Becca Wilhite Blog

January 31, 2011

Books Read January 2011

Filed under: books,recommendation — becca @ 12:13 pm

“Only the Good Spy Young” (Gallagher Girls Book 4) by Ally Carter. We love this series around here. It’s a private Girls’ High School… for spies. Lots of fun.

“The Clockwork Three” by Matthew Kirby. Fun, MG steampunk-ish, a little magic, a little friendship-conquers-overwhelming-odds. Try it.

“The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” by Jacqueline Kelly. Oh, I loved this one. Want to start it over right away. Nudged up against questions of Darwin vs. Genesis, but really it was a feminist question – can I be a grown up lady and still be an inquisitive scientist? (If the evolution question concerns you, as far as Creation goes, fear not. This is evolution at its best and truest: Things (and people) change to survive in their environments.)

“The Red Pyramid: Kane Chronicles #1” by Rick Riordan. This is the new Egyptian gods series ala Percy Jackson. Loved the voices of the siblings, especially the Brit sister – I totally heard her gum-smacking Londoner sarcasm in my head. I found I cared a little less about the gods and their concerns than the ones in the Olympians series. But fun, even so. There’s salsa. No, really.

“Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton. I’ve read this before. For a pre-Apartheid drama, it is very quiet, almost poetic. The style is lyrical rather than shocking, and I love that. I’m in process of watching the 1995 James Earl Jones film version (but it’s taking me a lot of time to watch it because I put it on for 10-15 minutes at a time while I lift weights). Made me want to reread “The Power of One.” And also learn to copy an Afrikaans accent. Love that.

“These is My Words” by Nancy Turner. Oh. How have I waited so long? This is excellent historical fiction. And I love journal stories. Her perspective is just skewed enough to make Sarah a truly likeable character. And there’s a great loves-me/loves-me-not aspect, which is darn hard to write.

“Bruiser” by Neal Shusterman. Have we read Shusterman? We should. He’s creepy-awesome. My current fave scary book is his “Unwind.” But Bruiser was fascinating. Great voices – multiple narrators. And an interesting look at what reads as an atonement story (empath style, not necessarily Christian style, but still… totally Christian style). Very powerful/painful. But uplifting and interesting in the “how much do I want to know?” question.

January 28, 2011

Looking out the window

Filed under: spring is coming,Where do I live? — becca @ 9:08 am

The sun rose
(it has a habit of doing just that)
and turned the fog orange.

Lit up diamonds of flaky snow
shining on the yard.

Caught the icy fur on the naked tree limbs
and made me think
it could be keeping the trees warm.

Mountaintops, shrouded by fog earlier,
now push against crystal blue sky
white-and-white-and-black.

Birds search the piled crunchy snow
for anything edible –
seeds, pancake crumbs, old bagels?
I’m doing my best to keep you fed, birdies.

Hang in there.

It won’t be much longer.

Trees will unfurl
grass re-emerge
worms poke up their heads
and heat reflect.

You’ll sing again, birds.

It will happen.

January 27, 2011

Did you know?

Filed under: lists — becca @ 10:44 am

There are a lot of grains in a one-pound bag of millet seed. And if you drop it, or even bump it a little, you’re pretty much guaranteed a millet-floor for days to come.

As soon as you get off the phone with your parents, telling them how perfectly fine everything is, thank you, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get the phone call from the school.

The texture of wheat berries is, strangely, not as vomitous as the texture of cooked oatmeal.

The words “background check” might cause some people to be seized with fear, but it just makes me tired to think I’ll have to come up with years’ worth of home addresses.

When it’s many degrees below freezing, even smart children need to be reminded to wear coats to school. Also socks.

James Earl Jones might be my model for God. Not necessarily in anything except physical attributes. I’m just saying. If God were to talk to me out loud, I’d like Him to sound like JEJ. And then smile at me with His whole face, just like that.

500 words at a time makes a little book in a little while. (Or a bigger book in a longer while.)

It would have been a good idea to learn to play the piano many years ago, when I had all my brain cells.

People are generally really nice. But I somehow still manage to pick out / find /discover the other kind. Call it a gift.

