Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Be the Reason for Cranky Cynics

I saw a meme today that said "Be the reason someone believes there's goodness in the world." Ugh. Just...ugh. That's WAYYYYYYY too much pressure for snarky cynical me: I suggest the following alternatives. Feel free to add your own.

Be the reason... someone wonders when they landed in an alternate dimension. I mean, who doesn't want tea with an eyeless tentacled creature from that other universe? You know, the one you find in the closet? 

Be the reason... someone believes in mediocrity. Hey, goodness can be overwhelming. Some days mediocrity is fucking FANTASTIC. 

Be the reason... someone picks up their own goddamn dishes. Why yes, actually, from now on dishes you leave in the living room WILL be piled on your pillow. (This is perhaps an awkward tactic if you live alone. I suggest finding inappropriate alternatives in that case.)

Be the reason... someone says "what the actual fuck is WRONG with you?" Self explanatory, really. It's likely my favorite because it happens so often. 

Be the reason... for a powerfully awkward silence.  I'd like to brag here that I've practiced this art since I was five, and I'm an adept. You may bow, or be afraid...either works. 

Be the reason... someone says "is that an EAR on the floor?" Thanks Ragnar. Um, for the record, it was a dog ear...not a real dog ear, one from a stuffed dog. Torn off, presumably, by the real dog, who regularly channels his Viking namesake and berserks all over his toys. It's pretty gross. 

Be the reason your favorite coffee house stays open. How else does one get all that mediocrity accomplished? 

Be the have a fun and entertaining holiday season. Yep, even if it's purely because you're reveling in your own personal style of insanity. 

If a little kindness sneaks in there and you make someone's day better by accident or on purpose, or you find you're having a horrifying moment of sentimental warm FEELINGS...don't worry.

I won't tell.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Pets: Not for the Faint-Hearted

I've held a lot of this in for a year, and this is NOT a pleasant or easy read. It is not funny, and there is detail I'm not sorry about sharing but isn't fun. This is your warning.

Today is the one year anniversary of Chewy's death.

That's a kind way of saying it: a euphemism, really, because Chewy didn't die naturally or in an accident. Chewy died because I made the decision to kill him, and I think I'll carry guilt for the rest of my life.

The time came for Thor in December 2016, and with him I waited too long. He'd been declining with cancer for a while, and by the time we brought him in there really was no choice. He was so ready to go the last few days he just slept with his head on my lap, asking for help. When the vet came in he sighed heavily with obvious relief, licked my hand to say goodbye, and relaxed. He was asleep in seconds and gone in less than a minute. I promised myself I wouldn't make any other pets suffer on my selfish behalf when it's time, because his last couple of weeks were miserable for him, and it was purely due to my inability to say goodbye.

A year later, in 2017, Chewy wasn't ready. His back legs mostly didn't work anymore (I had to use a towel-sling to get him outside to go potty), his voice had mostly given out, but overall he was pretty alert and perky, if immobile. As fall set in, though, he was starting to falter and his joints hurt some. He fell down the stairs almost daily: he'd try his damnedest to climb up to sleep in my office while I worked: it usually took a couple of tries and sometimes my help. I'd hear him thump his way back down, his back legs having failed him again, his poor belly and chin smacking each step down to the landing. It hurt: he'd lie there and pant for a long time before trying again. And he'd still try again EVERY GODDAMNED TIME. I tried to work from the living room as much as I could, but it wasn't enough.

Still, on his last day the weather was gorgeous (much like today...thanks dude) and he spent a long while standing or lying in the grass barking at things in the neighborhood. Just randomly joyfully barking, as though not a damn thing was wrong at all. He had cheeseburgers for lunch, as much puppy ice cream as he wanted, and napped in the sun with the kitten for a while before I took him in. The whole day I second guessed myself, because this was my dog again. he had a great day. He wasn't ready to go.

I made the decision to put him down before the deep cold hit his joints, before the trips down the stairs broke his neck, before he got stuck in the snow or ice just trying to go potty in the winter. I made the decision to kill my dog before he was emotionally ready to go, because I didn't want him to experience the decline I saw in Thor and have a miserable ending. I wanted him to go out when he'd had a good day. I'll never be sure that was the right thing to do. I played god and killed my pet before Death came for him.

He was 130lbs at the end: I couldn't pick him up. The day I brought him to the vet, I had to have help lifting him in and use a sling to bring him into the office. And he was so goddamned happy and cheerful, saying hi to everyone like normal.

When we took Thor in, my vet gave me the reality of faces of euthanasia. In Thor's case, we were lucky: everything went quietly and easily because he was so ready to go, but there are many variations of death, and luckily he'd told me other possible outcomes.

