Monday, Monday?

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Hey friends, show of hands if you, too, feel like time has lost all meaning (“Time’s gone all David Lynch!” as Buffy might say.)  I actually woke up on Friday morning and had NO clue what day, week or month it was, let alone the hour.  Turns out it was 7:34 am.

Like a lot of people, I’m bored and unmotivated and more than a little frightened.  But I’m also going to shut the hell up about all of those things, because somewhere – somewhere close by; friend of mine is an epidemiologist – someone has it much, MUCH worse than a nagging case of boredom (very much enjoying all the memes taking celebrities apart for griping about ANYTHING.  Please tell me again how difficult this is on you from the comfort of your multi-million dollar ranch.  Y’all got as much to complain about as I do.)

Anyhow, once I sorted out what day it was, I decided to do my nails.  Absent the four or five manis I’ve done since we moved, I really haven’t been keeping up with my nail art, and I’ve missed it.  It’s comforting in a “Wow, has nail polish always smelled this bad?!” kind of way, and if ever there was a time for a bit of creative reassurance, this would be it.

So I sat down at my coffee table in the livingroom, cranked up the twenty one pilots, just like in the old condo days, and did these pretty floral nails.  And I felt much better afterwards.

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So, small lesson here?  In the midst of all this chaos, fear and uncertainty, try not to fall too far down the rabbit hole (and definitely not to the point where you no longer know what day it is.)  Keep up with the things that bring you joy and relaxation, no matter how insignificant they may seem in the grander scheme of our new, CORONA ONLY world.  Because we’re still living, odd though the circumstances might be, and every now and then we need a reminder of WHY.

Stay safe and sane, friends.

Stay Normal, Peeps

Peeps Collage

Is it still spring out there?  We’re still in 2020, right?  And this IS Planet Earth, yes?  Show of hands if you, like me, have found the last two weeks to be wildly disorienting.  I woke up this morning and had NO idea what day it was, or how far into the month of March we were.  To deploy a favourite Buffy-ism, time’s gone all David Lynch over here.

So in the midst of the March that will not end, I was tending to a bit of what-season-is-it-anyways? cleaning when I ran across this cheery old KB Shimmer polish, Where My Peeps At?  Rummaging around, I discovered that a number of my KB polishes – mostly the three-quarters empty, glitter-packed ones I’ve used time and time again – had completely dried out.  I guess I just loved them too hard.  The move was also not terribly kind to them (the move was not terribly kind to ANY of our possessions.)

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But Where My Peeps At? was still standing strong.  And since merely staring at its sunny yellow hue was cheering me up, I thought I’d go the extra mile and give myself a nice little manicure.  Then, if I was feeling so inclined, I’d maybe go outside and take some pictures for the blog, find a nice spot around the side of the house where the lighting is good and the neighbours won’t see me standing there in nothing but my jammies and a really bitchin’ mani.  Then I’d go back inside because of, you know, that whole troublesome end of times thing.

And so that is what I did!  And it felt great, better than I’ve felt – more normal than I’ve felt – in weeks.  So if you, like me and probably 95 percent of the world, feel like life has gone completely bananas and you’re just a little lost, try returning to an activity you have not indulged in for quite some time, even if it’s as simple as just painting your nails.  I think you’d be amazed at how comforting and soothing a hesitant attempt at normalcy can really be.

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Saturday Strata

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Geez, when’s the last time I did some nail art just to be doing nail art?  When’s the last time I had time to do any nail art?  Since moving into our new home, life has been an endless series of new discoveries – fun, but hasn’t left a ton of time for old favourites.  Anyhow, I woke up ultra early this Saturday morn and thought, “I should do some nail art just because.”  And so I did. 🙂  I think these simple holographic nails look like very pretty, uncommonly hued layers of rock.  Strata.  Definitely not to be confused with strata, the egg casserole.  Or a strata, which is sometimes the name given to a condominium.  Basically, it means layers, which is fitting given the word’s many, many definitions and uses.  The more you know. 😉

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Stickers for Adult Beauty Nerds

