Monday, June 27, 2011

Tag, you're it.

Overcome that I’m your temptation, I’m crushed
With just the thought that I made you blush
--Blush, Razed in Black

Many thanks to Bryce Daniels over at The Bryce Daniels Preservation Society for tagging me.  Had no idea what that meant, so double thanks to Lydia Kang for explaining it.  And Bryce, I want my $1.76.  

What's the first thing you do in the morning?
Well, the Super-me jumps out of bed at the crack of dawn, drinks a gallon of organic milk, runs five miles, and then knits stocking caps for homeless shelter pets while making homemade waffles and learning a sixth language.  The Actual-me gets kicked in the face by my four year old, which is a remarkably effective alarm clock.  Then I stumble blind into the bathroom only to fall into the toilet because the lid has been left up by one of the three males that inhabit my home.  For breakfast, I eat peanut butter straight out of the jar and watch House reruns in an attempt to improve my bedside manner.
How old do you feel?
Sometimes, when I realize there are people out there who don’t remember rotary phones and I have t-shirts older than some of my son’s teachers, I get this strange twinge in my temple.  But Ogden Nash said, “You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.”  I say that daily as a mantra.  I also use a great eye cream.
What's your sign and does the description match your personality?
I’m an Aquarius, so cue up the soundtrack to Hair, as well as the Apocalypse if you believe the 2012 Age of Aquarius theory. The descriptions of the personality are spot on--sarcastic, quirky, fickle, rebellious, dramatic.  All euphemisms for just being plain bat-shit crazy.  I love my independence, but I’m intensely loyal once I trust you.  
How do you like your caffeine?
If I could get an IV infusion of it, I’d be in heaven.  My goal every day is to see if I can induce an arrhythmia.
What is your favorite cartoon character?
When I was little, Scooby Doo was the bomb, until that Mary Sue of the canine world, Scrappy, entered the picture.  Then I went the feline route with Garfield, because who doesn’t love a fat, sarcastic cat?  I also had a thing for Thundarr the Barbarian; I think that’s where my romance novel fetish started and I gained appreciation for a man in a loincloth.  Now I lean towards the nerdy type, like Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory.  Love a science geek in horn rimmed glasses. 

So now I guess I get to pass the tagging torch.  I send the love to Jennifer Armentrout, because she has a beautiful new blog design and the girl knows a thing or two about tagging--Daimon style.  I also send the love to Melinda Williams because she's also a newbie and her post about knowing you're a writer made me giggle. 

Top Ten Things NOT to say at a Child's Party

I, I wanna ride my skate.  I wanna stay out late.  I want a mohawk but mom won’t let me get one
--I Wanna Get a Mohawk, AFI
My children provide an endless source of humor for me, not to mention bring me back to the realm of what truly is important day to day.  But I haven’t quite mastered the art of networking at toddler birthday parties.  Too much pressure, especially when some parents these days are bigger bullies than the kids.

Top Ten Things NOT to say while at a child’s birthday party if you want the other parents to talk to you:

10.  You’re still breast feeding?  I’m surprised your kid isn’t burping silicone by now.
9.  Your son bears an uncanny resemblance to my husband.    *growls* 
8.  I think kids should be exposed to literature early, that’s why I read to them at every bedtime.  Tonight we’re starting Go the F**k to Sleep
7.  Your daughter’s in dance class?  I have a pole at home she’s welcome to use.
6.  What do you mean you can’t accommodate my request for vegan gluten-free cupcakes with organic Agave syrup icing?  Are you trying to kill me with preservatives?
5.  Your kid looks just like that banjo player from Deliverance.
4.  I was just in the bathroom, and I’ve never seen so much Valium in a medicine cabinet.
3.  You are so going in my next novel.  I need a vapid former sorority bowhead for the killer zombie scene.  Can you look scared for me?
2.  I’m going to home school my children.  Because I think kids nowadays don’t learn enough about vampires in school.  I have an entire curriculum based on Twilight alone.
1.  Who wants to do tequila body shots?! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Look, Ma, I'm naked! And on Twitter!

