No, You Can’t

Hey, guys? I need you to trust me for a minute here. I’m going to ask you to do something, and I promise it’s going to make sense by the end of this post. Ok? Here goes:

1. Please stop whatever you’re doing and get a piece of masking tape, or a sticky note, or a piece of paper and some clear tape, or whatever you have handy that enables you to make a sign that you can affix to something else. It doesn’t need to be big or fancy, though you’ll be able to make it as ornate as you want in step #3.

2. Grab a pen, or a Sharpie, or a crayon, or whatever writing implement you happen to have nearby. It can be any color you want.

3. On your masking tape/sticky note/etc, please write–in great big, highly visible, as-fancy-as-you-want-them-to-be letters–a single word or short phrase that represents the person, place, or thing that is most critically important to you in the entire world (yes, you can have more than one. I’m not about to ask you to choose between your children). It can be anything you want: a loved one’s name, a concept like “freedom”, a destination like “the lake house”, anything at all–just aim for something that is so important to you that you would punch a charging rhinoceros in the face for it. This is the step where you can decorate your sign if you want to. Be as plain or as fancy as you like; it’s your art project, after all. You’re in charge here.

4. Now take your spiffy new sign to your car. If you’re being a naughty ninja and reading this at work, it’s ok to wait until your next break; but at the very next opportunity, go immediately to your vehicle with your sign in hand. Do not wait until tomorrow. Do it now.

5. Affix your sign to the interior of your car in a super-visible and easily reachable place. Your dashboard will probably work well for this.

Got it? Is your sign in place, or conveniently located so that you can go put it in place at the very next opportunity?

Good. Now here’s how you use it:

The next time you are driving your car and your cell phone rings, I want you to touch that sign you just made and say aloud–right out loud in front of god and everybody– “You are more important to me than this phone call”. Then let the call go to voice mail. If it is important, they will leave a message. If it’s not, your caller ID will let you know who it was. If it really is a call of critical importance, such as the hospital calling to ask you for your medical proxy decision about a loved one, they will understand if you wait until you can pull into a parking lot before calling them back. Heck, if the caller is a decent human being at all they will understand if you wait to pull into a parking lot before calling them back.

Here’s the deal: the other night, Moon Man and I were heading home from having Grand Adventures (usually this means going to dinner, seeing a movie, playing games at a coffeeshop–our sense of adventure is really pretty tame). As we drove down the street, we noticed that the driver ahead of us seemed to be drunk–they were weaving all over the place, having a heckuva time maintaining a consistent speed, etc–and as we passed them during one of their doing-20-in-a-45-zone stints, we noticed that the driver was on her cell phone.


Let’s get really honest with ourselves for a moment, gang. We’ve talked about this before, how I think one of the highest forms of respect is prioritizing safety over my text message, and that post got circulated and reposted and people were all “YEAH THIS IS TRUE PREACH ON I AGREE WOOOOO”…but seriously, if you’re really, truly, totally honest in your soul, how many of you actually ignore your phone while you’re driving? How many of you absolutely refuse to respond to your ringtone while you’re behind the wheel? How many of you truly never even peek at the text message?

Google “adults more likely to text and drive” if you’ve got a sec. See those 283 million results? Yeah, they’re pointing to something important: we spend all our time telling our kids and telling each other to hang up the phone, but somehow we’re all so convinced of our own superiority that we don’t think the rules apply to us. We tell ourselves that unlike the 16-year-old, we can totally multitask. We can have a conversation while we drive with no problem. We can absolutely answer one quick, easy text message, because we are grownups and we can handle it.

But you know what? No, you can’t. The lady swerving all over the road demonstrated that. The people in those PSA commercials demonstrate it.

The Mythbusters proved it, guys, that driving while talking on the phone is as dangerous as drunk driving. It didn’t even get a “plausible”–it got a full-on “confirmed”. You know it’s a big deal when the Mythbusters prove it.

So make your sign, and stick it somewhere visible in your car, and the next time you’re tempted to think you are the one and only person on the road who can truly handle being on the phone while you’re behind the wheel, think again. Then touch your sign, get your priorities back in order, and let the call go to voicemail and the text sit unread.

Thank you in advance for enabling me to get safely back to the person whose name on my own sign. I promise I’ll do everything I can to enable you to get back to the person named on yours.