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Yep, that’s nail polish strips for you – stickers for grown-ups we put on our nails as opposed to inside a photo album.  And because they come in generously-sized, multi-use packs, you can even trade them with your friends – hey, wanna swap your pink heart camos for my polka dotted reindeer?  (Parenthetically, here inside these very parentheses, I friggin’ loved sticker-collecting when I was a kid!  And my collection was THE SHIT – fuzzies and holos and googly eyes and puffies and smelly stickers for DAYS, and all of it housed in an officially licensed Sandy Lion hardcover binder with custom photo pages…and I might have just legitimately drifted off for a few minutes there as I remembered how much I loved that book and my entire sticker collection.) 😉

So it’s no surprise that I love these stickers, too, a lovely gift from the wife of one of my husband’s online gamer buddies (they’re like penpals who communicate through swapped boxes of Canadian and American foodstuffs, and midnight games of Ghost Recon.)  She’s a nail art aficionado like I am, and she’s into these nail polish strips from Color Street that she was kind enough to send along in one of the guys’ boxes.

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Here I’m sporting Color Street‘s very Valentine’s Day-appropriate Crush Hour, a glittery pink camo design that, upon closer inspection, is actually made up of overlapping hearts.

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These double-ended nail strips are made from nuthin’ but nail polish, so they’re thin, flexible and dead easy to apply – simply peel, pat down and then file off the excess.  And if you’re really careful and your nails are quite short, like mine, you can absolutely get away with using one strip for two nails, as the designs are printed on both ends of the strip.  That leaves some of these fun beauty stickers to swap with friends – now, you were saying something about a trade for a polka dotted reindeer? 😉

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Literary Inspiration: The Dark Half

The Dark Half Collage

Have you ever tried to blame your bad behaviour on an evil twin?  Quite convenient if you’re actually a twin, slightly more difficult if you have a sibling, and next to impossible if you’re an only child, like I am.  Not that that ever stopped me – “Sandra!  Did you cut all of Barbie’s hair off and drop it behind the sofa?”  “Nope, you must be thinking of a different Sandra.  Or my evil twin.”  Good thing my parents had a great (and very indulgent) sense of humour about their smartass daughter.

Stephen King has a sort of literary evil twin in the form of Richard Bachman, the nom de plume he used to write such works as The Running Man, The Long Walk and The Regulators.  I think Bachman is the name King uses when he wishes to indulge in his more sadistic and puerile impulses – The Regulators in particular is a candy-coated slice of suburban torture porn.  But over-the-top violence and bombastic bloodshed is a young person’s dark game, and one that cannot be played indefinitely.  King himself seemed to recognize this when he mostly retired the Bachman name after being outed in the mid-80s (via death; “cancer of the pseudonym,” it was) and then again in the late ’90s when he allowed Rage, a short story he wrote in 1977 about a school shooting, to go out of print, amid fears that it might inspire similar incidents.  I also suspect, as happens to most of us as we get older, that King – yes, even Stephen King, the Master of Horror – simply aged out of that stage of his life that got off on violence and bloodshed.  And maybe Bachman had become a kind of literary crutch, a former friend-turned-unwelcome house guest.  It’s a theory I’m inclined to accept after reading The Dark Half, King’s 1989 novel about a Kingsian author who jettisons his popular pseudonym, with horrific results.

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It’s been said a time or 20 that you should always write what you know, and indeed, The Dark Half is an amped-up, supernaturally-tinged version of real life events involving King and his pseudonym, Richard Bachman.  In the book, Maine novelist Thad Beaumont has grown tired of writing under the guise of his popular – but brutish and inelegant – pseudonym, George Stark.  When he began writing as Stark, he was an angry young man in the depths of both alcoholism and a major career depression, and literary bloodshed seemed like just the balm for his broken writer’s soul.  But after becoming a happy, contented father to twin babies and finally, blessedly, sorting his life out, he finds he no longer cares for Stark’s brand of outrageous carnage, and seeks a return to writing under the Beaumont name.

At the same time, an opportunistic young bookseller/law student/aspiring novelist lucks into the well-kept secret that George Stark is actually author Thad Beaumont.  Thinking that he’s landed on valuable information that Beaumont would undoubtedly pay to keep secret, he approaches the writer with well-mannered blackmail on his mind, oblivious to the fact that Stark is already halfway out the door.  A week or so later, Beaumont puts the final nail in Stark’s coffin AND the bookseller’s blackmail attempts when he outs himself in People Magazine, along with a multi-page photo spread detailing Stark’s funeral, complete with shots of a mournful Beaumont laying flowers at the grave of his homicidal nom de plume.  The bookseller is furious, and vengeful, but hasn’t time to indulge in either on account of the fact that he and absolutely everyone associated with Beaumont’s writing are then hunted down and brutally murdered.

