“There’s a light in the darkness of everybody’s life.”

When I allow myself to see it, feel it, experience it…I can see that light. It’s just not always easy. Or apparent. Or easy.

On September 15th, just over a month ago, I started streamlining out overt processed sugar from my diet. Within the first two weeks, I had two mixed drinks after a burlesque show packed an unexpected from-left-field emotional whallop, a slice of pie, and a chocolate chip cookie sandwich glitter bomb. (Side note: what the FUCK is up with dousing baked goods in glitter? Why would that make you want to eat it? It makes it look like a prom dress, a burlesquers backside, or five year old’s craft party. Not appetizing. The cookie sandwich, however, tasted amazing. Of course, I was vibrating for about six hours after I ate it…but it’s all good.)

Anyway, I’ve been keeping at it. A few weeks ago, I went to my favorite bakery because they just so happen to have the best quiche I’ve ever had in my life. I got some delicious cajun quiche for lunch and walked out without a single craving for a cupcake, cookie, or baked anything. The one time I did get a morning glory muffin (when I went back the following week for my once a week treat-quiche) someone in my house ate it before I could. 😦 Sad. It was sweetened with honey, and had no gluten. I think whomever ate probably didn’t get what they were expecting. The treat-quiches have stopped. Didn’t go this week or last week because I can’t afford it now that I have my own place. Which I am slowly getting more excited about and used to. My landlord/roommate keeps to himself mostly, goes out of town every other weekend, and has been fairly nice lending me a mini fridge, a/c (which, yes, I’m still using knee deep into Oct-fucking-tober…), and tiny TV. Sometime this week, he’s gonna put a loveseat up here so I have somewhere besides my bed to sit.

Part of me is now wishing I hadn’t left so much behind with my divorce from my husband and wife. Things like a toaster oven or microwave (that my family bought for us as wedding presents, I might add) would be nice right now. It’s stupid, but I really miss the balloon wine glasses we got as an engagement present. They were so round. The Kitchen Aid Mixer. That I REALLY miss. The food processor. The crock pot. It’s funny what a difference those things would make to me now. And how, last week, I found myself in Walmart, walking by the housewares section going, “I used to have that and man I wish I still did…and that, and that…” It was a sad time. Having my period a week early also threw me into an emotional tizzy. Now that that’s past and my hormones are more orderly, part of me still misses those things but recognizes the ability and opportunity to start over. It’ll take some time. Especially on my current salary. Working three part time jobs still only makes just enough to pay rent and have $40 a week for food and $40 a week for gas. Not a lot of wiggle room to get things like crockpots or microwaves. But! My sister has a microwave she got that she’s going to give me. And not having a lot of money means I can’t buy a lot of food which means I can’t -eat- a lot of food. The upside to that? I’m down 15 pounds since July 2013 and a grand total of 24 pounds since November 2012. (And I’ll admit it..technically, it’s close to 30 pounds since April 2013…between March and April of 2013, I put on a bit in a short time.) The part I’m happiest is that it’s been consistently going down. Sure I have spurts here and there where it bounces a few pounds up. But then it evens out and drops again. It helps that I work out at least 4 hours a week. And I’m drinking more water.

This is going all over the place but mostly I just want to record the fact that I’m gradually losing weight, feeling better, and am finding the light in my life. And that I’m lucky to have some incredible people on the journey with me to point me towards the light when I’ve lost my way in the darkness.

“I’m not an addict. (Maybe that’s a lie.)”

So, what do you do when you wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about where you’ll be sleeping in a month, concerned that you don’t make enough money to move out on your own, plagued with conflicting thoughts about your marriage and what to do about it, reeling from family opinions telling you you’re not mature enough, berating yourself for not doing more than you are even though you’ve pretty much packed your schedule tighter than a duck’s ass, still mourning the loss of people you love and thought would be in your life forever, head swimming from the sermon your minister gave today about how fragmented we’ve become, wondering if you’ll ever find a place where you felt like you fit in as much as you did when you first found Rocky Horror or started a burlesque troupe, missing the Northeast yet feeling a slow, spreading love for the South, questioning your ever-evolving ideas about polyamory vs. monogamy vs. open relationships vs. dear-god-please-just-hold-me? Wait…you don’t eat half a bag of Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips? But…

It’s not a habit, it’s cool; I feel alive.
If you don’t have it you’re on the other side.
I’m not an addict. (Maybe that’s a lie.)

