June 28, 2012

Health care for the win!

Today, the Supreme Court upheld the health care system overhaul championed by President Obama and his administration.

The celebrations began immediately (flooding my bleeding-heart-liberal-inbox); so did the vitriol.

Look. I'm not a political blogger; I don't even play (or write) one on TV.

But I'm an American. I'm a mom. I'm a wife and a daughter and a sister and a friend. I'm also a gainfully employed contributor to our society who dreams of one day being a full-time writer.

And as someone who is all that and more, I have an opinion about this decision by SCOTUS. So I decided to take to my blog to share it.

And what I have to say is this: Bravo, Supreme Court. Bravo, Chief Justice Roberts who, maybe for the first time, flouted his main party line to make the right call.

Here's the thing.

In the past couple years, during which I've hit the full stride of my 30s head-on (ahem: next time I tell you I'm 29, please pretend to believe me), I've seen a lot of things happen.

  • I've seen a friend whose child was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of leukemia.  She immediately had to take to the social media networks to launch a fundraiser to cover medical bills that would soon be astronomical
  • I've seen the difference between decent and great medical insurance coverage.  When I became pregnant with my daughter, my doctor's office immediately set us up on a payment plan to cover the costs that would amass under our mediocre insurance. My best friend, under a state-run insurance plan thanks to her teacher-husband, payed exactly one $25 co-pay for each of her two pregnancies. Not a penny more. Ever.
  • I've seen my brother donate all the funds he makes as a tattoo artist to help cover an uninsured friend's medical bills after that friend required emergency abdominal surgery.
  • I've seen a writer who is, by my definition, "making it," take to the social media to raise funds to cover his own medical bills after a mental health crisis.
And dammit, I come from a fairly successful, non-poverty-stricken slice of our society. I shouldn't be seeing things like this!

I can't even begin to imagine how it would feel to face some of these situations in which people find themselves when they have no insurance, or minimal insurance. I can't even begin to imagine the helplessness, the sadness, the weight.

I'm incredibly lucky and I know it.

And I believe that this law, this overhaul of health care, will only lead to good things. More people will be insured; more people will have access to preventative care that will keep them healthy. And if I have to pay higher taxes to support this overhaul (and I don't know that I will...but IF), then SO BE IT. I believe in helping out other members of the human race. I don't believe in hoarding my own private supply of cash.

So there you have it. My opinion on this controversial topic.

And if you care to read some of the angrier (and entertaining) reactions to this ruling, I encourage you to check out Andrew Sullivan's live blog over at The Daily Beast. My personal favorite is the tweet which says "This is the greatest destruction of individual liberty since Dred Scott." Because, you know, mandating health insurance is oh-so-obviously comparable to legalizing SLAVERY.

Whatever. There are some crazies out there. But today, I'm proud of our President. I'm proud of the Supreme Court. And I'm happy to be an American.

Just in time for July 4th next week, eh?

June 18, 2012

Insomnia, how I hate thee...

Ah, insomnia.

It's a family trait.  

I have it. My brothers have it. My mother has it. I think only my dad can sleep whenever, where ever, and I envy him.

I can't remember my last decent night's sleep at this point. I know last night I slept from 10 until 2. Four hours. I should be so lucky tonight. I spent the rest of the night not sleeping, then dozed after Charles and Zoe left for work/school, but never really got any solid sleep.

Tonight. I went to bed at 9, utterly exhausted. It's now 11 and I show no signs of actually sleeping. Instead, I have a racing heart, a spinny head, and a knot in my stomach the size of Mount Everest. 

I just had to use spell check to spell Everest.  That's how frustratingly tired I am.

I don't often miss work from insomnia, but I don't see how I'm going to go in tomorrow if I can't get to sleep sometime soon. But by now, of course, I'm so worked up about the fact that I'm NOT sleeping that there's no way it's going to happen.

The snowball effect, times fifty.

I'm so edgy. 

I could finish reading a book I'm hoping to review in a week or two. 

I could take a shot of gin or drink a glass of wine, hoping for some sort of soothing relief from the alcohol. 

