Banned.

Let’s talk about banned books: STOP banning books.  Talk over.

No really, knock it off.  Stop dumbing down society.  Stop screaming about “cancel culture” except for when it suits you.  Read a damn book, so you can learn about something other than yourself.

Sorry…I’m a little heated.  Maybe it’s because my teacher let me check Mein Kampf out of the library when I was 13.  If you don’t want to click the link, I will summarize.  Just know that this wasn’t pleasure reading, it was for a term paper I wrote on Hitler, whom I chose out of spite because my teacher said I couldn’t do Anne Frank, and to find someone else from the Holocaust to focus on.  So, I went straight to the source of the whole thing, and read his stupid book one weekend in 8th grade.  The point of this story is that I read Mein Kampf and grew up to see nationalists as absolute flaming garbage humans, so maybe it’s not the actual content that’s the problem.

Another banned book that made an impact on me was Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden, who was writing queer characters long before it was cool.  I just realized I don’t own a copy, though I must’ve checked it out of the library a dozen times.  It’s about two teenage girls in NYC who fall in love, in a time when that is verboten…so really it could be anytime and anywhere.  Now, I’m not a lesbian, but I loved this story because it made me understand lesbians.  See, I understood gay men because my dad had two gay male friends, but I didn’t have any girl-on-girl exposure until I read that book.  A few years later, my aunt came out, and I thought of Ms. Garden’s tome and smiled, because I was okay with it.  Other people in my family weren’t right away, but I was, because of my books.

Should I have been reading Stephen King when I was 10?  Probably not.  But I did anyway, and I expanded my vocabulary by leaps and bounds.  I developed my writing style off of his more than any other author I have read.  His works were deeply formative to me, and if I had been restricted from reading them, I don’t think I would have some of the ability that I have now.

My father never restricted my reading, telling me that if I could read the words. I could read the book.  So, I read the books…as many as I could get my hands on, until my eyeballs gave out a little and made it a difficult task. 

So, they are banning Maus, apparently, which I have not read but seems I would really enjoy.  And they claim it’s not for Holocaust content, but rather nudity.  Nude…mice.  Because, you know, mouse fashion is a really important aspect of our reality.

It’s an excuse.  It’s always an excuse…I mean look at all the horror and gore and sex and nudity and witchcraft and violence in the Bible,..but ain’t nobody banning that. 

If they are banning books, they are doing it because they want to censor the reader, not the book.  They are trying to steal knowledge from you.  Don’t let them; fight back and read, read, read.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say on that, aside from the fact that I really hope to someday be on this here list.

Happy Thursday.  Read a book.

Art Amidst the Chaos

The other night I got a Facebook notification that my cousin Dominic had gone live.  I tuned in and found him singing in his basement.  He did this a few times at the start of the pandemic, when we were completely locked down.  It was nice to tune into his one-man concerts and see my family all watching and supporting him.  So I was very happy to see him again on Friday night, playing his guitar and singing and pretending he was at a bar somewhere, on stage with his friends.  His band is called D. Hannon and Friends, and they’re a fun group to hear play.  They remind me of all the nights I spent in bars in my youth listening to my friends Nick’s various bands.  It’s a fun way to spend a Friday night, and you should check out their Facebook page.

Of course, I miss the outings of it all, the getting dressed up and going out and not being in my office on a Zoom call or Facebook live.  But it makes me happy to see art amidst the chaos.

Another thing I am enjoying during this time is people sharing their poetry.  I recently discovered a great podcast by a poet I like, and have been listening to her read her work and discuss the poems. And there is Poesia Live with Rachel Robles, which I know I have mentioned before, but is a Facebook Live show run by a very talented poet in my area.  My poem “On Fire” won a contest on her show, and then went on to be published in the Buffalo News, which was a big day.  I like watching her show because she has poets on who not only share their work and talk about their poetry, but also talk about topics of the day, and there’s a theme, sometimes.  This month celebrates Puerto Rican women.  Tune in Saturday if you are interested, or check out the page on Facebook.

I am also thinking of getting Kindle Unlimited, meaning that I will have a whole new world of books open to me.  I want to read indie authors, particularly poets, particularly those released in the past year or so-we all kind of got shafted by Covid when it came to releases, and I hope to read and review as many as possible.  I want to see the art you put in the world during this painful time.

Because it’s still possible.  I’m over here penning a novel, for goodness sake.  We’re still out there, we’re still creating.  And the world still needs it, maybe more now than ever.

Still on Fire

Remember in years past when we would say things like “well, that was a crappy year, can’t wait to see it go?” 

How quaint.

This year stated out rough.  I became very sick in late January, which killed early February.  Then, in March, my grandpa died and five days later, the world locked down. 

