The Book That Changed My Life

 

My battered copies of the books, purchased with my own allowance money from a used bookstore, once upon a time.

A Wrinkle In Time is  a strong contender for my favorite book ever. It was so influential in ways that I really did not realize until reflecting upon it. I don’t know that I’ve ever read any other book as many times. I loved the whole series so much as a kid. There are four other companion books, but A Wrinkle In Time stands out for many reasons. (Spoilers ahead)

The Murry family has many adventures, but this one is Meg’s. And Meg Murry was the first time I remember seeing myself in literature. As a weird (not quirky, weird) black girl growing up in the suburbs in the late 90s, I didn’t have a lot of role models. I came of age in the girl power era, but I was no Scary Spice. I was too young to model myself after Aaliyah, En Vogue, or any other R&B songstress. I couldn’t wear makeup, much less a midriff top! I wasn’t sassy like the black friends on various Disney and Nickelodeon shows. But Meg was me. She has her good qualities–super intelligent, compassionate, fiercely loyal to her family. But she was also stubborn, sarcastic, didn’t trust easily and grappled with moments of crippling self-doubt. Intellectually, she knows she is competent and has potential. Emotionally, she is unsure of her place in the world and her unpopularity matters more to her than she’ll ever admit. Whenever I was feeling down, her story would remind me that all the things people mocked me for were part of what made me strong.

Meg’s journey to self acceptance is why I always turned to this book whenever I needed comfort. Grade school was a bit hellish for me, and the book gave me reassurance that one day I’d leave behind the hell that was grade school, and make a meaningful life for myself.  I especially love that Meg gets a happy ending, not just here but in future books. She becomes a physicist and marries Calvin, and has kids of her own. And even though she’s happy, she’s still the same prickly old Meg.

The philosophy of this book is another reason why I love it. It seamlessly blends religious notions of good and evil with the reality of science and technology. The two coexist as a matter of fact. Whether they do so harmoniously is a function of how humanity uses them. This book was a turning point for me in my faith. I read it around the same time I got serious about church and decided to read the Bible all the way through for myself (and I did, except I copped out on Revelations because it was too scary). I was starting to ask questions about how the concepts I learned about in school–the Big Bang Theory, evolution, etc–should affect how I felt about Christian teachings. These books planted the idea that my faith and my belief in science were not contradictory or mutually exclusive. The message that science could take us to the ends of the universe but love remains the most powerful force was revolutionary to me, and also made perfect sense. Something about that just felt right in my spirit, and that has guided my spirituality ever since.

There is also a political message here. Evil perpetrates itself in a million different mundane ways. The cruelty of schoolchildren; the petty tyranny of an authority figure; an abusive parent; the idea that conformity is the same thing as equality. The second book in the series addresses the idea of wholeness within oneself, and establishing harmony within the universe that is your own body and cellular makeup. It’s really heady stuff, especially for  young people, but the beauty of these books is that they don’t talk down to you. They challenge you.

Is it a perfect book? Not by any means. But it spoke to me, and resonated with me, and the heart of this outweighed any criticisms I might make about style or technique. It was a life changer, and I can’t ask for anything more.

I just saw the Wrinkle In TIme movie, which inspired this whole post. As much as I love the book, I think it’s important to evaluate the movie on its own merits. I think it succeeds on all counts. It’s amazing by itself, and also a worthy successor to the book. Seeing a black girl play Meg onscreen was just wonderful. I felt some of the same magic that I felt during Black Panther because representation matters. Aside from that, Ava DuVernay really captured the magic and the spirit of the books. There were some omissions and changes compared to the book but nothing that affected the core plot. I laughed, I cried, I remembered the child I used to be. It’s been more than 10 years since I last read the books and I felt that same sense of wonder that I did on my very first reading. It was no small feat but Miss Ava knocked it out of the park! (Spoilers ahead, again)

However, I went into this movie with a little trepidation because the reviews were so mixed. A lot of people seem to think that this just doesn’t live up to the hype. I think a big part of it is that we are so used to big, splashy, apocaplyptic blockbusters. The stakes were much lower here. The real obstacle here is internal: Meg’s inability to love herself. Saving the world is just a side effect. In fact, if Meg fails, the world won’t end immediately. It’s just that evil will keep getting stronger on Earth until it takes over entirely. Ultimately, her win doesn’t even defeat Camazotz entirely. But it pushes him back and gives them time to fight another day.

