Tagged with " Reverb Broads 2011"
Dec 6, 2011 - Psychology    3 Comments

No way, nuh-uh, not ever, never: Reverb Broads 2011 #6

Reverb Broads 2011, December 6: List 10 things you would never do (courtesy of Katrina at http://katrinatripled.blogspot.com)

So, I’m a Unitarian Universalist, and we’re not that good at absolutes. My first reaction was to go all moral relativist on this one — I can’t say I wouldn’t kill or steal, because there are circumstances in which I’d absolutely do those things to protect or provide for my loved ones, or even just a person in need.

Then I decided I needed to relax.

But I won’t ever say I won’t try something new, especially food, because if someone serves me something, and I try it and like it, then find out it was something like monkey, I wouldn’t spit it out and throw up — I’d say, “Huh. Who knew I liked monkey?” and I’d finish it, especially if hospitality was on the line.

So this list is far from perfect, and it’s all asterisked and footnoted and however else I can indicate that you just never know.

That being said…

1) I will never live south of the Mason-Dixon line. I love my seasons, I get sick from the heat, and my natural skin color is that of a freshly drowned corpse. I like to get things done at a reasonably brisk pace, and I prefer my politics liberal and secular. I may visit cities I adore, like Charlotte, Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans, but I cannot be convinced to live Down South.

2) I will never try to like the foods I know I hate. This isn’t the same as the food thing I already mentioned. I already know I hate bananas, pretzels, cranberries, blue cheese, Vegemite, and anything with aspartame in it. Some of them are sensory issues; some are just the way I taste them. I’m pretty sure there are genetic markers for some tastes, and I just don’t have a few of them, no matter how adventurous my palate in other areas. I’ve tried these things repeatedly, and every time, I just facepalm and yell, “Blech! I really do HATE this!” No more.

3) I will never live apart from my husband again. We did the whole long-distance thing when we first met for long enough that it stopped being cute and romantic, and was just tiring, lonely, expensive, and annoying. Sure, the tech for staying in touch is vastly better than it was in 1996, but I’ll take a warm body over care packages any day.

4) I will never hold a snake. Spiders=fine. Frogs=so cool. Lizards=love ’em. And I know snakes aren’t slimy, but I just don’t care. If you hand it to me, I will drop it on the floor.

5) I will never blindly follow the voice of authority. Call me Mary Quite Contrary. I was raised to question the status quo, and my protesting boots fit me way too well to ever take them off. I don’t fight things just to fight them, but I refuse to accept the idea that the world can’t be changed for the better.

6) I will never run for fun. In point of fact, I will only run if something pointy or heavy is speeding toward a child, or I am being chased by a large man named Bubba.

7) I will never go back to Christianity. Before I abandoned it, I read extensively, and since then, I studied Christian theology and Church history sufficiently that two universities have hired me to teach it as a subject. I know the faith means so much to so many good people, and it’s been a force for good in the world in many ways. I also know it’s just not what rings the Bell of Truth deep in my soul.

8 ) I will never stop messing with my hair. I’ve learned some valuable lessons on this score (no more perms; if I want curls, there will have to be heated implements involved), but I believe my hair exists to amuse me, and it just happens to amuse me more when it’s colors not normally found on mammals in nature.

9) I will never be a good sleeper. I’ve been an insomniac since I was a kid, and the analyst at the sleep center told me I had some of the worst sleep architecture he’d ever seen. I’ve made myself (mostly) at peace with this, even though a bad stretch has disastrous effects on both my pain and my mood. I even like the dark, quiet hours sometimes.

10) I will never get through my Reading List. Never, ever, never gonna happen. For every one book I knock down, three more go on the Pile o’ Shame. It’s not that I’m being guilted into reading anything — it’s just that there are thousands of people writing wonderful, necessary things. And there’s only one of me to read them.

Dec 6, 2011 - AV Club    5 Comments

Satellite of Love: Reverb Broads 2011 #5

Reverb Broads 2011, December 5:
What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you were going to do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do? (courtesy of Amy Krajek at http://2bperfectlyfrank.blogspot.com)

I’ve done lots of things this year that I’ve always wanted, and I’ve done lots of things that, in my heart of hearts, I never thought I would do, but in only one case that I can think of right now were they they same thing.