Bright spot in May, when my collection came out, but darkness, too, as I wasn’t able to have a proper release of any sort.  Bright spot during summer, when Dad’s tests came back negative and he could happily say he was cancer-free.  Bright spot in September, when it appeared cases were going down in our area.  But, darkness again in November when Erie County slid into an orange zone and life became confining again. 

Overall, for everyone, a crap year.

I am focusing on the good today, though.  Like that book I dropped.  Or my healthy Dad.  Or the fact cases are going down again, and we have a vaccine now. 

So, it wasn’t all garbage, at least to me. 

This year, I am making a singular resolution.  Don’t eat any phonebooks.  No, seriously, I intend to read more.  I have fallen off reading so hard because of my eye troubles, and I need to get my butt back on that train.  I intend to keep a list of all the books I read this year, to hold myself accountable.  I’m almost certain it will be dismal.  One year I read 100 books.  Now I can barely get though two.  Damn these eyes.

But there have been great improvements in them this year, so I am hoping that pushes me to pursue reading even more than before.  I have a few King’s just languishing on my shelf, desperate to be finished. I asked my cousin Sarah to toss me a few books she was done with.  And I am intent on consuming as much poetry as possible (particularly from local and indie authors, so if you know any good ones, hit me up.)  The first book I intend to read is Courtney Changes the Game, the first in the new line of American Girl Doll books. 

I’m trying to ease myself in.

Anyway, tonight is New Year’s Eve.  Hubs and I don’t do much for the holiday.  One year we went to the ball drop and it was crazy and expensive and we swore that was going straight on the Murtagh list (a list of shit we’re too old for.)  Now out NYE consists of pizza and booze and a televised ball drop.  So, our plans did not change this year amidst a pandemic.  Except maybe the pizza will take longer to arrive.

Tonight, I am thankful for my family’s health and my own successes.  I am thankful for a hardworking and loving husband and four beautiful and clever step-kids.  I am thankful for a sister turned friend and a friend turned sister.  I am thankful for my grandmother, who is still kicking after her hardest year.

And I am proud, of everyone.

I wrote in the beginning about how to me, the world has always been on fire.  Then I wrote a poem about that observation.  Then I won a contest with that poem.  Then it was published in the Buffalo News.  It has become my motto of the year: the world has always been on fire.  I wrote about how my “healthy” people were experiencing moments of a depression and anxiety, while I was dancing among the flames that I have grown used to.  I am so proud of those people…people unfamiliar with mental health problems, who are experiencing this painful time but pushing though.  You are so strong.  I am so proud. 

And those of us dancing in the fire as usual?  Well, I’m always proud that we don’t just let ourselves burn. 

Anyway, Happy New Year to you and yours.

Sure was a crappy year.  Can’t wait to see it go.

Sad Books

I have done quite a bit of reading over the last two days, in preparation for something I will tell you about later on.  By later on, I do not mean later on in this blog post-I mean later in the week.  You will just have to follow my Twitter or Facebook @hamneggs716 if you want “breaking news.” 

Anyway. I did a lot of reading.  I am straight-up forcing myself, from here on out.  Unfortunately for me, my eyes are not doing well with my books.  I went to the eye doc, and they, for reasons I cannot fathom, forgot to give me bifocals.  I’m supposed to have bifocals.  Instead, I have glasses that help my driving significantly, but with which I can’t read a damn thing. 

Unless it is on my computer screen. 

I was browsing a lit mag the other day and realized I truly have no problem reading on the computer screen.  It is the perfect distance away.  So why am I not reading everything on my computer?!

It was an inspirational moment.  Also, a convenient one.  Why was I trying to read my books by holding them up to my nose?  Why was I trying to read poetry journals on my phone, squinting at it with my glasses atop my head?  Stupid, stupid girl.  You could have just been here in your office, comfortable and at good distance, and read anything you want.

But…to my left…

Oh, they are sad.  They are looking at me, all the tomes I have collected over the years, and they are crying, because their spines may never be cracked again.  My books are my #1 possessions…ok, besides my teddy bear, Honey Joe…#2.  I can’t get rid of them, but I also can’t read them right now.  It makes me sad.  In turn…they are sad.  I can feel it.  Books are alive, y’know.

So, I did some reading.  I finished that lit mag.  Then I read three short stories, all on my computer.  With comfortable eyeballs.

Listen, this may not be a big deal to some but it’s a big deal to me.  Just another step in the healing process.  Today I said to Kev that I hadn’t been to the retina doc in a long time, which was weird, because I used to go once a month or so for my eyeball shot.  I am so happy that’s no longer part of my routine.  I am so happy to see, even if they didn’t give me bifocals.  I’ll read, a lot in the coming days, actually, and I will do it on my computer.  But while I do, I will sit beside the books I love so much and wish for next year when my insurance gives me another eye doc appointment and I can get bifocals.