You walk in clouds of glitter and the sun reflects your eyes.  And every time the wind blows I can smell you in the sky.
--Supernova, Liz Phair
I have friends who are exhibitionists.  They think nothing of wearing a barely sub-muff miniskirt and midriff top to the local Piggly Wiggly to pick up Twin Bings and tampons.  They’ll shoot the elderly cashier a wink as the mother in the lane behind them covers her children’s eyes in disgust.
I admire their confidence; I envy that ability to be comfortable in your own skin.  To expose yourself without guilt.  Even if it pushes the boundaries of tacky.
Not everyone is so willing to expose themselves.  A good chunk of the success of the internet is that it offers a way for the painfully shy and socially awkward to become outrageous with just a few keystrokes.  To create a persona that can be subdued and introspective on some days, the life of the party on others.  We feel safe hidden behind an avatar or a clever screen name--just another fish in the deep sea of HTML.
Therefore, I was horrifyingly intrigued when I read about the latest scandal involving social media and the--ahem--overexposure of a certain representative with a strangely accurate name.  I wanted to understand the motivation to risk destroying your life (and the lives of your family) in the name of trivial exhibitionism. 
What makes someone want to be public with their privates?  And can anything be extrapolated from Mr. Weiner’s predicament?
First lesson is that flirtation apparently has changed in the 21st century, and not necessarily for the better.  Call me old fashioned, but when I played the wooing game it involved a lot more creative banter, as well as flowers and chocolates.  Occasionally a nice haiku.
Lest I sound prudish, I don’t have anything against purely lustful connection.  Years of working in health care have made me unshockable when it comes to what people do behind closed doors.  Whatever floats your boat is what I say--just be responsible and don’t hurt anyone.  Oh, and please don’t put my name on a kink website as a physician who’s understanding about the lifestyle, even if you do mean it as a compliment.  Very awkward to explain to mom why when she Googles you, there’s a link to a BDSM forum.  She hasn’t looked at me the same since.   
Sorry, went tangential there.  Back to Weinergate.
Although previous gentleman callers have given me a variety of things in the name of love, including a vegetable steamer and an Oak Ridge Boys tshirt, I can’t say I ever received a penis pic.  In fact, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?  At least the steamer was functional.  Other than creating erotic origami or curiously aerodynamic paper airplanes, it’s a gift pretty much guaranteed to end up in the trash.  I think in every circumstance, if you want to open a dialog with someone, try talking with your other head first.  Don’t just be a dick--and that applies to both sexes.
Second lesson is that nudity isn't the issue, how it's presented is.  Nudity can be artistic and emotionally provoking.  When shared between consenting adults, it can be incredibly erotic.  But when it’s uninvited--and potentially malicious?  That’s called porn spam and it’s disrespectful.  If you think you may need to apologize about it later, maybe think twice before hitting send.

Then again, perhaps if said pic was photoshopped into a background of daisies or shot through a sepia filter, I would have had a different reaction.  But at the end of the day, I’ve seen it before and once the shock is over, it’s just a body part and the whole sentiment is sort of crude.  I miss the creativity of being Rickrolled.  
If John Hughes had made a movie about this, he would have explored the deeper meaning behind the phenomenon.  A cast of saucy young actors would bond by discovering the inner piece of personality revealed by exposing yourself to strangers. 
And that’s when the third lesson dawned on me.  Am I any different from the person who actually exposes themselves in social media, other than in potential for litigation?  

Is exposing yourself the same, whether it’s literally or figuratively? 
Basically, writing may be my version of the penis twitpic.  A “here it is, please admire, and hopefully this won’t bite me in the ass although it very well may” shout out to the world.  
It’s all about the exposure--the willing vulnerability of putting your naked work out there and waiting for the reaction.  There’s parts of me in everything I write; at times it feels as if my creations are appendages.  Writing is my catharsis, the way I work through life.  And sometimes the thought of putting a part of you out there to face the world is an exciting, yet scary, proposition.  Because people can be outrageously supportive . . . or they can tell you that you need a boob job and a trip to the gym.
Exposing yourself takes guts.  It takes the willingness to show your vulnerabilities and work to improve them.  It ultimately makes you stronger, teaches you to stand up for what you believe in, but hopefully you won’t end up on CNBC in the process. 
I’m not condoning using social media to harass people with your junk, so to speak.  There's really no defense or deeper meaning to be found in hurting another human by your actions.  My lengthy point is to take the chance to put yourself out there, but do it in a way that isn’t unkind or malicious.  And to remember that sometimes those who expose the most are the ones who are the least sure of themselves.
What have you learned about yourself through exposure?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cramping my style

