Wednesday, August 6, 2014

10 Things About Football and Me

1.  I grew up in a family of 49ers fans.  I've never cared about football on television.

2.  When I was ten I liked the looks of flag football.  My brother played on a city team and I loved the flags flapping and the heroic running across the grass.  I asked my parents if I could be on a team too.  On the first day of practice I kicked the coach’s hand instead of the ball by mistake. He cursed at me and that was the first and last day of my football career.

3. When I was ten I liked the looks of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders that I saw on a poster. I thought they were the epitome of womanhood and if that was what puberty had in store for me, I was really looking forward to it.

4.  That wasn’t what puberty had in store for me.

5.  I attended Carondelet High School, the across-the-street sister school of football powerhouse De La Salle High School. I went to a few football games because my friends were going but I watched exactly zero seconds of any play.

6.  After teaching at all-girls high schools for eight years I started watching Friday Night Lights on television. Perhaps I chose to take a job at Sac Charter High mostly because of the show Friday Night Lights. Perhaps.

7.  One of the deans and assistant football coaches at my school was a former college and NFL player. He told me that playing for the NFL was a dream come true. He had a rough childhood in the same hometown as me, and sometimes brought groups of kids to see where he grew up to show them what was possible through hard work and commitment.  

8. I have known students who play football with the power and grace of Achilles on the fields of war. They are the reason I wrote How to Be Manly.

9.  I have known coaches who drive students to school who otherwise don't have rides. Who  show up at a classroom within five minutes of a call that a student athlete is having a bad day and turn that student’s outlook around with a single conversation. Who  bring food for students who don't have enough at home. Who sit for hours counseling a student who is having a hard time. You think Coach Taylor of Friday Night Lights is great? Well he is, but real life asks so much more and the coaches I’ve known are heroes. They are the reason I wrote How to Be Manly.

10. When the school where I used to teach went against the school where I currently teach in a playoff game, I escaped by driving out to the middle of Death Valley and camping there for four days. It was a confusing time. 
When this happened, I went to the desert.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Manly Music

All of my novels have playlists that I listen to while I write them. The characters choose the songs so if you don't like them do not blame me.

Here is the playlist for my YA novel How to Be Manly which will be released by Giant Squid Books next month.

Lose Yourself by Eminem  

Matty plays this on his way to summer morning football practice. It keeps him from going back to bed.

Dear Mama by Tupac Shakur

Matty and Grandma. Ride or die.

Gunpowder by Wyclef Jean 

Don't you know that we can't stop the violence. The song makes me cry every damn time.

Dem Boyz by Wiz Khalifa.

Matty tries this persona for about twenty-four hours.  It's about all he can take.

Revolution by Kirk Franklin

Grandma likes this song.  This is the only singer they can agree on in the car.

Can You Stand the Rain by New Edition

A little old school for when Matty is feeling sorry for himself over Cassie.

Who's That Lady by The Isley Brothers

Woah. Jessica is a girl.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What I Was Thinking About When I Wrote The Spider Man

I had a sort of boyfriend in high school that people called the spider man. It wasn’t a compliment. They called him this because he had a habit of climbing up the exterior walls of the school and hanging out on the roof. The other kids thought he was weird, not heroic.

Let’s call this young man Jenner, since that is what I called the character I based on him in my young adult horror novel entitled The Spider Man. Jenner enrolled in our Catholic school as a sophomore the year I was a senior though he was older than me by a few days.  He had a history of juvenile detentions and of boys’ camps designed for rehabilitation. He had a history of drug addiction, homelessness and violence that was written on his arms, hands and chest in a web of scars. Some scars were round and puckered, others shallow and white. One scar along the underside of his forearm was a deep, long ditch of ruined flesh. I wondered how he had survived the wound.

Jenner didn't like to talk about his past. He sent me love notes on candy grams that student council sent to the homerooms as fundraisers.  He gave me gold jewelry and stuffed animals and burgundy red roses on long stems. He took me to Homecoming. We were sixteen.

We didn't see each other much outside of school. We went on a few dates where we doubled with friends of his that were in their twenties. Once during his dad's cocktail party, we snuck away from our parents to visit the next door neighbors. The next door neighbors’ house had once belonged to my parents’ good friends. I had spent a lot of time there as a child. That night as I sat in the living room while the new owners got my boyfriend stoned I realized that life was stranger than I had ever imagined.

