Got coulrophobia?

I was wondering what to do on this blog in honor of April Fool’s Day. I’m not much into pulling pranks, and I don’t want to deviate too far from my usual fare. (Not that I’d probably be able to, considering I pretty much breathe horror, sci-fi, and the generally absurd.) Historically, April Fool’s Day has either been really aggravating or really boring. I hate being suckered by false celebrity death news, and my friends and I have never been much for pulling pranks. Most pranks seem mean. I guess humor is in the eye of the beholder.

In this same vein, I started thinking about what else is polarizing in terms of humor. The first thing that came to mind was clowns. There’s actually a clinical term for fear of clowns. Coulrophobia. Sounds terminal, doesn’t it? My uncle hates clowns. He was the person that introduced me to Killer Klowns from Outer Space when I was younger. While I don’t necessarily find them funny, I’m not afraid of them. At least not clinically anyway. Circus clowns are alright, not necessarily funny but not scary either. Renaissance Fair clowns, on the other hand, are downright horrifying. I hate the ones that walk around on stilts and don’t say anything. They just leer at you from their height.

Being that it’s April Fool’s Day, let’s take a look at some clown representation in books and movies. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but more a sampling. If you think of any others or just want to join the discussion, feel free to comment at the end of this post!

BOOKS


  • Stephen King’s IT
    – The Loser’s Club of Derry, Maine is terrorized by Pennywise the Dancing Clown. While initally that doesn’t sound like much of a crisis, it turns out that Pennywise is actually a monster straight out of space who capitalizes on children’s fears. When the children grow up they are drawn back to Derry because Pennywise is on the rampage again. They must band together to defeat their old nemesis before it takes the lives of more children.
  • Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes – A carnival arrives mysteriously after midnight the week before Halloween. With it comes death and terror, and it’s up to two friends to fight the dark carnival.

MOVIES AND TV

  • Stephen King’s IT – The 1990 tv mini-series introduced viewers to Pennywise and the Loser’s Club. This project showcased Tim Curry in one of his best roles – as Pennywise himself. The mini-series couldn’t possibly hope to encompass the entire book, but it made sure to get the point across and was suitably creepy. (I’m super excited for the remake, which stars Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame!)
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes – This is an adaptation of the book by the same name. I confess that I haven’t seen this in years, but I do remember thinking it was absolutely creepy when I was a kid.
  • Clown – This movie is both sad and terrifying. Two loving parents have booked a clown for their son’s clown-themed birthday party. When the clown is overbooked, it’s up to Kent to find a replacement clown for his son. He’s in luck, as the house he’s getting ready to put up on the market has an old clown suit in a trunk that just happens to fit him perfectly. The only problem is that once he puts it on he can’t remove it, and he starts to change. As it turns out, the origins of the clown are not so innocent, and Kent and his family are dragged into the reality of the Cloyne, an ancient demon.
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space – This 1988 classic features aliens that come to Earth in a big circus tent. They look like clowns, but not the kind you’d ever want to meet. They set about capturing people and turning them into big light-bulb shaped cotton candy, which they then eat with a straw. Sort of like outer space spiders. A group of teenagers attempt to stop the Klown’s mayhem.
  • American Horror Story (Freakshow) – Twisty the Clown has always wanted to make children laugh. Some of the carnies don’t take favorably to the attention he’s paid by the children and families visiting the traveling freakshow. They start an awful rumor which tears Twisty’s world apart. He is a figure both terrifying and sad, and well worth watching the otherwise mediocre season just to see.
  • DC’s The Joker – The Joker has been interpreted in a variety of ways by not only several actors, but also several authors and artists in the comic book world. In each iteration, he has the typical colorful hair and white makeup. The extent to which he uses humor deviates based on who is doing the interpretation, but in every version he is the clown.
  • DC’s Harley Quinn – When doing brief research into the archetype of the clown, or fool, I found out that in theater it was used as a foil for the archetype of the harlequin. The harlequin was sly, stealthy, devious, and devilish. The perfect opposite of the bumbling clown. Originally introduced in Batman: The Animated Series, she quickly won over fans and has made her way into the comics, movies, and DC Comics merchandise line. Although her costume has changed over the years, a part of the harlequin is always included in her design.

