05
Feb 16

Mentor Moment: Octavia Butler’s notebook

I first read Octavia Butler as an undergrad in the English Department at the University of Oklahoma. I absolutely loved Wild Seed and Kindred, and Butler was the first speculative fiction writer who made me really enjoy reading the genre more than watching the movie. Last week, the Huntington Library posted a picture of handwritten notes on the inside cover of Octavia Butler’s notebook.

Handwritten notes on inside cover of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, 1988. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Handwritten notes on inside cover of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, 1988. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Not a bad to do list, I must say. She wrote it, and she did it.

Oh, and you can bet that Octavia Butler’s notebook has encouraged me to put a similar note in the front of all my notebooks.


01
Feb 16

Things that are saving my life right now

Today I’m linking up with Anne to talk about what’s saving my life right now.

things-that-are-saving-my-life-right-now

I’m a pretty boring sort of person. And the older I get, the more boring I am, which is definitely a good thing. Boring means no drama, simple to do lists, and getting enough sleep every night. For that reason, it doesn’t take much to make me happy, and I don’t need big, over-the-top things to save my life.

It may be dramatic to say “saving my life,” but here’s the thing: It’s a rough time of year, and there are one billion things right now just frittering away at me. So, I have to look at the good things. And during the winter, and the long stretch that is the spring semester, there are a few things that I know will keep my sanity. So here I present to you the things that are saving my life right now.

When your office mate doesn’t respect your space… #RosiePuppins

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Black coffee

One of the highlights of my morning is the coffee. I love me some black coffee, and sipping it on the couch every morning while I cuddle with Rosie is a great way to center myself and gird my loins for the day. I have also started journaling while I drink my coffee, and extracting all the negative thoughts in my brain and putting them to paper while I caffeinate has really made a world of difference. On Sundays, I catch up on blogs or read a book while I have way too many cups of coffee, and it’s the best way to spend the morning.

Christmas #bookhaul! Let’s take the rest of the day to read all the books, kay?

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Good books

This year, I set the goal to read 50 books. This may not seem like a lot to some people, but somewhere between grad school and now, I fell out of the habit of reading, which is really weird to admit considering how many degrees in creative writing I have. But making reading a priority every day has really helped me. Thus far, I’ve finished three books this year, which is way more than I’ve read in a month in a long time. It’s tough on weekdays, since my schedule requires I work 50 hours in about 4 days each week, but Friday afternoons are a joy when I can sit on the couch and read while I wait for Chris to get home for date nights.

Olives, salami, and cheese. #fridaynightdoneright

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Antipasto date nights

Chris and I usually reserve Friday nights for date night, but we don’t always want to go out. Lately, we’ve been staying in and eating the best mediterranean finger foods our grocery store has to offer. Since I have Fridays off, I’ll prep the food as soon as Chris tells me he’s on his way home. I shove some garlic rolls in the oven, cut up a cured salami, toss some specialty olives in a bowl, and put out some fancy cheese. Then, we sit at the kitchen table and talk about our day while consuming this feast and the adult beverage of our choice. It’s cheaper and more satisfying than any date night we could have out, and the best part is that we can move directly from the kitchen to the living room to sit on the couch with the dog and get in a good 2 hours of Netflix before I fall asleep around 9 PM.

Day 14: hope. (Yeah, I’m growing it out again.) #OWBphotochallenge

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Hair product

For my birthday and Christmas, my mom will get me a bunch of different hair products that I’ve never used before. I love this, because good products for curly hair are expensive, and once I find one I like, I will keep buying it even though there are probably better ones out there to try. For my last birthday, she got me a tub of As I Am Twist Defining Cream, and it was a life changer. Well, I used it up while we were in Florida, and I wasn’t able to find it anywhere. But then, I walked into a Sally’s, where they had two large tubs of it. Naturally, I bought both of them, so I won’t have to get more for another 4-6 months, depending upon how humid it is in Oklahoma. This may sound ridiculous, but having curly hair that you want to keep healthy is a full time job. And sulfate and paraben-free hair products are expensive and not so easy to find in a world where every person with curly hair decides they don’t mind slowly going bald from straightening chemicals and too hot flat irons.

Yoga around the mammoth!

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Yoga

I’ve written before about how yoga made me cry, but last Friday, I went to yoga class at the natural history museum. We all circled a bronze mammoth statue with our mats, and the instructor gave us a simple direction. “As you begin your practice today, take a deep breath and say something nice to yourself.” Then I said something nice to myself in my head, and you’d be correct if you guessed that I almost lost it. Between yoga and journaling, I’m unpacking all manner of luggage and it’s exhausting and satisfying and completely necessary and I have no idea how I lived without all this before.


