Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Yes, I Fangirl Over Pioneer Woman

I've mentioned a time or two in this blog (especially in the cooking sections, Misadventures of a Non-Cook) how much I love and adore Ree Drummond's site, I'd link it for y'all, but blogger is being a bitch today. Just google Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, and you'll get it. Anyway, I've been religiously following her blog for almost a year now, I think. This past weekend, I went with my darling Regan to her book signing--and we met her!!!

Let me start at the beginning. I discovered Ree's site on Forbes' list of top 100 sites for women. Her site is generally directed towards other moms and wives, so at first it only idly captured my interest. I liked the pictures of their horses, I drooled over a few of the recipes (while ruefully cursing my inability to cook) and then I clicked her About Me section, and started reading the posts on how she met her husband, who she terms Marlboro Man. Then I kept reading. And reading. And reading.

At about that moment, I was hooked. I finished the entire series and due to my general emotional constipation in matters of the heart, started crying. I then immediately wrote her a sappy, mushy letter declaring how much her romance with her husband meant to me. I then sent the story to Regan, who in turn read, fell in love with the story, and thus we became fangirls of a blogger's romance.

The collected blogs have recently been published in book format, entitled "Black Heels to Tractor Wheels". A very brief, not nearly enough plot summary, is how Ree, who went to school in L.A, a total city-girl, fell madly in love with Marlboro Man, a very sexy cowboy (a LEGIT cowboy, he owns a cattle ranch) she met in a smoky bar. Instead of moving to Chicago for law school, she chose to stay in Oklahoma with Marlboro Man, marry him, and move out into the country.

I have both her cook book and "Black Heels". This past weekend, I went home to St. Louis and went to her book signing. Since Regan and I read her blogs religiously (meaning, we stalk her a lot) we brought her flowers in a glass Ball jar and a Starbucks gift card. (She loves mason and ball jars, and often bemoans the fact that she isn't in driving distance of a Starbucks) She signed my book, and when I told her that her book made me cry and made me hopeful, she squeezed my arm and thanked me.

Here's a pic of Regan, me, and my mother with Ree, signing one of our books. Isn't she pretty? I wish I looked like her.

After she signed all of our stuff, I determined that I wanted Marlboro Man to sign my book too, since he plays a rather crucial role in Ree's love story. Poor Marlboro Man! I get the feeling he was innocently standing by, and somebody asked him to sign their book, and then suddenly an entire line formed behind him. I commend his patience though, he was a super good sport. And damn, people, he is hardcore good-looking.

Ree enjoys taking pictures of her husband's chaps-clad behind, and even put one of them in her cookbook. Regan wanted him to sign the chaps, but she didn't want to ask.

So once it was our turn, I said, "Hello sir, would you be so kind as to sign the chaps in my friend's book?" Really, there isn't any good way to ask an attractive man to sign a picture of his ass, so I opted for the super super polite route. But like I said, awful good sport, he signed both Regan's and my mother's photo of ze chaps and then acquiesced to a photo. He was so personable! He said, "All right, get in here!" And pulled her and I forward. Note my petrified smile.

Damn. I want one. Regan and I need to get to Oklahoma if they make them like that.

I told MM that I rode western and I loved their horses. I wore black heels to the signing (I thought I was being clever--black heels? The book's title is Black Heels to Tractor Wheels? Eh? Eh? *crickets chirp*) but I really should've worn my western riding boots so I could've been like, HA, see, I do really ride!

I was a bit star struck by both of them, to be honest. I had a crap ton of things I wanted to say to Ree, but I think I only managed one syllable words. Ah well, she's working on a second cookbook, so if she tours again, hopefully I'll get to go then too!

Now you may be wondering--why would a random love story between some random blogger woman and a cowboy in east bumf*&^ Oklahoma mean anything at all to me?

I have a hard time in the romance department. For reasons that I've explained before, I'm guarded and defensive, but a part of me still kind of wants me to be swept off my feet. Looking around me, sometimes it's hard to believe that love is real, that couples can have forever, can still thrill and exhilarate each other even after four kids and hard times.

I relate to Ree a lot. She struggled a great deal with her decision to stay in Oklahoma with MM, rather than do what her feminist conscience instructed her to do. A lot of feminists forget that feminism is essentially about choice--if a woman wants to have a career, move to Chicago, live on her own, that's okay. But if she wants to fall in love, marry a cowboy and have kids, that's okay too. There's no reason to look down on either choice.

When Ree started dating MM, her parents went through a messy divorce. For a little bit, she shut herself off, like I do, afraid to trust that what she had with MM was real or afraid that there was no point, since nothing seems to last. This is a hardcore fear of mine. I'm reminded of a lyric in a Taylor Swift song, "I was a flight risk with a fear of falling/Wondering why we bother with love, if it never lasts."