It’s over now, I’m cold, alone.
I’m just a person on my own.
-“Not An Addict” by K’s Choice

Yeah. I’m totally an addict. A sugar addict. I fought the label for years. Justified it. Hid it. Beat myself up over it. Lied about it. Spent money I didn’t have to get a “fix”. However, comparatively speaking, it is cheaper (in the short run) than antidepressants.

Sometimes, I don’t even realize I’m addicted because there used to be such a steady stream of sugar into my system that I didn’t pay much attention to it. That’s just the way it was. Grab a doughnut (or two, if you order the special at Dunkin’…plus coffee, light and sweet) for breakfast (because eating something is better than eating nothing, right? Justification much? Anyway.). Have a soda with lunch. Pile on the salad dressing. Eat some cookies as a snack. Dip (and dip and dip and dippity dip) the chicken in BBQ sauce for dinner. Nom upon a cupcake for dessert. Enjoy girly “adult beverages” while late night TV-bonding with your sister. There was a time this was a pretty accurate snapshot of my daily sugar intake.

Currently, I don’t do nearly as much of these things on a daily basis. I’ve weaned myself off soda and sweet tea, and rarely do coffee drinks anymore. I try to steer away from doughnuts for breakfast even though my niece is a terrible, horrible person for telling me about the local place that makes them just like Krispy Kreme. I have an “adult beverage” 1-2 nights per week. I tend to enjoy my salads with far less dressing these days, and most times will do the “dip the fork in the dressing then spear pieces of veggies” rather than slather.

Modifications are good. That and the 4-5 paid hours of exercise a week I get these days have helped save me from ballooning to an even unhealthier weight. But let’s face it. I’m already at an unhealthy weight. Sure, some of the things I’ve told people over the years are perfectly true. When I was younger, I was in tap, jazz, ballet, gymnastics, musical theatre, and modern dance. Not to mention the fact that I rode my bike or roller skated everywhere and if I wasn’t doing that, I could usually be found at the park running around or in my or a friend’s pool. I was hella active and as such, I’m much more limber and strong than I look. I still dance and love to teach water aerobics and can kick ass when taking an aqua zumba class. On the rare occasion that someone wants to know my weight (and I tell them), they are generally surprised. They knew, of course, that I am overweight. They just didn’t think it was that much. Someone once told me that I carried myself so well that no one would ever know I had self esteem issues about my body, nor what I really weighed.

It’s great to know glamour spells still work sometimes.

Underneath it? Fairly toned, fairly strong (and getting stronger every time I work out), fairly obese, fairly addicted to sugar to even me out. Fairly scared to show my naked body to anyone. In the past, people I thought were supposed to love me and accept me said some fairly hurtful things about my body. That’s hard to get past. Even as I know there are people who’ve expressed appreciation for my body, ranging from my husband to the date I had who wanted to know my thoughts on going to a nude beach (My answer: not favorable, thanks. I mean, I don’t have a problem with other people being nude, I just don’t have enough self confidence in my own body to do it. Also? I hate beaches in general. Now skinny dipping in a pool with the right people…I might could get my head around that some day. But I digress.)

As I’ve said above, I’ve tried to gradually decrease my sugar intake, especially as I’ve been doing more research and reading lately (including starting to read the book called Deep Nutrition: Why Our Genes Need Traditional Food by Catharine Shanaham, M.D. and Luke Shanahan that a dear friend bought me a few months ago) about sugar and healthier diets.