Honorable Mention

  • The Cabin in the Woods – A group of teenagers heads up to a cabin for a weekend of sex, drinking, and general youth. Very quickly their weekend is derailed and they are left fighting for their lives. Two of the group, Marty and Dana, find themselves in a vault that houses horrors from the old world. A veritable stable of nightmares. Wouldn’t you know that one of them is a clown? As far as I can tell, it’s a nod to Pennywise, wearing the same garish colors and shock of red hair.
  • Frumpy the Clown – This series of comics from Judd Winick features a normal suburban family who happens to live with a disgruntled clown named Frumpy. Frumpy smokes cigarettes, drinks coffee, and advocates anarchy. The children love him. The parents are largely unsure.
  • Funcom’s The Park – I recently devoted an entire post to this Secret World spin-off game. It takes place in a haunted amusement park after dark. Clown imagery, while not necessarily frequent, is extremely effective and terrifying when put to use. I highly recommend playing this game in pitch dark with headphones.
  • Frightworld – My local haunted house features five themed houses. Almost every year they feature a clown house, which is done up in garish blacklight paint and features distorted carnival imagery and mocking clown actors.

 

 

 

 

As stated previously, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means. Just a sampling from TV, movies, and books. If there’s anything else you’d like to add, drop by the comments section!

Eric Pigors Swag!

I was not familiar with Eric Pigors until I met Dipper. One night at work he gave me an Eric Pigors book that he had doubles of and that was all it took. I was hooked on the creepy artwork and morbid subject matter. Last Spring, Dipper and I ordered some shirts off the website. I got a Lucky 13 Frankenstein baseball shirt, and he got a Ghastly Ones t-shirt.

For my birthday this year, Tkout spoiled me with an Eric Pigors hoodie, the new Rotting Caskets Funeral Home design. I am absolutely in love with it! The design is fantastic, and is printed on the back, hood, and one sleeve. It fits really well too. It features Frankenstein and his bride, as well as a ghost, and the usual noose imagery that I’ve come to expect in a Frankenstein design. As with any order, Eric also included some signed prints, business cards, and this time he sent along a die-cast sticker too. I intend to frame the artwork and hang it in the library. Everything was well packaged, and worth the wait!

Apparently going to his website is a dangerous thing, because I saw several patches that I am planning to purchase. I couldn’t walk away empty-handed, so I purchased a makeup bag with a metric ton of characters on it, as well as the fact that the orange strap and outside are sparkly orange. It’s technically a Halloween-themed bag, but I think I will be finding a use for it with my crafting items. If only so that I have an excuse to gaze lovingly at it year round!

With shipping, my bag came to $28. Normally I’m not the kind of girl that will spend that kind of money on a makeup bag. However, I know the quality of Eric’s merchandise, and I can tell you that this item is going to be well worth the money. Not to mention, look how cool the design is! And it’s lined with purple satin, my favorite color! The more I look at this, the more I think this would make an excellent case for the really nice crochet hooks Tkout purchased for me awhile ago.

 

 

 

 

 

It Was a “Horrible” Christmas

I know this post is wicked late, but that’s ok. Last night, I collected my Christmas/birthday gifts from Phoebe and Dipper so that I could take a picture of them. The weekend of the 13th, we celebrated my birthday, Dipper’s birthday, and Christmas. It was a wonderful night! We ate pizza and wings, watched Suicide Squad, Phoebe put together LEGOS, I crocheted, and we had a blast. Present opening was funny, because we had Zelda running around the living room the whole time, and she kept trying to see what everyone was doing, without coming in range of someone being able to pick her up.

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m so happy with what Phoebe and Dipper got for me that I can’t help but brag about it! The only words I can use to describe it are “spoiled rotten”! I couldn’t have asked for better gifts.