Here's mine. ;)

Here’s mine. ;)

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings

This Is My House

This is my house.

Shown here, mid-garage sale three years ago.

Shown here, mid-garage sale three years ago.

The color of my house has no bearing on your life. The shape of my house has no bearing on your life. If I choose to change the way my house is painted, or if I choose to change the shape of the house via addition or removal, that has no bearing on your life.

The way I decorate my house has no bearing on your life. If my sense of aesthetics appeals to you, you are welcome to compliment me on my house’s appearance; but if your style choices would be different, that is information you may keep to yourself because I will not be changing my aesthetics based on your preferences. If I ask for your opinion or your advice, that is all I am asking for–it is not to be misconstrued as blanket permission, implicit or otherwise, to attempt to exert any control whatsoever over the choices I make with my house.

You cannot see it in this picture, but there is a flag on the front of my house. Frequently this flag will say “welcome”, or the doormat will say “welcome”, or there will be a sign on the door that says “welcome”. This also should not be misconstrued as a statement of universal permission. Because this is my house, I have complete unilateral control over who is or is not actually allowed to enter the house. If, for instance, you had come to the garage sale in the picture, the presence of a “welcome” mat by the door would not be assumed to be a statement of actual permission to enter the house.

Additionally, having received permission to enter the house once is not an automatic statement of permission to enter the house for all time. If you are invited to come in, I will say so, clearly and directly. If you are invited to come in anytime you want to, I will say so, clearly and directly. I will probably give you a key, or the code to the garage door. However, permission to visit is not automatically permission to stay; furthermore, because this is my house, I reserve the right to rescind your invitation at any time, with or without notice, regardless of whether you have been given “anytime” permission to enter previously.

This is my house. In my house, I make the rules.

This is my car.

Shown here, mid-snowstorm last winter.

Shown here, mid-snowstorm last winter.

The size of my car in relation to the size of your car has no bearing on your life, and it is not yours to comment upon. The color of my car has no bearing on your life. If I choose to change the paint color, that is my decision to make, and mine alone.

My car has a handy sliding door on the side for easy access. This is for my convenience, not yours. The fact that it is easy to get into my car should not be taken as blanket permission to climb aboard. The fact that my car is large enough to hold more than one person should not be taken as blanket permission to climb aboard. Having ridden in my car before should not be taken as blanket permission to climb aboard.

This is my car, and I–and I alone–have the authority to decide who may or may not drive or ride in it.

This is my body.

Shown here, in fancypants office holiday party attire at last year's fancypants office holiday party for Moon Man's job.

Shown here, in fancypants office holiday party attire at last year’s fancypants office holiday party for Moon Man’s job.

If we assume–as I do–that we are souls with bodies, that our bodies are not who we are but where we are, that our bodies are the house where our soul lives and the vehicle by which it gets around, then it seems reasonable to me to assume that social conventions about our houses and cars are also applicable to our bodies.

The size of my body in relation to the size of your body has no bearing on your life, and it is not yours to comment upon.

The way I paint or decorate my body is not relevant to your life, and if I ask for you opinion or advice, that is all I am asking for. My sense of aesthetics are not yours to control.

The decision to invite you to share my body as consenting adults is mine and mine alone. It is not a blanket statement of future permission, and I have the right to rescind your invitation at any time, with or without notice. If you are invited to share my body, you will know because I will tell you so, clearly and directly. The clothing I wear–even clothing that is easily removable–is for my convenience, not yours. Anything I wear or do that implies “welcome”–including flirting, joking, and giving you my telephone number–is the moral equivalent of a “welcome” mat on the porch and should not be misconstrued as an actual invitation. Again, if you are invited, you will know it because I will say so. I will use language that makes it spectacularly, abundantly, unmistakably clear that you have been invited. I will be frank. I will be direct. I will be obvious. If I have not been frank, direct, and obvious, then you may comport yourself as though you were a shopper at a garage sale, or a person observing my car in a parking lot: you may look, you may form opinions, you may compliment respectfully, but your permission ends there unless I personally tell you otherwise.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and frankly, it pisses me all the way off that this is even a thing. I am baffled by the idea that there are social conventions that govern how we interact with people’s houses and cars but somehow those rules don’t apply to people’s bodies. I am furious that there are people who cannot take their bodies’ safety for granted.

