Ain’t I A Woman

I love husky voices in women, which must be why Ryan’s bullying didn’t usually bother me. It got annoying, the way anything done repeatedly and publicly would, but not annoying in a way that made me feel small or self-conscious (that I recall), rather annoying the way boys tend to be when they have a crush and you don’t.

For what must’ve been all four years of high school, usually during French, because I don’t remember him having any other IB classes, a boy I’m almost sure was named Ryan mocked me for having a man’s voice. I don’t think our seats were assigned, but we routinely sat next to each other — which means he sat next to me — and I remember being certain in multiple, nonconsecutive seasons that he had a crush on me, and occasionally I’d consider him a entry level, lowercase friend, in that I didn’t avoid him or feel the need to. So why did it go completely unnoticed that he deepened his own voice when mimicking me in class? Why did no one say anything, and why didn’t I remember it until very recently? And how did he know at that age that the masculinization of cisgender Black women was a long-running form of abuse?

Michelle Obama. Serena Williams.

Caster Semenya.

The darker the skin, the more constant the barrage of defeminizing attacks.

So why didn’t it register, even to me? The answer I’ve come to assume is that I don’t remember caring. It didn’t hurt my feelings, that I can recall, so it didn’t stick. I was disinterested in him, so—what? I feel like this speaks to the constant threat of abuse, or the expectation of it. It feels like I must’ve deprioritized aggressions from people who didn’t matter to me, which honestly checks out. It’s always confounded me when people I don’t know exist or whose existence about which I’m ambivalent expect me to feel strongly about their opinions of me.

Black women sweat more than other women, so I hear. I know I do. Black women have higher levels of testosterone. It’s strange because epigenetics is fascinating when we’re talking about how an Irish descendant of grandparents who lived through the famine have genetic repercussions, and yet there doesn’t seem to be the same academic curiosity to meet higher levels of adrenaline, and what that might have to do with prolonged and persistent seasons of racially specific stress. It isn’t that Black women may have a sickle trait disorder, sickled cells, and therefore higher levels of testosterone might be related to the body’s attempt to vasodilate blood vessels to allow flow with lower risk of red blood cell destruction. It’s just that Black women are manly.

So why didn’t Maybe Ryan’s abuse “matter” at the time? And then why did it resurface? Of recent racist remarks, I’ve said: I don’t care that that individual feels that way. I don’t have any emotional investment in them, so their thoughts aren’t impactful–at least not because they’re from them. It can be dismissed easily, in the moment, because it isn’t new. But that’s the problem: it isn’t new. It therefore gets sifted through and only the individual gets discarded. The sentiment, however, has company. It isn’t the first of its kind, it’s not an isolated incident. So it either lays dormant, waiting for the next and the next until there are enough of them that the weight is noticeable, or it is that final straw. It adds up and eventually the abuse succeeds, not because Maybe Ryan matters, but because he is part of a great tradition that is also allowed to continue unabated until committees involved in a woman’s sport and passion can decide she has no place in competition. Until journalists can sully great moments of accomplishments with coded language and intentionally selected photographs. Until someone who does impact our lives adds their length of straw.

A Relative To Truth

When I was writing Keepsake and imagining its title, I was reading a lot of quotes about memory, a key theme of the story. Well. Everything about the story, really. But the point is, I have a fixation with memories. I’m just realizing that now as I catalog the themes of my novels…


I guess anyone who journals rabidly and blogs and writes and documents could probably have guessed this. I never said I was sharp.

Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.  ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels:  it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.  ~Salvador Dali

Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. ~William Faulkner

Yeah, most of them are about how our memories are worthless, for being changeable. I’m paraphrasing. I haven’t decided how I feel about that, so I’ll probably keep writing about it, even though I think Keepsake helped me parse some of it.

ANYWAY. The point is, my brain is a wonderland. I was sitting, minding my own business, melting into a puddle of “I’ve just finished writing”/“The rabid squirrels have been released!” when by some unknown wizardry, BAM:



Smelled this. Nostrils. Invaded. I mean, obviously not because I haven’t fed this to my son in ten full and thorough years, aside from which I haven’t lived in the UK in said stretch of time so that it is impossible that I should have smelled this baby food. But my brain decided to pretend. The thing is, and I don’t even know how this is possible – I smelled it in the freezing cold that was our kitchen in Bangor. You’re not getting it. YES, cold has a smell (it does) but I was smelling the feeling.