But I don't use alcohol medicinally.

I'm the freaking opposite of the March family in Little Women.

Please forgive the Louisa May Alcott reference above. I'm that tired.

Heh. I should live blog my insomnia tonight.  That'll be entertaining.

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Insomnia Live Blog Update: American Pickers on the TV. Sadly, it's an episode I've seen. I turned the air WAY down because I'm hot. Sometimes being cold makes me sleepier.  I'm still contemplating that shot of gin.

I should try it. 

I mean, it can't hurt, right?

Yes it can, says my liver. 

Yes. My liver just spoke. Out loud. 

I am that incoherent.

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It's all anxiety right? I know that. I read an article in New York Mag a few weeks back that talks about how a diagnosis of "anxiety" is what all the cool kids are getting these days. Well, if that's the case then I'm James Freaking Dean.

I'm that cool because I'm that anxious.

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What do I have to be anxious about? I wonder. 

I mean really, there's not much. Or...anything. I have a cute little house, a cute little kid, cute dogs, cute husband, cute (although utterly annoying) cats. My life - it's cute.

But sometimes that's part of the problem, right?

Because when I start to feel anxious, I remind myself (and am often reminded by others) of how good I have it. Of how great my life is.

And how much worse off SO MANY PEOPLE ARE, and the kicker is? Then I feel guilty. Like I'm being self-indulgent with this anxiety I can't seem to control. Like I have a choice in feeling this way.

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That New York Mag article? It said some people take special classes to learn to control their anxiety. They're taught to recognize their symptoms (for me: racing heart, racing brain, song lyrics on repeat in my head, hot feet), and to then say (silently? out loud??) "This is my anxiety. I'm closing it off in a mental box so it will not control me."

Me? I've tried. But that mental box? It's a sieve.

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Sometimes the act of writing can help. That's why I'm sitting here. I should probably be typing this massive brain purge in a Word doc, never to see the light of the outside world.

But somehow, I know that won't help. 

Instead, I'm blogging.

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Insomnia Live Blog Update: Gah, this episode of American Pickers is particularly painful. The balding guy with the beard is dog-sitting in this utterly forced/staged, painfully awkward sequence of events. But the chick with all the tattoos is out picking with the skinny guy, and I enjoy watching old men try to process this girl with all her body art.


*************

Sigh. It's 11:21. I get up at 5.  Maybe it's time to take that shot. And go write a story about something else.

Wish me luck.

And good night and sweet dreams to all of you.

June 17, 2012

Father's Day post: best literary(ish) dads

Well, it's Father's Day today, and I won't lie: I briefly humored the idea of writing a very personal post extolling the praises of my own dad and my husband, the father to our totally awesome daughter.

And then I realized: (hopefully) everyone thinks their own father, and the father to their child(ren), are the best dads out there, so why argue?

Instead, I decided to discuss some of my all-time favorite literary(ish) fathers. I took a spin through our book-room, a spin through my memory, and here's who I came up with.


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Best Dad All-Around: Atticus Finch/To Kill a Mockingbird

All right. Admittedly, this one's a bit of a gimme. Atticus is brave, strong, honorable. He's raising two fantastic, brave, strong kids on his own (although it could be argued that Calpurnia is really the one doing a lot of the day-to-day raising). He saves his neighborhood from a rabid dog with one sure shot; he saves his children from the treacherous path of prejudice and racism by taking a stand in the courtroom. He's unable to save Tom Robinson, but we all know how hard he tried. And when Boo Radley saves the lives of his children, he turns around and helps save Boo Radley from the spotlight.


Most Adventurous/Smartest Dad: Mr. Murray/A Wrinkle in Time

Meg and Charles Wallace's father, Mr. Murray, disappears while chasing a scientific dream. That doesn't bode well for his parenting skills, sure, but it does set about the adventure of a lifetime for his two children, plus their friend Calvin (for whom my heart still swoons).  When the children appear out of nowhere to rescue him, he eventually lets them, a sure sign of a father who has faith in his children.  And what more do most children need than to know their parents believe in them?