The Darling Husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary this year. To be more specific, we celebrated it three times. This wasn’t something we really planned, but since the day itself was a Wednesday full of work and family stuff, we did special things before and after October 5. I’ve already blogged about the Frank Turner concert we went to — it wasn’t really intended as an anniversary thing, but it was so wonderful to share that with my favorite person that it turned into something that shone a light on how much we have in common, and how awesome that is. And I gave us tickets to see John Hodgman at the Fitzgerald Theater, but that wasn’t until November.

But the closest outing to the actual date ended up being a Cinematic Titanic performance. My great and good friend Mary (who’s also doing Reverb Broads #11 at Ghost of a Rose) was raving about the show she’d gone to with her husband, and when I wished we could go, she pointed me at a link for tickets to shows in Minneapolis three days later.

But what is Cinematic Titanic, you ask?

One night, when I was in high school, I came home at curfew like the good little girl I was, but I wasn’t tired yet. So I flipped on the TV in the living room, and proceeded to watch something that changed my life.

In the ’90s, some Minnesota guys filmed themselves and some puppets as they made snarky comments about old B-movies. Because so many of the films were bad sci-fi, it was called Mystery Science Theater 3000. At first, it was only on public access, but the series got picked up by the Comedy Channel, where it ran for several years before making a brief, final shift to Sci Fi. There were personnel changes over the years, but the format and quality of the comedy remained high. It’s quirky, heavy on the cultural references and bizarre improv jokes, and based on some of the weirdest, worst films in human history — perfect geek humor.

I loved MST3K instantly, and not just because I fell in love with Gamera, the kaiju atomic flying turtle monster in that first episode I saw. And when Cam came to the States to marry me in 1996, there was a very short list of things I felt he really needed to see to understand what life in America was going to be like. One of them was Saturday Night Live; the other was Mystery Science Theater 3000. We watched episodes together and with friends, and so many inside jokes and taglines from those hilarious two-hour stretches still live on in our conversation today.

The geniuses behind MST3K are still making bad movies better for all of us, in a variety of ways. One of those projects is RiffTrax, headed up by longtime writer and second host Michael J. Nelson, along with Kevin Murphy (2nd Servo) and Bill Corbett (2nd Crow). And the other is Cinematic Titanic, featuring Trace Beaulieu (Dr. Forrester and 1st Crow), “TV’s Frank” Conniff, J. Elvis Weinstein (Dr. Laurence Erhardt and 1st Servo), and other assorted players.

On the night we went, they were joined by the original host, Joel Hodgson (Joel Robinson) and Mary Jo Pehl (Magic Voice and Pearl Forrester). The movie was a Japanese atrocity called (very fittingly) Genocide (called War of the Insects in the West, and on the upcoming CT DVD), which hands-down takes the prize for the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It both begins and ends with a mushroom cloud. That really says it all right there. But we laughed so hard our ribs and faces ached for hours, and afterwards we got to meet the whole cast and get autographs. They were bemused and (I hope) pleased when I told them how I’d used their show to establish the baseline for what’s been a very happy 15 years of marriage.

It’s an exceedingly odd thing, meeting celebrities; it’s even odder meeting celebrities you know only by voice. Sitting on the rug in our living room, with the doors of my mind blown clean off their hinges, I never dreamed I would shake hands with any of the folks on the Satellite of Love. But this year, I did. 



Dec 4, 2011 - AV Club, Psychology    10 Comments

It’s Time to Play the Music: Reverb Broads 2011 #4

Reverb Broads 2011, December 4: In the movie version of your life, which actor/actress would play you and the significant players in your life? What kind of movie is it (e.g., made-for-TV, action, emo/indie, etc.)? What would be the major plot points, and how will it end? (courtesy of Emily at http://warmedtheworld.blogspot.com)

As the song from the fantastic new Muppet movie might ask, “Am I a woman or a Muppet?”

Well, if I’m a woman, I’m a very Muppety woman.

To be fair, there isn’t any one Muppet whom I feel embodies me, but the great thing about Muppets is that they come out of a workshop. So let’s imagine one with Abby Cadabby’s hair and spell casting, Gonzo’s enthusiasm for the weird, Sam the Eagle’s pedantry, Muppet News Guy’s doomed truthtelling, and Kermit’s good intentions and frayed control over the unpredictable proceedings around him. I’ve even got my own slightly Muppety theme song now, thanks to Zooey Deschanel’s intro to New Girl.