  • Graveyard Print – Dipper got this awesome little print offline. I intend to frame it and then hang it on the side of the basement where my library is, as well as my writing desk.
  • The Casebook of Carnacki: The Ghost Finder – I haven’t read anything of William Hope Hodgson, so Dipper decided I needed an introduction. This is also one of our Book Club books, which he has read first.
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula coloring book – Dipper and I were out and about one day and we saw this on a shelf. My eyes just about bugged out of my head. Needless to say, I was overjoyed to know that it was finally mine.
  • Joe R. Lansdale’s Christmas with the Dead – I haven’t unwrapped this movie yet, I’m waiting for Dipper and I to have a twin day so that we can watch it together. We both love Lansdale, I can still remember the day that I first found that out. I nearly fell over when I found out.
  • Dead Rising Watchtower – I haven’t played the Dead Rising franchise much, but Dipper knows I can’t resist a zombie movie. Bonus points in that I haven’t seen this one yet. I think that might be on the docket for this weekend.
  • Kira and Fizzgig – When it was announced that Funko Pop would feature The Dark Crystal characters, I was hoping they’d have Fizzgig. He is, hands down, my favorite character in the entire film. He comes packaged with Kira, and the detail is fantastic. When Dipper showed me the article, I was freaking out. These were the ones I HAD to have. The others in the set are cool, don’t get me wrong. But this is my favorite for sure.
  • LEGO Batman figures – Phoebe came into the house like a mini tornado. She handed me pink fairy Batman and Eraserhead, explaining that she wanted to make sure that I had Christmas gifts that I would always remember were from her. And nobody else. Pink fairy Batman is spectacular! Eraserhead is just kinda funny looking. Both make me laugh every time I see them.
  • Not pictured are the two comforters Dipper gifted us. I am so in love with the desert camouflage/fleece lined comforter that I have barely changed it out since I got it. The other one is a beautiful green-blue color, and I have yet to take it out of the package yet,

I will be posting another post later with pictures from our Christmas hangout, but I don’t have them where I currently am. Phoebe and Dipper were delighted with their gifts, and the tree looked awesome (because Phoebe helped me decorate it!).

Choosing Appropriate Movie Content

When I sat down to blog, I wanted to finish recording Phoebe and my recent movie-spree. However, as I continued, I found myself defending my choices, which took away from the post too much. I also realized that I subconsciously had a rubric I ran the movies through before suggesting them to Dipper. I decided that instead of bogging down the other post, I would make this one separate.

There have been people who have questioned my choices, even though Dipper has approved them all. It may not seem like there is a system at work, but truly, there is. You see, I love Phoebe very much. I don’t think I could love her more if she were truly my flesh and blood. For all intents and purposes, her and Dipper are Family. And I would die for either of them, just as quickly as I would die for Tkout, my husband. I realize that since Dipper and I are so close, and she and I are so close, I’m one of the people she looks to as a role model. When I struggle with my depression and anxiety, she’s told me that I’m a superhero, because she sees me push through and do my best, even if that varies based on how sick I am that day. To that end, I believe the movies and images she’s exposed to now will help shape the woman she’s going to become. My hope for her is that she never forgets her own power and strength, and that she has the courage to push forward and meet her challenges head-on, and take her defeats with grace and no small amount of learning. She’s an amazing girl, and I think the world of her. To me, she’s already a superhero. The challenge is going to be to get her to see it herself.

The movies I show her are meant to entertain her, and sometimes teach her a lesson. Other times to give her positive role models. Every movie that we watch has gone through a checklist, provided below.

Content to Avoid: This obviously will vary a little in terms of what you find acceptable, this is just what I look for.

  • Sexual: I don’t know how much she’s heard from her schoolmates, if anything. I’m also not sure what her mom screens for. Kissing and other PDA is fine. The most sexual scene she’s seen with me was when Alice and Spence are rolling around on their bed in Resident Evil. It’s in a flashback, so it’s choppy, and even though you get the idea of what’s going on, there’s nothing graphic. It’s enough to suggest the nature of their relationship, and easy enough to pass over.
  • Sexuality: I consider myself open-minded. But I don’t want to get into a discussion about sexual identity with a 9 year old who hasn’t hit puberty yet. She’s smart enough to handle it, and her parents are open-minded as well. But unless I’m asked, I’m not going to be the one to enlighten her.
  • Explicit Violence: Here’s the thing, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is vicious and bloody, but much of it happens off-screen. For instance, when Franklin is sawed in half, it’s in the dark. You don’t see it in bright light and CGI effects. I try to keep away from overtly gory content.
  • Rape: Sexual content and violence. This one I stay away from, even if it’s hinted at, because I honestly wouldn’t know what to say. There is never an excuse for rape, it is never justified. NEVER. Also, I don’t want to be the one to tell her that the world is that ugly.
  • Religion: Some of the movies have religious themes, or plot points, but they aren’t overly religious. I will answer any questions she has about my faith, but that being said, I don’t show her movies that are heavily steeped in religion. Dipper has expressed his intent to help guide her in that path as he sees fit, and I willingly agreed to leave it to him.
  • Race: Children aren’t born racists. I’m trying to find content that includes different nationalities, rather than highlights their differences. I in no way deny that racism exists, but I think that going out of my way to point it out is a form of racism. She’s going to see it in action at some point in her life, and that will be a teachable moment.

