this year's gifts

December 24, 2013

i've been dreading christmas this year, for reasons i can't discuss here except to say that i am not happy. i am heartbroken.

i have been trying very hard to find good in my days, though. to find laughter. i'm trying to focus on that good. on the gifts this year has bestowed.

like in january, the film industry gave us gangster squad, which is one of the better movies released this year.

i cleaned out my closet and desk and found keepsakes from my college days and an envelope with my older brother's handwriting on it (which doesn't sound like a big deal, but i've started to forget a lot of things where's he's concerned, like what his handwriting looked like.)

and, on a particularly bleak post i'd written, a very successful blogger left this comment:

Thank you for sharing this and allowing yourself to be so vulnerable. It is hard to write, but stuff like this is great for readers because it makes me feel like I am not alone and makes us all feel like we are all in this together.

And I've ALWAYS loved that quote by Emily Dickinson. Hope you get feeling better and thanks for the reminder to be kind to all those who cross my path.

Just found your blog and have enjoyed your writing! I'm excited to read more.

in february, i read the first of three magnificent stories: the language of flowers. i dragged my ass to the galleria mall (ugh), to some singles mixer (UGH) some dating website had organized (which sucked), but afterward, i drove to pappadeaux's where i downed a couple of martinis and ran into one of my older brother's corps buddies from a&m.

in march, a fellow blogger, lauren, invited others to share their favorite posts.

in april, one of the to-go servers gave me a good idea for a scene in the novel i (probably) will (never) finish. i read the second of three magnificent stories: the fault in our stars. i went to my first maroon and white game. i made up a list of some of my favorite melodies.

in may, because of tyler, i learned of the existence of this video. i posted about some of the things that make me happy. i wrote this scene for that novel, which made me love my characters and my craft even more. and there's tony and ziva (damn you, ncis & cote de pablo! ziva's not replaceable!). and kensi and deeks. my store manager told me she thought i was special, which i very much needed to hear at the time.

in june, i posted about my favorite characters; they are the reasons i love literature. i wrote about my father, the best man i know. the best blogger in the world told me this: you have talent. my cousins taught me how to play settlers of catan. i read the third of three magnficient stories: eleanor and park. and then there's wendy davis standing up to the good ole boys.

in july, bonnie let me guest post on her blog. i watched purple violets, which is the best of edward burns' films (and i always caught it halfway through... i finally got to see it from the beginning). for lauren, i posted three favorite quotes and two places i've traveled.

in august, i made a list of some of my favorite films. i finally watched people like us; elizabeth banks is SO good in this movie. and i watched the way way back. a LOT. best movie i've seen this year so far. and amber gave me this compliment:

I think you are a really great writer... You seem to be your own, and that's important out here in a sea full of cookie-cutter bloggers.

in september, i watched espn's the book of manning. a lot.

in october, i got to go back to kyle field to watch the aggies (lose to auburn, but i'm trying to focus more on the got to go back to kyle field part). my friend allison directed me to this video. and i found this neat interview with richard burton.

in november, i got all of thanksgiving day off (the two years before this, i had to work both times.. and it sucked. i missed the final quarter of the last lone star showdown! i had to hear about jeff fuller's touchdown and the longhorns' stupid field goal on the radio!). danielle, susannah, meredith and melissa gave me some pretty nifty guest posts. i blogged about forty lessons i've learned over forty years (the first and the rest).

in december, i got more guest posts; these came from kathryn and erin. after stopping to snap a few shots of the fall foliage, i visited a local winery for a bottle of red and a bottle of white. i finally finished my christmas shopping the other day (and, because i was short, the gentleman in line behind me gave me a twenty dollar bill so that i could get my niece her christmas gift. i about cried).

and today, on twitter, texas monthly called my attention to a story about a remarkable dallas family. it's a long read. but a great one.

melancholy and the infinite sadness

December 17, 2013

the greatest difference between my mother and i is that she keeps her troubles packed neatly in her chest, and i shrug them off and let them fall where they may. my floor? sometimes you can't see the carpet for all the chaos. her floor? you can still see the marks left by the vacuum she used a week before, and her chaos isn't a chaos at all, but a neat and tidy collection of knotted scarves and folded cotton crammed in some container store baskets.

my family's seen some pretty ugly things in the past few months. my mother doesn't talk about them with her friends. she's often irritated with me that i talk to mine about what troubles me.

the difference is, she can lean upon her husband. and i feel guilty leaning on either one of them. so i lean on yall or a close friend.

when my older brother passed away, she told a very finite number of people. most of those who came to the service here, they were friends of his. we told his friends. his. and if my parents were friends with their parents, we told them. one of her longtime friends? they ceased to be friends because the friend was hurt that she'd not been one of the informed. i still don't get that. they'd been friends for DECADES. good friends. and this perceived slight ruined that for the friend. and it hurt my mother, deeply i think because she truly loved having known this woman.

my mother doesn't talk. not about stuff like this. it's death. her firstborn. a child she waited and waited and prayed to have. and her heart... i can understand how and why, for her, this loss, this particular garment would be tucked away at the back of the highest basket where no one can reach it.

when he passed, while we were in colorado putting him in the ground... when one of our neighbors discovered this, she came to our house and walked back and forth, back and forth before it, praying. for my family. for my mother.

in the years since, i've become quite fond of this woman. i've always admired her.

a few months ago, i learned that this neighbor, she'd developed stage four cancer in her brain.

today i learned the chemo didn't work. that we will lose her. and my heart...

i don't even know if you can see these, but, i found some posies for you. i seem to recall your saying you loved these:

my mom used to have a big patch of these in her backyard. they're gone now, otherwise i would've brought you a bunch.

the quotes collective: kathryn

December 15, 2013

Okay, I know you’re probably expecting a quote from Ghandi or John Lennon or the Dalai Lama. Or maybe even someone like Nora Ephron, or just one of those quotes that you see painted on colorful canvases at Ikea or World Market.

Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.

My quote, the quote that unexpectedly changed my way of thinking in a dramatic manner, is from none other than pro skateboarder and reality television star Rob Dyrdek. You might know Rob from his MTV shows “Rob and Big,” “Fantasy Factory” and “Ridiculousness.” If you have a half a brain and choose to not watch MTV (clearly I am not one of those), well then I applaud you, my friend. But you probably won’t know who I’m talking about.

You wouldn’t think of Rob as a traditionally intelligent man. A man who is adept at business dealings and marketing and networking. I mean, the guy hosts a ‘roided out version of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” for God’s sake. His other show, “Fantasy Factory,” focuses on the way in which he spends insane amounts of money on absolute nonsense.

He paid marine specialists to have a shark bite him so he could earn a kick-ass nickname. He hired a guy to help him get abducted by aliens and another guy to assist him with traveling through time (both endeavors were sadly unsuccessful). He entered a grilled cheese cooking competition, skateboarded down water slides at an abandoned water park and recorded a music video wearing a fat suit.

Not traditionally intelligent, right? Yet, something he said during an episode of “Fantasy Factory” really struck me in an interesting way.

The episode was entitled “Dirty Man-Horse,” and Rob had decided to try his hand at being a jockey. Part of training to become a jockey, apparently, involves purchasing weird furry strap-on horse legs and clomping around town in them. While his 8-foot self was galloping around, Rob told his cousin, affectionately known as Drama, that he was planning to purchase a race horse and jockey it, to which Drama replied, “You can’t just hop on a horse and jockey it.” Without skipping a beat, Rob said, “You can do anything you want in this life. I got horse legs on.”