Another part of the criticism is that Meg, as a character, is too flat and unexpressive. She’s a skeptic and a complainer. In short, she’s a problem child. But that’s the whole point! And it’s what I have always loved about her. Meg is a grouch but she saves the day anyway. Pretty much every other story insists that heroes be nice, damn near to the point of  sainthood. In some sense, you have to be the right kind of person who deserves to have a magical adventure. You can be an outcast, but you must always turn the other cheek (and never throw a basketball in someone’s face). If you’re awkward, it’s all in your head because actually you’re beautiful. I reject that. Sometimes you really are awkward and rude and ungrateful. But being imperfect doesn’t mean you’re undeserving of anything good.

In both the book and the movie, I appreciated that Meg was regular and had an attitude problem and hair that didn’t do what she wanted. I loved that even though she missed her father dearly, and knows she should be above high school drama, it still bothers her that she has no friends. She is a real person, and in the end she succeeds by embracing her flaws, not by becoming someone else. That’s a powerful message for kids everywhere, at any time.

If you haven’t gotten in on the goodness that is A Wrinkle In Time, what are you waiting for? Get on it!

 

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Idle hands are the devil’s workshop

You remember that old saying? As I’ve grown up, I see it’s true. When you’re living right, you literally don’t have the time to be up to no good. I honestly  wish I had the time to be in somebody else’s business. This is my typical weekday:

  • 7:00a: Wake up, get dressed
  • 7:45am- Drive to work. Listen to music or a podcast.
  • 8:30am-5:30pm Work. I always take a lunch break because there’s no way I’d survive an open office set up without it. But I actually do work at work. It’s not crazy hectic like it was at my old firm, but I keep busy.
  • 5:30pm- Drive home in traffic. More music/podcasts.
  • 6:30-8pm: Assuming I meal prepped over the weekend like I was supposed to, this is my time to myself since DH usually gets home a little later. I do a work out, browse the internet, etc.
  • 8-10pm: Eat dinner, watch tv with hubs, read a few chapters.
  • 10-11pm: I shower and do my nighttime beauty routine, and read a few chapters to wind down before bed.

Now look at this schedule and please tell me, where in the world do I have time to worry about anybody that’s not me or mine? Some of y’all out here can’t be living right. It takes a LOT of time to strive at a career, maintain a relationship, cook healthy meals, stay in shape, and de-stress so you don’t go crazy. And yes, I’d have more free time if I was single but not that much more free time because I have hobbies. I’d read, write in my journal, probably work out more, go to the movies, hang with my girlfriends, travel and find other ways to fill up that time real quick.

I guess some folks really don’t have anything better to do.

Shine Time

“All this good, I don’t feel bad for it. When you see me smile, you can’t be mad it.” #Mood

2017 has been a hell of a year. Our government may be in shambles but God is faithful, and in the midst of the chaos He brought me safely through a natural disaster and blessed me with what? A NEW JOB! GLORAAAYYYYYYY!

 

The BIble says there is a time to sow and a time to reap. I feel like I’ve been in sowing season for a mighty long time but now I’m finally getting to enjoy the fruits of my labor. PEr my plausible deniability policy, I won’t be too specific about my new position, but I can give a general idea. I’ve left the drudgery of document review and the crushing grind of private practice for the sweet Elysian fields of public interest law. No job is perfect–serving a population that is lower income and generally less sophisticated about the law has its own unique challenges. But the sense of fulfillment I get from doing my job more than makes up for it. I have a female boss who’s really laid back, nice coworkers (I finally see how people have work friends!), pay commensurate with my qualifications and benefits. Your girl has paid vacation, sick days, and holidays, y’all! Plus health and life insurance! It’s everything that I was praying for. Can I get an amen?!?

Things are doing better on the family front too. I’m pulling back on babying my parents, so I gave we flew in on Monday afternoon and back out on Friday evening, to have the weekend to recover. I only had one visit with each parent and they didn’t die, LOL. My grandparents are clearly getting older so I make a point of seeing them when I can. They’re such a joy and I don’t want to have any regrets of not spending time with them when they pass. I saw my younger cousins for the first time in a couple years too. They’re all in college and think they’re grown and I can’t cope…I’m pretending they will all go from kindergarten to gainfully employed, happily married adults. Alcohol? $ex? Nope nope nope, I don’t know about any of that.

I stayed over at my big sister’s new house, which was #goals. It’s beautiful. Hardwood floors, new appliances, three bedrooms, a patio, and a basement that’s ready to be converted into a den or an apartment. I can’t even be jealous because I’m so happy for her. She’s been wanting her own home for several years now, and their homebuying process was fraught with tales of undisclosed defects and mold. So much mold at literally every place they liked. She and her husband are both teachers and wear themselves out doing right by those devil spawn known as middle schoolers. It was great to see how relaxed and comfy they are at home.

