let me tell you.  Tokyo Drifter is a yakuza film about a former hoodlum who is trying to go straight before he’s pulled back into the criminal underworld in order to protect his former boss.  The poop hits the proverbial fan from there.  As campy as this film sounds, and it is campy, it’s a pretty good movie for what it is.  If you like your movie’s cheesey and with a catchy jazz soundtrack-- and who doesn’t!-- this little gem is worth a view.


As you can see, I have been watching an eclectic mix of films over the past few weeks.  If you have any Hulu-specific recommendations for me, let me know!


Cheers,


j.
Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Eczema Story: Part II, How I Control My Eczema


In yesterday’s post, I talked about my lifelong struggle with eczema, a painful skin disorder that affects 17% of Americans.  As I mentioned, I’ve had eczema all of my life and it’s a condition I inherited from both of my parents (actually, both of my grandfathers had eczema to about the same degree that I do; my parents have far milder infrequently episodic versions).


When I was little, I had eczema outbreaks most of the time.  Unlike today, when it’s easy to go to Target or Walgreens and get soaks and ointments for ailing skin, there weren’t many OTC treatments to manage my condition.  In the early-to-mid-eighties my mom would have to take me to a formulary pharmacy to get custom-made corticosteroid creams for my painful rashes.  This was an expensive treatment that didn’t always help my chronically red, rashy skin.  To make matters worse, the cream felt horrible and I hated having it slathered on my skin-- it was thicker than sunscreen, smelt putrid, and never felt like it was sinking into my skin.


More recent research has linked long-term use of high-dose topical steroid creams to skin marking and discoloration as well as to worsening acne or rosacea.  Similarly, high-dose steroid cream use can affect a child’s growth.  Thankfully, my perceptive mother began researching and looking for other, more natural ways to manage my eczema, methods that I still utilize.


Again, as I said yesterday, I am speaking for myself and my own experiences.  What has worked for me may not work for someone else.  If you have eczema yourself, you should consult with your medical professional before embarking on a treatment plan.


For years, I have been able to keep my eczema under control (for the most part) through a combination of topical treatments, bath soaks, avoiding things I am allergic to, managing my physical environment, and (wherever possible) selecting all-natural products instead of chemically based ones. Managing my allergies-- which are both dietary and environmental-- is instrumental to keeping my skin calm.  While eczema itself isn’t an allergy, the condition is made worse when I am exposed to things I am allergic to.  Avoiding foods I am allergic to is as simple as reading food labels or giving something that is “iffy” a miss; I know that consuming something I am allergic to-- or multiple things I am allergic to-- will only end in a hive-covered mess, so it’s not hard to restrain myself in such cases.  When my allergies, especially environmental ones, bother me, I take Benadryl (the only allergy tablet that doesn’t give me a nosebleed).  Interestingly, my environmental allergies have been less severe since we adopted THE FOOSA last year.


In addition to managing my allergies, I’ve constructed my skincare regimen around the care of my delicate skin.  Year round I take lukewarm baths and showers; hot water can dry out your skin and exacerbate any skin problems I may be having or have brewing.  When I have the off breakout, or when my skin is feeling particularly dry or tender, I take baths using Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment-- though I often opt for the less expensive house-brands.  Also when I have a breakout, I apply the Aveeno Anti-Itch Concentrated Lotion to the affected areas; the product has calamine lotion in it and is formulated to soothe itchy skin.


To cleanse my body, I use all-natural soaps like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap (my favorites as the Lavender, Peppermint, and Rose) or vegetable glycerine soap. Most of these soaps are so mild they do not cause my skin to act up.


The same methodology applies to my moisturizing routine: I only use all-natural products.  Within a few minutes of exiting the bath, I slather on Burt’s Bees Naturally Nourishing Body Lotion Milk & Honey formula.  In addition to being 99% natural, this lotion is very moisturizing, long-lasting, and light on the skin.  It doesn’t matter how complex my skin may be, there is no way I am going to sit around and wait for a Crisco-thick body butter to sink into my skin!


Lastly, I have been able to maintain a semblance of control over my skin my being mindful of the physical environment.  When it’s super hot outside, I stay indoors.  When it’s super cold, I also stay inside.  I keep my home at 74 degrees F year-round; if it gets any hotter or any colder than that, I run the risk of having my skin react to the conditions.  I realize this makes me sound like an iguana, but preventing my skin from being chapped from the cold or irritated from sweat is vital to maintaining my skin’s balance.