Dumbest thing to say ever, right? Something about it, though, was just so incredibly liberating and empowering. You can do anything you want in this life.

I think most of us are bound by self-imposed limitations. If only I had enough money, I’d do this. If only I lived in another state or country, I’d do that. If only I didn’t have kids, or a husband, or a job, I’d try this. If only I had enough time, I’d be involved in that.

When we’re kids, our parents tell us we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up. We can do whatever we want to do. But once we hit a certain age, we start to tell ourselves that we can’t really do those things. That it’s not realistic. That it’s just something that adults say to kids because they’re too na├»ve to understand. And maybe we can’t do all of the things we hoped we could do. We certainly can’t be dinosaurs when we grow up or transform into a puddle like Alex Mack (remember that show?) or live on Neptune. But most of those other things you dreamed of? You can do them. If you really want to, you can. If you put aside all the excuses, which are usually just fears, you can do anything you want in this life.

Rob Dyrdek is proof of this. This middle class guy from Kettering, Ohio became a professional skateboarder at age 12. He now has multiple television shows, owns several companies, runs a charity, builds skate parks throughout the United States, is immortalized in video games, earned 12 Guinness world records… the list goes on and on.

Rob helped me realize it’s never too late to try something new or begin a new adventure. You’re never too old to take up glassblowing or visit Amsterdam or swim with the dolphins. Your opportunities are endless. Next time you second-guess yourself, remember Rob. Wearing his horse legs. Preparing to jockey a horse for the first time. Realize how much more normal your dream is, and jump on that shit! Don’t let yourself get in your own way, and certainly don’t let anyone else tell you what you can or can’t do. Just put your horse legs on, and kick the crap out of life. You can do anything you want in this life.

my friend kathryn gave me this lovely post. and i'm so happy to share it with yall. other contributions were provided by erin, danielle, susannah  meredith and melissa. i hope you've enjoyed them. thanks for reading.

to the winery!

December 12, 2013

but first i had to stop and take some pictures of the pretty! i love my neighborhood, yall. every time i come home and every time i go out, i marvel at how lucky i am that i get to look at this:

 and i'm lucky, too, that some of the sweetest people i know decided to open up a winery not so far from me. they make some really good stuff, too. REALLY GOOD. 

it's called bernhardt winery. it's in plantersville, texas. and a lot of what they make has won all kinds of prizes. plus, they've got a quaint little bed and breakfast. 

and their wine? it's LOVELY. i'm particularly fond of PINELLI.

the quotes collective: erin

December 9, 2013

"Blogging prowess"--I ain't got it. What I do have is a lot of thoughts jumbled up in this ol' brain of mine--a huge spectrum of emotions and feelings experienced on a daily basis and some years of personal introspection banked in my own vault. When Jenn introduced the idea of featuring favorite quotes, I immediately thought of this one:

If you've perused pinterest for any amount of time, you've probably seen it and possibly pinned it yourself. I tried to "research" (google search) the original link or the author. I just found a lot of links to tumblrs and flickrs and quote sites and forums, but no answer to its origin. Author unknown it is.  

Eight words that are clear, concise, to-the-point with a powerful message; effective and relatable; easy to remember. Heck, if you can't remember the eight words, maybe take this approach:

(Side note: the tattoo is reportedly on the hip of an all-time favorite musician--songwriter, artist, singer, tattoo enthusiast Mr. Butch Walker. But this entry isn't about him. Sorry for the distraction.)

I stumbled across this quote during a time in my life that was one of the toughest. Correct that. It was the toughest time in my life where I was challenging myself to self-examine some poor choices, some big mistakes, some nasty feelings and some rather unpleasant circumstances surrounding my life. This message was just what I needed. I have become a big believer in lessons and learning from mistakes. Consequently, I've become a firm believer that those that do NOT try to learn from the past are wasting valuable time and opportunities for a bigger, better, healthier life. Bitterness is an ugly, encompassing power that can take hold of you. I fought, and I fought hard to get "better" and put the "bitter" behind me.  

Everyone has their own struggles. Many of life's challenges that others have experienced are 10x, 100x worse than what I've faced. We've all had tough times; some feel them worse than others; some handle them better than others. I think if more people strived to be "better" instead of "bitter," then we'd all be headed in a more positive direction. I know it's easier said than done. I fight to have this philosophy permeate through me daily.  It's not always there, but sooner or later, I snap back to it, and I feel "better" for it.  

Now, maybe I need to get that tattoo like the one pictured above...

this post comes to you all the way from australia by my one of my oldest friends, erin. she's a good gal to get to know. pop by her blog, and say howdy!

have you got a quote you love? something that's touched you? made you laugh? gave you strength? i would love to include it as a guest post here. i've got one spot left! if interested, email me: criticalcrass (at) me (dot) com.

random quarter: a few of my favorite things edition

December 5, 2013

one. oil of olay regenerist advanced anti-aging cleanser. i don't get compliments on my mug too often, but the one i hear most frequently is how good my complexion is. this is so for two reasons: i rarely wear make-up; and i use this stuff. it makes my skin feel wonderful.

two. bodycology's pure white gardenia foaming body wash. i'm allergic to pretty much everything skin-care related, and this is one of those rare finds that doesn't make me break out in hives. plus, it smells divine. and i always get compliments when i use it.

three. dove pink soap.

four. gold bond ultimate softening shea butter lotion.

five.  ralph lauren's romance. my older brother gave me this fragrance for christmas the year before he died. and it's been a staple ever since.

six. eleanor and park by rainbow rowell.

seven. the fault in our stars by john green.

eight. right before your eyes by ellen shanman.

nine. the language of flowers by vanessa diffenbaugh.

ten. lovers and dreamers by nora roberts.

eleven. the airborne toxic event's self-titled debut.

twelve. what made milwaukee famous' what doesn't kill us.

thirteen. a fine frenzy's one cell in the sea.

fourteen. u2's joshua tree.

fifteen. depeche mode's violator. these two albums... i never tire of them. and they've been a solace of sorts. a constant through out much of my life. one to console me when i need a little mellow. and one to motivate me when i've had too much of it.

sixteen. gangster squad.

seventeen. people like us.

eighteen. the way way back.

nineteen. purple violets.

twenty. serenity.

twenty-one. settlers of catan. so i'm a fairly competitive gal. i really don't like to lose. if i've lost a game, i don't typically want to play it again immediately following that loss. but this game here? i LOVE it. even though i'm horrible at playing it.

twenty-two. james avery's stacked hammered ring. i got mine in college station. it is my favorite piece of jewelry.

twenty-three. ncis.

twenty-four. ncis: los angeles.

twenty-five. the big bang theory.

the quotes collective: danielle

November 25, 2013

So, I don't remember ever hearing Winnie the Pooh actually say that...but I love it.

One day I saw that on Pinterest, and it was a day when I really needed to have that perspective.

Isn't it weird how Pinterest can kind of be like the Bible that way... I mean you can browse through and find something that fits your needs and comforts you....

Most of the time for me, it's stuff like this...

Yea... I dig funnies. But anyways, back to the ol' Pooh Bear quote...

I found that roughly three months ago. Michael, my husband of one month at the time, was about to leave for Afghanistan and I pretty much felt like the walls were crumbling around me. And then I saw that quote.
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." 

That definitely hit home with me...  I even sent it in a text to Michael.

