Friday, December 31, 2010

Take A Cup of Kindness


I wanted to say

that I don't make resolutions

even though I'm fond of making

vast, grandiose statements about myself

especially here on my blog.

It feels so good to be certain of something, if only for a moment.

So, sweeping statements of me and all the great

things I'm going to do this year keep

bucking about in my head.

But underneath them I can hear the truth.

And it is this:

The only thing I need to aim at

is kindness toward myself

and others.

To love myself.

To cradle myself with compassion.

To not wage war against myself with

unkind thoughts. Ugly thoughts.

With guilt or shame.

To not wage war by trying to be anything that I'm not.

I hope to one day aim

to extend such compassion and peace to others.

But I'm imperfect, see, and I'm going to try

to make peace with myself first.

I believe that thing I said once

about the ripples.

What you send out, I feel

and what I send out

bears weight.

If we all could just

be-love ourselves

we might together send peaceful waves

into a warm and

enveloping ocean.

Be loved.

Be love.

And that cup of kindness, we'll take it yet.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Where Is My Razzmatazz?


In six months the stars are going to align and one great and terrible celestial event is going to occur.

I am going to turn 30.

I've been feeling pretty sanguine about it these last few years because one time I read (I think it was in US Weekly or maybe In Touch, you know the one that's 99 cents at the Walgreens) that in your 30's you feel more comfortable in your skin and you stop caring about what other people think. I latched on to that comment made by Ms. Barrymore or maybe Ms. Jolie (but hey, at least I'm not quoting Oprah or the white devil Sue Monk Kidd, right?) and I've been cradling it alone in my bed all these dark nights as the earth dies and so does my youth and 30 grows nearer from it's loom-spot on the horizon like an evil spitting orc army from which there is no escape.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that now, at almost exactly 29.5, I feel less secure than ever. I feel down right neurotic. I think I may actually have had more self-confidence at the age of 16 than I do right now.

Which actually makes sense, when you think about it. Most of us have had it pretty easy all our lives when we're 16. We're too young to be bitter, or failed, or feel old or crusty. We're trying so hard to fit in that we have yet to notice all the ways in which we don't. And we were told, us cozy little 80's Reganomic babies, that the world was ours. We had no reason to know any different. Not yet. Not then.

So instead of sinking into myself all zen-like and content, like I am a cat and my personality is a sunspot on the rug that I have now earned the right to luxuriate in permanently, I'm spending a lot of time fretting. About how I come off. About what other people think. About other's opinions of me. And it's sucking up my power. (The power of now, the power of my zen, of my true self, my north star, the holy spirit within me, however the hell you want to put it, cowgirl, it's all the same to me. Feel free to believe differently). It's sucking out all my ambitions and my ability to take confident steps in any direction. Basically I huddle shivering in a corner with this sick pit in my belly. I bite my nails. I laugh nervously. I feel homely and unattractive. And I can't muster up the vim, the ovaries, the Razzmatazz, if you will (I will if you won't), to do anything about it. To save myself from this absolute failure of. . . of myself.

But then--there's something in you, you know? That keeps kicking when you're down, that chatters away at all the unruly edges of your soul, the untended garden, the place where the bracken and bramble has taken hold. That little voice, that still small voice (oh don't get your knickers in a twist, it's just a phrase, as far as I know the Mormons haven't copy-righted it). The rest of me is catatonically picking out my eyebrows but that little voice keeps chirping in and saying, and you'll pardon my French: Who the hell cares? Who the hell cares? Who the hell cares??

I don't know if this is a good thing or not. The voice, well, it's a lot like the voice of this here blog post--a little angry, a bit abrasive, undeniably defensive; it's having trouble finding much humor in it all. I don't know if it's going to mellow out into that Sun Spot in my soul and leave me all content and 30-ish and you know--Grown Up. If it's going to help me find my Pluck again--or if it's going to ice over and grow a crust 'top of that and in three or four years I'm going to be walking around unshowered and launching in to angry diatribes at perfectly lovely cocktail parties, because it's just desperate to prove WHO THE HELL CARES.

