Being a Muffin

I am not your average woman. I’ve tried to be for years only to realize that being average does not work for me. I am not domestic. I’m a fair cook, but other than that, my domestic skills are limited.

On the outside, I am long haired and when I’m feeling girly, I paint my toes. Other than this, I’m a jeans and sneakers or boots kinda girl. My hair is normally down or in a ponytail. That’s about it. No makeup, except for special occasions. I can apply a decal better than I can eyeliner.

I heard a speech P!nk gave the other night about how her daughter said that she felt ugly because she looked like a boy. I thought of myself as a preteen. I wore a ball cap and had a short haircut. I was mistaken for a boy on more than one occasion. Over the years, throughout my teens, I did all the makeup and girl stuff. However, I’ve never been totally comfortable with it. I mostly did all that because I fell victim to our society and its expectations of girls.

I’ve gone back and forth at war with myself over my appearance and being more feminine. It’s taken me almost thirty years to realize that I need to be comfortable with myself. I’d rather spend my mornings reading or writing than perfectly applying makeup. I couldn’t contour to save my life, and I’m fine with that. Shopping is not my thing. Most of my clothes are ordered or second hand. That’s fine, too. We put too many limitations on our girls.

Girls can be mechanics, techies, gamers, into sports, and things that are considered “guy things.” We don’t have to be made up and dressed like paper dolls. We don’t have to be what society expects. My femininity is not defined by how I look.

I’ve heard many names for it. Tom boy. Androgynous. I just know what’s me and what I like. I saw a little girl in a gas station a few days ago. Her shirt said, “Be a cupcake in a world of muffins.” It was written in glitter and on a pink shirt. I smiled to myself as I recognized that I am in fact a muffin. And that’s great.

For all the little girls who would rather be Batman than a princess when you dress up, who choose hoodies over dresses, who would rather play with Hot Wheels over Barbie, who think heels are a form of torture, and who think they are too boyish or rough around the edges, you are a muffin. That’s amazing, and you are pretty freakin’ perfect just as you are. And if you aren’t a muffin, if you’re a frosted cupcake who loves pink and glitter, and can’t live without makeup, you’re just as perfect.

Whether you are a muffin or a cupcake, don’t let anyone tell you that you should be anything other than yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I would be pretty if I wore a little makeup. Forget that noise. If you’re still deciding who you are, that’s great, too. Take your time. Just be authentic. Don’t fake it for the world. You will be doing yourself a disservice and denying other people the privilege of knowing how wonderful you are.

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13 Reasons Why

If you haven’t seen 13 Reasons Why, it is a Netflix Original Series about a teenage girl who commits suicide. She is bullied until the point of breaking. I cried as I watched a tormented teenager’s life absolutely break her with little to no help. While my situation was never so bad as hers, I can still understand a fraction of the pain she endured.

13 Reasons Why brought back memories for me. I’ve seen reviews online that say that some of the things that went on in the show would not happen in real life, especially some of the things about the school faculty. However, I can absolutely see this happening.

It reminded me of a memory from my high school days. I had a teacher that we will call Mr. Blank since I don’t want to put someone “on blast” for something that happened fifteen years ago. It’s not a big secret that I was bullied in school. An overweight introvert with a love of books is an easy target. Throw in that I wore glasses and I might as well have had a bullseye on my back.

There was also an issue with my health. On one of my trips to the doctor, I got the unsettling news that I would probably never have kids. For a fifteen year old, this can be quite traumatic. So, in true Kacie form, I did what I did best. I wrote about it. In a letter. To a friend. I wrote something that went like I went to the doctor, didn’t get the news I wanted, but that everything would fine. Things would work out. I wrote that I hoped this didn’t change my relationship with my boyfriend (He is now my husband).

Having a bad day, feeling off with everything in life, and being an absent minded teen, I dropped the note in Mr. Blank’s class. He found it on the floor and read it out loud to his next class. He completely misread the situation. He told the class that getting yourself pregnant is no way to try to keep a guy. He had a good laugh with several students. A friend later asked me if everything was okay with me. She told me about the note, about all the laughing, and said that he even passed the note around to see if anyone recognized the handwriting. Along with her, someone else had noticed my handwriting and told the entire class. Rumors couldn’t have started faster if they had announced it over the PA system.

