Thank you, Afrikan Butterfly!

I was nominated for two blog awards!!

*That’s me in the corner, attempting a cartwheel. Note that I was distracted in tumbling class*

Woo hoo!
Woo hoo!

Thanks to Ms. Afrikan Butterfly, This Square Peg was nominated for the Sunshine and Shine awards, for bloggers “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogsphere.” The coolness of that knows no bounds, if only because being positive and being creative are two things I consider pretty important. Both in blogging and in life. Thanks again, Afrikan Butterfly!

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Oscar.

I’ve been faithfully and giddily watching the Oscars since I was fifteen years old. Through a million dresses, intriguing speeches and weird hosts (Anne Hathaway and James Franco?), you’ll find me right in front of the television and in for the 4-hour long haul every year. (Really, with a genetic love for old-time Hollywood–I think I knew who Sid Caesar was before I was 10 years old, thanks to my parents–all the pomp and circumstance and sentiment just adds to my love of film. Oh, and I love you, Sid Caesar.)

This year’s Oscars were particularly good. Great host–Ellen DeGeneres–and wins by actors that I was actually interested in and rooting for. Let’s discuss the latter a bit more, shall we?

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The Winners, from left to right: Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong’o, Jared Leto

Matthew McConaughey, Best Actor, Dallas Buyers Club – who isn’t a fan of Mr. j.k.livin’? Mr. Alright, Alright, Mr. Alright? I’ve been following his career since the beginning. As a fan, kudos to him.

Cate Blanchett, Best Actress, Blue Jasmine – I will profess, again and again, my love and admiration for one of the most talented actresses breathing right now. She is everything. This is her second Oscar. I think it should be her fifth or 100th, based on the number of her films, but whatevs. Well-deserved. To me, she is this generation’s Meryl.

Lupita Nyong’o, Best Supporting Actress, 12 Years a Slave – this is Lupita’s first movie and she snagged an Oscar for it. Add to the fact that I am completely obssessed with everything about her, from her poise to her clothes to the fact that she hails from my continent (don’t forget), and I screamed with abandon when she won. Watch her amazing speech here and love her like I do, if you don’t already.

Jared Leto, Best Supporting Actor, Dallas Buyers Club – ok. If you grew up on Earth and were a teenager in 1994, then you know Jared Leto. He is Jordan Catalano. You know that name. You’ve followed his career since he was leaning on lockers and trying not to stare at Angela Chase on My So-Called Life. So the fact that Jordan–I mean Jared–has an Oscar just feels right and good, doesn’t it? (Look, I even wrote about my still simmering Catalano fever and it was published by Hello Giggles. Still squealing over that one.)

All in all, a good Oscars telecast was had by all. Well, except for the non-winners. Which brings me to Project Leo DiCaprio Needs an Oscar. We’ll talk about that later.

About a Boy.

As I stood in line at the café at work and watched one of the employees step over to the espresso machine to whip up a latte for a customer, I thought of him. It was such an interesting time in my life, really, all of it, and he was, by far, the most significant part.

I was 19 years old when I met him. He and I started at Borders Books (I still miss it, sniff, sniff) on the same day, in the same orientation group. I noticed him immediately. Having long been a lover of cute faces, the combination of said cute face, those blue eyes, and that brownish-blonde hair got the heart racing. But, believe it or not, I told my prone-to-endless crushes heart to stop itself. I was tired of silly crushes. I was journeying into adulthood, wasn’t I? So I valiantly ignored R., not even allowing myself to swoon at his Texas drawl and those eyes.

Didn’t work, though.

When we began our first task of shelving books, he called my name. Ever hear your name being uttered by a boy you’re trying to ignore because you understand the inevitability of your soon-to-be deep feelings for him? Yeah, it was like that. I nearly collapsed, threw up, and smiled all at the same time. I heard you’re a writer, he said. I said yes. I write poetry, he then said. Maybe we can talk about books sometime.

A poet? A poet? I knew, then, that I was toast.

We discussed a little about writing, my then in-progress major in English at my college, his former college in Texas. It was a nice conversation. Soon, we were directed from the books to training on the cash register, where we stood next to each other, our shoulders slightly touching. I knew it then. I was in like.