Guys never liked me. Jenner was the first to take notice. His attention was heady, interesting, sexy. He was rock star handsome.  He was tall, skinny, with nearly white longish blonde hair and eyes that were aventurine green. He had high cheekbones and a way of half smiling to hide his crooked teeth. 

There were a lot of drugs and alcohol in my school’s culture but my friends and I never partook. We saw ourselves as morally superior. My friends didn’t really get Jenner.  He smelled like marijuana and incense and Chanel for Men.  He talked like someone out of Grimm’s. He said “my lady” to me a lot.

On Halloween he wore surfer shorts, a t-shirt and a bathrobe. He carried a hockey stick and said he was the Grim Reaper. He was embarrassed when people laughed at him. He swore that the devil had appeared at his thirteenth birthday party and had been after him ever since. He scaled the walls in order to escape the devil’s hands sticking out of the ground ready to grab him and pull him into Hell. He saw these hands every day. He was frightened all the time.

I thought, finally someone who can match my imagination. Finally someone who understands about the world beyond the world. I had no idea what he was really dealing with.

Now as a high school teacher who has worked with hundreds of young people, I know that Jenner was traumatized, addicted to drugs and probably in the early stages of schizophrenia. I think of him in my teaching practice when I try very hard to be present to my students with mental and emotional health needs. I wish a kind and savvy adult had been there for my friend when we were kids. He had a reputation as a loser. With me he was a respectful and attentive friend. During the school day he was my prince. At night he went out with much older people. He did and dealt drugs. He got another girl pregnant.

We broke up, whatever that meant to a boy and girl who saw each other almost entirely at school.  After that he got kicked out for a million reasons. His last day was when he screamed at the dean and lay down in the middle of the busy street beyond the parking lot, begging someone to run him over. 

Once his dad said to my parents: “I don’t know what your daughter sees in my son.”

Jenner walked onto campus on the last day of school. I ran to him to say hello. He signed my yearbook.  He told me that he had a poem I had written for him taped to the dashboard of his car. He said he was sorry for what he’d done. He said he would always think of me and feel glad that someone believed in him.

I saw him again two years later at the Walnut Festival. He was talking to a girl as equally strung out as he was. His body was skeleton bony, his face twisted in a reptilian leer.  He didn’t see me.

The summer after I graduated college my dad called with the news that Jenner had leapt to his death from a cliff in New Mexico. I was not surprised.  I knew why he was always climbing. 

Six years ago I did an internet search for Jenner’s name. I didn’t know what I expected to find. Not many other people from high school knew him. He had connected with so few of us and he had been there for such a short time. Sometimes I wondered if he truly existed. Even his one yearbook photo looks faded, his pale face washed out in the frame.

A Google image appeared of Jenner’s tombstone in New Mexico, adorned with fresh burgundy roses. He is buried in a Catholic cemetery in the Four Corners region of New Mexico. Someone there cared enough to give him red roses and to archive his stone.

The Spider Man is about a girl who falls for a boy who flees the devil’s hands by scaling walls, who smells of smoke and fine perfume, who has been long dead by the time she meets him. He makes everything exciting. He introduces her to classic rock music. He loves her wholly in a way that in the end feels unholy. As addicted as she is to his love the girl knows that if she really loves him she’ll find a way to help him find peace.

The real boy I knew was brave as long as he could be in the face of demons that were real enough to drive him to seek higher ground. For a brief time before succumbing to illness altogether, he had tried to live another reality. He’d tried to be a Catholic schoolboy with a sweetheart who accepted his gifts of roses. When I look back on it now it breaks my heart.

I wish I could have helped my friend find peace. But instead I wrote him a poem. Instead I archive his courage and his wildness in a story. It’s the best I can do as a writer. 

I wish it could have been enough to save him when we were kids.

Red roses for my friend.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

5 Ways the 70's and 80's Weren't Awesome

In the seventies our next-door neighbor’s dog bit off the face of the kid that lived up the street. The boy’s blood starred the sidewalk in a constellation that stained the white concrete for years.

As the boy went into surgery the neighbors whispered that he shouldn’t have been teasing the dog with foxtails on such a hot day. What did he think would happen? 

I never saw that kid again but the dog continued to roam loose, shitting on everyone’s lawns and scaring the children. I can’t imagine it now that I’m a parent.

Lots online lately about how great it was to be a kid in the seventies and eighties.  We helicopter parent our children now. Society was better with fewer rules. We are robbing our kids of authentic childhood. Our kids should have a seventies summer.