Speaking of, how’s this for mind-blowing? As a woman, I’m supposed to only have up to 25g of sugar a day. That’s 6 teaspoons. The bag of chocolate chips I’m all-too-quickly making my bitch? 220g of sugar per bag. If I’ve eaten half of it (Fine. More than half by now. Shut the fuck up.), that’s at least 110g of sugar just for that one snack. FOUR TIMES the amount I should have. And that’s not counting the mostly healthy fruit smoothie I had (because natural sugars count, too), the salad dressing I had on my chef’s salad for dinner, or the cherry lemonade I had with lunch.

Seriously, my name is Genevieve and I’m a sugar addict.

One of my favorite authors said in her book Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist’s Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer:

“To whom the fat rolls…I’m tired of books where a self-loathing heroine is teased to the point where she starves herself skinny in hopes of a fabulous new life. And I hate the message that women can’t possibly be happy until we all fit into our skinny jeans. I don’t find these stories uplifting; they make me want to hug these women and take them out for fizzy champagne drinks and cheesecake and explain to them that until they figure out their insides, their outsides don’t matter. Unfortunately, being overweight isn’t simply a societal issue that can be fixed with a dose healthy of positive self-esteem. It’s a health matter, and here on the eve of my fortieth year, I’ve learned I have to make changes so I don’t, you know, die. Because what good is finally being able to afford a pedicure if I lose a foot to adult onset diabetes?” -Jen Lancaster (last sentence emphasis is mine.)

I closer to 40 than 30 these days, and while I can barely afford to keep myself afloat without living on my own so I definitely can’t afford a pedicure (although I never thought I’d like them as much as it turns out I do!), I still need to worry about losing limbs to adult onset diabetus. (Which, btw, I used to think was just a comical way of saying it but living in the South I’ve learned that people really pronounce it that way.)

Because really…I’m addicted. I get shakey when I haven’t had sugar in a few hours. I physically and emotionally relax when I eat chocolately goodness. Within the first bite. It doesn’t matter how much I love vegetables and fruit if I eat more sugar than I do fruits and veggies. If I eschew an apple in favor of a brownie sandwich at Taco Bell. If I almost finish an entire fucking bag of chocolate chips in a 12 hour period.

Thankfully, I know what I need to do. I’ve done it before. Quite simply, stop. Cease eating processed sugar in the obvious snack/drink/dessert forms. Then start cutting out the hidden sugars like sauces/dressings/prepared foods/white starches and carbs. It’s going to be hard. Especially living where I do. I love my sister’s house, but there are at least 4 different kinds of white bread in the house at all times, not to mention the adult beverages, ready supply of chocolate, clearance baked goods, pasta, and impressive array of delicious sauces. Yes, I recognize these things as the excuses they are. No one is force feeding me any of these things. However, it is a slightly easier to begin a new dietary regime when the people around you do as well to limit temptation. But again, that doesn’t make the poor choices I’ve been making anyone’s fault but my own. There was part of me that was waiting until I moved out to really attack my addiction head on. I had dreams of leafy greens and bowls of fruit, nary a processed granule of sugar anywhere in the vicinity of my enlightened abode. Which basically boils down to buying into the “Arrival Syndrome” of “I’ll be able to do this once all the conditions are right. I’ll be happier and healthier when things are exactly as I want them, some time in the nebulous future.” Bullshit. If I’m going to make it happen, I need to just fucking make it happen. I’ve got to learn how to handle myself when it seems like everyone in a ten foot radius of me is mainlining sugar. How to make healthier choices regularly, instinctively and not just after a binge. How to put on my healthy girl panties and stop letting “well, my family made pasta for dinner so I just have to eat that” be an excuse and cook my own damn food if I need to. (And suck it up and deal with the fact that yes, I’m creating more dishes for myself. Bright side: whooo, more standing and movement is better than sitting on my ass!)