For a year and a half, I went through the usual infatuation journey with R. I alternated between wanting to gaze at him 24 hours a day and wanting to push him down a flight of stairs for one silly reason or another. One distinct memory: as he tied my apron for me in the café, where we were frequently assigned together (which is why I thought of him yesterday), he asked me to be his creative inspiration. Dizzy from our proximity, I merely smiled and went into the back of the café, where I stuck my head into into the freezer.

Eventually, the crush dissipated and we became good friends. We shared poetry and book recommendations, laughed, talked, joked. When he decided to leave Borders and go back to Texas and back to college, I was sad, but not heartbroken. Before leaving, he gave me a sweet letter about enjoying our friendship and the “inspiration” I provided, although I think he was just happy to be around someone who loved writing as much as he did.

I last heard from him in 2000. He sent me a letter and a bunch of his poems to review, for which I never received a reply. I was angry about that.

A few years ago, while perusing the Internet and suddenly wondering what became of him, I googled him. That’s when I learned that he died in May 2002.

The death was unexplained. I merely saw his obituary, and cried, and reached out to the university he went back to, in order to learn something about the situation. Of course, the cause of his abrupt death was his family’s to own and to know, but the shock of it all–the untimely death of this young man that I once knew and treasured…it was unbearable. I was able to communicate my condolences to his family through the university contact that I found. (A memorial scholarship/award, for poetry, was established in his name.)

The triggers can be anything–coffee shops, bookstores, someone bearing his resemblance–and I am instantly transported to that time in my life, when a wide-eyed nerdy girl swooned over and ultimately found friendship with a sweet poet from the South. What a time it was.

Fabu Fashion…Monday.

You’ll recall that the Fabu Fashion feature started on a Thursday…then next occurred on a Friday. Ah, well. I run this, right?

So, sharing what I wore a few weeks ago to a dance party in Connecticut. Don’t want to brag, but This Square Peg was all gussied up and she liked it. What whaaat?

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Dress – very 70s Good Times, huh? Something Willona Woods would wear? Found it at Ross and fell in love with it immediately.

Earrings – Target.

Belt – snazzy, no? Borrowed from my friend’s closet. I’ll be purchasing one that looks just like it.

Make-up – Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation and my precious Ruby Woo lipstick from MAC, Maybelline Falsies Volume Express mascara, and an assortment of eye shadows from Sally Beauty Supply.

And can I wax poetic about my hair? I have a hair crush on my own natural mane, and I was so digging the frohawk style my pal created for me. Yay.

Good times, indeed.

This Square Peg…Loves to Travel.

So, yours truly is a travel bug. I love everything about traveling, from airport eating (i.e., all diets are quickly hurled to the ground and abandoned once your feet touch the terminal floor), to the tons of people-watching I participate in, both at the terminal and wherever I travel. Having just returned from a relaxing trip to visit my cuzzo and her hubby in Puerto Rico (I’m actually sitting here at JFK airport, waiting to board the plane back home), I thought I’d delight you with This Square Peg’s personal do’s and don’ts for traveling. (I remain a square peg even while traveling, in case you were wondering.)

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This Square Peg’s Travel Do’s

1. Do find a Cinnabon at the terminal. Just do it.
2. Do pay attention to your surroundings. Not merely to ensure that you’re not in the vicinity of possible weirdos, but because people-watching grows exponentially at the airport and on the plane. As a writer, I can’t emphasize the creative boon that comes from all these walks of life converging in this one place.
3. Do bring your patience. I just saw a pigeon walking around the terminal. Screaming babies, people randomly staring at you, flight delays–bring your patience and hold on to it for dear life.
4. Do abandon your high-brow reading choices and take advantage of the glossy, fluffy magazines around you. Come on, do it. Replace the New Yorker with Us Weekly. At least for now.
5. Do expect to pay $1,000 for bottled water and snacks/food. Your budget is out the window, friend.
6. Do remember that you’re traveling! It’s fun, even if a TSA agent pulls you aside to do a random security check on your palms, ostensibly to double-check that you haven’t been handling incendiary devices. True story. See #3.