But her husband was patient. He was clear cut and honest. He told her he loved her and when she didn't say it back, he didn't demand it of her or become distant. He let her sort herself out, let her gather feelings and courage till she did say it. And in their first year of marriage, when she suffered post-partum depression, he didn't give up on her. He loved her, waited for her, supported her, and she pulled through.

Under all my feminist rantings and ravings, sometimes I forget it's okay to want to be romanced. It's okay to want to fall in love. And it's definitely okay to want someone to be there for me, to be patient with me, and to love me against all my defenses.

So in answer as to why I love Ree and Marlboro Man? Aside from her amazing recipes, her great fashion sense, her quirkiness and general awesomeness...I desperately want what she and her husband have. :) <3

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Guns

Okay, so I totally stole that phrase from this completely amazing website. It's a website belonging to one Regis Giles, who is my age, encouraging girls to FIGHT BACK against assault, rape, by thoroughly exercising our second amendment rights. This may be the coffee, but this site had me totally excited. Holy crap, that's awesome!

What shocked me though, was the comments. I found the website on Jezebel, which is a really great news site from a feminist perspective. It's 'usually' unbiased--I've only gotten annoyed at the liberal slant a few times. Like now, for instance.

First of all, the article in question was really dry, almost condescending to the subject matter. The commenters were even worse. They called her a Palin-nite, discussed Regis' fondness for hunting as 'barbaric', sneered at her suggestions that a girl with a gun might be rather helpful in a dire situation. I was shocked.

This is probably because I like guns. I like guns a lot. My dad started taking me shooting around my senior year of high school--if I'd asked earlier, I'm sure he would've taken me then too. I started out on a .22, worked my way up to a nine millimeter, then begged for the chance to try out my dad's .45. It was love at first bang.

I turned out to be a fairly decent shot (I still have my better targets in the back of my car for showing off privileges :D) and my dad signed me up for a combat shooting course. I did really well, and got to progress to the advanced combat course, which was even more fun. (Determining what was a threat (I accidentally shot a cop in that category. Whoops.), shooting around obstacles, even one fun scenario where you had to rescue a teddy bear--that was weighted with sandbags, so it was the actual weight of a child!)

My dad's always had a gift for teaching. My dad's first date with my mom was teaching her how to shoot properly. I always privately thought it was a shame that he didn't become a teacher, although I understand his reasoning why. (The same reasoning why I don't want to teach high school or middle school--the education standards of kids and teens today depresses me.) He also taught me to drive and was a much better teacher than my mom (sorry mom, but dad never screamed at me when I did something innocuous like knock down a mailbox or crash into a shed.) and he really deserves all the credit for my shooting skills.

Ahem. Back to the point at hand.

I do not understand why there isn't a bigger feminist movement about arming women. Is it because of Sarah Palin? (It's the fashion in most feminist circles to hate Sarah Palin. I will admit she annoys me occasionally but I don't hate her and if I ever met her, I'd invite her to go shooting with me and discuss C.S Lewis with her. She seems nice.) Is it because of the liberal tendency to hate guns? Is it because a lot of conservatives like guns?

Let me lay it down for you. I am a woman. Hear me roar, blah blah blah. I'm intelligent, independent, with a strong personality. But guess what? I am 120 pounds, and that's only if I've eaten a big meal. I have absolutely no upper body strength. My 100 pound roommate and I tried to open a bottle of diet coke the other day, and the diet coke won. Physically, I am pretty damn weak. Even if I got more in shape, muscle to muscle, I would not win against your average guy.

In 2006, a guy grabbed me. I threatened him with the knife I carry in my purse. In 2009, at my previous college's formal, a guy attempted to grope me. Luckily, he was drunk and I know how to break fingers.

Last summer, when I was alone in my apartment awaiting my former roommate LC to come home from work. My other two roommates were in Indianapolis. That evening, three huge black guys strolled into my apartment, put on loud rap music, and started drinking.

That is a very terrifying situation. Turns out, they were friends of LC and she'd invited them to come over while she was gone and had forgotten to tell me, and had given them her key. All of which, were really stupid ideas. They were nice guys, but to be honest, I could've been in a hell of a lot of trouble.

I remember my thought process very clearly. I sat shivering on my bed, wondering what the hell I should do (Avlbane's advice, as I was IMing her while this was occurring, was to GTFO) and I thought, 'If they wanted to, they could pound down my door. They could murder me, they could rape me, and no amount of judo and jujitsu training could save me, because there's three of them and one of me, and they're freaking giants. The only thing that could help me, would be a gun, and that was not allowed at my apartment complex.

I am a feminist, and a huge part of being a feminist is knowing how to defend myself, whether it be intellectually or physically. As a feminist, I believe it is vitally important that girls should learn to shoot. A gun can save your life. A gun HAS saved many people's lives. No, I don't think a gun is a magic weapon that can deliver us from all our problems. But I do believe it is a great equalizer, especially for women.