Naturally, I’m married to Lew Zealand (fortunately, with fewer thrown fish). And I think my sons are Scooter and Animal, though like any brothers, there are definite shades of Bert and Ernie too.

My life tends to veer wildly between the clever and the wacky, the heartwarming and the hair-raising, the magical and the absurd, so that works too. I mean, come on: receiving a marriage proposal in flannel pajamas, when there’s a perfectly wonderful New Year’s celebration happening at an honest-to-gods Scottish castle, less than five miles away, is a very Muppety combination of the silly, the star-crossed, and the sentimental.

It’s not all a perfect fit, of course: I don’t think anyone really wants to see Muppet montages of me vomiting for seven and a half months straight during my pregnancies. There isn’t a song in the world that would make that watchable. But I’ve certainly earned the right to use “Movin’ Right Along” for the endless road trips in my childhood, or “Why Wouldn’t We Ride?” for all the travelling I did during my year in France.

I know you just think I’m still in the dizzy grip of ecstasy at the new Muppet movie, or I’ve spent too long in the company of kids to come up with a grown-up answer to this prompt. But like Jason Segel and Walter, I never stopped being a Muppet fan; I loved them with a passion even when the rest of the world had passed them by. That Kermit watch on Walter’s wrist? I wore that watch all through college, until it fell out of my school bag and got run over by a car. I still have the scraped, broken face in my desk. I got the Time-Life collection of The Muppet Show episodes for Christmas about a decade ago, before I was even a mom, and I used sketches to illustrate lessons in my university courses (much to the bemusement of my late ’80s-baby students). There’s a shirt on The Onion website that I’m pretty sure was targeted directly for me.

And sure, I have the same profile as Carrie Fisher (no, really, I totally do), and I have mannerisms that show up regularly in Drew Barrymore and Sandra Bullock movies, much to my husband’s amusement. And sure, I wish my life inspired something sweeping like a majestic fantasy epic, or a witty drawing-room comedy, or a sweet Nora Ephron romance. Hell, I’d settle for being the quirky feature in a one-off episode of Doctor Who quite happily.

But who am I kidding? I’d end up being the Ood who goes all red-eye at something my kids do.

No, just cover me in felt and stick a hand up my butt — I’ll be a Muppet ’til the day that I die. I just hope I end up looking more like Hilda than Waldorf.

Realistic expectations

Dec 3, 2011 - Psychology, Uncategorized    1 Comment

Straight On ‘Til Morning: Reverb Broads 2011 #3

Art by Roy Best

Reverb Broads 2011, December 3:

How did you become more of a grown-up this year? Or did you pull a Peter Pan and stubbornly remain childlike? (courtesy of Bethany at http://bethanyactually.com/)

I did two pretty adult things this year, though no one who knows me would ever respond in a lightning round with the word “grown-up.” The first may not seem like much to all you gorgeous fellow wage slaves out there, but I’ve actually held down a real, non-academic job for the last 12 months.

I’ve been doing that since I was 15, you scoff? No big deal, you say?

Perhaps it is no big deal. Perhaps you think I’m a spoiled ivory tower wimp who’s never done an honest day’s work in her life. I think you’d be less likely to say that if you’d ever graded 75 blue book essay exams in 36 hours, or written a 2.5 hour multimedia-enhanced lecture in an afternoon, while bouncing a baby basket with your foot.

Academia, with a side of substitute teaching in two school districts, has been all I could manage in the years of fibromyalgia plus non-school-age children minus child care subsidies. I’m not complaining — teaching has allowed me to be there more for my boys (all three of them) than I ever dreamed I’d be able to. And, simply put, teaching is my vocation, in the old, spiritual-calling sense of the word.

But I really, deeply, truly adore the job I have at Atlas Games these days, and both my responsibilities and my hours have expanded since I started last November. I started out just handling customer service requests from the website, and managing the packing and shipping of orders to our distributors. I still have these duties, and I enjoy them, but I’ve been entrusted with the first pass of edits on our RPGs, and I’ve done art direction for the last two books, both of which really make the most of that part of my skill set.