So it’s going to come down to picking a day and just doing it. Like I said, I’ve done it before. On October 1st, 2010 I threw myself into paleo. Gave up sugar (except for a once a week “treat”) and cut wheat from my diet. I did it successfully for many months and lost a little bit of weight. Not nearly as much as I thought I would’ve, though. I have to keep in mind that I’m also fighting with my thyroid and PCOS. But those can’t be used as excuses for why I can’t get healthier. They need to be further incentives.

I know it’s coming soon. It has to. Because there are things I want to do that I can’t right now: jump into the arms of someone I love and wrap my legs around his/her waist, be fucked up against a wall, shop in “normal” stores where clothes are less expensive, and be a good role model for the kids I still distantly hope to have one day. Also, at some point, I will be able to afford (or be treated to) pedicures regularly, and goddamnit, I want to have both my feet so I can get both of ’em painted up pretty.

Okay. Fine. Saying it’s coming soon isn’t changing anything. Saying I have to isn’t doing it. So. September 15th, 2013. That is the day. I will change my life, my eating habits, and make consistently healthier choices. It’s about fucking time to, once again, Go For It, Genevieve.

Long post about LGBTQ (and poly, too!) YA fiction is long.

So in the wee hours of this morning when my head wouldn’t shut off but also wouldn’t focus properly, I found this site called gayya.org which is all about LGBTQ Young Adult fiction. They have a pretty fantastic reading list, and welcome suggestions for more titles to put on the list (I sent them four.)

They also have an Online Resources page, where they link to “blogs, websites, and authors” who support LGBTQ YA fiction. I suggested youngadultmag.com, the online YA magazine I’ve written for. To demonstrate the LGBTQ inclusiveness of the site, I shared links to the lesbian poly story I wrote (did I mention the reading list for this site also includes YA books that have some form of polyamory? It’s part of the last category!) and a currently featured, first-in-a-series (called Reflection of a Leader) story, written by a dear friend of mine, centering around about a HS teacher and coordinator of a student LGBTQ group.

The reading list on the site was pretty comprehensive, so I’ve copy and pasted it here to spread the word, give me (and anyone else, if you’re the curious type) an idea of what I’ve read, add some commentary, and also help me to pick new books to check out from the library. Which, can I just say that even though I’m living in the South now, my library has a heartening stock of LGBTQ books? One of the newer ones on the Lesbian list, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” just came out and the library had it ready to go!

LESBIAN CHARACTERS AND PAIRINGS
Gravel Queen by Tea Benduhn
How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart <- WONDERFUL book. Loved it.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth <- just got it from the library last week
The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer
Down to the Bone by Mayra Dole
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden <- one of the first lesbian books I read. Made me love the Temple of Dendur even more.
Good Moon Rising by Nancy Garden
Sister Mischief by Laura Goode
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
Torn by Amber Lehman
Gravity by Leanne Lieberman
Ash by Malinda Lo
Huntress by Malinda Lo
My Tiki Girl by Jennifer McMahon
Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle
Tripping to Somewhere by Kris Reisz
The End by Nora Olsen
Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters
Far From Xanandu by Julie Anne Peters
Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters
Rage by Julie Anne Peters <- Incredibly good, and deals not only with lesbian teen characters, but an abusive one.
She Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters
Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Grl2Grl by Julie Anne Peters
The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
Empress of the World by Sarah Ryan
The Rules for Hearts by Sarah Ryan
Inferno by Robin Stevenson
The Sweep Series by Cate Tiernan
Please Don’t Kill The Freshmen by Zoe Trope
Pink by Lili Wilkson
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
Love & Lies by Ellen Wittlinger