30
Jan 16

What I learned in January

Today I’m linking up with Emily to share what I learned in January.

what-i-learned-in-january

Harry Potter Chocolate Frogs are nearly impossible to eat.

Please don’t stone me to death, but I’m not really a big chocolate fan. Sure, I like it, but it’s never something I crave. I’d rather have a bag of Sour Patch Kids or off-brand gummy bears any old day. But when in Rome, you do as the Romans do, and we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so we had to have a chocolate frog. And you know how chocolate Easter bunnies are hollow? Not so with these frogs. Just solid blocks of chocolate. It took Chris and I three whole nights to finish one.

I need to better control my temper when I’m frustrated or tired.

Airports and amusement park crowds make me really anxious. And when I get anxious, I tend to snap at people — especially people I love. So, I either need to work on that, or never leave the house again.

Pint-sized pineapple mimosas make for terrible headaches.

Honestly, this is something I knew in my heart. I’m an old school champagne-hating sort of girl because of the headaches. But, there are occasions that call for it. Chris and I made a pretty spectacular brunch on New Year’s Day, which is why I’m able to tell you this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

My poker face definitely needs work.

Before the semester began, we had a five-hour meeting. By hour three, I was no longer able to participate. I have a set amount of time I can sit down every day, and that meeting far exceeded it. But I didn’t do a good job of not showing my frustration about the length of the meeting to coworkers. Several of them asked me if I was okay. And it’s not like I was crying or having a melt down, but I probably looked a little like a zombie. So, for that reason, I’m going to focus on not being a zombie in the coming meetings.

Poolside yoga.

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Yoga never leaves you.

I take yoga classes at the university gym, so I’m at the mercy of their schedule. I was unable to attend the classes offered during dead and finals week last semester, and then the gym was closed for Christmas. And I wasn’t able to get back to classes the first week of this semester because the first week of every semester is like trying to swallow an elephant whole because your to do list feels impossible. So I finally started back this week, and even though I’m incredibly sore, I feel like I’ve just gotten right back into the swing of things. It feels good.

The journaling habit feels better than I ever thought it would.

I have journaled every day in January, except for the days I was on vacation. I usually do it in the mornings, but on the days I haven’t had time in the morning I’ve made it up in the evenings. I feel like it allows me get all the thoughts out of my head and onto paper where I’m able to parse them. The small, leather journal I bought at the Medieval Fair last year has basically become my therapist.


25
Jan 16

5 things to know before you go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The-Wizarding-World-of-Harry-Potter

Earlier this month, Chris and I went on a vacation. It’s actually the first vacation we have had since we went to the Great American Beer Fest in 2011. So, it was incredibly overdue. But the thing about me and Chris is that we prefer to save money instead of spend (hence why like 85% of date nights take place at home) and we had gotten into a pretty good groove of not spending any money for a long while. But I think we had also slowly turned into husks of our former selves. You can only sit at home, rewatching all of The Fast and the Furious movies so many times before you need to go somewhere.

That’s when Chris decided we would be going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. We had talked about it a little, kind of in the way you talk when you mention to someone that it would be cool to do a thing, but you have no intention of putting in the work to actually make a plan. (I’ve mentioned my tendency to do this before.) But after he checked his airline mile balance, it was kind of like we couldn’t afford not to go.

So, the plan was set in motion. Airline tickets were procured. Hotel reservations were made. Theme park tickets were purchased. My parents agreed to watch the dog. And with that, we made our way to Orlando, Florida, during the first week of 2016. One of the (many) perks of my job is that I get a month-long Christmas break. So, Chris just had to schedule a week of vacation, and we were good to go.

Our vacation was scheduled for 4 total days. We left early Tuesday morning, and returned on Friday night. Our hotel had a couple bars and restaurants, and we had passes to the Universal Studios City Walk (a strip of nightclubs and restaurants–that we didn’t actually use.) Our hotel and theme park tickets were a packaged deal, which meant we didn’t need to rent a car either. The hotel was super close to the park, and there was a shuttle that took us from the hotel to the park both days we went. And there was a shuttle that took us to and from the airport. Basically, it was like the vacation version of daycare because we didn’t have to think about anything.

