“I gradually realised that I’m just not the muse type. Girls like me don’t inspire people. I’m just not muse material,I finally thought sadly on my 18th birthday, looking at a world wholly non-inspired by me. “I’m not a princess. I’m not a muse. Just being me isn’t enough. I’m going to have to dosomething instead.“—Caitlin Moran,“How To Be A Woman”

It’s been a little while since I’ve felt inclined to post over here. Chalk it up to the winter blues or simply a lack of anything truly different and interesting happening in my life, but blog topics have been few and far between. Sometimes, it comes to transpire in life that you have many thoughts and feelings you could express, but most are things you’re obligated to keep to yourself for one reason or another. When that happens, I notice that my blog gets a little quieter, but it’s easier for me to renew my habit of writing three pages a day in my journal, or to actually send letters to people.

Speaking of letters, I started out my day today by reading a beautifully handwritten letter from Randy of Narrative Urge, a project that’s garnered a lot of local publicity. He’s dedicated himself to writing a letter a day, each one to a different person around the world. It’s a little bit like a daily journal, I suppose, chopped up into bits and pieces and scattered around the world. It would be a very cool project for him to get back copies of every letter sent when the year is out, along with any responses from those he’s written, and turn them into a published anthology. Because I’ve recently become fascinated with the idea of human disconnection in a world that’s obsessed with making connection easier and more instantaneous, I think this is a wonderful idea on Randy’s part, and am happy he took time out to include me.

While I haven’t been the most productive blogger or worker bee, I have been keeping up with some reading and writing endeavours. I’ve completed the first draft of “Sophisticated Nothing”, a compilation of memoirs and short fictional pieces I originally intended to submit for publication as a short chapbook. The chapbook draft is complete, and I may send it off just to see if it is approved by a publisher and the idea is worth exploring. However, after I started work on it, I realised it had potential to be a much longer collection of short stories and personal memoirs. The concept behind it is, as mentioned above, about connection in an increasingly disconnected world. Every story is set in a different bar, restaurant, coffeeshop, or cafe, because these are public places where people interact, often forgetting they’re in a public place. They’ve also been inspirational places for people interested in observing people, or having exchanges with strangers. Once I thought of the overarching theme of the collection, I realised there were more stories to be told than could fit into a 50-page chapbook. However, I have a habit of allowing my projects to get too big, and therefore, never get finished. So, I’ve been debating what to do with my creative vision. I don’t really need another project that serves to make no money from distracting me from what should be a main goal in life—making money. *laughs*

I enjoyed reading two short but extremely witty books over the past two weeks. Both are by women around my age, and are part memoir, part sociological insight on subjects such as feminism, travel, relationships, independence, and self-esteem. It’s always interesting to me to read books by people who started off as bloggers, columnists, or writers for less-than-mainstream publications. They have different and more authentic voices—the kind Elizabeth Wurtzel and Alexandra Robbins got panned for before it became common for journalists to write about “myself and people like me”. It is still a style of writing that is reviewed quite harshly and described as “self-indulgent”, especially when penned by a female author, or one that can land you in the hot seat on Oprah if it turns out you made a lot of the colourful details up. I don’t really care; self-indulgent or not, fictional or not, I enjoy the kind of in-your-face style of writing that today’s version of diarists and essayists are putting out there. So, when many of them were on sale for $1.99 through Amazon, it was a good day.

I started with Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be A Woman”, which has been panned so harshly by critics and readers above the age of 40 with such passion, I determined I’d probably love it. (What are the chances that I’m not going to identify with a controversial book about feminism and being a woman in today’s society, written by a snarky British woman around my age?). I actually loved the book, and I don’t know what people were going on and on about, because there’s very little that’s controversial or shocking in what she has to say. Oh, wait. No. She talks about having an abortion and not feeling too upset over the whole ordeal. And she uses the word “vagina”. I guess that’s “controversial”.

A music journalist for Wired magazine back in the day, Caitlin Moran is the non-conformist cool chick who isn’t afraid to discuss how uncool and insecure she’s always felt about her place in the world. Moran’s stories alternate between being funny, heartfelt, and painful, and sometimes all at the same time. Since that’s rather how life is, I’d say it’s a successful book. It’s easy to read, and I don’t know the last time I used the “bookmark” feature on my Kindle so often, because she’s a quotable woman. I look forward to reading her other book soon, but I’ve added her to my favourites list for the time being.

After that, I moved on to Rachel Shukert’s “Everything Is Going To Be Great”, another happily settled thirty-something writing about her decade or so of finding herself. While Moran is a cool British feminist who hangs out with guitarists in drug-induced fits of being an asshole, Shukert is an American Jewish girl from a wealthy, suburban family that wants to live life outside of the “good girl” role. Needless to say, her exposure to the world without the security blanket of money, family, a supportive relationship, or even the comforts of living in your home country is not a seamless one. There are many points when I am reminded how the best part of the book is the ironic title, although it really isn’t. Even though all the sucky things that might befall someone traveling abroad seem to happen to this one rather lost and directionless girl, things always somehow get back on track and for a while, do indeed appear to be great.