GAY CHARACTERS AND PAIRINGS
Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman
Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block
The Value of X by Poppy Z. Brite
The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron
How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart
Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers
With or Without You by Brian Farrey
The Screwed-up Life of Charlie the Second by Drew Ferguson
My Heartbeat by Garrett Freymanm-Weyr
The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold
Jumping off the Planet by David Gerrold
Bouncing off the Moon by David Gerrold
Leaping to the Stars by David Gerrold
Two Parties, One Tux, and A Very Short Film About the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman
Mariposa Club by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Last Exit to Normal by Michael B. Harmon
Geography Club my Brent Hartinger <- This is part of the “Russel Middlebrook” series (as is the title below this listing) which centers around Russel and his friends in high school. This series is awesome to me, especially, because it features one of YA fiction’s few openly bisexual female characters.
The Order of the Poison Oak by Brent Hartinger
Jack by A.M. Homes
Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
Totally Joe by James Howe
Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wills Hurwin
Freak Show by James St. James <- OMG, I don’t think I’ve ever read a more fabulous character in all of literature than Billy Bloom.
Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger
Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg
The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
Absolutely Positively Not by David LaRochelle
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Leviathan
Boy Meets Boy by David Leviathan
Wide Awake by David Leviathan
Love is the Higher Law by David Leviathan
Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne
Dramarama by E. Lockhart
The Year of Ice by Brian Malloy
Twelve Long Months by Brian Malloy
The Wicked Lovely Series by Melissa Marr
The Straight Road to Kylie by Nico Medina
Hero by Perry Moore
Sunblood by Maria Mora
Shine by Lauren Myracle
Exiled to Iowa. Send Help. And Couture. by Chris O’Guinn
Sprout by Dale Peck
Blood Hound by Tamora Pierce
Do You Know That I Love You by Mark A. Roeder
Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen
In Mike We Trust by P.E. Ryan
Saints of Augustine by P. E. Ryan
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz
The Rainbow Boys Trilogy by Alex Sanchez <- ADORED this trilogy.
So Hard To Say by Alex Sanchez
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai
A Really Nice Prom Mess by Brian Sloan
Stick by Andrew Smith
Big Guy by Robin H. Stevenson
The Blue Lawn by William Taylor
Please Don’t Kill THe Freshmen by Zoe Trope
Peter by Kate Walker
Dishes by Rich Wallace
My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
A vigil for Joe Rose by Michael Whatling
Bad Boys by Diana J. Wieler
Teenage Rewrite by Brandon Williams
What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson
Hushed by Kelly York

TRANS, POLY AND QUEER PAIRINGS AND CHARACTERS
I Am J by Chris Beam
Speaking Out – Anthology edited by Steve Berman
Mariposa Club by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
F2M: The Boy Within by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher <- It was good. But I also remember it not being as good, to me, as Luna or Parrotfish (see below).
Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr
The End by Nora Olsen
Luna by Julie Anne Peters <- I love Julie Ann Peters. She’s my hero in the LGBTQ YA scene. I would love to meet her one day. Also, this book rocks my socks and I recommend it to anyone, whether you’re dealing with trans issues in your life or family or friends or not.
Blood Hound by Tamora Pierce
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger <- AWESOME. One of my fav trans fiction books.

Southern charm & children

Picture it. The post office. In the deep South. A hot and humid afternoon. I haven’t had more than three hours sleep, my debit card got declined when I tried to get lunch, there’s a long ass line, and I have one last envelope to fill out before I can get on the ever-growing line to send everything out.

While I’m writing at the counter, a little girl around five or six years old with a seal puppet on her hand comes over to great me.

“Hi. You’re pretty.”

Ummm…okay. I guess this is what’s happening now.

“Well, hello there. You’re pretty, too,” I reply, pen still poised.

Her sister, about three or so years older, sporting a bunny puppet on her hand, decides to come over and join her.

“Hi, you’re very pretty. So’s your shirt,” the older sister informs me.

“Hi. And thank you. You’re both very pretty, too.”

“This is my seal,” the smaller girl tells me.

“That’s cool. What’s his…or her…name?”

“Her name is Wavy.”

“That’s a good name. Hi, Wavy.”

The older sister pipes in. “My bunny’s name is Logan.”

“I like that name. It’s nice to meet you, Logan.”

“She’s a girl.”

“Okay.” I smile and there’s a pause. I think maybe they’ll wander off to introduce their seal and bunny to someone else, and I also don’t want to be the creepy woman in the post office who’s talking to random children.

