“I Have a Master’s Degree in Fierce, I Should Be a Professor!” – Life Lessons from Drag Queens

I can’t lie, readers… I have been very excited to write this post for quite some time. I’ve already written about how I’ve spent my summer, and one of the best parts has been catching up on all of the TV shows I missed while in grad school. While I took Joni’s suggestion and started watching Once Upon a Time, I also followed my sister’s suggestion and started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix. One episode in and I was hooked. But, that shouldn’t be a surprise; I think I’ve always been at least a little fascinated with drag queens. When I was a kiddo, I received my introduction to the idea when we watched The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Later on, it was To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmarbut I just couldn’t get behind Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes as drag queens. (However, John Leguizamo as Chi-Chi Rodriguez was believable.) It was never something weird for me, seeing a man dressed up as a woman. It was just different, and that was ok. Still is. When I got to college, I loved that YSUnity hosted a drag show during Welcome Week. As entertaining as these ladies (and some gentlemen) were, I appreciated how open they were to any questions the audience had about the lifestyle.

So, back to the Drag Race. I figured I would just have something funny and interesting to watch/listen to while I worked on my craft projects, but I was wrong. Just like any great book, movie, album, or show, there are lessons to be learned that you can apply in your own life. Let me give you the t

Aaaaaand suddenly, I’m a young Dame Edna.

1. “Don’t be shady, be a lady.” – Venus De-Lite, S3E3

Have you ever thrown shade? Yes, you have. You just didn’t know you were. You “throw shade” whenever you insult somebody else. It doesn’t take much to insult someone — just borrow your 3rd grader-cousin’s book of Yo Momma jokes. A real lady doesn’t stoop to weak insults or general shadiness. But, there’s also reading. As RuPaul said, “Reading is fundamental.” For a good read, a lady must be creative, smart, and witty, but never malicious. Jujubee from Season 2 reads at a college level:

“Legendary, you think you are! Legendary? Looks like leg… and dairy.”

The lesson here is, don’t lower yourself to play at someone else’s level, but always be on your toes.

2. “You better work.”

Obviously. You’ll get nowhere if you’re just sitting around. Work for what you want and give it your all, so when you get it, you deserve it. There were a couple of weeks where my job search was particularly depressing, and I don’t think I applied for a single job during that time. The next week, I wrote in my planner my paraphrase of a famous Wayne Gretzky quote: “You miss out on interviews for one hundred percent of the jobs you don’t apply for.” I applied for five jobs that week. This brings us to our next lesson…

 3. Consistency

Much like any adjudicated tv contest (America’s Next Top Model, Top Chef, Design Star, etc.), contestants must be consistent in their performance every week to proceed. Whether you’re competing for a promotion, or aiming to improve something about yourself, it is important to always bring your A-game, so to speak. Once you’ve proven your talent with a certain skill time and again, others will begin to associate that achievement with you. From here, the only way you should go is up. Always be looking for ways to better yourself and go to the next level. While consistency is great, it takes a little something extra to be a champion.


Featuring my personal favorite Drag Super Star, Raja (the Professor of Fierce)

4. Sashay Away

After the bottom two contestant are called out to “lip sync for their lives,” RuPaul chooses which queen will stay, and who will sashay away. While one could leave a negative last impression on others (see: Mimi Imfurst), a real lady displays class and poise whenever it’s time for her to leave. Sure, you could go for the “memorable” route of jumping down into a full split as you exit the runway, but I think it’s a little tacky. And, painful.

So long, Mystique Summers Madison…

5. “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” – RuPaul

Miss Ru says it at the end of each episode, and it is perhaps the most essential lesson of them all: the most important love is self-love. Several of the beautiful queens who compete on Drag Race tell stories about how members of their family don’t accept them for being gay, let alone being a drag queen, and the other girls reach out to support them. There are a lot of reasons why a person, gay, straight, purple, etc., could have a hard time loving themselves, especially when it seems that those who matter most don’t show them love and acceptance. If you can’t love yourself for who your truly are, it could be difficult to let someone else in and love the real you. I’ve always, always believed that you have to know who you are and what you want out of life in order to love yourself as a complete person. Then, instead of needing others to feel whole, you can simply allow them to be a wonderful complement to the already-fabulous you.

While there are other lessons I could have mentioned, I felt that these are the most easily translatable. I’m currently catching up on Season 4, and I can’t wait to watch the All-Stars Season. I’d like to add, though, that I’ve learned that it wouldn’t kill me to throw on a little more makeup from time to time. If these men have an easier time turning into an attractive woman than I, a biological woman, do, I think I could step up my game a little bit.

Growing Up at the End of the World: Karen Thompson Walker’s “The Age of Miracles”

Note: This post is a review of Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles and contains plot spoilers.

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Life is hard, there’s no doubt about it. But, most of us are able, at least to some extent, put life’s difficulties behind us and move on. We keep going, because the world stops for no one. We don’t ignore those difficulties, but instead compartmentalize them and leave them behind in a different time. We gain perspective. In retrospect, things don’t seem so bad. They were learning experiences, something everyone goes through — something to accept, not to dwell on and be ashamed of.