Dad with the Coolest Way of Coping with Grief: Emilio Rico/ Starship Troopers

When Johnny Rico's father loses everything (his son to the Mobile Infantry, his wife and home to the Bug War), he signs himself up for the Mobile Infantry as well, taking his son's noble example and running with it. They meet up with each other among the stars, a reunion to end all sci-fi reunions, and the love and admiration on both sides are clear.


Funniest Dad: Mr. Bennett/Pride and Prejudice

He mocks his wife and the "silly" younger daughters with a humor that does him credit. He acknowledges their ridiculousness while still doing things (like throwing a huge social event) to humor them. Plus, his adoration for his eldest two daughters is palpable. And then, when push comes to shove, he does everything within his power to save the honor of his youngest, even accepting help from the haughty Mr. Darcy to make sure Lydia will not fall too far from grace.


Most Bad-Ass Dad: Mr. Bennett/Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

For all the reasons listed above, with the addition of being a Zombie-Killing Ninja.


And finally...

Scariest Dads: A Tie: Darth Vader/Star Wars (original trilogy) and Jack Torrance/The Shining

One's destroying the galaxy; the other's destroying an isolated vacation spot. Both cause irrevocable damage to their offspring. I couldn't decide who was scarier, so they both win.


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Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there, most especially my favorite two: Andy and Charles.  

June 14, 2012

Book review policies

A very strange tweet caught my attention this morning.  "Later today I'll be doing an honest review of such-and-such book on my blog. Tune in to see what I think."  More or less. I'm paraphrasing. 

I read it, made a face, and wondered: Why would you ever write a dishonest review of a book on your blog?

I'm guessing, in this case, that the writer plans to give a negative opinion about the book. I feel like sometimes negativity gets more "honesty" weight. Like, maybe, if a writer is positive in a review, they could just be "being nice."

That made me feel like I should say a quick word about my reviews on this blog, all of which are always my honest opinion.

Here goes.

I don't do super-negative reviews on this blog. I don't write them, I don't like them. Who am I to tear another writer to shreds? They put a lot of hard work into their books; I don't need to disparage them here.

So what do I do if I read something and don't love it?

I...don't review it. I'd rather fill this blog with my recommendations for what TO read and/or watch than to write snarky comments about books I don't like.

So much of this reading/writing/blogging business is purely subjective. Just because I don't like something doesn't mean it's not good. And I read and watch a LOT more than what gets written about on this blog, because I only write about something if it excites me.

So if you feel like my reviews are all pretty positive and glowy, well, that's probably because they are. But just remember: for every book I review, there are probably four or five that I don't.

Please know: I am nothing on this blog if not honest.

June 12, 2012

What makes the Zombie Girl squirm...

The first year I lived in South Carolina, I went hiking with a friend.

Back in New Jersey, using bug spray while hiking was a suggestion, easily ignored.

That day I learned that, in South Carolina, bug spray use is a cardinal rule.

I found the first tick on my dog, a sweet little Jack Russell Terrier who couldn't understand why the sight of her suddenly made me run away, crying.

I found the second tick on my side, just below my sports bra. It was big, and full.

I found the third on my hip. This one was tiny and looked like a deer tick.

I screamed, I cried, I carried on like a baby. I lost any and all sense of reason until the ticks were OUT and DESTROYED. The next day I went to the doctor to make sure I wasn't going to die of Lyme's Disease (which I've already had) or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (which is so extremely rare the doctor actually laughed at me).

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A few days ago Charles and I went to WalMart (don't judge - they are cheaper for things like laundry detergent).

We took the Jeep and rode with the windows down.

About a mile from our house, I saw it. Tiny, segmented body. Long, spindly legs. It crawled out from the dark recesses of my open window while we sat at a red light.

Oh, shit. Oh no. Charles, help! I managed to say as I threw off my seatbelt and crawled to the far end of my seat.  I tried to hop onto the center console, as far away from the spider as I could manage.

Charles thought someone was at the window, slashing my throat.

I was grateful it was less than two minutes before we reached the parking lot.  I threw open the door and escaped the spider's ruthless attack.

