A Rant on the Side

April 29, 2009

Ok, I wasn't going to do this. I was just going to write about how my husband's Navy training is currently affecting me, but no. I just have to rant about...Swine Flu.

Seriously? Are we still pretending that these "pandemics" mean anything? I read today that 100 cases of Swine Flu have now been reported in the U.S., and one person has died. To hear journalists talk, you'd think civilization is coming to an end.

A hundred cases of Swine Flu, you say? Gee, let me strap on my respirator.

It seems every spring, a "deadlier" flu starts circulating around confined spaces. People take the news seriously, get whipped into a panic, go banging down the doors of medical clinics to get the latest flu vaccine, and then spend the next three weeks blowing their noses. I can't understand why people continue to waste their time. I haven't been diagnosed as having any type of influenza since I was about 10, and I never get flu shots. Sure, the elderly need to have them, but the average person between 18 and 50 probably has a greater chance of perishing in a fiery wreck on the Interstate than dying from any type of flu.

Some might say, "Oh, yeah? What about those hundreds of people who died of Swine Flu in Mexico?" Well, duh! Mexico is practically the third world country of the Western Hemisphere. Many places down there don't even have electricity and running water. Of course Mexicans are more susceptible to dying, simply because they don't possess the type of medical care we enjoy in the U.S.

What's worse, some government officials and political commentators are trying to turn the Swine Flu "epidemic" into some sort of political issue, saying things like, "I told you we should have spent more money on pandemic prevention!" Really. What's more money for "pandemic prevention" going to accomplish? Print extra posters on the importance of washing hands to hang in public restrooms? Please. We're not in kindergarten anymore--though you wouldn't know it from sitting in on a session of Congress.

At any rate, they can keep their flu vaccine and their scare tactics as far as I'm concerned. I'm confident the human race shall endure rather well, as it has every other flu season. Right now, the weather here couldn't be more beautiful, people are smiling and driving down to the beach, and there's not a sniffle to be heard anywhere.

Maybe Jesus does like me

April 28, 2009

Luckily, my horrible day didn't turn out to be so horrible after all. The Xbox 360 is fine. My husband came home and discovered I had just knocked a cable loose. I managed to get my car mirror straightened out. My boss's request for another grammar book may have been canceled, leaving me free to finish my novel this summer. There's still epoxy on my dashboard and I don't have a single doctor's appointment yet, but, overall, things are looking up.

I started reading a biography on Jonathan Swift, most famously known as the author of Gulliver's Travels, by Victoria Glendinning. Right off the bat, I became enamored with her prose. It's sort of eighteenth-century classic English meets new modern with a little Jackie Kennedy thrown in. I would kill to hear either James Earl Jones or Garrison Keillor narrate it. Ms. Glendinning supposedly has only one work of fiction on the market, entitled Flight: A Novel, and I can't wait to crack it open.

Writer's envy. It's a monster. Today, in between tutoring students on the last day of class, I spent time promoting my blog online. I discovered many bad blogs with many followers and several good blogs with less than three followers. Unfortunately, I'm painfully aware that my writing is not particularly interesting. Sharp wit and gripping prose elude me in a chronic sort of way. Which probably means that if I do manage to get published, I won't be fully appreciated until after I've died penniless, and then my dry-as-dust prose will be forced almost as a type of unusual punishment upon countless stone-faced, glassy-eyed liberal arts students who probably won't read it after all, but will just look up the plot summary on SparkNotes.

*Sigh* I suppose it's better to die hated than to die in obscurity. I'm sure some famous person said that.

Anything Else?

April 27, 2009

I guess Jesus didn't appreciate what I had to say about him yesterday. Today has been horrible. Check this out:

1. To start things off, I managed to destroy our nearly sole source of entertainment: our Xbox 360. We not only use it to play video games, but also to watch movies and stream television shows from Netflix. I somehow managed to trip over the Internet cable attached to the console, which made it fall about 1.5 feet from the chest it sits on. I don't know how a fall from less than two feet onto carpet could break it, but I digress. I'll probably have to pay for the repairs since I caused it to fall. The last repair job I sent off for took about a month. We don't have cable, local television, or another DVD player. Did I also mention that my tutoring job has ended for the academic year and my husband just started back to his Naval training for 14 hours a day?

2. Since I recently resolved to get professional help, I called my doctor to set up an appointment to get a referral to a specialist. I also needed to get the phone number for the base dental and optometry clinics. However, no one at the appointment call center would answer the &*%damn phone all four times I called. I couldn't even get an answering machine! I finally had to get on the Internet and look up alternate phone numbers for the call center. No one answered those, either. I know the clinic is open today because it isn't a holiday and their parking lot was packed when I drove by earlier.