I hope the voice of this post does not offend. I just feel rubbed a little raw.

I am Vesuvius and I am not in your way. No need to push me again.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Best Books of 2010

Here's the deal: These are the best books I read in 2010, not the best books published in 2010. I feel like I didn't read much this year, but the truth is I just didn't read much that was very good. There are only a few knock-your-socks-off books out there, you know? Whenever I hand people a copy of Time Traveler's Wife or The Book Thief or The Road, I warn them: I will not be able to recommend you other books as good as these. Because there just aren't any. Many.

Full disclosure: I may or may not have actually read these books in 2010.

In no particular order:

PhotobucketThe Reapers Are the Angels, Alden Bell.

This title just wormed its way into my brain and wouldn't leave. I was right ticked that someone else had come up with this beautiful, haunting phrase and not me. I wanted to write a book just to fit this title. Then one night I was reading about angels on wikipedia. And I clicked on a link to a parable. And it turns out, Alden Bell didn't coin this phrase. Jesus did. So at least I don't have to feel too bad for not being as good as, you know. Jesus.

If Cormac McCarthy and Joss Wedon teamed up to write a book about zombies, this would be that book. I'm always up for a good yarn about an apocalypse.

You know you are a Joss Whedon fan when: You refer to it as AN apocalypse, not THE apocalypse.

The Book Thief, Mark Zusak


Another book that found me. Death observes humanity during the terrors of World War II. Observes us with deep tenderness and awe. Liesel restores your faith in humanity. Papa was like an accordion. This book might change you.

The Jacqueline Carey Kushiel Novels. Photobucket

I loved them. I don't recommend them to most of you who read this blog. They are very sensual. The first fantasy I have ever read that was written directly for the female eye, if you get my drift. Phedre kicks ass and takes names. Joscelin (a dude with an unfortunate moniker) challenges Waldemar Skelig to the holmgang and I had one of my 'spells'.

(If you read these books, and enjoy them, you're going to be too embarrassed to ask for more like them. Anne Bishop is the closest thing I've found, though hers are considerably darker. You're on your own from there.)

The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich

I think this is Erdrich's most approchable novel, if you will forgive me for using that term on my blog. Her writing is so thoughtful and tender. My dad didn't like it, but he's only into lad lit these days. (Yes I do call DeLillo and McGuane lad lit, dad. Bite me.)

Faithful Place, Tana French Photobucket

This was my favorite book of the year. It's technically a 'mystery', don't let that scare you off. I don't suffer Patterson, either. One seriously dysfunctional Irish family has a dark secret or two. Tana French's characters are so real to me. For weeks after reading this book I'd be chopping carrots and find myself wondering why Frank never comes round for dinner anymore.

Frank is the main character in the book.

Delicate, Edible Birds, Lauren Groff

I absolutely did not read this book in 2010. Lauren Groff's words are delicate and edible. Like birds. I'm a motherfraking lyrical genius. Motherfriggin wordsmith.


When The Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd, and Traveling With Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Anne Kidd Taylor. Good old Sue's approach to Christianity just works for me. One day last spring I was wondering around a bookstore feeling lost and empty. When The Heart Waits literally fell off the shelf and landed in front of me. It was exactly what I needed. Traveling With Pomegranates is a mother-daughter memoir about several trips they took to visit sacred sites around the world. Sue Monk Kidd delights me because she is so darn different from me. She is deeply introspective and contemplative and is capable of finding deep meaning out of things like glass pomegranates in a window display or a bee on her shoulder. Some of my happiest moments this year were spent reading this book and considering things deeply the way Sue and her daughter do. Also commendable for its frank look at depression and the complications of mother-daughter relationships. I recommend this one highly. (Sidenote: I couldn't finish The Secret Life of Bees. Just in case you couldn't either.)

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
. The world needs much more Katniss and much less Bella. If you haven't read them, you are a sorry sonofabitch. Apologies. I'm feeling feisty today.