But above all, I am motivated to make sure that people know that regardless of the situation you may find yourself in, you are in fact in charge of your own body. If there is someone in your life who is not respecting that fact, you are allowed to get help. Tell someone. If that person doesn’t believe you, or cannot or will not help you, tell someone else. Keep telling people. There is someone out there who will help.

Because this is your body. You and you alone are in charge of it. It. Is. Yours.

If you or someone you love has been–or, god help me, is being–sexually assaulted, please contact RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at or 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). Counselors are available 24/7, and speaking with someone is free, confidential, and secure. 


Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings


Ok, look.

/climbs onto soapbox, tests microphone

I (/kick) have had it (/punch) up to here (/stomp) with “being charitable” (/smash) as a marketing ploy (/tableflip). Got it? I’m sick of it. Sick. Of. It.

Please start by taking a moment to read this letter from the owner of the Washington Redskins. I’ll wait.

/straightens table

/polishes kickin’ boots

…Do you see what he did there? Do you see it? For those of you who were unable to access the letter–maybe you’re at work and your company is not so big on people going to sports teams’ websites–here’s the summary in handy numbered-list format:

1. We hear that people might not like the name “Redskins”, on account of how it’s all racist and stuff. So we talked to some Real Live Indians(TM) about it, and learned that many of them are busy trying to do things like “not freeze to death” or “not starve to death” or “keep our youth from committing suicide” and not spending much time thinking about our team name.

2. Therefore, we’re keeping the name, because hey, look, the Real Live Indians(TM) themselves said it’s not keeping them up at night! Yayyyyy, no rebranding for us!

3. Also, suck it, liberals.

4. However, since some of you are just bound and determined to keep raising a stink about all this, we’ve set up a Charitable Organization for Giving Stuff to Real Live Indians(TM). See? We’re good people, y’all. You can tell by how we’re giving away some of our hard-earned dollars. Just giving it away! They don’t even have to do anything! We’re just giving it to them! So they can buy things–like for instance the Omaha nation in Nebraska bought a backhoe so they can bury their dead even when the ground is frozen. Like civilized people! No, no, no need to erect monuments to our generosity. Seeing these poor little brown people with coats on (did I tell you we bought some coats? We totally did) is thanks enough.

5. P.S., Still not changing the name.

Now, to be fair, I may have been a bit liberal (pun only sort of intended) with the paraphrasing there. Maybe he didn’t mean to come across as smug and entitled and weaselly as he did. Maybe he really does think he’s doing a good thing.

…Yeah, who am I kidding? No he doesn’t. He can’t possibly. I flatly refuse to believe in that level of obliviousness. If he is that clueless, I need him to stop being in charge of anything more complicated than the toaster immediately.

/flips table again

Here’s the thing, y’all. We see this sort of [rude word] all the time. Not interested in talking about the racism and privilege inherent in the use of the word “Redskins” (PS, that’s akin to calling your team “the Blackies” or “the Slant-Eyes”, guys. It’s a word used to group people based on race. Not cool.)? That’s ok. We can talk about something else.

Like the pink ribbon campaign, for instance. Did you know that Think Before You Pink is a thing? Basically, they’re an organization who encourages consumers to…well, do exactly what it says in the name (and I think it’s really telling that they exist at all). It’s oh-so-very fashionable these days to sport pink ribbons on as many things as possible–your shirt, your shoes, your lapel, your water bottle–but please stop telling yourself that your pink ribbon baseball cap is going to be the thing that leads to the cure. Seriously.

Because the companies that are shilling all these pink ribbon products? Yeah, they’re not in it for the health crusade. They’re in it for the sales. They’re in it to get you to “like” their Facebook page, so they can market to you directly in your newsfeed and so that you’ll buy more of their products because they’re “the good people who support breast cancer research”. Read the fine print–it’s unsettling how often you’ll find things like “Company X will donate up to $10,000 from the sale of these limited-edition Pink Ribbon nail polish stickers to an organization that supports breast cancer research”. Notice how they don’t tell you which organization you’re supporting, or how to tell whether they’ve already met the fundraising required to make that donation and now you’re just rewarding them for putting pink ribbons on things. That’s because they’re not in it to be good people. They’re in it to make a buck. Or several bucks. As many bucks as possible.