So, if you’re planning to make a similar vacation a reality, here are 5 things to know before you go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

weasley-wizard-wheezes

You are going to spend so much money.

I’m not naïve, and I knew that everything would be super expensive once we got there, but damn. I don’t think I was ready for how expensive. When you plan your trip, remember that you will be eating out for 3 meals a day. And that if you’re walking around a theme park all day, you’re probably going to be more hungry than you would be otherwise. I thought momentarily about bringing some food to keep in the hotel room, but I didn’t want to have to deal with more luggage. Which was okay, because it was a vacation, and a big part of a vacation, at least in my mind, is getting to eat out for every meal. We had a great meal at The Cowfish after our first day in the park. And now I want to exclusively have burger-sushi fusion meals.

We stayed at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which was really nice and cute in a very retro sort of way. The hotel had a “diner” which was basically a huge food court. The food was decent, and marked up way higher than it should’ve been. But the thing that really got me was the fountain drinks. The cups you purchase at the food court have RFID tags on the bottom of them, and there is a platform underneath the fountains that reads the tag to activate the actual fountain. After two hours, your cup is no longer valid, so you can’t get any more refills. Sure, I probably wouldn’t have kept getting refills after two hours, but best believe I would’ve kept the same cup for the whole trip to get my midday Diet Coke fix. (When I was an undergrad, I kept the same fountain drink cup from the OU student union in my backpack for a whole semester, just so I could get refills whenever I wanted. I’m cagey and thief-like when it comes to soda, I guess.) I realize these RFID tags are there because of people like me, but that’s also probably why I’m so irritated by it.

But we also spent a whole lot of money in the parks. We really wanted some souvenirs to remember our trip by, so we got a Hogwarts Express Christmas tree ornament, a cauldron-shaped mug we now use as a salt well, some enamel pins (I’ve got a Knockturn Alley pin on my jacket as we speak), and then Chris bought a wand and I got a real wool Ravenclaw cardigan. All of those items were totally worth it.

kings-cross-station

And remember, Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios, and Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure, so if you want to go full Potter, you need to make sure you purchase tickets to both parks. But if you do purchase tickets to both parks, you can ride the Hogwarts Express between the two, and it’s really a fun ride.

And just try not to think about how much more food and drink is inside the Harry Potter portions of the park. I’m pretty sure The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is what’s keeping Universal Studios relevant, so they gotta make their money where they can.

Jurassic-park

The rest of Universal Studios is kind of a ghost town by comparison, so take advantage of that.

Sorry for being a downer, but to me, the best ride of our whole trip was The Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster. I’m a sucker for an indoor roller coaster, and this one was everything I could’ve wanted and more. The “story” behind the ride (all Universal Studio rides have these elaborate story setups that you hear while in the line) is that it’s a behind the scenes look of The Mummy–the movie with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. So you walk through the line (there was no line while we were there, so it was a quick 5-minute jaunt through the winding maze of ropes and halls) and you see set pieces and faux relics from the film. When you sit down on the roller coaster, the Mummy has risen because he has cursed the film crew or whatever, and he chases you through the coaster. Then, when it looks like it ends, you see an animatronic mummy at a fake control center for the ride, and you continue on for a few more minutes. It was really an awesome roller coaster.

That having been said, Chris really liked the Dragon Challenge coaster. But he was pretty excited to get some sweet Jurassic Park pictures.

When your man ain’t even paying attention to the dinosaur that wants to eat him… #MarisagoestoOrlando

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And when you just want to chill in a more adult area of the park where there aren’t tons of kids crying because their parents won’t spend $4 million on something that will probably break on the plane ride home, it’s really nice to go to The Simpsons area, and have your self a Krusty burger and a Duff beer.

diagon-alley

You don’t own shoes that are comfortable enough to go to Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I have a weird obsession with sensible shoes that is definitely an affliction given to me by my mother. Growing up, we were not allowed to leave the house unless we had on good shoes for walking. It didn’t matter if we were just going to the grocery store or to the park. Oh, and God forbid teenage Marisa try to look cute when she went to the mall. Mom would shut that right down. Because the mall means walking, and if you’re going to walk, according to my mother, you need to be wearing shoes that were designed for athletic activity.

(I’m not saying she’s wrong. We would all probably be a lot happier if we only wore sneakers. But I would just like to state for the record that I have a shoe anxiety now, and it’s probably her fault.)

