Tuesday, November 25, 2014

For Ryan in Iowa

Did you ever have one of those days where you spend half your time putting off the things that you know you need to do? Or are you like me and those days are every day; this Scarlett O'Hara mantra playing out again and again, "I'll think about that tomorrow..." That is how I am about some of the promises I make to myself, like eating better, exercising, responding to emails right away, pursuing my life's dreams, etc.  This blog, for instance. I keep telling myself that I need to do a post, and then I go read an article about procrastination. For real, because I just found this blog called Life Hack that is rife with lists of ways to improve your life or things to avoid or ways to be happy. And a part of me hopes that if I read enough of those articles, one or two if the ideas will stick. At the same time, it reminds me of this article from The Onion that reads "Man has life changing epiphany and forgets it on the ride home."  No matter how many inspirational quotes I put up around my desk, not a one of them will likely provide the tipping point needed to actually do those things I keep putting off.

However, I do know myself well enough to understand that though I have trouble keeping promises to myself, I don't have that same difficulty as much when I make a promise to another person. Two weeks ago, I went to Iowa to give reading with several other writers as part of Writer's Harvest at Drake University (thanks, Megan Brown!). While I was there, I met some students in a writing class I attended, and a few of them also came to the reading later. A week or so later, Ryan, who I sat next to in the class and who shared his laptop screen with me, sent me an email thanking me for coming and telling me how much he enjoyed my story and my blog.  This poor, sad, neglected blog filled with posts about pillow-buying. But whatever. I promised Ryan I would write a couple of posts a week from now on, at least until January, when you can count on Bachelor posts (coincidentally, the new bachelor is an Iowan farmer named Chris), and so keep checking back.

In the meantime, let me know if you have any essays that you teach about why writing is important. We're talking about that in my last class next Tuesday.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gone Girl, the movie

We don't often go to the movies, and when we do, I almost always get to pick what we see and Dan goes along for the ride.

The last few times, I've chosen movies that are too long and ultimately dissatisfying. The one before Gone Girl was the Tom Cruise blockbuster where he keeps having to live the day over and over, an action packed version of Groundhog Day, minus any attempts at humor or logic. We didn't hate that one--but it was another in a long line of what I call dick flicks, where the cast includes hundreds of men and two women. In this case, the two women neatly fell into the mother/whore dichotomy. One was the mommy of the evil doer and the other was a lovable prostitute. There may have been a third who was a little stronger--the main ninja trainer or whomever, but ends up not being quite as smart or wily as TC, and I think he gets to save her in the end.

There's this thing called the Bechdel Test developed by a woman comic where the movie isn't totally sexist if it meets the following criteria:

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

In the TC movie, the women don't talk to each other at all--they live in different time spheres.

For more on this test, you read this link which will of course lead you to other links. You would be amazed at the number of films where this occurs, and the problem with this, says Bechdel and others, is that the women are essentially foils for the men's adventures. They don't really have any of their own inner life or agency or much of anything to discuss other than what's happening with the man/men in the movie.

But I digress...Gone Girl was one of these suspense films where they leave you to wonder if perhaps Ben Affleck really did kill his wife, but then about halfway through, they reveal that he did not kill her. Instead, we learned that she has cleverly framed him for her murder. This revenge comes about because she is angry about him losing his job and dragging her away from their life in New York City, for gobbling up what's left of her inheritance to open a crappy bar, and then for having an affair with younger woman with much less gray matter.

The problem I had with the film is that the framee, Amy, was completely unsympathetic and the framed, Ben A. wasn't enough of an asshole. So, the film seems to want you to root for him, not her, because what she has done is so out of line with his actions and because she seems to be without real emotion--like, you don't get the sense that she's lost it all and has no other recourse. On some level, you have to be rooting for the anti-hero--a more interesting conflict would arise if we felt like both were justified in their actions, and not just that she was the one who took it too far.