When the techs put Chewy's IV in, he wiggled and they'd missed the vein, so the sedative didn't work. He struggled to get up. They had to re-do the IV and the sedative. He watched me as it finally kicked in, obviously wondering what the fuck was going on here, and struggled more until his eyes half closed and his tongue stuck out of his mouth on the exam room's floor. He was too big for the blanket they put down, you see, and he couldn't relax enough to lay his head in my lap. I petted and talked to him without stopping, reassuring him and staying calm as my vet administered Pepto-pink death through a hypodermic into my dog's front leg.

I'll never use Pepto again.

Chewy struggled, flailed, drooled, twitched, and desperately tried to lift his head even mostly sedated as the drug reached his heart. He didn't go easily: he fought like a goddamned warrior right up until the end.

He wasn't ready. And even though a cold analytical view of his status and the immediate future of suffering still has me falling on the side that i did what was best for him, it doesn't FEEL like I did what was best for him.

And that's why pet stewardship is both awesome and fucking awful. You are their god. They are a part of your universe, but you are ALL of theirs, and it's the human's responsibility not only to do what's right and necessary no matter how awful it is (even when it sticks with you forever), but also to BE THERE for it.

There's an article going around in social media about a vet's take on owners who leave their pets alone to die. I get that it's awful and hard: I've seen both sides of the process and it's not always easy. I get that if you have a backup or truly can't control your grief, it's better to leave than stress them out more. But ultimately, I firmly believe you are the adult. You are the human, and taking on that life means you are responsible for it through to the end.

You suck it up and stay with them (and stay calm) because it's not about YOU. Comforting a loved one as they die is an act of compassion and love, and pets deserve that honor after dedicating their lives to you. It sucks. It's terrible, and exhausting, and it's really fucking hard to not start bawling when they're going, whether Death comes easy or not. It's also part of the gig. I get there by remembering advice I'd been given years ago, when I struggled with a different situation that threatened to overwhelm my ability to be present for someone else's crisis: stay in the love.

Focus on THEM: focus all your love and energy and comfort and petting and gratitude for their time with you on them.

Leaving this world showered in affection and reassurance and comfort from the person/people at the center of your universe can't be a bad thing: if that's all you can give your pets that's enough, even when their end comes before they're ready. After they're gone, by all means fall apart. I did.

I did today as I wrote this, because October is a time of endings and I'll remember his last day until I see him again. Han asked me recently where dogs go when they die, and can we visit them, and will we see them again (Evil piped in and said Heaven is another planet). Nothing like a 6 year old's perfectly reasonable questions (WHY DO I GET THEM? I'm the AUNT!) to get a girl thinking about what my boys are doing in their afterlives. I presume bunny-chasing and barking are high on the list.

I miss Thor and Chewy as horrendously as I am eternally grateful for my current furry monsters.
And someday I'll do this dance again. A long, long time from now.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Book Review: Picture Perfect Cowboy by Tiffany Reisz

Retired bull rider Jason Waters is about as tightly wound and uncomfortable as a cowboy can be. He fits every surface assumption about a rodeo athlete more accustomed to thousand pound pissed off animals than people: lean, quiet, calm, conservative, and unfailingly polite. Unfortunately for Jason (and luckily for us), a promise to a fellow rodeo buddy puts Jason in the position of posing naked for a hot-rodeo-boys calendar: a calendar Simone Levine is shooting. Simone's unique combination of artistic mischief and harmlessness cuts through the Jason's polite shield, and he unexpectedly reveals a secret he's carried for years. And so they begin with a nude photo shoot and a naked confession.

One of my favorite things about Tiffany Reisz's work is the way she takes a familiar romance novel premise and twists it down excellently unexpected paths. Picture Perfect Cowboy occurs in the Original Sinners universe, which generally guarantees a certain level of character depth (oh yes, that pun is intended) as well as varying levels of smut. This story doesn't disappoint, as it turns out Jason is terrified his own predilections make him a terrible and depraved man. Simone, on the other hand, is an occasional professional at King's NY club and a personal friend of Mistress Nora. Who better to help Jason  relax and be who he is, by proving that a little depravity doesn't make him a bad guy?

Again, the romance theme of the "good woman is all a rake needs to be reformed" is revised to a more modern and entertainingly smutty adventure. Reisz doesn't skimp on the varying erotic scenes. True to form, some are pure sexiness while some skate the edge of downright uncomfortable, and there's really no predicting which scenes will have either effect on any reader. If you aren't an expert on spanking after this, you weren't paying attention.