To this point – and obviously absent the sadistic murders – this mirrors King’s own experience.  Stephen King’s substance abuse issues have been well documented, and he’s said himself that he really didn’t get his shit together until after his children were born.  He has also shown distaste for some of his/Bachman’s earliest works, particularly Rage, writing of it in 2007, “Now out of print, and a good thing.”  And he raised virtually no fuss when he was outed as Bachman in 1985 by a Washington bookstore clerk, and actually went so far as to sit down for an interview with the guy to confirm his findings.  It was during this period that King basically retconned Bachman into an early retirement via death, and absent a few subtle nods to the name – his wet work character on Sons of Anarchy was named Bachman – King’s evil literary twin has stayed mostly silent for 30-some years now.

But King’s fictional alter ego in The Dark Half doesn’t fare as well as King did under similar circumstances, especially not once the killing starts and it’s revealed that Thad Beaumont has a lot more in common with George Stark than he ever thought possible.  And because this is a Stephen King book and what you see is sometimes exactly what you get, I can’t reveal any more without revealing everything, and so here’s where I’ll stop.

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I read The Dark Half in service of my friends’ 2019 reading challenge, but darned if I know what theme I was going for with this one!  I think at one point last year I just decided that if I wanted to read something, I was going to read it, and so that’s how we wound up at The Dark Half.  I enjoyed it, but as always with King, the ending just kind of fell off the table in a flock of sparrows.  Sparrows have a particular importance to Thad Beaumont and George Stark in The Dark Half – heaven help us all if they start flying again, and so I thought it best to confine them to my nails.  See, not so evil after all. 😉

Literary Inspiration: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones Collage

It’s the great unanswered question: What happens to us when we die?  Where do we go, what do we do, who do we become?  Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel, The Lovely Bones, seeks to answer those unanswerables, as viewed through the lens of a 14-year-old murder victim analyzing her death – and its devastating effects on the living – from the afterlife.  It’s a sad, contemplative, upsetting story about a bright life cut brutally short, and the familial fallout experienced by those left behind.  But it’s also a hopeful story of imagination, exploration and, finally, acceptance – on all sides – of those things we vehemently wish we could change, but cannot.

Did I love The Lovely Bones?  No.  I’m not sure it’s a book – or a subject matter – that lends itself to love.  It’s tremendously difficult – not to mention unpleasant – to listen to a naive teenager recount the horrifying circumstances of her rape and murder at the hands of a next door neighbour.  And that’s in the first 20 pages.  The ending actually fares much worse, undoing hundreds of pages of largely unearned goodwill with a laughable deus ex machina that fares particularly poorly in today’s consent-conscious era.  And absent Milton’s efforts in Paradise Lost, I’ve never jived well with simplistic descriptions of heaven, even the ones where every day ends with a musical dog party.

The story is this: Walking home from school one chilly winter afternoon in 1973, 14-year-old Susie Salmon is lured into a rudimentary bunker dug in the field behind her house by her neighbour, Mr. Harvey.  While her mother stands on the back porch calling her in to dinner, Susie is raped and murdered, her body dismembered and disposed of by Harvey with indifferent, ruthless efficiency.

When Susie next becomes aware of her surroundings, she’s in heaven – in this book, it’s always with a lower case H.  That’s because this is Susie’s version of the afterlife, a young girl’s heaven populated by joyous evenings filled with stirring music and ecstatic parties-in-the-park.

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For those descriptions, this novel, an Oprah Book Club entrant, earned the colloquial title of “That book where the little girl describes heaven.”  But Susie’s musings on heaven – a place where you are supposed to be at eternal peace – are actually few and far between, and are of a kind of boring, static place where questions about the past are discouraged.  Which sits poorly with Susie, a young woman caught somewhere between knowing ALL the secrets of the universe, and none.