Now that my career is finally starting to go where I want it to go, I can think about the things I want from my personal life. Namely, kids and house. Over the Thanksgiving break, DH* and I had a frank conversation about our baby timeline and finances. We hope to start looking for a house by the end of next year (because with both of us working full time it will probably take another year to find one we want), so it’s time to redo the budget and tighten our belts. I’m not disclosing my baby timeline because I don’t need  y’all (and yes I mean specific people, you know who you are) getting all excited about the thought of Baby J.D. before I’m good and ready. I need some more time. But I’m glad to be settled enough that the thought of having a child is only somewhat terrifying, rather than the worst thing that could happen to me. 🙂

 

*DH = dear husband. I’m tired of writing hubs so I’m trying something new.

Hurricane Harvey and other things

My family was blessed to make it through the hurricane with no damage. We live in a slice of south Houston between the flood zones. We went to my mother in law’s house as a precaution, because she has an SUV and either end of our street was flooding, which would have trapped us as we both drive sedans. The ride over was nerve wracking because 90% of the tollway exits were closed, and the ones we took were literally shut down behind us as we traveled. Hubs drove through several high water spots like a champ while I struggled not to have a panic attack. He was insightful enough to put on some slow jams I could sing along to that kept me from squeezing the lifeblood out of his thigh or yelping in terror.

The city is more or less back to normal. On my side of town, the floodwaters receded last week after the sun came out so the biggest inconvenience is that not all the stores are open, the restaurants have limited menus, and the city is still on a curfew. We had dinner with Bianca & Bernard last night, and had to hightail it out of the restaurant mid-conversation so we would make it home on time. Of course, that’s small potatoes compared to the people who have lost everything. A handful of people I know through work and my sorority had flooding to their homes, and lots of folks are still battling standing water and can’t go home. Hubs can’t go back to work for another two weeks because the campus flooded. It’s going to be a long road to recovery for the city as a whole.

Meanwhile, I’m still plugging away on document review and job applications. Recruiting season has rolled back around and I’m starting to get some nibbles here and there so I’m hopeful that I will have a job offer by the end of the year. We also moved into our house. It’s a little old, but not helped by the fact that the last tenants didn’t take care of it. G-Dub has put in a ton of work making it habitable but the bougie side of me is still adjusting. We went from a newly constructed apartment with hardwood floors to a house in the hood with TILE, of all things. I do feel better when I think about how I don’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbors with my workouts or loud music, and the hundreds of dollars a month I’m saving on rent. Also, the commute is much better because most people on our side of town work locally. So even though we’re farther  from work, the time we spend driving is the same.

Also, while I’ve come to realize the utility of Home Depot (the tool rental has been clutch af), I’m still bored to death by it. So I guess I’m not totally washed up yet.

Reclaiming My Time When Life Doesn’t Look Like It Should

Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) is a Congresswoman we can be proud of. Her no nonsense attitude is a refreshing change from the worst iteration of realpolitik spewing from the current administration. In particular, she has become famous for politely, but firmly, asserting her authority when challenged by men.

“Reclaiming my time” has gone viral and there are countless memes that apply this phrase to the dating world specifically. But the implications are much wider.

On S2E2 of Issa Rae’s “Insecure”, the protagonist’s best friend Molly is shown in therapy. After some discussion of her work and personal life, the therapist respond: “You frame a lot of things in your life with ‘should’. . .If those ’shoulds’ didn’t come to fruition, would you feel comfortable with your life looking a different way?” This is a question that I think every adult has struggled with in some degree since the beginning of time. But it’s particularly salient to millenials, who have grown up with so much choice, so many promises, and such high expectations that the reality of adult obligations has proved an especially rude, and sometimes bitter, shock.

Many of us follow the same routine day in and day out. I would argue that most of us just float through it, pulled and pushed this way and that, simply reacting to whatever happens. We waste hours on things we mostly won’t care about even a year from now–television, Buzzfeed listicles, InstaTwitBook, online window shopping, cute animal videos, etc etc. I’m guilty of all of the above (plus Pinterest recipe clipping, blog reading, and video recaps of my favorite shows). I’ve ended many a day feeling exhausted, but having not accomplished much of any real substance. Adding to my current confusion is the fact that a year ago I blew up my life by quitting my job and going back to school. Currently, I’m underemployed and my contract job hasn’t required any tax work so far. I have an interview coming up at the end of this week that I’m really excited about, but trying not to pin my hopes on. At this point, I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs, dozens of which I’ve been super excited about, only to be ignored, rejected, or get to the interview and find out it’s basically an indentured servant position.