Mr. Blank was one of my favorite teachers. He was a great teacher, a writer, and brilliant when it came to literature. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe he would put someone out there like that. Then, after I thought about it, I found it didn’t surprise me. He often called out people on their homework and made them feel pretty small because they didn’t know as many big words as he did. At break, I went to claim my note. I explained my situation and asked him if he would kindly not talk about it anymore. I had just needed to get the words out of my hurt heart and uncloud my mind in a note to a friend. He didn’t say much, didn’t apologize.

However, I was humiliated. The initial fall out was much as to be expected. I was a fifteen year old virgin with a scarlet letter. I was fortunate that it happened toward the end of the year. It could have gotten much worse. Teenagers can seem like angels to teachers and their family but be horrid to their peers. 

There were many other instances of bullying from my peers, but when it’s instigated by a teacher, it is a whole new experience.  

After watching the show, I saw how easily this could be any teenager walking around today. My heart constricts at the thought of these kids going through the motions of life, needing help, and finding none. I hope that we as adults will stop failing these kids and letting them hurt until the point of breaking.

If anyone of any age needs to talk or needs help, reach out. To me. To anyone.


National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-273-8255

They also offer chat on their website.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give was recommended to me by a friend who has recently read it. When I read the summary on B&N, I was intrigued and knew it was a book that would hook me. I followed the author, Angie Thomas, to find out more about her. She’s from Mississippi, guys. I was wrapped up through the summer with my book club read and had a hectic few months. When I finally was able to start the book, it definitely took me for an emotional ride.

The story is told from the point of view of Starr Carter, an African American teenager torn between two different worlds. Although she lives in a neighborhood with drugs and gang violence, her parents pay dearly to send her to a prep school. She is the Starr from the hood at home. She’s laid back, uses slang, and speaks her mind. Starr at her prep school seems more uptight, uses proper English, and has a white boyfriend. She is hassled by peers from her neighborhood about her new school.

Her father owns a store in their neighborhood and is an reformed drug dealer. When his children were born, he changed his ways and although he was not always there to be the best father, he does the best he can for his kids now. Maverick, or Big Mav, has a gift for saying the right thing in the right moment. I envy him that. He makes no qualms about his belief system and how he sees the world. That made him one of my favorite characters.

Starr’s mother is a strong woman who expects a high moral standard from her children. She’s a nurse so nurturing comes natural, and she has backbone to spare. Her relationship with Maverick has a not so great history, but it has persevered.

Starr is no stranger to gun violence. She lost a friend at the tender age of ten to a drive by shooting. This makes it all the more painful when she sees her friend gunned down by a police officer. While he’s driving her home, they fall victim to racial profiling that leads to her friend, Khalil, being shot multiple times. He dies in the street with her by his side.

The next weeks are very taxing for Starr. She has many decisions to make as to what to say to the police, the DA, and to the media. While she tries to defend her deceased friend who can no longer defend himself, she also has to go up against the word of the officer and local gang members who want to keep her quiet. She blooms from a terrified teenager who wants to hide from what happened to a revolutionary activist.

This is the debut book by Angie Thomas. I am inspired. I appreciated her way with dialogue and the dynamics between characters. One minute, I was ugly crying about the injustice of racial America, and the next giggling at Starr’s humor. I can’t wait to see how Angie Thomas evolves over time. There is a wind of change blowing through YA, and Ms. Thomas is a part of that. I am very proud to see it.

I loved that Starr had a boyfriend, but it wasn’t a together forever kind of relationship that is dominant in YA. They had a regular, healthy relationship. Starr was somewhat rebellious like a normal teen but had consequences to face. She finally realized that her two worlds could come together. This is the unity we need in America right now. Starr was brave and in my opinion, is a modern day hero. 

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

My experience with Ken Follett has shown him to be one of my favorite writers. His descriptions of people and things and even of the dark side of the world are beautiful. Fall of Giants did not disappoint.