Priority Content

  • Badass women: When I was growing up, you had to kind of pick and choose to find your strong women. Phoebe needs to grow up seeing Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) kick xenomorph ass in Alien, Alice battle hordes of zombies, Marian refused to be Indiana Jones’ damsel in distress (in Raiders of the Lost Ark), and so many others. The occasional damsel in distress is fine. But, she needs to grow up knowing she can be her own superhero, and that being a girl doesn’t mean you are a plot device in someone else’s story. (Not to mention, the behind-the-scenes, such as Milla Jovovich designing most of her Resident Evil gear, which is probably why she gets progressively more badass as the movies go forward. Oh, and her stunts? Most of the time they’re really her.) Not to mention, the Resident Evil franchise is loaded with strong women. There are main characters Alice (Milla Jovovich), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). Even female characters who have supporting roles in one or two films are just as strong. There’s Ada Wong (Bingbing Li), Nurse Betty (Ashanti), K-Mart (Spencer Locke), Crystal Waters (Kacey Clarke), Becky (Aryana Engineer), and Angie (Sophie Vavasseur). Not to mention, there’s representation in the franchise. There are strong women of Asian, Hispanic, and African heritage. Not just Caucasian.
  • Healthy male/female interaction: Look, I know this post sounds a little man-hatery. Rest assured, I don’t have anything against men. My best friend is a guy. But that being said, Phoebe will have to learn how to interact with the opposite sex in terms of earning respect, working together, and living in general. She has plenty of time to learn those things, but I want to combat the idea that she isn’t complete without a man. Or that she always needs a helping hand to get things done. I want her to strap on her own shitkicker boots and march confidently into situations. That’s another reason I love Ghostbusters and Alien so well. In both, the women work alongside men, but don’t rely on them. They work as a team, relying on their own smarts and teamwork. Suicide Squad comes to mind for this criteria too. When you look at the movie, it’s primarily female-driven. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together the Suicide Squad. She gets Harley Quinn and Enchantress/Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevingne), and Katana (Karen Fukuhara). All of whom are really capable and diverse women. The supporting cast is pretty kickass too. Diablo’s wife, Grace (Corina Calderon), casts her shadow from the grave, as the only person who could curb her husband’s gangbanger side. Similarly, little Shailyn Pierre-Dixon shines as Zoe, Deadshot’s daughter.
  • Healthy friendships: Finding a good friend is really difficult. It’s important for her to grow up seeing people take care of each other. Especially women. Most women are raised to fight each other, to compete, to constantly view other females as enemies rather than allies. Again, I look to Resident Evil. Alice and Claire Redfield come to trust each other, and rely on each other as allies throughout the rest of the series. The Ghostbusters reboot, while heavily panned by critics and “fans”, was based on the premise of four women combining their smarts and talents to stop the destruction of the world. They’re not focused on their looks, or having sex with their stupid (and stupidly handsome) secretary, played by Chris Hemsworth.

  • Healthy body image/self-worth: There are a few movies I could site for this, but Ghostbusters is my favorite. The main women are varied in size and shape. Kristen Wigg, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, are all powerhouses. They share the screen and the gags well. Not to mention, the gags aren’t about who’s fat or sexy or stupid. All women are shown with talent, capability, and once Abby and Erin settle their initial differences, they proceed with a healthy and loyal friendship.
  • Life lessons: Yes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is terrifying. But you know what else it is? A life lesson. Don’t pick up people on the side of the road, and in a larger sense, don’t get too friendly with strangers. “Stranger danger” as it was called in my day, is a real thing. Possibly moreso now with the advent of technology that allows us to remain connected 24/7 to people around the globe. Phoebe needs to know basic truths to protect herself.

Navigating the Kindle Paperwhite

I was thrilled to receive my Kindle Paperwhite in the mail yesterday. I took it out, synced it with GoodReads.com, and started trying to figure it out. I can say right off the bat that I love it’s sleek new design and touch screen. I’m also in love with the cover that I picked out for it, even though I’m not usually a fan of pastels.