Also, don't have her stab Doogie Howser in the neck while having sex. It's kind of hard to root for her after that moment or to see her as anything more than an utter psychopath.

I did like the ending though, because they at least didn't pull this crazy twist ala Basic Instinct  or Fatal Attraction where the super smart and organized femme fatale makes a dumb mistake and gets caught. She doesn't get caught, regardless of how implausible and easy to disprove her kidnapping story would be. Her punishment is to end up with Ben Affleck.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

House decor

Dan's mom visited last weekend, and she and I went to West Elm, because we both felt we were in need of more things to make our lives complete. In my case, I was looking for decorative pillow cases. I told myself that I could not actually buy yet another throw pillow (we have a dozen), but I could buy a cover. But then I saw a pillow that completely matched the other two I got at West Elm a few months ago (go figure). It had a tag on it that read $34 and another that read $12. This made me think that the pillow was on sale for $12, in part because the helpful worker told me that though the insides of the pillow weren't included in the price, they also weren't that expensive. Imagine my surprise when I checked out to discover that not only was the pillow not on sale, the cover itself was $34 and the stuffing was $12, bringing this impulse buy to $46 plus take for something you can't even really rest your head on. He gave me a chance to reconsider, but I still mistakenly thought that the cover was $12 and that I could maybe find the stuffing at Home Goods. After thinking it through at a distance, I realized that this was not the case. So, for the rest of the weekend, I debated whether or not to return this pillow. Such is the life of the American consumer who has no other real anxieties regarding survival..

But really, it fits right in. 

Dan and I also purchased curtains for a mere $40 per panel at West Elm. That guy was more helpful, as he gave us the student/teacher discount without even knowing that I work at Rider. Now the question is whether or not to add curtains to the other window in the room. You see how one purchase leads to another to another. I think we are done for a while.

Dan's mom also helped us move things around and so now our bookshelf is in a corner in the kitchen---despite my initial weak protests that the function of the furniture should take into account the room it's in. In other words, it's unlikely that I'll be standing next to the stove, and realize I want to read a novel while cooking. But whatever. I think it looks nice.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Yards

I hope you don't mind that I am just going to endlessly make comparisons between the condo in Plainsboro and the apartment in Princeton. One thing that's notably different is that we have a yard to ourselves. In Condoland, we had a back patio that looked out onto a bike path, so we didn't technically have a yard to speak of--just a patch of grass before the bike path that Dan and Luke used to kick the soccer ball around. The other thing was that we lacked a certain level of privacy, because every five minutes, someone would whizz by on a bike or jog through (and a disappointingly small number had dogs with them) or just leisurely walk by, looking into our back patio windows. Here, we have fenced in yard, and though the neighbors are still close (I met three of the four so far), they are not in our living space. Here is the back yard. Living in that big white house you see is a man named Lew who has two giant golden retrievers with sweeping tails.

This dog house comes with the property, because the owner has two rescues dogs. We are trying to have one rescue (this deaf dog named Finnegan who I fell in love with), but no such luck so far. The dog house awaits, gathering dust and sadness...

This is our next door neighbors' yard. It's chaos---sometimes, you'll see a random diaper or two on the ground. A little black chihuahua patrols the place, and some bunnies go between our two yards, nibbling grass and the occasional head of lettuce. Actually there were two bunnies, but one disappeared. Now, there's just one white rabbit. Luckily, she just gave birth to a bunch more bunnies, so hopefully, we can keep this going.

Lastly, you have Dan posing in a sweater he feels uncomfortable in because of its brightness. He's more of a beige kind of guy, not a bright blue. Please note the large pumpkin in the background, ripe for carving. Only $5 from Whole Foods.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Objects of the house

One of the things that happened when we moved was that our big fluffy sectional couch did not fit into our narrow, old house un-fluffy door. The movers tried it all--taking off the front door, then going up the back and taking off that door, removing the legs to the couch, all to no avail. We were on the verge of sawing it in half when we decided to let one of the movers keep it. Actually, what happened was that Dan agreed to drive back to Plainsboro with the mover guy and put the coach back into the condo to be removed at a later date. In any case, a week later, we found this sofa at Crate and Barrel outlet and the related ottoman. We think they are related. Upon closer inspection, we aren't 100% sure that the two match. We do not care.

