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#WeekendCoffeeShare: Don’t Rain on My Parade

If we were having coffee, we’d probably be in the calm-before-the-storm today, or maybe you’ll catch me in the midst of the storm itself. And that may be a literal storm, or it might just be figurative storm of all the things we have planned. We’re supposed to get quite a bit of rain over the next few days as the temperature here changes again, but I’m hoping that it will hold off for a while and not ruin our plans. We’re taking Little Jedi for a haircut, and then we’re hopping to the business district for the annual Christmas parade. Afterward, we need to make a stop by the library to pick up some books that are on hold for me and by the store for a few things, and Little Jedi’s friend is coming home with him for the night. Then I’ve got to sit down and grade the final projects for one of my classes, as those final grades are due Monday.

Oddly, the final grades for my other classes aren’t due until Wednesday. The community college I’m teaching at now requires final grades in two stages, according to when the final exam takes place. Of course, I don’t give final exams–they’re just not very helpful in figuring out what students learn in writing courses–but my students do have a final revision to turn in, and that’s what I’m working on grading before I average their grades and put them into the system.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this week has been another step closer to getting myself back on track. Monday was the last teaching day this semester, and though I’ve answered a flurry of emails this week, the only other day I had to go in was Thursday for office hours and to collect final projects. I spent the rest of the week reading and playing video games and refusing to acknowledge that the world is falling down, so now I feel a little bit more able to deal with things.

For now, though, I need to grab a shower and make myself ready for the merriment of the day. I’ll be back next week for more coffee, and I’ll have a few announcements to make, too!🙂

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#WeekendCoffeeShare: Recovery

If we were having coffee, we’d probably be sitting on the big purple couch today. It’s nice outside, of course–fall weather is finally beginning to set in here, and the temperatures are no longer unbearable–but I’m still feeling the urge to cocoon rather than be out among the world, and taking Tank to the vet in a few hours is probably enough outside interaction for me.

Ah, yes—it’s time for the pup’s annual check-up. We’re seeing a new vet this time so that we don’t have to cross the river to get to our old one. And while Tank has never seemed to mind the vet much at all, he absolutely hates riding in a car, which is why I scheduled his appointment on a Saturday–so that Sam can drive and I can hold the unhappy pup in the car.

Afterward, we’ll all end up back here, a little disheveled and covered in fur, and Sam and I are going to work on rearranging and pulling out our Christmas decorations. It might be a wee early for some folks, but tradition in my family was always to put up the tree on just after Thanksgiving. It helped with the emptiness after we’d parted ways with visitors, especially once my brothers moved out and it was just my mom, dad, and me at home.

We’re not actually going to trim the tree today, but we are going to move some furniture around (our new, smaller space dictates that we store a thing or two in the closets during the holidays to make room for the decorations) and get the tree ready to decorate. Tomorrow, Little Jedi will be coming home from a week at his dad’s house, so we’ll all decorate the tree together.

*****

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this has been a conflicted kind of Thanksgiving for me, and I’m glad that it worked out so that we could mostly stay at home together, just Sam and me, and do our own thing. Traditionally, we travel to one of our family’s places and meet up with a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relations for food and catching up. And, traditionally, that works out.

But this year, for various reasons, we stayed at home, our home. This week, Little Jedi was gone this year, visiting his bio dad and their family. I was off work and home alone on Wednesday, which I used for playing lots of Lego Jurassic World and reading. On Thursday, Sam and I cleaned the house and then watched hours of Westworld, which we hadn’t seen any of yet thanks to all the other things we’ve been watching. It was such a good show that we watched the episodes we hadn’t finished yesterday so that we’ll be ready for the new episode tomorrow night. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law visited us yesterday for a Thanksgiving lunch, which was laid back and just the right sort of holiday. No one was required to say what they were thankful for or to pretend not to be concerned about the current political situation. And there was no mention of the holiday’s association with Puritans and Native Americans, no pretense about our national history—a thing that always confused me about Thanksgiving when I was a kid and continues to puzzle me as an adult.