3. However, I did manage to find the number for the optometry clinic on the Internet. They told me that they are no longer seeing military dependents due to a staff shortage, so I will have to find a private civilian optometrist. Oh, goody.

4. My husband made his own GPS holder for the car just before we went on vacation. Today, I noticed that the epoxy he had used to repair it had dripped onto the dashboard. I don't know if anything exists that can remove epoxy from textured, interior-grade plastic. We bought the car brand new only six months ago.

5. I also noticed today that the right-hand mirror on my car has recently been dented in so far that I can only see the inside of the passenger compartment. I tried readjusting it electronically, but the mirror will only move a couple of millimeters before it pops right back into that same position. In short, I cannot see traffic approaching the right-hand side of my brand new car.

6. All of this happened before 3 p.m.

7. My husband has yet to come home and learn about any of this.

It's been a long day, friends.

Some Thoughts on Jesus (of all things)

April 26, 2009

I don't know if you could call me a Christian. Although I accepted Christ as my savior in elementary school, had a father as a minister and attended church faithfully for many years, today I enjoy such activities as drinking cocktails, smoking a pipe, and spending Sunday mornings on the beach. It's not that I hate church--although I've come close to it a few times. Even after watching self-absorbed hypocrites throw metaphorical rocks at my dad (simply because he preached the truth), watching my home congregation split over radical ideologies, and hearing the same backward doctrines touted at countless churches, I still occasionally wish to find solace in spiritual disciplines.

I guess my main problem is...I hate church. Or really, I hate the way some ministers (and even non-Christians) talk about Jesus. To hear their description of Him, one would think that if He walked among us today, He'd be standing on a Los Angeles street corner handing out teddy bears to environmentalists and homosexuals (not that there is anything wrong with either of those groups). It's just that people have associated Jesus with love and forgiveness for so long that they've turned him into...pardon my French...a pussy.

The Jesus I read about in scripture is anything but. He called the church leaders of his day "hypocrites"...to their faces. He called a Samaritan woman--who sought healing from Him--a "dog." He braided His own whip and single-handedly drove merchants out of a temple for selling sacrificial animals inside. He accused the only disciple who believed He was the messiah as having "little faith"--after walking on water to come to Him, no less! He even told His disciples in Luke 12: "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." Jesus was indeed compassionate toward those who could not help themselves, but to believers, the dishonest and the apathetic, He was a force that none could reckon with. Hardcore. A true revolutionary.

This is the Jesus I love, but whom so many seem to have forgotten. If He were here today, I have no doubt that He'd be healing sick children on the streets, but I believe He would also be traveling from country to country, church to church, saying much about our warped perceptions and lack of faith. I'm sure Jesus would have some rather cutting remarks for me as well. But oh, at least then I wouldn't have to wonder about the state of my soul.


April 25, 2009

After spending a week with my family in Tennessee--including my brother's four-month-old baby--my husband and I have decided to put off having children for a while...again. Surprisingly, I'm ok with our decision. I've spent the past several months evaluating my reasons for having children, and some of them are fairly compelling: to have heirs to carry on our values and possible future wealth, to combine our genes in a single entity, to shape the life of a human being, etc. But really, that is all. The dream some women have of carrying around a "little bundle of joy" everywhere they go seems more like a nightmare to me. I've been told that parenthood is fun and rewarding beyond imagination, but I see the work and inconvenience that goes into that reward and shudder.

I also need to seek professional help. I cannot stand this tumult that has been raging through my brain for the past two months. If I had to deal with postpartum depression on top of that, especially if my husband were at sea, I might consider offing myself. Not good.

Besides, I've never been one to follow the status quo. People seem to assume that now my husband and I have been married for over a year, we should be popping out babies. After all, every other married couple we know has. I just want to tell those people that, even as a woman, my purpose in life goes beyond producing offspring. Even if I never have a child, I will still have a rich, fulfilling life. Not to knock women who want to be mothers, but I think many women get too caught up in the social expectation to reproduce and forget that they have other abilities that can influence their communities and their world. Why should men have all the fun?

Things that Bring Happiness

April 14, 2009

Feeling soothed from my day in the snow-capped Colorado Rockies, I thought I would take a moment to recount some of the things that bring me moments of intense happiness.

1. Photography. I love snapping photos of flowers, animals, and architecture, taking pains to frame a masterpiece.

2. Writing. Well, not always. Some days, writing causes me no end of angst. But I'd rather be writing than not.

3. Good food. I love cooking and going to restaurants. Nothing soothes the soul in my opinion like scrumptious eats.

4. Consulting. Using my skills to help others gives me a great sense of purpose.

5. Raw, passionate, emotionally intimate sex with the man I love. Need I say more?

Today, as we rode through the mountains taking in the wonders of the nature around us, grandmother commented, "It amazes me that those trees can grow straight out of bare rock like that. I had one at home I tended with loving care, and it died." Maybe that's exactly like life: too pampered, and we die inside. There's no pride or character to be had without hardship. Besides, those trees on the mountainside have one heck of a great view.