Books I'm most looking forward to reading in 2011:

1) The Reapers are The Angels (I just can't stop saying it). Temple is my favorite character since Buffy. Who was my favorite character since Starbuck. Who was my favorite character since Katniss. It all started for me in about 1989 with a feisty redhead named Anne. With the 'e'.

2)PhotobucketThe Orange Eats Creeps, Grace Krilanovich. It's about vampires. I was over vampires before they began. I read Anne Rice in 1991, ok? But someone on NPR's book reviews said "the book feels written in a fever. It is breathless, scary, and like nothing I've ever read before. As critic Steve Erickson wrote, 'If a new literature is at hand then it might as well begin here'. Krilanovich's work will make you believe that new ways of storytelling are still emerging from the margins." Sold.

My Mother, She Killed Me, My Father, He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales.
Francine Prose, Karen Joy Fowler, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates all have entries here. I'm into new-spun fairy tales right now. If the title didn't sell you, I don't want to be your friend.

4) Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, Alissa Nutting
. I think it's another sort of dark magic-realism deal. On the cover is a naked woman holding a fish.


5)PhotobucketTemperance, Cathy Malkasian. This was from some other list on NPR. It's a graphic novel and I have yet to finish a graphic novel. I'm not highly visual. I get the characters confused.

6)Photobucket YA lit. It's a brave new world. In YA, if you don't write like 2010's Hemingway, it's a-ok. I dig the elbow room.

Final thoughts on books of 2010: I don't like anything by Kate Morton, but for some reason I wish I did. When will Oprah pick a book written by a woman? Freedom was just not up my alley. Martha Beck, I like your style. You sly, sly minx. I've started Kingsolver's The Lacuna three times now but haven't finished. J.V. Jones, please get your groove back. Jordan/Sanderson, foot-stamping and braid-pulling does not a character make. That's enough, World War II books. The Book Thief is the only one anyone needs to read. How many days 'til Tana French has a new book?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Now I Will Me To Be A Bold Swimmer


I've been thinking a lot about the hero's journey these days.

I've never read Joseph Campbell, because Neil Gaiman scared me off of him without meaning to, but I'd like to think I know my fair share about heroes' journeys because let's face it. I am a sci-fi and fantasy geek and I always have been. She hid in secret for awhile, but she was always there.

I've been thinking about the hero's journey because a trial has come and I want to know if I can pass the test. Like the hero does.

Me and the heroes, we do ok for awhile. We deal with our little trials. Dust a vamp here, slay an orc there, use an expelliarmus before sitting down with a butter beer. We recognize we are looking for something and hey, we always knew there would be bumps a long the way.

But there was something on the horizon that we couldn't see coming, wasn't there? And so, for the heroes and for me, the stakes heighten. The little reavers we patted ourselves on the back for offing were never going to be the real trial. The world is so much larger than that.

So comes the point where the hero fully comprehends the task set before her. It is so much more difficult that she'd ever imagined. So massive and lurking and advanced. She knows that this time, the task is too large. The gods have required too much.

I felt like I hit the point where I can't carry on. I can't do it anymore. I fell off the horse and I can't muster the gumption to put my foot back in the stirrup.

The gods have asked too much.

(Because I don't want you worrying and imagining terrible ominous things, I want to stop 'coding', as I've been told I do, and just say it straight here: I was smacked with a depression that is a little bit seasonal and a little bit genetic. And I heard a new career wish in my heart that feels too crazy to be possible and too desperate to be ignored. Together, they leveled me. They melded into one massive creature that I would like to call, fondly, the Demon Cyvoldereaver Vampiremort Number Six.)

All those demons, all the monsters--they are the struggles we face in our own lives. Struggles to remain soft in this world that sometimes seems bright and brimming with possibility, but at others feels overwhelmingly large and cold and yes, ugly. They represent the struggle for us not to turn to stone. Not to live in eternal winter in our hearts. Our struggles to be kind, to remain open, to wonder, to explore, to just be alive in this world when often things aren't easy and there are never any guarantees.