I was feeling so sorry for myself because I did not want Michael to leave. I was scared, and I knew I would miss him more than I'd ever missed anything. But when I read that quote I realized that I was lucky. I was/am lucky to have someone who loves me as much as I love him. I'm lucky to have someone who treats me well and who makes me feel loved every second of every day. While I was still very sad for Michael to leave, heartbroken even, I was able to keep in perspective that it was better for me to feel that heartbreak because I loved him so much than to have someone I felt nothing for. Now I feel lucky every day.

Saying goodbye sucks, and that's for sure. But if you have someone that makes goodbye so hard it nearly kills you... count your blessings because you, my friend, are lucky!

Here are some more pins that got me through Michael's tour :).


So... with all of that being said, I guess it's just really important to love and to trust love and to realize that if you have love you are lucky. Trust that, and you can make it through anything.

Coincidentally I am typing this at 4:30 a.m. from a hotel. I came to spend the weekend with Michael (we still don't live together because of things he has to do for the Army). He left for work an hour ago, and I miss the crap out of him and am really dreading my four hour drive back home alone... but I just have to repeat the words of that lovable bear... I'm lucky to have someone that makes saying goodbye THE WORST THING EVER... okay, I changed it a little. Haha!

i found danielle's blog not too long ago. she's a cute gal with a lot of spunk. i think yall will like her, too. go say howdy.

have you got a quote you love? something that's touched you? made you laugh? gave you strength? i would love to include it as a guest post here. i'll be running this series through the holiday season, up to the week prior to christmas. so there's plenty of time. if interested, email me: criticalcrass (at) me (dot) com.

random quarter

November 19, 2013

one. i got my haircut last week. it's not past my shoulders anymore. it's probably half as long as it used to be. and i gotta tell you. i'm liking it. yes, long hair can be beautiful. mine looks a helluva lot better short.

two. my stylist told me she'd spent a day watching the hallmark channel. and i remember thinking there were so many other better things to watch than the schmaltzy crap they broadcast.

three. and yet... saturday night i had the place to myself. i was working late. usually i'll leave the television on so that i don't come home to a quiet house. i figured nothing on that aforementioned schmaltzy channel would give me the heebie jeebies, so i'd opted to be greeted by it when i came home. safe, right?

they were showing christmas movies, and i kind of got suckered into one for a bit. but i'd made plans to hang out with a coworker after she'd gotten off work that night, so i recorded it. and then i recalled my stylist's affinity for that channel, so i went through the guide and dvr'ed a string of christmas flicks. 

four. and then i went to my friend's where we watched man of steel. AWFUL MOVIE. AWFUL. i remember thinking i'd rather be home watching that hallmark crap. that superman iii and iv were preferable to this. yes, that henry cavill is quite an attractive dude. yes, i can see him as superman. but clark kent? never. EVER. he's way too handsome and much too muscular to pass off as bumbling geek. (which is probably why they only show him as clark for like five seconds. because even the producers knew that was a huge S T R E T C H... and they'd much rather show off their mad cgi skills--which really aren't all that--and satisfy their need to blow EVERYTHING up.)

i remember wondering throughout this film why superman returns got such a bad rap. it's a tale based on a comic book; it's supposed to be comical. fantastical. magical, even. you're supposed to WONDER. you're supposed to want to wonder. and bryan singer's version made me appreciate the story of superman more than anyone else has ever done. sure, that ending was a little odd--superman falls from the sky and is taken to the hospital where doctors struggle to revive him. they can't, of course. he's not human. but what else would us earthlings do? it made sense that that they'd take him there. it made sense that they'd try. if memory serves, a lot of people bitched about that part. a LOT. what i liked about superman returns was that it had equal parts special effects and story. 

this version? the story suffered, severely, at the hands of those special effects. and the acting? UGH. it SUCKED, people. supremely.

five. of those seven (or so) hallmark films, i only liked two: the christmas card and the christmas ornament.

six. we're doing the st. jude's thanks and giving campaign at work again this year. i love this charity. i'm happy to promote it. to encourage others to give. it's one more question to ask at cashwrap; if i could choose one thing to badger a customer about it's this. i don't care if you have a store charge card. i don't care to know your zip code. but i do care that this hospital continues to do good works. 

so this is my spiel: we're raising money for st. jude children's hospital; our goal for the day is two hundred fifty dollars...

(it costs about two million dollars to fund that hospital... for. one. day.)

and we're at [insert dollar amount here]; how much would you like to contribute?

i'll either get something like five dollars (yay!) or nothing.

and here i'll ask, well can i at least round your total up to the nearest dollar? (i've had the nearest dollar mean a one cent donation... but hell, a penny's a penny. i'll take it.)

most people will say yes.

sunday night, i was ringing up a couple who appeared to be in their mid-twenties. the girl was not so generous. which is fine. it is. i understand how precious those pennies are. trust me. i've nickeled and dimed quite a few purchases in my lifetime. she was reluctant at first, but then she agreed. so there's thirty more cents than we had.

but the boyfriend... halfway through ringing up the girl, when i'd first begun the st. jude's spiel, his attention had been piqued. and while i finished ringing her up, he handed me a glitter ornament, the letter m, and said that he wanted to buy it. i set it aside and nodded. and as i scanned our handy barcode at the cashwrap for the change she contributed, he spoke of how there was one more thing he wanted and hurried off to get it.

now, i know, i know he's doing this because he doesn't have any cash and wants to contribute, too, so he's finding things to buy so he can use his charge card (which he doesn't need to do, but i, being the awesome merchant that i am, i'll sell him whatever he thinks he needs to buy... you can fault me for this if you want... but, ultimately, it's my job to sell.)

i bag up the lady's purchase. the gentleman comes back with his pirate magnets. i ring him up. i ask if he wants to contribute. yes, he tells me, and then he asks how much we're trying to raise and where we are. two-fifty a day, i say, and we're at about eighty. (we've got about an hour left in the day, so the chances that we'll meet this goal aren't good). 

he tells me he'll give two hundred.

and i about cried right there, i was so happy. 

seven. i wonder what the boy thought of the girl's donation. what he thought of her. i know i shouldn't. but i do.

eight. i about cried on the sales floor today, too, though not because of a customer's generosity. a woman had selected a backpack and lunch box for her daughter. she told me she was replacing them. i'd thought this was because her daughter had lost them or mistreated them. 

no. it's because they were in a car accident. and her daughter's backpack had blood all over it. 

the woman? she's got a young son with head injuries; he'd been transferred to shriner's hospital. she'd said he was doing better.

and for the next hour, when i wasn't with a customer, i walked the sales floor praying, over and over again please be with that family; please let that boy be well. 

i whispered it. i didn't care if anyone happened to overhear. i didn't care if they saw the worry on my face. 

nine. not long after she'd left, another woman came in, giddy with the news she'd just learned: her daughter won custody of her sons. 

i couldn't help but think of the custody battles that have yet to begin.

of the time of year. 

ten. i know a woman who just lost her daughter this past summer. i can't imagine how horrible this season will be for her. how hard. 

eleven. why can't there be a moratorium on this stuff? a sabbatical. just a few weeks of peace. 

twelve. not long after the mother left, we got a phone call from a woman who's sister had purchased some things. but her husband had died the day before, so it was gonna be a bit before she'd get to pick them up.

thirteen. so one of those hallmark movies, the christmas ornament, i'm watching it again today (tuesday... in case i don't get this published today), because i really like this story. i really like the characters.