Shukert doesn’t make any pretense about wanting to be a feminist or help a younger generation of women through the painful and funny journey of self-discovery, while Moran writes about these topics outright and seems to not only want to give you a dose of reality, but shock you in the process. These are clearly two very different types of girls, but the common denominator is they’re around the same age, both educated, both great writers, and end up finding a sense of self and stability in a chaotic world. If you’re looking for reading material for your next flight, either or both of these will entertain you for quite some time.

Although I myself haven’t done anything interesting in the past month (first, The Guy I Am Currently Dating was sick for 10 days, and then on the day he recovered, I got sick for 10 days, so February wasn’t the most action-packed of months.), I’ve used some of the down-time to be entertained by and proud of some of the cool things friends of mine have been doing. Dave Leach, a friend of ours for many years via my social group, appeared on the Jeopardy! Tournament Of Champions, and made it through to the semi-final rounds. After winning 6 times in 2012, it was really a fantastic way for Dave to put a cap on his Jeopardy! experience, and we’re all very proud of him!

Later in the month, long-time blogger-artist-friend-and-fellow-Philadelphian Gina Martinelli appeared on Lisa Ling’s Our World” with her rather colourful family. Gina is one of the voices over at Polyskeptic, and they all seem pretty happy about their appearance on the show. They were one of three families profiled about modern-day polyamory, and presented an interesting look at poly marriages and families. outside of the traditional primary/secondary partner paradigm that most people I know happen to embrace. (I’m still personally attached to a little more compartmentalization than these more “familial” relationships allow, because as it turns out, I’m remarkably private for an open and unconventional person who keeps a blog on the Internet. :P )) I have a number of friends who are actors that I’ve had opportunity to see on TV and in the movies, but somehow, it’s a little different when people are just being themselves in real life on camera.

Although I personally have been on the more introverted side of things, and am patiently waiting for the happy 70-degree days to arrive, I have more than a little travel wanderlust. I really just want a bag of cash and someone to watch my dog, and I’ll take off and see friends and family I’ve been missing over the past year or so. :P We’ve had some fun events, including dressing up and partying at The Shelter on more than one occasion, but sometimes, you want adventure and spontaneity that happens to lie outside of your Metro area.

Yes, a life of freedom and not being terribly concerned with money would make me a much happier person. I might even blog more. Perhaps that could be an Indiegogo campaign. :P *laughs*

Finally, if you do not possess a copy of my 2012 poetry anthology, “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”, you can win one on Goodreads. Simply click below and enter the drawing. You’ll received an autographed copy with a personalised dedication. :)

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ophelia’s Wayward Muse

by Alayna-Renee Vilmont

Giveaway ends March 17, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Today was actually quite a good day, for a Tuesday. Since I was a little light on work, it worked out perfectly that I had some time to catch up over a nice lunch with an old friend of mine, one I don’t always get to see as much as I should but often enough that it’s always a good time.

I’m a city girl at heart, but I have a soft spot for certain charms that only the central areas of small towns seems to offer, particularly in the Southeast. Sitting in the shade on a summer day (and although it’s March, at 84 degrees, it felt like summer here in Atlanta) with a good meal, good company, or a glass of wine is a particular love of mine that I don’t easily find in the bustling metropolis-like places of the Northeast I typically so love. Listening to a mellow singer with a guitar, strolling around little independently owned shops, and enjoying the world going by is enough to make you forget just how stressful life can be, if just for a short while. In some ways, it reminds me of cities I’ve loved, like New Orleans and Fort Lauderdale, where there’s something simple and romantic in the air that appeals to someone with my imaginative, artistic temperament.

If I should leave the South, there are a few things I’ll miss…and the type of restaurant I had lunch at today (where I’ve also had dinner with The Guy I Am Currently Dating on a few occasions) reminds me of exactly what and why.

I also made myself useful around the house, digging out my much neglected Crock Pot and using some of the ingredients that may otherwise have gone to waste to create a somewhat healthy, low-glycemic version of chicken pot pie; the Southern style, served without the crust, but instead over biscuits (which I may omit entirely, as I tasted the concoction when I was finished, and it was rather rich and filling.)

I must admit, I don’t enjoy cooking or doing most domestic chores—I’ve generally made it a goal in my life to eventually make enough money that someone else can handle such things for me—but spending time doing so once in awhile is a good way to make a place you live feel a little more like home. That’s something I need right now, in the midst of a lot of insecurity.

