Book Review: What the Lady Wants by Renee Rosen

Predictable, flat, juvenile, boring. These are words I would use to describe this story, and I’m only a third of the way done with the book. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it. A pretty cover and interesting back cover summary. I gave the book the benefit of the doubt that its adultery plot would be ctreated ironically. Boy was I wrong.

Let’s start with the good. I like a good historical novel, and apparently this one dealt with the lives of real people: department store pioneer Marshall Field and his mistress, Delia Caton.

Not only could I tell by page 7 that the writing was juvenile and something I could have probably improved upon in middle school, it soon became clear that the main character, Delia, was nothing but a whiner about her sad sexless marriage (spoiler: we soon learn that her husband, Arthur, is actually gay and that’s why he doesn’t like having sex with her, but it’s a big secret because obviously being gay was not cool in 187-whatever year this thing is supposed to take place).

I predicted by the close of the first chapter, practically, that Marshall’s wife Nannie was mentally ill and would soon commit suicide, most likely by drowning herself in Lake Michigan (the Virginia Woolf way to go). I could predict that Delia would never have kids like she wanted, would soon start masturbating and (after having discovered her most scandalous feminine pleasure, of course) having passionate sex with Marshall. Which is icky on all sorts of levels. Overall, the story seemed poorly developed, as if the main plot points were simply tent poles on which the author could hang the sagging story until another twist came along. That’s not even getting into the weirder dimension of taking liberties with the private lives of historical figures who are not alive to respond.

I’m trying out the author’s other book, White Collar Girl, now, and so far I like it quite a bit better than the first one, though I have noticed a similarly shallow feminist premise, what with the strong female characters who only seek to express themselves despite male opposition.

I could go on a rant about that, but I’m tired and this post has rambled on for long enough.

On Hate.

We were shown hate early this morning in Orlando. Hate is blind, a poisonous, pointless kind of rage that points guns at innocent people in senseless slaughter. It is not found in peaceful disagreement. It is not found in free expression, conversation, and exercise of belief. It is found in a radical departure from an ability to live in reality.

This is real hate. Let’s stop arguing over whether it was Islamic terrorism or a truly homophobic hate crime. It can be both. Both are hate.

Maybe if we tried loving a little more, being a little softer, this wouldn’t happen as much. And I don’t want to get into the issue of gun access, because I don’t think restricting it further would make the situation any better. Maybe those on the terrorist watch list should be prevented from buying guns. Law-abiding citizens, however, should not. We should be able to protect ourselves if the situation arises.

I don’t want to get into the issue of the morality of homosexuality (the acts, not the state of being gay). You can disagree with it and still think that LGBTQ folks are worthy of respect and being treated like the humans that they are. Not subject to horrific deaths.

For now, let’s turn off all the chattering noise and pray to stop the hate that, regardless of the statistics, each and every race, religion, ethnicity, sex and orientation has displayed to each other at some point in history. Remember that we share our humanity.

What the Thunder Said

Well, I guess technically it didn’t say anything, because it only rained today. But this title comes from a fabulous section of T.S. Eliot’s famous poem “The Waste Land.”

As you can see in one of my recent posts, the transition from college back to living at home brings cascades of different emotions. It’s easy to feel terribly alone when your best friends from school live far away and all your friends from home are either on family vacations, otherwise out of state, busy working, or hanging out with all your other friends and acting as if you’re invisible.

That last part hit me hard today. I thought it was going to be a great day; I slept in late and woke up to fresh air and the sound of birds chirping. Finding myself alone in the house, I made some tea and ate breakfast. I read some Flannery O’Connor. Listened to the rain. And then, even though the storm eventually stopped, the waiting game began.

Waiting for what? Waiting for someone to come home, or text me, or snapchat me, or call me, a storm to blow through, a trumpet to call from the heavens. Anything that could be perceived as a form of interested contact. It is still cloudy outside.

Well, I’m typing this post on my couch right now, after I cried and cuddled with my cat because I was watching my family members sleep and feeling terribly alone (now they’re fighting and I’m still sitting in my corner listening to rare demos of my favorite songs on YouTube).