The moment comes for every hero. And, as it turns out, for me. They see the task before them is too great. The battle can't be won. Survival relies on achieving the impossible. They feel weary and broken and that they can't go on.

They always do the same thing. Jesus, Harry Potter, Buffy, Starbuck, Cap'n and Zoe, Dean Winchester (Hi Kimmy!) Strider, Gandalf, all of them.

They spend a dark night in contemplation. They allow themselves a moment, an hour, a night of blackness and fear.

Then they come out guns blazing and fight the damn thing anyway.


Fight even though they know they can't win. Fight even though too much has been asked, too much is required.

I'm trying not to get too 'everyone's a hero in their own way' on you here. But we love the stories because they show us the things that we, too, might be capable of achieving. We don't slay demons or dragons or cylons, but the things we do face, are, I believe, much harder.

The heroes realize this truth: The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.*

Survival here requires more than training and practice with magic or a sword. It requires us to dig things up from the bottoms of our souls and our selves, things that hurt as they grow--when they're not refusing to grow at all.

It was time for me to go down to my depths and I felt like I couldn't do it. I couldn't keep going. It's been too hard. I felt broken. I felt a hardening inside me. I was too weary to fight, and I couldn't see my tribe.

The hardest thing in his world is to live in it. Monsters are slayed with a weapon, in a moment. That was never the real battle.

The real battle is the one within ourselves. To be of good faith. To let that little thing with feathers keep singing in your heart, even when sometimes you think hope is so stupid you'd rather strangle it than hear it chirp again.


I have a soul manifesto and it is this: I am on a journey. I have not arrived, and I respect that journey, with all its trials and all its dim lanterns and all its tangled, diverging paths. I respect the search. I believe one harmonic soul benefits the whole universe, like ripples in a pond. I will take hope and faith and love wherever I find them, and for those I will not stop searching. I will encourage the journey of every soul toward its own liberation. I don't want to be firm. I don't want to be stone. Here I will do my best to be open and tender. It hurts. It's what heroes do--the thing that scares them. The thing that is too much.

And I always wanted to be one.

See? My guns are blazing.

I am Vesuvius and I'm a big damn hero, I just decided.

*The quote is from Buffy. I believe it was written by the BDH Joss Whedon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

When It Rains

So: the day we got the new ac adapter delivered, our keyboard decided it didn't really want to type the letters 't', 'y', or backspace. Or do any capitals or punctuation. I secretly suspect Mr. V spilled beer on the keyboard, but we are not going to talk about that here.

Needless to say, a new computer is not in the cards (oh I laughed so hard I cried over that idea. Except I skipped the laughing part?).

It's fine, really, that I can't blog because thanks to a friend my life has been hijacked by the show Supernatural.

I am a little embarrassed to put this picture on my blog.

It should mean something to you when I tell you that I'm finding the third season to be alarmingly sexist and I'm watching the show anyway.

The sexism disturbs me. If the women aren't helpless and panicking, they are straight up demons. You heard me. The devil is a busty chick and she wants to ruin your road trip with your brother. It's like these writers aren't aware of the fact that their audience has to be about 99% female.

Seriously. How many men do they imagine are watching this show about two strapping young lads with the looks of George Clooney and Ryan Reynold's love child and the chemistry of a regency romance novel duke and red-headed hoyden before they hook up?

(If you are a male and you love Supernatural, first of all: We love you. Second of all, you are probably a bit of a sensitive guy, and that's really lovely and don't be ashamed. And third, I'd be willing to bet that you were one of those guys rooting for Pacey when all your bros were feeling Dawson. Yes?)

I'm hoping to be able to buy a new laptop in. . . um, March. When we get our tax return. Right now I'm blogging from the library and I just can't get over here without the girls more than once a week at most. Maybe in the meantime I can post some funny pictures of cats in microwaves? Oh wait, that one was absurdly unfunny. I'll try and think of something.

I just needed to let you know that I love you. And I am going for a little while, but I'm like a hero on a sci-fi show who's been sent to hell. Or heaven.

I come back.

I am Vesuvius and I want to ruin your road trip with your brother.

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