All this is made both possible by my fabulous bosses, John and Michelle Nephew. I respect the hell out of both of them for their many talents, but more than that, they’re good people and good friends. They let me keep flexible hours, so I can be Connor and Griffin’s Mom (my other job title) and do fun things like chaperoning field trips, and so I can take it easier on the days when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weakweakweak. I’m bemused to find myself in the same industry as my Darling Husband, but I couldn’t be happier in a non-teaching job than I am right now.

The second grown-up thing I’ve done this year is starting to take care of myself. I’m still not any good at putting myself first, but all the fabulous coaching from the excellent folks at Fairview Pain Management Center has taught me many reasons and many ways to look after myself better than I have in the past. So now, when I recognize that I’m on sensory overload, I don’t hesitate to just step out for a few minutes. I take mini-breaks, even if only for five mindful breaths, throughout the day, which helps me better evaluate the messages my body is sending. I’ve adjusted the way I do my jobs as worker, wife, and mother to incorporate body mechanics that keep me able to work longer and smarter. And at the end of this year, I’m managing my pain with 25-50% less medication, the least I’ve been on in almost nine years.

So that’s how I’ve matured this year. Everything else? Peter Pan all the way, baby.

Dec 2, 2011 - Psychology    4 Comments

Irish Stubbornness and Sunscreen: Reverb Broads 2011 #2

That's me with the pink hair, blue sundress, and wide ass, back to the camera as I watch a hurley game.

Almost every stupid thing I’ve ever done in my life can be traced back to my stubbornness. I come by it honestly, even genetically — I’m five-eighths Irish, one-quarter German, and one-eighth mule, I think. And this year’s colossally stupid act was no different.

Every year here in Saint Paul, they hold Irish Fair on Harriet Island, which sits in the Mississippi River adjacent to the downtown. It’s around the second or third weekend of August typically, and it’s totally free (well, the entertainment’s free, but they get you coming and going on the food and drink). Of course, there’s music and dancing, but there’s also hurling, wolfhounds, arts and crafts, and lectures on a wide variety of subjects. It’s no Milwaukee Irish Fest, but it’s really quite nice.

We didn’t go in 2010, our first summer here. As a matter of fact, I watched little color pieces about it on the local news from the fifth floor of St. Joseph’s Hospital, which sits within spitting distance of Harriet Island. I was in the hospital because, the previous Thursday, I had emerged from our apartment bedroom and informed my Darling Husband that I had thought of nothing all day but how to kill myself. This certainly wasn’t the first time that summer I’d contemplated means and method, but it was the first day I couldn’t remember thinking anything other than suicide.

This scared the tiny part of my brain that wasn’t yet consumed by the howling storm of depression. The onslaught had begun shortly after we moved to the Cities, and the doctor I’d found before we arrived turned out to have a “policy” about not writing any prescriptions without seeing medical records. The stupidest thing I had done that year, and perhaps in my life, was not come with hard copy in hand, but there was no way I could’ve anticipated the three weeks it took for my doctor’s office just one state away to furnish them. In the meantime, I tapered the doses of my fibromyalgia maintenance medication, my narcotic pain reliever, and my anti-depressant as much as I could, but there came a day when I was off, and I had to stay off for a long time. I finally went to the ER at the end of July, but by that time, the tailspin was irrevocable, compounded by the pain and insomnia that cascaded out of the cover of management, and the loneliness and isolation of being in a completely new, unfamiliar city with no job and few friends, in a brutally hot summer. If there’s a definition of “working without a net,” I’m pretty sure this fits.

So this year, when Irish Fair came around, I was determined to be there, if only to defiantly demonstrate that I wasn’t where I had been a year ago. My dear friend Alan was in town, and he was keen to see the fantastic band The High Kings, scheduled at noon; I had my eye on Altan at 5. It was a glorious day, sunny and warm in a way completely at odds with the celebration of all things Irish, but perfect for an outdoor festival.

The problems began on the car ride there, as my boys announced that they were already tired of this outing. Before we even got there. Clearly, this didn’t bode well. They remained whiny, but more or less compliant for the first hour. The seating for the main stage was smack in the middle of the field, not a gasp of shade for 200 yards, but I was so distracted by my efforts to keep calm and not focus on the kids or the past that I completely miscalculated my need for sunscreen. Even the poor guys in the band appealed to the crowd for “some Factor 15,” after Alan and I had been watching them redden appreciably for the first hour.