I know that the people I know here aren’t intentionally leaving me on an island. They might just don’t think I’m interested in spending time with them because I tend to be quiet around them. I’m just not the kind of person to insert myself into an already established social circle and lead and ask what everyone wants to do. We have different stories, and I was never super really wicked close with anyone anyway. Still, though, it’s sad that they never reach out to me and put all the blame on me for not trying to be a part of a friendship. To me, any kind of relationship is supposed to have a shared responsibility for connection. Clearly, no one was reaching out to me, so I stopped reaching out to them, knowing that they didn’t want to be around me. This was exacerbated by watching everyone have fun together on social media. Especially when they can’t respond to my texts or snapchats within days, it sends a clear message to me at least, regardless of whether that’s really their intentions.

I know I sound pretty paranoid, but that’s my perspective. I just feel like that if I ever text somebody to hang out or do something, it won’t work out. Past experience has taught me that, and being at school was a totally awesome, welcome change because we were all there together.

I am tired of being a slave to my phone, constantly checking for signs of life even when there’s not a single notification there. I’m tired of feeling like an afterthought. I want my positivity and happiness back. I started reading a list of maxims from one of my favorite saints, Philip Neri. He had one for every day of the year, and even though some of them were harsh, I pray to have humility and joy like him.

So I wrote a daily reminder for myself, and anyone who needs it: you are not an afterthought to Jesus. 

Fighter

You’re always on to the next crusade

with your eternal frown and sword raised

The only cross you bear is

painted in my blood and sweat, bright red on your chest

You had to do things your way

Now we’ll never see the light of day

 

You gagged me with your lies

until my voice wouldn’t come out when I opened my mouth.

Now the game is over, I have no defense.

“Play the charade,” you said.

“It won’t matter in the end.”

 

Revenge and karma are sisters from two different fathers.

Leaving For College is Hard, But Coming Home is Worse

I’ll be nineteen next week, and I feel like I’ve already gone through three mid-life crises. Why? My freshman year of college provided me with so many great memories with amazing people in a beautiful place. It was a fresh start to the next chapter of my life, and now it’s over. Just like that. I’m thrust back into the boring stupor of my hometown for the next two and a half months (trust me, I’m counting). I miss having a chapel within walking distance. I miss being able to roll down the hall at midnight in my pajamas to see my friends (which probably won’t happen next year because we’ll all live in different buildings, but that’s another story) who are now scattered around the country, in their hometowns, probably thinking the same thing I am.

I love and appreciate my family more than any people in the world, but sleeping in my old bed has triggered some questions in my mind. Am I a freeloader for living in my parents’ house/eating their food/sleeping late/not paying rent even though I don’t have a job and will still be covered under their health insurance for eight years? Am I ungrateful because I don’t drive the car they gave me a lot even though I have nowhere to go? Do my friends from high school secretly hate me and that’s why I always have to text first? Do my college friends hate me? Do my cats? How many opportunities to visit my friends am I missing out on day by day? Am I doomed to be painfully single forever? Is it because I’m really that unattractive? Will no one ever share my visions/dreams/love of God/idealistic desires?  What if I can’t find a job when I graduate and I’m too dumb for grad school? What if never have a tangible impact on the life of another human being? Am I totally irrelevant Should I really be exercising more? Did I eat too much? Am I losing touch?

ship-to-wreck-florence-and-the-machine-animated-gif-2015-music-video
Did I build this ship to wreck? 

Is God using this awkward transition time to stretch me and make me see all the places where I need to trust Him more? That’s the only one of my million questions that I can answer with a definitive ‘yes’.

It’s hard feeling like I have no purpose here. I just can’t wait to get back on campus (even though I’m more nervous about getting a new roommate than I’d like to admit), where I can see my friends, we’ll have our cars so we can go places without worrying about public transportation, and I’ll eventually be earning some money as a writing tutor. But for now, I have to deal with feeling like I exist in two separate worlds. There’s my perfect, happy, productive life at college, and then there’s… this.

kramer7
Sometimes life is the snowball and you’re Kramer. 