Even though eczema is a common skin condition, maintaining eczema-prone skin is anything but a common affair.  While every sufferer must forge their own path to dermal health, I hope these insights into my own self-care have been helpful.


Cheers,


j.
Saturday, March 23, 2013

My Eczema Story: Part I, My Skin History

When I think about what defines me-- those experiences, ideas, and identities that have shaped the person I have become-- one of the first things that comes to mind is my eczema.  Even though up to 17% of Americans have the condition, very few are honest about what it is like to live with eczema or the trials and tribulations of treating the complex skin disorder.  This weekend, I thought I would address my own eczema history and the methods I use to treat and keep my eczema under control.


Before I begin, I think it is important to note that I am not a dermatologist; my history, observations, and treatments are unique to me.  What has or hasn’t worked for me may or may not work for you.  When in doubt, ask your trusted medical professional.  I’m just some chick on the internet, afterall! ;-)


Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a condition in which the skin becomes inflamed, itchy, red, and dry.  At its most severe, eczema can scale, crack, leak fluid, or even bleed.  It’s believed that eczema might be caused by a defect in the skin’s moisture barrier that allows for the skin to lose moisture while simultaneously allowing bacteria into the skin.  The condition is exacerbated by allergies and stress though neither factor is the cause of eczema. More often than not, eczema sufferers-- myself included-- have inherited the condition from family members.


[caption id="attachment_527" align="aligncenter" width="300"]My forearm with eczema relatively under control; I have a light "rash" [it's not a rash] at all times. My forearm with eczema relatively under control; I have a light "rash" [it's not a rash] at all times.[/caption]
I’ve had eczema as long as I can remember.  Some of my earlier memories are of my mother taking me to pharmacies to get prescription steroid creams formulated for my pink, swollen skin.  As young as I was, I knew there was something drastically wrong with my skin which was always sore and itchy; I still remember the disgusted looks people use to give my mother and me-- as though I were covered in boils, or were contagious.  Since I have fair skin, even the most minor of outbreaks looked painfully raw and obvious.  When I started school, I was frequently made fun of for my eczema-- told that I needed to wash better or told that I had poison oak as other children ran away from me screaming.


As I got older, I learned to cover my “hot spots” (my arms and back,sometimes my chest and legs during bad outbreaks) year-round in long sleeved shirts and jeans.  Boiling in a dark hoodie during a California summer was preferable to having my condition noticed and judged; even the threat of heatstroke was better than having my eczema seen by others.  Even as an adult, I still shy away from exposing any skin in public and rely on hoodies and cardigans to keep my shameful skin secret to myself.



[caption id="attachment_526" align="aligncenter" width="269"]The crook of my elbow during my recent eczema outbreak. The crook of my elbow during my recent eczema outbreak.[/caption]


About a month ago, I suffered from a massive eczema outbreak that covered most of my body-- from my chin to my ankles-- that’s only recently subsided.  During this most-recent flare up, I felt like I was crawling in fire ants and I could literally feel the eyes of everyone around me-- colleagues, my students, people on the street, even the crackheads on the bus-- looking at me and judging me.  The week where I was at my worst, I felt as though my skin were betraying me; after years of hard work to keep my condition in control, it was betraying me and undermining all of my efforts.


In addition to being physically painful, my eczema outbreak was psychologically  painful as well.  I’m not going to lie, eczema knocks your confidence: you feel ugly and conspicuous.  Besides layering on piles of clothing-- a time honored eczema concealment strategy-- there is no way to conceal the condition; you can’t cure eczema, you can only manage it and learn to live with it.


In tomorrow’s post I’ll address how I have treated and come to accept my eczema and my advice to other eczema suffers.


Cheers,


j.
Thursday, March 21, 2013

What I've Been Reading Lately #1: The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

[caption id="attachment_515" align="aligncenter" width="426"]Book Time! Book Time![/caption]
A few weeks ago, Mommy Jim was sent an advanced reader’s edition of novelist Rachel Kushner’s (of Telex from Cuba and 2008 National Book Award Finalist fame) latest work, The Flamethrowers* (released April 2 from Scribner in the US).  The book, she noted, dealt in part with the Brigate Rosse and the New York art scene of the 1970s. Since I studied Art History and English as an undergrad and given my interest in leftist political movements in 1970s Europe-- my mom researches and writes on director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who didn’t see that daughterly interest a brewin’?-- Mommy Jim kindly passed the book along to me.  Needless to say my interest was peaked and I spent the better part of a week hunched over the novel, waiting for the novel to live up to my expectations. Spoiler alert: it never did.