I know what I smelled.

Okay, but that wasn’t even the last weird time-leap-memory-smell thing. Before I went to bed, BAM:

Childhood. California. Walking with my mom and siblings. Eating off of trees. I don’t even know if these are the plums we had because I am pretty sure God discontinued them and it has been one of the great treasure hunts of my life, about which I will someday pen an epically tragic memoir in the vein of Lisa Simpsons’ “My Own Mother Gave My Last Cupcake Away.”

I will never have that texture and taste and smell back, except randomly, when I’m awake at 3am and delirious from writing.

Thanks for comin’ out.

Postscript: Upon reviewing this post, I suspect I should schedule an MRI, just to be safe.

This Is More For Me Than You

Disclaimer: This is all about a TV show.

There was a time before Scandal. Before the glorification of a bumbling, man-child. Before brain trauma that conveniently resolved over the course of an episode. A time when Tony Goldwyn was still Tony Goldwyn, the actor. The talent. A time before my view of him was stained. And during that time, he was a part of Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

Back story: in college, as I was studying such charming topics as “Deviance in the Family” and “Social Inequality”, I fell hard for a little ditty called Special Victims Unit. I mean, come on. It was pretty awesome. That and they insisted on working in story-lines reminiscent of some pretty famous cases. I remember reading a book by Paul Britton (a famed forensic psychologist) and then seeing the episode about the couple who had a bunch of kids, whose nannies might disappear and who buried their victims in and around the house. So basically the show was quite parallel to what I was doing in my own life. I could even overlook Detective Olivia Obvious, I mean Benson’s constant stating of the – you guessed it – obvious. But then I started to get weary. I was a bit tired of the hamfisted handling of religious figures (ie, if there’s a Christian – and don’t let it be a pastor – we know from the get that this is the perp), the beating us over the head with preachiness – where at one time they used having an ensemble cast to have heated exchanges wherein everyone had and was unapologetic in their own beliefs and opinions, it seemed increasingly, we were just being told what to believe in a really trite back-and-forth in which Benson and Stabler totally agreed and actually wondered aloud how anyone could not believe. So that got old, fast. Aside from which, it’s just corny and lazy writing.

So I stopped watching. (GASP.) I’d watched an episode of Criminal Intent and just did not get Vincent D’Onofrio’s Robert Goren. (I am shaking my head at myself right now, wondering how that’s possible.) But I decided to go back to it and…well, the rest is history. This character. He was a tortured Sherlock with obvious quirks that eventually became much more than that, but the way his world was weaved into it…so good. And then there was the end of season 6. When everything started falling down. In a good way…for the viewer. In a heartbreaking way for Goren. Let me just say, his family members are played by Tony Goldwyn and Rita Moreno. I mean.

goren familyI can’t.

So good.

And then season 7?? And MORE family stuff. And the undercover stuff. And the season finale that ::falls across chaise:: All the best Goren storylines falling one on top of the other, creating the most amazing performances – not that one need rank D’Onofrio’s genius against D’Onofrio’s genius. It’s just, how much could this man take! GAH. So good.

So why am I blogging about this?! Because, like five years later, I’ve still thought about the satisfaction of that episode and some from the previous season so much that I’ve taken to reading episode guides and finally, last night, watching two from season six…in preparation to rewatch the season 7 finale. Again. Because I must. Because it was just so good. I can’t think of another series where a consistent viewer was so rewarded. I mean, I assume it wasn’t as powerful for people who hadn’t seen the years long build-up (AND YES I’M INCLUDING THE CRIMINAL INTENT PC GAME!).

Tony. You…you should know better. You were once a Goren. Why have your forsaken your rich heritage?! You were the bad guy I desperately wanted Demi Moore to learn to love in Ghost! (She didn’t even try!) What has Shonda Rhimes *done* to you? ::weeping, gnashing of teeth::

Siiigh. So anyway.

Write like that. So that five years later, I can’t.stop.feeling it.

Every Breath You Take, California

I’m a complicated woman. ::ducks:: I just assume someone would punch me in the face for saying that. But seriously (not really) – I am.