On Books and Tummy-Aches.

It is midafternoon on a Monday, usually a time when I am far done with my blog, but today was a holiday, and this week has been strange.

I was sick, unfortunately, pretty much all week.  It was terrible and I have no desire to rehash it so let’s just call last week a wash and move on.

I came across a photo the other day, below.  Me and Kevin, maybe four-years-old.  I am sick and lying on the sofa, and he is sitting beside me, reading a book.

I don’t read much anymore because it is difficult for me, what with my eyes.  I do more now than before I got new glasses, but without bifocals it’s still tricky.  I have had two Stephen King’s sitting beside my bed for months that are unfinished.

And then today, Kevin gave me about fifteen more. 

While downsizing his life, he decided to get rid of his King collection and gave it to me, which is awesome, but now means that A. I need more bookshelves, and B. My reading list has just expanded greatly.  They’re all books I have yet to read, or have read once and didn’t have a copy of. 

Anyway, this special delivery reminded me of that little picture of a sad and sick Briggy being soothed by the fake-reading of a four-year-old Kevvie.  I was really sick this week, and I had a few plans with my bud that ended up having to be postponed because of it.  If there is anything worse than the physical pain that comes with gastroparesis, there is the mental anguish of always feeling like you’re ruining something by getting sick.  Every plan I have to cancel or rearrange haunts me.  I hate it.

Today, I hate the whole damn thing.

But tomorrow, who knows…maybe I will make a space on my bookshelf.  Maybe I will choose a new King novel to devour, hoping that it will get me back to the other two languishing on my nightstand.  Maybe I will read something, and the words will seep into my eyeballs and though my pores and wind their way though my body, and I will be healed by a story or tale or poem…little healings, that keep me going.

Always gotta keep going.

Discombobulated

I wake up, foggy. I have slept far too long, and while my body needed it my brain was discombobulated.  Monday.  Start of a new week.  Get the coffee brewing.  Get Hubs off to work.  Sit down in office…oh…but the computer is disassembled and sitting on the floor.

I put that back together and open a Word document. Now…what to write?

Perhaps why the computer was disassembled?  Nah, too short.  I open my notes folder on my phone: the place where I keep my little dreamy memos on what to blog that come up in the middle of the night.  My most recent hot take: “little libraries and anti-aluminum deodorant.”

Um…what?

No, I do not know how these two things are related, so do not ask.  I will, as I write this, attempt to suss out the comparison, but I am pretty sure they are two unrelated topics that I typed down around 3am with the word “and” in the middle.

I saw a couple of little libraries yesterday.  For those not aware, these are tiny structures people have made or bought to house a small collection of books that are free to the community.  The premise is to take a book and leave a book.  Some people, during the time of COVID particularly, have added on a little pantry, too. 

My friend Chelsea built one for her house earlier this year as one of her quarantine projects.  It’s pretty flippin’ cool.  It’s also close to the kiddo’s house, so I have told them to head over there with some pantry items and exchange them for a book.  This little library is also the very first “library” to carry my collection.  I am hopeful someone picks it up and enjoys it. 

There are a couple in my neighborhood.  If I owned a home, I would totally be doing this.  I would stock that thing with new books all the time.  The library is where I learned to love books, and these tiny guys would have been so welcome in my childhood.  I’m glad they exist now.

So anti-perspirant is terrible for you.  Did you know that?  It’s like straight aluminum on your skin.  Now, I have a skin allergy to both aluminum and nickel, that was not recognized until I was a teenager.  Which means that for like five years I was walking around using this stuff and wondering why I had a constant rash.  I now use men’s deodorant, because only recently have they begun making aluminum-free deodorant for women.  Still, the big-name brands don’t really do it, and I have to spend ten bucks on a stick I don’t even know will be strong enough.  So, I stick to Old Spice.  Because for some reason. men’s big brands all come with and without anti-perspirant. 

There’s a rant against the patriarchy in there somewhere, but alas, I did pockets the other day.

See how those two topics are not connected?  They, also, were short.  So, I suppose in some way, in my hazy sleepy dream world, I thought combining the two would lead to a longer article.  It did, but it makes no sense.

So, my computer was in pieces.  My father got me this old friend for Christmas several years ago.  It’s a desktop, and some days I feel like an old lady at a typewriter because I can’t stand those fancy newfangled laptops the kids are using these days.  I love the click-clack of the keys, you see, and I don’t hear that beautiful melody quite the same on a laptop.  Also…I need a mouse.  Those touch pads are ridiculous.  Anyhoo…

I borrowed dad’s laptop because while I love my PC, it does not have a camera and a mic, which I was in need of Saturday night.  If you’re a regular reader you may remember that I submitted a poem in a contest for a local online poetry broadcast.  The winner got to go on-air and read the winning poem, and promote whatever they wanted to promote.  I entered.  I assumed I would lose. 