This Square Peg’s Travel Don’ts

1. Don’t walk on the moving terminal thing. Oh. Just me? Cool. I don’t walk on the moving terminal thing. I just mastered escalators. I’ll walk to my gate, thank you very much. And I find that I’m moving at the same pace as the elitists on the moving thing who cast uppity looks in my I’d-rather-walk direction.
2. Don’t use your headphones in the terminal. I mean, unless you’re blasting Streisand on a low volume (impossible, if you ask me), you need to listen out for gate changes, flight delays, opportunities to upgrade to first class. And you want first class. You do.
3. Don’t forget to marvel at these airport employees. They answer the same question 100 times in a row. Some are crabby, yes, but most seem calm and collected in dealing with all these people.
4. Don’t forget your phone charger!
5. Don’t diss long layovers. In fact, seek them out. I’d rather wait two hours for a connecting flight than nearly fall to my death running on that slippery terminal ground to get to my flight in minutes before it leaves. (True story. Sigh. See #3 in the Do’s.)
6. Don’t forget to travel as much as you can, as much as you can afford, as much, as much, as much.

real talk (gratitude).

Something a bit different this Gratitude Friday.

I’ll start by telling you that I wasn’t the kind of girl that the boys ran after. Those kind of girls were a different set; far removed from my small group of funny, wisecracking nerds who liked to correct your grammar and spout critiques about books and independent films. We were silly, goofy, at times obnoxious and snobby, in love with British movies and the Academy Awards, lovers of Barbra Streisand and musical theater. We were gangly and chubby and average and mostly unsure of ourselves, but somehow this was ok. Yet, although I was largely content with my little group of like-minded friends, admittedly, I sometimes looked at those other girls with longing. Gorgeous, popular, constantly on homecoming court, and always attached to a boy. Wouldn’t that life be far more interesting than teenaged Oscar parties with a little contraband champagne to celebrate the winners?

Adolescent longings go away. I am now a grown woman and 90% content with who I am inside and outside, with the 10% being the welcomed merry-go-round of constant change and improvement to the woman inside. But you know what? There remain vestiges of that little girl inside who longed to have a beau on her arm, although cute and cuter (the only requirements back then) have been replaced with spiritual, kind, mature, generous, faithful, and…cute. Let’s say handsome. Anyway. It would be nice to be the kind of woman who walks into a room and shuts it down. It would be nice to stop traffic, to turn heads, to so and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, please: I appreciate my beauty. It’s ethnic and different and unique and comes from Mom and Dad, and I love that, especially the latter, more than I can say. But those longings sometimes pop up here and there, you know? They do. Nevertheless, I’ll venture to say that those little girls and teenagers we left behind don’t vanish completely. They’re just quieter and far too impressed with the women we’ve become to complain. But once in a while, they just won’t pipe down.

Therefore, on this Gratitude Friday, I present 10 things I truly and wholly love about my physical self. Note that these were aspects of myself that, in the past, I despised, felt embarassed by, hid, and/or never noticed and appreciated.

  1. My eyes, which have a curious almond shape that remind me of my mother and my grandmother.
  2. My lips, which are big and shapely and come from my father.
  3. My legs, which–hello, Dolly–are shapely and loved to be shown off, when possible, by yours truly.
  4. My round face.
  5. The gap in two front teeth.
  6. My hands.
  7. The dimple in my right cheek.
  8. My smile.
  9. My ears.
  10. The way I am shaped. It’s not an hourglass, but it’s feminine and it’s mine.

 

What are you grateful for, loves?

PSH.

Really sad, the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman. If you read the tributes about him, the theme is clear: his talent was incredible.

There are two films in which PSH did nothing short of take my breath away: Doubt, and–believe it or not, his performance was chilling and compelling–Mission Impossible: 3. Watch them if you can.

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Herculean.

Oh, hi there. It’s been a while, huh? In short, I loathe winter and with all the polar vortexes and all that, my writing has been suspended by a lack of desire, inspiration, and general movement in my hands. But here we are. Hi, again.

This will be brief. I’m here to post a song that I find hard to not play 100 times in a row, something that pretty much exemplifies my absolute and near manic love of music. (I’ll write another post about music and writing and how, for me, the two go hand in hand.) It’s a song entitled Hercules by Sara Bareilles (if you’re not a fan of hers, I very much want to pinch you for this error in judgment) and I just think it sums up the struggle and the subsequent rallying that exists in the writing life, the female life, the daughter life, the sister life–essentially, everything it takes to be a woman and an artist living on this earth right now today. All encapsulated within an inescapable melody, lovely vocals, and a thumping beat. Listen, won’t you?