Every age has its challenges. As babies, we learn to walk and talk. We fall down, we speak gibberish. As children, we learn to read, go to school, make our first friends. We stumble over words, we get the answer wrong, we don’t quite fit in. As adolescents, we are more aware of the world around us and how it works, we develop real relationships with others, we have a crush, an inseparable best friend. Reality can be serious and not always happy, those relationships are tested, feelings are rejected, we’re not always the most popular person.

The list goes on and on. And life doesn’t stop while the list continues.

Even if the world does stop turning.

Source/Disclaimer: theageofmiraclesbook.com. Image is strictly property of Karen Thompson Walker and Random House.

What would happen to an ordinary 11-year old girl if the world did indeed stop turning? This is the story that Karen Thompson Walker presents in her debut novel, The Age of Miracles.

Julia is like any other 11 year old California girl when her life, and the lives of every other person on Earth, changes forever. She has a seemingly normal home life as the only child of a former actress and a physician. Life is predictable, her best friend Hanna spends the night, a new school year has begun, her parents sit at the kitchen table reading the newspaper.

It’s a Saturday morning in October. That newspaper is full of the stories of the day, all the things we’re afraid of. War, disease, terrorism, extreme weather, disaster. Those things we can name, things that have faces, causes, effects. Things that bring fear.

But, as Julia so appropriately observes, “it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different — unimagined, unprepared for, unknown” (Thompson Walker, 27).

Out of nowhere, the news breaks that the rotation of the Earth has slowed. 56 minutes have been added to the length of one Earth day overnight. There is no explanation. Called “The Slowing,” this phenomenon continues. One day goes from 24 hours to 32, then to 40, 48, 54, 60….

In the first days, life seems to literally stop and then stretch as people try to find things to fill the extra hours of light and darkness in their day. But soon, normal life intrudes. The governments of the world insist on sticking to the 24 hour clock, even if the hours between one sunrise and the next continues to grow. There is hope that answers can be found, that a solution can be reached.

In the meantime, life goes on. The Slowing consumes everyone, but a new normal is reached. Even as day and night become detached from sunshine and darkness, Julia goes to school, attends piano lessons, and plays soccer. Her parents go to work, the babies her father delivers continue to be born. She worries about her lack of a training bra, crushes on neighborhood boy Seth Moreno, is saddened by her best friend Hanna’s abandonment, anticipates seeing Seth at piano lessons, struggles with unpopularity in school, and worries over the increasing cracks in her parents’ marriage.

Like the difficulties of our own childhoods and adolescences, Julia’s are no less important to her than ours were to us. The end of the world does not magically end the growing up process. Life is not stopped cold.

Everyday life endures as the days continue to grow, as new problems arise, as the Earth ceases to turn.

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At first glance, this is not a book I would normally read. While I am a guilty-pleasure fan of some disaster movies like Twister, Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, I don’t really like “sad” stories. Especially those which are character driven. But, something about The Age of Miracles sucked me in, and I’m so glad I read it.

Source/Disclaimer: theageofmiraclesbook.com. Image is strictly property of Karen Thompson Walker and Random House.

Karen Thompson Walker is an excellent writer and her prose is both beautiful and engaging. Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Age of Miracles, even though the book’s plot device (the end of the world) can be unsettling.

Julia’s narration made me reflect on my own childhood/adolescence and on the things that seemingly made it “tough” — things that don’t seem so bad now. It was a nice chance to reminisce.

The book is excellently formulated and Walker does a great job of describing the effects that The Slowing has on the Earth and its occupants. While some of her descriptions aren’t completely original — mainly due to the amount of “end of the world scenarios” various forms of media has presented over the years — none of it seems trite or lame.

I only had one real issue with the book while I was reading, and that was trying to wrap my head around what was actually happening to the Earth. I had to figure that out and make myself at peace with the logic of it before I could move on and read the book.

Let me explain: I had to establish in my head that the spinning of the Earth on its axis had slowed, thereby making the amount of time from one sunrise to the next stretch. This, however, did not effect the time it took the Earth to orbit around the sun. So, really, as the length of one “day” lengthened, the number of “days” it takes the Earth to travel completely around the Sun decreased.

The Age of Miracles is a quick read, coming in at 225 pages. It is fast moving and well-paced and is not meant to be a story of how the world ends. Instead, it is a snapshot of events and emotions during that time.

The Age of Miracles is truly a wonderful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read. It is not a book about a disaster. It is a story of what happens to our lives and relationships in the midst of the most Earth-shattering disaster. It is a testament that even as life ends, it continues to go on.

25 Before 25

I keep seeing these # Before # lists pop up around the Internet.  I have mixed feelings about them.  On the one hand, no one really cares that you or I want to figure out how to French braid your or my hair before your dog’s half birthday next month.  On the other hand, sometimes lists like these provide an interesting window into a person’s priorities and interests.  Their staccato nature also fits well into our technologically overstimulated short attention spans.

