Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We're Moving!

After years of intermittent blog posts here at blogger, I'll be continuing my sporadic storytelling on wordpress. Find me here if you'd like to keep up with the adventuring.

Love always,

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2016: Two Weeks in Books

Last year bid me farewell by sending me into this one with a raging head cold. I can finally breathe through my nose again, and it no longer feels like I've swallowed a cheese grater. Hurrah.

Happy New Year from the southern wilds of West Virginia and the Coolest Small Town in America (2011)! Here we are at the start of another ring around the sun and already I've over-committed my reading, but so far, it's going all right.

Last year, I posted this list of twenty-four books I planned to read, and I only got through four of them. My reading veered in other directions to forty-eight books not on that list. Oh, well.

I'm not going to write a list this year. I'm going to go where the reading leads me. I did set a Reading Challenge goal on goodreads, and I've read one book toward that goal so far and started three others. In case you're curious, here they are.

The Book I've Read

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. explores the world of American heiress Huguette Clark, daughter of copper magnate and politician W.A. Clark. Toward the end of her life, Ms. Clark lived in a hospital despite her good health and exquisite homes. Dedman and Newell discuss the family history, Ms. Clark's eccentricities, and the legal battle over her fortune after her death in 2011. Engaging, detailed, and offering a literal glimpse into Ms. Clark's life through family photographs, Empty Mansions takes the reader on a strange journey and is well worth the read.

The Books I'm Reading

I'll confess. I'm reading Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road because of Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson's feminist reading group on goodreads. Ninety-six pages in, I'm hooked. Ms. Steinem weaves her own story together with that of the feminist movement as she's experienced it, as well as with the stories of those people who have had some impact, great or small, on her journey thus far.

I happened upon this copy of Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg in a pile of free things and wasn't sure I'd get around to reading it. Halfway through, the book has traveled from rural Appalachia to New York City to southern Texas. From family harmony to near-disastrous discord, the story of The Carter Family, unknown to most of their listeners in the first half of the twentieth century, endures through their music, which lives on in their own recordings and in covers by dozens of musicians since.

Essays of E.B. White has been sitting on my bookshelf for over a year probably. I picked it up on the last day of a library book sale because I've always liked Charlotte's Web so I thought I'd like his essays just as well. They meander through various aspects of living. I cried over "Death of a Pig" and laughed over other parts. It's slow going, not through any fault of its own but because I've been distracted by other reading.

My other major reading commitment is a Bible in a Year program with my church. We're in Genesis and Matthew now, with a reading from Psalms and Proverbs every day. I'm a day behind and had better catch up so I don't fall a month behind, which is what happened in December.

So there we are. Goodreads tells me I'm a book behind on my reading goal so I'd best get back to it. What are you reading this year? This weekend?

I can't make any promises about regularity of posting or to post anything of great interest. I could write about work, but that would either sound like an ad campaign for upcoming productions or a general lament about the never-ending nature of fundraising, neither of which would be particularly thrilling (though we do have an exciting season lined up, including the world premiere of a new musical and the return of an Emmy Award-winning actor).

In any case, I hope your year did not begin with a raging head cold but that it will involve a variety of interesting reading.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Currently" Reading

my living room library
My Goodreads account notes that I am "currently reading" ten books, some of which have been on that list well over a year, some longer. Some of them have been on that list long enough that I have read three dozen other books in the meantime.

Here are the books my account thinks I am reading:

from On Writing
On Writing by Stephen King. I am actually reading this book. I have read several pages today and will probably finish it this evening. I recommend this book to anyone who writes or wants to write or wants to get better at writing. King tells his own journey into writing and shares insight into his own writing process. Fascinating stuff.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Also reading this. (These early titles are the most recently updated in my list so they are, of course, what I am truly into.) Ferrante delves into the sometimes confusing and haunting events of childhood and follows her characters into adolescence. I've just started the adolescence section. Took a break to read Stephen King.

