Accidental Blogger

It’s been a minute, folks.  I’ve had many post ideas, but found myself lacking in either time or motivation.  I intend to make improvements in this area, with plans to write with more consistency.  Even though I haven’t posted much, I have continued to make my way through some amazing books, including Eating in the Light of the Moon and The Handmaid’s Tale.  In another blog post, I want to explore the theme of female autonomy from both fiction and non-fiction perspectives.  But…..that’s not this post.

This post has more of a back-to-basics kinda theme.  Why do I blog?  How did it all start? My personality leans toward enigmatic, so I thought I would share how I fell down the rabbit hole.

AccidentalBlogger

How did I become a blogger?

To answer this question, I have to elaborate on my views on blogging versus writing.  Wait…you might be thinking that they are the same thing, right?

I draw a distinction between blogging and writing.  I am a writer and blogging is just another tool which I use to promote self-expression and/or ideas.  I am minimally interested in all of the typical blogging ventures: SEO, growing audiences, trends, branding, etc.  Perhaps I should have more of an interest, but at this moment, my blog is still primarily a creative tool.  And that is really how it all started.

I have always kept paper journals.  Somewhere in a box lives my hot pink Mead spiral from first grade, a collection of haiku from fifth grade, and lots of paper journals filled with bad poetry and teenage angst.  I became an accidental blogger sometime during the New Millennium, joining the LiveJournal wave.  It probably started out of a pathetic attempt to keep track of the three friends I had in high school, but it soon became a regular habit.

LJ was actually a magical community.  I connected with people close and far.  We had an LJ meet-up at Barnes & Noble.  We were opinionated and argumentative; supportive, kind, and intelligent.  My LJ timeline included starting college while overcoming personal tragedy.  In a blink of an eye, my world had fallen apart.  LJ was a place where I felt less lonely.  It also served as distraction as I read about other peoples’ lives.  I had the freedom to explore deeper ideas and join communities of like-minded people.

As we all know, nothing stays the same.  Newer technologies emerged and people started to spend less time on LJ.  It still exists, but it isn’t the same.  (Honestly, I haven’t been on the site in years).  Myspace happened.  Facebook emerged.  Everyone wanted to be friends of Tom or Mark.  Instead of reading words, audiences were more interested in pictures with brief captions.  I hopped on the Myspace bandwagon and tried blogging – it was awful. I have already shared my thoughts about Facebook.

I stopped blogging.  My community had disappeared and I was really busy with school and work.  I wrote some pretty badass Amazon book reviews, but my online writing presence was diminished.  A particularly intense bout of depression brought me back to blogging, and Seferlover was born.  I started to use this blog to help me express myself and distract.  I have had one loyal reader (shout out to Dayle!).  Honestly, it didn’t matter if I had a gaggle of readers.  The words just needed to pour out of me.

As I have grown as a person, I find that I also have a desire for my blog to undergo transformations.  It will always be personal, but I really have the desire to focus on book reviews and analysis.  My future blog self would like to contribute more to other sites, exploring our current social and political climate through the stuff that I read.  That’s my jam.

Speaking of jam, I always listen to music when I blog.  LJ days included a lot of Ms. DiFranco, Tori Amos, and Nine Inch Nails.  I still am pretty emo: I love me some Sufjan Stevens, Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, Simon & Garfunkel, and any rendition of the song “Shady Grove”.

 

 

 

 

Worldly Possessions

December is the perfect month to reflect on the material possessions acquired in one’s lifetime.  My husband’s gift to me this year was my Macbook.  For Chanukah, he has given me art supplies each night.  The general idea is,”I support your creativity and I know you can do awesome things”.  And while I could go on about my never-ending wish list and all of the household renovations I lust after, I thought I would look at it from a different perspective.  If I could only keep five possessions, what would I choose?

Rules: all pets are automatically included (they are family members, not chattel); all photos are included, and my engagement ring & wedding band remain on my finger at all times.  Now that the groundwork has been established, here is my top five list of most beloved worldly possessions:

One: My mom’s needlepoint canvases.  When I was about 12 or 13, my mom took up needlepoint.  Before the internet made crafting easily accessible to everyone, my mom took up needlepoint the old-fashioned way: books and seventy year old mentors at the local sewing store.  Mom built up an arsenal of fancy stitchwork, resulting in two of my favorite wall decorations.  Currently displayed in my living room are the pieces I call “Wise Unicorn” and “Hot Air Balloons Take Flight”.  My mom always had a love for all things whimsical, which is reflected in her canvas choice and thread colors, which range from rainbow to metallic.