My 25th birthday is this December.  That leaves me only a few months to do these things.  Given that deadline, I have not included any big ticket items that might go on a bucket list.  I am neither traveling, nor getting married, nor starting my own business, nor anything monumental whatsoever.  I am simply operating from a carpe diem point of view.  I want to make the 100+ days left of my 24th year count instead of squandering that time away on Facebook.

1. Don’t wear sweat pants or gym shorts in public.

2. Go to an outdoor movie.

3. Ride the Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s Towpath train.

4. Try a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks.

5. Go on a real, decent length hike.

6. Trace my family lineage back to Europe.

7. Do the Tour de Donut.

8. Finish Invitation to a Beheading by Nabokov.

9. Finish El general en su laberinto by García Márquez.

10. Make soybean baklava.

11. Be extra punctual.

12. Make homemade jam.

13. Cut back on my use of Facebook.

14. Make homemade ice cream.

15. Bake Irish Car Bomb cupcakes.

16. Write (and finish!) a short story.

17. Obtain gainful, respectable employment.

18. Bake mocha cupcakes.

19. Do a fitness event.

20. Pick my own produce.

21. Watch The Motorcycle Diaries.

22. Read a book every month.

23. Carve a pumpkin.

24. (Possibly) Get my TEFL/TESOL certificate.

25. Recreate simit as I ate it in Turkey.

What are your short term goals?

Own Your Initial: DIY Framed Button Artwork

After 21 non-stop years of school, I’m used to being busy. So, it’s no surprise that my graduated and unemployed state this summer has left me a little bored. The problem with this is that I a) don’t handle boredom very well and b) discovered over those 21 years of school that the busier I am, the more I get accomplished. And I have a lot to get accomplished — namely job applications.

I’ve been doing pretty good on that front though. Unfortunately, however, you can only fill out so many job applications in one sitting, so I have to find other things to do with my time. Not to mention that any down time I do have leaves me feeling guilty and depressed about not having a job in the first place.

So, I’ve taken to other pursuits, like scouring Pinterest for ideas. One of my favorites on the site are the various examples of Button Artwork that are constantly floating around.

I tried this particular project out once already when I made one in the Spring for my cousin’s daughter. I was supposed to make one for her son — I had all the supplies and everything — but life (namely my Master’s thesis) got in the way and I never made it. Lucky for you though, I finally got around to finishing it and remembered to document the process!

What You’ll Need:

  • Buttons (color of your choice)
  • White cardstock
  • Hot glue gun (and hot glue sticks)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil (with eraser)
  • Photo frame — NOTE: Since the button art is not completely flat, you will need to choose a deeper frame that allows for more than a flat piece of paper to be placed inside.

Instructions:

Step 1:  Assemble your supplies. For this project, I used lime green buttons that I bought at Pat Catan’s. They were less than $5 and I have more than enough left over for another button-related project. I also used regular white cardstock as the backing. Finally, I bought a plain white 8″x10″ frame from IKEA.

Pat Catan’s sells assorted bags of buttons in various colors. In addition to green, they have pink, blue, teal, white/pearl, and more depending on availability.

Because this button art is for a child, I decided to use a white frame and white background.

Step 2: Plan out your artwork ahead of time — you don’t want to start gluing and have to start over because your artwork is crooked or doesn’t fit on the paper. Using a ruler and pencil, draw out the letter you are creating on the cardstock. Make sure it’s centered and looks even. Tip: place the cardstock in the frame for a second to make sure the letter looks okay.

I traced the letter P on the cardstock lightly in pencil. Later, I erased it slightly so that that pencil marks wouldn’t show through on the finished product.

Step 3: Spread out your buttons on the table and plug in the glue gun.

Step 4: Start arranging buttons on the letter you traced. Try to vary the sizes of the buttons as you go so that you have both bigger and smaller buttons next to each other. Since my buttons were not all the exact same shad of green, I also tried to avoid putting too many dark or light green buttons next to each other.

Before you start gluing, lay some of the buttons out to get an idea of how they look and fit next to one another.

Step 5: Start gluing! The letter that you traced on the paper is meant to be a general guide — don’t worry about going outside the lines slightly. Also, don’t worry about the gaps that will show through between the buttons. Later, you can go back and add a smaller second layer of buttons to cover some of the holes.

CAUTION: You will be handling a hot glue gun to secure the buttons to the cardstock. Be very careful as the glue is extremely hot and can burn you if it comes in contact with your skin. Please use extra caution when applying the hot glue to the buttons as they have a very small surface area.

Just have fun selecting and gluing the buttons — don’t worry about perfection!

Step 6: Once the letter is completely filled in, go back and place a few additional buttons in a “second layer” to cover any gaps that exist.  Don’t worry about covering all the gaps — the second layer can cover up any mistakes, globs of glue, or pencil marks as well. It also gives the project additional depth.

Here’s what the art work looks like after both the first and second button layers have been completed.

Step 7: After the artwork has dried and cooled completely, place it in the frame.

And you’re done!

The finished product!

Another, close up view, in the frame.

From start to finish, this project only took me about an hour and a half. Some letters may take longer than others.

I’d love to see your button artwork! Let me know if you attempt your own (or someone else’s) initial and definitely feel free to contact me with any questions!