2014 Grammys

•01/26/2014 • Leave a Comment

I watched the Grammys in lieu of writing a blog post tonight, so I’ll share the songs/artists I would have chosen to win all the awards.

Best new artist: Lorde

Best new song by someone I should probably be paying more attention to: Follow Your Arrow, Kacey Musgraves

(I couldn’t find a proper video of her performance, but it’s probably better without the lampshade dress anyway.)

Most meaningful song: Same Love, Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert

Best live performance: P!nk, literally anything she performs

Best song: All Too Well, Taylor Swift

Best album: The Blessed Unrest, Sara Bareilles

I hope those of you who watched enjoyed the performances. There are some truly amazing talents out there.

Cousinly Love

•01/25/2014 • Leave a Comment

Today, I did not have the energy – physical or emotional – do anything I had planned to do with my Saturday. I, instead, had every intention of staying in bed until Sunday, and hope my mood would change. Then my cousin texted me.

He lives in New Jersey now, and was driving into Manhattan for a bit, and wanted to know if I wanted to see a movie with him. And at that moment, I was so sure, that him asking me to hang out was the only thing that could have gotten me out of bed today.

And I’m so glad I did. We didn’t even do anything spectacular or mind-blowing. We just hung out. We had a few drinks, grabbed dinner, went to see a movie. The movie wasn’t even anything to write home about. We saw Ride Along, and it was funny and all, but it was kind of just like paying to sit somewhere different from where we had been sitting previously. But it was just nice to be with him. He’s eleven months younger than me, so we’ve been best friends for as long as I can remember. He’s always been able to make me laugh, and he gives amazing hugs.

And today, I really needed to laugh, and I really needed an amazing hug.

I love it when the universe throws out a life preserver when it can see that you’re starting to sink.

Strangers Aren’t Always Strange

•01/23/2014 • Leave a Comment

“Don’t talk to strangers.”

They tell you that as soon as you’re big enough to toddle off on your own. Don’t wander off, don’t go anywhere with anyone you don’t know, and DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS.

Then you graduate college. You wander off to a new city, go to work in a place with a bunch of people you don’t know, and LIVE WITH TOTAL STRANGERS. Live with them! In your home where you sleep!

Okay maybe this isn’t how it works everywhere. Maybe it’s uniquely New York. But sometimes I’ll be telling someone about the girls I lived with my first year out of college, and how two of them I think I saw three times each the year I lived there and that I definitely couldn’t pick them out of a lineup, and realize that it’s actually kind of a really weird thing. It didn’t feel all that weird at the time – and honestly, doesn’t feel weird now. But I feel like it should feel weird. It kind of goes against everything they taught us.

For example, in September, my roommate of three years (a friend from undergrad, not a stranger) moved out to live with her boyfriend, and a stranger moved in. She was a friend of a friend of a friend, so I had it on somewhat good authority that she wasn’t a serial killer, but I had spent all of five minutes in her presence, when she came to see the apartment, before we were living together. (Insert lesbian U-Hauling joke here.)

ALSO she came equipped with a part-time-live-in boyfriend! They could have tag-team serial killed me!

But in New York, when you need someone to split the rent, you kind of take it on their word that they’re not going to cannibalize you or start dealing black market organs from your common living space. Sometimes it might not work out, but sometimes you find yourself feeling awfully lucky that the universe decided to cross your paths.

Five months ago, I didn’t know my roommate from a whole in the wall. Last night, I spent the evening drinking wine with her and feeling so totally comfortable it was as though we’d known each other for years. But with the added bonus of having endless options of conversation topics, since we haven’t had all that many chances to sit down and get to know each other one on one.

So maybe living with total strangers is totally strange. But maybe totally strange isn’t all that bad.

Besides, everyone’s a stranger ’til they’re not.

Skating By

•01/22/2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve never been particularly athletic.

Actually, I don’t know if that’s a fair statement. From age three to eighteen, I barely ever sat still. From soccer to cheerleading to basketball to softball to dance to musical theatre, I was always doing something that involved moving around and sweating. So let me start over.

I’ve never been particularly coordinated. That is to say, yes, I did all those things, but I was never particularly good at anything that didn’t involve music. OKAY FINE I WAS BAD AT SPORTS. In soccer I preferred to play with the white chalky grass than run TOWARD the crazy group of flying cleats. I was actually pretty good at cheerleading until we got to the age where anything more complicated than a cartwheel was necessary (back handsprings looked like a surefire way to break your neck to me). The only thing in basketball I was good at was setting picks (aka standing totally still and letting another girl run right into me). And in softball, while I only struck out twice in my four year career, it wasn’t because I was getting hits (I’m really good at walking…aka not swinging).