A Glimpse into Age

April 13, 2009

I've been a bit lax in my blogging duties over the past couple of days, mainly because I recently flew 2,000 miles to Colorado with my husband to visit his aunt and grandparents. They are lovely Midwestern people with lovely Midwestern manners, so I'm having a fairly good time despite the darkness that still occasionally claws at my mind. Right now, I can see the golden glow of the sun setting behind cloud-draped mountains from the sliding glass doors off of the living room. Tomorrow, we are going up into the mountains for some majestic sightseeing, and then to a mall to window shop.

Today, however, was a little sad for my husband. He decided to drive about four hours from Boulder to Wray, Colorado to visit his grandmother on his mother's side, who was admitted to a seniors home nearly a year ago when her husband died. He went knowing that she probably wouldn't remember who he was. Over the past few years, her memory has rapidly faded into the gray shadows of old age, leaving her only with a vague impression of having lived a good life. Names, faces, details of the past and present have become fleeting and irrelevant in her mind.

I walked into the seniors home with my husband and felt a wave of relief: it was the nicest, cleanest seniors home I have ever seen. I remember when my own grandmother was placed in a nursing home when my family saw that she was losing her battle with Alzheimer's, and the building smelled so dank that I could hardly stand to breathe whenever I walked in to visit her. To top it off, my grandmother exerted a vehement independence and forced others to accept her interpretation of reality, no matter how fantastical it had become.

Fortunately, that was not the case today, though it was no less sad. My husband's grandmother welcomed us into her room, overjoyed that a family member had remembered her and stopped by to visit. Here's how it went:

Grandma: "So, how do I know you?"
Husband: "I'm your grandson, your daughter's son."
Grandma: "Well, I'm so glad you came to see me. I don't feel sorry for myself, even though my husband died. This is a nice place. As you can see, I have all the books I want to read. And I don't have to cook or clean or work at all."
Husband: "That's great. I'm happy that you're doing well."
Grandma: "Yes, they even remember your birthday here. As you can see, I had a birthday recently, and they put it up on the wall." [She motioned to a Happy Birthday balloon hanging on the closet door.] "I am eighty...something. I know I'm not ninety. That's just too old."
Husband: "I'm sorry, I don't remember either. But who's counting?"
Grandma: "Yes. So how did you say you were related to me again?"

And for the next hour, we rehashed this same conversation nearly verbatim a dozen times. Three times, she asked my husband to describe her former home on the farm her husband worked for years while she taught elementary school. When she wondered aloud whether she would remember our visit, I stood up and wrote it on the calendar above her bed. When we left, we both kissed her on the forehead, and she cried in gratitude.

Later, in the car, and after a long, teary silence, my husband asked, "If you can't remember the things that brought you joy, how could you remember that you were ever happy?" I didn't have an answer, but I like to think that true happiness leaves an impression on the soul that time cannot erase. I can only hope that we will be so fortunate in the future.

In the Dark

April 9, 2009

I've learned that true depression makes no sense.

I grew up under the tutelage of parents with very archaic ideas about depression. According to my mother, depression is brought on by unhappiness. In other words, there must be a reason for a person to feel depressed.

But there is no reason for the way I feel.

Two halves of my brain are warring against each other. Literally, that's how it feels--like nails on a chalkboard...like pots and pans falling down stairs.

I want to be happy. I want to come home at the end of the day, coddle my cats, and appreciate my husband's attentions. I want to have a conversation that ends with a pun and a laugh. But darkness has fallen over my mind.

I want to have a baby, but I don't know if I should keep trying right now. How would I cope if I failed? Or worse, what if I succeed, only to fall deeper into darkness?

That's Life...

April 7, 2009

Despite enduring some of the physical symptoms of PMDD, I was excited about reporting to work today. I recently wrote a grammar guide at my supervisor's request for the students at the writing center where I work, and today was the day I was to receive feedback on the project. If all goes well, it could be published by this fall--my first published work.

I felt a great sense of relief as I walked into my supervisor's office with the finished copy of the guide in hand. The 45-page booklet had taken about two months to write and format, and I had delayed working on my novel to complete it. With the project finished, I could finally begin hammering out the final chapters on my fiction manuscript. However, my relief in this regard was short-lived. My supervisor and the center's director loved the guide so much that they are commissioning my skills for another guide--this time, one with a football theme. And it has to be finished by the end of May. Oy. Now I'm scrambling to finish my novel, because I refuse to put it off for another project. I guess I shouldn't complain; after all, I'm actually managing to get things done and being recognized for my work.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying my new blogging venture. I had thought about starting a personal blog for months, but put it off because I was unsure what to write about. I considered everything from writing book reviews to reviewing local restaurants. I couldn't think of anything that I could sustain over a significant period of time. Then I thought about my life: I'm a writer trying to break into the publishing scene while emotionally supporting a husband in the U.S. Navy, trying for a baby, and occasionally battling depression. Before the end of the year, we will move to one of five different naval bases, each one at least a thousand miles away from our families. If that alone can't compel me to bare my soul, I should probably give up writing for good.