Anyway, all of that aside, it was a good week. A sedate week, to be sure, but a good one for recovery. And now I’m headed into the last part of the semester here, teaching my final class of the semester on Monday before starting to grade revisions and final essays. Little Jedi still has a few weeks left before he’s finished for the holidays, so I’ll have some time to myself this December. And while I’m sure I’ll be using some of that time to relax, I’ll also be using it to do the Christmas shopping, working on syllabi for next semester, and get some blogging work done–including writing some new posts.

Thanks for sticking with me, readers. We’ll keep having coffee on the weekends, and in January you’ll see more than just coffee posts, plus you’ll be able to find me at Comparative Geeks and Field of Letters–both of which are running some exemplary content now, by the by, so go visit them!

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#WeekendCoffeeShare: In Which I am Late

If we were having coffee, I would apologize for my tardiness! I’m so sorry to have missed you all yesterday—the link-up will be open until Tuesday for those who still want to share their posts. But this weekend has been a much-needed time of relaxation and fun for me, and I just didn’t manage to get anything written before the weekend began.

I’m still having a tough time with my election woes, and although I’ve been working on taking concrete steps to help, I’m still having difficulty with the entire debacle. It seems to be growing worse every day, with racist and sexist individuals being proposed as high-level officials under the incumbent POTUS, and frankly, it’s all very frightening.

I’ve also been busy this week with work. We are nearing the end of the semester, which means that everything needs to be finished up in the next few weeks. I graded quite a lot of research papers this week, and I’ve been working with my students so that they can produce revised, multimedia versions of their research papers for their final projects. Our last class day is the day after Thanksgiving, so I will only meet with some of my students—the students in my Tuesday/Thursday class don’t have a class after Thanksgiving, so our last meeting is this upcoming Tuesday. And then, once the teaching itself is done, I’ll need to grade their finals and have their grades input by the first week of December.

This weekend, though, I spent having fun. An old friend came to visit–she got here Friday afternoon with her pup in tow, a Yorkie-Pom who just absolutely delights Little Jedi. A new XBox One also arrived at our house on Friday, so we moved the old 360 into our room. Little Jedi had been saving all year and finally had enough cash, so we ordered him a 1TB Halo Guardians console, and he’s happy as a clam. I’m also happy to have the 360 in our room—I’ve spent a few hours lying in bed, playing Lego Jurassic World.

Yesterday, we got ourselves up rather early so that we could make the drive to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores (about a 3 hour drive), where we got to pet kangaroos, sloths, anteaters, and lemurs. We also got to feed some of the other animals there, including a capybara (one of my faaaaavorite creatures)! SO MUCH FUN! And definitely worth the drive. I’d been there with my friend several years ago to pet tiger cubs, and when she mentioned the other animal encounters, we decided to drive over. It was such a day of stress relief and fun.🙂

And now, friends, I must away. I’ve done nothing productive, unfortunately, and there are still things to be done before the ‘morrow. But aaaah, how I’m looking forward to the holiday this week!

*****

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#WeekendCoffeeShare: Election Week

If we were having coffee, friends, I would be very honest with you: I’m weary, and I’m sad. If I thought last week was dark and full of terrors, it was nothing compared to this one. I think that will be difficult for some people to understand, but let me try to explain.

When Donald Trump won the presidential election, my heart broke. My heart broke for me and for thousands of other Americans, millions of us, who feel we have just been told we do not matter. As a person with quite a lot of privileges–a traditional, heterosexual marriage, being white and CIS-gendered, and able-bodied. But as a woman–a woman with anxiety and depression, a woman who is bisexual and does not identify with the Christian religion any longer–I am afraid. And if I am afraid, with the privileges I do have, I cannot imagine how members of groups who have been more specifically targeted by Trump and his supporters. I’ve already heard stories of people who have been targeted in acts of vandalism, assault, and intimidation–some of them from people I know well. My heart is aching for them. And while I know that protesters have caused some major damage in cities (in New Orleans, for instance, an (in)famous statue was spray-painted during a protest), I overlook those as acts of people who are angry, hurt, and afraid, people who have little other recourse. These are the acts of the disenfranchised–we’ve just elected a vice-president who believes that electrocution therapy can “cure” a gay person; and we elected a president who wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and has vowed to stop Muslim immigrants from entering the country, who was recording saying that he could sexually assault a woman, he could “grab her by the pussy,” mostly because he was famous. We’re right to be afraid.