My sunburns develop like Polaroids, and I was already in the shade by the time the extent of my scorching became apparent. Meanwhile, the boys’ patience had expired before the High Kings’ set had even finished, and even the dogs and hurley could only distract them for so long. Both my burn (ultimately 2nd degree) and my temper bloomed brighter by the minute, but I was so determined to be there and be having fun (dammit) that I forced everyone to stick it out much longer than any of us were enjoying ourselves. We were exhausted and cranky and sunsick by the time we gave up and left at 4, an hour shy of the concert I’d wanted most to see.

The square tanlines from my sundress, still remarkably clear even now on December 2, remind me that, if I’m going to be stupid and stubborn, I should at least put on another round of sunscreen.

Dear previous me … : Reverb Broads 2011 #1

I don’t have many reasons to write creatively (or any other way) in the course of everyday life. That’s no criticism of my work or my family life, just a statement of fact, similar to my frequent lament that intellectual conversation can be hard to come by as well. And NaNoWriMo isn’t my deal, because while I very much enjoy writing descriptions and dialogue, my plotting skills are woefully inadequate.

I’ve been really enjoying the mental and spiritual exercise of writing this blog, and only the lack of regular direction has kept me from writing even more entries. So you can imagine my delight when my friend Dana Carlisle Kletchka pointed her fellow blogifying females at Reverb Broads 2011. The organizers have assembled a fun and daunting set of prompts, and an impressive list of clever women to write on them.

So, today it begins with the first prompt: If the you of today could go back in time and give advice to any of the previous yous, which age would you visit and what would you tell them?

I maintain that I wouldn’t change anything in my life, because I’ve ended up almost exactly where I want to be. But there are just two points where a bit of perspective might have helped me endure, or not endure, as the case may be.

I would tell my 15 year old self that, though leaving the faith of my mother and her mother would be a scary thing to do, Christianity was not the world view that would feed my soul or bear me up in the darkest moments of my life. I would tell her that the lessons of faith that I’d observed in those women my whole life would actually inform my search, and that I would recognize the ring of truth when I heard it. Most importantly in all of this, I would tell her that setting out to find our way wouldn’t mean a life without spiritual community — there are so many more people on that road, who will love and support your search, than you ever dreamt. In fact, there’s a whole religion devoted to that free and responsible inquiry.

I would go back to my 18 year old self and tell her that I’m worth better treatment in relationships than I’d received so far. I already had a fairly warped view of what I should expect from significant others — I had experienced the wildly romantic, but I also thought I would never be enough for anyone, and I’d put up with some pretty egregious and thoughtless exploitation. I would tell 18 year old me that she isn’t wrong in thinking she would have to go to the ends of the earth to find the person who would complete us, but not to worry — the Internet would turn out to be a much bigger thing that any of us thought in 1992.

And I would tell my 24 year old self not to tell my History department that I was considering a semester of medical leave to deal with my fibromyalgia. She didn’t know that they would take “considering” to mean “had decided to,” and that they would screw things up in ways that would never be repaired. I would tell her that fibromyalgia has its ups and downs, that it’s not always going to be as bad as it was right then. It lasts longer than grad school, but grad school has an end, and you can outlast anything finite.

Also, when people ask you to rate your pain, and you tell them that you’re leaving 9 and 10 on the scale for childbirth? You’re totally right.

Finally, I would tell 30 year old me that the odd things about her beautiful, hilarious son aren’t her fault. Sure, he’s been doomed to geekdom since before his conception — that will only enrich his life. But all those strange, inexplicable, seemingly unconnected things? They’re real, they’re something, and they’re not caused by bad parenting. And finding out about the Asperger’s Syndrome that underpins them all will reveal a piece of our own self that we never imagined existed, lighting up connections that have dwelled in dark mystery since our earliest days. I would tell her to be kind and patient to him, and to herself, even at those most frustrating moments when it looks like he’ll have to fight the same battles we’ve already struggled through.

And to all the previous mes: be easy with yourself. People will love and value you, not just despite all your weirdness — they’ll love and value you for it.