I was a kid in 70’s and 80’s middle class suburbia, with loving parents and amid average neighbors. But rip away the hazy film of nostalgia, the 70’s and 80’s weren’t always so great. Those years weren’t all wind in your hair and Wonderbread.
For example, as children in the 70’s and 80’s. . . . .

  1. We did not wear seat belts.  It was a blast sliding along vinyl seats on windy roads.  Long trips flew by in way backs and the beds of pick up trucks. But when I was nine, someone broadsided our Dodge Dart and sent us spinning. I rammed my aunt’s cheekbones with my head, breaking her face and suffering a concussion. I’ve been in one totaling car wreck with air bags and seat belts, and one without. I walked away from the seat belt wreck in a straight line. The seat belt law is a good law.
  1. We watched awful television. I tried watching Wonder Woman with my ten-year-old daughter. She was horrified by the relentless sexual harassment of Diana Prince. Diana gets her revenge later as Wonder Woman, but as a regular woman she deflects men’s gross advances with coy remarks that allow them to save face. So many of the TV shows we remember as harmless and funny are full of the message that relentless innuendo and harassment are harmless and funny.  Maybe that was why . . .
  1. We had a high tolerance for skeevy adults. If you were a girl in the 70’s and 80’s, sexual harassment was part of the landscape. In one office where I had a summer job, one of the adult managers came in when I was alone, tracing his pen up and down my arm and sitting too close to me. He wasn’t worried about a harassment lawsuit and it would never have occurred to me to press one.
    My daughter would flip out if a friend’s dad rubbed up against her, or if one of her teachers told her boyfriend she was a slut. I took these things in stride. I told myself none of it mattered to me.  Like Diana Prince, I acted polite to the manager, the dad, the teacher. As scared and small as they made me feel, I let them feel harmless and funny. No girl I knew ever did anything different in similar situations in the 70’s and 80’s.
  1. We didn’t learn in school. I’m no standardized testing advocate but the 70’s and 80’s had no standards at all.  I read Jane Eyre and wrote at home and filled out SRA quizzes at school. If it weren’t for my own reading habit the boredom would have crushed me. It was through reading that I recognized that in my neighborhood in the 70’s and 80’s. . . .
  1. The Lord of the Flies was a real thing. Yes, in the 70’s and 80’s we left the house until the streetlights came on. We weren’t always playing Perfection and freeze tag. The 70’s suburban neighborhood wasn’t all ladybugs and drinks from the garden hose. The biggest kids often did what they wanted with the littlest when no one was watching us but us.  When I was my ten-year-old daughter’s age, I walked the mile to school with older kids. We got there early enough to hang out at the corner liquor store where we ate Jolly Ranchers, discussed oral sex techniques and admired the boys as they blew marijuana smoke rings. For a lot of us, the 70’s and 80’s were no Mayberry. 
So I choose schools carefully for my daughters, and I drive them there myself. I get to know the families of their friends, especially before sleepovers, and they get to know me. We make our children wear seat belts, we don’t leave them in the car when running errands, and we teach them to apply SPF 15 before swimming. 

In fact, I’m writing this right now by the side of our neighborhood public pool with lots of other parents. My youngest daughter is across the way swimming and diving and making friends with the other kids. She’s a strong girl, self-reliant to the point of making me feel obsolete half the time. She’s never needed me out here during the long summer afternoons by the pool and she probably never will.

But if she does, I’m sitting right here.  Not a helicopter.

A parent.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Good Dog

Up until last month I had a dog named Zeus.
Zeus was my first dog. I didn’t know how to be a pet owner before. I didn’t know that dogs could truly love people. It's not a made up thing. 

Last spring the vet gave Zeus a days-to-live diagnosis. What seemed like a chest cold turned out to be tumor town. The vet said we could feed him whatever he wanted because all that mattered now was his happiness. Zeus enjoyed this very much and decided to cling to the mast for several more weeks. I got my hopes up that we cheated death through canine heroine and hot dogs.

But, no. When it was time, the vet helped my husband, daughter and me usher Zeus into the next plane with treats, drugs and love. My daughter Margaret flung herself on his neck in the final moments, crying with the kind of grief that scoops out your insides. I know because my own insides were undergoing the same operation.

I walked around for weeks stunned and unhappy and honestly a little offended. I had never had a pet before. Spoiler alert, they die before you do. It’s not cool.

In my young adult novel How to Be Manly, the main character Matty forges a friendship with his neighbor’s dog Dirty Harry when his owner goes into the hospital. Dirty Harry is a model of loyalty and bad-ass courage. I wouldn’t know dogs could be that way if it weren’t for Zeus.

