Friday, November 13, 2015

Seeing Red

Hello everyone! I hope your weeks have been more fantastic than the thought of a Kiss cover band comprised of corgis!

Speaking of corgis, just a quick reminder, 50% of the profits from any of my books sold in November or December will be going to help the efforts of the Sun Valley Animal Shelter. This is a no-kill shelter in the Phoenix area that connects animals with their forever homes.

So buy a book and help Mumford here find a good home (he is also up for adoption if anyone is interested)!

In other news the holidays have descended upon us, rather like a beluga whale dropped from a bomber airplane. Halloween day, I happened to go to the store and found myself in a veritable winter wonderland of Christmas decorations and festoonery. Again, let me repeat that, on Halloween.

I let out a sad sigh over the Christmas invasion of my favorite holiday and went on my way, vowing to basically ignore it, as I do every year, until the day after Thanksgiving.

Then the first "War on Christmas" posts started. You know what I mean, the fear-mongering, imaginary persecution of those who like to celebrate Christmas. First, let me say this, if you think that there is an actual "War on Christmas" please, as a Christian myself, let me remind you of a few things:

1. No one in this country will tell you that you can't celebrate Christmas in your own way. If you want to honor Jesus, that is your right. If you want to spend all day Christmas wearing underwear on your head and yelling, "I'm a blueberry muffin!" that is also your right. No one is telling you you can't celebrate Christmas. Someone else celebrating Christmas in their own way is not an immediate attack on your rights.

2. Every school/work/organizational break is still centered around the Christmas holiday. No other religious holiday gets this kind of special treatment (unless they happen to fall sometime near Christmas), so if we're in a "war" it appears we still have the high ground.

3. Having a Menorah next to the Christmas tree at the mall really is not something to get upset about. Remember, we stole the traditional Christmas tree from pagans, whereas the Menorah was something the Jewish people came up with on their own thousands of years ago. Respecting others' religions does not constitute an attack on your own.

4. Someone saying "Happy Holidays" to you is not a challenge to a fight. I say Happy Holidays. I say Merry Christmas. When appropriate I say Happy Hanukkah as well! If someone says Happy Holidays, the correct response is, "Thank you! You too!" Everyone just calm down!

5. The fact that you can't go a single place, starting October 31st now, without running into a million and one Christmas trees, ornaments and little nativity sets, would imply that Christmas seems to be doing just fine.

I bring all of this up because the first "Christmas Scandal" splashed in my news feed on Facebook this week, causing an intense urge to attempt to stick my head in the microwave.

Apparently, Starbucks has managed to do something more offensive than misspell even the most simple of names. Apparently this year their holiday themed cups are... red!!! Yup, you read correctly, instead of opting for an entire nativity scene (which, I might add has NEVER been a part of their cups), they went for a solid red cup with their typical green and white logo for accent.

This has sparked absolute outrage, particularly from one individual who posted an entire Youtube video and Twitter rant (which I refuse to link here because he doesn't need any more attention).

Apparently by removing the snowflakes from their cups that they had last year, which I was unaware was a part of the Christmas cannon to begin with, Starbucks somehow managed to remove all of the Christmas-ness from their cups!

At first I thought it was a massive joke, but then I started seeing calls to boycott Starbucks. I'm sorry, if you're going to boycott Starbucks it should be because it doesn't matter which one you go to, they over-roast their coffee, not because they made a simple design change to a coffee cup.

And Christians, come on! We are better than this! This is petty at its best, and completely alienating at its worst! It's really hard to convince people that I have logical reasons for believing in my faith when I have people running around screaming that Starbucks is waging a War on Christmas because of a minimalist cup design!

Might I also point out that Starbucks, despite their obvious love for Satan with their all-red cup, still sells advent calendars, CD's with songs about Jesus' birth (although, does anyone still buy CD's?) and several Christmas Ornaments that... now be prepared to be shocked, say, "Merry Christmas" on them.