See, when the group was held in-person, there were some talented folk there and I often felt a bit intimidated, even when people told me they liked my poems.  I shrugged it all off and called it anxiety and moved on.  Then the thing went online and I assumed even more talented people would be submitting work, so I shrugged that off, too.  But I won in March, with a poem that I then turned into a micro-chap.  I didn’t submit for a few months, because 1. I had recently won and it seemed uncouth, and 2. I didn’t write anything for a little bit.  Then this month, I spit out a poem called On Fire.  It was less than 30 lines, the only requirement.  I sent it off to be judged by guest speaker Oli Wiggins, and they picked it.  I won. 

For the first time in my life, I used a webcam.  It was weird.  Everything was backwards and I hated it.  I was shocked I won, so I was nervous I was about to go on-air, and I was aggravated with the laptop, so it was probably a terrible combo for an onscreen presence.  Mark says I did fine.  I will just trust him on that.

Anyway, I read my poem, which was difficult because I no longer have bifocals (another story for another day) and when I was done, I told them the name of my book, but, like a moron, literally nothing else about it.  I mean, how many times have I said “It’s a collection of poetry about life with chronic and mental illness?”  Maybe three hundred?  But when it counts, I’ve got nothing. 

I don’t remember the rest.  The whole computer went blank when I signed off and I didn’t see the end of the show.  But I’m sure it was good.  The whole thing was good…especially Oli’s poetry.  They have a book coming up that I need to put on my to-read list.  

Hey!  If you have a little library you should definitely throw a local author in there.  And also, stop using anti-perspirant.  No connection.  Just some good advice.

I am now off to get some more coffee and start folding the laundry I put off all weekend.  I am less foggy; less discombobulated.  Not that you could tell with this post, though.

Happy Monday.

Ps. Twas brought to my attention that I should share the poetry reading. Here is the link. The whole thing is good, but I’m around the 1hr mark.

Chelsea’s Library

The Reading Room

I did not update on Monday, as I was sick still.  I am well now, but it is a peculiar health, one that seems extra fragile as I sip my Gatorade and eat my yogurt.  I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  Let’s talk about reading.

Once upon a time, I lived down the street from a library.  It was very tiny and I’m not sure if it was part of the county library system, but I have almost zero memory of it.  I could not have been more than three when it closed and the big one opened across the street.  It was the first brand-new building I ever set foot in, and I thought it was a castle.  My father walked me through the doors and I asked him, “Which book can I read?”

“Whichever you want.”

My little head exploded.  I knew I would walk out of there with picture books by the loads, but there was also the possibility of BIG BOOKS: the ones with no pictures, the ones for grownups, where the cover is the only glimpse into the magical coded world that lie inside.  I was only just learning to read but I found myself cracking this code a little more every day and could not wait to get my hands on one of those BIG BOOKS.  And here was my father, telling me I could read whatever I wanted?  I knew the underlying lesson there: I could read whatever I wanted, so long as I could READ.

So I read.  I read every picture book I could get my hands on.  And when I was proficient in those,  I moved on to others, like Amelia Bedelia.  Then Judy Blume’s, then the most of the Babysitters Club series.  I discovered my favorite genre, horror, though RL Stine.  Then, sometime around 5th grade, I started reading “actual” novels, meaning not meant for the teen or tween crowd. 

We moved, so my old library was replaced by another, and I spent many afternoons amongst its stacks, reading and learning.  I was never one to ask for help-I have always been terrible at it.  So whenever I had a problem, I went to the library, and I researched the hell out of it.  I did all my schoolwork there.  I spent hours perusing the shelves.  And now…

Now there is a library a couple blocks from the house but I never go.  I don’t need to.  I have all my information in my pocket on my phone.  I do like to go pick out a book or two every now and then but they usually languish unread on the bar while I hate-watch another episode of House Hunters.  It was my eyeball’s fault for a long time, but now I find I am just not concentrating on a book as I used to.  My New Year’s resolution was to read more, and my first book of the year was The Institute, and I’m only halfway through.  It’s a Stephen King book about kids with super powers.  I should have devoured that a month ago.

I wish I could read like I did as a kid, so voraciously.  I love seeing kids reading.  Sometimes the girls do and that’s nice.  My cousin Grace and I like to talk about books sometimes, too-she is ten and plugged into all things middle grade and YA.  Right now, she is reading some old favorites of mine, like Blubber by Judy Blume.  When I was her age I had Carrie in my hands for the first time.  Some might say a little much for a ten-year-old, but I knew what I think my father knew: You’ll read what you’re ready for. 

And reading made me ready for everything.