What's really interesting in this story is Jason's evolution, both in emotional growth and technical skill. I love that Reisz always delves into the how/why of a character's kinks, and though some of the motivating factors can be judged as awful (through no fault of Jason's own), the end result is an acceptance without judgment of his needs as an adult. Simone (with a little help from Nora and Soren) actively encourages Jason to accept himself and navigate the twisty ethical and emotional effects of desires he's been ashamed of as morally terrible due to his upbringing.

In addition to his internal struggle, relationship conflicts arise as outside parties are introduced to Jason and Simone's private world, and the vast lifestyle differences between a Kentucky horse rancher and a New York professional kinkster interfere. Picture Perfect Cowboy is a lot of relationship packed into a pretty short package. Tiffany Reisz covers both traditional romance novel issues as well as BDSM kink with the same excellent style in the other Sinners books.

My only complaint is the traditional market length of this story necessarily leaves little room for more, and I wanted more. The best possible danger of writing is convincing readers the characters are real people you want to hang out with: this is an absolute success. I hope this becomes a bit of a series since at least one other character has some clear Sinner potential, because I thoroughly enjoyed Simone and Jason's love story. Also, I'm not going to lie, I'd love to find out how Jason and Griffin get along.

Picture Perfect Cowboy by Tiffany Reisz is available on November 5th in hardcover and ebook from 8th Circle Press.
Picture Perfect Cowboy on Amazon

Friday, September 07, 2018

More Things Ragnar Ate and Drunk Walrus Impersonations. These Are Unrelated.

Once in a while, I re-up a subscription to one of those monthly boxes of random fun stuff, just because who doesn't like getting a box of something NOT bills in the mail? 

This month, it was a witchybox full of various pagan bits and pieces (um, let's be clear I mean bits and pieces of things that are often associated with witches and pagans, not bits and pieces OF a pagan...that'd be gross, and way messier than this box turned out to be). 

Ragnar apparently thought the box smelled fascinating. Therefore, Ragnar ripped the box apart in the middle of my office floor when I was in another room. 

Interestingly, there was some incense, some bath salts (the sort for bathing in, not the sort that turn a person into a face-eating zombie), a candle or two, a set of Tarot Cards...and the ONLY thing he destroyed was the box the cards came in. My wall-eating, shoe-devouring, garbage destroying dog OPENED the jar of bath salt and very carefully didn't eat any, and left everything else alone. 

I'm fairly certain that box came with some sort of anti-dog-destruction spell, and it seems to be persistent. 

Last night I used some of the salts. I usually leave the bathroom door open a little so they don't scratch at it when I'm in a bath, and Ragar slammed his way enthusiastically into the room per usual. Then he stopped, all four legs went completely stiff, his hackles went up just a little, and he stared in horrified disbelief. Seriously, his message "WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" was crystal clear, and hilarious. He wouldn't come near the bathtub, and jumped back if I moved the water. He made a ridiculous whine/growl noise and ran out of the room. 

You guys, I'm not kidding: he went to get Angus. My dog tattled on me for being in the bathtub, and brought the actual ruler of the household in to check. Ragnar stayed over a foot away from the tub while Angus jumped on the side, licked my knee, batted the water a little, and settled there to watch floating lavender bits. It's possible he stuck his face in the water and sneezed. I was laughing too hard to be certain. 

Ragnar continued his protest by lying on the bathroom floor and keeping both eyes on us, clearly worried the horrible water monster would kill us both. He grumbled like an old man for the entire time. 

He also ate both of my last two pairs of sunglasses recently: he gets zero sympathy. 

In other news, I'm taking my open-water scuba diving certification dives this weekend. In order to do said dives, I'm required to go to the scuba shop and try on wetsuits (because it's September in MN and lakes are starting to cool off, especially at 20 feet down). 

Have you ever tried on a wetsuit? I mean the 7mm version, not the cute skinny 3mm half suits used for warm weather/warm water stuff. Have you ever tried to pull on a pair of tights that REFUSE to allow you to pull them all the way up so the crotch is, well, in the crotch? It's infinitely harder to do when the fucking tights are weird rubbery material that squishes under your fingers and doesn't move much. 

WHO INVENTED THIS FRESH HELL? Seriously, I'd like to put the wetsuit creator in the same room as the dipshit who invented thong underwear or control-top pantyhose and beat them all with something humiliating. Like a giant dildo. 

I'm 6' tall, and I'm not one of those willowy thin tall chicks. Wrangling my buns into that thing involved flailing, heavy breathing, sweating, swearing, and eventually falling over like a damn drunk walrus. And having dropped off my yoga practice and not having any natural contortionist ability, I had to leave the dressing room and get help to zip it up. Since I wasn't actually GOING diving, I wasn't in a swimsuit - awesome. 

