Review: Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit’s essay collection Men Explain Things to Me was a book club pick that I went into with no knowledge of Solnit, her style, or what it was about. Honestly, it was an emotional roller coaster. Solnit is funny, witty, serious, factual, uplifting, and includes more reality checks than the average person hopes to encounter in 150 pages. Punctuated with simple, yet powerful, art by Ana Teresa Fernandez, Solnit takes on the gender divide and how inequality continues to play out in our society in small, everyday ways. She takes on rape (more than once), people who are against same-sex marriage, Virginia Woolf, and many more topics.

Naturally, I enjoyed her inclusion of Cassandra from Troy, since that is where the meaning of my name (Kassandra) comes from. She was cursed with the gift of foresight that no one believed. In other words, she knew what was going to happen, but everyone ignored her and thought she was a liar. Apollo cursed her because she refused to have sex with him. Of this, Solnit concludes: “The idea that loss of credibility is tied to asserting rights over your own body was there all along” (117). From the age of the Trojans to 2017, Cassandra’s story is relevant.

My favorite essay was “Grandmother Spider,” in which Solnit discussed the obliteration of women historically. She talks about family trees only recording men, women and children taking the last name of the husband and father, women historically having no legal existence once married, a veil covering a woman until she is basically invisible, and many more topics underneath the blanket of obliteration. In particular, I was struck by her language in describing the picture for that chapter, shown here:

fernandez ch 5

Solnit writes:

A woman is hanging out the laundry. Everything and nothing happens. Of her flesh we see only several fingers and a pair of strong brown calves and feet. The white sheet hangs in front of her, but the wind blows it against her body, revealing her contours. It is the most ordinary act, this putting out clothes to dry, though she wears black high heels, as though dressed for something other than domestic work, or as if this domestic work was already a kind of dancing. Her crossed legs look as though they are executing a dance step. The sun throws her shadow and the dark shadow of the white sheet onto the ground. The shadow looks like a long-legged dark bird, another species stretching out from her feet. The sheet flies in the wind, her shadow flies, and she does all this in a landscape so bare and stark and without scale that it’s as though you can see the curvature of the Earth on the horizon. It’s the most ordinary and extraordinary act, the hanging out of laundry- and painting. The latter does what the wordless can do, invoking everything and saying nothing, inviting meaning in without committing to any particular one, giving you an open question rather than answers. Here, in this painting by Ana Teresa Fernandez, a woman both exists and is obliterated.

I found this passage to be simple, yet profound, as Solnit found the image.

Overall, I found Solnit’s collection to be all over the place emotionally. She conjured rage, pain, skepticism, reality, pride, and inspiration in me. She takes a hard look at gender inequality, and anyone willing to bypass the bias in their own minds will see that she presents a relatively fair view of the issues faced by women and all who value equality. The collection could be read all at once, or a little at a time, but regardless the message will ring true.


Namas Day

A few Saturdays ago I attended Namas Day in Philly. It’s a full day yoga workshop where you sign up for 4 different classes. Each one was an hour and half. That’s 6 hours of yoga- holy cow, was my body tired after or what! It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I attended and exposed myself to a few different types of yoga that I’m not used to. I will say, however, that this event was definitely not for beginners, and I felt a little out of my element as most of the people around me were seasoned yogi’s. Despite that, I enjoyed the challenge of trying new poses and not settling into my safe place and only doing what I felt certain I could master.

The most interesting class I took was called “The Dance of Bliss” led by Kelly Kamm. It totally changed the way I view yoga. She told the story of Shiva, the god of destruction, and the importance of falling and failing before moving forward. The story told us to embrace the fall, lean into it, learn from it, and accept it with grace.

I left there that day feeling inspired to do yoga everyday and meditate until it becomes natural.

Nick Viall: The Finale

I just love Nick, so I hope that however his life turns out, he’s happy. The majority of this post will consist of me complaining about the way the show was produced this season- so if you don’t care to hear my rant, carry on.

First of all, the season flew by because almost all of it was consumed with Corinne drama. While I think she showed her true colors at the Women Tell All, I’m not too proud to admit I love when there’s a bit of drama in the house. However- this was too much. Corinne wasn’t the Bachelor, Nick was! The fans of the show want to see him fall in love, not hear over and over again who is or isn’t a bitch and who’s vagine is or isn’t platinum, amirite?! Regardless, they spent so much time making her into villain, and then wanted us to do a 180 and love her. ……hellllloooo! You have the power! If you wanted us to like her, then you shouldn’t have given her so much screen time that painted her in a poor light!

Secondly, announcing that Rachel was the bachelorette was an annoying, but understandable move. However. Right up until she left, all of Bachelor Nation only saw a strong connection between the two of them. It’s hard to build up a love story for millions of viewers to confidently believe in with one week left. I just don’t understand why they didn’t truly build the connections and showcase the love stories between Nick and Raven and Nick and Vanessa? We’re watching this show to see the lead find love- not to “find out what happens next in this exciting thriller,” the whole thing is ridiculous. Stop with the continuing into the next week, and show us the love.