Two: God Gave Us Mary/3-10-1925.  In the treasure trove which is my china cabinet is a small , 2 inch x 2 inch, gold-framed needlepoint canvas which reads “God Gave Us Mary, 3-10-1925”.  It belonged to my maternal grandmother, Marietta.  It was created by one of her family members (presumably her mom or grandma).  My grandmother was one of the most important people of my lifetime.  For a large portion of my life, she was my caretaker.  The safety and comfort I felt around my grandmother has not been replicated since she passed away.  To me, Marietta was sent by God and that small canvas is a physical reminder of her presence/presents.

Three: My ketubah.  My husband and I just celebrated four years of marriage (and over a decade of togetherness).  We were married on 11-11 underneath a handheld chuppah, surrounded by friends and family.  I spent weeks picking out a ketubah.  I browsed online for hours.  Many were either too trendy, too modern, too abstract, or too traditional.  We finally took a drive over to a friend’s Judaica shop, where we decided on a piece which celebrated the Jewish lifecycle with cute watercolor symbols for special times throughout the year.  Our ketubah is egalitarian and is a constant reminder of the partnership which we have chosen together.  It is irreplaceable.

Four: Pawprints and animal ashes.  In the master bedroom closet is where the remains of our beloved pets, Teddy, Princess, and Tony, can be found.

Teddy was my second poodle, a white miniature adopted when I was four years old.  Teddy lived an insanely long life, was hit by a car twice, and loved eating Golden Grahams every evening.

Princess was my first puppy.  We brought her home at eight weeks old.  She was a cottonball of an animal who loved mischief, snacks, and sprints through the backyard.  In her old age, she developed diabetes.  I stuck myself with an insulin needle twice for that pup.

Our third pet, Tony, passed away this year.  Tony was a stray tabby that wandered into Mark’s life.  He was an instant lover who had a snarl for a smile.  Tony was my first (and best) kitty love.

Five: Eeyores.  Most people are unaware, but I am a lover of all things Winnie the Pooh, especially Eeyore.  Who doesn’t love a sad donkey?  One of the things which I love most about my husband is his indulgence of my silly passions.  Over the course of many years, Mark has built me a beautiful collection of Eeyore figurines.  I display them in my china cabinet and take them out once or twice a year to “rearrange” – ok, so maybe I have a little fun playing with them.  They are a reminder of how loved I am by my lover.

I hope your special belongings are also filled with love and meaning.

Disclaimer: this post was written under the influence of Sufjan Stevens.

SoCo

I am not a good traveler.

As much as my heart may desire to explore other places, I am a creature that thrives on routines.  My sanity is held together by very specific sleep habits (a fan for white noise, complete silence and no lights or electronics), access to soft, furry mammals, and my beloved tea kettle.  With the requisite conditions mentioned above and a good 8-9 hours of sleep, I am Mary Poppins in the morning.  Anything less and I become an awful human, disinterested in the world at large and feared by my husband.

Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant when we embarked on our first vacation in years.  I brought everything necessary for comfort (including my four year old poodle, Bobbi) and we set out for Bluffton, South Carolina.

Bluffton, South Carolina is a small town west of Hilton Head.  Bluffton is home to many retirees, including my in-laws.  It is a perfect combination of old and new, with a charming historic district and new construction communities filled with cookie-cutter homes.  Geographically speaking, it is a 30 minute drive from Savannah and Beaufort, and about two hours away from Charleston.  Mark and I always feel like we have entered a bucolic daydream, happily escaping the frenzied and abrasive lifestyle of South Florida.

Highlights of our fall sojourn included:

Binge listening to Serial podcasts in the car.

Enjoying Pepper Chicken Stew, which my mother-in-law prepared for our tummies

Exploring Beaufort on a horse drawn carriage tour,which included learning more about its history, architectural wonders, and relevance in pop culture. Movies such as Forrest Gump, The Big Chill and Prince of Tides have been filmed in Beaufort.  Beautiful homes in historically accurate colors line the streets, with porch roofs painted in haint blue, a Gullah tradition said to ward off evil spirits. Mark and I visited the grave of Robert Smalls. We ended our day by exploring the graveyard at St. Helena’s, a parish established in 1712.