When I bought the Paperwhite, it was supposed to be intuitive. For the most part that’s been true, except for a few features that were harder to figure out than I had hoped (or expected). I consider myself a capable technology user, as I work as a computer professional. However, there were a few instances I went online for answers to questions I couldn’t figure out. I as also dismayed that there wasn’t really a catch-all webpage or help link that answered everything. I searched by several criteria, just to make sure that the problem with the search results wasn’t me. (This also surprised Tkout, because normally I prefer to ask him for technology help, rather than head into the vastness of the Internet.) As you can see from the picture on the left, it’s a very hot item in this house! Both Zelda and Chloe want to get their paws on my Kindle Paperwhite!

Below are some of the features I struggled with, and how to overcome them. If you haven’t purchased the Kindle Paperwhite yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a great investment, even if it takes you a little bit to get used to it.

  • Collections. Managing my collections had my absolutely shouting obscenities, but I’m going to own up to it and say that it’s totally my fault. There are a couple of ways to manage your collections, but so far, I’ve only dealt with books I’ve purchased via Amazon. (There are ways to include books purchased elsewhere, but I haven’t tinkered with that yet.)
    • The Hard Way: You can manually add books to collections by holding your finger down on the title and waiting for the dialog box. However, this can add to mistakes such as opening the book, removing it from the device, and other missteps.
    • The Easy Way: Let Amazon.com do the work for you! Follow these steps:
      • Open amazon.com (or smile.amazon.com, if you’re donating to a charity)
      • On the right, hover over Accounts & Lists, which will open up another menu
      • Under Your Account, go to Manage Your Content and Devices

In this menu, you’ll see all of the books that you’ve purchased, or are shared with you if you share an Amazon account within a household. From there, you can add books to collections in batches of 10, you can delete books, or send them to other registered devices. You can also register and deregister devices on the account. That’s where I deregistered my old Kindle, registered my new Kindle, and changed the device’s name. If you have your kindle open while you’re making the changes, you can see it happen with only a few second delay. (However, to show the new device name, I had to reboot my Kindle. Not a big deal, but just mentioning it.)

  • Backing out of a book. I was able to open books to read them, but I didn’t know how to get back to the home screen. Since I was a dedicated Apple user for years, I automatically looked for the home button. As it turns out, when you’re reading, the menu containing the home button and other options is hidden. If you lightly tap the top of the screen, the menu drops down. You can go to the store, bookmark your place, go home, back out of the book and go to the collection, etc. Neither hard, nor an inconvenience. Once you know what you’re doing. If you decide you don’t want to do anything in the menu, gently tap once anywhere on the book and the menu will close.

I realize that struggling with two features isn’t the end of the world, but they are, in my humble opinion, two of the most important features of the Kindle. Most people like to organize their books, and certainly it’s important to be able to get out of a book and go back to the home screen.

While trying to overcome my obstacles, I stumbled on some features that I really enjoy. Such as the ability to change the font of the book. At first, I thought that was just kitschy and neat. I didn’t realize how much easier it would make the books to read. You can also choose whether or not your progress will be measured in page numbers or as a %. You can also choose to have your GoodReads.com lists display on your home screen.

I can’t say enough about how much I love my Kindle Paperwhite. I can’t believe that it took me so long to catch on to the electronic book craze, but here I am. What format do you prefer? Do you have a Kindle or other e-reader? Let me know in the comments!

Eating Crow

In January 2011, my boyfriend and I were sitting in his room. He handed me a large brown Amazon box. My eyes lit up, thinking that he went onto my Wishlist and ordered me a box full of books. I opened it, and my jaw dropped. Inside was a green, faux leather-clad nemesis. The Kindle Keyboard. I had ranted and ranted and ranted for days about how much I hated the idea of electronic books the first time Tkout had brought the idea up. He posited that I could more easily read books and then review them if I had a Kindle. I swore up and down that I would never abandon “real books”. In fact, I almost broke up with him over it, because I thought that he didn’t understand me. That he was trying to change the core of who I was.

A few months ago, as 2016 slogged to a close, I rediscovered my Kindle. I rearranged the books on it, discovered a host of books I had meant to read, and began to take it to work with me. I became quite attached to it. I loved watching the reading progress at the bottom of the book. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, as did moving the book from the Currently Reading book list to the Charnel House Reviews: Read book list.

The first days of 2017 were largely uneventful. The weekend of our anniversary and my birthday, my now-beloved Kindle died. I was outraged and incredulous. I had barely used it! I went straightaway to Amazon to order another one. (In front of Tkout who couldn’t stop laughing.)