So before we blow up over perceived slights, can we as a community of Christians do something Christ-like and maybe not freak out over nothing? Can we stop painting ourselves as intolerant, insecure people who will overreact to any perceived slight?

We have two months left of this holiday spirit to go people, we can do it! Well, at least, I hope we can do it.

For those of you not putting me on your "naughty" list, you can always find me on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and you can find my books here.

Also this:

 I have imbibed in the red-cup devil's brew. Guess I need to go change my major now to Christmas Grinchery with a minor in Satanism.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Getting in the Spirit!

Hello everyone, I hope your weeks have been more fantastic than the thought of a million skeletons tangoing to The Monster Mash.

Tomorrow is the best holiday of them all, Halloween!!!

In honor of this holiday here are some of the best books to read for Halloween!

Elizabeth Gaskell's Gothic Tales

If you want some classically creepy stories, then the Victorian horrors written by Gaskell are an excellent choice. The stories are haunting and memorable and just terrifying enough to leave you with some chills.

Stephen King's The Cell

A haunting tale and modern metaphor for what technology is doing to us, this lesser read book of Stephen King's prolific career will not only scare the living daylights out of you, but it will make you think.

Bram Stoker's Dracula

It's a classic, but if you haven't read it yet, it needs to be added to your reading list stat! You will sleep with the lights on for a while.

Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

If you saw the awful movie, then erase it from your mind with the original book. One of Alan Moore's less celebrated graphic novels, this Steampunk and sci-fi influenced book is a fabulous adventure. Fair warning: It may be a comic book, but it is definitely not for children.

Charissa Dufour's Sucked In

If you're looking for something a little more on the humor side and a less on the terrifying side, Charissa Dufour's Sucked In is for you. The first book of three in the series follows vampire author Ashley Hawn as she goes from writing about vampires to being one. It's a fun read perfect for this time of year.  

As the nights get chillier, grab a book, put your feet up and enjoy the goosebumps from both the cold and some creepy stories!

In other news, every year during the months of November and December, I choose a non-profit to donate half of my book proceeds to. This year, that non-profit is the Sun Valley Animal Shelter.

The Sun Valley Animal Shelter is a no-kill shelter located in the Phoenix area and they treat their animals the best I have ever seen a shelter treat animals. I am happy to help them and their cause as they find animals their forever homes. So grab a book and help an animal!

As always, you can follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn).

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Graduate School Experience

Hello everyone, I hope you're all having a wonderful day full of rainbows and cheer and coffee (which is what I am 99% powered by right now, the other 1% is coffee fumes).

Well I have now been a graduate student for a little over two months now. The number one question I have received during that time is, "What is it like?"

So here, to answer your questions, is what graduate school is like.

Imagine you're floating down a river on a log. Why you chose to put yourself in the middle of the river on a log is anyone's guess, but there you are.

Luckily, you have learned a little about how to stay balanced on a log in a previous water-bound adventure, but this time the river is flowing a bit faster and you're noticing a lot more rocks in your path.

As you float along you begin to realize that your simple log is going to be insufficient to transport you safely, which is what the river guides/professors walking along the banks are for. From the safe tenured banks of the body of water, the professors throw you tools while shouting helpful hints like, "Build a canoe, it will be easier to steer and stay on!"

"But I've never built a canoe!"

In response they lug a five hundred page canoe building manual at you and say, "I think if you pay really close attention to every single page you should be able to manage building a canoe just fine!"

So, while balanced on the log, rushing down a never slowing river, you read the manual. Only to find that the information you needed on how to build the canoe is on page 489 of 500. The first 488 pages were actually a history of canoes. With this new knowledge you start to carve out the inside of your canoe, a bit exhausted at this point from trying to stay balanced, continuing to avoid the rocks and reading and retaining information you did not actually need.

You somehow manage to dig out a little divot inside the log to sit in, and you start feeling more confident about your little river adventure. Then another voice from the banks says, "Oh no, that's not going to work, you need at least one paddle..."