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Idyllic

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Grave at St. Helena’s in Beaufort, SC

Sunday was devoted to my favorite southern city, Savannah.  Savannah is eclectic.  Bull Street is where you will find Oglethorpe’s squares and quaint storefronts.  Savannah is great for artists, history buffs, foodies, and city dwellers.  I dream of one day owning a Victorian jewel, complete with a porch for reading and sweet tea sipping.

My husband’s desire was to tour the Mercer Williams House, made infamous in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  I was tickled by the fact that the house is still inhabited by Dr. Kingery and her cat.  In fact, I spotted a cat toy underneath one of the antique furniture pieces.

Besides our tour, we enjoyed lunch at one of our favorite Savannah spots, Goose Feathers Cafe.  I had the Bird’s Nest, which is grits topped with two poached eggs, salsa, and surrounded with a “nest” of cheddar.  After lunch, we made a stop at The Book Lady Bookstore (which is quite possibly the most charming used bookstore ever).  Mark picked up a signed copy of Mike Doughty’s book, while I stumbled across a Savannah local’s work, The Woman Who Spilled Words All Over Herself.

We stood in line for ice cream at Leopold’s.  I had a scoop of honey-almond and Mark ordered a banana split.  We wrapped up  our day at the marketplace, where my husband bought way too many pralines.

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We stink at selfies.

On Halloween, we joined Mark’s parents in Charleston.  It was a bad day to be in downtown Charleston due to the start of a well-known trial.  Instead, we opted to head west, eating lunch at The Glass Onion.  It is a very, very good thing that this restaurant is far away from me.  I would eat there everyday and that would be unfortunate for my waistline.  The menu changes daily.  I ordered the shrimp po’boy, which was buttery and flavorful; Mark dined on the clam po’boy.  The iced tea was crisp and refreshing.  The mashed potatoes were rich and lumpy.  It was the yummiest.

After lunch, Mark and I traveled to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.  I wanted to see a plantation, specifically from the slave’s perspective.  Magnolia is one of the first plantations to offer tours of the slave quarters.  Our tour guide, Joseph McGill, was extremely knowledgable.  He is an advocate, working with The Slave Dwelling Project.  It was humbling to see the small cabins which families shared and inhabited until 1990.  (That’s not a typo….descendants really lived there until 1990).  Magnolia’s main crop was Carolina gold rice.  Flooding rice fields meant pestilence and hard, manual labor.

As we were leaving, we saw the plantation’s cat, Sylvester.  He is 21 years old and very friendly.  The plantation was both beautiful and eerie.

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If you are still with me, I am impressed with your dedication.  Our vacation was the perfect blend of southern comfort, and it left me with the slightest feeling of wanderlust.  I am already pestering Mark about where our next road trip will take us.  In the meantime, I have good books to take me to faraway places.

Keep Your Head Up

When inspiration strikes, it is rarely a wise choice to question its origins.  The motivation for this post arrived at the gym, while I was lifting and listening to rap on Pandora.  2Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up”* played, and these lyrics jumped out at me:

“And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies, but you gotta keep your head up..”

*Let me just go on the defense: Yes, I am fully aware of the complicated history of hip-hop culture and the objectification of women.  That’s not what this post is about.  I felt empowered by the lyrics and wanted to used them today.  If you would like to break down hip-hop culture, watch Byron Hurt’s Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.

I have been keyed up ever since this election cycle started.  From the beginning, I argued that Trump would win the nomination.  The country’s atmosphere has felt toxic for quite some time.  Institutionalized racism, misogyny and corruption has reached a boiling point.  It is my contention that the events that are unfolding are in direct response to the leadership of a black man and the potential nomination of a woman.  And if we listen to “Keep Ya Head Up” within the context of our current culture, being a black woman is a double strike.  Between 1993 and now (23 years!), the same concerns are still relevant.

Generally speaking, I am really scared about the direction our country is heading.  Specifically, I am really fucking concerned for women.  All women.  All day.  Everyday.