For Christmas, I received a pair of Onitsuka Tigers, which are the perfect type of sneakers to wear if you want some non-Chuck Taylor sneakers to wear with skinny jeans. Before we left, I put some insoles in them, as is my way because I have some hella gnarly, jacked up hooves. And the day started out just fine. But, by the end of the first day, I kind of wanted to cut off my feet. This was no fault of the shoe. I had no blisters or any pain caused by the shoes. I did, however, have immense foot fatigue. After the second day at the park, Chris looked at the pedometer feature on his phone, and in the course of two days, we walked over 22 miles. So, just be ready for that.

the-leaky-cauldron

It’s worth it to go for the full Harry Potter experience.

On our first day, we ate breakfast at The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley and had lunch at The Hog’s Head in Hogsmeade. While the food was not spectacular (it’s traditional British fare but made on a large scale like all chain restaurants or cafeteria food) it was really fun to sit in restaurants that look just like the places from the books and movies. And you know, if there were an on-site Harry Potter-themed hotel, we probably would’ve stayed there too.

We made sure to sample as many things as possible while we were there. We tried ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. I had both regular and frozen butter beer–I didn’t try the hot butter beer because it’s so sweet and it just sounded really disgusting to me. We tried all three of the wizard beers, the Wizard’s Brew, the Dragon Scale, and the Hog’s Head Brew. And, because our hotel was affiliated with the park, one night Chris ran down to the gift shop and bought a Chocolate Frog and some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans that we ate up in the room while watching Pacific Rim.

knight-bus-stan-shunpike

Schedule your trip during the offseason if you can.

I’ve heard a few horror stories of going to Universal Studios during the busy season. Not only is Florida intolerable in the summer, but the lines in the park are ridiculous. One friend stated that when they went in August, they had to purchase Express Passes for everyone in their party (the passes that let you skip the line at all the rides that aren’t associated with the WWoHP) because the line wait was at least 3 hours for every ride. I could probably write a 10-page paper on why passes like that are un-American, so I knew there was no way I would ever purchase those. (We’ll see if I feel that way after I have kids.) I am the type of person who will wait in line and like it, dammit, because that’s part of the experience and good things come to those who wait and all that crap.

That having been said, we only waited about an hour for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, and about 45 minutes for The Dragon Challenge. Every other ride either did not have a line, or had a line short enough that I don’t even remember having to wait. And all this is due to us going in the offseason.

Not only that, but the weather was nearly perfect. Sure, it sprinkled a bit, but nothing too serious. And the temperature stayed between 55 and 70 degrees each day, so we were able to comfortably wear jeans and long sleeves the whole time. Oh, and we definitely got a kick out of listening to native Floridians who worked at the park complain about how cold it was, especially since it was in the twenties in Oklahoma while we were gone.

leaky-cauldron-sign

So, if you’re of the TL;DR mindset, here’s some quick stats for you about our trip:

Best ride: The Revenge of the Mummy, The Dragon Challenge
Worst ride: E.T. Adventure (this probably hasn’t been updated since 1992 and is definitely for kids and their parents)
Best drink: Frozen Butterbeer, Hog’s Head Brew
Worst drink: The Hog’s Tea (Like an LIT, but I don’t normally drink those anyway, so I didn’t like it.)
Best meal: The Cowfish
Worst meal: Cletus’s Chicken Shack (The Buzz Cola was good though)
Favorite purchase: Ravenclaw cardigan, enamel pins
Worst purchase: Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans (We ate all the good ones, and threw away the gross vomit and earthworm flavors which were about half the bag.)
Best part of Cabana Bay: The Swizzle Lounge (lobby bar)
Worst part of Cabana Bay: RFID tags on fountain drink cups


18
Jan 16

Do You Realize: The Flaming Lips and that one time I cried in yoga class

Do-You-Realize

Allow me to preface this by reminding everyone that this is the year of the space cadet. So if it gets a little touchy feely in here today, well, that’s why.

Last year around May, I started going to yoga class. I started out with a gentle yoga class offered through the university gym, and it was the best yoga class I had ever taken.

Prior to that, I had done classes at two of the more prominent yoga studios in Norman, but always felt out of place. This is no fault of the yoga studios, but rather just a feeling I got when I was there. It’s hard for me to feel like I belong in A LOT of situations (specific clothing stores, some bars and restaurants, hanging out with some of my friends), so I was pleasantly surprised when after my first yoga class at the OU gym, I actually wanted to come back the next day. That had never happened before.