And here’s the other thing. If my 7 year old, who only sees bits and pieces of the election on the news when he sees it at his grandparents’ house–if he can figure out that Donald Trump is “just mean,” then it should be easy for adults to see that. And it should matter.

It should matter a lot.

I’m not worried about making America great again. I want to make it kind, is what I want to make it. Because I think that only when America is kind can it be great. Those “great” times that are often talked about–they were bad times for women, especially women of color. They were difficult for all peoples of color, but women of color in particular have always born a heavy load in this country. America has not been kind to its people, not all of them, not ever. Native Americans were killed and driven to live in reservations, often the least fertile land in an area–and they are still fighting to preserve what little has been left them. Africans were brought to this new world and forced into slavery; when the practice was finally outlawed (and only after the nation had fought a war did that happen), black Americans were placed under massive amounts of restrictions and forced into a second-class citizenry. Black Americans have been vilified as they have struggled to gain rights that were naturally accorded to white Americans. And women have been subjugated in all kinds of ways, only gaining the vote because they were willing to starve and bleed for it, only making their way into positions of power by enduring sexism and sexual harassment, still fighting to maintain the right to family planning and birth control in a world where Viagra is covered by virtually every insurance company.

I want to make America kind. To all of us. And so I was devastated to wake up to a world in which Donald Trump is the president elect, because he is an unkind man. In my estimation, there is no justification for voting in a candidate with such unkind, unfair ideas about his fellow humans. This has proven to be an unpopular opinion, especially with my family and many of the people I have known since I was young. Many of them were blinded by their own sexism or racism, unacknowledged but existent. Some others may have honestly been voting for some policy or another, or simply because they are exhausted by career politicians. But the thing is–in order to cast that vote, you must reconcile the racism, sexism, and disrespect that defined Trump’s candidacy. And I could never do that.

And so, friends, it has been a sad week for me. I am sad, and I am afraid. But I’m not stagnant. I’ve been in communication with friends and groups about ways to organize and help one another, help groups who need it. If you know of ways to do that, I invite you to post them in the comments section–and especially to use it to talk with one another.

I promise to make my way to your comments this weekend, and although I’ll be scarce from now until January, only posting coffee shares, rest assured that I will be using December to create some all-new content for Part-Time Monster, Comparative Geeks, and Field of Letters. Expect to see more political comments and conversation here, but except to keep some books and monsters roaming about. More about the plans next week, though.

******

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#WeekendCoffeeShare: In Which the Week is Long and Full of Terrors

If we were having coffee, we’d be on the move this morning. I’m in Mississippi with the Little Jedi, visiting Gene’O and his family and making a trip to the pumpkin patch before visiting my parents this evening. My mom had surgery this week (an outpatient procedure, so no worries), and since we won’t be visiting over Thanksgiving, we decided to make the trip down for the weekend.

The little fellas don’t have many more years of pumpkin patch visits left before they’re over and done—in fact this might be the last—so we wanted to take them while we can. Of course, we totally intended to make our visit prior to Halloween instead of on the last pumpkin patch weekend just after Halloween, but everyone’s schedules were quite packed, and since this visit coincided with visit my parents after Mom’s surgery, it worked out well.

Of course, this is The Trip that Almost Wasn’t, because yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had in a very, very long time, and it came after quite a long week full of things to do. Monday was Halloween, of course, and the day was a full one. Little Jedi’s school got out at noon, and there was a parent-teacher conference, and then of course in the evening there was trick-or-treating. Tuesday, he stayed out of school because we had to visit the pulmonologist for an asthma check-up. I graded about 50 essays this week, too.