There are many characters involved in this book. Many lives intersect and move in different directions. There are those from different countries with strong differences in opinions, both political and otherwise. Sometimes, it takes focus to keep up with the direction things move in, but in the end is definitely worth the extra attention.

This book made for a great discussion with the club. We all wished there had been more to Katerina’s story. Maybe if her past had been a bit more discussed, she might have been a more likeable character. All enjoyed the emphasis on women’s suffrage and the dynamics of relationships because of it. How we saw the lives of everyday people made us better understand the war and how people on all sides were changed for good and bad. Everyone felt like we came away from the book with more knowledge about WWI and the politics of that time.

This book better taught us how war changed countries, molded them, and ultimately decimated some of them. In Russia during the war and revolution, they had hardly any bread. People starved to death or resorted to prostitution to feed their families. Germans lost homes to the war to be used for housing soldiers or weapons. German soldiers near the front line received very little food. When the Germans would take a British trench, they realized how much better the British were eating. They were so hungry that they would forget to be a soldier and become almost childlike over food.

The love aspects of the book add to the plot but are not a centralized part of the plot. I enjoyed seeing the evolution of the lives of the characters and what they thought about life, war, and politics.

The character of Ethel Williams seemed to be the book club favorite as she is a strong female and tends to think outside the box. Grigori was another favorite with his superhero complex and kind heart. Gus Dewar is also one of my favorite characters. I did not realize it until I began working on my plot summary. He interacts with almost every character in some way.

Would I recommend this book? It depends on the reader. If you love epic, historical, or war stories, absolutely. If you’re a romance or young adult reader, I would caution you that while there are love stories, they are not the focal points and following the story may not appeal you as much. However, the historical aspect is well worth it.


The following is a summary of the plot that does involve spoilers. If you intend to read the book, I suggest you stop at this point.

We begin with Billy who is just becoming a man and his concerns with what that means. He and his sister live with their parents and grandpa in Aberowen, a Welsh town. Billy has just finished with school and is off to work in the mines. Ethel, his sister, works at a wealthy family’s estate nearby.

Ethel works for an earl who is married to a Russian princess. The princess, Bea, is a hot and cold bride. Sometimes she welcomes her husband, but most often she is cold to him in the way of marital relations. The Earl Fitzherbert, or Fitz, is very fond of his liberal sister, Maud. Her political opinions are almost the complete opposite of his. Maud is fond of Ethel who is a maid turned housekeeper. Her brother is attracted to Ethel, and the feeling becomes mutual. The attraction leads to an affair and then a baby. Ethel is offered by the Earl’s lawyer to be paid off which she promptly refuses. She leaves everything she knows and sets off for London after her father rejects her because of her pregnancy. She finds work and starts making a life for herself. She runs into her old friend, Maud. Maud takes her under her wing. They both become active in politics and women’s suffrage. Toward the end of Fall of Giants, they have a disagreement and part ways. Ethel marries Bernie Leckwith, he adopts her son, Lloyd, and they make a life together. Their first issue is that Ethel is nominated for a political position that Bernie wants for himself. Ethel declines the nomination as she is pregnant. Ethel is a strong woman who knows her own mind and makes the best out of her situation. Although she made some decisions that were not ideal, she does not expect handouts from anyone and stands on her own two feet. She seemed to be a favorite with the book club and myself.

During this time, Billy is learning about the mines and getting better. There is a mining explosion where he earns respect and becomes somewhat of a local hero. Instead of running away from the danger, he faces it and helps others. He soon realizes that the safety precautions and emergency management of the mines is not up to par. He and his father take on local leaders to get this corrected to prevent future loss of life. The leaders also evict the families of the miners who died during the explosion. This leads to a strike from the local miners. Soon, almost everyone is evicted. The struggle to survive goes on.