I think a lot of it was that the instructor, Amy, is also the director of OU’s gym, and she has a Ph.D. She would say things that made sense, and not some New Age crystal healing juice cleanse noise which is what I typically heard at other yoga classes. (I don’t believe yoga is a bunch of New Age crystal healing juice cleanse noise, by the way. I do believe that a lot of the “cooler” yoga studios make it seem that way though. Also, don’t try to sell me bottles of spinach juice to take part in your studio’s group juice cleanse. And spinach is the worst vegetable ever. WHY WOULD YOU EVEN JUICE IT YOU NEW AGE HAG?!) Amy explained the science why you aligned your body a certain way, while still discussing the origins of the poses and the energy flow. She talked about ways to modify poses based on your experience level and body type. It was absolutely perfect for me.

While I’m currently not in the best shape ever/capable of doing like 80% of asanas, I’m absolutely in love with yoga, and completely dedicated to doing it for the rest of my life. Admittedly, when I started, I was all about the fitness aspect of it. I just wanted to look like a pretty girl who wears Lululemon. (Never mind the fact that I have A LOT of political bones to pick with that company and pretty much disagree with the sort of lifestyle they are trying to sell.) I kind of just assumed that the spiritual side of practicing would evade me forever, because I’m just not a spiritual person.

Or so I thought.

(Side note: I know that only approaching yoga from a very western, very fitness-oriented standpoint is wrong. At least, it’s wrong to me. Yoga originated in India and included elements of physical, spiritual, and mental practice. Under British rule, yoga and ayurveda were banned in India. So, practicing yoga as a series of postures taught by a white person is kind of a second colonization here. The practice of yoga should be whole, not a way for a cultural outsider to make money off of it. I’m currently working on decolonizing my practice, as well as working on all 8 limbs of yoga, not just asanas. The rest of this post tells the story on why I decided to move my practice in that direction.)

While sitting on the couch one evening, Chris told me a story about something he read on Reddit. The gist of it was that a woman had hated her body for most of her life. One day in yoga class, she looked in the mirror mid-asana to notice how strong she had become through the course of her practice. Then, she spent the majority of shavasana crying on her mat because she was so proud and happy that her body was capable of that.

While I appreciated the story, I didn’t really think much of it. That was all well and good for that person, but I would never develop that sort of relationship with my body. I’ve spent the past 30 years hating it, and there is absolutely no way that I would have a moment where I just peeked up at my reflection and appreciated what I saw. There are very few pictures that have ever been taken of me for this reason. So, while I liked the sentiment behind the story, it just seemed really unlikely and like the sort of motivational story that was nice to hear, but impossible to experience.

That is, until one afternoon in September. During that 4 PM gentle yoga class, everything seemed normal enough. My mat and I were in our usual spot, and the class was almost over. During the last sun salutation, I happened to look in the mirror. During the transition from high plank to low plank to cobra, I got a clear look at my shoulders and arms as I was mid-chaturanga. Sure, my shoulders were gigantic globes not unlike the shoulders of Dwight Howard. But it was weird to think that my arms were supporting my bodyweight, especially since just 5 months before, I was incapable of doing anything without modifying the pose to make it easier.

It was a very weird moment. I had never thought about what I was capable of, or that I would ever be to a point where I was proud with my yoga abilities.

But that’s kind of the thing with yoga. You come in with a very western mindset–one where you know you are just there to make your body an acceptable shape and nothing else matters. But slowly, the practice brings you to a point where you realize how proud you are of yourself, how grateful you are for your body’s abilities to progress in your practice, and how the act of focusing on your movements has brought you to the point where you are mentally present for the first time in like, a million years.

It was right around then that music changed from some Jack Johnson number, to “Do You Realize??” by The Flaming Lips. And even though I had been coming to Amy’s classes for 5 months, I swear this is the first time I’d ever heard this song in class. I rolled over onto my back for shavasana and sort of just lost my shit. Very quietly though, because even though I’m writing this and posting it on the internet, I’m totally not down with people actually seeing me have emotions when they are occurring.

So, I just laid there and thought about my progress and the lyrics to the song and how maybe I don’t 100% hate everything about my body. And now, because 30 is a very weird age where you start taking stock of things and look for meaning and signs in the most mundane places, I can’t listen to “Do You Realize??” without crying. But seriously, just listen to it and tell me it doesn’t get you a little bit.

I mean, it’s pretty dumb to let a Flaming Lips song make you cry in yoga class, and then decide that you need to pursue a more spiritual yoga path. But, well, that’s how it happened.