Selected Stories by Alice Munro. I think I've read three or four pages of this. I took it with me on a long plane trip a couple of weeks ago, with every intention of finishing it. My other books that trip was Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale. I read that instead and have not yet returned to Munro. Earlier this year, I read Munro's Dear Life, also a collection of short stories. Her work moves me. I get lost in the language.

Barefoot Church by Brandon Hatmaker. I picked this up because I've really enjoyed Brandon's wife's work. (Jen Hatmaker has written 7 and Interrupted, among others, I'm sure, but those are the two I've owned. I'm partway through Interrupted, but don't tell Goodreads...) Can't recall why I set this one aside. It sits atop a stack of books on my dresser, most of which I have begun and not finished and none of the rest of which are recorded in this list.

with Hannah, who played Tammy
Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen by Jimmy McDonough. Last summer, a whole year ago now, I performed in a production of Stand By Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story as young Tammy and a whole host of other characters, including at least two of her daughters. I added this to the collection (along with two other Tammy Wynette biographies) as "research." As you might have guessed, I haven't finished any of them. The show closed September 20, 2014. My motivation is all but gone.

The Mill for Grinding Old People Young by Glenn Patterson. In 2012, I visited a college friend in Ireland and bought three books. (The others were Girl Reading by Katie Ward and The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, both of which I enjoyed immensely and highly recommend.) I started this so long ago that I don't remember much of it. When I return to the story, I will probably begin again.

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. My first experience with this author's work compelled me to become a vegetarian (Eating Animals). This book had the unfortunate luck to fall into my lap in the midst of a busy work season. I read about a third of it and returned it to the library. If it's still there, I'll take it home with me this evening.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Ah, dear Don Q. Another bit of "research." I didn't even record my progress, but I think I made it more than a hundred pages. Maybe not. The bookmark remains in place, but to summarize: Don Q sets out to do something hare-brained. Sancho tells him that's a bad idea. Don Q does it anyway and is surprised when it ends badly. Rinse and repeat. The musical adaptation by Dale Wasserman & co. is magnificent. I don't know that I'll ever finish the book.

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan. A friend recommended this title to me some time ago, and I read some of it. It's outside my usual reading interest, but I trust this friend's reading habits so I gave it a try.  I remember that it reads much like a novelization of a film, which makes sense considering del Toro's background. In any case, I might go back to it. Perhaps not. I remain undecided.

The End of Poverty by Jeffrey D. Sachs. A meaty economics study with tons of real-world accounts to balance the academic side of things. I'll finish this at some point, but I was sidetracked by fiction.

to read...
Lest the sad state of my "currently" reading list lead you to believe I have not been reading at all, I assure you that I have. Goodreads reports that I have read 35 books this year. Reviewing this list reminds me that I was rather enjoying some of these and might want to revisit them, even if it means starting over at the beginning.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Micah's Turning 29! (And Hosting a Fundraiser to Celebrate!)

It's My Birthday!

(Cue the shameless self-promotion!)

Photo by Julia Seymour
On March 3, I will turn 29 years old. Wahoo! In celebration of the last year of my twenties, I'm hosting a fundraiser for Greenbrier Valley Theatre, the not-for-profit professional theatre where I work in West Virginia.

With Hannah & Courtney in rehearsal for The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail
at Greenbrier Valley Theatre (2013).
If you think theatre is an awesome way to spend time with friends, engage with important social issues and classic literary works, and learn to connect better with the world around us, this is your chance to help make sure that high-quality theatrical opportunities keep happening in southern West Virginia. Plus, you're helping me reach my fundraising goals!

The Goal: $2,900.00
The Launch: February 3, 2015*
The Deadline: March 3, 2015
(a.k.a. my birthday!)

Here's how you can help:

Step 1: Visit my fundraising page at

Step 2: Click the DONATE button.

Step 3: Follow the instructions.

Step 4: Revel in the knowledge that you're making awesome happen in southern West Virginia and also that my birthday is more spectacular because of YOU!