The King plans to visit Aberowen after the explosion. He is invited into the house of Edward “Fitz” Fitzherbert, Earl Fitzherbert. Fitz is a very conservative politician and when rumors of war begin, he is for it. His sister, Maud, is the complete opposite. She desires peace and is considered liberal, to her brother’s chagrin. They have something akin to a house party while the king is visiting and Maud finds herself attracted to her brother’s German schoolmate, Walter von Ulrich. The attraction is mutual. After spending time together, they find themselves sneaking off for stolen kisses. They both try to deny their feelings at first then realize that they are very much in love despite the tension between their countries. Because of this, they have to keep their relationship a secret. As a war builds between all countries involved, they marry in secret and as Walter becomes a German soldier in the war, they are separated for five years. Their love endures and eventually, they are reunited. By the end of the book, Maud and Walter make their home in war ravaged Germany and start a family.

We also have the story of Russian brothers, Lev and Grigori Peshkov. Grigori works in a local factory and is saving to go to America. Since the death of their mother, Grigori has taken care of Lev. While their lifestyle is meager, Lev has become a bit spoiled with his brother always getting him out of tight situations. Once in America, Grigori plans to save for Lev’s ticket to America.

One night on his way home from work, Grigori comes across a woman being accosted by the police. He knows some of the local officers are crooked. He steps in to try and help her and ends up fighting the officers involved. An American, Gus Dewar, is passing by when he notices what is going on. He stops to assist. Everyone parts ways, but not without a warning that the officers would get revenge. The woman’s name is Katerina. Grigori is stunned by her beauty and offers her a place to stay. She has reservations but not much of a choice. She goes home with Grigori and stays with his female neighbors.

Once Lev sets eyes on Katerina, he makes her his next conquest. Grigori is dismayed and knows that it won’t end well. He feels some resentment toward his brother because he is able to attract Katerina in a way that Grigori is not. Lev and Katerina begin seeing each other. Soon, Lev finds himself in trouble once again. To keep him from being arrested, Grigori gives Lev his ticket to America that he finally acquired. Grigori sees him off and goes to find Katerina. Once, they talk, Grigori finds that she is expecting. After cursing his brother, he gives in to his feelings for Katerina and in true Grigori fashion, resolves to take care of her and his brother’s baby.

The beginning of The Revolution starts in Russia. Grigori is excited to see it and participates in protests.

Once the war begins, he’s off to fight it. When higher officers than he make bad decisions that lead to unnecessary loss of life, Grigori defies orders to keep his men safe. During the revolution, he becomes an official himself. He and Katerina move into a nice home and have a baby girl.

Lev is not sent to America as he thinks he, but to Aberowen where the miner strike is taking place. He is told to work the mines in place of those on strike. He sticks to his rogue ways and is soon cheating other miners at cards. From his ill gotten winnings and with the rush of finding himself in trouble, he is finally able to go to America.

He begins working for someone akin to a mob boss, finds himself attracted to the daughter of the boss, and is once again in trouble. When it comes about that she is expecting, he is forced into marriage and into the “family business” running a club. Still, he looks for trouble. Grigori is no longer his bail out, and so his father in law sends him into the military and off to war.

Strangely, he finds himself captured and comes face to face with his brother. Grigori listens to his tale, and fills in Lev on what’s gone on in his absence. When Lev offers his brother the money to travel to America, Grigori refuses, saying he has important work to do in Russia.

The only person Lev cares enough about to return to is his daughter, Daisy, in America. He goes home and finds that his mistress is also pregnant. His wife and her mob boss father finds out. The father demands a fight and when the fight is done, Lev’s father in law is dead, presumably of a heart attack. He flees to Canada, and then comes home to take his place in business.