And don’t even get me started on the “post a selfie with no makeup to support something nebulous about breast cancer!” or “tee-hee, let’s all post a status like ‘I like it on the chair by the door’ which will sound dirty but we’re talking about where we like to keep our purses and the boys will never get it HAR HAR HAR we’re total sixth-graders and also BREAST CANCER, Y’ALL”. Or the “share this image to support the cause du jour”. Or–heaven help me–”one like = one respect!”.


What it all comes down to is a raging case of what I’m calling “faux-lanthropy”. It’s no longer about actually doing things to try to make the world a better place–it’s about appearing to do these things. Why get your hands dirty when you can “increase awareness” from the comfort of your sofa? Why donate actual cash dollars when you can donate a piece of your Facebook wall to a photo of an attractive person doing something symbolic? Why write a letter to your government official (pop quiz: name any three of your elected representatives, at any level of government, and think about how you voted in the election in which they won their seat. If you can’t do that, you need to change that immediately) when you can write a context-free status that’s the moral equivalent of a chain letter?

Why be a philanthropist, when you can just look like one? I mean, to be fair, yes, some of these companies are in fact donating actual goods and services to various organizations–but when you’re forecasting $10 million in sales of your latest pink hat and planning to donate a whopping great $10,000 of it…I mean, c’mon. Nobody is impressed with that.


I don’t have answers, really, except to tell you to get up off your tuckus and do something. Mail a check to the organization of your choice (seriously, send it straight to them. Don’t go through a third party, lest you end up accidentally donating to the wrong charity). Host a fund drive, or a rally, or a -thon of some sort. Here at the Buffalo Moon Ranch, we’re hosting a tabletop gaming party (on International Tabletop Day, woohoo!) that’s doubling as a food drive for a local organization. See? It doesn’t have to be a big difficult thing–you can have a party and quietly collect donations in the corner. Easy-peasy.

But for the love of all that’s holy, can we please, please please please, as a favor to me, stop rewarding these [very rude word] people for their faux-lanthropy? Quit applauding them for what is actually just their latest marketing campaign, and start applauding them only when they do something decent for its own sake.

Oh, and tell the Redskins to change their name. Seriously. I cannot understand why we’re still having that conversation.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings

The Book Reviews Have Moved!

Guess what, gang!

The Buffalo Book Reviews are getting a new home.

I’m a bibliophile. There’s no way around that bit of truth. So in the interest of not having my (really kinda ridiculous number of) book reviews jammin’ up the chi of the folks who are here for the Buffalo Tracts (and vice versa), I’ve started another site over at All the old reviews will stay active here, at least for now–call them a teaser, if you will–but any new reviews will live on BBR and BBR alone.

So if you want to come talk books with me–and really, please do come discuss with me, ’cause it’s just boring blabbing into the void, especially about books–that’s the place to do it. I’ll look forward to seeing y’all there!

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, The Bibliophilic Buffalo

That the Powerful Play Goes On and You May Contribute a Verse

“Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring…

…What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” –Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


Here’s the thing about poetry. Poetry does not have time for your b.s.

Poetry is not here for your shenanigans. It does not care about your posturing. It demands distillation, crystallization, honesty; it insists that you decide what you’re going to say and then pushes you to get to the business of saying it. It’s not going to set a word limit (for which Dante Aligheri and John Milton were profoundly grateful, no doubt), but generally speaking it’s going to start giving you the “wrap it up” gesture if it catches you pontificating. Poetry wants to you get in, get done, and get out. Wheelbarrow, rainwater, chickensDONE. Heavens, mother, blackred rosesOUT.

Today is World Poetry Day, and I’m guessing about 50% of you just threw up a little bit. Because you’re imagining poetry of the “OH thee, OHHHH thou” type, or you’re having flashbacks to videos of people screeching into microphones about how their mothers never loved them, or you’re feeling vaguely traumatized by daffodils and can’t really place why that is (hint: you’re thinking of “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud“, and I’m right there with you. Ugh.).

But fear not, we’re not here for Poetry 101. There are people significantly better qualified than I am to teach that course, and you’ve probably already had it anyway.