I have to do this tomorrow and Sunday in front of people...if I don't cause the rest of the divers to fall overboard and drown from laughing too hard, I deserve a goddamned medal. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Things Ragnar Ate Episode 4: The Reeking

I hate cicada season. HATES it, Precious.

Ragnar doesn't give a hoot (or a bark, or a howl, or some weird middle-of-the-night snuffle-grunt that scares the shit out of his owner) about cicadas. 

Ragnar cares deeply about the innards of stuffed animals. And shoes. And walls. 

So, lately in the list of Things Ragnar Ate: 
  • Another pair of flip flops - sadly, Crocs are in some sort of trouble and he keeps eating my sandals...and I'm insane enough to attempt to thwart him by buying another pair and hoping I don't forget to put them out of reach. Oh come now, do we REALLY think I'm capable of keeping them safe from the one-shoe-eater? 
  • A full bag of strawberry Twizzlers - I expect to clean up something resembling the results of Strawberry Shortcake kegger later.
  • Something that could be a melon-ball sized ball of butter, a hard boiled egg yolk, or possibly some sort of alien eyeball, covered with ants - I mean, he's a damn master at finding weird shit in the yard as well as leaving weird shit in the yard. However, the eye-rolling and frantic snorting when he gets an ant up his nose is utterly priceless. 
  • Just another hole in the wall - Pink Floyd would be proud, I'm sure. For those counting, this makes three. Is there a psychiatrist out there who treats pica in dogs? I don't get his fascination with sheetrock. 
  • Weiner Dog and Olaf guts - not real ones. But his weiner dog stuffed animal is now gutless and I spent a good 20 minutes picking up fluff even as he looked me in the eye and slooooooowly pulled out more stuffing, like a creepy serial killer. Who makes a stuffed dog toy of another dog, anyway? Disturbing. 
  • Every throw pillow in this house - because he's a fucker who obviously hates my naps. 
  • A goose egg. Where the fuck did he find a GOOSE EGG, and WHY WAS IT ROTTEN? - I mean crawling with maggots, green and black inside, death-stench rotten. What the fuck have people been doing in this townhome complex, really? 

If I catch the person leaving rotten goose eggs or weird yellow balls of something icky in the yard, I suspect they'll find an unidentifiable stench in their yard...far away from my stinky-breathed-dog.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Make America Educated Again

I'm not sure how to title this post, because the utter stupidity of the conversation that sparked it annoyed me so much I needed a couple of days to decide how to approach the subject.

Two days ago Minnesota held Primary Elections. I was outside letting Ragnar snuffle around instead of doing the business he was supposed to be doing, and my neighbor walked by. I've talked about her before, and to be fair we mostly get along. But Tuesday she received a real response from me, because her self-absorbed stupid was just amazing.

She started the conversation by complaining that our property taxes will go up again because my city had "yet another stupid school levy pass".

Ok, I was confused at the bitter snarky tone. "Why is that a problem? Good schools mean good neighborhoods which mean good housing prices and upkeep." I honestly think she expected me, a single woman with no kids, to actually agree with her. Instead I continued, "I don't have kids but I WANT good schools, so I'm happy to pay the levies...a good school system makes the whole city better to live in."

Selfish to the core, she immediately changed tactics, because ultimately her fussing is purely based on "I don't have kids in school, why should I have to pay" which I find to be an underlying formula based on self-absorbed myopia among many MAGA folks: "I don't have/do x, so I shouldn't have to pay for y." Yeah. I'll get to that idiot argument in a minute. Her argument changed to "well it all goes into teacher pensions anyway, none of the kids see any of that money."


I didn't say it out loud. I so wanted to. Instead I said, calmly, "So...teachers already don't get paid enough for what they're doing, and you begrudge them a decent pension after they spend decades putting their own money toward underfunded school supplies and work ridiculous numbers of hours for ridiculously low pay to educate the people who will eventually run the nursing home you end up in? I disagree."

She flounced (as well as a 70 year old cranky old bat can flounce, anyway) with the following parting shot: "Nobody paid for MY pension and I never made enough money. Why should I pay for them?" Can you hear the nasty combination of whine and bitterness in her tone? I did. Ugh. Then she slammed the door, thus endeth her proclamation.