Anyway, I’m on a particularly brutal document review project. The discovery is for a corporate merger which makes the documents more technical and mentally demanding to work through than your average production. I’m putting in about 50 hours a week and the client asked everyone to do at least 10 hours, 7 days a week to meet the deadline and I just flatly refused. I’m reclaiming my time! The whole reason I do document review is that I can pick and choose my projects and my hours, and that wasn’t the requirement when I signed up so I don’t feel obligated to break my neck because the client miscalculated. I clocked out Friday and happily didn’t clock in again until Monday.

So what did I do with my reclaimed time? This brings me back around to my second point. When I was a little, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a lot of things but I always came back around to that. I wanted to write fiction, but I thought journalism would have been a good compromise. Then I got to high school and started researching careers and realized that a) journalism jobs were very hard to come by and only getting hard due to the rise of the internet; b) I’d very likely make a crap salary for the first 10 years; and c) unless I wanted to get stuck on local news I’d have to move to New York City. And at the time I decided I just didn’t want it bad enough. I grew up in a cash strapped household, I wanted to be comfortable, and I wanted to live somewhere with little to no snow in winter and a reasonable cost of living.

But lately I’ve just felt like something was missing in my life. Last year I downloaded a novel writing software called yWriter, and began working on random scenes and concepts. Last, something finally clicked. On Friday night I stayed up until 4 am and wrote about a chapter’s worth of material. Sicne then I’ve been scribbling down story arcs, character names, and background info for a fantasy novel. It might be complete crap. It may never be read by anyone but my sister, but I want to write it anyway. I didn’t have the gumption to be a full time artist, but I have a brain and a working laptop. There’s no reason I can’t still write for myself, and I know if I give it up completely then I’ll look back on my life one day and completely regret it. And if I have a kid who decides to be a writer and becomes a raging success, I don’t want to feel resentful that they lived my dream because I just let it fall by the wayside. And who knows, if it turns out half decent maybe I’ll self-publish it on Amazon and you’ll see an affiliate link here on the blog 🙂

So how are you reclaiming your time? Let me know in the comments!

Going Home Again

This past week I spent 8 whole days in Atlanta. Since I’m not working full time, I found a cheap set of midweek flights on either end of Memorial Day. When you have the money you don’t have the time and when you have the time you don’t have the money, so I just said screw it.

I came home feeling like I needed a vacation from my vacation (LOL!) but it was more than worth it. I got to see Maya and Sunny in the same place for the first time since my wedding. Capping off the reunion was Sunny’s high school BFF who didn’t got to GT, but tagged along on many of our college adventures. It. was. AWESOME! I didn’t realize how much I’d missed having my squad, however small. Since G and I are moving to a house in a couple months, we’ll finally have room to host some get togethers and the girls can come through.

I got some quality time with my family as well. I got to help my sister and brother in law with house hunting, play referee between my dad and brother (more on that in another post), have a mother/daughter movie date and see my grandparents. That last was the only dark spot; grandma & grandpa are 84 and 89 and their age is starting to manifest health issues. Grandma was diagnosed with dementia last year and I can tell it’s progressed even since I saw them in December. Grandpa’s mind is sound, but he’s using a walker and recently fell on the way to the mailbox. Not to be morbid, but realistically, I’m not sure how much time they have left so they are my first priority every time I go home. I’m notorious for not taking pictures but I did get one while I was there.

Overall, though, this visit refreshed my spirit. It was nice to escape the grind of part time work, side hustles, and job applications and have some fun. It also made me realize that it’s friends and family that make a place feel like home, and Houston will never be that unless I get proactive about making my own friends here. I’m a homebody by nature and usually content to stay in what I call “the love bubble”. But I’m going to make an effort to curb my introvert ways and do something social at least once a month. At the end of last year I finally made my own friend, Bianca.* We get along great but nothing is worse than a clingy friend with no life so I need to branch out. I’m reaching out to get active with a Zeta grad chapter again in the fall and actually make an effort this time. I’m pretty awesome and I need to share it with the world!

 

*Bianca and her husband, Bernard, are vegans and quite passionate about animal rights. Plus, she grew up in France and they actually save animals. They are literally the human versions of The Rescuers.