a best friend counsels the female lead, a widower: he wouldn't want you sitting alone in the dark. 

i don't wanna be. and sometimes i'm so worried that i always will be.

not because it's meant to be so. but because i'm too afraid to find the light. because i've trapped myself here. that closet ash beckham talked about in this video? what if i've made it? what if i've stuffed myself inside?

fourteen. it's rare that i write one of these posts in one day. usually it takes a few. and i bet yall thought i can churn one of these bad boys out in one sitting. it's happened. a few times. but it takes HOURS. i have to be REALLY bored for that to happen.

fifteen. i don't know what to write. i go through slumps of this. of why bother? and it takes a really long time to remember why. when i was in college, i made up this story, these people. and it was fun. a good distraction. and i loved writing about them. i would've preferred doing that over anything else. and then i got it in my head that i had to write a book. and it stopped being play. and it's so rare now that it's fun. it's started feeling like a chore. like my meal ticket--even though my professors warned us, even though i knew this already, that the chances are good that i'd never make much.

i know i'm good.

just like i knew i had worth in my childhood. but i had to prove myself. over and over and over again. and i was never any good at that.

i want it to be fun again. it used to keep my mind occupied. and now my mind's too crowded with it.

sixteen. i used to love christmas. there's this part of me that still does. there's this part of me that wants to put the christmas tree up RIGHT NOW. there's this small glimmer of spirit i feel. and it's almost dampened in a matter of seconds.

seventeen. barnes & noble's advertising. this is new to me. if they've been doing it in the past, i haven't noticed. i know when i walk into the nearest store, it no longer feels like a haven of sorts. i don't want to linger. maybe if they'd invest more of their money in their stores... people might want to browse the stacks. not all of us read on tablets. some of us like to hold the book in our hands and turn the pages. 

eighteen. so we've got a visit this week at work. and i got called in on my day off. and the next two days i'm on call (which means i'll probably be working). and i'm working on friday. so there's a very good chance i'll be doing a seven-day stretch.

maybe this is a good thing. i was gonna go tinker with my story this afternoon. but since my heart's not in it so much... better to make twenty-five bucks than spend it on food (and maybe booze).

nineteen. one of the presents i've got up for grabs this month has been on hold at that barnes & noble's for several days now. i keep meaning to pick it up. maybe i'll get that done today.

twenty. i'm kind of tired of texas. there's this part of me that wants a change of scenery. but i keep thinking wherever you go, there you are. 

twenty-one. i ate a couple of ho-hos today. i've never done that.

twenty-two. it's occurred to me that maybe my lack of interest in physical fitness is yet another defense mechanism. it's rare that i catch the attention of a guy who interests me. and every time that's happened, i was being good. i quit smoking twice. the first time, two months later i met chithead. the second time, one year later, to the day, i met the boy. neither of whom were worth knowing in the long run, but... they'd piqued my interest, which isn't an easy feat. and then last fall, i got down to a six. and a few guys noticed. and they weren't worth knowing, either. but they'd noticed. and that hadn't happened in a while.

so yeah. i'm hiding. in that closet i've constructed. maybe it hurts less in here. which isn't to say it doesn't hurt. but it's me who's causing the pain, not someone else. maybe i'm just tired of people hurting me.

twenty-three. i've never had to wear a cast. a sling, yes. and one of those black things that fits the entire length of your leg with the rods and the velcro. but plaster? so my skin can suffocate? no, thank you.

twenty-four. i have no idea what to get anyone for christmas this year. not even my niece and nephew. and who has trouble thinking of gifts for four-year-olds?

twenty-five. i'd managed to keep my room clean for a whole week. 

the quotes collective: susannah

November 17, 2013

I don't remember a time when I didn't love Les Miserables. I grew up singing the songs, learning how to play the music on the piano, and listening to my brothers fight over who got to sing which character's part (I, of course was ALWAYS both Cosette AND Eponine. No one could take that from me). Our parents even took us to see the musical live while traveling in England while I was still in elementary school.

As I grew up and truly listened to and processed the lyrics in the musical I fell in love with it all the more. What an amazing story of redemption and life change! A man who was left to rot in jail was granted forgiveness by a priest and changed his life around--touching so many around him. As a Christian, I believe that this story is an amazing example of what God does in the lives of those who believe in His sacrifice.

The quote that stands out to me the most comes at the very end, when {lots of spoilers ahead} Valjean is dying. He asks God to forgive his trespasses and bring him into His keeping. As he breathes his last, he sums up his theology in one incredibly deep phrase: "To love another person is to see the face of God."

You see, he understood that God is love. Period. There is no attribute of God that supersedes His love. He understood that we experience a small part of who God is when we are able to truly love another person. As Valjean lay dying, he knew that he had lived life well because he had been like Jesus Christ in his life sacrifice for his adopted daughter Cosette. He understood God so much more through his care for Fantine in her final days. He displayed God's love to Javert when he refused to kill him.

He summed up the biblical passage, John 15:13, so well.

It's amazing that Jean Valjean in Les Miserables can sum up such a key aspect of his (and my) faith in one little sentence. I want to be more like that.

indeed. as do i. 

susannah's one of the kindest bloggers i've had the privilege to know. i think yall would like her. go say howdy!

have you got a quote you love? something that's touched you? made you laugh? gave you strength? i would love to include it as a guest post here. i'll be running this series through the holiday season, up to the week prior to christmas. so there's plenty of time. if interested, email me: criticalcrass (at) me (dot) com.

the quotes collective: meredith

November 10, 2013

You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
love like you'll never be hurt, sing like there's nobody listening,
and live like it's heaven on earth.
William W. Purkey
This quote encourages us to live our lives with fearlessness and joy. Purkey tells us to live life out loud because we only get one shot at it. It's a beautiful quote, sure, but a dangerous one. You cannot live like this, people. Not unless you want to drive every single other human being out of your life. Let's break it down.
1. "Dance like there's nobody watching."

Okay. I am thirty-six years old. My dancing days are long gone. I'm not talking about slow-dancing with my husband (which we never do) or mild bouncing at a Bon Jovi concert (which I did last month and fucking rocked it). But anything that requires more than the bare minimum amount of movement is out the window. I will not dance like there's nobody watching unless there is truly nobody watching. Because I'm standing in my closet. With the music down. And the lights off. And the mirrors covered like I'm sitting shiva for my youth.

2. "Love like you'll never be hurt."

Let me tell you a little something I've learned about life. Painful experiences happen for a reason; they are lessons you should grow from. Romantic relationships in particular are rife with these lessons. If you are in a relationship, and you get hurt, and then you get into another relationship and pretend that the bad stuff in the first one never happened, then you are an idiot. You are also crazy. You are a crazy idiot. Loving like you'll never be hurt means telling someone you think that you'd have cute kids together on the second date. Loving like you'll never be hurt means calling and e-mailing multiple times a day because you “miss them.” Loving like you'll never be hurt means assuming a future with someone who is now terrified of you. None of that shit is cute. You have to love despite having been hurt and despite the fact that you may very well be hurt again. THAT takes courage. SHAZAM, PURKEY! Point: Bland.
3. “Sing like there's nobody listening.”

Lord have mercy. Have you heard how people sing even when they know very well that there are lots of people listening? Save it for the shower, Pavarotti. It's called caring about your audience. If you're singing like crap without caring about who's around you, it's either because you think you're really good which just makes everyone uncomfortable or because you don't give a shit what other people think which means you probably also belch at restaurants and take off your bra at the office. Either way, you're not making any friends.
4. “Live like it's heaven on earth.”