Short Story Prompt – 01/06/14

Title: My Problem

Finish these sentences: “I have a little bit of a problem. I like to __________. It all started when I was __________, when __________.”

I have a little bit of a problem. I like to follow people. Stalk them, to be specific. It all started when I was 10 years old, when my mother and I would follow my father around to see if he was cheating on her. Back then, even at 10, I was aware that something wasn’t right with my father. He stopped coming to my concerts and to Parent Night at school. He also started going away a lot, either on business trips or visiting out of town friends; disappearing into the basement when he would get a call and whispering into the phone. My mother saw those things, as well.

I remember walking into her bedroom one breezy, warm afternoon. The windows were open because our air conditioner was broken, and we couldn’t afford one just yet. We could never afford things back then. My father never seemed to have enough money when it came to us or the house, and he was the only one working. She was sitting on the bed, crying, gripping the cordless phone in her hands. I immediately began to cry, as well, as I could never stand to see my mother in pain or distress, and usually joined her in however she was manifesting her feelings. A kind of adolescent solidarity, I suppose. I sat next to her.

“Mommy, what’s wrong?” I asked, out of breath from sobbing along with her.

“Nothing, my love. But no more soccer after school. We need to take care of something with your father.”

After that day, my mother would pick me up from school and drive to my father’s office. We would park far away to ensure that he didn’t see her car, but close enough to keep an eye on the building. She would buy bags of snacks and books to keep me entertained while she kept a fixed stare on the building. She never ate. She barely replied when I would remark about something exciting in the latest book I was reading. She simply stared at the building. Eventually, I stopped eating and reading, as well. I climbed into the passenger seat and stared at the building right along with her.

The first few times, when my father finished work and got into the car, we would follow him to bars, or jazz clubs in the city. We never saw a woman. He would stay inside for hours then drive home. My mother would stay behind a few cars, again ensuring that she kept a good distance but enough to see him. Once we were sure he was heading home, we would drive to the grocery store or to the bookstore and then come home later. “So that we’re not lying when we tell him where we were,” Mom liked to say. It was like this for about a month, and then things changed.

We didn’t see a woman leaving with my father from a bar, or a club. Rather, she walked out of the office with him one afternoon. She had long, blonde hair, and the kind of tight dress that looked like breathing would tear it in half. My father had his arm around her, and he walked her to her car. When they reached her car, my father kissed this strange woman in a way that didn’t give me the butterfly feeling, the tickling in my belly when I would see two people kissing in Disney movies. This was wrong, and it made my stomach hurt. I recall hearing my mother gasp.

After that afternoon, we followed my father to all kinds of places after work. The blonde woman was always with him. They went to hotels, motels, the woman’s apartment building. My mother seemed to hold her breath during those long hours in the car when my father was inside with the woman. She rarely moved. I knew not to complain about the heat in the car, or that I was dizzy, or to ask whether we could turn the car on for some AC. I knew to keep quiet.

My parents divorced when I was 11 years old. Mom and I moved from Savannah to Syracuse, where my grandparents lived. Mom never re-married, and she never mentioned my father again.

It started with a boy I liked in high school. Billy McGee. He was the smartest boy in our class; in Honors everything, it seemed. By the time I was 16 and inherited my Grandpa’s Cadillac, I began to follow Billy from school after tennis practice. I can’t really describe the decision to follow him around. Maybe I wanted to see what his life outside of school was like. Maybe I wanted to just see him, or just be in the proximity. I don’t know. After Billy, it was Mike Cousins, my next crush. After Mike, it was Candy Russo, who started dating Billy when we were seniors. I wanted to catch her doing something illegal, to prove to myself that she didn’t deserve Billy, even though I had moved on from him.

When I graduated high school, my father sent me a card and $1,000. I gave the money to my grandparents.

In college at Syracuse University, there were so many I followed—friends, crushes, professors.

These days, there’s a man I’m seeing. I actually think I’m in love with him. And I want to trust him, to not believe that he won’t hurt me or take up with another woman. I don’t want to follow him around. But how else can I be sure?