Moving more and eating less is a really good way to feel healthy.

that is all

January 25, 2011

Happy Making

Filed under: gratitude,happiness — becca @ 12:23 pm

In case you need it on this fine, blustery day, here is a short list of happy-making stuff.

(In no particular order.)

Wheaty artisan bread with sunflower seeds in.

PSYCH on Netflix instant.

Clean cars.

More locker shelves = cleaner mudroom floor. I bet you’d forgotten our mudroom even had a floor, hadn’t you? Oh, was that only me?

Books to read.

Little boys with gelled hair.

Green smoothies.

Hope.

Switch-on-able fireplaces.

Painted toenails.

(I hope you’re enjoying your little things today, too.)

January 22, 2011

Back to High School

Filed under: emotion,Where do I live? — becca @ 8:40 pm

It was bizarre how it brought out the best and the worst in the crowd.

We went to the high school basketball game last night. I love basketball. I love the never-stop, run-run-run, high scoring action. I love high school basketball because of the community that it envelops. But I have to say, high school basketball has changed since I was a student.

Maybe that’s  not what I mean. Maybe I mean that high school basketball in Utah is a totally different world than in Indiana.

For instance, in Indiana, basketball is not a democracy. I never, ever, in all my years watching Indiana basketball, saw a player talk a referee out of a call. Or even try to. Or saw his coach let him. But last night, the red team consistently chatted up the refs after almost every call that they disagreed with. Then they swore. Loudly. And don’t even get me started on the coach (for the other team – our coach is a gentleman) because holy cow, it reminded me of that scene in HOOSIERS where Gene Hackman is trying to get kicked out of the tournament. Remember that?

I think I saw 4 technical fouls.

And our fans. Oh, it made me sad. There was really rotten sportsmanship, and we (as a group) were stinky with it. It made it hard for me to love the game.

But.

Then.

I have to back up. There’s this community trauma going on right now where I live. There is a senior at the high school who is on the wrestling team. This sport is huge in my town, HUGE. Two weeks ago, this boy got into a hold and was dropped on his head (don’t quote me on that – I wasn’t there). Whatever the cause, the effect was that he snapped his neck and is paralyzed from the neck down (ala Christopher Reeve). In two weeks of constant hospital monitoring, he’s now got some feeling throughout his body (but no movement). It is a miracle that he’s alive, but a tragedy that he’s broken. The kids in town have rallied, making and buying and wearing “Super Dale” T-shirts, which looked so cute on all the cheerleaders last night. It was one of those things that make your heart glad. At the game, T-shirts went flying through the crowd as gifts. It was great. Then, at half time, the cheerleaders passed around Super Dale buckets, asking for “loose change to make a change.” In five minutes, they raised $1500 to help with his hospital bills. And plenty of that change came from the visitors’ bleachers. At the risk of running all cheesy, I have to say it was precious. I got misty. The town (and the rivals in the red bleachers) stepped up, each doing a very little to make a difference.

And I thought, how did both those feelings come out of the same gym? How did I get so discouraged, so disgusted, at the same event that also made me near tears of gratitude?

Maybe it’s the setting.

Hear my prayer: Oh, please. Take me not back to High School.

January 21, 2011

A Picture is Worth 690 Words.

Filed under: body image,familyness,history,Mom — becca @ 8:09 am

I know. Stunning, right?

Wow. You probably weren’t planning to see THAT this morning. But here it is – a page out of my long-repressed history.

I have an uncle – a really wonderful one – who is an historian. (He’d have me put the “an” in there, I bet. So I did.) He is a pro family history guy. And he sent me the remarkable photo you see before you. And I swore. (Not like that.) I mean, I promised. That I will never, never tease a kid about her glasses (can you see the fine, fine rose decal in the corner? I remember pondering over the merits of rose vs. ladybug in the eye doctor’s sitting room, but somehow I never pondered the ill-advised glasses frames). And I will lay off my Kids about their hair issues, because, honestly? Has any Kid in my house ever had hair issues like these? I think not. The clip? I made that with my mom. I remember her patience in teaching me to weave that skinny ribbon through the bendy clip (the only kind that would stay in the aforementioned skinny hair). There were matching plastic beads on the ends of those ribbons. They made clicking sounds every time (Every Time) I tossed my head. Those teeth somehow pulled through, and I never needed orthodontia (blessing, that). And can you see my birthmark? It’s much harder to see these days. In the photo, it’s on the right side of my neck, kind of below that adorable cheek curl (because I can admit, those were some great smile lines and perfect, sweet cheeks). The birthmark that seriously marked me, in physical and emotional ways. Because, hey! Look! It’s a HICKEY!