Homesick means I think of California as my home, right? Except that’s not what I mean! Homeland-sick should catch on; I think that’s more what I’m saying. There’s something about arriving in the place to which you’re native. <– There. If I spoke German, I might know one glorious word to casually and precisely take the place of that sentence. And homesick would not be it.

So, lately I’ve been missing it. Specific places. Very specific. Driving with the top down from Sylvan Corners to Van Maren as it turns into Dewey. I miss the turns in the road and the sometimes canopy. Generally, I miss the trees in Sacramento. And Santa Cruz. I miss the way it smells on the bridge between Porter and Earth and Marine. Redwoods. Sigh. I don’t miss sand (a pox on thee, sand) but I do miss Natural Bridges and Sentinel Rock (right?) and I miss Pacific Avenue and sometimes I miss 41st avenue and *my* Safeway (24 hours, yo) and that my favorite Panda Express is the one on Date in Carmichael. (Yeah, I’m all over the place.) And there’s nothing entirely special about most of those places. I just know them.

So I went back the other night. Took a friend. We hopped from outside my home to just above my high school and then to Porter College and I can’t believe I forgot to take her to West Cliff Drive!

Thanks, Google Earth. My stars, what an age we live in. <–obligatory

My little big sister and I in McKinley Park. (Sacramento)

Me and the cousin-brothers in Capital Park. (Sacramento)


In a crag at Sentinel Rock. (Santa Cruz)


It’s only been a year and a half this time so what the deal, yo? Ah well. Back to flying over Northern California. Ta!

Eleventy Queries

So, the other part of that lovely award granted by the Pen Punks was a set of questions.

1. What is your biggest personal achievement?

My family. My hubby, little boy, me family. ❤
2. Do you have a goal for this year? If so, what is it?
Who…has no goals… just out of curiosity. Lol – yes, I have a goal. I want to hold on to what I’ve realized through my recent re-vision (yep, Imma be obnoxious and keep saying it thusly – HAH, see that, Jen?!). I want to be ever more courageous in my work. Actually, in all aspects of life, though it’ll look different depending on the area.
3. If you could pick any imaginary world (from novels/movies) to live in, which would it be and why?
Weeell. I’d love to see if I have what it takes for Battle School… otherwise, I’m a loyalist. We’ve talked about this before. I am bound to my world, my people, etc. I always root for the human, haha. So while I looove so many imaginary worlds (esp sci-fi), I don’t care to be in them. I like reality. (Is this a huge disappointment coming from a writer?)
4. If you could spend a day with any celebrity, whom would you choose and why?
Well, I’d love to spend a day with: Toni Morrison (obvious reasons – I already know I love to hear her talk thanks to multiple episodes of Charlie Rose); Bill Cosby; Charles Stanley. These are people I want to hear speak, up close, before their time is done.
5. What’s the last book you read that surprised you?
Speaker for the Dead – and YES, I’M STILL ON PAUSE BECAUSE IT’S SO OVERWHELMINGLY GOOD. And yes, every page, it seems, is a surprise. Just. The crafting. The clarity. The worlds. Gah.
I’d say Invisible Man surprised me, as well, in a different and yet similar way. I cried. I don’t know that I’ve literally, physically cried before while reading a book. I can be moved and carried aWAY by literature without physical tears falling – but they did. It was brilliant. Brilliant.
6. What’s your favorite game show to watch, and would you actually want to be a contestant on it?
I guess Wheel of Fortune? I really can’t be sure, I just know I loved playing that on the computer back in the time of floppy disks. 😀
7. If you could pick any novel besides your own to be made into a movie, which would it? Why?
Well, Ender’s Game is coming out soon. 😀 ICANTEVEN.
8. What is your favorite YouTube Video?
That. Is a weird question, hahaha. If we’re talking representative videos (like music videos, whether homemade or professional) than it depends on what mood/season/stage of the writing process I’m in. I’m loving Hammock right now, if I haven’t been clear enough – and there are full albums on YouTube.
If it’s just ridiculous clips. Too many. #TooMany
9. What is a book you hate but wish you liked?
I’m sorry, I cannot. I can talk about films, shows, music by name when I hate it but I can’t with books. Except that one time, but it so doesn’t fit this question. I like it just as much as I wanted to.
10. Who is one of your favorite philosophers?
Way too loaded of a question. With far too many qualifiers. I will choose Herbert Marcuse and spare you all the diatribe of why and why not.