My Kindle Paperwhite arrived Monday. It’s Tuesday, and I’ve barely been able to put it down. I’m voracious when it comes to learning the features, and was delighted when I found out that I could sync it with GoodReads.com, which I have been using more and more. In the picture on the left, you’ll see the bigger, greener Kindle Keyboard. Laying next to it is the sleek, super sexy Kindle Paperwhite. (Not gonna lie, I totally feel badass holding it. Even though the case IS paste…)

I absolutely love my new Kindle, but there is a distinct learning curve, despite Amazon’s promise that it’s intuitive. It is, but only to a point. (If, like me, you’re finding the learning curve to be a bit daunting, I will be posting soon about overcoming the obstacles. Stay tuned!) I am obsessed with the cover, the size, and the screen. It’s far superior to my Kindle Keyboard, even though I will admit that I miss that first Kindle. It was clunky, basic, and a token of my future husband’s love. And as much as I hate admitting it, it’s a symbol to me that he knew me better than I knew myself.

Good morning!

Well, here we are, six days into 2017. So far, so good. The worst of it was a week I spent in bed with an upper respiratoryhappynewyearmonsters-sm infection, courtesy of this crazy weather we’ve been having.

Before getting into any new posts, I thought I would take a moment and get us set up and ready. (Old habits die hard – especially for teachers!) I’ve decided to make some improvements, part of what Dipper and I call The Reclamation. I may have alluded to it in previous posts, but it’s the idea of reclaiming who you are after a particularly rough period in your life. It’s like resolutions, but more long-lasting.

Here are mine…

  • BETTER HEALTH. I am focusing on making the changes that I can make and stick to. For example, I’m on a 3-day streak of making my own breakfast before leaving for work. So far, what I’ve noticed is that I’m not starving by lunch, and my bank account has a little bit more padding. I’ll be adding biking and swimming at the gym when I’m better and fully over the aforementioned upper respiratory infection.
  • MOAR BOOKS. You can never have too many books! I joined Goodreads.com’s book challenge, stating by the end of 2017, I want to have read 79 books. I haven’t finished one yet, but I’m making good progress. I also want to sit in front of my bookshelves at some point and categorize all my books on Goodreads.com, so that I have everything catalogued. (Oh! And I also fell in love with my Kindle, some seven years after Tkout bought it for me. It’s never too late!)
  • CROCHET ALL THE THINGS! I still owe some crochet gifts to people for Christmas, and I was working on a 2016 temperature blanket. I want to finish those items, and then move forward. I miss learning new stitches, and I am embarrassed to admit that I have 12 bins of yarn. I want to plow through that, because nobody in their right mind needs that!
  • MOAR REVIEWS! I owe book reviews to a few authors. Now that my life is balancing out from my 2016 year in hell, I intend to make good on my review promises. And sooner. Reviews will be on Goodreads.com, Amazon.com, and of course, here on CharnelHouseReviews.com.
  • GROW UP. My husband and I have been in our house for four years. It’s time to really take stock of what I have, get rid of what’s no longer useful, and make space. Not to mention, I’m still bringing stuff over from my parent’s house. Most of which is from my teaching career.
  • NO MOAR DRAFTS. Before writing this post, I almost worked on a previous post from last Easter. But I decided my 2017 Declaration of Intent post should be first. I want to sort through my post drafts, finish some, trash others, and then start new in the new year.

Let’s make this year super groovy!

 

New Year, New Me….and Assorted Bullshit

new-yearI used to love New Year’s Resolutions, or rather, the idea of them. My longest running streak is most likely somewhere around about 9 days or so. I don’t expect this year to be largely different, because when you try to change your behavior, there are always setbacks. And do-overs. And moments when you basically nuke any progress that you’ve made. But you see, I’m ok with that. After everything that happened last year, I’m inclined to think that it’s not so much an annual thing, as it is an every day thing. They say that you only stop learning when you die. I intend to make that the case.

This year, there are some things I’d like to accomplish. In an attempt at being kinder to myself, here are some things I’d like to improve upon, not only in the coming year but going forward in general.