The Flamethrowers follows Reno, a would-be-artist (nicknamed after her hometown) who moves to New York and, through a relationship with an older, wealthy Italian artist becomes a peripheral member of the city’s vibrant art scene.  Though she spends her days among quirky, artistic people, Reno only makes half-hearted attempts at work of her own; rather, she spends the bulk of the novel acting as a sort of mascot for her older, morally corrupted friends.  When Reno does attempt to an art project of her own-- capturing images of a motorcycle ride across the Utah salt flats-- it goes horribly wrong and ends with the young pro-artist falling, literally and figuratively, in with an Italian race team sponsored by her boyfriend’s family’s tire business (are you rolling your eyes yet?).  Reno then becomes a Danica Patrick-like racing pin-up for the company and is invited to Italy for some promotional work with the team.  After some hemming and hawing, Reno and her boyfriend go to Italy where, you guessed it, things once again go terribly wrong . . . and Reno kind of joins the Brigate Rosse, sort of. Or maybe not.



[caption id="attachment_516" align="aligncenter" width="320"]The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (available April 2) The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (available April 2)[/caption]
I really wanted to like The Flamethrowers-- I really did-- but the novel is a profound disappointment.  Reno spends the entire novel on the verge of something-- on the verge of developing her own artistic style, on the verge of racing fame, on the verge of being a member of a radical leftist group-- without ever doing anything. Instead, Reno passively ping-pongs between men who direct the course her life will next take; she is entirely devoid of agency within a socio-historic moment that was about claiming and utilizing one’s agency.  This question of agency-- who has it, who claims it, who uses it-- doesn’t even amount to subtext; instead, Kushner distracts her readers with one winking New York in the 70s reference after another.  “Forget about the act of becoming,” the narration seems to say, “here’s the Blackout of 1977! Here’s a generic Max’s Kansas City-type place!  Pay no attention to the novel’s decided lack of depth!” The novel leads you to believe that something profound will happen to Reno, that within all that she has experienced, all the power she has relinquished to others, she will somehow, in someway come into her own-- she will be able to amalgamate all that she has seen into a profound work of art.  But, by the end of the novel, Reno hasn’t acted on anything . . .


After investing a week and almost four hundred pages worth of bus-reading efforts into The Flamethrowers, I expected more than Kushner delivered.

Cheers,

j.



[caption id="attachment_514" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Radical books that are actually radical and actually worth reading. Radical books that are actually radical and actually worth reading.[/caption]


*This book was provided to the author’s mother in exchange for a review on LibraryThing.com; a modified version of this author’s review appears on LibraryThing.com.  
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thirtieth Birthday Haul

[caption id="attachment_511" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Party animal! Party animal![/caption]
Friday was my thirtieth birthday and, might I also add, one of the best days of my life.  All day long, everything-- from buses, to the demeanor or others, to even the line at Jack in the Box-- seemed to be pleasant and going my way.  It was fantastic!



[caption id="attachment_510" align="aligncenter" width="225"]My beautiful birthday cake! My beautiful birthday cake![/caption]


Since I discussed the emotional experience of my birthday earlier this week, I thought I would share with you the gifts I got on my big day.  Where available I have included links to the items.



From Myself:



[caption id="attachment_498" align="aligncenter" width="195"]Image via Google Image via Google[/caption]


A morning latte!



[caption id="attachment_499" align="aligncenter" width="300"]butterLondon nail polish butterLondon nail polish[/caption]


Two butterLONDON nail polishes in Kerfuffle and Trustafarian (buy here).



[caption id="attachment_500" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Birthday wishes from my students. Birthday wishes from my students.[/caption]


From my Students:



[caption id="attachment_501" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Berfday Cake! :-) Berfday Cake! :-)[/caption]


A cake that we shared among the my fourth period class!



[caption id="attachment_502" align="aligncenter" width="300"]LSP Stamp LSP Stamp[/caption]


A Lumpy Space Princess Stamp and stamp pad (similar)! Y’all know I love Adventure Time!