You took delight in taking down all my shielded pride, until exposed became my darker side
--Dark Entries, Bauhaus

There are women out there, the ones who are deemed by grocery store tabloids to have style.  Their makeup is a homage to the feminine ideal and their hair always falls into a sculpted creation that would make Vidal Sassoon weep tears of Aqua Net.
I am not one of those women.
Other than a brief flirtation with explosion bangs and a heinous spiral perm in my high school years, I’ve never truly had a look, let alone “the look”.  The only consistent part of my appearance has been my crayon yellow hair and green eyes.  Everything else has fluctuated through trends and levels of self-esteem.
It’s been a life-long effort finding my style, or perhaps my lack thereof.  I went through the prerequisite I’m-wearing-all-black-because-I’m-a-tortured-soul-that-listens-to-and-really-understands-The-Smiths stage in my adolescent years, but never quite left it.  Black is slimming, after all.  The nineties left me with bad habits as well. Despite nearing forty, I still like sparkly things and buy some beauty concoction that contains glitter at least once every six months, which is probably pathologic.  
My husband rolls his eyes when I paint sections of my hair pink or wear sequins on a random Wednesday.  I’m a fan of leather and have to be careful in the local Harley store to avoid excessive fondling of the jackets.  I like skulls.  And snakes.  Lacy stuff.  Black boots.  Costume jewelry I pick up at garage sales.  And tattoos.  There’s nothing like a beautiful tattoo.
Most days I resemble the love child of Stevie Nicks and Steven Tyler when I leave the house.  I turn on my inner soundtrack, and it’s usually playing GypsyBarracuda during certain portions of the month. 
But does my outward appearance truly represent my style?
The slickly packaged flesh presented by the media isn’t true style at all.  Style in the real sense of the word has nothing to do with trends, fashion or otherwise. There are no rules to style, no right or wrong, good or bad, which may be why jeggings are so popular.
Only since I started writing did I begin to understand that style comes from within.  Writing is all about style.  It’s how you choose to address your audience, what you want them to feel from your words.  With strategically placed punctuation or a hanging participle your point can completely change.  You can provide salvation--or destruction.  So can a mullet, I guess, depending on what state you’re in.
True style requires more than just the latest issue of Cosmo and a credit card.  It’s an expression of yourself--a personal brand created not from the perception of others about you, but from the perceptions that you have about yourself.
Probably the most important part of style is that you can’t have it until you’ve figured out what you’re trying to say.  Otherwise, it just comes across as a great big mess.  Like legwarmers and fluorescent jumpsuits.
Katherine Anne Porter may have said it best:  "You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being."

What defines your style?  Is there something that people associate with you or your writing?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Top Ten Things guaranteed to get your doctor's attention

Well I'm standing in the queue, and I can't stand anymore missing you.  And I, I can't stand the pain, and I can't get home 'cause of a hurricane.
--Dead Set on Destruction, Husker Du

Anyone who is in the customer service field knows that there are days when people just say the darndest things.  So this list is a celebration of just a few of the crazy things that I have heard over the years. Most of these came from my time in Houston--oh, those crazy Texans!

Top Ten Things guaranteed to get your doctor’s attention if you say them during the initial interview.  (Disclaimer--not recommended to try these on your own doctor)

10.  “My boyfriend likes to do strange things.  And you know, people aren’t 98.6 degrees everywhere.”  (There is a great xray that goes with this one involving a urinary bladder and a thermometer)

9.  “I am one of the founding members of Mensa, and I prefer to see a doctor with a higher than normal IQ.  I have a short quiz on my medical problems I’d like you to complete before we go any further.”  (Of note, Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister, and Dr. Lancelot Ware, a British scientist/lawyer founded Mensa in England, in 1946 according to Wikipedia.  The above quote came from a forty-two year old Nebraskan.  Just sayin’)

8.   “I was trying to rescue my girlfriend from a meth house when a cat bit me. That’s probably why my tox screen is positive.” (Dude, I’m a doctor, not the DEA.  Just be honest, I’m not judging.)

7.   “I know a guy in a Vegas who owns a brothel if you ever need a new career.”  (Sad  to say there are times I wished I remembered this dude’s name.)