Back down on Earth, Susie’s friends and family are faring even worse.  They have absolutely no answers, and for a time cling to the dim hope that she has been snatched.  But after mounting physical evidence points to Susie having come to great harm, they accept that she’s been murdered, and then set about the unenviable task of completely setting fire to their lives, in ways great, small and utterly predictable.

As the Salmon family’s lives spiral, Harvey evades justice, if not suspicion – you just can’t be a dollhouse-constructing, bridal tent-erecting single weirdo in a neighbourhood where a young girl mysteriously disappears without arousing some suspicions.  But with no evidence to tie the man to the crime, beyond a grieving father’s absolute certainty that this is the bastard who killed his daughter, Harvey walks, and after a period of laying low, silently moves out of the neighbourhood in the dead of night and out of their lives.

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From her heaven, Susie sees all of this, and as the days, weeks and months following her death stretch into years, her friends and family try to move on without her, while at the same time being utterly consumed by her memory.  Much like the idea of being granted a personalized heaven, this is a simplistic approach to loss – that our passing has so much impact, decades will pass before anyone will even attempt to make themselves whole again.  I also found I didn’t much care for heaven’s “What’s done is done, now let’s all calm down with a cup of tea” approach to grief.  Over and over, Susie is advised by Franny, a kind of heavenly caseworker, to let the past be, that there’s nothing to be gained from tormenting herself over things that cannot be changed.  But in doing so, Susie is robbed of an important part of the healing process – pure, earsplitting rage.  It’s not the most productive emotion, but it is satisfying, and if a person can’t take a grim sort of satisfaction from challenging the circumstances of their own death, when can they?

The Lovely Bones was a fine book, but for all the things I didn’t care for about it – the least of which was the appalling subject matter – it’s not one I’ll be picking up again.

I read this one in service of my friends’ reading challenge for the 19th theme of “Pick your own.”  Long before I ever read The Lovely Bones, I did, however, think that its cover artwork was beautiful.  The lush tropical blue fading to a light, washed-out haze is the perfect design choice to convey Susie’s insistent, but fading, presence in the world, as is the image of her dulled, but beloved, charm bracelet.  So I chose that as the inspiration for these nails.

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Bubbly

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Didn’t actually have any on New Year’s Eve – these shimmery nails are as close to champers as I got this year.  We actually went to an 11 pm showing of Rise of Skywalker at the theatre just down the road from our new home, and rang in the new year staring at Poe Dameron’s handsome face (SO handsome!)

All part of my 2020 plan to get out there and live a little bit more.  And by that I mean step outside my comfort zone, do something a little unexpected, and just deal with the (temporarily) scary feeling that goes along with trying new things.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions, but I think that’s going to change this year.  Here’s a few I’d like to stick to:

Deal with things head-on.  I can – and occasionally do – procrastinate myself into a hole in the ground.  I’m just not great at dealing expeditiously with the administrative aspects of life.  But after organizing pretty well the entirety of our move, as well as the sale of our condo and the purchase of this house, in a little under a month, I KNOW I can do these things.  So I should.  It’s actually pretty rewarding to strike that thing you just didn’t want to do! – say, going to the DMV to change your address – off your to-do list.

Flowing from the first point, I’d like to get out and engage with the world a little more.  I’m a real homebody, which means I have the great/terrible problem of both loving my home and never wanting to leave it.  Believe it or not, going to the movies the other night was a pretty major leap – the urge to stay at home, cozy warm and unbothered by everything beyond our four walls, was nearly overwhelming.  But I also really wanted to see Rise of Skywalker on the big screen, and I wanted to do something a little bit unexpected to ring in the new year.  Adventure is out there – I just have to occasionally leave my house to find it.

Beyond that, here are a couple of specific resolutions that I’m already doing quite well on – cutting Starbucks out of my life, because I hate it (to clarify, I hate the culture, not the coffee) and nixing my perverse addiction to American political news.  I go through phases where I forget how furious and anxiety-ridden both tend to make me, and suddenly I’m haunting CNN 24/7, two venti mochas shoved into either side of my latte-drinkin’ helmet.  I like staying informed, but I also need to protect my sanity.  And lose some weight.  Cutting out the mochas will definitely help with that. 🙂

Have you made any resolutions for 2020?