From a colleague:



[caption id="attachment_503" align="aligncenter" width="289"]Avon polishes! Avon polishes![/caption]


Two Avon Nailwear Pro nail polishes in Blue Escape and Ruby Slipper and a Lancome cosmetics bag (buy here, and here) .



From THE FOOSA:



[caption id="attachment_506" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Image via Sephora Image via Sephora[/caption]
 Sephora and Pantone Universe Mascara in Emerald (buy here).



[caption id="attachment_507" align="aligncenter" width="250"]Image via Sephora Image via Sephora[/caption]
The Urban Decay Theodora pallet (buy here).  I gave the eyeline that came with the pallet to my mom since I don’t wear black eyeliner and she was in need of a good waterproof one.



From my mom:



[caption id="attachment_508" align="aligncenter" width="300"]My new organizer . . . full of products! My new organizer . . . full of products![/caption]


A cosmetics organizer (similar).



[caption id="attachment_497" align="aligncenter" width="300"]TOMS University Navy Rope Sole  Classics TOMS University Navy Rope Sole Classics[/caption]


A pair of TOMS (buy here).



[caption id="attachment_504" align="aligncenter" width="194"]Dressing Table Dressing Table[/caption]


A dressing table set (similar).

Sadly, what you see it's the entirety of my makeup collection.  There is lots more that I still need to organize.  As soon as I have my makeup organization in a place where I am entirely pleased with it, I'll create a post all about it.



[caption id="attachment_505" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Image via Google/ Target Image via Google/ Target[/caption]


A tray for my vanity with a Paris theme that says “je t'aime” (buy here). Both the tray and the dressing table are in keeping with the Francophone style in which my room is being redecorated.



While I certainly made out like a fat rat in a cheese factor, the best part of my birthday was the happiness of the day!  I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect!



[caption id="attachment_509" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Festive Foosa Festive Foosa[/caption]
Cheers,


j.
Monday, March 18, 2013

This is Thirty

Last Friday, March 15, I turned thirty. When you are on the cusp of a landmark birthday, people have an annoying tendency to wonder if you are depressed or are worried that you are getting old.  When you’re a woman, such inquiries are a veiled reminder of the sorry state of your biological clock and your rapidly fading beauty.  For the better part of three years, when asked about my age, I have always replied “almost-thirty.”  It’s easier to align yourself nebulously with the next stage in life than to be constantly reminded by hand-wringing acquaintances of aging’s numerous pitfalls.  So, for years I was happily almost-thirty.  Now, I am thirty.  There isn’t much of a difference.


When I went to bed on March 14, I didn’t feel any different than I did on the morning of March 15.  If anything, I was stoked the morning of March 15 because I was having French Toast AND pancakes for breakfast (hell, yeah birthdays!).  My face didn’t age progress like an FBI photograph, my uterus didn’t dislodge itself from my abdomen and take off for Ibiza, I didn’t magically inherent an Oprah-like Earth Mother wisdom from the Universe.  I just woke up for French Toast and Pancakes.


My birthday itself, and the weekend that followed, was extremely lovely and the best Birthday I have had since I was eight (the last birthday I spent with my grandfather before he past away).  I received lots of lovely gifts from my mom, my pug, my colleagues, and my students as well as many hugs, well-wishes, and even a birthday cake made by one of my students!-- how amazing is that?!  My birthday left me feeling very loved and appreciated.  It was a whole day like the last minute of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special--all love, joy, excitement, and singing!  If that’s what my thirties will be like, why would I ever be anything delighted?


Frankly, I would not want to be twenty again.  At thirty, I have a strong sense of who I am, I have a career, I have two graduate degrees, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve achieved many of my goals in life, and I have even managed to overcome major traumas.  The road to these accomplishments was traveled in my twenties; it was a journey I needed to take, but it’s not a trip I’d like to repeat.  I am a better person because of the experiences (some delightful, many challenging, others heart wrenching) of my youth; however, my gratitude for the lessons of time does not mean that I am keen to part with the wisdom of age.


I’m a different person now than I was at twenty.  I’ll be a different person when I am forty, I am sure.


I’m okay with that.


Cheers,


j.
Friday, February 22, 2013

The Life and Times of a Victorian Gentleman Part 1

Meme_2

I, dear readers, am a Victorian gentleman.