So, as amusing and idiotic as she is, the whole conversation disturbs the crap out of me, particularly in this current political climate and with an a-hole like Betsy Davros at the helm of national education directives. Let's remember what the difference is between SOCIALISM and SOCIETY is, shall we, because there seems to be some serious confusion regarding freedom, socialism, education, and the benefits/responsibilities of living in a society by a whole fuckload of selfish asshats since the idiot cheeto came to power.

  • If you drive on roads, YOU BENEFIT FROM SOCIETY. 
  • If you get city water/sewer service to your house, YOU BENEFIT FROM SOCIETY. 
  • If your public education is decent, your neighborhood is more desirable. 
    • If your neighborhood is more desirable, your housing prices rise (including the value of your own property, which is essentially an investment of many folks' personal wealth) and those who buy into the neighborhood tend to take care of their property, and YOU BENEFIT FROM SOCIETY. 
  • If your home is on fire and you call the fire department, YOU BENEFIT FROM SOCIETY. 
  • If you have need to call 911 for cops or paramedics, YOU BENEFIT FROM SOCIETY. 
If you can read, you can learn to understand the laws (you know, laws enacted by society?). If you can understand the laws, you can support or dissent. If you can disagree with a law you understand, you can discuss with others and potentially change the law. Freedom requires participation, which in our country usually requires at least a base level of education. Otherwise, you are just going along with what others impose upon you and your say is silenced.
  • Just for the record - SOCIALISM is defined as follows: theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

    Services society has agreed to pay for so we can use them and share the cost, like roads or fire departments, are not socialism. They are the result of participating in a community, which has zero difference from community-assisted barn raising or volunteering to trade harvest help a hundred years ago. I'm convinced that some of these folks who think in a selfish and short sighted way about education, health services, etc. must have had a seriously sub-par education. All the more reason to improve our schools. 

    Here's the thing - education is one of the essential areas where anyone not in the 1% of wealth can be kept under control by that same 1%. If you are uneducated (by choice or by lack of resource availability) you are easy to keep down because you're too busy trying to survive on low wages, bad benefits (or none, including health insurance), and all the downstream ramifications. Education is a basic stepping stone to an fairer and more equal society where the majority of folks have at least a SHOT at that elusive "something better" this country is founded on. 

    An uneducated populace allows propaganda and fear to rule their lives, and we get shit like the Inquisition. WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT ANOTHER INQUISITION?

    The tricky part of society's services that offer a CHANCE at more equality is that nothing is guaranteed. Just because the opportunity is there doesn't mean everyone takes it, and if we're all honest luck does have some say in success, but the simple availability of basic education is one of the services differentiating a successful functioning society and serfdom. 

    The kicker, the lesson so many seem to forget after 9th grade civics, is if you are going to benefit from society you are also responsible to it. If you participate in life, you are responsible for making the environment in which you live the way it is (good or bad). I think people who recognize this responsibility make some effort to make things better, because bitching and complaining is a downward spiral. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture or a full time job: it can be as simple as recognizing that only shitty selfish assholes take without ever giving back and bitch about things like taxes for the roads they use, the emergency services they might need, the medicare they inevitably complained about paying into but then use at retirement (like my neighbor), or the free education that benefits all of us (even those who can't afford private school) just by being available. 

    It can be as simple as voting: exercising the right and responsibility to participate in decisions that affect your environment. 

    I want the environment I live in to be full of educated people who make decisions based on something more substantial than propaganda. I think those who do the teaching need to be excellently educated themselves, and compensated well for their particular skill set (good teachers are a combination of motivator, multi-subject expert, public speaker, counselor, cat-wrangler, and magician...I decidedly do NOT have that particular set of skills). 

    So yeah, I'm good with a school levy that provides better education and better educators with well funded programs. AND pensions. Bring on the smart populace. 

    End rant. 

    Wednesday, August 15, 2018

    I Regret That Email, Just A Little

    I opened an email yesterday in my phone. 

    Writing that sentence is weird. I'm a tail-end GenXer...that means it was a HUGE deal for me to get a regular old corded phone in my room as a teenager. Email was still a newish thing in schools/colleges when I went to UMD as a freshman; it was there and we all used it for fun, but nothing class-related. The year after I graduated college was the first to issue computers to incoming freshmen in addition to computer labs as part of the semester fees. If you're too young to remember any of that and wonder what sort of "back in the olden days" I'm talking about, don't worry: pretty soon that'll be in history classes. But 20 year old me would've had utterly no clue how I could check email on any phone. 

    I'm wandering today: I'm trying a new sort of non-Starbucks-addiction coffee with a nifty cold-brew carafe thingy. Apparently sugar rush of a mocha hits faster than the caffeine, so I'm getting used to a longer fog since this is sans all extras. Incidentally, Ragnar is lying on the office floor next to me eating the cardboard box for the carafe. Since his teeth are full of cardboard instead of sheetrock, I'm ignoring it. 