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Yesterday I went for a walk through my office parking with a good buddy of mine. He reached out and stopped me moments before I stepped on a dead, legless lizard. It was gross - starting to mummify in the hot sunshine, looking zombie-like with ants all over it.

I squealed and jumped backward, then leaned forward to get a better look.

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I can't talk about stitches or scabs without bile rising in my throat.

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I have frequent nightmares about vampires.

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I freak out if you touch my neck.

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Any time I am terrified of the small stuff, Charles teases me.  You're a zombie-writer, he'll say, laughing. Suck it up.

I try. I really do. But I don't always succeed.

So for now, let it be known: sad, but true, I am a wimp. Even Zombie Girl can get a little terrified sometimes.

June 8, 2012

Comics, graphic novels, and my first-ever giveaway!

Not long ago, I was asked to participate in a podcast about all-things geeky (because, if you haven't realized by now what a big geek I am, you're probably reading my blog for the first time). I agreed, and was given a list of topics about which I could talk.

Right away, I vetoed two: gaming and comics.

Gaming was an obvious veto for me. The few times Charles tried to get me to play Halo or Splinter Cell, I've gotten my avatar stuck in a corner, spinning around, because I just can't figure out the PS3 controller. I can play racing games a little better, but that always results in my contact lenses drying out and my eyes getting itchy. Oh well, I'm not meant to be a gamer.

But comics was more of a knee-jerk, "I don't read comics" reaction, and upon further reflection, it may not have been the right choice.

Hear me out here.

I don't read comics. At least, not traditionally. I have always equated "comics" with "superheroes," and while I love a good superhero flick (Ohmigosh, The Avengers is AMAZING!),  I've always found superhero comics to be a bit...overwhelming. The colors! The confusing speech bubbles! The flashy costumes!  Dude...give me Hugh Jackman's Wolverine in black over any other Wolverine in yellow and blue any day!!

But then one day recently, I realized.

Maus. That's a graphic novel. And it's about the Holocaust. 

Man, I devoured that book. Part 1 AND Part 2. I even read Metamaus, about the creation of Maus. That's how much I loved it.

I read another war-related graphic novel called Alan's War after I finished Maus the first time. That was also pretty amazing.

Then, recently, Charles turned me onto Locke and Key, written by Joe Hill, who, if you don't know, is the son of the great Stephen King. And man, dude can write almost as well as his papa! Plus, the artwork, by Gabriel Rodriguez, is amazing.  I'm still working my way through the four existing volumes, and I'm enjoying them all so far.

And finally, of course, you possibly know of my undying love for all things Walking Dead, for obvious reasons. I am addicted to the series on AMC. I have action figures! I write zombie novels! 

But I'll be honest; I'm afraid to read those books right now. I can't get past the part where Rick rides a horse into Atlanta, because I don't want to see the horse get torn to bits. Plus I know...once I get past that scene, I'm going to blow through the rest of the pages, to the detriment of everything else I do (writing, family, work...). So I'm keeping those at arms' length, still, even though I know I will love them.

And so, maybe I do read comics. Maybe my knee-jerk veto was inaccurate. 

One thing I've enjoyed about comics lately, for sure, is watching Charles buying and selling on eBay. Wow - people pay a LOT of money for comics! Original superhero ones go for thousands upon thousands! First run Walking Dead issues aren't far behind right now, thanks to the success of the series.

Which brings me to this: my first giveaway.

Robert Kirkman, one of the creators of The Walking Dead, has a new comic series out called Thief of Thieves. AMC has already picked it up for development. First run copies of the first few issues are already selling like hotcakes (and for significantly more than the $3 cover price) all over the internets. 


I just so happen to have a copy of issue #1 (first printing), donated by my lovely husband Charles, who picked up a bunch of copies a while back at our favorite local comic shop. I'll happily give this copy away to a random commenter on this blog post.  All you need to do is leave a comment here (with your email address, please - I'll need to contact you if you win, but I promise not to use any email address for anything nefarious like creating an email list), before 8 p.m. Monday, June 11, and you could win! 


Hope to see you in the comments section!!