Finally, why on earth would they show nothing but Vanessa crying on the last day and Raven happy as can be? Yes, we understand that it was her being real- but after a season of everyone believing in Nick and Rachel, and getting distracted by Corinne’s nonsense, give us a break! We’ve seen Nick fall in love 3 times on the show- we care about him! We worry! We need a sense of peace and a chance to believe that he’s built a strong foundation and truly fallen for the girl he asks to marry him! We need the love story.

Bring back the days where Brad set up a picnic just for Emily, or when you knew right away that JP was the one. It does everyone a disservice if you don’t. Like when Desiree was dumped by Brooks and picked Chris and everyone thought she settled. Clearly not- they’re married with an adorable baby! But we didn’t see their love grow, we didn’t believe in it, and that’s not fair! They all went on TV to fall in love so we could SEE it happen! Let us see it! Let us believe it!

If you have any thoughts on my opinion, please share in the comments below! This post was not meant to say that I don’t think Nick and Vanessa will make it- only they know that- but merely that I wished to fall in love with their relationship as I had so many times before with the show.


Review of Seriously…I’m Kidding

The following is probably an unpopular opinion: I did not love Ellen’s book Seriously…I’m Kidding. It was like one of those movies that made the same joke over and over again and probably could have been an hour shorter. Don’t get me wrong: I love Ellen. She has an amazing personality and she’s great at her job and making people laugh. That personality shines through in this book and made the beginning really truly enjoyable and lovable and heart-warming. However, the jokes soon felt over-played and the sarcasm was overwhelming. I get that the title comes into effect here because she’s kidding- but at some point the whole book became a sort of stand up routine with pauses for laughter and forced quirkiness. Maybe it’s my fault for expecting this to read as a silly memoir and instead getting a joke book- my love for Ellen made my expectations too high. While I did initially enjoy the writing style and the conversational tone as well as the hilarity that is Ellen, about halfway through I was dying for something more.

Have you read Ellen’s book? Agree/Disagree? Experienced disappoint in a popular author or celebrity figure in terms of a book they’ve written? Let me know in the comments!


Changing Bad Habits

Changing a bad habit is no joke. It’s basically a constant struggle and forces you to evaluate and re-evaluate significantly more than is typically comfortable. For about a month, I’ve established a few healthy habits, but it has all been to no avail because I am undoing all my hard work nonstop! My chocolate addiction is out of control and I often found myself unable to stop myself. But it didn’t stop at chocolate. It was popcorn and hot chocolate and stuffed pretzels too! I was feeling absolutely terrible about myself and I was fairly miserable.

So I realized that if I wanted to make any progress, I needed to identify where I was faltering and how I could fix it. The most frequent times that I betrayed my efforts were at school (the vending machine- argh!) and on my way home from school (exhaustion coupled with the desire to reward my “efforts” and driving past 4 WaWa’s…). Not using the vending machine is simple- leave my purse with all my money in the car- or just don’t carry cash!

However- avoiding the temptation of four WaWa’s (and a Walmart) is much more difficult. I struggled and struggled week after week, day after day. My car got progressively messier- smudged chocolate and wrappers and plastic bags. So I cleaned it. This unseasonably warm weather gave me an opportunity to be out in the sunshine for more than 10 minutes without getting cranky, so I took that time to clean my car out. I vacuumed the mats, even getting under the mats, and wiped down the seats and everything else with Clorox wipes. It smelled good, it felt good, and I was quite pleased with how it all turned out. Finally- it looked like a brand new car again!

I frequently listen to the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft. In one of the episodes, they discuss how to harness the power of change. Oftentimes when a major change occurs, that is precisely when a new habit can form (for good or bad!). For example, when you move to new house, all kinds of new habits can form: will you wear shoes in the house, how often will you vacuum, things like that. I felt like I could make the power of change work for me in this case. No, not just cleaning the car- keeping it clean. I started leasing my car in late July, so it’s still a fairly new purchase. Even though it’s been a few months since it was brand new, I decided it would be worth a shot. I felt happy and organized when my car was clean, and since I spend over two hours a day in it- it should feel like a sanctuary. Basically, my plan was to pretend like I had just bought the car again. Start fresh.

So, in an effort to curb my poor eating habits and keep my car clean- I will no longer allow eating in the car. No fast food, no stops at Wawa, not even breakfast in the morning. No food! Water, tea, a protein shake- fine. But no food!

Let’s see how this plays out and if I’m able to consciously trick myself into better habits. Do you have any tricks to change your habits? Let me know in the comments!


An Ode To The Pouch

A rough draft- inspired by my frustrations, failures, and fantasies.


This little thing is nurtured

Like a newborn babe-

Dairy and milk and cheese

And plenty of sweets

are the only thing to ease

it’s insatiable demand to be pleased.


It’s kept covered and safe

Like a newborn babe-

protected from the wintery cold

and sweltering sun

it remains within the folds

almost too big to hold.


It grows and it grows

Like an unborn pain-

It never ceases, never slows

And the dreams of a day

where it no longer shows

have become persistent, ugly foes.