So I honestly am not sure what possessed my mother to sign me up for ice skating lessons one winter. I was about eight years old, which is before a few of aforementioned failings, and I had only fallen down the stairs like once at that point, so maybe I was still under the impression that my brain was good at telling my body what to do. It’s entirely possible I begged my mother to take the lessons. Maybe a friend of mine was doing it. I don’t know. I just can’t imagine it was her idea, because she hates the cold an unreasonable amount for someone who was born and raised in New England. Whatever the case, there I was, eight years old, strapping blades to my feet, and almost immediately regretting agreeing to this nonsense.

I was bad at ice skating. I fell approximately every four seconds. I had zero balance. Possibly negative balance. I wouldn’t be surprised if I actually caused some sort of gravitational rift, that’s how uncoordinated I was. The instructor kept saying, “Glide!” like it was a totally natural thing to understand how to do, like “sit up straight”. And do you know how scary it is to fall on a neverending sheet of ice amidst other eight-year-old first-time skaters? All of a sudden all of your FACE is level with other wild and unpredictable bladed feet.

I probably gave up the idea that I was going to learn how to skate by the end of the first lesson. From that point on, it was just about surviving. While the other kids had moved on to skating backwards and turning around, I was still staring straight down, legs wide, arms out, trying to will myself forward without having to move my feet, lest they slip out from under me. I’ll admit, those glorious seconds between when the instructor gave me a little shove of a headstart and when I fell flat on my ass were usually pretty fun. It felt a little like flying. It’s probably why I didn’t quit. I think I thought I could learn by osmosis – maybe one day I would show up and just be better at it. (It’s also possible that, at that point in my life, I had no idea “quitting” was an option I had in anything.)

Anyway, needless to say, I didn’t go on to join the US Olympic figure skating team. But every week, I’d go, I’d try not to die, I’d successfully not die, and I’d be rewarded by hot chocolate with marshmallows by my mother, bless her heart, who somehow stuck it out in the freezing, smelly indoor rink.

By the last day, I had gotten so good at not dying, that I managed to survive the entire lesson without even falling on my butt one single time. I didn’t skate backwards or in circles like the other kids, but I definitely moved forward at least a little, and not falling was gold-medal worthy in my book. I was so excited. SO EXCITED. Then the instructor announced that we were going to get to see a performance by professional figure skaters! In real life! Right now! Before our very eyes! We were so excited! She guided us like little frozen ducklings over to one side of the rink and told us to sit down on the ice.

Uh…what? Excuse me? I just spent the past hour trying to not do exactly that and SUCCEEDED FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. Because you know what, not only does falling down hurt and also make your life, however short, flash before your eyes, but getting up is really hard! Ice is slippery! And you’re only 75% sure that you’re not about to lose a finger every time! And now you want me to sit down?? ON PURPOSE?

It felt like a cruel joke. I’m not even sure I enjoyed the performance, I was so incensed. (Just kidding I probably loved it because sparkles and twirling.) It forever tainted my experience with ice skating and if I’m going to be made to sit on the ice anyway WHAT WAS THE POINT and whatever it’s not like ice skating is a life skill you ever NEED. When you’re in college and your friends all go ice skating and promise they’ll teach you but then skate away as soon as you get to the rink, it will be fine because a park employee will take pity on you and try to help you out and laugh what he probably thinks is mock panic but is actually your fear and frustration being manifested into mania and make you feel better about the whole situation.

So even though I didn’t quit mid-season, I definitely did not return to ice skating lessons. And I still think it sounds like an insane thing to do (BLADES on your FEET on the SLIPPERIEST SURFACE AVAILABLE) and I’m not sure how more people aren’t decapitated yearly by it, but to each their own.

I’m sorry if you thought there was going to be some kind of lesson or epiphany involved in this story. There isn’t. And it probably went on way longer than it needed to. But I never have been very good at knowing when to quit things.

And now I’m back, from outer space.

•01/21/2014 • 1 Comment

Bless me, WordPress, for I have sinned. It’s been four months since my last blog post. (And also I just used a religious sacrament in jest, so I’m sinning all over the place.) Also, I only posted 10 times last year. 10! I’ve posted 385 times total and only 10 of them were last year. My poor, neglected WordPress.

In my defense, I’ve been writing elsewhere. Even if you don’t count Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, between copywriting and fanfiction and the Harry Potter Medicinal Re-Read and (most importantly) AfterEllen, hardly a day goes by when I’m not writing SOMETHING.

That being said, I still don’t think it’s enough. I want to be a writer. I recently started calling myself a writer out loud, to see how it feels, but I still don’t feel like I’ve 100% earned it yet. I feel like I almost have, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in the past year in ways I never thought I could be proud of myself. But I still don’t feel like I’m putting forth as much effort as I could be.