    So...yesterday evening I opened an email in my phone for a retailer I very occasionally purchase from but usually just browse the paper catalog. 

    This morning I have 2 follow up emails from them, 8 hours apart, saying "did you see something you liked?" and "we noticed you were looking: don't forget". What the actual fuck, creepy catalog retailer? I mean, I know there is ZERO privacy on the interwebz, and that what you put out there is there forever even if you try to take it down, and that the NSA is watching all data. Whatever. I figure I could choose not to participate. But retail stalker emails showing exactly the last thing you looked at on their website, asking if you forgot your purchase, feels more like one of those bad perfume salespeople at the mall chasing you. She's wearing WAY too much of her own product and too-bright lipstick bleeding over the edges of her lipline or on her teeth, and following you three stores down the hall spraying that shit on the back of your head screaming "but you wore some, you MUST want to buy...I NEED A SALE!" 

    This is why I keep my yahoo address for online shopping. And blogs. And maybe I'm just old...except I never liked the approaches from pushy lotion and perfume kiosk people at the mall either. 

    Ragnar just left the room and it's suspiciously silent downstairs. I should go check on the status of the walls. 

    Saturday, July 28, 2018

    Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

    I have some educational background in mythology, so I'll usually give anything Illiad or Odyssey themed a chance. I'm a fan of Greek myths because they're so varied: Greek deities of all levels are a tapestry of virtues and flaws that more accurately reflect the capriciousness of an immortal being's attention to humans. I also (right or wrong) tend toward being a terrible book snob, and I know it. My reading list is long, and I'm picky, so I don't waste time anymore on books that don't meet high expectations right away. If I'm not hooked by the end of the second chapter, I will have zero remorse about setting a book aside and moving on. Circe hooked me on page one.

    If you don't recall the backstory, Circe is the sorceress on an island in the Aegean who turns Odysseus' men to pigs and has a year-long affair with the Greek hero before sending him back to Ithaca. Retellings the Odysseus myth vary in the treatment of Circe: sometimes she's a benevolent  being who treats his men unfairly and is convinced to be nice by falling in love with the hero. Sometimes she's a wicked and powerful witch, terrifying in her malicious treatment of men after gaining a reputation of turning them into pigs, until Odysseus "tames" her. 

    Miller's retelling is the biography of a minor goddess, daughter of Helios (the Titan who is literally the sun in the sky) and one of Oceanus's (Titan guessed it, the Ocean) daughters, a nymph. In this version, Circe is the unremarkable and emotionally abused sibling of her sister and two brothers, all of whom go on to do relatively famous deeds. Circe is portrayed as being too naive and too trusting of her family, and is abused for having zero power. Even her voice is considered horrid; she's often told to be quiet because of the tonal quality. Her voice sounds more human than immortal, and it's grating to immortal ears. In every way, Circe's "childhood", or perhaps more accurately her first few hundred years, is an exercise in making her as invisible as possible.

    It is in her loneliness that she turns to the friendship of a mortal sailor. She falls in love and wants to find a way to stay together, and turns to forbidden secret herbs rumored to be magic. The resulting mess reveals her for what she is: a witch. A woman without specific magical powers who can gain non-divine power through knowledge, learning, and herbs provided by Gaia herself. Being neither Titan nor Olympian in her power, Circe is considered an unknown, and therefore a threat, by Zeus. When she publicly admits her witchcraft and abilities, she becomes the witch scapegoat: banished forever to her island while her siblings, who posses the same powers, become famous in their own ways.

    Madeline Miller does an excellent job of creating a general attitude of casual dismissal of humanity by the the Olympians, Titans, and other immortals. They are as capricious, selfish, and callous as one might think a being who becomes bored over millennia could be. Circe, then, is set up from the beginning as an outsider simply by carrying something the rest of her family don't have at all: an air of humanity. I love this character. I love that over the course of the book she experiences every human emotion a woman can feel and learns to exert her independence and power for herself as she grows. Circe is not a fully formed "perfect" being like the rest of the immortals: she learns, suffers, and grows over time. She is not content to just be the mousy outcast her family of origin paint her to be. 

    Circe's circumstances aren't those of the mythic hero, out of touch with the reader's experience: she yearns for companionship, love, family, and friendship. Yet because she's immortal, she also touches other myths both surrounding the fall of Troy, Daedalus and Icarus, Scylla and Charybdis, the Golden Fleece, the Minotaur, and many others. Even in her isolation, Circe's world has a vastness beyond her little island and helps the reader with some sense of time. News of the world is cleverly brought to Circe via an ongoing casual affair with Hermes, the Messenger God who stops in occasionally for a gossip-and-sex visit.