No. Don't be this guy. This is the guy that says, “Oh, come on. It's not all bad! You still have a whole other leg!” Sometimes life sucks, and that's okay. Deal with it. Revel in it. Go eat a carton of Haagen-Daaz and come back stronger than before. The only way to really enjoy the good stuff is to go through the bad stuff, right? And the only way to make a real friend is to tell them about the time you got humiliated by that boy or when you sharted at a PTA meeting. Because that's what makes us relatable and human.
So, thank you for the lovely quote, Purkey. It's uplifting and inspiring as long as you don't think about it too hard. But let's never forget that some of us are terrible dancers, that there are times when bursting into song is not appropriate, that you are going to get your heart broken, and that sometimes life is a big ol' bag of turds. Flaming turds. From a dog who has been fed cheese.

What's important is being happy despite knowing that flaming dog cheese turds are out there. THAT'S the trick.

And that is my quote.

this fantastic contribution to the collection was brought to you by the insightful and witty meredith bland who posts at pile of babies. you need her humor in your life. you really, really do.

have you got a quote you love? something that's touched you? made you laugh? gave you strength? i would love to include it as a guest post here. i'll be running this series through the holiday season, up to the week prior to christmas. so there's plenty of time. if interested, email me: criticalcrass (at) me (dot) com.

hard conversations

November 8, 2013

sometimes i think, i was a good person once. i was. i'm not now. i drink too much. not so much that i need to be committed somewhere. but enough. just enough that i shouldn't. i'm too judgmental. and i think too much. too often, what i think... it's ugly. and i can't talk about it. i can't. i can cry, though. i do a lot of that.

the other day, i found this video. maybe you've seen it. it's about coming out of the closet. now. that closet, it doesn't have to be labeled gay. mine's not. the point of the video is that we all have a closet. and sometimes we hide in it.

i'm having a glass of wine tonight. it's been a rough day. this might not be the most coherent post i've ever written.

but sometimes, writing... it helps.

i'm not a good person. i'm generous, yes. i try to be thoughtful. but... i'm not good.

i spent the day with my mother. she's in her seventies. she's watched her three children wreck their lives. she's watched us piece them back together only to wreck them again. she was a teacher. i tried to tell her today that the wreckage isn't a reflection on her parenting skills. she told us how to be good. it was up to us to listen.

but she couldn't agree with me.

she thinks the wreckage is her fault. that she should've tried harder. done better. i tried to tell her that if she had twenty students, and three of them failed, that it's their fault. they should've payed attention in class, done their homework, studied harder. the other seventeen passed, so obviously, she'd done her job.

but the three failed. so, in her mind, she hadn't.

before i went to work tonight, i stopped by the bookstore to check out max lucado's you are special. my friend had written a blog post for me about that story. and it helped, reading that. i sat there, on one of those impossibly small chairs, weeping as i read.

and then i went to work. and was reminded of how impatient and intolerant and temperamental i can be. of how miserable i sometimes think life is.

and then i came home. poured myself a glass. dragged myself upstairs to the study. got on the computer, logged onto facebook...

and there's the story of the secret santa and the heroin addict.

seeing these videos made me think of this quote:

sometimes i forget.

. . .

and the communion song for saturday night's mass is be not afraid.

forty in forty: the rest

November 6, 2013

twenty-one. you don't need alcohol to have a good time. in fact, if you're relying on that stuff to make a moment memorable, ask yourself why you're in that moment in the first place.

twenty-two. you don't need to drink twelve cokes in a day. yes, they taste good. yes, they will make you fat. maybe not today. maybe not tomorrow. but soon...

twenty-three. when you have that strong impulse to cut all your hair off SHORT (to be read, buzz-cut), the urge WILL pass. let it. because growing your hair out again... that's not fun.

twenty-four. and hair-dye? bleach? it's okay to have fun with color. but don't go crazy with it. and when i say crazy, i mean bleaching it, then dying it black three weeks later.

twenty-five. be careful with love. she's tricky; she wears all sorts of masks just to trip you up. try not to confuse one for another. try not to stumble.

twenty-six. when you do, forgive yourself. it's gonna happen. blaming yourself for being clumsy ain't gonna help you heal.

twenty-seven. single roses are better than a dozen of'm.

twenty-eight. if you think you may be losing the boy, you've already lost him. let him go.

twenty-nine. speeding is dumb. you're not gonna get there that much faster. you will, however, stand a good chance of catching the attention of that highway patrolman you just passed going sixty-five in a forty-five. so it's a straight shot from points a to b. so the road's wide and well-maintained, and wonder of wonders, you've got it all to yourself (or so you think). so it's a BEAUTIFUL day out. so you're late to work. that cop? he's not gonna care about any of that. and that ticket? you're not gonna like paying it, and your insurance company's not gonna like that you were so stupid.

thirty. sometimes death is a blessing. my older brother? i would not want to see him waste away. i would not want to watch alcoholism make him uglier and uglier. it's like what annelle says in steel magnolias: she will always be young; she will always be beautiful.

thirty-one. don't live beyond your means. and don't go for the flash. it's called flash for a reason.

thirty-two. horrible bosses are everywhere. if you love the work, if you're confident in your ability to do the job well... don't let an evil bastard distort your view of the workplace. buck up. focus on the work, not the workers.

thirty-three. it's okay to take a day and do nothing. but just one. not several in a row.

thirty-four. kicking the nicotine habit's a bitch. but it can be done. the money you'll save in dental work alone is worth the effort to quit.

thirty-five. it's easy to hide in your room, just you and your computer. and yes, sometimes the quiet is necessary. but so is the chaos that comes when you're out there, interacting with the world.

thirty-six. friends are supposed to make you feel good about yourself. not great, not grand. but not small or insignificant, either. if you ever feel as though you are less than special around one of them... if there ever comes a time, no matter the moment, where you don't feel comfortable in that friend's presence, for whatever reason, don't sit on it so that it's stewing and simmering. don't think that it's nothing. it's something to you. and something should be said. soon. and if that friend can't respect you for having the decency to stand up for yourself, for saying i don't appreciate this... then that person's not that good a friend.

thirty-seven. speaking of cokes... it IS possible to limit your carbonated, caffeinated beverage intake to three per year. i highly recommend striving to reach such a seemingly lofty goal. once you have achieved it, don't go back to the routine.

thirty-eight. forty-five minutes is much too long to wait for a dinner date. twenty tops. if he's not there by then, he's not a man you need to know. i only say this because you may be tempted to sit at the bar and drink a couple of martinis while you wait. and nothing, NOTHING good will come of that.

thirty-nine. on a date, never split the check.

forty. this milestone... the big four-oh? it sucks. i'm not a fan. just be aware. thirty? it's got nothing on forty. NOTHING. forty's when your body starts saying, okay, you can stop now.

forty in forty: the first

November 5, 2013

one. sometime's crying's a really good thing. it gets results. like when i was a baby and my hips were fucking with me. i cried. a lot. and eventually, the doctors figured out why and fixed it.

two. some doctors actually give a shit about their patients. find a good one. and cling. so what if he's not in your network. he's good to you.

three. brothers are nifty. play!

four. it's okay to move around in life. sure, you'll miss people. but you'll meet people, too. and maybe in moving, the ones you'll meet will be the ones who can help you when the world's more turbulent.