Instead we’re going to think about poetry as a way to live your life. Your entire life. (The other 50% of you just threw up. Sorry ’bout that. Stick with me–I promise I’m coming to a point here.)

The world has spent a lot of time in the last day or so talking about a Person Whose Name I’m Tired of Seeing Now, who passed away late Tuesday evening. You know the one I’m talking about. Big garish signs. Hate speech. Church in Topeka. That guy. I wrote an open letter to him here the other day, thanking him for the lessons I learned from watching him, but I’ve realized that I left one off: He’s a great–er, effective, ’cause I’m not comfortable saying anything about him was “great”–example of picking your passion and running with it. Sprinting. Tearing across the plains like you’re being chased by wild dogs. And while I do not agree with even one word of the things he was shouting as he sprinted, I kinda have to admire–actually, nope, we’re not using that word either, so let’s go with “acknowledge”–the focus behind his delivery.

This was not a person whose brand (as they say in marketing) was at all muddy. He was crystal-clear: you knew what he believed, what he stood for, what he thought, and what his opinions were about pretty much everything, whether or not those opinions seemed to have much sense. Or morality. Or sanity. I digress.

That’s exactly what I’m talking about when I say to “live your life like a poem”. Poetry (a much pleasanter topic than that other guy) demands the same sort of laser sight. Yes, there are myriad forms and variations to the structure of the stuff–you probably got to spend all sorts of time talking about sonnets and free verse and rhyming patterns and “metric feet” (which, yes, sounds like someone is very confused about how measurement systems work)–but generally speaking, for a thing to be poetry it needs to have a directness. You don’t get the 65,000 words of the average novel; for that wheelbarrow poem I mentioned earlier you get 16. That’s “sixteen”. Words. Total.

So you can go about your life pulling yourself in 64,000 directions, trying to be everything to everyone and do it all with style and grace and impeccable mascara, or you can take the time to sort out what it is that matters most to you and spend your days living that message at 100%.

Yes, it is ok to have more than one Thing That Matters Most; and yes, it is ok to wear many different hats. But I think it’s a good exercise, if nothing else, to pause occasionally and think about yourself as though you were about to be immortalized in verse: if your biographer had, say, the 14 lines of a sonnet to sum you up, would they have any idea where to start? Is there a message that shines through you every day of your life? Is it clear, once a person has gotten past the getting-to-know-you small talk, what it is that you’re about?

This isn’t a pass-fail thing, gang. It’s ok to say “Nope” to those questions, and it’s ok to say “Yes, but my Most Important Thing may change tomorrow”. It’s ok to have different key messages at different times of your life. It’s ok to evolve.

It’s ok to revise your poem, over and over, as you go. It’s ok to scrap your first few drafts altogether and write new ones, or to have different verses for the different phases of your life. Heck, if you’re doing particularly interesting things that each warrant their own section, go ahead and live like you’re starring in an epic by Homer (he’s the guy who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey). But take the time to winnow out the proverbial chaff. Shake off the things that are unimportant to you. Decide who you are and what you stand for, and place that front and center.

Cut the extra words, and live like a poem. ‘Cause a poem ain’t got time for your b.s.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings

Thank You, Fred Phelps

Dear Reverend Phelps,

Word has spread that your health may be failing. I am in no position to offer you anything but sympathy and my prayers: if you are to recover, may your recovery be swift and simple; and if it is your time to leave this life, may your transition be smooth and peaceful. I hope that your nearest and dearest are keeping you good company, and that you are comfortable and well-cared-for, wherever you may be. Illness can be a frightening time, and I hope that yours passes quickly.

But since recovery gets harder as we get older (it happens to us all) and someday the fight will simply be too much for your body, I want to take this opportunity to thank you while there is still a chance that you will (somehow) stumble across and read this blog post.

Thank you, Reverend Phelps.

I don’t suppose you hear that all that much these days. It’s pretty “in vogue” to publicly rebuke you, to curse your name and to sling hate at you. If we’re going to be completely honest here, I’m sure you can understand–you haven’t exactly been known for your “free puppy kisses and lollipops for everyone” approach to spreading your message. But I believe strongly in the idea that everyone who enters our lives is a blessing in some way or another–even if it takes a bit of soul-searching to find the blessing buried at the bottom–and you are no exception to that rule.