Guns aren't toys. They are weapons. They can be used for good or for evil, as we learned in the Arizona shootings. But they are not to blame for crime. A criminal can kill with a gun, but he can also kill with a knife, a bomb made out of household cleaning supplies, a lead pipe, or against me, with his bare hands.

Someone once asked me, wouldn't I prefer a world where guns were outlawed and I could walk down a city street without worry? No, I most certainly wouldn't prefer a world where guns were outlawed. I have news for you people, a person who is planning on stealing, murdering, or raping isn't going to let a little thing like gun laws stop him. All it's going to do is make me more helpless than nature has already done.

So what do I have to say about Regis Giles? You go girl! Bet my targets are better than yours. Come to my state, and we'll have a contest. Loser buys pizza.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm Not Okay

I don't deal with death well. I don't think I ever have. I don't think I ever will.

I was talking to a girl once. She's a sweet person, but she has a ton of New Age-y kinda beliefs, which are fun to listen to and think about. But I've noticed with those things, putting them in a practical setting is like eating cotton candy for dinner. It leaves you unsatisfied and maybe even pissed off. She was talking about how death was beautiful and natural, how there was goodness in death. I interrupted her and (politely, I hope) told her I thought that was bullshit.

The one thing everyone has in common is death. It's inevitable. You'd think after living on this planet for 50,000 years we'd be used to it by now.

You've probably guessed by now that someone close to me died recently. This is true. His name was Bill Kiely. He was a close family friend.

I hate how that sounds. It sounds impersonal, like it doesn't even mean anything. You're supposed to be allotted two grandfathers when you're born. Well, biologically, I only got one, because my father's father was an ass. Kiely was the second grandfather I was supposed to have. I'm sure my dad wouldn't have minded trading his biological father for Kiely.

For as long as I can remember, during the time that we've lived in St. Louis, we would go to Kiely's house for martial arts training. 'We' is used loosely. It was always my dad, sometimes my brothers, a few times my mom (more often when she was younger) and a lot of times me. We'd chat for a little bit and then at 4 sharp, go down to the basement and work out. Afterwards we'd go back upstairs for sodas and candy.

Every time I'd walk in the door, Kiely would immediately stand, hug me, and plant a big wet kiss on my cheek. He'd say, "Hi sweetie! How are you?" He'd call me sweetheart, precious, beautiful, and inform anyone in the general vicinity that I was a killer, and they'd better watch out. "She only looks sweet and innocent," He'd say with a knowing glint in his eye. Then my dad would gleefully relate the story of how I accidentally put my doctor in a finger lock, or how when I was sixteen I threatened a guy who tried to grab me with my knife. When we'd go downstairs how he'd take pictures of me standing, kneeling, or more commonly, while I was throwing a guy twice my size. He was so absolutely delighted when he gave me my green belt. He was so happy when I started to focus hardcore last summer on trying to get my brown belt. I know he wanted to promote me himself.

I don't like writing this in past tense.

As Kiely grew older, his health declined. He had trouble keeping his balance. I can't count the times my dad's yelled at him for trying to do a move that he wasn't supposed to be doing. He had a stroke over Christmas break, and it wasn't his first stroke. We visited him at the hospital, and he complained about wanting to leave. He hugged me and I sat across from him on his bed, and told him sternly that he needed to promise me that he'd be good and relax and let the doctors do whatever they needed to do. He promised me because he didn't like seeing me upset and concerned over him.

When I went back to my college, my dad told me to call him weekly. I'm ashamed to say I only called two or three times. I guess my brain wouldn't allow the possibility that he wouldn't always be there.

Last Sunday, my dad called me around noon. I was half-asleep, and when I'm sleepy and people call me on the phone I tend to stare at my caller ID, confused. I snapped out of my bewilderment and listened to my dad's voicemail and I knew something was wrong. He had his 'bad news' voice and the message told me to call him as soon as possible.

I called him back. He told me that earlier in the morning Kiely had passed away. Then my dad choked up and couldn't talk anymore.

It didn't seem real. I just sat there on my bed in shock for hours. It didn't feel real. It felt like it was some awful mistake, like I could call him up right now and hear his voice. It's felt like that for the past few days.

Till this morning, when everything just flooded at me all at once. When I come visit, and I go to Kiely's house on Sundays like I usually do, he's not going to be there. He's not going to call me 'sweetheart', 'beautiful', 'killer', 'vicious' ever again. If I ever do make it to brown belt, which I want, he's not going to get to see it. He's not going to argue with my dad about what he should or shouldn't be doing on the mats, they're not going to insult each other back and forth, he's not going to brag to other people about how I could single-handedly mutilate them...he's not going to, ever again.

I don't like writing him in past tense. He shouldn't be in past tense.

I'm not okay. I'm not dealing with this well. I'm dealing with this alone, because I'm 200 miles away from my family and that was my decision and it was a stupid decision because I want my mommy and daddy to hug me and cry with me and make me tea and never ever leave the safety of my down comforter again. I don't wanna be the grown-up anymore.

I'm not okay.