My favorite thing about Dirty Harry is that he is a magical never-dying dog because he is fictional.

But wait, I don’t want the last thing you know about Zeus is that he conked out on us before I was ready.

Do you want to know why I knew enough about an awesome dog to be able to write Dirty Harry into being?  Because one hot day when I had all the doors and windows open, a man stole a woman’s car with her in it and crashed it down the street. The man ran into our backyard. I didn’t know this because I was making dinner. My husband was at work and I was momentarily crippled by a knee injury. All I knew was that Zeus was barking like crazy and there was nothing I could do to stop him because I could barely walk. That goddamn dog, I thought. So noisy.

Then my youngest daughter said, “Look, Mommy. There’s a man.” 

And indeed a frantic stranger was barging through our side door.

For about two seconds. Zeus rammed through the house from the backyard like an orange missile of death and chased him right over the fence.

I’ve never seen a human being move as fast as that carjacker escaping Zeus. Within the hour the police arrested him. I don’t know what happened to him, or to the woman he kidnapped.

My family’s part of the story was that one day a violent man was foiled by our loyal, bad-ass dog who though perpetually gentle with children was fiercely protective of my family.

Ah, Zeus. Good dog.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Power of a Book

This piece is adapted from an article I wrote that appeared Teacher magazine in 2006.
As a teenager I attended an upscale private school where I did not fit in. In a sea of preppies, I opted for a brooding persona. I wrote curse words in Sharpie on my high-top sneakers along with song lyrics from B-sides of obscure British pop records. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, where I wanted to go to college, or whether I even wanted to go to college. I never liked anything.

In junior year I took an elective called Reader's Response. I sat next to a girl who ironed the pleats of her uniform skirt every night. I pinned my pleats together with big safety pins that I sometimes removed to use as earrings.

We had to read 10 books in the course of a semester, our choice. I liked reading but I could only think of six. The teacher said I should read The Catcher in the Rye. He handed me a copy he happened to have on the shelf.

So I started. By the time the class ended, I had lifted out of my life and landed into Holden's, a boy I alternately wanted to smack and salute. Kind of how I felt about myself.

I read that book in its entirety without once putting it down. I eschewed all other homework. I read late into the night. When I finished, I lay awake, unable to sleep.

The carousel stuck with me the most. It is such a tragic scene when Holden pays for his sister Phoebe’s seat on the beat-up ride of his own youth. Poor Phoebe tries talking sense to nihilist Holden. "You never like anything," she says.

I sympathized with Phoebe yet agreed with Holden. School was pointless. He and I were trapped together on a road toward an uninteresting destination. Like Holden I yearned for human connection and authenticity in my life.

I walked away from that book a changed person. I read The Catcher in the Rye and my life path became clear. I wanted to read books and write for a living. Nothing else would do because nothing else felt true to who I really was. This book started me on becoming who I am.

As a teacher I never forget the power a single book can have on a person. It’s impossible to predict what book it will be. I got lucky with that one intuitive English teacher because the best life-changing book is hardly ever what a teacher or parent thinks it should be. In my first published novel How to Be Manly, a teenager’s whole life shifts course because of a book he steals from a garage sale. He finds it by chance and it changes everything.

I teach and write with reverence for the moment when a student or reader will find reality crashing with just the right book at just the right time. It happens with the character in my own novel and it happens with me still now that I am grown.

There is nothing like the book that makes you turn the last page and look out the window and realize that you are different now. You realize that your own tragic scenes have meaning. You realize that even though you still never like anything that maybe you might like a few things. You realize that while you are still alone, someone once wrote a book explaining everything you feel and that maybe you are not alone. You have found the book by chance and now everything is different, including you.

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it,” Holden says.

I still know just how he feels.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why I Am an X-Files Monster

A student called me a sponge.  He said I absorb everything people say to me.  I think he meant it as a warning to other students.  Watch out for this one, she’s tricky.  She’ll absorb you.

I do observe and take in the people I meet.  It’s always been true.  I still have speech mannerisms picked up from cousins I met in Ireland when I was 13, college roommates, fourth graders I taught in 1993.  I can tell how someone is secretly really feeling from a mile away.  I remember names instantly.  I absorb people.  I’m like an X-Files monster. 
I might be this.

A person cannot go around feeling other people’s feelings all day long and function like a proper adult in society.  I have a complex set of coping mechanisms to deal with this hyper-sensitivity, including but not limited to starchy carbs, extended gym workouts and writing novels.