Gus Dewar is an important advisor to the president. He has worked his way up and is a big man about town. Unfortunately, he has bad taste in women. He finds himself with a married woman who promises, as they all do, to leave her husband. She finally comes to Gus, and tells him that her husband has been given a promotion that will move them away. She is going with him. Gus is heartbroken and focuses on work for sometime. Soon, he finds himself taken with Olga, who happens to be the daughter of the mob boss. Her father approves the match because he wants a good life for his girl. Of course, since her father approves, Olga finds him boring. Olga and Gus are all but engaged when it comes out that she is pregnant with her father’s employees baby. Gus is once again on his own. With the war beginning and America possibly getting involved, he is too wrapped up to think of dating. He travels to Germany and finds Walter. Walter asks Gus for a favor. Since Gus is headed next to England, he asks Gus to deliver a message to Maud. Gus is in Paris with President Wilson when he runs into his friend, Rosa. She is a tough, brassy journalist with a lovely exterior. After spending more and more time with her, Gus finds himself taken with Rosa. He thinks about how she told him he was a fool when he sought to marry Olga. He and Rosa fall for one another, and finally, Gus finds happiness.

Romance

I feel like the romance genre is the red headed step child of reading. There. I’ve said it. I’ve asked people what genre is their favorite and get responses like, “Anything, but romance.” That’s great and all, but have you seen those proud romance fans? They are some of the most devoted fans in the world. I mean, they are super devoted. I love that. I love that you love what you love.

Some of my first chapter books were romance. I’ve evolved to enjoy a lot more, but I’ve devoured many romances in my day. I am still a fan of some of those writers as well. Romances are what I like to use as palate cleansers after a serious, dark, or disturbing reading.

Romance writers like Colleen Hoover are really talented with words. Colleen is a particular favorite of mine simply because she writes very well and tells stories with a quirk or a twist. Her Slammed series introduced me to spoken word and slam poetry, and I’ll be forever thankful for that. She has deep, flawed characters that really speak to me. I draw the line at the erotic romance section, though. I’ve tried it, found it not to my taste, but if it’s yours, then let your flag fly.

I got a lot of weird looks when I brought my mom’s Danielle Steel books to read during quiet time in fifth grade. One of my teachers even sent me to the library to find something more “age appropriate.” Honestly, when it came to intimate scenes, they were not as graphic as what could be seen on T.V. at the time. Books like Zoya were set in countries that intrigued me and gave me insight into remarkable places. The Born In Series by Nora Roberts solidified my desire to see Ireland before I die. You have to remember, this was back when the internet wasn’t always at our fingertips.

I am not the biggest romance reader just because I am not a super romantic person. Gift wise, I usually feel silly if I get jewelry or things like that. My husband knows the most romantic thing to get me is a Barnes and Noble gift card or something useful. Romance has one of the biggest followings of all the genres. I get that. Love stories are mostly happy and leave you feeling happy after they end. So, my serious reading, romance-hating friends (including me), be kind to those who enjoy romance. Keep the comments and jokes to yourself, and let folks do what they do. The reading world will be better for it. Read on, y’all!

Do Your Heartwork

I was admiring a drawing a friend of mine did recently. I told her she did lovely artwork. She told me it was because she did the work from her heart. I said, “So, it’s your heartwork.” She laughed and said that she hadn’t thought of it that way, but yes, it was.

I remember my friend, La Rue, telling me to work at what I love and do good work. She said it was important to carve out time to do what has meaning to you and to work at it. She gives good advice. If I did not make time to write or read, I would probably die. Maybe not physically, but emotionally and spiritually I would wither.

I went through a period where I did not write. I did not pick up a pen. I tried not to create in my head. I abstained completely. At the time, I did not realize just how miserable I was. I was lonely for characters that lived only in my mind and longed for words. I needed to create and do good work. It makes life bearable.

When I don’t have an outlet, I feel like I’m imprisoned in myself. It’s odd to think about it, but when I write, it’s like I’m plucking thorns from my skin. I need to do it so that the wound can heal. When Tony and I were dating, I wrote him letters all the time. Sometimes more than once a day. Sometimes, they were several pages long. And bless his nonreading heart, he read every word. I’ve never been great at verbalizing what I want to say, and it was my way of telling him how I felt. His taking the time to read them was his way of telling me how he felt.

Writing is what I do to deal with my reality as much as reading is what I do to escape it. It keeps me sane.

So, do your heartwork. Whatever that may be. Create. Run. Save lives. Write. Be a good parent. Whatever you love being in your life. Be that. Whatever you love doing in your life. Do that.