6.    “I was running naked down Dodge Street because the Nephilim were chasing me.” (I’d run too.  Nephilim scare the crap out of me.  But you get more traction if you at least wear tennis shoes.)

5.  “I’m allergic to water.  It makes me bloat.”  (Confirms my theory that 2/3rds of the human body is actually made up of stupid.)

4.    “The government told me to put that spork in my urethra.”  (Colonel Sanders apparently is notorious for giving subliminal messages.) 

3.    “Is belly button lint edible?”  (Only when it's fried.  Everything is edible fried.)

2.    “I had no idea there was a sweet potato in my vagina.  Is that normal?”  (This woman was wearing a habit at the time.  Pretty sure she wasn’t a nun.)

1.    “I was fixing my neighbor’s air conditioner, naked, when I accidentally sat on a crescent wrench.  I used the screwdriver to try to reach it.”  (Sort of doubt he got any more handyman gigs after this one.)

Have a fantastic Saturday!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Are you really what you read?

I cut, and I bleed.  You seem to find that so hard to believe.  Well, that’s just too, too bad.  You could never touch the love that we had.
--The Hoodoo Gurus, Bittersweet
So I told a coworker the other day that I love to read romance novels.  Immediately I felt the shift in our conversation; I could almost see the exact instant when he stopped taking me seriously and filed me under under the label of desperate housewife.  I was amazed he didn’t reach out, pat me on the head, and send me to go get him a coffee.  One lump, not two.  
Such is the life of the much maligned romance addict.  Even my husband gives me grief, equating romantic fiction to the female equivalent of Penthouse forum.
He’s wrong, of course.  Actually, he’s wrong about a lot more than the dual meanings of heaving bosoms, but that’s a different blog for when I’m feeling in touch with my inner marriage counselor.
But it makes me wonder, why is romantic fiction often considered, for lack of a better word, fluff?  Should I feel compelled to hide that steamy Highlander cover to prevent people from assuming I’m shallow or just partial to plaid?   
The recent Wall Street Journal article about another genre I love--YA--and how it is apparently rotting the hearts and minds of people all over this fine world made me consider this question:
Do we really become what we read?
I have spent a good portion of my life reading medically oriented texts and journals.  They’re filled with dull and often horrible descriptions of diseases you don’t want, and written by physicians who many times lose sight that they are even talking about a person at all.  Their characters become just an interesting case; a bizarre little blip in the existence of the human animal to marvel about.
So, if I believe the WSJ piece, I could claim that academia has the potential to steal a piece of my soul.  It’s certainly made me callous and cynical at times.  Killed my compassion at others.  Should we call for a moratorium on the New England Journal?  Light the bonfires for Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine?  
To put this in another perspective, go pick up a newspaper.  There’s no end to the atrocities that happen, and they’re all hard fact.  Human reality is often horrible and bleak. We are a frail creature, susceptible to physical and mental illness, accidents, addictions.  And to make matters worse, our own species can cannibalize itself, doing unspeakable things to harm and exploit each other.  
Yet fiction, romantic or otherwise, becomes the bastard of the blame game, the vehicle that is warping our society into mindless pieces of id.

Yeah, I don’t think so.
To me, fiction offers solace from the very real problems around us.  Here the author can provide the inner monologue to explain what motivates a character.  In fiction world, the reader can understand another human in a way that seldom is presented in our “real” relationships.  For once, we get to see the entire story.  To make our own decision to sympathize, or condemn.
I am in awe of romantic fiction for the simple reason that it lets me believe for every heroine, there is a hero.  That even the misfit has a soul mate, and people can excel beyond what they thought possible.  That salvation can exist in a world that is often overrun with villains.  
When well done, romance can make your heart break, and your toes curl.  And even when it’s cliched and cringe worthy, it’s an escape into a world where we can see what is possible with hope and love.  It provides the chance to see the emotional connection that too often is ignored in the barrage of facts around us.
In short, fiction doesn’t create reality, it helps us to deal with it.
So if I am what I read, let me be a romance novel.  I want to be full of the highs and lows of human emotion.  To identify with someone else without having to risk anything but the possibility that I could be taught to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the human animal.
I want to be healed with a soft touch, a smoldering look, a searing kiss.
I want my HEA.
If you could be any fiction genre, what would it be and why?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Top Ten Things I have learned as a mother

She's got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin, and she's sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan
--Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Perfect Skin

In an effort to pay homage to David Letterman, who remains one of my favorite late night show hosts (despite his penchant for interns), I dedicate this inaugural Friday top ten list.
Top Ten Things I have learned as a Mother:
10.  Spilled chocolate milk, undiscovered for several weeks behind the couch, dries into a substance that rivals titanium.