When I was in 8th grade, age 13, they made us predict where we thought we would be in five, ten, and twenty years from then. I know I have that assignment somewhere, likely lost in the dusty confines of my parents’ cellar. But I remember that I thought I would be living in New York by the five year mark (done! yes!), have moved to California by the ten year mark (I changed my mind, New York has its hooks in me, I’m here for good, IT’S ALLOWED) and also would have written two “mystery novels” by then. By 23! I was an ambitious little sucker. I’m well past 23 and I’ve written…one mystery novella? Okay, a novella-length fanfiction story that maybe could be considered a mystery. Whatever, I also thought that, by 33, I’d have a husband and two kids, and I’m a 27-year-old single lesbian, so I think we can all just admit that my preteen self was about as prophetic as Professor Trelawney.

I actually had glasses and ridiculous hair at that point, too.

Anyway, my point is, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Even when my verbal answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” shifted from “actress” to “veterinarian who is allergic to every animal ever” and back to “actress” again, I always also wanted to write. Ever since I was in second grade. I’ve told this story before, but as I mentioned, I only wrote in this blog ten times over the past year, so I think I’m allowed to retell it. The author of a children’s book (oh, how I wish I remembered which one) came to speak at my elementary school, and stayed afterward to sign autographs. I desperately wanted her to sign my book, but also was paralyzingly shy at age eight. So, my second grade teacher, who was firm but fair, and always someone I felt warmly toward while still harboring a healthy amount of fear of her, took me by the shoulders and ushered me to the table where the author sat. I don’t remember if the author said anything to me that I answered with a dumb stare or if my teacher was the only one who spoke, but it is only her words I remember. She said, “This is Valerie, she’s going to write children’s books too, someday.”

Well that just about blew my damn mind. First of all, I have no recollection of ever having this conversation with my teacher. I don’t even think I knew yet that I liked to write. All I knew is that I liked to read, like. A lot. Probably more than anything else at that point in my life, and maybe that’s all she knew, too. And the way she said it, she sounded so SURE. It wasn’t a dream or a goal or a possibility. She knew that someday I would write a book.

And dammit, I will. If for no other reason than that she believed I would.

Fortunately for her (and me) I have had other people, as I grew, tell me that they enjoyed my writing. And, as it turned out, I really enjoyed writing. So I kept doing it. And here I am.

I call myself a writer, because I write. I think I’ll believe I’m a writer when I write something truly meaningful. Something more than my ten closest friends read and tell me they like. Something that changes at least one person’s life the way so many of my favorite books have changed mine.

I recently read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is a magically wonderful book that I highly recommend to anyone with an imagination as active as mine, or with such a sense of wonder, and in it, I found a quote that truly moved me, especially as someone who wants to be a writer.

“When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words…There are many kinds of magic, after all.”

I want that. I want to tell that tale that will move and drive another person. But I have a long way to go. I know it every time I publish a piece of fanfiction, every time I submit a recap. I know I could be better.

I haven’t figured out exactly how to improve my writing, not yet. But I imagine a good first step is to simple write more. So write more I shall. I will write here as often as I can. I want to eventually work my way up to posting here every day, but I don’t want to overwhelm myself (as I am prone to do) so I’m just going to say “as often as I can” for now, with the hope that it will become a daily routine. I don’t know yet how exactly that will improve my writing, especially if I’m never given constructive criticism, but I figure it can’t hurt.

I just finished reading Katie Heaney’s book, Never Have I Ever, and it was full of personal accounts of adorably awkward encounters, endearing stories, life lessons, and other treasures. It reminded me that I have random and ridiculous stories to share, and instead of forcing them on two or three particular friends who tend to get the brunt of the insanity that pours out of my mind as thoughts come to it, I could put it here, for anyone to read as they will. That way, no one is pressured to respond to my stories, my thoughts, my musings. You can either read them and comment, read them and move on, or not read them at all. And I will be none the wiser. Unless you comment. Then I’ll know if you read it or not. But you know what I mean.

Another thing I will try to do this time around, is try to write my posts the night before, and schedule them to go up the day after I write them. That way I’m not panicking at 11:58 that I’m not finished writing my post for the day. I just have to write something – anything – before I go to sleep on any given night. In a way that doesn’t make people want to gauge their eyeballs out. Easy peasy, right?

Obviously I have some work to do, but it’s an introductory post, one to mark the beginning of my foray back into the land of blogging, so I’m going to cut myself a little slack. I hope I don’t give up this venture ten posts in, because I do think that forcing the “writing” part (parts?) of my brain to stay active regularly will allow me to write better/more in other ventures.

So maybe you’ll join me on this voyage, and maybe you won’t. At the very least, I hope I haven’t made you gauge your eyeballs out just yet.