Yesterday started with a co-worker closing the reading I was doing on a computer in our office—I took a 2 minute trip to the restroom, and when I came back, rather sitting at the empty station next to where I had been reading, she’d closed my reading and sat down at the computer I was using. Then during class I was talking with one of my students about some personal issues–things that I can’t disclose here, but that weigh heavily on my mind. After that, I spent about 3 1/2 hours in the DMV to get a copy of my license, which I lost last weekend, only to find out that there’s a block on my license and I’ll need to pay a $780 fine for about 5 days of a lapse in insurance coverage (during a time when I was unemployed and some difficult decisions had to be made about what got paid and what did not) before I can even get a copy. I don’t just have that kind of money sitting in my account, so the license has to wait.

By the time we finally got ourselves on the road yesterday afternoon and got to Mississippi, I was glad to be able to relax and spend some time with my family. Given today’s plans, I’m sure that it will be a much more pleasant afternoon.

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And now, friends, it’s time for me to be away—there is a pumpkin patch to visit, and there are little boys to hang out with, and the day is moving along quickly.

Link up your coffee posts below! Just please follow our few little rules:
1. Posts should be framed as a chat over coffee or some other beverage.
2. Posts should be current (written within the week).
3. Links go on the link-up, not in the comments section.
4. Comment and share each others’ posts using #weekendcoffeeshare on Facebook and Twitter!

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#WeekendCoffeeShare: In Which I am on the Move

If we were having coffee, I’d be sneaking in a bit late today. We were up late last night, watching movies and  eating Halloween candy. Oops! So I suppose I’ll be needing a rather large cup of coffee this morning, as I have quite a lot to do today…I have a few papers still to grade, and I have quite a bit of work to do on pulling together a costume for tonight’s events.

Little Jedi is visiting his dad for the weekend, so Sam and I are planning to wander about, possibly do some people watching before we go to a Halloween ball. Of course, I completely meant to have a costume together before now, but the month has been a fairly difficult one on an emotional level (ah, the life of an anxious person in a particularly tenuous election year!), and financial circumstances have dictated waiting until the last minute to purchase a few things (ah, the life of an academic!). So at some point in the next few hours, I’ll have to wander into the costume closet and see what I can throw together with what we already have and some make-up, and possibly make a last-minute trip for a thing or two to finish up the whatever-it-is that I’m going to be. I have a few ideas, at least.

Ideally, I’d like to get in a nap before tonight, so that I’m not ready to come home and go back to bed at midnight. But if I don’t manage that, at least I’ll have lots of coffee! And though I’m terribly sorry for the short-short this week—it’s time to get a move on for me! Happy Halloween weekend to everyone!

*****

Top 10 Tuesday: My Favorite Horror Stories

Each week, The Broke and the Bookish holds Top Ten Tuesday, a book blogging meme. It’s been quite a while since I’ve joined in, but I’ve decided to bring the feature back to the Monster. I always enjoy creating reading lists and discussing them in the comments sections. This week, I’m listing my favorite horror stories. Feel free to leave your suggestions and additions in the comments section, and go visit The Broke and the Bookish for more Halloween-themed book lists!

besthorrorstories

Monster Monday: Azeman

Today’s Monster Monday post comes from Robin Rivera, who is trained as a professional historian, but now puts those skills to use writing speculative fiction for young adults. Robin is culturally from a mix of mostly Latin American cultures, and she writes about Hispanic myths for her contribution to Part-Time Monster’s Monster Monday column. She blogs full-time at Write On, Sisters about fiction writing craft.

October always makes me dream of monsters and the monsters I love best are the classics, particularly vampires. There is just something about vampires and the fact that they live off our blood that makes them seriously scary creatures.

Vampire lore is often pretty universal, but there are exceptions to the norm. About a year ago, I wrote a post about a collection of Latin American vampires that didn’t act like traditional vampires at all. But that trio was just the beginning. Latin America has so many unusual vampires, that I decided to introduce you to another one today, the Azeman.

The Azeman are a group of female vampires found only in South American. They are best known in Suriname, a small country located on the northern tip of the continent. It’s sandwiched on the east by French Guiana, on the west by Guyana and the south by Brazil. It was once part of the Dutch colonies.