Here’s what I mean:

1. You’ve taught me about respect. If this is your first visit to BuffaloTracts, you may want to stop at this post before your blood pressure shoots too high, but if you’ve been here before, you know that you and I don’t really have a whole lot of beliefs in common. That’s ok; we don’t all have to agree. But the process of writing this letter–more precisely, the process of deciding how to address this letter–has really underscored what I’ve learned about the difference between agreement and respect; i.e., I don’t have to agree with a single thing you say to respect that, for instance, you have earned the title of “Reverend”, at least within your own organization. Whether I would join your church or not is irrelevant; and whether you would have any title at all in a church I would join is irrelevant; “Reverend” is your title in the church you lead, and “Reverend” you shall be called. It’s a respectful thing to do, much like calling the Pope “Your Holiness”. Thank you for helping me pin that down.

2. You’ve taught me that a person should never, ever be judged by their parentage. I went to school with a couple of your grandkids; as I recall, they were actually pretty nice folks. I mean, sure, we had to steer clear of certain topics, but even that was a good learning point: that it’s absolutely possible for people with radically different beliefs to coexist peacefully, as long as they’re all willing to play nicely and share the toys. And since I came from a lineage that included a lot of blue-collar folks but went to school with a lot of doctors’ and lawyers’ kids, I came in primed to feel inferior based on my background–but you and your grandchildren helped me see past that and start learning to recognize people’s individual merits regardless of what family tree they grew from. It did great things for my self-esteem, frankly. Thank you for that.

3. You’ve taught me that wildly disparate people can absolutely work together to achieve common goals. I think the various counterprotests around the nation are excellent examples of this–there is no way anyone can possibly convince me that every single person in the human wall at Aurora, or the human wall at Texas A&M, or the human wall at the University of Missouri, or the human wall at Newtown, or the human wall members of Angel Action, or the other human walls that come up when you search for “human wall Westboro Baptist Church” (about 425,000 hits when I searched just now–wow, that’s a lot of object lessons!) all knew each other before they arrived to form their walls on those days. But there they all were, some of them arm-in-arm, some of them wearing huge angel wings that they’d built for the occasion, some carrying signs, some revving motorcycle engines to drown out your chants–there they were, united by a common purpose. Total strangers. Working together. It brings a tear to my eye every time. Thank you for that.

I suppose the bottom line here, Reverend, is this:


I have (again with the honesty) absolutely not enjoyed the experience of interacting with you. We are not friends, and we are not particularly likely ever to be friends. I have not enjoyed seeing you on the streets of my childhood hometown, I have not enjoyed having your signs as part of the background scenery as I grew up, I have not enjoyed watching you gain a national stage, I have not enjoyed seeing Topeka’s private shame get international press, and I have not enjoyed witnessing the hurt and anger and fear your message has caused.

But I have learned to appreciate your existence for the lessons you have taught: about respecting someone despite fundamentally disagreeing with them; about basing your opinion of someone solely on that person’s own merits and actions; and about people’s abilities to overlook their differences in pursuit of a higher common goal. All those lessons, I think, were important in deepening my relationship with god. My god–not your God, because they are not the same entity at all.

If the role of a pastor is to bring people closer to the Divine, then by gosh, I reckon you’ve done it. For me, a woman whose sexuality and beliefs and politics would absolutely have inspired a garishly colored sign had you and I ever met in person.

Thank you for that, Reverend. You’ve done your work. Now rest comfortably, recover quickly if that is to be your fate, or transition gracefully if your time here is done. You’ll be in my prayers–whether you want to be or not.

Blessings to you,

Mama BW


Update, March 20, 2014: Fred Phelps has passed away. I hope his transition was peaceful and that he was surrounded by love as he left this life and entered the next stage of his soul’s grand adventure. I will continue to pray for his family’s peace during this difficult time for them–it is never easy to lose someone you love–and I trust that we will all take this opportunity to tell our own loved ones how much they mean to us. Remember, gang, today also happens to be Mr. Rogers’ birthday; let’s all be good neighbors and make careful choices about which Fred we want to be most like. Love you hooligans.


Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

BBR: I Was Told There’d Be Cake, by Sloane Crosley

Wellp, it was bound to happen sooner or later: we have found a book that I didn’t particularly like.