  • THE GYM – Dipper pointed out that if I tire myself out, I will have less energy to spend on stressing about nonsense. (My therapist calls this “being a moving target”. I’m not sure I like that phrase, because it gives too much power to my anxiety.)
  • DE-CLUTTER – I really really want to de-clutter my house, and my life. I have clothes I haven’t worn in years, tupperware without lids or bottoms, and other bric-a-brac that I can do without.
  • CROCHET – I need to finish my 2016 temperature blanket, and I am setting up to make one for my parents. I also want to work on learning more stitches.
  • CHR – I owe a few authors book reads and reviews. I intend to not only make good on that, but to do so in a more timely fashion in the future.
  • CLEANING – I want to get my house to a state where it’s more of an issue of upkeep, rather than having to rip the rooms apart and clean.
  • SELF – I will spend the rest of my life battling anxiety and depression. And that’s ok. The important part is to FIGHT. I intend to be kinder to myself going forward. (Every day above ground is a good day. – Dipper)
  • PRESENTS – Leaving the crafting presents until the last minute HAS GOT TO GO. This year, I did so much crochet, I thought I would be stitching in my sleep. I have to start sooner!

Here’s to a New Year, and all the shit that goes along with it!

2016 in Retrospective

finally-overThis morning I was looking through my “On This Day” section of Facebook, where you are able to peek back through the years at some posts. I’m not sure what algorithm is used to determine what posts show, but there is a definite trend. Each year, I hoped that I could leave behind a bad year, and go valiantly into the next.

Let me tell you, 2016 was a whopper. To the extent that I am ready to consider it a circle of Hell unto itself. The eve of my 30th birthday was spent surrounded by my friends and family, in the house of my deceased grandparents, celebrating the life of my deceased Uncle Bill. That occasion marked the close to a strange series of deaths in my family. My grandmother passed in July 2015, my grandfather in December of 2015, and the day of his wake, we lost my Uncle Bill unexpectedly.

From there, things continued downward at an alarming pace. In November of 2015, I had begun fighting my then-employer over a harassment issue. To put it succinctly, they failed to protect me, and then blamed me for the events. In March, my mother was hospitalized. That night, something broke. I fell into the worst depression I have yet suffered. I’m not sure it was a nervous breakdown, although that’s what I tell people, because it’s easier to understand. So far, few people have understood the description “my world came to a halt, and I fell off into purgatory”. That night, I had hit my breaking point. I was ready to take my life. Over the next few months, while my mother’s health spiraled downward, my husband and brother fought daily to save my life. I became despondent, and couldn’t see all there was that was worth living for. I just wanted the pain to end. I saw my doctor, and was prescribed Lexapro for depression and anxiety, as well as formally diagnosed. I applied for FMLA at work, so that I could take time off without penalty while I crawled my way towards safety.

Over the summer, I watched my niece twice a week, attended her soccer games, and spent time with my brother and husband. My brother is technically my best friend, and although we are not related by blood, we are nevertheless connected deeply. He’s got a few years on me, but we are twins in more ways than people I know who ARE related by blood. We walked in parks, went to shops, and tried to reclaim parts of ourselves that we had lost for one reason or another.With Phoebe, I watched movies, did crafts, and hung out with my pets. She lavished the menagerie with love and they loved her right back.

Lexapro was a joke. It was like wrestling a pissed off, rabid grizzly bear. When the meds kicked in, everything would get worse. In fact, the first hour after taking it, I was a complete mess. My brother suggested I change meds. My doctor gave my Zoloft, which was infinitely better. I’ll admit, every time the dose changes, things go haywire for about two weeks. But that’s ok. At least it evens out eventually. I also started seeing a therapist, though I don’t remember exactly when that began.

Peter, my therapist, is a strange man. He’s slight and grey, and very quiet. During the sessions, he doesn’t talk much, just sits back and lets me work things out. At first I found this endlessly frustrating. Over time, I’ve come to realize that he follows the tough love advice my brother gives me (when I need it most). That advice is that sometimes, you just have to do it for yourself. Nobody can do it for you. So far, he’s been right. There’s times I can be helped, but I’m learning more and more that I have to find ways to self-comfort.

Through all of this, my parents and I experienced a schism. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel as close to them as I had always felt. They didn’t realize the depths of my depression, but in many ways that’s forgivable. Especially considering I wasn’t there for them during mom’s myriad medical disasters this year. My brother recommended that we just chalk it up to the fact that dad and mom, and Panda, Dipper, and myself, were all battling different sets of troubles and call it even.