I write novels because if I did not then how could I have answered the questions I had after spending a year in the classroom with a young sociopath who lived to inflict pain on other boys?  I wrote The Cameraman about a kid who beats up his victims in boys’ bathrooms from the point of view of the bully’s fascinated classmate who films the beatings to show on his website.

I wrote The Spider Man after spending eight years teaching hundreds of underestimated and powerful high school girls.  Without writing a novel about a character channeling the ancient goddess Brigid in the new millennium, how could I have expressed my awe for those girls who were determined to use all of their considerable gifts to do nothing less than save the world?

I wrote How To Be Manly about a funny and loving teenaged boy struggling to become a man when his male role models are a dad who is deadbeat at best, dangerous at worst, and a grandfather whose dementia renders him more like a child every day.  How do you learn to become a man of worth and honor when the person raising you is a grandmother who sees you only as a boy?  How do you build self worth when to your own father you are worth nothing?  I see boys accomplish this very thing every day.  I’m dying to know how they do it.  So I go home to my computer and turn into a boy for a few hours a day and I tell his story. 

I write my stories for the young women and men forging through their own private odysseys in these crazy times.  I see them slay their own monsters with daily courage and ingenuity.  I didn’t start out trying to be a Young Adult novelist, but when I sit down to type, sometimes very young voices come out. 

Stories line up in my brain like trains in a station, not so patiently waiting for their turn to be told.  I’ve absorbed them and now they must come out.  They must come out or I can’t sleep, I cry too much, and I become cross over nothing. 

My student was right. I absorb stories, roll them over in the tumbler of my imagination.  It’s all I know to do with everything I see, know and feel through my own journey as a human being in this world. 

Call me the Story Eater. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The 50K Mark

The first fifty thousand words of my novels are like a protracted first date with my characters. It takes that long for me to learn enough about them to decide whether or not we'll go any further together on the journey of their make-believe lives.

As a writer you get to play God, but it isn't as powerful as you think. You can only boss the fictional universe around so much before it starts bossing back and messing things up. Characters start developing their own will after awhile. Only writers will understand what I mean by that. Once my characters start doing what they'll do on the page, I know I have a decision to make.  

Do we go on? Or do I end it here and take up another project with a story that works better?

I'm at the 50K mark with my latest literary thriller, The Healing Room. It's about a pair of childhood friends, a young woman who has survived a kidnapping by a sexual sadist and a young man who has survived a tour of duty in Iraq. Together they work to rebuild their lives despite crippling post-traumatic stress.

At first I thought The Healing Room had a paranormal, magical realism element to it, but no. My female character says that what happened to her was very real, that it happens to mostly women and children every day, and that I'm not to paint that turd pink with anything but the cold hard facts. My male character never believed in magic anyway, so he's impervious.

I got out of that shit alive, the woman says. Don't make that any more or less than it is.

There are no short cuts, says the man. Tell the story right or leave us the hell alone.

So I start over from the beginning and rebuild the world of the story to accommodate my characters as they've revealed themselves to me. Or I scrap the whole thing and leave them in their half-lives, toiling away at relationship and healing in that old Victorian on the mountainside, rebuilding the deck and holding Veterans' meetings in the living room.  
I'll make my decision soon, trying to be objective about matters such as plot construction and story structure, trying to ignore the tiny but now full-fledged voices in my head, begging to be heard.

Come back, they say. Write us.

This is not my photo, and I can't find the name of the photographer, but if you look closely you can see my characters peeking out from the top window, waving hello.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Arrow (What I Was Thinking)

My first year of teaching was in a fourth grade in a tiny Catholic school in Humboldt County.  On All Saints Day our class had St. Brigid. We made a banner for her, and I projected a page from Mercer Mayer's East of the Sun West of the Moon on the paper so that we could trace it. We painted it with water colors. I drew in the mean king who wanted to marry her, the flocks of birds that did her bidding. 

The poster was both too much and too little for what the school required.  Too many Celtic snakes, not enough actual crosses, but I was hooked.  The more I learned about St. Brigid the more I loved her.  The Catholic Church renounced her sainthood in the seventies, you know. They found out she was really a goddess and said, no way you're a saint. You can't fool us. 

When St. Brigid visited the mean king who wanted to marry her against her will, she turned into an ugly monster with boils on her skin.  As soon as he rejected her, she ran away and turned beautiful again. She healed by touch. She hit a target with an arrow from a mile away. She commanded the animals.  She is the Triple Goddess, the goddess of so many things that she encompasses three women. She is the goddess of fertility, wisdom, metal work, childbirth, art, fire, to name just a few.