9.  It takes four bath times to remove Sharpie marker tattoos from a four year old’s belly.

8.  Left to their own devices, little boys will happily eat a five pound bag of gummy worms that you thought was well hidden in the cabinet.  For breakfast.

7.  Character underwear must always be worn backwards so that SpongeBob can see where he’s going.  Explaining this to preschool teachers prevents phone calls regarding possible learning deficits in your child.

6.  The words toot, poop, and wee-wee are the most hilarious in a preschooler’s lexicon and need to be uttered at least thirty times a day.  Each.

5.  The amount of time spent preparing for family fun time is inversely proportional to a five year old’s attention span.

4.  When your son says it’s raining in the basement, do not encourage his imagination.  Immediately check the upstairs bathtub.

3.  Little boys have a knack for picking out the most annoying songs on your Ipod as their favorites.  And explaining what the song “Fat Bottomed Girls” means to a five year old is very awkward.
2.  If you eat paint, you will become an alien
2a.  Always buy non-toxic paint
1.  After a nature walk, always check the bed for pinecones--unless you want a painful and uninvited sexual experience at two in the morning.

Have an excellent Friday!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Of fear and Phoebe Cates


Let’s go, let’s sit, let’s talk politics go so good with beer.
And while we’re at it baby, why don’t you tell me one of your biggest fears?
--The Pixies, I’ve Been Tired

I’m afraid of water. 
Not like bathtub water, I have no problem maintaining my own personal hygiene.  It’s the larger bodies of water--pools, lakes, oceans.  This obviously is some sort of celestial joke, after all, I’m an Aquarius--the water bearer, right?  Unfortunately, my phobia transcends all things astrological.
I like to blame my mother, who enrolled me at the tender age of five in Minnows, an innocuously named toddler swimming class.  For two hours every morning in the balmy fifty degree air of a Nebraska spring, I tried not to drown while my lips turned a fitting corpse blue.  
The lifeguards were Amazonian blondes with blinding Chiclet white teeth who spent most of their time putting on Carmex and perfecting their lifeguard stare--the one that could stop a child running in flip-flops from fifty feet away.  From day one, I could see the cold hard fact in their mirrored aviators.  I would never master the dead man’s float, let alone pass Minnows.  I quit swimming lessons because I was afraid.  
Since Nebraska is a land locked state, I reconciled that there was no need to learn to swim.  Most of the lakes here promise more poison ivy than beaches, anyway.  And I saw that horror movie--the one where the psycho killer handcuffs some vapid sorority girl’s leg to the drain in the swimming pool and she drowns?  Not learning to swim became an exercise in self preservation.  An intelligent decision.
This is the function of fear.  To reassure you that if you venture, you will NOT gain.  Fear tells you to stay on the safe road, and all will be well.  Fear makes you believe that the only acceptable outcome is the perfect one, and if that cannot be achieved?
Don’t risk it.
It’s like that scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, when Phoebe Cates does a dive in her red bikini and comes up from the water a perfect beauty.  No hair sticking to her cheeks, no mascara raccoon eyes, no iridescent snotcicle hanging off a nostril.  That damn red bikini didn’t even move anywhere near wedgie stage. 
Why do we convince ourselves that the only acceptable way to make a splash is with the grace and magic of good lighting and a Hollywood makeup crew?
Perhaps if Phoebe would have done a cannonball, I could have realized sooner that real life is measured by the splashes you make, the ungraceful belly flops of failure that truly make you smarter.  And better.  
True, there’s always the possibility that you might just drown, or at least get a literal or figurative water enema.  But occasionally, the stars shine down just right and you pull off  a righteous 2 and a half somersault with three twists in pike position.  Or in my case, you can at least now dead float until somebody pulls your ass out of the water.
Fear does nothing but prevent you from experiencing life. 
This is my first blog, so I dedicate it to conquering fear and taking a plunge into the world.  

And while we're at it, baby,  why don’t you tell me one of your biggest fears?