Yes, I know I am female and that I am American. I am also well aware of the fact that being 20 days shy of 30 doesn’t mean that I am elderly . . . unless I were to move to a sketchy country when the life expectancy was 25, in which case I’m the George Burns of my generation. But I digress.

Dear readers, despite outward appearances, in my soul, in my heart of hearts, I am a gouty, cranky, sneeringly sanctimonious, elderly Victorian gentleman. Basically, I am William Gladstone wearing a little too much NARS makeup. Unlike many women who would recoil at such realizations, I fully embrace this quirk of character and I am absolutely certain that I am not the only old soul out there.

In the lead up to my thirtieth birthday next month (March 15, send presents!), I thought I would write a series of posts about my life as a pseudo-Victorian gentleman for your amusement and self-recognition.

Meme_3
Enjoy the first entry of “The Life and Times of a Victorian Gentleman” and feel free to share your own old-beyond-your-years experiences.

Meme_1
What Makes Me an Elderly Victorian Gentleman?


I am prone to ailments that the elderly usually contract.
For some reason that I have yet to grasp, I have the reincarnated immune system of William Gladstone. Whereas most women my age only deal with the occasional flu virus or seasonal cold, I somehow manage to get regularly laid up with something Dickensian like pleurisy or dropsey. Goodness knows I suffer greatly from lumbago!

Meme_4

My health is a trial
I’m a hypochondriac.
If I don’t have a weird disease, then usually I think I have a weird disease. I read WebMD more than is probably healthy.

It’s basically a sickness. A terrible, terrible, sickness.

I eat like an elderly person.
Like many a pensioner, I love my sweets and my super-bland foods. You will never see me in a trendy restaurant eating anything that isn’t cooked to a cinder. I am fussy about my foods and take a decidedly grandpa-esque approach to eating. For instance:

  • During the course of a day, I drink at least half a dozen cups of tea to keep myself awake, warm, and-- in the evenings-- to wind down from the day.

  • My breakfast of choice is shredded wheat that’s been heated in the microwave to get nice and soft.

  • You have peanut brittle? Why didn’t you tell me sooner!

  • I always have a potato product-- be it mashed, french fried, or in chip format-- as a side dish for one of my three squares.

  • If there is something that doesn’t taste better with gravy, it’s probably uneatable.

  • The best fruit, in my humble opinion, are of the canned and soaked in heavy syrup variety (preferably yellow peaches or fruit cocktail with extra, waxey cherries).

I’m never going to be the sort of person that will be impressed by another’s culinary skills. Congratulations, you can make your own spring rolls; now kindly step aside and let me make myself a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese.

I’m perpetually cranky.
Even when I am in a good mood I’m still cranky. Within an American context, I suppose I am a considered a mercurial person, always on the verge of making a cutting remark or glaring at others in disgust. Like an irritable old man with

I shuffle when I walk.
I theoretically am able to pick up my feet when I walk. I just . . . don’t. Like many a pensioner, shuffling their feet, you hear me coming long before you see me. Honestly, I could never be a spy.

I’m easily irritated and are impatient.
It doesn’t take much to cheese me off. Time is of the essence and I don’t like to have my time wasted . . . or have to deal with incompetent people. If I had a cane, I’d shake it in ire at every opportunity.

Meme_5

I read. All the time.
Like my aged brethren, I believe modern world is basically Sodom and Gomorrah. A majority of my television viewing is done whilst clutching [metaphoric] pearls. If it isn’t Jeopardy or PBS, it ain’t happenin’. As you might imagine, I spend a lot of my not-chasing-my-pug free time reading. I’m particularly fond of eighteenth and nineteenth century novels by people who actually WERE Victorian, not just acted Victorian.

In all honesty, though I spend a lot of time reading. I read at home, during my lunch break at work, during my commute, while I am waiting at the bus stop, any time when I am not comatose . . . You get the picture.

I can’t drive.
Ok, I have a driver’s permit. If I was in an emergency, I could operate a motor vehicle and probably not mow down a bunch of people. However, I am easily distracted, near-sighted, impatient, and zone-out easily. Perhaps it’s best that I just keep to the bus.

As you can see, I am basically an old fart. These Victorian qualities, however, are not a source of embarrassment. Rather, I like to think of myself as a charming anachronism, with sensibilities that harken back to a more genteel time.

Let’s be honest, I am a pleasure to know.

j.