Which of course it was not.

Ever.

But it didn’t stop people from double-taking. I remember being a small person, 7 years old (I only remember that detail because I know I was in D’Agostino’s deli in my Boston neighborhood, and I only lived there for that second grade year) and having a woman stare, leaning over to make sure she was really seeing a little girl with a great big hickey on her neck. I smiled at her. She looked horrified.

I dealt with it.

And everyone wore turtlenecks in the 80s.

It became a different story in high school. T. D. who was a senior when I was a freshman, called me Hickey Woman (which was a combination of thrilling and embarrassing, since he bore a passing resemblance to Tom Cruise, and was the star of the football team, and noticed my existence enough to use the word “woman” to describe me… but also, “hickey”). Then, a few years later, in a different state but still in the world of high school, I was sort of dating R. We had fun. He was hilarious and carefree and charming and had a whole houseful of adorable younger brothers that looked just like him. Then I met his mom. She took one look at my neck and decided that I was a WOB* who was corrupting her son, and he’d better get out of this thing if he wanted a roof over his head and access to the thrashed black VW Bug. To defend both his honor and mine, I feel compelled to tell you that R. never even kissed me, much less… well, anything else. And our dating thing didn’t last many more days (but we’re still Christmas-card friends).

The birthmark continues to fade. Most people can’t even see it. (They’re distracted by my stunning, straight teeth. I know it.) But strangely, I still feel like the birth-marked girl. It’s become part of my identity and that is just weird. Because it’s not really physically there anymore. At least to the casual observer. I’m sure there’s a deep insight floating here, something that ties this post into building a character in a novel. But I’m not interested in depth today. Just interested in strolling down memory (amnesia) lane with the rest of the photos I received from the Historian Uncle.

And possibly doing my hair.

* WOB = Whore of Babylon. I know. It’s another Brother Thing.

January 20, 2011

And I follow the directions. I do.

Filed under: body image,dumb things I do — becca @ 7:35 am

Remember that Husband is awesome? And that he makes my site real pretty-like? He just gave me this new plug-in to reduce Russian pornographers’ spam comments, and now somehow I can’t find my drafts.

There were some drafts.

Clever drafts.

But, alas, now I’m flying from the hip.

But I wanted to tell you this story. I’ve been reading and trying out some healthy-foodie things over the past few weeks (and it’s excellent, thank you) and one of the things I read about was Coconut Oil.

Side note: Husband was in advertising for years. I know what advertising is. I do. It’s all about holding up the ideal whatever and saying, This is for you. Buy it. But when certain people say it, I can’t see through the glamour. I just go ahead and believe it. Yes, I say. True. You are right. This is for me. I must buy it. I am, in other words, a sucker.

So Coconut Oil. It will give me the skin and hair of the gorgeous brown Islanders. It will turn my life around, inside and out, but mostly it’s that Polynesian skin and hair I crave. That thick, wavy, flowing blackish-brown hair. That lustrous, glowing brown skin. That’s what I want. So the coconut oil is the answer. Obviously.

(Okay, I’m not asking much here, but if you could just take one second to look at my photo in the header bar of my blog. Yes. That one. The one at the top of the page. The photo where I’m standing in the full sun, and you can see right through my thin, blond hair. Also, you can see most of the way through my skin. Translucent skin. Like Wilbur’s ears in Charlotte’s Web.)