More tools and another manual, this time 600 pages in length is lobbed at you as the water surrounding you becomes even more choppy.

"Is there a simpler manual or any hints you can give me!?"

"Nope, that is the only manual in existence that will teach you how to make a paddle the right way. As for advice, just don't let the alligators eat you!"

Now you not only have to make a paddle, but you have to keep your eyes open for a new threat to your existence that you, up until this moment, had no idea even existed.

You furiously read the manual, which spends approximately 500 pages talking about how many different uses for paddles exist in both the first and third worlds, and finally reach a chapter about making a paddle. Using some of the wood from your dugout canoe you start to make a paddle, only to nearly get hit in the head by a chunk of wood thrown at you from the bank.

Yet another voice calls, "You can't use THAT wood, use the stuff I threw you instead."

"But I only know how to carve this type of wood..." you say with a sigh, "Can't I just use the wood I've been using all along?"

"Nope! But don't worry, there's a manual on how to work with the wood I just tossed you, don't worry it's only 800 pages long. And the part about how many trees that wood is related to is really fascinating stuff, make sure you don't skip that! Hey, did you notice the leech on your arm? Don't worry, there's a manual for that too..."

This is pretty much what graduate school is like, folks.

Feel free to follow my continued adventures, and see if I fall off the log, on Facebook and Twitter and don't forget to check out my books!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Ban Illiteracy

Hello everyone, I hope your weeks have been more fantastic than the thought of a wombat version of the X-Men!

Well, in case you missed this tidbit of news in the world of books, this week is Banned Book Week!

This is a magical time of year when authors, readers, librarians and bibliophiles get together to promote a world free from book censorship. In honor of that I have collected a few of my favorite banned books for your perusal.

 Hop on Pop - Dr. Seuss

That's right, Dr. Seuss was banned.

The violent images of violence perpetuated by children against their long-suffering father prompted quite a few complaints up in Canada forcing several libraries to pull the book from their shelves.

Of course, we all know Dr. Seuss, that warped man, was really just promoting patricide, not literacy.

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien

Technically The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and the Silmarillion have all been banned at one time or another. Though, if anyone who recommended the Silmarillion be banned had actually read it I would eat my nonexistent hat.

All three of these were banned because they possessed an obvious connection to Satanism.  After all, who hasn't actually opened a portal to the underworld just by reading about Hobbits? Oh, did that just happen to me? Okay then.

Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein

Yep, your favorite childhood poet was secretly poisoning your mind.

How? Well, obviously the book promoted cannibalism, naughty behavior by children and mass plate breaking.

No, seriously, there was a group that freaked out because this book displayed children breaking multiple plates instead of washing them, which obviously was encouraging child-based anarchy.

Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh

This spunky little girl was actually an insidious, clandestine plan to encourage children to spy!

Well, I guess it is in the title, so you know, it wasn't very secret...

As an author and bibliophile, I strongly encourage everyone to go out, find a "Banned Book" and read it! That's right, do something dangerous, buck the censorship system and read!

Let me know what your favorite banned book is in the comments below! 

As always you can find me in Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and find my books here!

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Fat, Skinny, Strong, Curvy... Truth

Hello all! I hope you are all having weeks that are more fabulous than the thought of a reenactment of Pride and Prejudice performed by snakes in top hats.

Well, it's fair to say that graduate school is not for the faint of heart. I am about a month and a half in and about ready to start gnawing on the corners of books.

Yes, I'm aware that just makes me sound like I'm turning into one of my cats, which you all probably feared already, but I swear there are no kitty transformations occurring.

This week I was walking through the parking lot to my car after buying groceries. Okay, honest confession, I was doing the "lug all of your groceries on your arms without hitting your legs with them because you're too proud to use the shopping cart" waddle, but that is neither here nor there.