And yet, despite all the chaos, 2016 was a blessing as well.

Through the hardships we endured, and with Dipper’s guidance and help, my husband and I have become much closer. We have crossed bridges together that we didn’t even know existed. We also strengthened our connections with Dipper and Phoebe. I have changed jobs, and found a company that I enjoy working for, that also values me in ways my old company didn’t. My backbone has emerged since having to go through so much, and I have learned who I can count on, and who I can’t.

I can proudly say that I have survived 2016, a little worse for the wear, and definitely stronger for having weathered the storm. I am ready to meet the new year on my feet and standing tall, because I know that the people I love, love me just as deeply and loyally as I love them.

2017, bring it.

How to Survive Killer Spiders….According to Phoebe

movieFor a change of pace, I decided to show Phoebe the (in my mind) classic Arachnophobia. I couldn’t believe she had never seen it before. Now, while writing this post, I realized the movie is from 1990. She wasn’t born for another seventeen years. Shit. You. Not. Anyways…

…she got a kick out of the idea we were going to see a spider movie. I hadn’t as yet made my peace with spiders. Which means she was used to me wailing for my husband to come and deal with them in the house, and running from them when I encountered them outside. She thought she was going to watch me cringe and squeal, which was the majority of the appeal. (Recently I have begun to appreciate spiders for their intricate colors and markings. Not to mention, their practicality. I was lamenting the size of the spiders in my basement to someone, and they told me, “You think they’re ugly? Just think of the ugly things they’re eating to get THAT big.” For the most part, they now get either a photo session if they’re particularly interesting, or a wide berth. If they become truly problematic, I have no doubt my cat will happily dispatch them.

Phoebe made sure to snuggle Zelda tight, so that the little Boston wouldn’t fear the spiders. (I only know this because I heard her whispering to Zelda that she would keep her safe, and then covering her with a fuzzy blanket.) Zelda was all for it, stuck her nose out of the blanket, and the movie rolled.

Good. Lord. There is nothing quite like getting a talking to from your niece. You see, I completely forgot to tell her that there are a few scenes where the spiders menace cats and even a dog. None of the animals are harmed, but it’s a close call. Each time it happened, she would hold Zelda more snugly, and I’d hear:

“MISS HOLLY! THE [insert animal species here]! DOES THE SPIDER GET IT?!” her voice laced with concern, panic, and consternation.

Quickly, I gave up on telling her to watch and see. That went over like a fly in mashed potatoes, let me tell you. I gave in and told her the animal makes it, most times the person doesn’t. She is nothing if not consistent, and was completely alright with the ratio of animal survival to human death and suffering. (The only change in pattern was the crow. She was totally ok with that dying.)

Poor Manley, the unlucky photographer. He was pretty much a running joke for her the arachnophobiawhole film. She couldn’t figure out why he had agreed to take the photography job with Dr. Atherton if he was so terribly afraid of insects. It was, after all, an insect-finding mission. Nine year olds not only have the funniest way of looking at things, but they also ask the best questions. She wanted to know why Manley’s body looked so weird in the coffin when it reached Canaima. I explained that the spider got in the coffin with him and that’s how he wound up in California. Phoebe asked what that had to do with the body, and I explained that the spider had been snacking on it. She asked if that was possible, and I told her it was highly exaggerated. Some spiders do save their dinner, but not to that extent. After some more examination, Phoebe decided that not even a big Amazonian mf’er of a spider like the one in the movie could do that to a person.

Most of all, she was completely and totally disgusted with Dr. Jennings, Dr. Atherton, and arachnophobiaDelbert McClintock. She couldn’t figure out how Dr. Jennings hadn’t seen the spider bites on the victims. After all, he was a doctor. When Dr. Atherton twangs the gigunda spider web and gets eaten, all she had to say was, “Well, he was SUPPOSED to be the expert. Guess he didn’t know you don’t play with spiderwebs.” And poor Delbert McClintock? What kind of exterminator was so unprofessional?

She loved the ending of the movie, when all of the spiders hatched at the Jennings’ house and ran amok. Some of her joy was ultimately stolen when I told her that they couldn’t, in good faith, use real live venomous spiders in the movie. That day we learned the words “liability” and “ethical”. I explained to her that you just couldn’t put actors in harm’s way for a movie. This greatly disappointed her, and she said that it affected the movie’s authenticity. Phoebe is nothing if not a realist.