So I bought the Coconut Oil and followed the directions. It said that if I wanted the perfect hair, I just needed to melt up the oil, rub a bit on my head, wait an hour and rinse it out. No problem. I did it. Just like that. Here’s the part where I made a mistake. “Rinse it out.” Remember that part? Operative word: Rinse. As in, not shampoo. Holy oil slick, Batman. Truly awesome. Truly. Forget napping, I’d ruin the linens. Napping? Heck, forget getting dressed. On the plus side, my hair did look closer to brown. Not Islander brown, more like rodent brown, but it must have been a step in the right direction.

As a result, I’ve decided to forgo following any more directions.

Ever.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

And in my quest to look like a gorgeous Islander woman, I’ll work on smiling with my whole face, wearing bright-colored clothing, offering food to everyone who enters my house, and giving lots of hugs.

I’ll let you know how that works out, too.

January 14, 2011

Power of a Word: Wherein I Uncover my Bald Spot

Filed under: anxiety,body image,emotion,gratitude — becca @ 12:00 pm

All right. We’re just diving in.

I’ve been wondering how/if I was going to say this. And whether it mattered to anyone at all (besides me). And you know, when you come right down to it, it’s not like I tell you guys Everything. I keep a whole lot of the boring parts of my life to myself. Also some of the other parts. I do.

(So much for Diving In.)

Here’s the thing. I had this dumb little spot on my head, right inside my hair line over my right ear. It was scar-ish. Small-ish, pink-ish, and raised. A little. Nobody really had to see it, except when my hair was wet, which, honestly, happens every day, but usually in private moments.

One day this fall, I came downstairs in the morning with my hair wet, and Kid 2 said, “Ewww. What’s up with that thing on your head?” To which I responded, “None of your business. Eat your breakfast.” But then, of course, everyone wanted to see my little scar. Which, apparently was growing larger, as opposed to following the growing-smaller plan that I had for it.

I’m afraid this might be a long story, Feel free to skip to the end. Or grab a handful of pistachios. Or declaw the cat. Whatever.

When Husband took a good look at it, he said, “You’re calling somebody.”

I placated. “It’s nothing.”

His eyes widened as he poked at me. “Bec, it’s growing,” he said, in that voice that oozes menace. As though the little scar was going to take over my face or something.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll call.” Which, by the way, I did, after only a few days and some email-style prodding.

A few weeks later, I went to the dermy. Nice guy. Well, if you like your doctors efficient and businesslike, which I do. He said, oh, hey, we see things weirder than this every day. The sun probably just damaged your skin because you are old.* Let’s just scrape it off.

So I got biopsied. Cute Megan the nurse/assistant told me I’d feel a little prick (that was for the numbing shot). I squeezed my fingers together waiting for it. I think I might have even been holding my breath, waiting for that little prick, when Cute Megan said, Okay, all done. Keep this lubed with this greasy polysporin gunk. (Or she may have said something possibly slightly more science-y. You get the point.)

They shuffled me out the door saying yadda, yadda, thanks, we’ll call you if it’s anything, blah, blah, keep it moist, whatever.

A week later, I got the weirdest phone call. “Hi, Becca,” the nurse who was not Cute Megan said, “We just wanted to call you because we got your biopsy back, and it’s skin cancer.” She kept talking. I heard words, but they didn’t mean anything. It was one of those moments when the time continuum sort of opens up, and you think, right there in that space between syllables, “Huh. Cancer. That really, really stinks.” I felt hollow in my brain and in my guts. I let her calm voice and her words wash over me and I started hearing things like “a million people a year” and “really simple” and “not dangerous” and “Basal cell” and “carcinoma” and “removed” and I reminded myself to breathe.

Then I sat down on the floor and didn’t get up for a long time.

I have cancer. I have Cancer? Are you kidding me?

Apparently not.

— and then, into my head:

remember the sunblock you don’t wear? you have no right, no right at all to mourn this news. you deserve this because you worship the sun. you are like the chain smoker who moans about lung cancer. you are the worst kind of lame. you may not feel sad, only guilty. and not only that, it isn’t even real cancer (that word again, oh, that word makes my guts sick) because you don’t have to have treatments. you just go in and they cut out the spot and they stitch you up and you drive yourself home and you go back in six months (forever) and over and over you face the full-body-scan humiliation and the doctor will keep taking spots off your skin and you will be grateful that it isn’t on the end of your nose. yet.