11. Where do you do your best thinking about deep questions?

On my bed, when I’m comfy with ice water and my laptop. Or near water – whether it’s in the bath tub, at an overlook point somewhere on West Cliff Drive, at Sentinel Point… it sort of centers on water.

This does not capture it at all. And, if you promise not to prosecute, I’ll admit that I actually did my best thinking past that bench, down a short drop to the actual cliff where you couldn’t hear much more than the waves.

One More ‘Gain

A number of you may rightly be wondering how yesterday’s post didn’t include the X-Men theme. My only explanation is that I was referring to cartoons….and X-Men was real talk. Seriously, this is another one that I started watching again from episode one a few years ago (though my husband quickly ran through them without me) and the first episode of this show was better than any X-Men movie until First Class. No. Joke. But then all our “serious” cartoons back then were jam-packed with story. Now the only thing that compares is anime, it seems.

Anyway. Taste this.

So good.

Okay, one more for the road. Then I’m off to …watch cartoons.

Whoops, I’m Crying

I just had the frustrating experience of seeing that someone’d hosted a “favorite cartoon theme song” poll and that all the voters had failed epically. ::points to the door, eyes closed:: GET. OUT.

So, seeing as this is the most recent display of wickedness witnessed, I knew what I had to do. I had to correctly identify the best ones. Part of the problem, I think is buttoning down the era. I’m 29 and when I say childhood, I mean MY childhood, not my 25yo brother’s. Yes, four years makes a difference in cartoon-ville. If you take the late 80s out or go as far as mid 90s, you’ve ruined it.

Without further ado, the top five (because three is just stupid):

(5) Darkwing Duck

This one secures its rightful place for two reasons. (1) In 1991, everything had to be funk-ay! If you couldn’t do the running man to it, was it really cool? Ask yourselves that question, friends. This might even be classified with early hip hop. ::ducks:: (2) The super hardcore “Let’s get dangerous” is said BY the duck, WITH the slight lisp. ::shakes head:: Awesome.

(4) Gummi Bears

This one? Seriously, this was an era where jingle singers took their jobs *deathly* seriously. Was one vocalist enough? NO. Hit those harmonies! I mean, does he take it up or does he take it UP? Now let’s take it down a notch and let those synthesized instruments carry us. Now bring it home, guys!

(3) Ducktales

Aaand my husband and I sing this on something of a regular basis. It’s pretty nectar. (“Did you just make that up?” – “It’s a volleyball term.”) NOT PONY TAILS OR COTTON TAILS, NO DUCK TALES!

(2) Jem

As you can tell, we’re getting to the good stuff here. Pretty sure they need to play this on the radio. I’m still singing songs from this show and from the cassette tape that came with my sister’s Misfit doll. Man. I can’t even pretend. This. Was. Our. Jam. Couple of years ago, I started watching this show from the beginning? Man. WHY was I not doing it ironically. (Because it rocked.)

(1) David the Gnome

“It was an act….of whiiiimsy.” No, for real. I might cry. All ridiculousness and half-joking aside. ::straight face:: This is the most magical, beautiful, wonderful thing ever. In every wish… and dream… and happy home, you’ll find the kingdom of the gnomes. DO YOU HEAR THAT? That is PRECIOUS! (Um…Christopher Plummer narrated. So.) O_O


::sniffle:: I’m glad we did this.

Avert Your Eyes, Children

Well, darn it. I really thought I wasn’t going to care about Valentine’s Day. I mean, I’ve been married to the same guy for the past nine and a half years and he does something for me literally every day so why is today supposed to be any more special? Plus we’re not gonna see each other until late this evening. And Valentine’s Day is so [insert cynicism].

And then he gave me a card before he left this morning. (I can actually show you which one since it’s an Elena Original – that is not the name of her company, I should mention.)

And then I read his note – written in orange pen… methinks the blue pen he started my name with ran out? – and then I watched this video I made for him a couple years ago, after he dedicated this song to me. Which I’m now gonna share with you and Valentine’s Day is my excuse because you’re suPPOSED to care about other people’s love today! (That’s how this works, right?)