In his essay “Men, Masculinity, and the Rape Culture”, Michael Kimmel writes:

“What is it about groups that seem to bring out the worst in men?  I think is is because the animating condition for most American men is a deeply rooted fear of other men – a fear that other men will see us as weak, feminine, not manly.  The fear of humiliation, of losing in the competitive ranking among men, of being dominated by other men – these are the fears that keep men in line and that reinforce traditional notions of masculinity as a false sense of safety.”

Let me not mince words:  Donald J. Trump’s trumped up masculinity reinforces misogynistic attitudes and threatens the progress of feminists (both men and women) who have been working to unravel the dangerous construct of masculinity which Kimmel has written about extensively.  Trump uses rhetoric, fear mongering, and a pack mentality to keep men (and by extension, any of his supporters) in line.

The video leaked this week illuminates the pack mentality which Kimmel describes.  Bush and Trump’s banter demonstrate a type of masculinity where powerful, rich men are free to take their spoils (women), and arguably, less powerful men, either non-celebrities or non-conformists, are the pussies without pussy.

We have tons of footage depicting Trump’s attitudes towards women.  What concerns me most is how other men are responding.  I need not look very far to find examples:

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Never mind the harassment over the past eight months that I have rocked Hillary’s logo as my Facebook profile pic, but I see these comments EVERYWHERE on social media.  Women that support Hillary are labeled stupid, “slovenly”, and their femininity is questioned, while their male counterparts are mocked as weak, feminized men.

Can we look past the rhetoric, gimmicks, and buffoonery of Donald Trump?  Can we look within ourselves and truly evaluate our own attitudes toward sexuality, gender, and the patriarchy?  Kimmel writes toward the end of his essay these words:

“Part of transforming a rape culture means transforming masculinity, encouraging and enabling men to make other choices about that we do with our bodies, insisting that men utilize their own agency to make different sorts of choices.  To ignore men, to believe that women alone will transform a rape culture, freezes men in a posture of defensiveness, defiance, and immobility.”

A vote for Donald Trump is a vote for the status quo – a place where men must conform to stereotypical masculine norms and women are objects to grab and eyeball.  During this contentious time, do we have the strength to keep our heads up and speak out?  If not with our words, with our vote.  It is one of the most powerful tools we have right now.

Noble Pursuits

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. So medicine, law, business, engineering… these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.

John Keating in Dead Poets Society

My husband and I were flipping through channels this weekend and stopped on a movie channel showing Dead Poets Society.  We both hadn’t watched this movie in a few years.  I snuggled into the couch with my fuzzy blue blankie and quickly became engrossed.

I needed to hear the aforementioned quote.  Honestly, being artistically inclined can  be thankless and demoralizing.  In a society which is shaped by achievements and monetary incentives, it is difficult to exist as a human powered by something more.  I have never been particularly interest in the typical carrots which people spend their lives striving to achieve.  My life force comes from words: taking them in and putting them together.

Words which have recently inspired me are contained within Rupi Kaur‘s milk and honey.

trying to convince myself

i am allowed

to take up space

is like writing with

my left hand

when i was born

to use my right

the idea of shrinking is hereditary

Eight lines.  Succinct and impactful.  How many women can see themselves in this poem?  I relate to this not only as a woman, but as a writer.  There have been so many moments where I wanted to not exist or take up space as both a woman and writer.  If only I were someone or something else….

Yet, I have learned that I can’t shrink away from what I am called to do.  This is what I have been given.  I can embrace it and continue to look for encouragement on this path which I pursue.

 

The Dieting Generation

All opinions expressed are solely my own and not that of my employer.

This morning, I attended a lecture on balanced eating.  Disclosure: it was held at my place of employment, which happens to be awesome. The lecture was focused on the facts and fiction of balanced eating.  With so many fad diets and supplements posing as nutrition, it can be tricky identifying balanced eating.

As the presenter outlined her talking points, my writer’s mind activated.  As a writer and introvert, my default setting is observer. I started by taking in the audience, noting mannerisms and body language.  Some attendees were open-minded, while others were skeptical of the information being shared.

As the concept of intuitive eating was being presented, it became evident that there was a generational divide.   Intuitive eating doesn’t rely on diets, calorie counting, fads, or detoxes.  Intuitive eating encourages individuals to listen to their bodies, honoring their hunger signals and nourishing their bodies in balanced and satisfying ways. NO DIETING.  I believe that  younger generations are more receptive to this philosophy, but many older women have been dieting their whole lives.  Their mothers and grandmothers dieted.  Simply put, eating without dieting is radical.