“We just came from the library.”

Right. I’m in the South. This isn’t creepy, its adorable and innocent. I put my pen down and smile at the girls.

“So did I! I love the library.”

“You did?” the younger sister happily asks, smiling at the coincidence.

“Yes, I did. I love to read. Do you girls like to read?”

The older sister lights up.

“I love to read! She,” pointing at her sister with the Logan the Rabbit hand, “can’t read yet. She’s only five.”

“I’m only five.” Little sister solemnly confirms this fact.

“She’s going to kindergarten in the fall.”

“Then you’ll be reading in no time!”

The little girl’s face lights up and then her seal starts chomping on the countertop. Logan, not to be left behind, starts to dine on the countertop as well. It happens to be the part where there are post office stickers that explain which slips of paper you need for what types of packages.

“Wavy and Logan seem hungry.”

“Well, we just got them. They’re very hungry!”

“It might be better to eat that part of the counter, though,” I suggest, indicating the smooth blue part with no writing on it and no slips of paper that people might have to get to. “You don’t want them to chew off the instructions. How would people read them?”

Both girls giggle and move their pets to the plain countertop.

The older sister thinks ahead. “We have carrots at home. I’ll give Logan carrots when we get home. Wavy needs fish, but we don’t have that.”

“Carrots are good for a bunny,” I agree, thinking about the night their mom has in store for her, what with her precocious children feeding real food to the library puppets.

At this point, the girls’ mother finishes up with the postal clerk and comes to gather the girls. She smiles at me and tells them to say goodbye. They do, as do Wavy and Logan. I go back to writing out my envelope with a big grin. A silly, sunny, little interaction like that is one of the reasons I love living in the South so much.

In other (people’s) words: the book edition.

CallingMeHome-JulieKiblerNowhereButHome-LizaPalmer

These are the two most recent books I’ve read. Clicking on each will take you to the reviews I wrote for the Cannonball Read 5 race to read 52 books in a year in order to donate to a kid’s college fund who lost him mom to leukemia a few years ago. It seemed like a good cause to read books I was going to read anyway, but I didn’t count on certain months of this year leaving me with no desire to read or write. That sucked. But now I’m drinking things in, have updated my Goodreads account, and am soldiering on trying to complete the “whole” Cannonball I signed up for in January. I’m only 11 books in, but I’m going strong and have a string of books coming to me from library holds.

However, reading these two books (and the last Kushiel book, but that’s a whole ‘nother post) has been like someone pouring a glass of sweet tea on my head in the middle of a hot spell. There are some similar themes: obviously from the titles, ideas of home and the strong ties to it; love; family relationships; and definitely the South. Since the fourth grade, I’ve had an affinity for both Southern fiction and historical Southern race relations fiction. I’ll always remember my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Stevenson, reading “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” to us, his voice rumbling like thunder come alive in our classroom. To this day, that’s one of my top ten favorite books of all time.

As I grew older, my love of black fiction expanded out of the South and all over the world (one of my favorite books from college was Tsitsi Dangarembga’s “Nervous Conditions” set in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe) and even into a fictional racial dystopian world where white people are the new black. If you haven’t read the YA series Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, you so should. I’ve only read the first book and one of these days will get my hands on the other two in the trilogy. But the first is worth the price of admission alone. And on the other end, my love for Southern fiction expanded to include Rita Mae Brown’s lesbian books. “Venus Envy” = Fantastic.