So I thought, what would happen if an incarnation of the Mother of us all had to face things like global warming, disease, drug addiction, celebrity culture, identity and love just like everybody else?  What if she was of mixed ethnicity because her dad was a powerful Maidu Story Keeper god, and she carried her heritage with grace and nonchalance despite living in a racist society? What if the Triple Goddess was in the form of literally three  women who had to learn how to live and work together in a family despite enormous personality differences?

In The Arrow, the son of Dionysus is a beautiful rock star so addicted to the adoration of fans and groupies that real relationship seems impossible for him. A demon bred to destroy a goddess instead falls in love with her. A billionaire CEO of a huge pharmaceutical company is so obsessed with the girl of his dreams that he's willing to give up the power of a king just to have her all to himself. A witch mother sacrifices her own sons on the altar of her greed for power.

A modern incarnation of an ancient goddess just wants to make her own contribution to the world without her mother and older sister looking over her damn shoulder all the time.

The Arrow follows Fynn, the youngest of the Triple Goddesses as she finds her place in the family hierarchy and falls in love and then out of love and then saves the world and falls in love again.  It's got faery drugs, rock guitars, fights to the death, beautiful but awful witches, sexy but evil groupies, a sexy and redeemed demon, a flock of useful birds, a faithful friend with disturbing eyes who might or might not be a Djinn. It was fun to write.

The Arrow is the first in a series that follows Fynn and her friend and sister as they rescue themselves and everybody else while finding love with very sexy boyfriends.

My obsession with Brigid has taken me far from sainthood, but deep into mythology and the strength of women which isn't a myth at all, of course. But it is awesome and a lot of fun.
From East of the Sun West of the Moon by Mercer Mayer, a truly gorgeous book.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sugar Is Not Your Friend

I’m addicted to sugar. I’m not using the word “addict” lightly here. I am truly powerless over processed sugar. The best thing I do for my health is to avoid white sugar and all of its forms altogether. 

Once I’m two or three days into not eating sugar, I don’t want it. When I'm off sugar, my appetite is right in line with my ideal weight. But if I’ve had even one piece of candy, it's over.  My appetite grows into a ravenous beast that I can't satisfy no matter what I eat.  My skin breaks out and wrinkles, my energy lags, my joints ache, my pants stop fitting.

I am thankful not to be addicted to alcohol or drugs or gambling or any other thing that could get me in trouble with the law or ruin my life.  When I’m in the throes of sugar madness, I’m perfectly functional as far as everyone else is concerned. It’s just me that feels crappy. I bow down to people managing addictions to the hard stuff. I can't imagine how difficult that must be.

Still, sugar is corrosive in its own way. Many people battle their weight and spend so much money on diets and feel lousy about themselves. If you are having a problem with toxic hunger, or in other words an appetite that will not listen to reason, maybe stop beating yourself up about it. Maybe stop eating sugar for one month and see what happens to your life.  For me it’s not about willpower. It’s about avoiding the toxic hunger that sugar throws my body into when I have even just a little.

There are tons of studies coming out right now that point to the fact that sugar is poison. Sugar consumption can lead to diabetes, cancer, all kinds of bad health. Check the information out for yourself if you don’t believe me.  This is just one lady’s experience. I’m not a scientist.  I’m an English teacher.

Sugar looks awesome, but it is just like the beautiful-sounding siren ladies in the Odyssey.  If I feel like eating it, I try to be like Odysseus and strap myself to the mast of my own good health and gut that pretty song out. Practically everything in the grocery store has tons of sugar and it’s made up to look awesome and normal and not poisonous at all.  It’s a big trick designed to toss me on the rocks.  I'm not falling for it.

An ancient vase picturing Odysseus strapped to the mast to keep himself from giving in to the siren's song. You need to do the same thing with sugar, but not necessarily naked.

I’m just telling you this because it's January and everybody’s talking about losing weight. I don't like to talk about what I eat and don't eat because I'm embarrassed by the whole subject, frankly. So I'll say it here and be done with it. Sugar is not your friend.

Besides, there is no polite way to say to a person that sugar is not your friend because when you’re eating sugar it really really seems like it is your friend.

I’ve gone through periods in my life where the only thing getting me through the next three hours is one of those packages of white Donettes from the 7-Eleven.  I’ve been there.  I may very well be there again tomorrow. 

Not today, though. Today I’m tied to the mast. 

So cute.  So not your friend.