— and then:

not only that, but you really can’t play in the sun anymore. you can’t make it worse than it already is. who cares that you have stupid sensitive skin that reacts with welts and hives when you wear sunblock? nobody, that’s who. the tan portion of your life is over. learn to love white fat. yes, brown fat is prettier. deal with it.

— and then:

oh. cancer. that word is so big and powerful for a collection of just a few letters. none of the letters are even tall. but the word – it takes a bite out of your soul, doesn’t it? it makes you sink to the floor and stay there. it gives you visions of your very own body, the body you have never loved enough, fighting against itself for cellular domination. cancer is a word that brings its own bags and moves in and lives on your couch and never, ever goes away.

And then I held my knees and said, just in my head, “I have cancer.” After that, I tried it out loud. “I have cancer.” I said it three times. Each time, it pinched my mouth. It tasted like charcoal dust.

Then I breathed for a few minutes.

After that, I called Husband. And do you know what happened when I made that call? I turned into The Protector. Does this happen to you? I decided who absolutely had to know (only Husband at that point) and I told the story with as much cushioning as I could manage. It started with the demand that he not worry. Because this was not a big deal. I wonder now – did I mean that AT ALL? I echoed the nice nurse’s words about a million people a year, and basal cells, and ease. I mentioned the part about driving myself home (a big deal, because I had made an appointment for the next day, when Husband was locked into a film shoot that he couldn’t miss). I probed for fear, for concern, for worry, and I swept them all away with the power of my words.

But underneath, there was the other word. The heavy word. The one that tried to pull all my cushy comfort words down and drown them.

I decided to tell the parents. Again with the cushioning. Again with the careful protecting. Again with the making sure that they were all fine. And then I asked them for prayers. That this small thing not turn into a big thing. Which prayers they promised. And I felt.

And for the rest of the day, I sat. I thought. I allowed myself the day to mourn. To grieve. To let go forever the thought of my mortal immortality. To set aside my delusion of wholeness. I asked myself for forgiveness. Which is a whole different discussion.

The next day, I went and had the spot removed (which was weird, because after the biopsy, it was pretty much gone). My mama came with me. She held my eyes with hers so I could try to miss the scissors and the needles and the no-longer-white gauze that danced around my periphery. I asked a few questions. I laughed with the doctor (or maybe it was only me laughing) and with Cute Megan the nurse.  I tried to pretend that I couldn’t hear the scissoring, but who was I kidding? There was that unfortunate knicking of the temporal artery and the subsequent mess. I walked out with a pressure bandage that stuck out of my head a whole inch, but could be covered by hair much thicker than mine. I carried on.

But inside, there was that word. Oh, that word. Cancer. It still sits there, heavy in my brain (metaphorically, okay? this is still about “just” basal cell carcinoma), and I carry it everywhere. There are days when the weight of that word makes writing hard. There are days when I want to say to all my demands, Hey, don’t you know that there’s cancer in here? But I can’t. Because, remember? It’s the “just” kind. The kind that isn’t dangerous. The kind that I brought on myself. The kind that is so much more an emotional cancer than a physical one. I think that is the final balance-tipping piece. I would allow myself to mourn more, to grieve more, if the physical were as big as it could be – if there was a treatment, or a medication, or a horrible chemo in my future. But since there’s not – just an occasional bald spot from lesion-removal (there’s that other word, that “just” again) – I feel like I’ve had my moment to mourn and now I have to get back in the saddle.

So for those of you who wondered about the sad things, this is one. It gets in the way, sometimes. But not every time. And carrying on is what we do. We who are strong and weak, and we who are whole and damaged, and we who are powerful and frail, and we who are fearless and daunted. We carry on.

We pray.

We listen.

We learn.

We feel.

We forgive and seek forgiveness.

We carry on.

And some of us seek to channel the power of other powerful words. The healing kind.

*I’m not old. I’m thirty-seven. And he is clearly older. Besides which, he didn’t say that Old part at all.

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