Writing helps me erase the fear that I’ll never be good enough, because in that moment I’m creating something. What I have to do between now and August 28th is ensure that I’m using this time to improve myself. To not get rusty on the topics I care about. To catch up with people from a beautiful time in my life. To enjoy this house and these small but oh so great loves while I can. Because it’s really the little things that will make my life worth smiling about.

Diving In: Theology of the Body

Yesterday, I began immersing myself in the opening chapters of Christopher West’s Theology of the Body for Beginners, which so far is an extremely helpful guide to Pope John Paul II’s groundbreaking pronouncements on the divine meaning behind the human body and human sexuality. West writes so even idiots like me can understand without having to look up obscure references to other Catholic/Christian documents.

Now, a lot of people might think, “What in the hell can a pope know about sex? He’s a celibate man, etc., etc…”. But TOB isn’t just a collection of rules about sex for Catholic couples. Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t really a lot of those (besides major & obvious teachings like no intentional use of artificial contraception), and most things are left up to prayerful personal discretion. What TOB is is an explanation of how our bodies are holy signs of God’s plan for the universe. I found this really eye-opening. We are “the crown of creation” (pg 19). Our bodies, which come with sometimes inconvenient and inappropriate emotions, are not sinful for existing. We are responsible for how we act on those, of course, but the flesh is not sinful in itself. Our flesh is a holy vessel, as we exist at once in our physical tangible bodies and also in our real eternal souls, and it deserves to be treated as holy. The following is quoted from one of my favorite passages on page 19, at least in my ebook sample:

Most everyone has experienced that deep sense of awe and wonder in beholding a starlit night or a radiant sunset or a delicate flower. In these moments, we are in some way seeing the signs of the presence of God (more accurately, seeing his reflection). “The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator” (CCC 341). And yet, what is the crown of creation? What more than anything else in God’s creation “speaks” of divine beauty? The answer is man and woman and their call to fruitful communion.”

While I haven’t read the entirety of John Paul’s writings yet, I can sense that they hold insightful applications of divine truth for all men and women, young and old, married or single, all around the world. Too often society – in the media, in expected behavior for both men and women – undervalues and disrespects the sanctity of our bodies, which are inextricably linked to our souls. Too often the world forgets that we are instruments of something greater.

At Sea

The salty sea refreshes the depths of my soul,

A roaring rhythm on the rocks repairs my restless heart.

To resist the water is a futile waste,

When the waves are calling home

 

I am lost in the arms of the ocean

In a great deep love I drown

I face the sweetest embrace I ever could taste

At the bottom I’ll make pearls into a crown.

Inspired by Florence + the Machine’s “Never Let Me Go” and a lifelong yearning for the beach. 

Dust & Diamonds

Every water-drop is

a mirror, a reflection, a miniature echo

of the sea or of the spring from which it was birthed,

so clear that if poked it would burst.

 

So are we also echoes and mirrors

of surrounding voices and familiar faces,

Ashes & dust brushed down from the heavens

on a tail of a shooting star

 

Diamonds too were once only coal

Everything, including us, once dust

We take care not to damage the diamond

once it is out of the mine,

but what do we do with us?

 

Published in the Spring 2016 edition of Stonehill’s Cairn magazine. 

Silent No More

I have swallowed myself to make more room for you.

But you do not retreat. You spread out more. You cover the floor.

And no longer notice me, pressed into a corner

Up against the wall.

Winning the quiet game.

 

I left my dream in an imposing imperial bar

Across the sea.

If you happen to sit on it, please don’t try to give it back to me.

Take it for yourself. Learn from me.

Wander those streets. Tell me all about it.

We are no longer strangers.

 

Sometimes it takes going halfway around the world

To shed the skin you’ve grown for society’s sake

And shock yourself into a new kind of heartbreak.

 

I am not who I want to be.

My soul is a work in progress towards my destiny.