 As I toiled under the unforgiving Arizona sun towards my car I happened to read a bumper sticker in the back of a Toyota that read, "Fit is Beautiful"  and advertised some local gym.

The car parked directly next to it had a hot pink bumper sticker that read, "Big girls are the sexiest!"

I would have taken a picture, but that would have required untangling myself from several grocery bags and then re-hefting them in the 109 degree heat.

Instead as I trudged back to my car a thought hit me, "Why did I move to a place where the pavement could actually melt my shoes!?"

After that thought came, "I wonder to whose advantage it is to have a body type beauty war?"

Sure, the media benefit when they cast skinny models as the "hot girls" in one film and then have "feel good" films where the heavier girl gets her man. Makeup companies make a killing off of making women compare with each other. Gyms exploit the comparison for memberships...

The long list of those who benefit from women comparing themselves to each other is mind boggling long.

You know who doesn't benefit, though? WOMEN

We as a sex and a gender don't benefit, not one little bumper sticker's worth of an iota, from constantly having to claim that our particular body type is somehow more "beautiful" or more "sexy" than the next girl's body type!

 The comparison of "who is more beautiful" based simply on our skin-sack full of organs, bones and other random tissues and juices (which is essentially what we all are) is a false one, and it's one that we continue to perpetuate to our own disadvantage.

So, are skinny women beautiful? YES

Are curvy women beautiful? YES

Are tall women beautiful? YES

What about <insert random descriptor here>? YES

All women are beautiful, and until we stop competing with each other for the imaginary body-type, beauty queen crown, then we will continue to waste our time and our energy dividing over something useless instead of directing our time and effort towards something actually productive.

You are beautiful, whether you are tall, short, thin, fat, purple (though, if you're purple, you might want to get that checked), trans, straight haired, or built like She-Hulk!

Now it's time, as women, that we all start acting like the beautiful bitches we are.

If you want to know where you can find more of this beautiful woman, come find me on Facebook and Twitter and my books can be found here!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

DMV - Demotivating Mandatory Victimization

Hello all, I hope you have all had weeks that were more fantastic than the thought of steampunk rap (which actually exists).

I'm sorry this post is late! Grad student life has me in its clutches and doesn't want to let go! Despite being buried in countless pages of reading and long papers, I do have this little adventure for all of you.

I have officially decided that the DMV is where dreams go to be crushed like a Hotwheels car under the foot of the Terminator. Florescent lights, long lines, chairs of questionable origin, the DMV is what I imagine dying and getting stuck in Limbo is probably like.

One thing that I've noticed is that every DMV in every county and every state has one thing in common; they all have at least one person waiting with you that will make you contemplate whether you actually need to drive or not. 

In varying DMV lines I've faced the man of incredible flatulence, the woman who brought not one, not two, but three yapping dogs and the guy who kept going outside to make sure his car hadn't caught fire, "I fixed it, but I ain't sure I fixed it right..."

The individual who takes the DMV gold straightjacket, though, graced those waiting with her presence at my most recent visit. The waiting room was crowded that day, twenty to thirty people were crammed in the narrow waiting area like that box of Crayola crayons that Jimmy decided to try and get one extra crayon into. Stupid Jimmy.

I had been sitting on a bench next to another lady who shared my "does not want to be here" expression for about three minutes when she walked in. Well, technically she more pushed her way through the door ramming into an elderly gentleman who was about to take a number so she could grab a number first.

With bits of her oozing from underneath a shirt that was a size or four too small, she wandered up to the bench. Guessing that she wanted to take a seat, I began to scoot over as did the girl next to me in the opposite direction. I only had a chance to scooch myself about a centimeter though before the woman said, "Well, it would be NICE if someone were willing to move over for me instead of just sitting there like dumb cows!"

The other girl and I looked at each other, I rolled my eyes and we continued our journey to make room for our vulgar new bench mate. When we had scooted far enough for her largess, which meant I was nearly sitting in the next person's lap, she thudded herself down and said, "SeeEee? That wasn't so hard now was it?"