This is what I would call a design cranny, and it now features two small objects de arte from Target.

Here is Dan, fixing Luke's breakfast. The plastic pumpkin is new.

Spice rack in the kitchen made out of what I think is supposed to be a towel rack for the bathroom. My mom bought me the whale pot holder from Jane, the local designer consignment shop, this weekend.

All in all, I would say that we're done with the major pieces, but buying furniture usually means you have to buy other things to go with the furniture, such as an area rug or matching end tables or lamps or more pillow cushions (for some reason, I'm obsessed with accent pillows, and have to remind myself whenever I go to West Elm that there's no need for yet another pillow cover. Unless it's on sale).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Two week anniversary

Tomorrow will be our two week anniversary in this new apartment in Princeton proper. I feel weirdly self-conscious now when people ask me where I live, as if I'm bragging or being snotty. I have an impulse to apologize and add, "But we don't own there. We could never afford to buy in Princeton unless we lived in a shack." From now on, I will practice not saying sorry for living in a town I love.

Our new apartment is beautiful, closer to the shops and restaurants and the library than anything we tried to buy, and it's only a $150 more per month than the condo in Princeton (or $75 each, as we split pretty much everything down the middle). And, I just changed over my car insurance to my new zip and it's $10 cheaper. Oh, and the cleaning ladies are charging us $15 less per month to clean the place, so that's another $17.50 less for me ($10 plus half of $7.50, if you're following), plus I use less gas going to and fro, and so when you get down to it, it's really not all that much more to live in this town.

And guess what, no more Route 1 for me. I drove on it yesterday to go to Quakerbridge Mall, and was like, yes, that's right, I still hate this.

This is our bedroom window. Note the baby Jesus Pope on the sill. 

And this is the view--please also note that it's not of a parking lot with a dumpster.

We have made it out of Condo Land and lived to tell about it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

And Now, We are Here

I keep making  a promise to write more in my blog, but in part because of a morning teaching class and in part because of my own inertia, I can't seem to get to it. I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m.--not something that is easy to do, for me or for the students. They are tired and disinterested, half-asleep, and I am usually pretty awake, but annoyed by their lack of enthusiasm. On top of that, the class is long--an hour and a half. When I taught at Penn State, I seem to remember that my T/R classes went from 9:45 to 11, for example. You wouldn't think that the extra 15 minutes of class time would make a difference, but it does. The first few times I taught, I would be working really hard to do the lesson plan, and have this whole thing planned out, and then I would be wrapping that up and discover it was only 8:30. I would write more about teaching, but I'm cautious because I want to be mindful of the possibility that students could find my blog. Suffice it to say that it's a good class of first year students who, like most 18 year olds would rather be sleeping than listening to me talk about thesis statements or MLA citations. On Thursday, we will be getting in the the third paper, rhetorical analysis, and I couldn't be happier. Ethos, logos, and pathos--those are the things I love because they allow us to talk about the "isms" inherent in the most blatant rhetoric of print ads.

We are now living in Princeton, in a three bedroom, two bath duplex on Witherspoon with a pretty red door. We could never afford to buy this house with its re-done kitchen and fancy bathroom and pretty hard wood floors, but we can (almost) afford to rent it. Of all the places we looked to buy, this one has the best location--just minutes away from the Princeton library and lots of shops and places to eat. I can now use my legs again to get from one location to another, which feels like a miracle.

Here are some photos.

This is the bunny who lives next door and sometimes comes into our yard. 

Front door. We are to the left. 

The re-done kitchen, reminiscent of our kitchen in Plainsboro but with a really nice Bosch dishwasher.