five. those play carpets on the kindergarten room floor (do they even make those anymore? because all i remember of my kindergarten class is my teacher and the hopscotch blocks on the carpet). anyway. it can't all be fun and games. it shouldn't be. (but oh, this room looks fun.)

six. it's great to have girlfriends. never, NEVER take them for granted.

seven. so you can't hit a ball very well. or throw it. big deal. you can run really fast. and maybe they won't pick you first for dodgeball. but cat and mouse... that's a different game entirely.

eight. boys ARE stupid. but don't throw rocks at them.

nine. never be ashamed to share your talent. yeah, they're all staring at you. and yeah, they may laugh at you if you screw it up. but there's that small chance of success. and maybe you'll surprise them instead.

ten. the number of people who do or don't come to see you while you're in the hospital... this shouldn't mean much. numbers have a way of lying. it's not how many people care for you. it's how they care.

eleven. there are too many teachers out there who can't be bothered to teach. don't be one of them. don't let one of them negatively influence your self-worth.

twelve. people are gonna be mean to you. don't be mean to them. and don't let them win. you can let it hurt. you can cry about it. you can let them knock the wind out of you. but get up afterward. get up.

thirteen. sometimes a fresh box of crayons and a new coloring book are the best remedy.

photo snagged here.

fourteen. size matters not. it doesn't. like when you're standing on the blocks and the girls to your right and left are taller and more muscular. maybe they'll win. maybe. but it's passion that gets you through the water. and anger? sometimes she's the best motivator.

fifteen. brothers can also be a HUGE nuisance. punch them if you need to. like when one's charging up a flight of stairs, red-faced and sobbing from anguish (admittedly because you hit him where you shouldn't have). by all means, aim the heel of that boot at his forehead. don't worry about the grandfather clock your great uncle constructed from scratch that's on the landing. it'll be alright. boundaries have to be set. firmly.

sixteen. don't let a boy get his hands on you unless you really crave the boy, the touch. not because you need to be touched. but because you want to be.

seventeen. if you want something, don't wait around for someone to give it to you. go get it.

eighteen. sometimes mama has really good ideas.

nineteen. sure, reading's important. but so are your studies. your professors assign a text because something about it has merit. be curious; find out what it is.

twenty. people will be wrong about you. you will know it in your gut. do your best to prove them wrong. don't give in. don't assume because you can't accomplish a task quickly enough, because you haven't succeeded yet that they are right. they aren't.

for the rest of the forty, click here.

i linked this post to mattie at northwest native for weekly lessons.

the quotes collective: melissa

November 3, 2013

'Remember,' Eli said as the Wemmick walked out the door, 'you are special because I made you. And I don't make mistakes.'

Many of you are probably unfamiliar with the book You Are Special by Max Lucado. It's a children's book, and one I wouldn't have ever picked up myself if I were to be entirely honest. However, it was given to me by a friend during a time in my life where I was struggling. Struggling to decide if I had the will to go on, if this life was even worth pursuing... And sometimes the most powerful truths come in the simplest ways.

The story follows Punchinello, a Wemmick who lives in a town full of other small wooden people who daily give out star or gray dot stickers to each other. Those who are pretty, talented or popular are covered in stars. Those who are ugly, clumsy or make mistakes are covered in gray dots. Punchinello is covered in gray dots and is feeling particularly down about himself when he meets another Wemmick who has no stickers whatsoever. She points Punchinello to the woodcarver at the top of the hill and says he is the reason she is not covered in stickers. Punchinello goes to visit the woodcarver and is told that he was made special, seeming imperfections and all. He decides to believe his maker and as he does one of his gray dot stickers falls off.

I know that was quite the long intro there but I just feel that the story is really worth a read. Anytime I am feeling down or lonely or like a failure, I read this children's book and am encouraged not to let the opinions of other people be the opinion I hold of myself. Not everyone is looking out for my best interest or knows me for who I truly am, so who are they to judge. The only opinion I believe I should ultimately care about is that of my Maker. He made me special... And He doesn't make mistakes.

this bit was written by my friend, melissa, who truly is a godsend to me. i'm so grateful i've got a gal like her in my life.

i'd wanted to start this series off the first monday in november. when i went to her and said i was in need of a contribution to get the ball rolling, she was quick to give me something. and what a wonderful something it is.

have you got a quote you love? something that's touched you? made you laugh? gave you strength? i would love to include it as a guest post here. i'll be running this series through the holiday season, up to the week prior to christmas. so there's plenty of time. if interested, email me: criticalcrass (at) me (dot) com.

random quarter

October 26, 2013

one. last night i cast votes for the people's choice awards. i've never done this. i probably won't do it again. why? because in the favorite movie category, the choices included the croods, despicable me two, fast and furious six and monsters university. the best movies to be released this year were gangster squad and the way way back. and i had to write them in. also, the categories include things like favorite tv bromance and favorite music fan following. FAVORITE MUSIC FAN FOLLOWING? why? WHY?

two. i've finally hopped on the elementary bandwagon. that show's pretty cool.

three. john corbett's voice annoys me. you kind of make me not want to eat at applebee's, sir. so that ad campaign? not so much.

four. in so many ways, i can identify with sheldon from the big bang theory. see? there's a good example right there. i felt compelled to add that bit about the television show. as if there was a need to specify this. because who doesn't know who sheldon is? i mean, you google sheldon and the top five results are, in order: sheldon cooper - wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; sheldon isd / overview; sheldon comic strip - daily webcomic by dave kallett; sheldon cooper (character) - imdb; jim parsons - imdb.

the best example of this is how i react when approaching my spot at the bar. if someone's sitting there, i mumble a curse (usually goddammit!) and sneer at the bastard (or wench), pick a seat nearest to my spot, sneer some more, heft my darth vader backpack on to the granite bar top, sit, grumble at the staff when they ask what i want to drink. after five minutes or so, i acclimate enough to be cordial. and as soon as the bastard (or wench) has vacated the premises, i reclaim my spot.

if the spot's empty, i examine the proximity of the bar stools to mine and shift them (usually the whole line) so that they are evenly spaced so that no one encroaches on my space. and then i survey the stool in my spot because they're not all the same. and i like the ones that have the aged leather instead of the smooth. so i have to switch them if it's not right.

and yeah, the people gawk at me. and yeah, i know it's weird. but i can't really help it. it has to be this way.

five. yesterday was one of those days that started out troublesome. i didn't want to get up off the couch. and i was almost late for work because of it. but then, when i got there, every customer i met was kind to me. and one of them spent lots of money. LOTS of money. because she pretty much said yes to everything i suggested. and i talked her into opening up a store charge account, which means i'll get her to spend more money. and my boss that night gave me candy.

six. i have felt ugly all day. except for that second i was parked at the gas station filling up phineas' tank when i looked in the mirror and thought i like the shape of my mouth, and my eye make-up (navy eyeliner and black mascara) looks alright. but i'm sitting at this bar, and i'm recalling times i was told i wasn't pretty, and there are all these beautiful people around me, and it really sucks, having this face. it really, really sucks. and there's not a damned thing i can do about that. and then one of those beautiful couples has to sit down next to me. you know the ones, the dark-haired, handsome man with the beautiful blonde. the classy sort. not barbie and her dark-haired ken. but that other kind. like jimmy smits and teri polo in the last season of the west wing. that kind. it's not the best example. but it's the first one that came to mind.