Naturally, my third wave feminist inclinations jump for joy at the notion of radical and life changing ideas.  Imagine all of the wonderful things women could accomplish if they weren’t busy dieting and/or exercising compulsively.  Here’s my short list:

  • Focus on my writing craft
  • Read amazing stories
  • Watch hilarious cat videos on Youtube
  • Find cool animals to follow on Instagram
  • Create tie-dye clothing
  • Cook delicious meals for my partner & I to enjoy
  • Rock the dog park with my toy poodle

And the list goes on.  The point is simple:

When we say goodbye to diets, we are able to shift our focus to fulfilling activities which enrich our lives.  

It saddened me to see the skepticism which these older women harbored, but it totally makes sense.  Almost everyone woman I love has struggled and spent a lifetime dieting.  A new generation follows in their footsteps, lured by the promises of new fad diets.  Yet, all it takes is for one seed to bloom, honoring the intuition that lies within.

Diets Suck

Body Wars

“The danger of falling into the habit of demanding that our bodies-fat bodies, or otherwise “ugly” bodies-be pretty too is that by doing so we are reinforcing the cultural importance of prettiness.  We are acknowledging a longing for social acceptance, a willingness to indulge prettiness pressures so long as we are allowed to play too.  It is a classically liberal stance: all we want is our fair share.

I’d prefer to occupy a space outside the pretty/ugly paradigm, a space where the parameters are self-determined.”

Lesley Kinzel, Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body

Sometime before my double digit birthday, my mom fell ill.  Limbs swollen and the skin on her legs so taut, I worried that a mere pinprick might deflate my mom. It was the mid-nineties and there was very little information about this mysterious illness.  My mom bounced from doctor to doctor, searching for answers.  Her body continued to balloon.  Was it fat?  Yes, my mom had always been heavy.  I inherited her body type.  She wore a size 16 (same as me).  My mom was active, going for long bike rides, gardening, and playing.  From my childhood perspective, she ate normally.  I don’t ever recall extreme diets or unusual eating patterns.

My mom’s new body, so distorted and large, became a source of shame.  Despite rapid and disproportional weight gain throughout her body, doctors insisted that she was fat.  Instead of answers, she was prescribed diets.  It wasn’t until much later that she received her diagnosis: primary lymphedema.  Her lymph nodes, which had so dutifully drained fluid from her body for over 40 years, stopped working.  Fluid accumulated in her body, creating physical and emotional pain which few people understood.  In pursuit of physical healing, my mom was destroyed emotionally.  The physical symptoms of her disease were treated with diuretics, manual lymph drainage, and wrapping.  Everywhere she went, she was judged by strangers.  To cope, she treated her emotional pain with opioids.  And that was the beginning of the end.

Eyes wide open, I observed (and absorbed) it all.  I internalized the shame.  It spread like a disease in my own body.  I felt unworthy, unloveable, and flawed.  In hindsight, I look at school pictures and see a beautiful child.  Emerald green eyes and blonde hair – a walking cherub.

Lindy West writes about the evolution of fat acceptance in Shrill, saying, “Vicious was normal.  It was perfectly acceptable to mock fat bodies, flatten fat humanity, scold fat people for their own deaths.  You only have to look back five years to see a different world, and by extension, tangible proof that culture is ours to shape, if we try.”

The body wars that my mom fought depleted her – dimmed the luminous being which so many people recall.  Those wars are no longer mine.  I have declared a truce with my body.  I no longer internalize that shame.  This wellspring of peace comes from a variety of sources: a thriving body positive movement, strong feminist inclinations, and a fierce determination to love myself.

Sharing this deeply personal experience is my attempt at shaping culture.  For all I know, I may have some genetic abnormality waiting to destroy my own lymph nodes.  One day, my own limbs my swell.  My mobility may become impaired and I might live with chronic pain.  Each of my toes will struggle to fit uncomfortably into tight shoes. I’ll be robbed of the ability to wear cute jeans or sit cross-legged on the floor.  People will stare and there will always be those who will think I am an out-of-control slob.

I will greet each of their stares with a smile.

I’ll rock purple hair.

My fingers will dance on my keyboard uninhibited.

My life will be luminous.