    Miller's writing is utterly enjoyable. She's lyrical in a way that ties Circe to the feel of other Greek myths. In relating the death of Daedalus, Circe says:  "I had no right to claim him, I knew it. But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me." (Circe, Hachette Books, 2018) Every time I read that line, I get goosebumps. That's a rare thing for me, and I love Madeline Miller for it.

    The Odysseus tale occurs about midway through the book, which is fitting considering her year with him is only a blip in an eternity for Circe. That year has lasting consequences, however, and some interesting twists as time passes. Miller's portrayal of the sailors, Odysseus, and their relationship is so much more human than the myth. It's wonderful, and it sets the stage for the final third of the story with multiple threads that tie together later.

    You'd think covering so long a life would become tedious, but Circe's journey from the outcast nymph to powerful sorceress to...well, without spoilers I can say the satisfying resolution of her tale... is absolutely captivating. I was engrossed. I'll re-read this often.

    Tuesday, July 24, 2018

    Back with Spam - Oh Gloria, Your Marketing Fails.

    I mean...I guess it's convenient that I can have groceries or pizza delivered right along with someone named Leah?

    Honestly, Leah, even if I had the appropriate gear you're asking for, I have to say I'm not really the "any will do" type.

    Dear Yahoo mail and the Gloria Coopers of the world (I assume she's the madam in this case?)...still not a dude.

    What the actual fuck.

    PS: Dear Instacart,

    Stop enabling my laziness, you terrible siren song of convenience. Next time I have an I'm-crabby-bring-me-chocolate-or-die craving and can't bother to put on pants*, I'm looking you up, with a note saying just knock and leave groceries outside the door, because I still can't be bothered to pants. Thanks!

    *You probably think this mood is too specific to occur often. You are wrong. 

    Tuesday, May 15, 2018

    The Daily Mile and Other Random 7am Things

    I have a couple of posts of things I found cool or horrifying or interesting on my trip...mostly to keep track of them myself. I TRIED to journal while I was there, I swear I did. I faithfully brought one with me and even made 1/4 of an entry on day 1...and then I fell off the wagon altogether. Some writer, I know. But I do have loads of pictures and a couple pages of phone notes of odd stuff, like the City of the Dead in Edinburgh and the fairy tree in Ireland. Sadly, I have a desktop computer about a decade old, and I'm having some technical difficulty loading pictures from my phone.

    In the meantime, while in the UK a particular news story caught my attention, because if this isn't happening here in the states it really should be. For background, this post is not being written by your usual lazy sleep-in-Jess, but by the alien pod replacement who took over Jess's body somewhere in Ireland or Scotland and suddenly is WIDE AWAKE at 6am with no prompting from an alarm and gets up to walk the dog instead of rolling over with a grunt and sleeping until 7:59. Also, apologies for the horrendous run on sentence. Feel free to blame my lack of practice with your oddly archaic human language that uses punctuation and dangling participles instead of easier routes of communication, like telepathy or color coded fruit loops.

    So, one of the BBC channels, which are conveniently numbered BBC1, BBC2, BBC4, and DAVE (Yes, there is indeed a DAVE channel in the UK. I was baffled too.) had a story about a Scottish teacher who had an idea to help her students get better grades. She started in her school, then her district, then her country, and ultimately internationally, including some schools in the US according to the website. She calls it The Daily Mile, and it's possibly the easiest thing to give children of school age to help them learn, get fit, and focus: outside walk/run every morning for 15 minutes. This little thing she started has had such an effect on kids she's been recognized for awards and is invited to the royal wedding next week. For adults, walking a mile every day gives us more energy...I think sometimes we forget kids already have tons of energy and need to burn some of it off in order to focus and learn better.

    I may not have any spawn myself, but I'm one of those people who think a good education is one of the most important things we can give kids, which is why I never bitch about school levies on my property taxes and thoroughly believe teachers should make more money and have better benefits and support.

    Anyway, if you're a teacher or parent or (like me) an aunt/uncle or otherwise have kiddos in your life and want to know more, the link is here: The Daily Mile.

    Saturday, February 24, 2018

    Living Up to Viking Stereotypes

    This is obviously my fault. I'm the idiot who chose a Viking legend as the appropriate name for my puppy. Yes, I know there has been WAY more important world events lately, but I'm not a news source, and I'm tired of death, so this post is focused on destruction instead.