seven. i don't like dark beer. and guinness? GROSS.

eight. i used to hate that i didn't have a sister. like when i was ten and didn't have any girl friends. i'd always thought that if i'd had a sister, it would've made it alright that i was friendless. but then i got older. and i've learned how catty and nasty a gal can be. and really? i'm glad i don't have a sister. really, really glad. i would've had to share a bathroom with her. hell, i probably would've had to share a room. and that would've sucked. so much.

nine. not that brothers are that much better. most times they drive me bat-shit crazy.

ten. i want the red sox to win this series.

eleven. i don't understand why people have to fake kindness. it's not kind when it's phony.

twelve. i just confused james ingram's just once with glenn medeiros' nothing's gonna change my love for you. why am i listening to either of these atrocities? because this is the music pappadeaux's plays. why am i confusing one crap song with another? i don't know. do i get points at least for realizing that they both suck? because i know how sad it is that i remember either existed. maybe yall can overlook that.

thirteen. these are the highest-grossing films of the year to date. of the first hundred listed, i have seen eight in theaters. of those eight, i've only loved two. and i've only been compelled to see one more than once. this from the girl who saw star trek twenty times and pirates of the caribbean: the curse of the black pearl eighteen. in the the theaters. this cinematic year, in my humble, opinion sucked ASS. i am unthrilled.

last year wasn't that much better. i paid to see nine in the theaters. i loved six. i watched three at least twice.

this is the last year of film that i liked. i watched seventeen films in the theater. i loved eight of them. i watched seven of them at least twice.  

this year was pretty good, too. and this one, it's pretty near perfect--as close as can be expected, anyway. hey hollywood? can i have more years like these please? and when i say like these, i don't mean sequels to or regurgitations of films released in those years. i just thought i should throw that out there.

fourteen. seven american cities i want to visit: monterey, california; beaufort, north carolina; boston, massachusetts; savannah, georgia; charleston, south carolina; san francisco, california; lahaina, hawaii.

fifteen. seven international destinations: athens, greece; vienna, austria; sydney, australia (HELLO, ERIN!), edinburgh, scotland; one of those seychelles islands (just give me a good beach and some beer); dublin, ireland; tokyo, japan.

sixteen. seven things i'd buy: a) personal training sessions (because this seems to be the only thing that gets me to the gym on a regular basis); b) a better wardrobe (once i got my fat ass back into a somewhat respectable shape--to be read a size eight. six seems so impractical. i've only been able to maintain that for a couple of months. but eight... eight i could do. should do.); c) i'd get phineas refurbished (he's got body issues, and his interior? he is in serious need of some new upholstery because i've trashed him much too often); d) a week's vacation in monterey, california; e) a new mac; f) new aggies t-shirts ; g) new hard rock cafe t-shirts.

seventeen. i'm stranded on a desert island and can bring one person, one book and one food item (that never goes bad and is in constant supply) or plant. they are: robert downey, jr; eleanor and park by rainbow rowell; chicken spaghetti.

eighteen. if i didn't have to work, i would sit on my ass and watch movies all day while tinkering with this here blog.

nineteen. five sources of inspiration: my victorian literature professor; tragedy; stories; rejection; chaos.

twenty. i want to play settlers of catan. 

twenty-one. five superpowers i'd like to have: telekinesis; invisibility; the ability to apperate; power mimicry or absorption; regeneration.

twenty-two. if i had amnesty for a twenty-four hour period and could break any law, i'd break into skywalker ranch and steal a ton of star wars paraphernalia.

twenty-three. if i could have a candid conversation with anyone dead or alive, i'd want to talk to my older brother.

twenty-four. five favorite desserts: blue bell ice cream; paula deen's bananas foster bread pudding; pappadeaux's bayou city cake; angel food cake with strawberries and cool whip; chocolate pudding.

twenty-five. i don't like mangos.

food for thought

October 21, 2013

failure at some point in everyone's life is inevitable,
but giving up is unforgivable
catherine biden

in september of last year, i attended a blogging conference in dallas, texas. it's about a four-hour drive from here--a northern suburb of houston--to there. i'd meant to leave at about ten that morning so that i could get to the hotel around two, get checked in, wander a bit and make myself presentable for cocktails. but my car's stereo decided at eleven, when i was finally ready to hit the road, to stop working. and it took two hours and a couple of hundred bucks to get it replaced.

i liked the display on my old stereo better. i'm not one of those gals who has to have the top of the line in electronics. my iphone, for example, is two years old--a four with three-g service. and yes, sometimes i wish it were a little faster, but it does what i need it to do. it works. when it stops working, i'll replace it.

my car stereo? i'd been using the factory one for seven years. the new one? it's got one of those digital displays that flashes the name of the song being played. but when i'm listening to a cd, more often than not, it can't display the title. instead it reads: FAILURE.

i see this a lot in my daily travels. i've thought this a lot in my life. i am a forty-year-old, single, childless woman who resides with her parents because she can't support herself.

in the past year, i've gone on two dates. two. with different guys. the first? he showed up forty-five minutes late and split the check. the second? he wined and dined me. swept me off my feet. blindsided me. and then he disappeared.

i work a part-time gig as a sales associate. when i find the confidence to apply for better employment, i'm denied the possibility of an interview. i don't even get a reply for having submitted my resume. but these, ultimately, these are not the things that concern me the most.

maybe i've given up when it comes to love and life. but my worth, my talents... they're tied to my craft.

i sat here at this bar this morning with a copy of my manuscript--a collection of personal essays, many of which have been posted here--and an issue of writer's digest that featured agents seeking new authors. i looked over the list. i googled how to write a book proposal for a nonfiction piece.

and my heart sank. because i wondered why anyone would care about this. my blog's not got a great following. i don't get thousands of page views per day or dozens of comments on each post. and these are the sorts of things that would convince an agent to read more than a few pages of your work.

i shut off my laptop. i closed the magazine and the binder containing my manuscript. and then i got out my pen and paper. and i wrote.

because this is what i do. this is what brings me happiness. this is where i succeed.

have you got a quote you love? something that's touched you?
made you laugh? gave you strength? i'm looking to do a series
come november and am in need of guest posts.
the more the merrier. email me if interested.

an explication of the comedy of errors

October 3, 2013

ABBESS:   And thereof came it that the man was mad. 
The venom clamors of a jealous woman 
Poisons more deadly than a mad dog’s tooth. 
It seems his sleeps were hindered by thy railing,
And thereof comes it that his head is light.
Thou sayst his meat was sauced with thy upbraidings;
Unquiet meals make ill digestions;
Thereof the raging fire of fever bred.
And what’s a fever but a fit of madness?

The Comedy of Errors (5.1.68-76) 

By using eloquent imagery, orderly structure, and kindness, the abbess reprimands Adriana’s behavior and offers advice. The use of alliteration, assonance, consonance, and metaphor furthers character development, emphasizes the advice, and promotes comedy.

The line, “And thereof came it that the man was mad.” (5.1.68), constructed primarily of monosyllabic words, gains Adriana’s attention because of its simplicity. The abbess believes Adriana’s conflict requires a simple remedy. The shortness of “a” in most words alludes to the abbess’ disapproval of Adriana’s behavior. The repetition of “eth” softens the line, while the resonance of “m” lengthens it and lends it musicality.