The myth of the Azeman says they are shape shifters, creatures that turn into something otherworldly but only at night. The women often take one of two preferred shapes; they will become a bat creature, or something like a wolf. Part of the Azeman myth is the woman wraps herself in a long animal skin cloak, and it’s believed that the cloak is part of their transformative process. During the daylight an Azeman will pass as a normal woman. This double life aspect of the Azeman marks her as very different from the traditional undead vampires. Although the Azeman will not shun the daylight hours, some versions of the myth say she will avoid full sun.

At night, while in her non-human form the Azeman will search for victims. The preferred method of attack is to find someone sleeping with their feet exposed. The Azeman will zero in on their juicy big toe and suck away. I image it’s not the best location for taste, but I do love a monster that knows what she likes. The Azeman bite is seldom fatal, however she can spread diseases and her bite will leave the victim weak, while she glows with new vitality.

Only woman can be an Azeman, and some versions of the myth closely resembling other vampire lore, and suggest biting is how the Azeman creates more sister monsters. However, in other version of the creation story, a mature Azeman must mate with a human man while in her nighttime form and give birth to another Azeman. The mating process is a bit fuzzy. One version says she bewitches the man, makes him forget the encounter and sends them home once she is pregnant. The other version is she becomes her bat like creature self and draws the man into the folds of her leathery wings. This method leaves the man conscious of his peril, but trapped. The Azeman keeps the man this way until she grow tired of him, gets pregnant and/or possibly eats him. As I said, it’s a bit fuzzy.

Lucky for us, there are several ways of defending yourself against the Azeman.

The Azeman, like many other vampires, loves to count. It’s rather an obsession. Survivors of Azeman encounters say they threw coins or large bags of seeds in front of the advancing vampire. When she stopped dead in her tracks to count ever single item, they were able to run away.

This is also why people are advised to place a broom with a lot of bristles across the threshold of their home at night. The Azeman will never cross a broom without counting every bristle first. This either gives the people inside the home time to get away or if they are very lucky, the Azeman will still be standing there counting in the morning. This is suggested as the best way to unmask an Azeman and prove she is not a normal human.

Another method advises snatching off her animal skin cloak and destroying it. Some believe the cloak is the only magical source of the Azeman’s power and without it she will return to her human form permanently.

Another method says you should coat the Azeman with pepper. They are known for having sensitive skin and the pepper will cause an immediate reaction similar to being allergic. The pepper will also interfere with the absorption of power from the cloak making shape shifting and feeding impossible. Unable to feed, the Azeman will starve to death. While in her human form the Azeman is susceptible to every lethal means, but starving her is supposed to be the only way to kill the creature in the nighttime form.

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#WeekendCoffeeShare: In Which I Fall Down, Then Get Back up Again

If we were having coffee, I would tell you hello and welcome you in. It’s likely that I’ve had more than a single cup this morning, as I’ve been dragging quite a bit this week and need to get started on a busy day. My car needs to be taken into the shop for a fix on a recall…Evidently, sometimes the passenger airbags of my particular model of Honda shoot out shrapnel when they’re deployed. Yeesh. Anyhow, after that, there are some things I volunteered to get going for the nonprofit, and I have a pile of annotated bibliographies in need of grading. And over in the evening, we’re taking Little Jedi and ourselves out to the annual Halloween parade, then coming back home to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, complete with pizza and Halloween candy.

So…Busy day ahead.

*****

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this week has been incredibly challenging, and I haven’t gotten nearly enough finished, but I’m just glad to still be going at this point. My anxiety hit me hard this week, exacerbated by the PMS that started early in the week. Monday was especially challenging, and it was difficult to keep myself at work and on-task. I did manage to get myself through the workday and back home, and I even managed to write a bit about feeling that way…But then I was so drained that I didn’t really write anymore this week.

In the coming week, though, there will be more Halloween-y content here. There will be a Monster Monday from Robin of WriteOnSisters, and I’ll have some content later in the week about horror reads for adults and some read aloud ideas for the kiddos—especially appropriate since I’m set to visit Little Jedi’s classroom on Thursday to read a story during their English class.

