Saturday, March 24, 2012


I enjoy memories. Lots of things trigger memories for me, but nothing is more of a powerful reminder than a song. Songs allow me to travel back in time and remember people and experiences with staggering, emotional detail. I’ve written about this before (“Whenever I hear your heart talking, it’s a song…” and  Songs for learning and performing...), but I always think it is important to write about it when it happens.

Early this week, I finished The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist, a book about writing, which was written by my favorite writing professor from college, John McNally (It was really good!). It made me miss my writing workshops in college and my writing friends. There is a special bond between writers in a workshop. No matter how much protection the teacher provides, it is difficult to write a story, which you pour your heart into, and then hand it over to a group of people for critique. It is a scary process, but you learn to trust the people around you, and you grow as a writer and become more confident in your skills. I made a couple of amazing friends in the process. It is definitely an experience that makes people close. I haven’t found another group like that since, and I really miss it.

When I heard My Name is Jonas on Lithium, I was already reminiscing about college and workshopping, but it zeroed me in on a very special semester I spent hanging out with my friend Tom.

I met him in my second semester of college in my first writing class. He stood up the first day of class and explained (or complained) about how much Tampa sucks. He was opinionated and completely snarky. I liked him immediately.

A few years later in a semester between our workshops, we both ended up in this crazy exit requirement course about consumerism and advertising. It was an interesting class, but the other kids in the class were beyond ridiculous. In particular, one guy had spent a summer living with the Amish, and he mentioned it whenever possible (like every five minutes). He was particularly excited about Amish eggs. Tom and I sat together in the back of the class. Whenever the Amish kid's arm shot up, Tom and I would roll our eyes at each other. It would have made a phenomenal drinking game.  We were almost kicked out of class multiple times for our fits of laughter, which usually followed an Amish egg comment.

Each day after class, we’d hang out for hours outside of Cooper Hall. There was a paved parking area for golf carts near this big field where we’d sit on the curb. We laughed about class and everything else. Typically in other semesters, we were always surrounded by all of our writer friends from our workshops, so it was one of the first times we hung out alone. We had always connected and liked each other, but without anyone else around, we grew closer quickly. Our conversations were easy, and we spent those hours together laughing. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed so much with anyone else and still feel a happy weight in my heart when I think about it.

For fun, we would people watch and add commentary. We tried to one-up each other in an effort to get the other one to laugh harder. Maybe it was something with being writers, but it was hysterical and fun. One afternoon, a painfully nerdy guy walked past us. I think he was wearing a cloak. I looked at Tom, and completely calm, he turned to me and said, “His name is Jonas.” It was so simple, but so completely perfect. We both laughed. He definitely won that day.

I hope that wherever Tom is now, he remembers that day and it makes him laugh too. I loved those afternoons. My Name is Jonas always makes me laugh and think of him.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why I Became a Vegetarian

I became a vegetarian a year ago. Normally, I avoid mentioning it because of the way that people react. Some get defensive. Some get apologetic. Some are curious. Some worry far too much about offending me. I’m not writing this to convert you. I’m writing this because a lot of people have asked me questions about why I changed, and I wanted to explain how I got here.

I never really liked to eat meat. It always sat like a lump in my stomach and made me uncomfortable and sluggish. I’ve always been a macaroni & cheese, vegetable, and candy (we all like something bad) kind of girl. Even more, I have always hated cooking meat. Handling raw meat made me sick to my stomach and killed my appetite. That was probably a clue.

In the year before my decision, I developed high blood pressure. It was so frustrating because I felt like I ate pretty healthy. I started exercising, eating natural, unprocessed foods (ditched anything with HFCS), took vitamins, and worked on my stress level. Nothing seemed to make a big difference in my numbers.

Last March, I watched a Morgan Spurlock documentary about a man living in a Muslim community in Michigan. One segment showed a lamb being slaughtered. I still feel sick thinking about it. The lamb was hung upside down. It cried out, struggled, and fought off his death. I hadn’t ever thought about how aware an animal was in that situation. At that moment, I was certain that I would never be able to kill an animal. I knew that I would feel like a hypocrite eating an animal that I would never have the guts to kill.

The more I thought about it, I was haunted by that image of the animal writhing. I thought about all of the studies that I’ve read about how our bodies change and are flooded with hormones in stressful situations. Does the same thing happen in animals? I don’t know, and if so, is it healthy for us to be eating all of that? Seeing that video had changed me.

I did a lot of research about nutrition and was able to find plenty of foods that would fulfill my nutrition requirements and keep my body healthy. I still eat eggs and a few milk products, but mostly, I eat vegetables, beans, grains, and tofu. I have discovered a new love and interest in cooking. I’ve been thinking about sharing some of my kitchen/meal triumphs here on the blog.

I admit that sometimes, it can be difficult to eat out or at other people’s houses, but it just requires that I plan a little better and communicate with people.

In all of this, the only thing that I really miss is marshmallows and jello.

This feels like the right thing for me, and my body seems to agree too. It’s a year in and my blood pressure have gone down dramatically (almost off the blood pressure medication), my grocery bills are dramatically lower, I have less of impact on the environment, I am eating better than I have ever eaten before, and I feel great. I haven't had a day where I regretted my decision or thought about going back.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Henry Rollins

I grew up in the mid-90's. When I think of Henry Rollins then, I think of angry MTV commercials, that red devil paint he wore in the Liar video, my awesome Liar shirt, and the Christmas that my Mom refused to buy me one of his books because it was inappropriate (granted, I was 16 and she typically would buy me any book, so it probably was inappropriate). He was always interesting.  His book was full of f-bombs and anger, and he just always looked so tough, unsmiling, and intense.

In the last few years (and just the other night at the Capitol Theater in Clearwater), I've been to a few of his shows. He still looks tough and intimidating, but once he speaks, something about his demeanor changes. He is genuine, intelligent, funny, and extremely kind. His energy, excitement, and personal investment on stage is unsurpassed. He typical speaks for 2+ hours about everything from his travels (the places he's been is beyond amazing), memories of Black Flag, growing up in DC, politics, emotions, his insecurities, the amazing people he's met, etc. You can always tell that he genuinely enjoys being at the show. He never takes a break or a sip of water, appearing as if he doesn't want to waste a second of time.  He connects with the audience and gives his all to entertain and inform based on his experiences.  

I am impressed with his ability to speak openly about his opinions without trying to offend anyone or denying his own voice. It is a quality that I strive for but find very difficult to learn. It is nice seeing it work so successfully. 

I left the latest show feeling hopeful, motivated, and full of possibility. It sounds a little hokey, but I realized that we all have a chance because we're all filled with good, human, honest emotions and we just need to learn how to channel it in positive ways.  It was a night discussing tolerance, laughing, and sharing insights. It proves to me that strength and change does not come from brute force; it comes from knowledge, open minds, and honest conversations.

But damn, I still wish that I had kept that badass Liar shirt I had back in the 90's. Also, just cause you know you want to watch it now...