Everyone on the long bench looked at her with a similar expression of confusion and disgust as she then scratched her armpit, very close to the other girl's face, and burped.

At this point I went back to counting how many dots were in the ceiling tiles and waiting for my number to be called. The woman next to me let out a series of exasperated sighs and kept saying things like, "I don't understand why this is taking so long!" as if she expected anyone to answer her.

After a couple of minutes, she suddenly started digging around in her purse, a monstrous Nascar Racing decorated affair with a giant Confederate flag pin on it. After elbowing me several times in her frantic search for whatever she was hunting for, she let out a triumphant little grunt and pulled out a toothbrush and toothpaste.

I then watched in horror as she put the toothpaste on the toothbrush, and with great angsty energy, shoved the toothbrush in her mouth. Now she hadn't just caught the attention of the others clustered on the bench, but a majority of those trapped in the lobby as well as the DMV employees. Everyone sat in abject horror for a second as she brushed and slurped her way along, obviously swallowing the toothpaste as she went.

After a few shocked seconds I decided that I did not want my front row seat to the 'Dental Hygiene Show' and got up to go lean against a wall as far away as possible. As I made my retreat the woman gurgled out, "Whore!" behind me.

Funny, she was number 47, but it seems while I was filling out my paperwork, the DMV counter attendants somehow managed to go from 46 directly on to 48. Whoopsie-doodle!

So what lessons from this can be printed on our experience registrations?

1. Peoples' definitions of the word "whore" seem to be vastly different. I always thought it was a derogatory term for someone who likes to sleep with a lot of people. Apparently I'm wrong, it is a term for someone who doesn't wish to be a up-close-and-personal participant in someone else's dental care.

2. You can in fact be so awful that not even DMV employees will want to talk to you. 

For more fun adventures don't forget to check out my stuff on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and check out my books here!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Driving Under the Influence

Hello all! I hope your weeks have been more fantastic than the thought of Swan Lake performed by tu-tu clad mice!

 Well, they weren't kidding about the heat in Arizona. We had two consecutive days that were 115 degrees and I swear I could have grilled chicken on the pavement in front of our building.

They also were not joking about the dust storms. They have haboobs (it's another name for 'really intense dust storm, no really, go look it up and stop laughing) here too. I accidentally stepped outside during the most recent one and am still finding dust on me.

Overall, however, I seem to be surviving the heat and the weird weather.

When I moved away from Spokane people said to me, "Oh, now weird stuff will stop happening to you all the time."

I just shook my head, knowingly, at them. You see, my gravitational field that seems to pull in all of the bizarre parts of the universe is not restricted to a singular location. No, instead it follows me, orbiting the crazy around my head.

Point in case, let's take my trip to the grocery store the other night as proof. My roommate, Karen, and I dropped by to pick up a few necessities (aka ice cream). As we were leaving the store we noticed a rather large gentleman on one of those motorized scooters cutting a swerving path across the parking lot.

 As we watched, he steered one-handed, nearly hitting two parked cars. At least he was nice enough to apologize to each of the cars he nearly hit. I happened to look at what he was holding in his other hand. With just a little bit of the neck of a bottle poking out, it was obvious that the paper bag he gripped tightly in his hand was not full of candy.

I looked over at Karen, "Is he..." just as he took a giant swig from his cleverly hidden bottle.


We both then watched as he tried to steer the cart into the cart barn, running smack into one of the end poles.

"Well, at least he's not driving a Hummer?"

What lessons can be drunk from the bottle of experience?

1. If you're too plastered to steer a motorized shopping cart, then a motor vehicle is not for you. Good job on your harm reduction, though.

2. Paper bags are the least sneaky way to hide booze, in fact, they are literally the most cliched way ever to disguise drinking. You're not going to fool anyone who has had access to television in the last fifty years.

As always come follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and check out my books here.