I also have to admit that I’m rather proud of myself that my chicken pot pie came out successfully! Despite dating a few chefs, I’m not the most inclined when it comes to all things culinary, and I’m a picky eater on top of it all. While I was going through the prep work needed to make the dish (something many find relaxing, and I find tedious in every way possible), I had my computer in the living room, streaming a Muse playlist from Spotify. A friend of mine pointed out I had a kitchen Muse (*lol*), so I will credit the inspirational band for helping me not screw up my recipe for the week.

After taking care of some chores around the house, throwing everything in the Crock Pot, keeping up with e-mails, writing in my journal (today was a poem-inspired kind of day), and putting a piece of mixed media art given to me by a friend in a proper frame for hanging (yeah, I still don’t know how to do that), I felt quite accomplished on a day when most people I know were suffering due to the extreme pollen count.

In terms of pollen, “extremely high” is defined as between 500-1000. Today, Atlanta hovered around the 9,000 mark. We don’t need so many freaking trees and flowers. We are, after all, a city. :P

So, it was not surprising when, on the way to trivia, I started feeling very lightheaded, panicky, and having symptoms of what my doctors call “aura”. “Aura” freaks me out in an emotional way; my body starts to feel numb and tingly, I’ll get this floaty feeling, my vision may seem blurred or spotted or as if someone poured lead in my eye sockets, and my blood sugar typically plummets, as does my pulse rate. I then start to experience extreme anxiety, and if this problem is not addressed correctly, it can lead to a panic attack.

One of my difficult problems is that I am hypoglycemic, and while I feel like I eat a ton of food, I either in reality eat all the wrong food that doesn’t nourish my body but gives it empty calories, (lunch today consisted of half a salad with chicken, and then gluten-free chocolate cake, which I felt should be enough food to hold me over to 8 PM without incident, but it was not.), or I simply don’t eat enough. (I’ve been known to feel like 800 calories a day was binging on food.) Old me used to be able to solve this problem—my body would demand something from me, and I would eat that type of food. Ironically, since my diet has gotten healthier, my blood sugar issues have become more of an issue, because they’re not being masked by Coke and Oreos. The problem is, the medication I’m on forgets to let me know I need something—my blood sugar is too low, I’ve put off eating for too long, I’ve had too many carbs, I took my pills off-schedule–until it’s too late. The cure for this is a simple one provided by my doctor: I need to eat between 1,200-1,500 calories per day, work to build up my endurance to the weight I’ve gained via exercise, limit “bad” carbs, and eat 5-6 small portions of food per day rather than what I’ve done my whole life—eat a small lunch, pig out at dinner, and fortify myself with Coke the rest of the day.

Ironically, although the weight the medicine has put on my body is not healthy, my diet is possibly the healthiest it’s ever been. Yet, I still forget to eat enough, or enough of the proper things.

When I do this on a day when the weather plays havoc with my life, the result is simple: I have a migraine. Fortunately for me, my migraines are short-acting, and are not debilitating in the way some people experience. The scariest part is the 15-25 minutes of “aura” I will experience before the migraine, and the sense of exhaustion I feel after it is gone. The migraine itself rarely lasts more than an hour…just enough to totally screw with my day.

Today, I didn’t let it. I knew it was coming on the way to trivia, but still managed to handle the “aura” sensation without too much anxiety—a pit stop for a candy bar and an Advil helped. After that passed, I realised I was unexpectedly ravenous and needed protein; the more protein I put in my body, the better I felt. However, we didn’t do well at trivia, and that, along with the migraine, made me grumpy company. The Guy I Am Currently Dating has been extraordinarily stressed lately, and my life has just been all over the place…so I don’t often feel like we connect or talk or have things in common. Sometimes, I wonder if we even enjoy spending time together, because there seems to be this great divide between us. I so often feel like we’re not on the same page by the wonder of natural understanding that some people share, and that frustrates me. It is sometimes difficult to communicate with someone who naturally thinks and feels so differently from you, and doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say unless you explain it in detail..and even then, it’s not always so. The result has left me feeling frustrated, and rather alone and misunderstood in the world.

I was simply going to go to sleep early, but then I purchased “The Hunger Games” for my Kindle. Yes, it’s taken me 100 weeks to get around to reading it…and my inner ear problem means I can’t go to the movies, so I’ll need to wait 6-9 months to see the film on DVD. Yet, I am so shocked by how engrossing this story is. It didn’t sound like something I’d enjoy, but all I keep thinking is, “Wow…this is reality TV taken to the next level.” I already know that part of me will just want to sit around for the rest of the week reading this….and then the two sequels. Grrrrr….boooks. *laughs*

So, perhaps I’ll read for another 30 minutes before bed. However, I’ll leave you with this little Muse-ing, as I actually didn’t know I liked this song until today. It’s not typical Muse style, and the video is bad..but the words are compelling and meaningful, and the music reminds me of mid-1980′s Depeche Mode.

Muse, "Undisclosed Desires