Writer's Angst

It's been a rough day. I've spent most of the day unnaturally tired and trapped within a numb mind. I failed to add a single word to my novel. My dear husband is snoozing away next to me, reminding me of just how tired I am, and I've started this darn blog over three times in the past half hour.

I keep thinking about this chapter I wrote in my novel yesterday. I haven't decided yet if it is good or not. Basically, the story goes like this: a black man has been caring for his mentally disabled cousin for most of his life, until said cousin is wrongly accused of murder. The cousin is sent away to an asylum, where he is mistreated by the staff. The town's white sheriff, who is the black man's best friend, arranges to bring his cousin home until a new place can be found for him. In the meantime, the the town's old KKK rises up in protest and does something terrible. The black man then decides to leave town, but will abandon his cousin in the process. His only solution: he must kill his cousin.

I wrote this whole scene where the man walks into his cousin's room, kneels in front of where he is sitting, and holds the gun to his temple. The idea for this chapter just came to me out of nowhere, and it seemed somehow poignant and necessary to the novel's progress. The problem is, the description is very, very simplified. The question isn't where or how I should beef it up, it's whether I should. In spite of everything going on in my brain, all I can focus on is this scene. Maybe I should just sleep on it for tonight.

The Writer's Life

April 6, 2009

Today was a pretty good day. I actually managed to work on my novel, the progress on which seems to slow more and more as I near the end. I can now count on one hand the number of chapters that remain. Now if I could just finish it before this Christmas....

Seriously, I have changed the deadline for this book at least three times. At first, I said it would be completed by August, 2008. Then my father-in-law, whom I loved very much, passed away. As a result, I spent the next month mentally and emotionally paralyzed. Needless to say, I didn't do much writing. Then I said it would be finished by Christmas. Then New Years. Then February. After that, I decided to keep my mouth shut on the subject and let it be finished when it gets finished. Hopefully, that will be soon--as long as life doesn't find another way of interrupting me.

In the meantime, I'm thinking about entering some poetry contests to get my name out on the writer's circuit. I went to work on my trusty Writer magazine's list of contests with a highlighter, then hauled out my binder of poems. I was soon hit with a shocking realization: I've written a lot of crap. And I don't mean crap in the generic sense. Some of my poems are truly awful. Out of a collection of nearly 100, I managed to dig out about six that might be worthy of publication. That's the downside of being a writer--you end up throwing out most of the stuff you write. Yet, in a way, it's good. Being able to look back over old work and judge it with a mature and critical eye shows how much your knowledge and skills as a writer have grown. And while I can't exactly take that ability to the bank, at least it could help me get there.

Through a Glass Darkly

April 4, 2009

Despite the sapphire-blue sky and the endless stream of sunshine outdoors, today was a dark day for me. I just couldn't get going. For what seemed to be the umpteenth day in a row, I lay in bed past 10:30 this morning, only managing to rouse myself because I remembered that my husband had asked me to do him a favor--and he was coming home at 11:00. The rest of the day passed in a groggy haze. Somewhere in there, I fulfilled the favor and also cleaned up the kitchen from the dinner I had made the night before: my only noteworthy accomplishments for the day.

Last month, my doctor told me that I'm probably suffering from a condition known as Premenstural Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). It's basically like PMS times ten, except that it also involves a chemical/hormonal imbalance in the woman's brain. A few weeks ago, through gritted teeth, I informed a nurse at my doctor's clinic over the phone that I could feel the equivalent of coke bugs crawling all over my body. Had the conversation occurred in person, I probably would have torn the uppity nurse apart with my bare hands. She was upset at me because the clinic had just "wasted" a pregnancy test on someone who, in her opinion, clearly wasn't pregnant. I restrained myself, with unimaginable effort, from suggesting that she call a meeting to share her "expertise" with the rest of the clinic's ill-informed staff.

It seems I am forever biting my tongue. I grew up under the rule that "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." How I hate that rule some days! Sometimes, I'd like nothing more than to stomp and foam and inform select people of their pettiness and idiocy. I avoid large box stores like Wal-Mart whenever possible, just because a sudden urge to kill everyone in sight overtakes me shortly after I walk through the door. Truth be told, I should probably be taking pills for this--except that I hate pills, too. And I'm trying to get pregnant.

Fortunately for today, I have only had to restrain the urge to cry.