I’m usually pretty lucky with books–I’m quite picky, but I’ve learned to read all the back cover/front flap/back flap/summary/copyright page/etc stuff plus a few random sample paragraphs while I’m still at the bookstore, deciding whether or not to buy a particular title. This weeds out a lot of books before we even get started. The few that slip through are usually there on recommendation, or because I found the title in an online list or roundup or some such and decided to take a risk.

That latter bit is exactly what happened with Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake.

A pity, because the cover is weirdly charming.

A pity, because the cover is weirdly charming.

I’m pretty sure I ran across this title in an “if you liked X, then you’ll like Y” list somewhere. So I hunted it down online, learned that it’s a collection of humorous memoirs, and read a few sample pages of the first story, “The Pony Problem”…and she hooked me.

“The Pony Problem” talks about how Crosley’s offhand, jokey response to everything is “ponies”…as in, “What would you like to do this weekend?” / “Go pony riding!”. Or “What do you want for your birthday?” / “A pony!”. I found this extra-hilarious because I do exactly the same thing (I totally thought I was the only one). It’s been my running schtick for ages now. So it cracked me up to hear that someone else did the same thing, and I ordered the book immediately.

And then it arrived, and I sat down and read “The Pony Problem”, and chuckled my way through it; but then as the essays kept coming and I kept reading, I found myself being less and less…well, interested.

It’s like–ok, imagine your first day at a new job. You’ve come in, you’ve met the people, and now it’s your first lunch break. So one of the gals invites you to sit with her, and you get to chatting, and discover some superficial similarities–same college major, an overlapping idiosyncrasy or two–and by the end of lunch you’re feeling pretty groovy, thinking you’ve made a nifty new work friend.

But as time progresses and you get to know your other coworkers, you realize there are actually other folks with whom you have a lot more in common than you do with First Day Lunch Pal. It never reaches the point of shunning First Day Pal altogether–I mean, you’re not a horrible person, and she really is pretty nice, and maybe you still have lunch together every now and again–but she has her Close Work Friends and you develop your Close Work Friends and you and she pretty much just stay in the Nice Enough People But They’re Not Getting Invited to My Wedding sphere.

And that’s ok. You don’t have to be BFF with everyone you meet. And someday, when that job is a blip in the rearview mirror of your life, you realize that there are a few folks with whom you are still Facebook friends and whom you still invite to your parties, while First Day Pal’s last name has mostly slipped your mind (though you’re pretty sure it started with an M, or possibly an N? Or a P?).

That’s a really roundabout way to describe it, but it’s pretty much exactly how I felt about Crosley: she’s pretty much my literary First Day Pal. Her essays are amusing, sure; but we come from radically different planets, without enough overlap for me to really be able to identify with her. We share some superficial similarities (“hey, I like books too! Wouldja lookit that.”), but not enough to sustain more than basic small talk if we showed up at the same party. And we’re moved by different things–she’s got that New York ambition thing going, and I’ve got the laid-back Kansas approach to the world.

All of which meant that reading her memoirs felt…well, anthropological, I guess. I spent a lot of time trying to wrap my brain around her, and just plain failing; and eventually I decided that since I was reading this for fun and not for a class–and since I’m a grownup with an English degree which means I’ve read quite enough books of other people’s choosing, thankyouverymuch, and now I get to pick my own–I was allowed to set it down and walk away. I made it about halfway through, and that was enough for me, in the same way that having lunch with First Day Pal every couple of weeks is plenty, and there’ll be no need to invite her over for a crafting afternoon.

So I’m not saying this is a terrible book–it’s funny in places, and some folks will really get a kick out of Crosley’s misadventures and her writing style. It just wasn’t for me. Y’know, like blue cheese, or Seinfeld.

TL;DR: Humorous and quirky, I Was Told There’d Be Cake is a series of memoir essays by Sloane Crosley–who I’m sure is a delightful gal, but I found that we didn’t really have enough in common for me to go out of my way to finish reading the book. I’m sure others will get a huge kick out of it; it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Rating: 6.5/10 Muddy Hoofprints, but again, don’t let that scare you off. You should really, really give her a try–she might end up being your new favorite author. She just didn’t move me, and so I have to give her a rating that reflects my “meh” response. It ain’t personal. Mama BW still loves all the children of the choir.

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