The abbess equates Adriana’s jealousy to poison in, “The venom clamors of a jealous woman” (5.1.69). The “s” hisses this comparison, suggesting Adriana’s behavior is vile as a snake’s. The nasality of “n” and “m” draws out the analogy. The repetition of schwa “e” softens it, as though the abbess tries not to offend.

The abbess builds upon the previous line by likening Adriana’s jealousy to “Poisons more deadly than a mad dog’s tooth.” (5.1.70). In making this comparison, she says Adriana has made herself sick with jealousy and, like the rabid dog’s bite, she’s made her husband sick with it, as well. The diphthong in “Poisons” accents the first syllable, holding Adriana’s attention. The resonance of “m” and “n” lengthens the line, allowing the previous to blend into the next. The “d” thuds sharply, as though the abbess thinks Adriana’s hard head needs sense knocked into it.

In, “It seems his sleeps were hindered by thy railing,” (5.1.71), the abbess reiterates one of Adriana’s complaints, offering a reason for her husband’s mindlessness. The shortness of “i” and the length of “e” depict a restless night’s sleep. The “h” and “s” hiss throughout, typifying Adriana’s behavior and the abbess’ disapproval. The diphthong in “by” and “thy”, in such close proximity, emphasize Adriana’s “railing”, proving Adriana has some fault in the matter. These contribute to the image of her husband lying in their bed, trying to sleep, and Adriana standing beside him, “railing”.

The abbess strengthens her argument in, “And thereof comes it that his head is light.” (5.1.72). Most of the words are monosyllabic, again establishing the abbess’ hold on Adriana’s attention because of their simplicity. Despite the presence of “h” and “s”, it lacks the unpleasantness of the previous line. The words flow into each other smoothly. The repetition of “t” gives the line a gentle chiding effect.

The abbess addresses Adriana’s next complaint in, “Thou sayst his meat was sauced with thy upbraidings;” (5.1.73), comparing Adriana’s jealousy to a venomous sauce, which sickens, as opposed to nourishes. The hiss delivers the line more eloquently. The thudding of “b” and “d”, the resonance of “ng”, the length of “upbraidings”, demands Adriana’s attention; its short “u” hints at the abbess’ disapproval. Each defines the image of Adriana’s husband sitting at the table, trying to eat, with Adriana sitting opposite, “upbraiding” him.

The abbess impacts this image by adding, “Unquiet meals make ill digestions;” (5.1.74). She reiterates the importance of providing proper nourishment; she insists meals full of resentment and anger make him ill. The short “u” in “unquiet”, muttering its disapproval, the sharp knocking of “q”, followed by the diphthong, and the gentle chiding in “t”, add significant weight. The resonance of “m” lengthens the line; the sharpness of the diphthong in the first syllable of “digestions” and the hiss of “s” command attention, making the previous metaphor more vivid.

The following line, “Thereof the raging fire of fever bred.” (5.1.75), furthers the image. One imagines a fire crackling in the hearth next to the dinner table. One hears the crackle in the repetition of “f”. The abbess likens Adriana’s “upbraidings” to the fire, making her husband unhealthier by causing him physical discomfort.

She completes the speech with a question, “And what’s a fever but a fit of madness?” (5.1.76), in hopes Adriana will assimilate the advice and see the solution. The repetition of “f” continues, allowing the sentiments of the previous lines to linger. The use of the word “madness” circles back to the beginning. Initially, the man is mad. Conclusively, the situation is and the abbess earnestly provides a remedy to cure that madness. She concocts that remedy by using imagery and kindness. In structuring her advice around each of Adriana’s concerns, she uses maturity and wisdom to teach Adriana how to be a subservient, mature wife. Her earnestness in assisting Adriana heightens the comedy of the play, because neither Adriana nor the abbess fully understands the situation. The advice, though good, will do nothing to solve the problem, thus making The Comedy of Errors a truly comical play.

makeovers at the beauty counter of happiness

September 29, 2013

why i read it: because it's a tiny book (not teeny tiny like the last one, but the size that's also often found in the cashwrap line). because i'm on that sentiment quest.

what i liked: my grandfather sold movie magazines in his stationery store. he let me read them for free if didn't get them dirty.

reading about lana turner's life was a lot more interesting than reading about pocahontas in school (p. 41).

when i ask olivia how's school, she says, "fine."

she's much more specific when we go shopping. she'll try on a pair of jeans, make a face in the mirror, and say, "gross. they stick out. the pockets suck. nobody wears this kind."

"you know," i often will say, "when i was your age, i thought i looked awful in everything. but when i look back now..."

before i finish the sentence, olivia gets that glazed look in her eyes she always gets whenever i start a sentence with, "when i was your age."

she must have learned that from my mother (p. 45).

dear olivia,

you probably won't understand much about this letter, but since i'm never going to send it to you, that's all right.

i just got off the phone with your mother. i can tell from her voice that she's mad at me.

it always amazes me how little influence i have on making her happy, and how much influence i have on making her unhappy.

i was watching a television program this morning and a famous psychologist was telling everybody that happiness is a state of mind. i haven't a clue as to how to drive to that state.

but whenever i'm sad, i think of you--and then i smile. maybe that psychologist knew something after all (p. 50).

the summer i was thirteen, eileen ford, the manager of the ford model agency, had a radio program on saturdays at one o'clock on which she'd reveal the beauty secrets of famous models.

listeners could write her letters about their beauty problems, and she'd pick some to answer on the air. she wouldn't use the person's name if she read their letter. i wrote her a letter.

one saturday, i was eating a can of franco-american spaghetti and listening to her program when she read a letter about someone with all my beauty problems: bitten nails, shiny nose, stringy hair, flat-chested, big feet, bony knees, buck teeth, near-sighted, and shy.

i got so nervous, i ran out of the kitchen. a minute later, i went back to listen. by then, she was reading somebody else's problems.

i always wondered if my life would have turned out differently if i'd heard her advice (p. 54).

i've always checked out other women. i do it on movie lines, at shoprite, in mcdonald's. i think to myself:

that's the wrong hairstyle for her.
doesn't that woman have a full-length mirror at home?
oh, blondie, you need your roots done.
those shoes have seen too many rainy days.
dangling rhinestone earrings don't go with sneakers.
nobody will take you seriously with those nails.
hey, missy, it's time to call jenny craig.
no one looks good in that color .

it's all i can do to stop myself from walking over to a total stranger and saying, "honey, lose the horizontal stripes" (p. 82). [that color? she means burnt orange, yall... i'm just saying]

"you see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw" (diane arbus--p. 83)

once i dreamed i was in a fancy mall. it was probably the short hills mall in new jersey. the stores were all boutiques selling designer body parts.

i charged a pair of manolo blanik feet, a chanel chin, and a perfectly matched set of boobs designed by vera wang exclusively for me. on my way out, i picked up a versace midriff on sale. for the first time in my life, i was finally perfect. 

when i got home, my husband took one look at the bill and returned me (p. 92).

no one really cares how you look when your get older anyway, as long as you close your mouth when you chew and don't drool.

but every few years somebody does research and once again discovers that beautiful people have an advantage in life, taller people get better jobs, thinner people are more successful.

even though i know better, i still fuss with eyeliners, blow dryers, and diets, hoping i'll become become better looking, taller, thinner, and happier.

who lives without contradictions? but who wants to live without hope? (p. 105).

what sucked: for all the things i liked, and it looks like the number was a lot, the book overall was just kind of blah.

having said all that: the first third of it sucked a whole lot more than the last third.