I’m getting myself going again.🙂

*****

Link up your coffee posts below! Just please follow our few little rules:
1. Posts should be framed as a chat over coffee or some other beverage.
2. Posts should be current (written within the week).
3. Links go on the link-up, not in the comments section.
4. Comment and share each others’ posts using #weekendcoffeeshare on Facebook and Twitter!

In Which I Make an Extended Metaphor

Today is a difficult day. An impossible day. A day that I wish I could’ve stayed in bed. The noises of the office, the buzz of people talking, typing, laughing, chewing–living their lives–feels too big and too loud. Even the sound of my own fingers hitting the keys as I type this is Just Too Much. Today is a day I’ll cry on the way home, out of exhaustion and frustration and sheer sadness.

Today is a day that I have to deal with my monster. Well…Every day is a day that I have to deal with my monster. She never goes away, really. But sometimes she is small and easily sated. When she is medicated, she is a Good Monster, a Watchful Monster. Other times, like today, she is big and bossy and horrid.

And yet.

And yet, I have to teach. I have to walk into a classroom full of college students (two rooms, actually), and command respect and diligence from my students. I have to talk to them, and I have to listen to them. I have to be attentive to what they need from me. I have to do my job. At a time when every noise I hear makes me wish I could curl further into the fetal position, I have to be upright and on-task.

And that’s what life is like for me–knowing that I must be upright when there’s a literal weight and heft to my anxiety pushing me downward. Being out of bed and out of home instead of being bundled under the covers, my pup curled next to me. Even when it’s difficult to move through the day, I must move through it. This is what I must do, not every day, but many days.

There are lots of days when just getting out of bed, going through the routine of bathing, getting dressed, and getting the breakfast-and-medication routine finished, zaps whatever energy I have. That’s today, a Monday that has brought both a rise in anxiety and some PMS symptoms. Those are beasts, both of them. Big, ugly monsters–bossy ones, at that. But I can’t stay in bed, and I can’t avoid the things that need to be done. I either have to do what needs to be done or forfeit some part(s) of my life, a thing that I am unable (and unwilling) to do. The bills still have to be paid, the child and dog still need to be taken care of, my students still have to be taught, and I still have to keep going.

I’ve been reading up on the Spoon Theory today, wondering if I can use it to help explain how my anxiety and depression work. And to a certain extent, it does work–I have a finite amount of energy each day, and I must consider which tasks have to be done and which can wait. But my illness deviates from Spoon Theory, perhaps because it is of a mental rather than physical nature–or perhaps just because we’re all different, and there is no one-size-fits-all way of explaining what it’s like to live with an illness.

Some days, I wake up and bounce out of bed, moving through the getting-ready-to-be-out-in-the-world phase pretty quickly and easily. Some days, it’s easy to face my classroom full of students–and there are times when it even gives me some spoons back, almost like re-charging. On those days, the monster sits quietly by, attentive but not active. Leashed. (Modern medicine is a Wonder, and it is Key to Keeping the Monster on a Leash.)

And then some days (like today), getting out of bed feels like slogging through mud–with an unruly, awful critter screaming at me to hurry up. That I’m not doing well enough. That I’m weak. That the world is big and ugly and always will be. That I’m insignificant. These taunts make me so afraid that I start dropping spoons. And once I start dropping spoons, it’s difficult to get them back. Everything is scary, and nothing is good enough.

Some days (like today), I start thinking about how I’ll have the energy to parent, because if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I need spoons when Little Jedi is home. I need spoons when he’s home so that I can find him something to snack on, help with homework, and give him the emotional and mental support and care that he needs from his mother. And if there’s one thing that I’m afraid of, especially on a day like today, it’s that I’m doing him a disservice by using up my spoons on the rest of the world. And so the monster grows louder, needier.

That monster–that loud, mean monster–is more difficult to quiet on some days than others. And while I am lucky enough to have a wonderful, supportive spouse and a fantastic kid and a comfortable home, none of those things can make the monster quieter.

On these days, we wait for the monster to wear herself out.