I may not’ve been born and raised in the South, nor am I black (though it is possible, though unlikely, since my maternal great-grandparents owned a peach plantation in Georgia) but both the Southern mentality of “we don’t hide our crazy, we put it on the front porch and give it a sweet tea” and the warring racial tension mixed with layers of propriety actually spoke volumes to me, growing up fat in an unstable, alcoholic family. I understood what it was like to have people judge you (and act according to those judgments) with one look. Stupid. Lazy. Unworthy. Ugly. I remember fighting with my dad over his antiquated and downright disgusting views of different races (and gay people.) My mom once told me that she showed him “Roots” in it’s entirety and he miraculously wasn’t racist for about two years. But without regularly being exposed to different ideas and also insulating himself with bigoted company…I guess it wore off? I don’t understand it. When I was a teenager, I vowed never to think of people like that, and definitely not to treat people like that. My mom told me racist, bigoted people are afraid. And angry. And underneath it all, sad. My dad, love him though I do, is a very fearful, angry man. Who’s turned into a very sad man underneath it all. After all, “angry is just sad’s bodyguard.”

That quote is from Liza Palmer’s “Nowhere but Home.” The main character, Queenie, spends her time running from her past: her small town Texas roots, the boy who was deemed too good for her, and the reputation of her tramp of a momma. There are so many parts of this damn book that I relate to, but that title quote is one of the best quotes. Anger and sadness. I’ve been fighting with both of them lately.

The other quote, also from “Nowhere but Home,” that keeps running around in my head is “I need to start believing I’m worthy of being courted.” Because I…somewhere inside, I guess I don’t. I don’t know. What I do know is that when I read “Calling Me Home,” a love story that starts in Kentucky in 1939 between a white physician’s daughter and the black son of the family’s housekeeper, I was presented with a love story for the ages. The quiet strength and enduring love Robert had for Isabelle, and she for him left me in tears at various points. She sacrificed her family for him (granted, her mother and brothers weren’t much of a loss) and he gave up studying medicine in college to get a job to pay for their room in a rooming house in Cincinnati. They left Kentucky and got married in Ohio. In this day and age, that’s sacrifice enough, but in 1939? That’s monumental. It’s brave and passionate and wonderful. While there are many quotes and passages that resonated with me, the only one I can find floating around the internet is still appropriate: “The heart is a demanding tenant.” That it is.

So I’m sitting here at 5:35 in the morning trying to figure out the future. Trying to believe I’m worthy of being courted. Trying to figure out the demands my heart is making. Trying to figure out what the next chapter of my love story brings. Thankfully, I had these two books (and the Kushiel series, but again, whole ‘nother post) recently and a boatload of strong female characters to help me along the way.

Don’t you sometimes wish your heart was a heart of stone?

Beneath the white fire of the moon
Love’s wings are broken all too soon.
We never learn.
Hurt together, hurt alone.
Don’t you sometimes wish your heart was a heart of stone?

“Heart of Stone” -Cher

Sometimes, yes. Most times, no. It’s been really fucking hard, lately. I know the problem isn’t love itself. The problem comes with what people do do with it, in the name of it, despite it.

Right now, all I can do is focus on setting my life back on a better path. I don’t know yet what all’s going to be on that path, but learning to surrender to that unknown is part of the endeavor. On Thursday, I told my husband I needed some time to myself and I came up with a week and a half. He said it seemed awfully specific and asked what was going on.

Nothing’s “going on”.

Everything’s going on.

I need to figure out my place in it all. A few people have told me to take some time to myself. Days, weeks, months. The time lines vary from person to person. My therapist was the one who simply suggested that perhaps some time (unspecific) without interacting with my husband might help my head and heart from spinning. So I can figure out what I need, want, feel. I chose a week and a half because I needed more time than a weekend, more than a week. Sometimes it’s hard not to talk to him, sometimes it’s easier. I have much to think through, and life keeps going on.

My sister and I went for a belated birthday present spa morning yesterday. There was this scalp massage with coconut oil and a facial. It was nice to be pampered. My neck is still in knots, as I tend to hold a lot of tension there, but my head, hair, and face looked and felt splendid. We finished it up with a trip to the bakery for a small treat and then out to lunch. After a nap, my brother-in-law proved once again how awesome he is and breathed new life into an old computer of his for me, so I have a computer in my room now! Joy and rapture! After getting that set up, the family and I went out for Mexican dinner wherein me and margarita got very well acquainted. Four times. My head protested when I walked from the truck to my room afterward, but I was still able to continue and carry on a conversation with a dear friend. Bringing him through some finer details of the last few months and years of my life that he wasn’t aware of. Sharing perspective. It was good and helpful to articulate some of it. Some of it hurt like hell. Made me feel like a goddamned fool.