    Things Ragnar Ate: 

    • The heel of the only pair of tall boots I own that actually fit my calves. Because he's an asshole who has no respect for my wardrobe. 
    • Two packages of incense. Luckily for him, it wasn't the expensive incense: it was the single-use sticks. I expect his poop to smell like recycled lavender for a while. Does that mean cleaning up after him will make me sleepy? 
    • A ruler. Yeah. A wooden ruler with a fucking metal edge, which I managed to get away from him before he cut anything but after he lost another tooth. 
    • The carpet. There are so many carpet munching comments to be had least if he's going to do the viking stereotype he's choosing the right activity? 
    • The wall. The WALL. HE ATE THE MOTHERFUCKING WALL. He picked at the edge of a patch until he could get his little needley white puppy teeth on it, and pulled it off the goddamned wall. I actually have nothing funny to say about this, because it's just infuriating. Related: does anyone know a good sheetrock person? 
    • Angus. In neither an inappropriate cat / carpet euphemistic way (gross) OR a deathly way. Let me explain. 
    So here's how the daily fights in my house break down. Ragnar gets all worked up with UBER PUPPY ENERGY and starts chasing Angus. 

    Angus, being stubbornly convinced he's the biggest badass in the house, swats at puppy snout instead of running. Inevitably, this results in Ragnar grabbing the big black puffball cat's lemur-ish tail and attempting to drag him down the hallway. Have you ever heard a cat so pissed off he suddenly morphs into the Alien facehugger? Because that's what he doe: he wraps that lemur tail around the back of the puppy's head and latches onto his face with all four sets of claws. Instead of the creepy throat-egg thing, he just grabs Ragnar's ear in his formidable no-longer-kitten jaws and bites HARD. 

    Scream-whining ensues, and Angus rides a bucking puppy through the entire household, doubling down in his grip with both claws and teeth until Ragnar cries uncle. They separate for a few minutes, then Ragnar sniffs kitten belly, Angus licks Ragnar's forehead, and they snuggle until the WILD PUPPY ENERGY starts the whole rigmarole over. 

    Ragnar Lodbrok would undoubtedly be proud of my puppy's penchant for destruction. 

    Thursday, January 04, 2018

    And Then I Dropped a Chemical Weapon On Myself

    Things Ragnar Ate:

    • The corner of a foam Yoga brick
      • Well, that's an unsubtle reminder. 
    • A stolen treat still in the wrapper 
      • Dog treats are gross. This one was rabbit sausage (presumably that would be a sausage-shaped treat comprised of rabbit bits, not rabbit penis, since it didn't say "pizzle" on the packaging. 
    • The rubber coating from a 2 lb fitness weight
      • He's right. I'm not using it anyway. 
    • One ballet flat
      • But WHY does he insist on keeping one of my feet bare? Just one? ASSHOLE.
    • 7 toilet paper rolls
      • at least he waits for them to be empty, unlike Angus who insists on unrolling all the toilet paper and murdering any new roll he finds
    • A small chunk of wood from the bottom of a nightstand
    And this is where chemical weapons entered my bedroom. 

    If you've had a puppy, you are already aware that they chew on FUCK ALL EVERYTHING. Those tiny shark teeth are always hungry, and much like a shark, puppy teeth are nearly always in motion until they hit a few months old and start losing those shark teeth. At that point, the sharks are ALWAYS chewing...even in their sleep.

    Image result for great white shark
    My teeth hurt. CHEW THE THINGS.
    Photo courtesy of National Geographic
     As such, most pet supply stores offer various takes on icky things to spray/rub on items they don't want shredded.

    So, when I moved back to MN I bought myself real bedroom furniture so I can pretend I'm an adult. This statement is not a non-sequitur.

    At about 2:30am the other night, I woke to a giant furry termite making gross gnawing sounds that were unmistakably on wood. I'm not a fan of middle of the night sleep interruptions. By "not a fan" I do, indeed, mean I'm homicidally cranky.

    So, pissed off and growling, I got up. I took that fucking bottle of bitter-chemical-chew-stop and sprayed it on ALL the dresser/nightstands/bookshelves in my room. And the lone sad remaining already once-repaired iPhone cord.

    In my defense, at 2:30am when I'm naked and cold and ready to commit various bloody forms of murder on anything alive in my house who bothered waking me up...I MAY have overlooked the fact that spraying that shit all over means there is aerosoled chemical weapon floating around in the very air I breathe.

    And that's how I ended up with bitter-no-chew-spray in my sinuses, eyes, and lungs for the next six hours.

    FYI: Starbucks is NOT TASTY when mixed with bitter-no-chew-spray.