Thank Heaven For Little Girls

I must learn to enjoy even what cannot be shared. Amazing, poignant, illuminating moments that words cannot translate. I think this must be more of a problem, not because I’m a writer, but because I’m a documenter, a historian in the loosest sense of the word. I think it’s that part of me that’s most tied to having an audience. I document for the people I love or will love, so how can I be satisfied with the inarticulate-able?

Having said all that…I shall now attempt to record an account of what transpired yesterday.

Maybe it had to do with the Indian girls named Unwanted. I don’t think so and it wasn’t on my mind, but I won’t pretend to know exactly what my mind is up to. (And not just because that would disregard 99% of the basis for psychology and sociology.) Anyway, I’d been writing in my wip and suddenly decided I wanted to know the title, which hadn’t come to me yet. I started with looking up famous quotes (and not so famous) about memory. (It’s relevant.) By the time I got distracted and turned my attention elsewhere, I had some lovely half-phrases that would make an effective title – just not mine. Anyway, eventually I was attempting to go to bed.

I just remember saying to Josh, “I almost want to call it Keepsake.”

Keepsake is the only thing I ever remember my godfather calling me. I remember walking up the aisle to greet him after attending a service at his church and he would hug me to his side and say, “Hi, Keepsake.” He died before I became an adult and no one has called me Keepsake since. Which part of me appreciates. But the other part misses it.

I guess my mind applied it to the news story after the fact because when I read it, I was heartbroken. Maybe more honestly, I was stunned and sort of incredulous. As in I don’t understand how that is possible. I can’t speak for my siblings, but I think our parents made it clear that we were individual to them. I remember in the computer room there was a poem hanging that my mom wrote after giving birth to my sister, Anastasia. My sister, Jen-the-twin, has always been Bubble to my dad. We didn’t run together, let alone feel unwanted. The disparity between a girl being literally named Unwanted and my godfather replacing my name with one that meant I was treasured is too great.

Can you imagine their socialization experience? Being called that? If we can pretend the disdain ends with the name, which the article makes clear is not the case. (Little girls die from NEGLECT?!) I never remember thinking, “When he calls me Keepsake, it means I am treasured, that I am something to be set apart.” But I never thought, “I’m not.” And I never thought it had to do with appearances, thank God. Because when in high school, I was pretty much alone with my dad and no one thought things like, “Hey, she’d probably like to go to the salon”, I might have questioned whether I still was. It made no mention of achievements, either. He just meant me.

And of course I never got to tell him that I think he is a huge part of who I am. Even though I’ve only just started thinking about it as an adult and without discrediting the household I actually grew up in, that one word seems to have made a huge and lasting impression, subconsciously or otherwise.

Now I have a title and more than that. A lot of people believe, I’m sure, that writers are constantly funneling their own lives into their work. I guess on the most molecular level I could agree – once again, I can’t know what my mind is doing all the time – but only insofar as we all agree on Locard’s Exchange Principle. (I’m gonna assume we’re all forensic technology nuts.) But this is the first time that I am using something that is a big part of me, and in a deliberate homage. And I’m really excited about it.


Do NOT Go In There!

Today, in things I enjoyed – otherwise known as “spit bubbles ensue: the laziest blog post evar?” – ….

OH. O_O Sorry ’bout that. Wandered off for a bit.

Nobody could not not love that.

Cake Wrecks is one of my favorite websites to forget about for like two weeks and then remember as I sit in my bed after midnight, snorting back laughter so as not to wake my husband. Aside from the hilarious wrecks, their brand of humor just matches me. (Click me. Read me. Love me.) I’ve yet to submit the story of how – two hours before my reception – the hosting venue called and let me know that my cake hadn’t yet been delivered and did I want to call the bakery. Problem being, of course, that it was their bakery what were responsible for the makification. O_O Sorry ’bout that. And don’t even get me started on the story of how they then set out a placeholder cake which, while properly decorated on the outside, was some abomination I had not requested. So after taking pictures, they proceeded to serve cake from a now-prepared-but-not-decorated proper cake in the galley.

I now feel guilty for telling that story and feel obligated to say that The Sterling Hotel was gorgeous and the Bridal Suite was smacktacular. It’s been nine years and they’ve changed hands so I don’t think they’ll care but IAMAWOMANOFMYWORD. And I have no idea what that means. But I totes am.

::spit bubbles:: As promised. SEE!