I fight that feeling a lot lately. My aunt telling me not to waste time doesn’t help. Feeling pressured to make a decision doesn’t help. What helps is being gentle with myself, which is what my friend advised me from the beginning of this whole painful chapter of life. So I’m working on that. Reading. Writing. Reaching out to people as I’m able to. It’s yielded fairly good results, so far. I had an amazing conversation with a choir friend about life and relationships and stupid pink hazes that women get into relationships in. A student in one of my water fitness classes gave me info for a writing contest and some neat sites for odd jobs and freelancing stuff. My choir director has proven himself fan-friggin-tastic over and over, but the best thing yet was how he handled the way I completely fucked up my part in the trio at the Spring MusicFest.

Cause, man. I fucked it up. But part of the problem was that we weren’t given our starting pitches, which my choir director apologized for later. But from that bad beginning, I just couldn’t get it on track and wound up singing the tenor part, an octave higher. Not the worst thing ever, but it wasn’t the melody, which is what I was supposed to have. I felt like such an incompetent idiot afterward, and emailed my choir director that afternoon to apologize. It was my sister’s birthday, and she was kind enough to come to the concert, but afterward, I didn’t want to sulk through her day. Mentally, I was kicking the hell out of myself while also trying to keep perspective. Even professional singers fuck up, right? I finally let it go after much feeling, yet again, like a fool. A day or so later, my choir director sends a note to the choir praising us for the job we did. But he didn’t ignore mistakes. Here’s part of what he said:

Our performance Sunday was extraordinary. No, it wasn’t perfect. That’s not the goal. Music done right touches people. We created that connection on a very high level. The buzz we created was electric. Karen told me she went out to lunch after our performance and ran into a woman who regularly attends COR. Her enthusiasm and pride were effervescent. That church pride is important. We know we worked hard to reach this level and we earned that personal pride, but to be recognized as an asset worthy of our community pride is something that has meaning for me. Great job.

I’m so glad to be be part of this choir. 🙂

There’s a lot I’m grateful for, being here. The lake, the choir, the church, my family and friends (both the ones who’re here and the ones back in Jersey who love and support me), the Y, my therapist, books, this computer I’m typing on, opportunities to grow.

Now I just need to steer myself forward, continually. I’ve begun writing lists of things I need and want to do. Like sun salutations in the morning. Sleeping more regularly, which will come when I feel less stressed. Exercising more, which I’m doing pretty well at so far. Eating better, which I’m also doing better at. I have my occasional unwise choices, but who doesn’t? The thing to focus on is making better choices more consistently and not beating myself up when I make a poor choice. Developing a deeper connection to my spirituality. Streamlining and simplifying my life. Putting out positive energy through thought, action, and speech. Writing on a daily basis. There are some writing competitions that I feel I should enter, so I’m working on that. Getting a job or many regular freelance jobs so I can get out my sister’s by October.

Heal. That’s a big one.

Because my heart, no matter how much I wish it were sometimes, is not made of stone. And it’s wings have been mangled. It’s bruised and sad and sometimes hopeless that it will ever heal and be happy again. I try to reassure it, but then Amanda Palmer’s song “Astronaut” comes whirling into my head:

Is it enough to have some love?
Small enough to slip inside the cracks.
The pieces don’t fit together so good
with all the breaking and all the gluing back.

Even so, someone said or I read recently that the cracks in a broken heart are what allows the light to shine through. I wish I could remember where or who that came from, but at least the sentiment has stuck with me. Which means right now, I’m taking some time to be gentle with myself. I’m going to play some music, light a few candles in my soul, and create a beautiful new mosaic from the pieces of my heart.