Photo by Lovely Rita, Photographer

This is the dance I will do if you donate to my birthday campaign.

Frequently Asked Questions**

Why did I pick Crowdrise?
They have snarky and hilarious customer service with emails that incorporate words like egregious and besmirchment. Also, they apologize profusely for grammar gaffes, and that amuses me.

Isn't this kind of self-serving?
Yes. But it's my birthday so I hope you'll indulge me.

What if you don't reach your goal?
Greenbrier Valley Theatre gets to keep all of the funds that are donated (minus fees), whether we reach the goal or not!

What if you DO reach your goal?
I'll have the best 29th birthday I could ever have imagined and celebrate the success with a delicious dessert from one of our local eateries. (Okay, I'll do that anyway...)

Do I get anything for donating?
My eternal gratitude and a handwritten thank you note. Optional theatre-related perks are available to donors who give $250 or more. If you want to know about those, give me a call at the theatre (304.645.3838 ext. 110) and I'll tell you all about them. Additional surprises TBD?

How does the theatre get the money?
All donations on Crowdrise will be processed through Network for Good and distributed directly to Greenbrier Valley Theatre. I won't ever see your credit card information. Neither will anyone else at the theatre.

How will the theatre spend my money?
All proceeds from my birthday fundraiser on Crowdrise go toward Greenbrier Valley Theatre's 2015 Annual Campaign and will help underwrite general operating and production expenses so that we can do things like this!

What if I don't want to donate online, but I still want to participate?
You can send a check to:

Greenbrier Valley Theatre
Attn: Micah's Birthday Campaign
P.O. Box 494
Lewisburg, WV 24901

You can also call me at the office and donate by phone using your credit or debit card: 304.645.3838 ext. 110.

Anything else?
Ask me in the comments.

*Technically, the campaign went live on January 23, but active promotion began Feb. 3.
**Okay, so no one has actually asked these questions, but just in case anyone was wondering...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Reading in 2015: A Brief History of Time

In yet another deviation from the reading list, the second new-to-me book of 2015 was Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. (Have you seen The Theory of Everything yet? No? You should. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones turn in striking and moving performances as Stephen and Jane Hawking.)

I don't have a lot to see about A Brief History of Time because I'm fairly certain I didn't understand most of it beyond a general comprehension of the words on the page. Still, I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch Doctor Who again without contemplating the feasibility of time travel. However, Hawking writes in an accessible style, and although I found the science intimidating, I still enjoyed the book on the whole and might take another crack at it next year.

Up next: Not sure. Maybe The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why I Keep Arguing with You about Disney Princess Waistlines

Last year, denizens of the Internet debated how "realistic" the waistlines of Disney princesses are. From the "unrealistic" side: Such unreasonable depictions of human bodies send dangerous messages to young girls. From the "realistic" side: People with waists that narrow are uncommon but not impossible, especially because they're wearing corsets.

I saw both sides in my social media feed and, when possible, I joined the discussion. For the record, I'm on the side of reasonable proportions and healthy body image always. I think their waists are unnatural.

First, some privilege-checking. I have a 26.5" waist. I am not a classic hourglass. I am flat-chested and thin-ish, but there are parts of my body that I would change if I could. At the same time, as a small, pretty person, I am very well represented in popular media. When I watch movies and television shows intended for my demographic, I see myself.

With that out of the way, this is why I will keep engaging with this argument even though it gets my hackles up and makes me feel angry and uncomfortable every single time:

  • Giving the heroines of the most commonly told stories of childhood one body shape is dangerous. Little girls probably won't say that in so many words, but they'll internalize it, and the multi-billion-dollar beauty industry will reinforce that ideal so that when they grow up into young women, they'll be thoroughly steeped in the idea that to succeed, they have to look a certain way. Regardless of what that look is, it is unrealistic to make all of the "winners" look the same because in real life, they don't.
  • A corset does not magically make your waist the size of your neck. I'd have to tighten a corset fourteen inches to make my waist the size of my neck. 14 inches! Even when I pull the measuring tape super tight and squeeze in, I can only get my waist down to 22.5". To be fair, I haven't been training my waist for decades so maybe that's a part of why. Or maybe not. According to the Daily Mail in 2012, burlesque artist Dita von Teese attributed her 22-inch waist to 22 years of wearing corsets, and even she can only squish down to 16.5 inches. That's still 4 inches bigger than my neck! Yes, I understand it is utterly ridiculous to compare my neck to Dita von Teese's corseted waist . . . Oh, wait. That's exactly the point.
  • Your disapproval of the word "unrealistic" does not invalidate the argument. Personally, I think the word "unnatural" better describes the proportions of most of the princesses. A corseted waist is not natural; it is manipulated. When such a waist is combined with the generous busts with which many of the princesses are endowed, the resulting figure is indeed unrealistic for the vast majority of women, particularly if they want to maintain their health. In any case, if your concern is more with the word "unrealistic" than it is with the broader argument, change that word to one that is more appealing to you and move on.
  • "Historical accuracy" is not a good enough reason. If it's a historical argument (i.e. "Women at that time would have worn corsets."), let's push it one further and give them less-than-perfect teeth and blemished skin and hands calloused from all that housecleaning (I'm looking at you, Cinderella.). I won't accept the "historical accuracy" argument when so much else is deliberately retouched for appeal.
  • It's a fairy tale kingdom, whether or not it's reminiscent of the golden days of yore. Who says that the women in wherever it was once upon a time wore corsets anyway? Maybe the beauty standard in fairy land then was broader, and maybe the women decided they were okay with not cinching their waists. Would that be so terrible?
Part of me can't believe we're even still talking about this, but recently, I witnessed a rather vitriolic exchange between two teenagers on Facebook (a curvy gal and a rail-thin guy) so I guess we're not quite through picking apart whether or not Disney princesses have realistic waists. I've rambled on a bit long here and haven't even gotten to the part where cartoon villains often have physical characteristics that are off-putting or absurd or don't conform with modern beauty standards. If that's not just as problematic as this waistline situation, I don't know what is.

Those are my two cents, and I'll just leave them right here.

What do you think? Should we even be worried about how narrow or broad a cartoon's waist is?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reading in 2015: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Unsurprisingly, I deviated from the reading list pretty much immediately thanks to the intriguing cover of Helen Oyeyemi's novel Boy, Snow, Bird.

Intrigued by references to the classic tale of Snow White (mirrors, wicked stepmothers) and drawn in sufficiently by the jacket synopsis, I picked up the novel at the library Friday and finished it just this afternoon. Oyeyemi develops very distinct voices for Boy and Bird, who narrate sections by turn, but Snow remains rather an enigma, known only through her few letters to Bird and through others' (mainly Boy's) observations of her. Perhaps this is purposeful, but as a reader, I wanted to know more about Snow, as much as I wanted to know Boy and Bird.

Unfortunately, loose ends abound, from the mystery of the mirrors to the man who raised Boy. The novel meanders through the workaday events of the characters' lives, making a dramatic reveal right toward the end but then just . . . stopping. I arrived at the end of the novel without any real grasp of what had happened, and maybe that's more a reflection of me as a reader than of the novel itself, but I wanted more.

The exploration of race weaves through the narrative, jumping now to the forefront but then receding in favor of other topics, as happens in reality as well, I suppose. Why, though, place such emphasis on the racial tension faced by the book's central characters only to abandon it for a last-minute, shoddily told conflict involving Boy's father and having nothing to do with race but yes, still involving mirrors and the truths and lies they tell us?

All in all, the novel had great promise but failed to deliver. However, Oyeyemi uses great skill in speaking through distinct character voices with well-paced style. I will likely read another of her books. I've heard good things about Mr. Fox, and I think the library has a copy. For now, a diversion in the form of Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market."